Laura Corin

Latest posts by Laura Corin

Can I really plant these peas and carrots so early?

Posted: 26/01/2014 at 20:41

This is my first year growing much veg.  I have raised beds filled with a mixture of top soil and local authority green waste compost, with some of my own garden compost added in.  Two of the seed packets - Pea Twinkle and Carrot Early Nantes 2 - say that I can sow under cloches in February.  Is this likely to produce decent results or am I better off just waiting a bit?  I'm planning on sowing in batches through the spring.  

I live in southern Scotland, five miles from the sea.  The site is exposed but the beds are behind a deep windbreak.  Our last frost is usually in early May.

Many thanks


realy big empty garden

Posted: 04/07/2012 at 14:25

I love the idea of prairie gardens, but on a large scale one has to think about rabbits and possibly deer if (as I assume the questioner is) the garden is in the country.  It is certainly possible to securely rabbit-fence a hectare of ground, but fencing becomes pricy (and only works if the gates are kept shut - Laura glares at younger son).  I am working on prairie-style planting within my rabbit fence, but outside of it am concentrating on plants that are less likely to become rabbit food.

realy big empty garden

Posted: 04/07/2012 at 07:45

Just another note.  Be very aware of how much land you are 'bringing into' the garden and the amount of work that this implies.  Large areas, even relatively unmanaged ones, involve a lot of work.  I have a friend who has a three acre very managed woodland-style garden.  She spends 40 hours a week tending it.

I don't have that kind of time to work in the garden (I have children and a job).  I have to restrain myself from cutting more beds that need weeding: it's great to think big, but big can mean lots of weeds.  Tasks I have to do every year that maybe wouldn't happen in smaller gardens:

Nettle control in the windbreak/woods; dock control in the orchard; hogweed control everywhere.

Once a year hiring a heavy-duty brush cutter to cut the orchard grass, then a week later raking it and putting it as mulch around the fruit trees and new trees in the woods.

Strimming between growing shrubs.

Keeping areas around hundreds of newly-planted trees grass/weed free so that they can flourish.

Dealing with large numbers of trees.  A lot of ours are mature and they do fall over/lose branches.  One time my husband had to cut a path out of the gate with a chainsaw so that I could get the children from school.

Trying to find time to mow a large area of lawn between weather and schedule.  If left too long/mowed too wet it can look dreadful (as at the moment).

Machinery to obtain/maintain: chainsaw, strimmer, ride-one mower (expensive to buy and incovenient to service), buy or hire chipper, hire or buy log splitter, hire brush cutter, hedge clippers?  The machinery has to be better quality/more robust than you would use in a small garden.  A cheap chainsaw will die in no time.  Ditto strimmer, etc.

Composting on a large scale.  At the beginning of the summer I make sure that I have three large cube compost bins empty because the grass clippings (plus scrunched newspaper/cardboard) from the lawn will fill them in no time.

A full weekend (at least) each year for the whole family of splitting wood for the woodstove.  This is on top of Husband's work with the chain saw to cut manageable lengths.

Tips to help deal with the garden.  Use mulch fabric as much as possible to reduce weeding.  Buy a chipper or hire one once a year so that any stray branches can be chipped to make mulch to cover the fabric.  Get a woodstove once you have trees big enough to burn - if you decide to plant enough trees that this will make sense.  

That being said: we love our garden and wouldn't swap it.  It's just turned out to be more work than we expected, and we've had to adjust our expectations about the amount of work and just how pristine it can be.


realy big empty garden

Posted: 03/07/2012 at 21:17

We have three acres but there was a bit to work with when we moved in.  There was some lawn and some borders near the house.  Then there was a small field with a neighbour's pony in it.  Beyond that, there was an L-shaped windbreak (not on the side of the prevailing wind!) made up of sycamore and larch.

We started by making a list of what was important to us.  I wanted a rabbit-proof area, so that turned into a fenced part encircling the house.  We wanted to make the field part of the garden, so it made sense to let the grass grow, encourage wild flowers and plant a small orchard.  Husband wanted autumn colour and winter stems, so acers, cornus and coppiced willows went on the list.  We wanted to encourage birds, so we cut down a proportion of the larches and sycamores to replant with native trees and shrubs.

So anyway: I'd start by thinking about what elements are important to you.  Make a list and then work out how they might fit together.  I made a rough plan of the basic garden shape, then photocopied it so that I could scribble on the copies in lots of different ways.

How to get rid overgrown mint

Posted: 30/06/2012 at 09:40

If it's in between low-level conifers, you might have to paint the leaves of the mint with weedkiller.  I did this last year by mixing glyphosate (Roundup or similar) with wallpaper paste and painting it onto creeping buttercup that was infesting some low-growing conifers and heathers.  It was a backbreaking job but it worked really well - no buttercup this year.  Roundup now comes as an expensive gel too, so that's an option, but I found a paintbrush was useful for small leaves.

Is this area suitable for growing veg?

Posted: 24/06/2012 at 21:56

I have an area that I'd like to use to grow veg in two or three raised beds: asparagus, plus salad, the Asian veg that I find it hard to buy, and lots of fresh peas.  The area is long and relatively narrow, with a cultivable width of about a metre and a length of three or four metres. The area is on a slight rise at the end of a south-west facing valley.  I am in Fife, five miles from the sea. 

One of the short sides is to the south, with a waist-high hawthorn hedge about two metres away.  A couple of metres to the east is a tumble-down stone wall, ranging from one metre to two metres in height.  A couple of metres to the west is a windbreak of wild roses, cotoneaster franchettii, guelder rose, and young rowans and birch.  The other short side faces north and there are tough shrubs a few metres away - cornus, some ornamental broom, more guelder rose and cotoneaster.

With this long, narrow shape, constrained by wind breaks, is there going to be enough sun?  If so, would you put the asparagus at the sunniest end (which is a bit more exposed) or further north?

Many thanks



Newspaper under woodchips as mulch?

Posted: 15/06/2012 at 07:44

Thanks Oak, I'll do that if it ever stops raining.

Newspaper under woodchips as mulch?

Posted: 14/06/2012 at 21:29

I have mulched with well-rotted wood chips before but I never seem to get a deep enough layer on to stop weeds germinating.  I have an area of newly-planted shrubs where I'd like to reduce the weeding for the rest of the year.  Would thick newspaper (several sheets) with woodchips over the top be okay?  Would the newspaper layer stop rain getting to the soil?  


Is anyone growing Asian pears?

Posted: 13/06/2012 at 07:39

I know they grow as far north as Korea, but pears in general don't do well in Scotland (I'm told) so I don't know if Asian pears are worth trying.  Any survival?  Any fruit?



Posted: 09/06/2012 at 14:37

Last year I moved irises in mid-summer but made sure they didn't dry out too badly after being moved.  This year I've just finished doing it.  In both cases the irises (bearded) were in the shade and had no flower buds.  The ones I moved last year have almost all flowered this year.

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