Tag Archives: gardeners world

Coldframes-R-Us

The sun is shining today and my plants are so happy!

Last night when I got home Mr Mac was beavering away in his log shed. He had acquired some perspex and had decided to make me a coldframe.

Last year’s coldframe using our old front door!

Last year we cobbled together a temporary coldframe using our old front door and some wood nailed together. It did the job but it required super-human strength to open and close it.

This year we have created a slabbed area specifically for coldframes and Mr Mac decided he would build new ones as soon as he could acquire some perspex to use for lids.

Lying open on his work bench was the only book Mr Mac ever consults on gardening matters – Gardeners’ World Practical Gardening Course by Geoff Hamilton – “The Complete Book of Gardening Techniques”. I don’t remember Geoff Hamilton (too young) but I am assured by Mr Mac that he was the Alan Titchmarsh of the 80’s and 90’s.

In true Mr Mac style, he decided to make some tweaks to his gardening guru’s design only admitting, when I commented about the depth, that he should perhaps have stuck to the measurements in the book.

Anyway, here is how it was made:

The perspex was framed with wood.

Not sure what these are but Mr Mac told me to take a picture of them.

The sides.

The lid is attached with hinges and two of our old wardrobe door knobs have been recycled. Note the bespoke carrying handles at the side!

In situ

We both decided that, while it was a good depth for taller plants, smaller plants might struggle to get enough light. So first thing this morning, before he went to work, Mr Mac went out and made two removable shelves, both at different heights.

Some more perspex is on the way for another coldframe but for the moment I can at least start to get some plants acclimatised so they can be planted out later this month.

Happy Days!

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Oops!…thank you Monty Don

Some of you might remember I posted a blog on 30 March 2012 – Unidentified Growing Objects!

Weird pineapple shaped plants were sprouting underneath the livingroom window and I assumed they must be dahlias as that is what I had grown there last year. I was not 100% convinced though because they were not in the same place and all the foliage was the same. I planted 4 different types of dahlia with dark green to lime green foliage and, in fact, waxed lyrical in my blog about the variety this provides even before the plants flower!

Anyway, last night we had our regular Friday night date with Monty Don on Gardeners’ World. Monty was seen bringing pots of pineapple shaped plants out of his shed, ready to plant them outside.

I said to Mr Mac, “Oh look, Monty has the same dahlias as me. Let’s see what he does with his.”

But Monty did not start talking about dahlias. Oh no. He started telling viewers all about his collection of………….lilies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My chin dropped into my glass of chenin blanc (don’t worry, I did not spill any).

Then it all started to come back to me. Last year we grew some asiatic lilies in pots on our deck. They were stunning when they flowered but the display was over too soon. We must have needed the pots for something else and so emptied out the lily bulbs and planted them in the ground. I can’t really remember!

Anyway, it has resulted in a happy accident. We will have some lovely lilies while we wait for the dahlias to grow. No sign of them yet though….

 

 

Lessons learned:

  1. Always write down what you plant, when you planted it and where. When I plant things, it always seems obvious at the time but 2 weeks later when you have planted 100 other things in the meantime, things get blurry! See my blog about my muscari for a prime example.
  2. Place a little marker in the ground so even when there is nothing there you will know there is something underneath the ground. This happened recently when Mr Mac dug up all my echinacea plants only to find the marker afterwards! That was how he realised it was echinacea and not weeds!

 

Welcome to Compostopolis!

What a fantastic weekend. Two days of glorious, warm sunshine. It made me smile!

This year, Mr Mac and I have a long list of jobs to do in the garden other than growing things. The problem is one job needs to be done before the next one can be started. The time had come, we could put it off no longer – the compost bins had to be moved!

How NOT to build a compost bin!

old compost bins

How not to build a compost bin

When we moved here almost 4 years ago, Mr Mac built 3 huge composting bins at the bottom of the garden. One bin had to be demolished last year to make way for the new greenhouse and the remaining 2 were just in the wrong place.

As you can see from the photo they were huge and we could get loads of stuff in them.  However, size is not everything! To make compost successfully it needs to be turned. This is done by mixing it up to allow the air to get in. Our bins were too high to be able to do this.

We did eventually get lovely compost but it took nearly 2 years while we waited for the waste to break down.

How to do it properly

The error of our way was made clear one Friday evening courtesy of Monty Don on Gardeners World. He showed (or showed off according to an envious Mr Mac) viewers his composting “bays”. Simple compartments open at one end to allow waste to be wheelbarrowed in, tipped and left to break down.

The walls of each compartment were low enough to allow the compost to be turned by moving it from one bay to the next. A few weeks later it can be moved back. The most recent waste on top is then at the bottom and plenty of air is introduced which then speeds up the process.

This system should provide useable compost in as little as 3 months – a substantial improvement on 2 years!

New compost baysHere is the result using some old corrugated seets and some fence posts.

The end bay will hold the compost that is ready to use and the other two will be used to alternate the compost that is breaking down. The walls are low enough to allow the composting waste to be lifted over with a fork into the next bay, introducing lots of air in the process.

So what do we compost?

To make good compost we use lots of different material. Fine waste such as grass clippings, coarse waste such as potato peelings, dry waste such as cardboard (Mr Mac highly recommends empty beer boxes for this!)  and wet waste such as other garden waste. We keep one of the small plastic composting bins you buy in the supermarket under the kitchen sink and fill it with veg peelings, tea bags, coffee grinds and egg shells.

A balanced mix provides the right amount of air and moisture to allow the bacteria to heat up and break down the waste. Worms also help – hence the reason Mr Mac has banned me from adding citrus peel – the worms don’t like it apparently!

And finally……

After a hard day in the garden I sat down to read the Sunday paper. I came across an article about an award-winning composting shed which is set to become the star of this year’s Scotland’s Garden’s Scheme (www.scotlandsgardens.org). Feeling quite smug about our newly constructed compost bays, I read on to see what the fuss was about.

The garden’s owner had commissioned a firm of architects to build the £22,000, 7ft shed made of curved weathered steel and with a wildflower meadow roof.

Our composting bays probably did not even cost £2 – and that was the cost of the biscuits we ate while having our tea break!