Embracing the Elements

As I mentioned in my last post, my mum was visiting this weekend so it’s been a quiet weekend on the gardening front; to worsen matters not only has the weather been all over the place the past few days – I also forgot to put the garden waste bin out on Thursday, so the garden waste heap is still growing!

Bin still heaving with garden waste :(

Bin still heaving with garden waste :(

On Wednesday after work there was still a bit of sun, so I popped into the garden once I got back and made a proper start on the brambles. I managed to get the majority of one bramble cut down before light was too poor to carry on; the rest of the week was not good for light after work so that was that!

I wake up on Sunday to a hailstorm outside… Which was the last thing I wanted on the only day I could really get stuck into the garden. In disappointment I put on a film or two and after a few hours the weather was the polar opposite, bright sunshine and not even a breeze. I started on the brambles again, it’s a slow process at the moment but I managed to get a fair bit cut down. I also cut the rose bush right back and pulled out lots of dead plants; after a couple of hours it started raining again so I called it a day (although it did get lighter later on). I think if I want to make a real impact on the brambles I’ll need weed killer and possibly a better cutting tool than secateurs – perhaps Loppers or even a hand axe.

I seem to be creating a thicket..

I seem to be creating a thicket..

The stumps of one of the brambles, this may be too hard to dig out, so I may have to kill it with weed killer.

The stumps of one of the brambles, this may be too hard to dig out, so I may have to kill it with weed killer.

You can see the dirt where dead plants had killed the grass underneath, I'm not sure whether this will grow back, guess time will tell! Also the rose bush has been cut back somewhat, but it was hideous, may just get-rid.

You can see the dirt (with green sprouts) where dead plants had killed the grass underneath, I’m not sure whether this will grow back, guess time will tell! Also the rose bush has been cut back somewhat, but it was hideous, may just get-rid.

Andy

Inebriated in a Garden Centre

This weekend I’ve not done as much as I wanted. I’m putting that down to attending the company birthday party on Friday night; to say the least it resulted in me being extremely drunk, wearing a Fez; fake mustache; and walking around a posh hotel pretending to be an English Gentleman – all the while talking to colleagues I’ve never seen or spoken to before. Just a standard night out for: Andy Mepham! *Superhero Pose*

Ahem.. On Saturday I had plans with my housemate to go to a nearby garden centre, I dragged myself out of bed at half one in the afternoon and was looking around a garden centre and some other nearby shops not long after. Unfortunately, still being half-cut from the night before, I struggled to concentrate on the pictures I was taking, so the below are the best of a LOT of poor images. I’m hoping to go back next month to actually BUY some plants rather than just peruse, so I should get some better pictures then.

That Bokeh!

That Bokeh!

I really liked this plant but can't remember what it was called, 'Snake'-something if I recall. Will try to find out.

I really liked this plant but can’t remember what it was called, ‘Snake’-something if I recall. Will try to find out.

Lots of very bright plants in the garden centre, this was overexposed originally, thank god for RAW images.

Lots of very bright plants in the garden centre, this was overexposed originally, thank god for RAW images.

I'm really liking the idea of a herb garden, but that would most likely be in a container rather than in flower beds.

I’m really liking the idea of a herb garden, but that would most likely be in a container rather than in flower beds.

Loved the colour of this plant, looks very unique, too.

Loved the colour of this plant, looks very unique, too.

Tried to get some good shots of this guy, but way too fast and I don't have a good enough zoom lens to get a shot from a distance.

Tried to get some good shots of this guy, but way too fast and I don’t have a good enough zoom lens to get a shot from a distance.

Possibly one of the best shots of the day.

Possibly one of the best shots of the day.

Along with this one, absolutely loved the colour gradient and light shade of yellow.

Along with this one, absolutely loved the colour gradient and light shade of yellow.

After touring the garden centre, we popped into Green and Blacks, where my housemate got some cheese. May have to head back here, some very unique items.

After touring the garden centre, we popped into Brown and Green, where my housemate got some very tasty blue cheese. May have to head back here, some very unique items.

That's right, I was "that guy" taking pictures of his food with an SLR. Deal with it. (Two tortillas though, really?)

That’s right, I was “that guy” taking pictures of his food with an SLR. Deal with it. (Two tortillas though, really?)

We got back from Trentham Gardens around half 5 and after a short attempt at cutting out some Brambles, I called it a day. On Sunday I felt pretty rough so barely left my room, although I do feel bad for not making an effort to get outside as it was a lovely day. So that’s it for this weekend! My mum is visiting next weekend, so I doubt there will be much progress in the garden on Friday or Saturday, but hopefully I will be able to do something during the coming week (light evenings permitting) and on Sunday. Here’s hoping!

Andy

Sunday Clearing

Today I’ve been continuing work on the front garden. I started by mowing the lawn (twice) and going over it with a strimmer to tidy up in places. I also had another look at the hedges, in the fresh light of day, and noticed a few areas I had missed (largely due to the longer grass) at the bottom of the hedges.

Much tidier than it was even yesterday, let alone last weekend.

Much tidier than it was even yesterday, let alone last weekend.

A lot neater! It’s a shame however that the grass isn’t a little greener, but I did cut it quite low as I wanted to give it a thorough going over. There was a lot of twig-like branches in one part of this area (roughly where the mound of garden waste is located) I have a feeling this could have been from the last time the hedges were cut, I assume the branches weren’t removed after.

I removed lots of the grass tufts and weeds growing in the path with a shovel, worked very well thankfully!

I removed lots of the grass tufts and weeds growing in the path with a shovel, worked very well thankfully!

I also cleared some of the weeds and grass growing in a section of the path, it all came up quite easily with a shovel. I hope the garden path in the back is just as easily cleared; I also have another stretch of the front garden to clear but ran out of space to dispose of the waste – otherwise I would have done it today.

Tidied up somewhat, will need another going over, though.

Tidied up somewhat, will need another going over, though.

This area was last to get my attention, and with a full garden waste bin and sunlight quickly going, I only cleared up what was necessary. There is also two inspection drains at the back of this section, which may write it off as a viable place to put plants (other than potted plants) as the soil seems quite shallow in places.

So that’s pretty much all I’ve done today, although it’s taken a while to clear. It actually looks all right at the front of the house now, not as neglected as it was before and hopefully with a little more attention it should be possible to make the front of the house presentable.

Topped off the garden waste bin (brown lid) and half-filled the normal bin with grass and twigs.

Topped off the garden waste bin (brown lid) and half-filled the normal bin with grass and twigs.

I might do some more work during the week if weather and light permits, but otherwise it will be next weekend, when I’m planning to look on clearing brambles! Yay! *Disdainful Face*

Andy

Aquifolium, Griselinia, Rubus and Cerveza

Warning: This post contains Latin plant names. I don’t know what I was thinking, sorry.

Today was the first day of working on the garden! I spent most of my time at the front of the house, as I thought the hedges needed the most immediate attention (it is apparently best to cut them before spring kicks in to full swing), and I wasn’t wrong!

I started out on a small test-section near the garage – that had slightly overgrown but no-where-near as much as the main hedge row – just to get a feel for the hedge trimmer as I hadn’t used one before.

Information on cutting hedges can be found here.

I had a quick look online for any tips beforehand, and it seemed fairly straightforward – as long as you’re not doing anything dangerous! The primary suggestion was to cut with a scything motion up-and-down the height of the hedge, which worked brilliantly; it was time to tackle the main hedge rows!

I found quite quickly that it’s easy to tell where the natural width and height of the hedge is in relation to the overgrowth, I think this was aided by the fact there is Common Holly [Ilex Aquifolium] growing in the hedge in places, which seemed to be overpowered by the spindly branches of the majority of the hedge (having a quick look online, it looks like the hedge may be primarily made up of New Zealand Broadleaf [Griselinia Iittoralis] as this is a common hedge plant in the UK and is known for fast growth – that would explain it!).

Whilst cutting the hedge at one of the corners I found a (thankfully) abandoned birds nest between some sturdy branches in the hedge row. I had previously read that it’s best to avoid cutting hedges between March and August, as this is the time of year birds nest; but god-only-knows what state the hedges would have been in by the end of august if I hadn’t cut them!

Thankfully it was tucked out of the way and fairly high up.

Thankfully it was tucked out of the way and fairly high up.

Obviously it’s important to consider the wildlife when gardening, the RSPB have an advice article about maintaining hedges here about this.

Seemed to have been here a while, so I was able to carry on cutting the hedge with no worries.

Seemed to have been here a while, so I was able to carry on cutting the hedge with no worries.

It wasn’t long before I had to venture to the other side of the hedge and cut from outside the garden. I saw a few neighbours knocking about during this time, I can only assume they were sighing in relief as the unsightly house on the corner was no longer lowering the resale value of their properties. After half an hour or so of trimming, the front of the house was finally presentable!

Don't worry, I did the neighbourly thing and swept up the cuttings once I had finished.

Don’t worry, I did the neighbourly thing and swept up the cuttings once I had finished.

I returned back to the other side to take a quick look at it again from inside, after a little more trimming, the hedge was looking pretty good from both sides:

The birds nest was found just in the corner where next-doors hedge (higher) meets ours.

The birds nest was found just in the corner where next-doors hedge (higher) meets ours – near the brown plant branches that have been cut back.

Cutting behind the holly tree in the corner wasn't fun - I need to buy thicker clothes it seems.

Cutting behind the holly tree in the corner wasn’t fun – I need to buy thicker clothes it seems.

I’m not entirely happy with the shape of the hedges, but I think this has more to do with them being overgrown. I’m going to take another look at them tomorrow and trim if necessary. Just for comparison, here’s what they were like before:

This small section of lawn may be a promising starting area.

No shape to them what-so-ever.

Hedge overgrowth is not any better from this side! The grass is in a pretty bad state, too.

The gate entrance is barely visible, but as a bonus so were there estate agent signs (hopefully I’ll be able to take these down with landlord permission, as the house has been full for almost a year).

Time for a little break before tidying up, thankfully I had some San Miguel chilling in the fridge – winner.

Any excuse for a beer and a picture.

Any excuse for a beer and a picture, the weather had brightened up too; starting to get that summer spirit!

It took a while to clean up, and I near-as-dammit filled the garden waste bin with the cuttings. I thought I’d call it a day here, but before I did I had a quick look at the back garden.

On my last post I mentioned vines growing in the garden, a few people told me that they believed these were Brambles, and it seems that’s the case. Brambles [Rubus fruticosus agg] are actually the same plant as the fruit-bearing blackberry, and one of the plants in the garden seems to be an – overgrown – blackberry plant (high in the plant are even some small fruit), but I’ll refer to it as a bramble plant as it really isn’t fruiting and is more of a bane than a blessing. The bramble is most definitely the source of these vines, and is extremely overgrown: almost twice the height of the fence in one place.

Stupidly high and spindly. How have our neighbours put up with this?!

Stupidly high and spindly. How have our neighbours put up with this?!

It’s obvious I need to get rid of this plant for good, and from what I’ve read it’s no easy task (see previous link for the plant species, and this blog which is very well written and detailed). They can grow back even after a few years, and consistent de-weeding of any spindly brambles should be removed as soon as possible.

Just EVER so slightly prickly!

Just ever so slightly prickly!

The bottom of the large bramble plant, just craving to cut them!

The bottom of the large bramble plant, just craving to cut them!

I cut out one of the large sections of bramble that was crossing the garden path, the growth of it is quite incredible seeing as I had removed them last year. It had branched and rooted itself into four places in the lawn and one place in the wooden decking!

Put on display like one of those giant squids discovered in deep oceans. Scumbag.

Put on display like one of those giant squids discovered in deep oceans. Scumbag.

That pretty much concludes my gardening adventures for today. Tomorrow I’m going to look at tidying the front garden up a little, and maybe tackle the brambles if I can get some gardening gloves; ultimately though the brambles are my next target.

Garden Overview and New Tools!

I took the day off work today, primarily because I’ve been really busy at work recently and felt like a cheeky workday off, but also because I had a few deliveries: my new Nikon D3200 and several gardening items.

Everything I was expecting to be delivered was here by 8:30am, trying to make the most of the day off I naturally went straight back to bed; a well earned lie-in on a Wednesday was more-than welcome!

I woke up around lunch time and began unboxing my camera, putting the battery on charge in preparation for an afternoon walk around the garden. An hour and a half later the battery was fully charged, I experimented a bit with Manual mode on my camera in bed for a while, got dressed, and then headed outside.

Note: Those with a phobia of unruly gardens may want to stop reading here. You have been warned.

Front of the House

The hedges at the front of the house are extremely overgrown, having to slide through the front gate during the winter usually resulted in being soaked from the rain water on the leaves, and on one occasion almost being hit by a cyclist I couldn’t see coming down the street.

Front of the house from across the road.

Front of the house from across the road.

The rest of the front hedge. Uneven and overgrown.

The rest of the front hedge. Uneven and overgrown.

Front Garden

The garden behind the hedges is in an equally bad state, there’s quite a big strip of lawn here; during last summer I mowed it once – which may not sound like a lot, however at the time it was at least 3 foot high – cutting it right back down basically resulted in a straw carpet for the rest of the summer.

This small section of lawn may be a promising starting area.

This small section of lawn may be a promising starting area.

Hedge overgrowth is not any better from this side! The grass is in a pretty bad state, too.

The grass is in a pretty bad state – primarily uneven – and the amount of weeds growing throughout the paths will need to be addressed.

The path down the side of the house to the back garden is full of weeds, and will need tidying up as well:

Side Path

 

Back Garden

Here’s where things just go to a whole new level of overgrown. I tried to combat this last summer (it was in a pretty bad state when I moved in, back in June of last year) but not to a good enough extent, obviously!

Yeah.. there are no words.

Yeah.. there are no words.

So for starters – broken fencing, dirty decking and an overgrown garden path… lets focus on one thing for a while whilst that sinks in.

Vines

We seem to have a vine problem which will need to be addressed, I’ve seen these all across the garden:

Tripped over this whilst walking into the house - war declared.

Tripped over this whilst walking into the house – war declared.

Death to creeping vines!

Death to creeping vines!

I tripped over this three times. THREE.

I tripped over this three times. THREE.

I’m not sure how best to address these, which may be an area for investigation. I definitely don’t want them growing back, that’s for sure! Right, back to the garden as a whole.

Back Garden: Redux

The below area might be a good spot for some flower beds, along the wall of the garage perhaps. The plants in this picture were massive last year, I think they need to go.

This small patch of lawn may be another promising practice area, it gets a nice amount of light, also.

This small patch of lawn may be another promising practice area, it gets a nice amount of light, also.

To the back of the garden there are some awful weeds that need to be brought to heel, as my housemate phrased it “This corner has the worst weed to plant ratio.”:

Yeah.. this needs to go.

Yeah.. this needs to go.

The very back is.. just a state.. There seems to be several paving slabs back here amongst dozens of weeds, hopefully I can do something good with this area.

The back of the garden has a lot of wasted space.

The back of the garden has a lot of wasted space.

I’m intrigued by this chimney pot, I like how it looks, might have to do something with it and make it a feature:

It's not clean and does have a hole in it, but there is always hope!

It’s not clean and does have a hole in it, but there is always hope!

TODO: I need to get a picture of the left side of the garden.. I don’t know how I managed to miss that area, I think it was because of my run-in with the creeping vines.

The left side of the garden is dominated by three large, overgrown plants; primarily a rose bush that is a mess of branches and will need to be cut right back. This area is going to take a lot of work I think.

There is bamboo paneling on one of the fences, it’s a little dilapidated, but the ivy growing on them is rather nice.

Might try to keep this here if possible.

Might try to keep this here if possible.

I think that covers the garden in general, not a lot going on with it at the moment.

Gardening Supplies

So it begins here. I got a delivery today from a gardening company with the following gardening tools, these should tide me over for the foreseeable future as I don’t really want to pay for speciality tools that I may only use once or twice right now – so I’ve just gone for the staples of a gardening tool kit:

These should do me as far as small hand-tools go.

These should do me as far as small hand-tools go, I thought a kneeling pad would be a good idea.

I paid a little more to get brand name equipment, but the cheap stuff had terrible reviews so hopefully it will pay off in the long run.

I paid a little more to get brand name equipment, but the cheap stuff had terrible reviews so hopefully it will pay off in the long run.

This should help me combat the overgrown hedges.

This should help me combat the overgrown hedges.

Over the coming weekend I think my housemate and I are going to make a start, looking at the front garden first, so I’m sure I’ll be posting a new blog at the end of the weekend and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in!

All of the photos on this blog can be found in higher resolution on Flickr, here.

Andy

Photography Shopping

I’ve had a quick nose around some gardening blogs the past few days, and there seems to be a very common theme for recommended blogs – photography. Pictures of the work, either in progress or after; are core to a good gardening blog. I’ve used this gardening-blog-staple as the motivation to do what I’ve wanted to do for quite a while (regardless of the stigma attached): get into photography.

I’ve been looking around a few review websites and on YouTube, trying to get an idea on a great entry-level DSLR, and finally I’ve decided to go with the Nikon D3200; it’s had great reviews, seems novice-friendly and isn’t ludicrously priced.

I got the Nikon D3200 for a reasonable price on Jessops and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it on Monday. So this should mean I’m killing two birds with one stone (strictly metaphorically speaking), I get to learn to garden and take photos of said-garden in the process, bettering my photography skills also.

So! On Monday I’m sure I’ll write a little blog about the camera, perhaps an unboxing and I’m really looking forward to what the summer will bring now, pictures and plant-life alike!

Andy

New Developments

As per usual I have been neglecting this site. Terrible.

I’ve made a decision however – I’m looking to get into gardening this summer, and thought I would start blogging about it; I guess you could call it tracking my progress – I’m a novice when it comes to gardening, beyond mowing the lawn.

Hopefully next week I’ll start blogging what I’ve been up to in this regard, and most likely as the summer gets closer more content will follow regularly!

Andy