Learning to Garden (1) – If you can’t describe what you are doing….

Despite having left school a long time ago, for me the year still starts in September when the new term begins.  No diary started in January ever makes it to February.  I’m starting this one now as a way off softening the farewell to summer.  When I was a thrusting young project manager I did not acknowledge the existence of cabbages, now I am frustrated by my inability to grow them.  Over the past week I’ve written some software that extracts the GPS data from the pictures on a mobile phone and scatters Google Earth.  At the start of the week, I did not know what I was doing but by the end of the week I had something that looked a bit like a map.  I made mistakes and learnt from them (maybe just in my dreams), but in the garden it takes several months or a year before you learn what you’ve screwed up and get a chance to have another go.  In my case the learning process has been hindered by not quite knowing what I’ve done or where and when.  This diary is an attempt to keep a record and if possible, draw some graphs.

Until recently gardening has been hampered by things weighing several hundredweight which needed dealing with, most of these have been missing or crumbling retaining walls, but having used my bicycle as a form of wheelbarrow to shift a couple of tons of rubble to the dump, most of that work is done.  An early lesson was that plants are solar devices convert kitchen waste into next year’s kitchen waste.  The front garden is partly shaded and attempts to grow vegetables there have been disappointing and failures at the front of the house are public.  A large chunk of the back garden gets full sun and I have been surprised by how much 30 – 40 square meters can produce and I want to learn to use it well.  So it’s flowers in the front and vegetables in the back.  The bit in the middle is mostly turf on chalk and is owned the dog.

Open bin composting system

The last week of September was spent restoring order to places formerly occupied by rubble.  I did not know until recently that there are composting systems and that compost heaps are so yesterday.  I had an open bin composter which was a timber box partly constructed by my daughter, this worked well for a decade, so well that it eventually composted itself and was in danger of becoming an unfashionable heap.  This has been replaced with a larger hot composter, I won’t say why I put my hand inside, but’s warm in there.  The open bin did not produce enough compost to provide a generous annual spread, the new one seems to be some form of organic Tardis and absorbs everything I put in it.  This has lead to an undignified search for organic material to compost, an acceptable source has been windfall apples picked up from the street.  A local coffee shop briefly made it’s coffee grounds available to the public but I think I was the only taker so they terminated this service.  This maybe because my visits were on the homeward leg a rubble dumping trip and I was not the sort of person they wanted to attract.

Hot Composter

Week ending 27-Sep-2015

To offset the sense of loss that came after pulling up fading tomato plants and cutting them up for the composter, I planted 3 kg of daffodil bulbs behind the south wall of the back garden.  This is always in shadow.  When we moved to the house 22 years ago this border was planted with tall grass like plants that were so like razor wire they hinted at problems with the neighbors.  Some iris were a breeding ground for slugs and snails.  This lot was removed and apart from a blackcurrant bush the bed has been empty for two decades.  Let’s hope the bulbs like this spot.

The blackcurrant bush from behind the garden wall was dug up and moved to a nicer spot in the front, despite it’s miserable location it cropped well and contributed to six jars of jam.  It had to be moved so the wall could be re-pointed.  It lost some roots in the process.  I filled in the hole with £6,99 of John Inness No. 3 as a way of saying sorry.


About SolarBucket

I trained as a mechanical engineer in the 1970's and then spent most of the following 25 years doing sums and software for Oil and Gas Exploration. Current interests are the study of wind and solar resources.
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