Bee sting and hedging

The hedge cutting at home has been done in small stages this year. in spring I opted to do a light cut with shears, to keep the hedge looking tidy, but not too neatly cropped. As the hedge grew through summer, I clipped one side, the side facing the outer part of the garden, so that as we make our way up the track, it doesn’t drag across the car, and as we walk up to the house it looks kept. At this point I opted to leave the tops to grow and the sides facing long grass, so that habitat for insects, namely moths was not disturbed. Now with autumn upon us we are cutting back long grass with our annual cut, and so the inner sides to hedges have also been cut. Last weekend I set about cutting the tops of the hedges, but within about 10 minutes I was stung by one of our bees. I created badly and ended up at A and E the following day (an infected sting), which meant that hedge cutting was put on hold. Medication soon sorted to the infection fortunately. This weekend just past, i managed to get out into the garden while it was dry and catch up on the hedging, all that remains is for the clippings to be taken to the bonfire to be burned. 

Adapting spaces

With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic we have been busy at work adapting spaces so that they are suitable for supporting our clients through the winter months. Our main solution will be an all weather/four season marquee, which will be used for many activities, but in the weeks before it arrives and with weather turning cooler and wet, we have lined a leaking greenhouse roof, so the space inside remains dry, and grubbed out the plants form the poly tunnel, removed the planters and re lined the floor, to extend the space available for our clients to use when doing propagation based activities. I have sadness in seeing the poly tunnel now not housing plants, but it will do again in time, fr now it fits my ideas of how a garden should reflect the people that are using it, and not be something that is static or set in stone. gardens should evolve and adapt, adaptation and evolving ideas at this time is the only way that we will make our way through this pandemic with success.

New allotment plots

At the start of September we looked into taking on the double allotment plot that is next to our plot on the allotment field near where we live. After a few enquiries, we were told that we indeed could take it on and so made the payment to secure it. With notice from the existing plot holder taking us to October, we were in touch (a friend of ours) to ask if it would be possible to buy the mesh fencing that surrounds the plot. We were told that we could and so have done this, which is great as it will protect the double plot from rabbits and continue to keep rabbits of our existing plot.

With the existing plot holder vacating the plot, we have had the opportunity to mow down weeds, and I have even managed to rake them into a couple of piles, which means that when we move into October, the plot will be in a reasonable state, ready for us to do a bit of work to get it in shape for growing in the new year. Exciting times ahead, lots of hard physical work, and hopefully some fresh home grown vegetables in exchange for our efforts.

A little different

The covid pandemic has had a profound effect on our society and the way that we live and work, many things have changed and a good few things look like they will not revert back to how they were before the pandemic hit. The garden where I work has also been effected, in some positive ways but in other ways the effects have not been so good.

While we were in lockdown we closed the day service that lives there, and with that the assistance of clients and volunteers in doing all of the tasks that keep the garden looking in great condition. I was fortinate enough to work there theoughout, but alone, and so had to opt for completing tasks that kept the garden ticking, but not moving forward. The worst of weeds were removed, lawns mown (less frequently than usual) and plants propagated and sent out for sale. I also managed to plant out vegetable beds, so that there would be the option to harvest with clients if we opened again by late summer.

We reopened in July to many of our clients, but operated in a completely different way. Rather than a cohort of people choosing different activities, we have worked as one big group, completing one activity at a time. This has had the benefits of all clients being involved with horticulture, and while we are not able to have several jobs going on in the garden all at once, it does mean that one job can be worked through swiftly, the phrase many hands make light work is certainly true.

A few jobs are a bit more tricky to complete with larger groups, and with the new risks as well as existing risks with sharp equipment, tasks like cutting hedges have had to be shelved for now. This brings great sadness to me personally, as the garden does not look as good as it could as a result, however with client safety paramount, it is perfectly justified. We are also not open to the public, and so I optimistic that we will be able to catch up over winter so that as much as possible looks in good shape for when we are open once more.

The gardens outside of the wall have not been touched since March, and now look a complete mess. Working out there would involve mixing with the public, we judged this a bit too high risk to our client group, so will be looking at how to work out there with the support of volunteers when they return to the garden in the next few weeks.

Its my belief that a garden should reflect the people who use it, and for how it is being used, I would add also to this now, that a garden should also reflect its time, with the pandemic far from over, it certainly looks different, and will continue to do so, until we reach our new state of normal, which will of course cause for the gardens look and feel to evolve and adapt yet again.

Shepherds Hut

July came and lockdown measures were eased and eased. While I had completed many projects during lockdown, I still had my idea of building a shepherds hut at the back of my mind, but had done nothing except collect together a few materials (reclaimed timber and some fixings). As we entered the third week of July I decided to lay some of these out to see if I could form a chassis and what I had to start building the frame. I then had a fatal look at eBay and found a bargain, so the wheels and pivot were purchased and delivered, leaving me no choice but to start the project. 

The hut the finished will sit in the garden for a while, until we decide where it will eventually live, it will act as a spare room, and will accommodate guests over night too. I have opted to used as much reclaimed material as is possible, and when buying to buy as much as possible from local retailers, to assist with local economy as much as possible, so far so good, though sourcing some materials has had me have to look a little further afield. 

So far I have built the chassis and hut frame, not bad in 4 weeks while also working full time, and in coming weeks hope to have the roofing delivered, so that it can be fitted before the weather turns to its autumn wetness. Being watertight before then is my priority, the internal fitting will come as and when, but I would ideally like completed by Christmas.

I am sure that I will post few more photos here as I go, certainly one of it complete.

Pizza, weeds and harvest

The allotment has been invaluable to Poppyman and myself during the lockdown time we have had this year. Its been a place of work, and in return for our efforts has been a place that we managed to get looking neat and tidy and fully productive, which now that we are heading towards the end of the year is yielding lots of fresh produce. 

I have been keen to try to keep hold of the best bits of lockdown, for us there were many, the allotment being one of them, and so we have been making kore regular visits to weed and water and now pick produce. The weeds have been rather prolific this year despite the heat and dry of August so far, but keeping on top of something on a  regular basis is proving to be less hard work than we first thought it would be.

The other really good bit about lockdown and the allotment was taking take out pizza there from the pub down the road. WE have continued to do this, using the bench and lawn that we put in the middle as a social and relaxation space, this summer has seen it used and enjoyed on a regular basis, which has given us great pleasure, and the ability to look closer at the wildlife around the allotment field as it has pushed us to sit and make time to just be.

The return to work

The last week of June saw me have a temperature on a Monday morning, and be advised to stay away from work until I had the all clear. This and having  few days of leave booked, meant that i had  about a week and a half away from the garden at work. Given that just beforeI had got on top of the weeds, the rain in this time, sunshine and warmth in the ground ensured that my return saw the garden looking very green, too green, the gras had grown long and weeds were back in massive numbers, in every bed and along all the paths, the garden at work looked an absolute mess!

With my first few days back being just before we reopened to our client group, it meant that I was required to help with getting the site ready for their return, so gardening was not  priority in this time, the weeds continued to grow, and cover what few inches of bare soil that was left, so that when we reopened on Monday 6th July, the garden looked rather (to my dismay) hairy and wild. 

With our clients back, and us working mainly outside, I set out with my team, organising activities that involved some weeding and mowing, within two days all of the lawns had been cut, and a winding path cut for a walking activity in an adjoining field, the lawns, while not perfect were back in check. Weeds started to be removed where they were at their worst (I decided to focus on removing the big ones for quick effect, but also as the larger weeds had flowers, so removing them ahead of them seeding was of importance. A couple of beds got a thorough weed through, and while we are far from weed free, a great start has been made.

the weather turned on our third day back, so we turned our attention to tasks that we could do in the dry. I spent three mornings preparing cuttings and plants to be divided, and the activity of each day was getting cuttings into pots, watered and into heat beds. With having sold most off our plants over the last couple of months, we are left with our stock plants to propagate from. Within there days the greenhouses are starting to fill up, and fingers crossed plenty of the cuttings will root and make new stock to sell later in the year and into 2021

Lockdown Landscapes

Ive long enjoyed walking out and about the fields around mid Suffolk. I remember walking around fields near Elmswell when I was 19, taking photos for college as one of my project was based on landscape. i remember drawing the fields, something I still do from time to time. All the way through my arts degree they formed a part of the visual work that I created. Since graduating I have walked lots in the landscape across Suffolk, since meeting Poppyman around 14 Years ago we expanded our walking, to include other parts of the UK, but it is the Suffolk fields where I feel my happiest

As we went into lockdown I continued to take photos of the fields and landscapes we were walking in and as the weeks and walks went on this started to become a more regular activity and so with this my archive of landscape photos grew quickly. On looking at the images, i started to make a map, each walk was added as a line to the map, to chart the collective paths we had walked. I stared mapping individual walks in May, and this continued to the end of the period of time that I was largely away from work. 

The images were archived initially on my laptop and hard drives, but i decided that they were one  way of documenting this particular time , and so I chose to make them available online:

https://phillvwilliams.wixsite.com/lockdownlandscapes

Covid-19 caution and delay

Im currently off work this week due to experiencing a couple of symptoms that could be attributed to the covid virus, equally they could also be attributed to a cold and it triggering ME symptoms. Either way I feel rubbish and its best not to take chances, especially with work where I risk infecting things, and with clients returning in a couple of weeks this would be very bad practice. 

With clients returning to the garden my plan had been to be getting it ready for their use this week, but thats now on hold. Essential tasks have been given out to my team and lawn cutting will be next week as well as getting up the marquee canopy. Everything else will have to wait.

My manager has decided not to reopen the garden to the public for the rest of this year, which while sad is good policy for keeping our clients safe, also with them being our main focus in the coming months, the garden will be able to be put on hold in part so we can support our client group more fully. Certain jobs like cutting the buxus hedging will be done if there is time or it will just have to wait. As far as I see things, so long as grass and paths are kept ok, everything else can be bought back into line over winter. The vegetable garden if watered will be productive, but if not, well it can always be forked over to keep the weeds from taking place of the vegetables. 

Its a rather sad time for the garden and for me personally quite heartbreaking and demotivating, however it can all be brought back unlike someone who has become ill and died from this deadly virus which is reshaping the world in so many different ways.

June, lockdown continues

Its June already and lockdown is continuing, though in a less restricted way than it was a month ago. During the last month I have been in work most days, but a shorter day, and mainly on my own, powering. Lawns have been kept in check, weeds pulled and the vegetable beds planted. Everything has been watered like crazy and I have also been getting plants ready for plant sales stands in the area. So while it’s been a relaxed time, and I have come and gone from the garden at work pretty much as I like, it’s also been busy.

Will and I have planted up the allotment, its now full and covered in netting. We are managing to water and mow as well as keep on top of weeds, though despite the lack of rain they do keep growing faster than we can pull every single one from the ground.

The garden at home is growing, I have clipped the hedge to stop it getting out of control, but June will see it being cut properly I hope. In all with lockdown the spaces where i am gardening look pretty reasonable, least as good a they can be with the hours that are being put in.

I have also archived online all of the photos I have taken of the garden at work since I started working there, about 48GB of photographs, and its growing collection as I add more each mont here on.

We have continued to walk through May, and I have mapped these walks as well, archiving the photos and maps online as another lockdown project that continues to grow.

Lock down for me has been a really lovely time, I have enjoyed a very stressless life, surrounded by birdsong and plants, all of which I am hugely appreciative of, to the point where I don’t want my word to open up again and become filled with people and the noise that people make.

Chemical and fuel free

Last year we attempted to get on top of the garden and allotment after a year of partial neglect. We don’t like to use chemicals but given there was so much to do and hardly any time at all, chemicals ended up being one of the tools we employed to do what we needed. On the allotment the two growing beds were sprayed off in spring and not long after a membrane placed over the one we were not opting to use so that more work and spraying could be avoided at the end of the year. In the garden spot spraying certain deep rooted perennial weeds was done, so we could get rid quickly after they had really taken hold. This year there are of course less issues with perennial weeds as a result, however numerous weeds have still popped up in the garden. With having more time on our hands to do things like forking them out by hand, the time intensive manual option is the route we are taking, which removes the need to get to a garden centre (which are closed currently any way) to buy a bottle of roundup. The aim this year is to do everything chemical free and subsequently be greener the last year, if we are able to get to the end of the year this way, its likely we will have given ourselves a head start for next year when we are likely to have less time on out hands, and so continue our chemical free gardening journey.  In addition Will has been using the old Ransoms push mower that I had in the back of the shed, which while of course taking longer to do the lawns than if he used a petrol mower, is providing a good means to exercise and sparing us the cost of more fuel and preventing the resultant fumes that it would generate. I have opted to use hand shears with hedging (I prefer this method in any case) and so no electricity or fuel is being used there either. In all, having more time to spend in the garden is making for it being a greener and healthier (mentally and physically) pass time, and with not having the ability to go shopping for what now seem unnecessary items, a very cheep activity too!

Lockdown walks and gardening

The last few weeks have been completely unusual, because of the lockdown imposed by the government due to the Corvid-19 pandemic. Many places have closed down and self isolation has become the thing. I have been keeping  journal throughout this time, it seems to me that its not likely a time that I will ever experience again, and while for some it has been hugely isolating and difficult, having  garden, allotment and access to the countryside, it has for me so far been a memorable and positive time.

With almost no social pressure, work being almost just on my own terms and having quiet around me, my mental health has improved hugely, to the point where I feel like how I imagined I would feel if I had what was considered excellent adult mental health.

Work has been closed down as  day service for now, but I am  allowed (the only person to be) to go on site and water/cut lawns and keep things ticking over to the bare minimum. This has been great, a whole two acre walled garden just to myself, but also a great escape, to give me routine, my own space and a motivation to keep progressing things, well not letting them go backwards.

During the additional time I have had, I have worked through jobs at home, fixing stuff and sorting things. I ave also worked through garden jobs that I have meant to do for a long while, the garden looks neat and tidy as a result, and my partner while furloughed for three weeks was able to turn around the vegetable garden, plant seeds and work with me to rotorvate and weed the whole allotment. we even have everything we intend planted in terms of seeds, and are now nearing the point of planting out plug plants and seedlings. 

We have also been on lots of walks and bike rides, to get ur share of exercise, and in ding so have mapped the paths we have taken, so that we can deliberately walk different routes and explore paths we have not used before. given we like to go out at weekends exploring places, life hasn’t changed hugely, its just been far more localised. 

Poppyman is now back to working at home and I am continuing to water the garden at work and cut lawns, I am also trying to get through some of the propagation that usually happens, but doing what is usually done by a number of volunteers is some work to compete with, so its all on a do what I can basis. With there still being no end to the lockdown indicated, we are now at a point where for the foreseeable, i am able to manage our garden, allotment and work garden enough on my own, as a result we are now looking ahead to what will be a productive harvest, and meantime excited about the continuing opportunity to explore more footpaths nearby, and of course take and post loads of photos on Twitter and Instagram.

Covid-19 Walks

During the first week of being locked down, I’ve still been in and out of work, but conscious that my moving about is not going to be as much a sit is usually. Will is now home working, so a little less active too, so we have decided upon going for daily walks, in a  bid to stay active, get out of the house and have some fresh air and exercise. We are opting to set put from hoe and walk in as many different directions on linear and circular walks, covering as many of the local footpaths as possible. I am taking the opportunity to take lots of photos of the landscape, both at different times of the day and in different lights, so auto build a volume of images that I can post online to chart our wanderings and also to instigate a bit of social connection through my online accounts. It’s also providing daily activity when back at home in the evenings, the photos are essentially keeping me busy at the end of the day too, a time when it’s easy to get bored or frustrated at having to stay in.

Corvid-19 Gardening

So a week in to lock down and restrictions to most aspects of life, many people are talking about the big changes and the difficulties, but so far so good as far as I am concerned. Work has altered substantially, we now have a closed down day service and garden, though I am required to go in and monitor things/keep up to date with watering so plants don’t die for the duration. The plan at the moment is for me to go in to do this three days a week (mon/wed/fri), I will be the only person accessing the site during this time, so essentially have  walled garden to myself. The garden was left in neat weed free (ish) condition so for my first two weeks of lock down I am planning to only water. As I get bored of this and work out how to do this more time efficiently, I am hoping it will coincide with getting plants into the ground and also starting back to a routine of weeding and tidying. Its been a treat working in the quiet, no people or vehicle sounds, just the wind and birds for company. i enjoy solitude and just getting on, so al already nice job has become my perfect job, though id add ‘for now’, as in time with isolation in other aspects of my life, I may start to eel a little cut off. Taking photos and posting on numerous accounts is one way I hope to engage with others and overcome loneliness.

Back home in a week I have completely gone through he garden at home with weeding beds. I have started a few other jobs and have a short list of things that still need doing, a list that will grow a the weeks pass. In this situation that’s a good thing, as I run out of jobs, I don’t want time on my hands, so seasonal additions will be welcome, and I hope I will have the time i needed to complete at a leisurely speed.

I also have the allotment to consider. This will be a project for week three I think, when the garden at home is in check. Weeding will be needed and then potato planting as well a mother vegetables. So in all I have plenty to be getting on with, both physically as well as translating my efforts into photographs online to assist with not feeling isolated. So far the lock down hasn’t been a bad thing, let’s hope it continues like that for the duraton, whatever that will be.

Sansevieria

Ive enjoyed collecting plants for a number of years. Within the last decade I have been increasingly interested in collecting different varieties of certain species. Sempervivum and Scented Pelargonium in particular. With an old Mother in Laws Tongue dying over the winter, I started to look to replace it. Not knowing the variety in my mind had always been problematic, but in making the replacement, a variety name was something that I was keen to keep a record of. I was brought a Masoniana Victoria, for Christmas, which prompted me to go out and buy my replacement plant, Futura Superba, and of course others were also brought. With then trawling through eBay, i have added a couple more varieties to my modest collection, and hope in coming months to pay particular attention to Sansevieria as I look around nurseries at plants, so that I can add to my modest but growing collection.