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Latest posts by Topbird

Monty Don Tour

Posted: 17/01/2015 at 12:13

Hooray - Monty is coming back for a second bite at the Apex (I think the 1st one sold out very quickly) so I am now going to see him on 2nd March (in the afternoon). 



clearing borders

Posted: 17/01/2015 at 09:24
Agree with Verdun to leave alone for now as the foliage will provide a good degree of frost protection over the next couple of months. You can give everything a really good tidy up in early March ( assuming the weather forecast is favourable!)

Garden programme on Sky 1

Posted: 17/01/2015 at 09:16
Lovely garden MT - idyllic setting by the river and only about 30 mins from me. Do they open the gardens at all now? I think the website says they used to open for the Yellow Book scheme but I might have skimmed a bit too quickly.

planting stuff at the wrong time

Posted: 16/01/2015 at 18:36

Further thoughts - could you persuade a large local GC to 'sponsor' the project?

A couple of sacks of compost, some seeds & maybe a mini greenhouse would set them back less than £50. It would get your project off to a flying start & they might be pleased for the publicity if the local press got to hear about it. Even if they only gave you £5 worth of stuff it's better than nothing. A local allotment group might also help.

I do also think it's worth roping in parents and teachers. Anyone who is a gardener might have left over seeds or spare cloches they would donate / lend to the cause. Perhaps somebody will have some surplus seedlings (or will sow extra) that can be planted out in a few weeks time. 

Gardeners always have spare plant pots they can donate & kids can collect & wash yoghurt pots. I quite like the idea of making their own too.

I also like the idea of using the next couple of weeks for planning & designing the plot - children need to learn that a methodical approach will usually produce the best results.

I do think you need to explain the problem to whoever has dictated this timetable. Fair enough if the funds are only available till April - you can buy everything you need before then and get the project well underway by then. But you cannot possibly be expected to have a plot ready for harvesting by then. I hope you are not being asked to do that!!!

planting stuff at the wrong time

Posted: 16/01/2015 at 14:58

What a silly way to go about things - I imagine a non-gardener thought it up?

Assuming that things don't also have to be ready for harvesting before April  you could put some garlic in and perhaps broad beans. You might get away with peas if the site has some shelter or you could sow these in pots to take home in the coldest weather (or school windowsill) & transplant them to the ground in a few weeks time. The kids would probably enjoy pea shoots as well as any peas that eventually materialise.

Some salad crops might be ok to start if the ground can be warmed up first with black plastic & these could also start off in modules if there is a windowsill free in the school. How about homemade cloches out of old piping & plastic - can't any teachers or parents be roped in to help you out with old bits and pieces?

If any parents / teachers grow strawberries perhaps they have some rooted runners which could be used to start a strawberry bed

I'm sure more ideas will be along shortly...

Privacy Issue

Posted: 14/01/2015 at 18:05

Agree that a high fence would be much more prone to wind damage - so would not go down that route but some 6' high trellis in front of the fence with some climbers growing through (per Frank's suggestion) might be good. That combined with strategically placed fast growing shrubs within the garden might be a nice solution.

In terms of which shrubs - buddleia is good & you will have a good sized shrub within a year or two - I quite like Black Knight with it's rich purple flowers but there are quite a few to choose from. Each shrub will eventually be about 2-3m spread by about 3m high. It is best cut back each year so will not necessarily give year round cover - but I cut mine back to about 3' each spring and it achieves 3m by summer. Same with some of the elders - sambucus "Black Lace" has pretty black leaves & pink flowers and there is also a gold elder. They will both achieve 2.5 to 3m each year without being invasive.

If you need year round cover from the shrubs I'm pretty sure with both of these you can just cut down about half the stems each year so you get the benefit of both continuous cover and fresh growth.

I would not consider a fast growing hedge. It will grow fast because it is vigorous but will then continue to grow once it's reached the required height. You will then be faced with cutting it several times each season - hard work!

Good luck!  


Posted: 13/01/2015 at 16:47

Second Edd's option 

.... wonder what it would be like if you stirred a little into some melted dark chocolate and dropped teaspoonfuls onto baking parchment and allowed it to set.....

Like a posh chocolate orange with a hint of heat - even better with some bits of slivered almonds added - ooh - I might have to have a go 


Posted: 13/01/2015 at 15:29

Well done - always good to experiment! You might find that the chilli flavour develops over a few days so it might be worth waiting to see.

Failing that you could probably do (if you can face it) a quick reboil & add some more chilli - maybe even a little paprika or chipotle paste for the smokiness? 


Posted: 13/01/2015 at 14:15

It's an interesting idea Pansy.

I'm not sure how it would be different to chilli jam unless you were thinking of something less sweet? Perhaps actually adding chopped chilli to Seville orange marmalade would make an interesting, more bitter-yet-with-a-hint-of-fruit-and-sweetness alternative?

If you decide to try it in a small jar I would be interested to hear the verdict  

Monty Don Tour

Posted: 11/01/2015 at 17:39
Ashdale wrote (see)

Hi Topbird.  Yes, I certainly will let you know.  Without raising hopes too much, I have 2 tickets and there is a small chance OH won't attend with me.  Otherwise, I hope you are able to pick up a returned ticket from the Apex.  Good luck.

Thank you Ashdale - much appreciated. Much as I would love to go I do hope both you and your other half are able to make it!

Will keep my fingers crossed for both of us 

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