J Peggy Taylor
J Peggy Taylor
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
J Peggy Taylor
“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.”
For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week Cee has chosen the chorus of “My Favourite Things” as the theme. I’ve decided to share some of my favourite things that I have posted here on my blog during my first year-and-a-bit of blogging.
My regular blog visitors may have spotted my new blog header – beechwoods in Springtime are a great favourite of mine and we love to walk in the woods and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Spring. For my post header image I have chosen one of my very favourite Spring flowers, bluebells. I posted about the “Beautiful Bluebells!” in our woods last Spring.
I’m glad to say we’ve never experienced bee stings while spending happy warm Summer hours watching and photographing bees on flowers.
Butterflies are another Summertime favourite of mine. I love the orange of the Comma butterfly against the purple of their favourite food, the thistle flowers.
Here in Northern England we experience all kinds of weather conditions and we have learned to enjoy them all. A rainy day at the river in Spring is always an uplifting experience – you can read my post about this wet woodland walk here.
The old railway path through the woods is a path we have seen in all weathers, from sunny days to Winter snow. The Victorian railway bridge has featured several times on my blog especially as part of my great interest in history in the landscape. The image above is the bridge in colour from my post, “Old rail trails and a bear hunt”, and below it is in black and white for “Victorian railway bridges in black and white”.
Both of these posts were for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which has been my favourite weekly photo challenge here on WordPress. It was from creating the black and white images for the Victorian bridges post that kindled in me an ambition to try my hand at creating more black and white images and taking part in Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge. I do enjoy taking part in the photo challenges and learning from others.
Wild roses are another of my very favourite flowers. I think I’ve probably said before, I have different favourite flowers depending on the season – there’s always something to look forward too … or in this case, look back at, after the Summer was done and the cooler days of Autumn were with us. I love my son’s photo of the wild Dog Roses. The roses appeared in my “Pastel pink wild roses” post last October.
Purple crocuses with their bright orange stamens are one of my favourite early Spring flowers. These one are in one of my back yard pots along with daffodils and some seedlings of one of our ‘wild’ edible leaves, Garlic Mustard. You can see more about my back yard gardening in “My Blooming Back Yard”.
As well as gardening outside in my yard, I also love indoor gardening too and I grow salad leaves and herbs on my window ledges. In the above photo are my first seedlings of last year – a favourite moment in my gardening year. Just today I was photographing my first salad leaf seedlings of 2015.
A Summer delight for me is picking wild fruit. These delicious raspberries grow in a small patch of woodland not far from our house.
Last Summer I had fun with an interesting vertical gardening experiment in my back yard. I made a jute and willow garden screen and then grew Sweet Peas in air-pruning plant pots to grow on the screen. I shared a number of posts about this project on the willow screen, the air-pruning pots and the Sweet Pea flowers. I was so pleased when my Sweet Peas finally flowered!
I couldn’t post about my favourite things without including a crochet project or two. The jute and willow garden screen was crocheted and my recent “Mending a Woolly Jumper Craft Project” involved several types of crochet too.
Turning a shirt collar is one of those old-fashioned mending tasks that I have always done to extend the life of favourite shirts. The shirt that features in my “Turn a shirt collar” tutorial belongs to my son. He is very fond of this shirt so when the collar began to wear, there was only one thing for me to do …
I decided to post a tutorial on the collar turning process and it has certainly been a favourite among my blog visitors – it is one of the most visited pages on my blog.
To complete my collection of favourites, I want to close with one of my very favourite things, a beautiful sunrise. I am lucky to see a lot of beautiful sunrises and I often share them in my Wordless Wednesday posts. You can see more of my sunrises if you click on the Wordless Wednesday tag on my tag cloud in the sidebar … a beautiful sunrise doesn’t really need many words does it?
I’ve had a lot of fun strolling through my blog photos choosing my favourite things – and I must say I have had to leave out a few too or this post would have gone on forever! Do take a look at what others have chosen for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week for the chorus of “My Favourite Things”.
J Peggy Taylor
This tiny Sycamore seedling tree is one of the many mini trees I have growing in my yard. As I was watering my plants last evening I noticed how beautiful Autumn colours had flooded into this little tree’s leaves.
J Peggy Taylor
When my Soapwort was looking sickly and needed a tonic, I knew just the thing to help restore it to a healthy state. It was time to give this plant a shot of my ‘magic potion’ for plants … or as some of you may know it, liquid Comfrey feed. Fortunately, I have some left over from last year so that has given the Soapwort a boost.
Comfrey is a substantial herb, growing about a metre (3 feet) tall, with hairy leaves and rather rough stems. The oval leaves are larger at the base, decreasing in size as they grow up the stem.
The flower colour varies depending on the particular species. In our neighbourhood it is Russian Comfrey Symphytum x uplandicum that grows abundantly and this species bears pinkish-purple flowers in curved clusters.
Comfrey is an extremely useful herb for gardeners. The leaves are rich in plant foods and as Comfrey leaves decay quite quickly, these vital substances are then released. The leaves can be used in various ways:
I’ve used it for most of these purposes in the past but I still collect some every year to make up a new batch of free, organic, liquid plant food. This plant food is rich in potash and has useful amounts of nitrogen and phosphate too. I find it works well on flowering plants and fruiting plants (such as tomatoes).
Off I went into the damp undergrowth in my wellie boots – Comfrey grows best in the shady areas under some trees. I’d gone prepared in garden gloves too as the Comfrey stems can be rather rough – plus it always grows in the vicinity of Stinging Nettles so gloves are generally a good plan. (Nettle is another marvelous plant, but that’s another story.)
I cut an armful of Comfrey stems which looks quite a large pile, but as I am only using the leaves I knew this would be about the right amount for what I needed. The next task was to make my Comfrey concentrate container from some recycled milk cartons (oh! those useful milk cartons again!).
When making Comfrey concentrate, the key is to pack the container as tightly as possible with shredded leaves. There is another way of making Comfrey feed by steeping the leaves in water in a bucket but I know from past experience this is rather smelly and therefore less suitable for my small backyard. So I prefer to make the concentrate and then dilute it as I need it.
I created my Comfrey concentrate container from three milk cartons. Two cartons were 4 pint size and the third was a 2 litre size which fitted conveniently inside one of the 4 pint cartons. I cut off the tops and handle parts of the cartons and cut a small hole, about an inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, in the base of the 2 litre carton. That’s where the liquid feed will drain through into the lower 4 pint carton.
Then it was time to begin shredding Comfrey leaves and packing them into the milk cartons, starting with the 2 litre carton first. I wasn’t cutting the leaves in any special way, just tearing them up. Some of the lower leaves are larger than my hand, around 8-9 inches (20-22 cm) long. Again, I took the precaution of wearing gloves as plant fibres can be quite tough and can easily tear through skin, if you aren’t careful.
When the 2 litre carton was full of shredded Comfrey leaves, I then shredded the rest of the leaves from the stems I had cut and filled up the 4 pint carton too. This part was then ready to form the ‘lid’ to my Comfrey plant food concentrate container.
Finally, I carefully fitted the ‘lid’ section in place and that was my Comfrey plant food concentrate prepared. Now all I need to do is wait a few weeks until the leaves break down and the rich dark brown Comfrey concentrate will be ready to feed my Sweet Peas and other plants.
When I use the Comfrey concentrate, I will add a little to 5 litres of water in the watering can when watering my plants. The recommended ratio for use is 1:10 – 1:20 according to my Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening – which I found to be an incredibly useful and practical book, when starting out in organic gardening. To use Comfrey feed on fruiting plants, such as tomatoes, the feed should be used three times a week.
So, all I have to do now is wait for my Comfrey leaves to decay gently and turn into my ‘magic potion’ – free, homemade, organic plant food.
J Peggy Taylor
There’s nothing quite like having your own home-grown herbs right there ready to add a handful of fresh flavour to all kinds of cooking. From flans to fish and stews to salads, I really love being able to snip some of my favourite herbs right when I need them.
Not having much space means it makes sense for me to grow the herbs I use most. For me, that means Parsley, Thyme, Sage and Mint. This Spring I sowed my pots of Parsley, Thyme and Sage indoors.
I was starting from scratch with most of my herb plants as the previous plants had either reached the end of their productive lives or succumbed to backyard pests! As an extra precaution I went for indoor window ledge gardening for these three herbs this year.
It seems a long time since I sowed the Parsley seeds in yoghurt pots back in early March and watched the first little green crooks pop up through the compost. After the seedlings had grown on a little, I potted them up into some deeper recycled vegetable trays, spacing out the plants so they had enough room to grow.
The Thyme was sown at the end of March into its own mini-coldframe – an upcycled salad box with a hinged transparent lid. Thyme seedlings really are very small at first so I tend to sow seeds thinly and grow them in a little clump.
I then leave the Thyme seedlings just as they are without pricking them out separately. When the seedlings grew larger I simply potted up the whole clump into a clay plant pot. I chose a clay pot for the Thyme as it prefers well-drained soil.
The Sage was sown in early April in its larger sized clay plant pot – Sage also likes well-drained soil. Sage seeds are large enough to sow individually so I carefully distributed twelve of them around the pot. Although it wasn’t especially cold, it took some time to persuade the Sage seeds to germinate. When no seedlings seemed to be appearing I covered the pot loosely with a plastic sheet for about a week, then sure enough, through they all popped up quite quickly after that!
The Sage seedlings certainly very quickly made up any lost growing time – they seemed to shoot away on this sunny west-facing window ledge!
The Mint has grown on well from a cutting I obtained late last Summer. After encouraging this herb on my ‘warm’ window ledge over the Winter, I potted it up and placed it out in my yard in early April.
It’s starting to look like a real Mint plant now and at least it seems our slugs and snails don’t care much for menthol so they are steering clear of it, I’m pleased to say!
I find growing my own herbs is really easy. Herb seeds, some general purpose compost and some containers to grow them in, that’s all you need. You can see I haven’t gone for any fancy stuff here! Apart from the two simple clay pots, most of my ‘plant pots’ are recycled packaging from vegetables or other foodstuffs. Yoghurt pots are another of my favourite upcycled containers, along with milk cartons which I do find can be extremely versatile.
Harvesting fresh herbs couldn’t be simpler – a pair of scissors is all I use. I will usually just cut enough for the cooking task in hand. With Parsley, I harvest starting with the outside leaves. I took my first Parsley ‘harvest’ in early May – that’s a couple of months from sowing the seeds. I’ve aimed to grow enough plants to provide a plentiful supply for our needs, allowing time for the plants to grow on again. The Parsley should continue to grow and provide fresh leaves throughout the year from this indoor planting (unless it gets very cold in winter).
With the Sage, Thyme and Mint, I will continue to use fresh leaves over the Summer. However, I shall also start cutting and drying some of these herbs too, for use during the colder months. I’ll show you more on that another time.
J Peggy Taylor
As this is the first time I have tried planting in air-pruning plant pots, I’ve been watching my Sweet Peas very closely over the past seven weeks to see how they get along in my recycled milk carton plant pots with their cosy little made-to-measure fabric grow bags. I must say, I am quietly pleased with their progress.
I sowed the Sweet Pea seeds in mid-April – two per pot – and I was delighted to see the first seedlings germinate just five days later. Gradually over the next few days each of the seeds prodded its little green shoot through the compost.
After two weeks my Sweet Pea seedlings were all growing on well. I wanted to give the seedlings time to grow large enough to enable me to thread them onto the jute and willow garden screens I was creating as plant supports. So, for a little longer the seedlings resided on a specially-created plant shelf in an east-facing window – giving them plenty of light without too much strong sun.
In mid-May, a month after sowing, my growing Sweet Pea plants were ready for their outdoor adventure. I chose this particular time as we were enjoying a little burst of early Summer, so I knew the plants would be fine outdoors. I attached the air-pruning plant pots to the jute and willow garden screen – I’d designed the plant pots with this in mind. Now that the Sweet Pea plants were safely outdoors I gave them a good watering and added some of my ‘magic growing potion’ to give them a good start.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been watching over my little Sweet Pea plants. I spotted a suspicious-looking snail on a plant pot one morning so transported it to another location, far-removed from my Sweet Peas! I’ve also been regularly pinching out the side shoots that grow quite prolifically on Sweet Peas. Side shoots will be wonderful later when the plants have fully grown and are ready to flower, but for now they are taking up energy that I’d prefer to see grow into the main plant stem.
My only exception to this lately, is with one of the plants that seems to have acquired its own sneaky slimy friend! As various parts of that plant have been eaten already, I’ve decided to let nature take its course and see whether any of the evidently-too-tasty shoots actually survive!
Today, I also took a closer look at how the roots are progressing in their air-pruning plant pots. There is some evidence of root growth inside the remaining plastic parts of the milk carton, though none to see where the grow bag is exposed to the air through the large holes. Using air-pruning plant pots is a new experiment for me, so I am observing how plant growth is impacted with this method of growing.
The Sweet Pea plants are certainly growing on well – I think they seem to grow perceptibly each day. This morning, as I checked the plants growing on the willow screen on my backyard gate, I see they have now reached about half way up. The plants measured 24 inches high (that’s about 60 cms)!
There’s more heavy rain forecast for tomorrow. After that I shall feed the Sweet Peas some more ‘magic potion’. I shall make this year’s batch of new ‘potion’ soon and then I’ll share the secret 🙂
J Peggy Taylor
I love crafting in natural materials and this Spring one of the fibres I have been working with quite often is jute. I’ve created several other crochet projects in jute yarn in the past, but my recent experiments have been focused on outdoor, functional items. For example, I chose jute yarn to bind together the willow rods I used for my willow garden screens that I’ve posted about previously. My latest jute crochet project has been to create hanging baskets to hopefully accommodate my Soapwort seedlings out of munching distance of the slugs and snails in my back yard!
What is it that I love about jute? The jute yarn I am using was really designed as garden twine. It is rough and tough but I love its texture and strength. For those of you who crochet or knit, I’d say in yarn weight, this jute yarn is chunky. I used a 4.50mm crochet hook for this project. Jute is quite stiff to work and doesn’t stretch, so it can be quite a physical work-out for the hands and fingers when crafting in jute yarn.
Jute yarn is made from plant fibres extracted from the White Jute plant. The golden colour and silky sheen of jute in its natural state has led to it being called the ‘Golden Fibre’. Jute is a crop of tropical lowlands with high humidity, so much of it is grown in India and Bangladesh, on the Ganges delta.
Jute is completely biodegradable and therefore, usefully, it is also recyclable and compostable. The process of growing jute is also very environmentally-friendly as it doesn’t require pesticides or fertilisers, making it a good choice for those of us seeking to be more planet-friendly in how we live and work.
For my hanging basket project I needed a yarn that would be strong enough to take the weight of its intended plant pot cargo and could take some months of outdoor use. With the additional advantages of producing a breathable fabric and having moderate moisture retaining properties, jute fitted my purpose.
In keeping with my overall plan to make use of more vertical space in my back yard, my intention was to hang my two Soapwort baskets on the fence. For this I needed a design that incorporated a flat back panel but with enough capacity in the basket to accommodate the recycled milk carton air-pruning plant pots I’d used for the Soapwort.
I constructed the back panel first, using an elongated oval technique that I find very useful in all kinds of crochet projects. I also included fixing loops at both the top and bottom of the back panel ready to fasten the basket to the fence.
The basket part of the plant hanger I found was best constructed in conjunction with an example of the size of pot it was going to hold. The basket is crocheted onto either side of the lower half of the back panel. To provide extra breathability and drainage, I added several rows of open mesh into the basket crochet. I made sure the basket was deep enough to contain the plant pot without any risk of it falling out – even in a strong wind!
When I’d completed both of my crochet jute plant hangers, it was time to fit the Soapwort plant pots into them and get them hung up on the fence. With their integrated hanging loops this was very easy. I used large-headed nails to hang up the plant baskets – one at the top, one at the bottom. They do seem pretty well fixed and I am hopeful this will prevent them from coming adrift in the wind.
Now all I need to do is persuade the Soapwort to actually grow! It seems like it needs a little persuasion … but I have an idea, so I’ll tell you more about that soon …
J Peggy Taylor
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