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Our garden in September

Our garden in September

by Clare Mansell

Let’s be frank, at this time of year gardens are not terribly exciting or photogenic, but having documented our work through the summer I want to keep track of what we are doing even as we enter into autumn and the season of bare beds and dormant growth.

In September we cleared out the spent summer crops from our window boxes and pots and started thinking ahead to winter growing. Although I’m not an experienced vegetable grower, Theo is so enthusiastic about growing food to eat that I want to try and keep up the momentum. So out went the beans and in came some seeds for early-producing peas and Lambs Lettuce, along with some seedlings for brocolli


The Lambs Lettuce has gone in our window boxes (which in case you missed it, we use because they are high enough to be rabbit proof!) under some plastic covers which I found in the depths of the shed. The first tentative growth has just started to poke its head above the soil, 10 days after we planted them.


Our pea seeds have been planted under plastic bottle cloches and haven’t done anything yet, although we aren’t expecting to be able to eat them till about March…


On our last garden centre trip, Theo also spotted some brocolli seedlings which apparently will be good to eat in 5 weeks. We are about 10 days in and they look almost exactly the same as when we brought them home, so although Theo is enthusiastically counting down till when he can eat them, I’m not feeling terribly hopeful.


One summer crop which has taken its time to produce, but I think is just about ready finally are our snack cucumbers. Another Theo spot, these are teeny tiny cucumbers which you are supposed to eat whole. Having not grown them before I really have no idea quite how small they are supposed to be when you harvest them, but this is them today…


We have also added a blueberry plant to Theo’s collection of pots, this is another one we’ll be waiting a while for. It won’t produce till the end of next summer, but it’ll be lovely when it does. Blueberry plants seem to be rather “in” at the moment and several places are selling them in twos or threes so that you can have a long season of fruit spread out across varities.


Another recent addition to the garden were a couple of Griselina shrubs which I bought from our local farm shop. They are supposed to be particularly good for coastal locations so we have planted them near our seaward boundary. Unfortunately planting anything in our garden is always less than straightforward.

The land next to us which is now a nature reserve, has been at times a brick yard and a small scale tip. We’re not quite sure the part that our garden played in this, but digging down always involves a few surprises and a small hole can turn into an hour long project. Here’s a look at what I found when I dug a hole for two Griselina plants. The plastic flower pot is to give you an idea of how big the hole I was trying to dig was…not big at all!


The third hole I tried to dig resulted in an even more tricky result. A dead end essentially! Solid concrete a few inches down… I have no idea what it is, or was.


But to end on a positive note, here’s a photo of a lovely plant which I bought in the sale corner of our garden centre. It looked pretty dead when I saw it, but I googled the name and thought it might be promising and a few months on it is beautiful…. just don’t ask me what it’s called because I’ve forgotten already!


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Our Plum climbing frame upgrade and storm repair

by Clare Mansell

Two years ago we bought Theo a climbing frame for his third birthday, before we bought it I did a lot of research including looking (unsuccessfully!) for a video review on youtube. After it arrived I recorded my own review and discovered that I wasn’t the only one looking for more information as 24 months down the line more than 2000 people have watched it.


So when we needed to do a repair and add a couple of upgrades it seemed like a good idea to film another video! Living in quite an exposed location our climbing frame took a bit of a battering in Storm Katie (as did our house) so we have replaced the slide, added reinforcement where the slide joins the wood and found a way of achoring the frame to the ground (in case it happens again!)

We also used the opportunity to add a swing arm to the frame, which is an upgrade you can buy from Plum. If you’d like to see what the finished climbing frame looks like or to find out more about how we secured it, please do watch the video below.

Thank you to Plum who gave us a discount on our purchases in exchange for recording this video.

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Our garden in August : Out with one tree, in with another

This month we said goodbye to a large pine tree in our garden. It was a decision I felt torn about right up until the morning that the tree surgeons arrived, but I’m relieved to say we are delighted with the results.

The tree was about 30ft tall and had completely outgrown the spot in the flowerbed where it was planted. The trunk was pressing against our boundary fence and the roots were erupting out of the ground in several spots on the lawn, but the bigger problems were that it stole the light from our patio and shed pine needles in large quantities all year round.

I missed most of the action on the day, but Jim sent me photos and when I came home I was blown away by how the garden had changed.

First a photo of the garden in July, then one of it (in not quite the same spot) this week (it looks a little bare because of our damaged lawn but we’ll come on to that…)


The width of our lawn appears to have doubled, our raised flower bed now gets a significant amount of extra light and lavender which I had been worrying wasn’t getting enough sun now gets 5 hours a day.


Next the stump a jasmine has been struggling to grow in the parched soil and we are expecting it to shoot up with the increased moisture and light and we’ve planted another tree next to where the pine was… I know what you’re thinking, removing one and planting another seems a bit crazy, but the new tree is a minarette apple tree which will grow no higher than the fence and will remain neat and lean…but fruit bearing!

Sweeping up the last batch of pine needles was really satisfying and our patio is now permanently clear of debris for the first time.


Our lawn is still recovering from the effects of treating it with Evergreen 4 in 1 earlier in the month. Several large areas of grass turned black overnight and its been looking it a very sorry state since. From what I have read online this is fairly common and the scorching is most likely a result of us having walked on the treated areas too soon. The consensus seems to be that it’ll be back to normal (or better) within a few weeks…here’s hoping!

The only other news is that we’ve finally had a mini harvest of dwarf green beans from Theo’s pots. Our dwarf cucumbers and tomatoes have not produced, but at least we’ve had one crop. No photos as Theo eats them almost immediately!

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Our garden in July

Our garden in July

by Clare Mansell

Our July update is a little late but I’m determined to keep a record of our evolving outside space as this year has already been a significant one for changes and we have a few more lined up over the coming months.

But first a look at what’s in flower in our garden. We still have an awful lot of small plants which are settling in and still look rather lonely (and very unimpressive) surrounded by empty soil in the beds, but fortunately some of the plants we inherited continue to thrive. The hydrangeass have been in full bloom this month with a varied selection of blooms varying from mauve to pink.


Our rose bush continues to flourish despite near constant neglect! This year I got as far as buying rose food, but still haven’t got round to giving it any and yet we still get many many months of it in flower!


One nice surprise has been seeing the privet hedge we planted along our southern boundary in flower for the first time. When we did our research about which hedge to plant, I didn’t pay much attention to whether it flowered or not, as there were greater concerns about finding something suitable for an exposed coastal location, so it’s been lovely to see these blooms for the first and hopefully not the last time.


Last week after seeing several lush lawns at friends houses we decided to have a second attempt at treating our lawn with Evergreen 4 in 1. I used it last year on our front lawn, but it seemed to do absolutely nothing for us, so this time we followed the instructions to the letter and several patches of the lawn turned black within 24 hours, which is a little disconcerting but according to everything I have read online is normal and at least shows something is happening. Apparently within a month the difference is noticeable so we’ll see what it is like when I do my August update! Theo helped with the spreading, he is quite a keen gardener and has “a new plant for the garden” on his birthday list this year. gardenjuly2

But now on to our plans for the next few months. It’s fair to say that we’ve come an awfully long way as gardeners since we moved into this house three years ago. We had very limited gardening experience between us and I don’t think we even owned as much as a decent spade at the beginning!

Since then we’ve bulked out our garden shed to include a whole range of garden tools and safety equipment from chainsaws to hedge loppers and multiple pairs of garden gloves, even Theo has his own pair of secateurs now! Now we are well equipped, Jim has risen to most of the challenges I have set him such as excavating tree stumps and laying new turf, but there are certain jobs for which you have to call in the experts in order to get a job done efficiently and safely and tree removal is one of them.

I confess I always feel slightly guilty when the subject of felling trees comes up, but when you inherit other people’s planting decisions sometimes you have to undo them. Our pine looks quite nice in this photo, but it steals the afternoon sun from our patio and sheds needles constantly, so we’ve decided to get rid of it, but we won’t be left short of trees. We have a new woodland on two sides of us with over 5,000 young trees in it.


Our tree removal should take place this month. It’s not cheap and in order to help pay for it Jim will be taking on the job of trimming a rather substantial hedge which we normally get the experts in to do. So we’ll either be hiring or buying a hedge trimmer and a special ladder. It gets quite serious this gardening lark!

The next project we are looking at after removing the tree is redoing the patio itself. Like the tree, it doesn’t look too bad in this picture, but it’s a patchwork of crazy paving, patio tiles and cement with gaping holes in it. I’ve been deterred from getting a quote because everything I read online said you couldn’t place a new surface on top of an old surface like this, but we’ve had the experts in and not only did they say we could do it, but they went as far as saying it would be a waste to dig up the old surface and start again, so we are hoping that means the cost won’t be too horrendous, though I suspect it’ll be a job for the spring whatever the case.

If you are looking for garden tools and safety equipment for your garden this summer have a look at the range at Engelbert Strauss.

Joining up with Annie

This is a collaborative post

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Growing rabbit proof salad with Habitat

Over the last few summers we’ve made various attempts to grow vegetables in our garden. The first summer in our house we had a complete disaster when I planted out dozens of tiny little plants I’d nurtured from seed in our raised bed and then saw them obliterated overnight by the local wildlife. The next summer we tried slightly planting in troughs, but the rabbits were still able to reach the leaves to nibble the plants, so we gave up.

Then this summer I had an idea. If we planted lettuces in window boxes then surely nothing would be able to reach them? Our galvanised steel window boxes were gifted to us by Habitat. They are perfect for our coastal location as they are both contemporary and weather proof. They don’t have any drainage holes and initially I was worried the lettuces might become waterlogged, but as we were hanging them under the overhang of the cabin roof we thought they were unlikely to get too sodden.

We planted the first window box two weeks ago and it has grown at an astonishing rate… with no interference from rabbits!


I was fixated on saving the plants from the rabbits and what I hadn’t anticipated was that they wouldn’t be interferred with by any slugs either, so all the leaves are in perfect condition too without a mark on them. Who knew that lettuces love window boxes so much?

After only a fortnight, we were able to start harvesting our first few lettuce leaves this weekend, served in a lovely bamboo salad bowl…


The perfect accompaniment to lasagne on a summer’s evening…


Nothing beats salad leaves plucked fresh from the garden, they are so much tastier and healthier than the chlorine rinsed bags you get from the supermarket (I should know, I’ve had to eat them for the last few years!)

If you have been defeated by rabbits until now, don’t give up! These Holt window boxes are actually in the Habitat sale at the moment reduced from £35 to only £10.50 (A wet summer does have some advantages and good discounts on garden stuff is one of them!) we might get another one for growing herbs by the kitchen!

Linking up with Annie

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