Tag Archives: Back yard gardening

Wordless Wednesday: Sharing Summer Flowers

Flowering nasturtiums on my yarn bombing plant support

Willow basket planter with nasturtiums and violas

J Peggy Taylor

Advertisements
Backyard yarn bombing crochet project

Back Yard Yarn Bombing for the Bees

It’s International Yarn Bombing Day! When fellow crochet fan and blogger, Daniella at daniellajoe.com, announced the imminent arrival of a special day for yarn bombing, I had been thinking about making a climbing plant support for my nasturtiums in my new willow basket planter. Nasturtiums are very easy to grow and are very bee-friendly plants. As our poor bees need all the help they can get these days, I’ve grown quite a few nasturtiums this year, both in my back yard and on the allotment garden.

To celebrate International Yarn Bombing Day this weekend, I’ve been busy with my crochet hooks this week. Daniella’s post inspired me to create a crochet concoction for my back yard that would serve a double purpose – firstly as a climbing plant support, and secondly to add a little instant colour to the wall space reserved for the growing nasturtiums. I did some back yard yarn bombing last year too and some of it is still going strong.

Crochet mesh on hazel hoops - yarn art plant support
Crochet mesh on hazel hoops

Making plant supports for me generally involves some kind of sticks and string. I happened to have some very rustic-looking hazel hoops to hand that I’d made last Winter … just in case they might be useful. They were perfect for my plan.

When I say ‘plan’ … I had an idea in my head. Making it a reality involved some free-form crochet. Taking a No.5 crochet hook and some jade green double knitting yarn, I fastened the two hoops together so that they overlapped. I continued to work right around each of the main side sections to provide a foundation row onto which I could attach the crochet mesh. I then began crocheting a wide mesh across the two main areas within the hoops. I liked the way the hazel twigginess added to the overall effect.

Crochet free-form yarn art plant support
Adding the final section of crochet

Bright red and bright blue yarns make the centre section of the plant support really stand out. I just followed the shapes as they happened to be when the hazel hoops were overlapped. Whilst I’d crocheted a 6-chain mesh for the main side sections, I decided to use different crochet effects for the centre section. With the red double knitting yarn, still using a No.5 crochet hook, I worked a Solomon’s Knot-type stitch. For the smaller area of the centre section, I used a No.3 crochet hook with the slightly thinner blue yarn. I outlined the shape in blue chains first, catching them around the hazel hoops at intervals, then I added chains in a sun ray pattern.

Crochet free-form yarn art plant support
Crochet free-form yarn art plant support

Yes! This is just how I imagined it! Now all I need to do is fix my yarn bombing creation in place on the outside wall. I created a couple of lengths of crochet chain using the jade green yarn to bind the hazel hoops onto the structure I already have in place above my willow plant basket.

Yarn bombing and willow plant basket on wall
Yarn bombing the wall with my crochet yarn art plant support

I’m pleased to say, the fixing in place of the nasturtiums’ yarn art plant support went smoothly and just as I’d planned. I also added some new colourful crochet ties to the front of my large willow basket planter as they needed a little sprucing up too.

New crochet ties on willow basket planter
Sprucing up my large willow basket planter with new yarn bombing

My back yard is now even more colourfully yarn bombed! I hope the bees will like it, but what will the neighbours say! Well, I’m not sure what they’ll say about the yarn art plant support but I imagine they thought me pretty odd photographing my back yard in the rain, complete with camera, tripod and umbrella 😀

J Peggy Taylor

Backyard baskets for Summer blooms

The closing of the month of May and the opening of the month of June for me marks a season change, as my gardening brain moves on from Spring to Summer. Although the deep temperature dips we’ve experienced this past week did make me double-check the calendar! But sure enough, it is June so Summer has arrived – and that means it’s time to spruce up my backyard and plant up my Summer baskets.

Willow basket planter and willow garden screen
My original willow basket planter and one of the two willow screens

I’m keeping my crochet jute and willow garden screens going for another year so that I can continue to make use of the vertical space that enjoys the best of the sunshine in my rather shaded yard. The willow basket planter I have on my wall needed a bit of mending too and at the same time I decided to add a few more willow rods at each end to hold the weaving in place. In my photo you can probably spot the new green willow that I’ve added.

This year, I’ve decided not to go with the same air-pruning plant pots as I’ve used previously because I found my smaller pots dried out too fast when they’re planted up with the climbing plants that I needed them for. Instead, I’ve made a new hanging plant basket from hazel rods and woven willow.

Willow and Hazel Plant Basket with Summer plants
The new willow and hazel plant basket

The new hanging plant basket is very similar to the original hazel and willow basket I successfully used last year for my Violas on my backyard wall. That’s last year’s Violas you can see on my Summer blog header at the top of the page. The new basket has a sturdy hazel frame. I made the frame a few months ago in early Spring as I used natural green wood hazel rods and I wanted to bend the rods into the basket shape whilst they were still very flexible. I then added the woven willow to form the full basket.

Green willow rods stored in a bucket of water
Sprouting green willow rods stored in a bucket of water

After harvesting them last December, I’d kept my willow rods green and flexible by storing them in a bucket of water in a sheltered part of the garden. The willow is now well-sprouted and rooted and I will probably plant a few of the cuttings out in a suitable spot. But most of the willow is reserved for basket-mending and making.

Which flowers have I chosen to go in the baskets? Building on my successful plantings from last Summer, I’m growing trailing, mixed colour Nasturtiums again. (You can see last year’s Nasturtiums in my header image on this post.) These flowers scrambled beautifully up the willow screens and they were extremely popular with the bees. As the Violas were also lovely last year (and admired by the neighbours 🙂 ), I’ve decided to grow them again too.

Violas, Nasturtiums, Marigolds in Willow Planter
Violas, Nasturtiums, Marigolds in my new willow basket planter

My new flowers for this year are bi-coloured French Marigolds in orange and crimson and a deep purple-blue compact Verbena. I’ve planted up both baskets with Nasturtiums, Violas and French Marigolds so far and left some space to add the Verbenas very soon. I’m sure I’ll be posting again as the flowers grow and develop their full Summer blooms.

Now all we need is some Summer sunshine 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Mushroom close-up

Zooming out for the bigger picture

“What’s This?” was the question Cee gave us to ponder for last week’s Fun Foto Challenge. We then had a lot of fun trying to work out what other people had posted.

For my entry, I zoomed in on some natural subjects, focusing on shapes and details. This week, I promised to post the original images so you can see the whole zoomed out picture. Here they are …

1. Woodland waterfall

Miniature waterfall on a woodland stream
Miniature waterfall on a woodland stream

This is one of the many small streams (or ‘burns’ as well call them here in The North 😉 ) that flows into the River Derwent in our local woods. I love this miniature waterfall as it cuts its way through the bedrock and pours down onto the next level below, surrounded by woodland greenery. I often find myself reaching for my camera when I see it. For the challenge, I picked out the water splash detail.

2. Hellebores in April snow in a plant pot

Hellebores in April snow in a plant pot
Hellebores in April snow in a plant pot

This is one of the two pots of the “Washfield Doubles” Hellebores I have on the steps by my back door. In this photo from April 2012, it looks like I was focusing on the quantity of late snow, rather than the plant itself! For the challenge, I chose the detail of the concentric curves of the terracotta pot, its black plastic liner and the topping of clean white snow.

3. Worm’s eye view of a woodland mushroom

Worm's eye view of a large woodland mushroom
Worm’s eye view of a large woodland mushroom

As I am not in the habit of crawling on my belly in beechwoods, you will notice this photo was taken by my son! I am always drawn to the unusual angles of this set of mushroom shots so I thought it would be perfect for the “What’s this?” challenge.

I enjoyed Cee’s photo challenge. I hope you enjoy my zoomed-out photos!

J Peggy Taylor

First flowering dahlia

Dahlia delight!

I love dahlias. They’re definitely one of my favourite Summer garden flowers. I’m often admiring Cee’s photos of beautiful dahlia blooms over at Cee’s Photography. In my small back yard, I don’t have enough space to grow the tall varieties of dahlia, but this year I decided to sow a few pots of dwarf dahlias. I tried this a few years ago, but that Summer was a bit of a washout and the dahlia flowers only grew to the size of large coin.

This year, as part of making more use of the vertical space in my yard, I have my dahlia pots carefully balanced on the new plant shelf, so the plants can catch more of any Summer sunshine that comes their way. I’ve been watching with hopeful anticipation as my dahlia plants have grown on and developed their first flower buds, despite our largely cool and windy weather so far this Summer. Then, on Thursday this week I was delighted to see the first dahlia bud had burst open to reveal its sunny radiance.

J Peggy Taylor

Back yard gardening: Spring Onion success

Gardening in a small space means there’s never enough room for everything you want. I’ve begun to make more use of the vertical space, especially along the sunny fence as I was showing you in this previous post. During Spring and Summer, my indoor window ledges are also pressed into service as ‘gardening’ areas for herbs and salad leaves. I try to grow some food crops as well as flowers.

This year I’m experimenting with growing Spring Onions both outdoors and indoors. The variety is DT Brown’s classic, White Lisbon. The indoor Spring Onions are in an upcycled apple juice carton. I wasn’t sure if this would be deep enough for them to fully grow.

Indoor-grown Spring Onions
Indoor-grown Spring Onions in their upcycled apple juice carton

The idea initially was to pot them on into a deeper container but somehow time got eaten up by other things and the seedlings grew too large to be able to transplant them without damaging the roots. Hence, the Spring Onions are still growing in their apple juice carton on my kitchen window ledge, but they don’t seem to have suffered too much it seems. They’ve grown on well from sowing in early April and some are almost ready for harvesting now. As I was preparing this post, I noticed I’d sown 20 seeds and this has resulted in a dozen plants.

Outdoor-grown Spring Onions
Spring Onions grown on outdoors after seedlings germinated indoors

My first two pots of outdoor Spring Onions were first sown into a small ‘propagator’ (upcycled food packaging) and kept on the kitchen window ledge. When the seedlings showed, I transplanted them into upcycled milk cartons and then I moved them outdoors.

Spring Onions sown and grown outdoors
Spring Onions sown and grown outdoors

For the final sowing of Spring Onions at the end of April, I sowed another small batch of seeds directly into their upcycled milk carton pot and hung them outside straight away. The milk carton plant pots are just hung on the sunny fence with string. Keeping the jug handle on the milk carton plant pots is useful for tying them onto other supports, I’ve found. I’ve done this with the air-pruning plant pots I made from milk cartons to hang on my willow garden screens too.

Outdoor Spring Onions have grown on well
Outdoor Spring Onions have grown on well in their upcycled milk carton plant pots

All of the outdoor Spring Onions have grown on well, despite regular buffeting by the seemingly incessant wind this Spring and Summer. The White Lisbon Spring Onions have been easy enough to grow. Regular watering has been the only after-care needed.

Sweet Pea plants showing some snail or slug damage
Sweet Pea plants showing some snail or slug damage

I’ve been pleased to note that another benefit to my vertical gardening experiments has been … so far! 😉 … the plants seem to have stayed safe from the munching molluscs that share my yard – or perhaps they’ve just been too busy grazing on my Sweet Peas!

J Peggy Taylor

Hazel and willow basket planter with yarn bombing

Yarn bombing and willow weaving in my yard: gardening meets craft

This Spring I’ve been building on my back yard gardening ideas from last year but to make sure there’s always colour in my yard – regardless of whether the plants thrive or fail – I’ve also gone in for a bit of yard yarn bombing this growing season too.

I’ve tidied up the wild crochet jute and willow garden screens that I made for my Sweet Peas last year and turned them into slightly neater, but still very rustic, willow arches.

Willow garden screen rustic arch
Rustic willow garden screen ~ now an arch

This Summer the willow garden screens are going to support the nasturtiums I have sown in their fabric growbags in some of my upcycled air-pruning plant pots. The fabric growbags and air-pruning plant pots have been made the same way as last year.

Nasturtiums in air pruning plant pots
Nasturtiums in air pruning plant pots

If you’re interested in seeing how I made these upcycled air-pruning plant pots you can see the process here and here.

Keeping with the rustic woven willow theme, I’ve added a large basket planter on the outside wall of my yard, overlooking the street.

Willow Garden Screen Arch and Hazel rod basket frame
Willow arch garden screen and hazel rod basket frame
Hazel plant basket frame with coloured yarn ties
Hazel plant basket frame with coloured yarn ties

The basket frame is made from green hazel rods, carefully bent around into an oval shape and fastened with some brightly coloured crochet chains. I added some thinner willow rods that I had to hand to make the top half of the basket. I plan to finish off the weaving with some green willow rods at some later time.

I then lined the basket planter with a sliced-open empty plastic compost sack and I filled up the basket with a soil and potting compost mix. I used some soil to create weight in the base of the basket and also because the soil will help to retain water better than just potting compost alone. My old-fashioned ‘Johnny-jump-up’ violas had grown on well from sowing at the end of March and were just beginning to flower when I planted them out into the new hazel and willow basket planter on my back yard wall. I do think the violas look lovely with their little purple faces nodding in the breeze.

Johnny-jump-up violas flowering in rustic basket planter
The Johnny-jump-up Violas in their rustic basket planter

With so little growing space, I’ve gone further overboard with vertical gardening this year in my back yard gardening, with a new plant shelf to take more advantage of the fence area that sees plenty of light and sunshine.

Yarn bombing plant pots - header
Pots of dahlias and irises on the plant shelf with their colourful yarn plant pot slings

This new plant shelf is now home to pots of dwarf dahlias, which are growing on well since I potted up my seedlings, and some irises that don’t seem to be growing on too well at all just yet. To secure the pots onto the shelf, I devised a strong crochet plant pot sling and crafted these in different colours to give this new growing area an instant colour splash.

First dahlia bud
First dahlia bud

As I was watering my pots yesterday, I was excited to see the first dahlia flower bud appearing on one of my plants … I will be watching and waiting – what colour will it be!

J Peggy Taylor

Seed sowing and Snowdrops

First seed sowing of 2015
My first seed sowing of 2015

February’s morning sunshine with a hint of warmth in it has had me itching to start this year’s gardening season. After my weekend task of tidying up and repotting cabbages in the back yard, today I succumbed to my first batch of seed sowing and I started off a box of salad leaves and rocket. I sowed some remaining dwarf dahlia seeds that I came across in my seedbox too, rather hopefully, as I’m not sure if they’ll germinate because the seed is a bit old. But I love dahlias, so it was worth a try.

I also sowed some sweet peas but I’m trying a different approach to last year. Last year’s gardening experiment for me was trying out air pruning plant pots for the first time. Some readers may remember I blogged about my sweet pea experiment. I will be using air pruning pots again this year, but not for the sweet peas.

Today I decided to return to another method I have used before for sowing sweet peas – I planted the seeds in some recycled cardboard tubes filled with compost. When they grow, the sweet peas will be transplanted out into a larger pot this year, complete with their recycled tubes. I might crochet a jute ‘trellis’ to fasten to the fence for the plants to climb on but I just need to ponder on that a little more.

Snowdrops in bud
Snowdrops in bud

When I went outside to hang out my washing today, I noticed I wasn’t the only one to be enjoying the warm February day. The snowdrops, that only last week were barely poking their green points though the brown blanket of last year’s dying grasses, were now proudly nodding their full white buds in the gentle westerly breeze. Ah yes! Now that is a real promise that Spring is not far off!

J Peggy Taylor

Sweet Pea plants growing on a willow garden screen

Air-pruning plant pot experiment – UPDATE

Growing plants in air-pruning plant pots was a new experience for me this year so I have been watching and learning from my Sweet Peas as they have gradually progressed.

My air-pruning experiment: the project progress

My six upcycled air-pruning plant pots now complete with their newly sown Sweet Pea seeds
My six upcycled air-pruning plant pots now complete with their newly sown Sweet Pea seeds

It seems a long time since mid-April when I sowed the Sweet Pea seeds in their cosy grow bags inside my upcycled milk carton air-pruning plant pots. The seeds quickly germinated and the Sweet Pea plants were soon on their way.

Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen
Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen

When I put them outside in the middle of May, the plants only just reached up far enough out of their pots for me to encourage the shoots to set off on their journey up the jute and willow garden screen that I had specially constructed for this purpose.

By the end of July the plants were grown to their full height (1.8 metres/6 feet) and the first flowers appeared … pink, followed by white and then a deep maroon.

Pink, White, Maroon - Sweet Peas on the willow screen
Pink, White, Maroon – Sweet Peas flowering on the willow garden screen

My air-pruning experience: thoughts and observations

Whilst generally I am very pleased with my air-pruning experience during this Spring and Summer, I have encountered a couple of problems with my gardening experiment that I thought I’d talk a bit about in this post.

Air-pruning plant pots in the microclimate behind the wall
My air-pruning plant pots in the cooler, damper micro-climate behind the wall

I set three pots of plants to grow from behind my small yard wall (approx. 90cm/3 feet high) and three pots of plants to grow up over my yard gate, which is around the same height. Although these two areas are only inches apart, they have very different micro-climates.

The small area behind the brick wall is fairly dark and damp because it is immediately adjacent to our refuse and recycling bins. I had also previously planted my new Willow cuttings in their pots in this corner of the yard and, as they had grown on a little, they affected the light level too. The combination of these elements means this part of the yard tends to stay cooler with no direct sun.

As I'd anticipated the Sweet Pea plants are mainly growing on the outside of my backyard garden screen
As I’d anticipated the Sweet Pea plants are mainly growing on the outside of my backyard garden screen

The wooden planked gate forms the boundary to the other half of the yard. With the open yard area immediately inside the gate, this half of the yard has more air movement, plus the warmth of the sun soon warms up the wooden gate.

In the cooler, damper conditions behind the wall, it wasn’t long before the snails showed up! When I say ‘showed up’, it was mainly a case of ‘left a trail’ … not only of glistening slime, but also of half-chewed leaves – though only on one particular Sweet Pea plant. Why only one plant, I can’t be certain – but I was pleased to see at least it wasn’t all three!

Snail in Sweet Pea grow bag
Spot the snail snuggled into the Sweet Pea grow bag!

One day I managed to catch up with my plant-munching visitor as it snuggled down into the evidently-too-cosy grow bag! Have you ever found yourself addressing a mollusc?! I must say, I took pity on the poor starving creature who was, of course, merely seeking an evening meal and a bed for the night! I did however remove it from the Sweet Pea pot and found it a new home elsewhere!

Moody mollusc - my snail visitor
Moody Mollusc peering disgruntledly from under its shell

There was one other aspect of my Sweet Pea air-pruning plant pot experiment that I have could have been happier with and that relates to the size of the pots I chose to use. If you have grown Sweet Peas before, you will know they normally prefer to grow in quite deep soil. However, I had previously grown them successfully in a pot that was not much deeper than the air-pruning plant pots I was using this year, so that was why I had decided it was worth the experiment.

The problem I encountered was this: as the plants grew taller, the lower leaves quickly yellowed, despite regular watering and feeding. I took a close look at the root systems as far as I could observe them from the outside of the pots. The roots had grown well and exactly as expected in the air-pruning plant pots. There were only the tips of roots showing inside the closed-in areas of the pots. Where the fabric grow-bag was open to the air, the roots had not penetrated the grow-bag. I will be taking an even closer look at how the root systems have developed when the plants are finished flowering and I take them down.

Visible root growth in air pruning plant pot
Root growth in one of the air-pruning plant pots on the wooden gate
Roots in air pruning plant pots
Roots in the air pruning plant pots behind the wall

The plants have reached their full height and flowered, but the yellowing of the leaves has somewhat spoiled their overall appearance on the willow screen. I definitely feel the Sweet Pea plants needed larger pots with a greater quantity of compost to supply them with sufficient nutrients and water. (Apologies for the slightly blurred image below – we had windy weather in August and it was impossible to find a time when the light and the weather allowed for better photo shooting!)

Yellowing foliage on my Sweet Peas
My Sweet Peas at the end of August – flowers but also yellowing foliage

I was very pleased that the Sweet Pea plants grew to their full height, though on hindsight, given the plant pot size I had used, I would probably have been better managing the growth differently. I nipped out the main growing tips when the plants reached the top of the screen, but if I had done this a little earlier and kept the plants a little shorter, I think perhaps the issue with the dying foliage may not have been so bad.

The size of the pots has definitely been an issue I’d rethink for another time. I need either larger pots for Sweet Peas or perhaps I need to choose a smaller growing plant. Another idea I had intended for some of the Sweet Pea plants was to plant them into a wooden plant trough. But, as so often happens, time simply ran out for that idea this year. However, I may contemplate creating some troughs in either wood or woven willow for next year so I shall add it to my Winter projects list!

J Peggy Taylor