Polytunnel / Gardening

Another project for the garden this year is to tackle the pond. I say pond but it's actually fairly big and requires a boat to get around it.









There's a serious amount of reeds in there that have got to come out because they're taking over the pond and suffocating the lillies.
This pond is actually a natural pond - we do nothing to it, water wise. At some point in the past I would say that someone blocked off one of the drainage dykes to create it and innocently added those reeds :(
For 10 years or so there has been fish in there. We had some baby koi that have grown to about 12" in length - lovely fish. Or at least they were. For years they survived, even flourished.
Then we caught the odd heron showing an interest and the gorgeous Koi slowly reduced. Last year we noticed that only about 10 of the fish emerged in spring (from about 70). The pond is very deep so we know they can survive winter, well they have for 10 years anyway.
This year there are none. We saw a couple of goldfish a month or so ago but even that has gone now and yet the Heron is nowhere to be seen. We can only assume the Seagulls are swooping down and grabbing dinner :(
I netted a couple of Black Goldfish the other day and released them back so there's some hope that more have survived but i suspect they only survived due to their colouring.
The aime is to clear the pond, transform the banks and restock the pond but we're going to have to seriously consider the restocking I think.



Every year I take a whole load of Willow cuttings with the intentions of making some fancy fandangled Willow arch that I've seen on the net, haven't quite gotten around to that yet though.
But what I have made is a 'Fedge' - a living fence/hedge.
I spaced small Willow whips (have to be small as you need them pliable) short distances away from each other and because I used whips that were 'V' shaped I could cross each one over to the one at its side to create an 'X'. As the whips grew I just kept joining them to the one at the side, eventually it will create a hedge that will hopefully be a bit more sturdy due to the connecting of the whips.

Much like this one courtesy of 'WestWalesWillows'


However, I'm one of these people with the ability to start a project all gung ho and then kinda get bored! So during the past year parts of this hedge started to fall apart mainly because I left the rafia attached too long and it cut into the whip eventually snapping them OR because they're in an exposed area and the northerly winds have really battered them.
This year I am going to take it all in hand though and fix the Fedge and create a couple of archways to the side of it.

Here's this years stash of whips all ready to root and go:



One of the reasons I love using Willow is because it is amazingly easy to propogate.
I simply cut the whips from trees using secateurs and stick them in buckets full of water - as above - until they have rooted.
It's just as easy to pop them straight into pots or even directly into the ground immediately after cutting, that is what I did last year for the Fedge, but if you're not sure where they're going just yet and you need to get the whips cut this time of year before they start into growth a bucket is really useful.
Once they have rooted in the water (and I get 100% successful rooting every year) I will either plant them directly out or pot them on for later use.
As long as they are kept very well watered (Willow love boggy ground) they'll survive in pots for a few years, in fact even the poorly looking ones that have been in pots for a few years will spring back into life when repotted or planted out.
Willow really is a versatile plant! Plus they grow amazingly quickly. Once I have planted these whips I will be able to harvest from them in two years!
I've also found Weeping Willow to be just as easy to propogate this way.

Here's what I'm hoping to make:


Willowbank structures


  
Living willow Hedgehog
How cute is that!

So now you see why I love Willow.
  1. Easy to propogate.
  2. Love boggy ground.
  3. Flourish in exposed coastal areas.
  4. Quick growing so each tree is harvestable in just a couple of years.
  5. Strong but pliable.
  6. You can make fabulous garden features with the stuff.
  7. Because it's planted all the structures are living.


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I am so looking forward to Summer - or at least Spring!
I know I can make stuff for the garden while the weather is so blah but I reeeeeally want to get going with seed sowing and planting, it always makes you feel so much better doesn't it!
The polytunnel is barren at the moment and the garden resembles a quagmire more than a relaxing space, but this year is the year of the garden and it's been a long time coming.
We have 4 acres of land here but while we've been building the house the land has had to take a back step and that includes the garden. I've done what I can but scaffolding and mini diggers do not make for a lovely looking garden.
All we have to do to the outside of the house now though is the external render and plastic can be used to protect the ground from the excess so I'm all raring to go.

While the garden may get a makeover  the rest of the land is another matter.
A few hundred years ago the original founder of our lovely village saw fit to cover his 'plantation' land with Gorse bush apparantly to feed the cattle over bad winters.
Nice enough at the time I dare say and I must admit that land smothered in Yellow flowers that have a gorgeous fragrance and a funny popping noise when the pods burst do have a place here.
BUT acres of land covered in this stuff is a nightmare

 Gorse bush, whins, Yellow flower, Gorse

This photo was taken a couple of days ago and already it's in flower - in February! It's usually May before this happens.
Looks pretty innocent enough huh?
Believe me it ain't. Once this plant gets a hold there is no getting rid of it. We have burnt the stuff a couple of times now and it just grows back stronger.
We've even cut it to the ground - just grows back fresher and they even survived ploughing.
But the worst thing about this parasitic plant is this

 Scottish Gorse, Gorse flower, Whins, Gorse bush

Do you see those barbs????
Those can pierce any amount of protective clothing you wear and when you have to walk through a wall of the stuff ......... ouch!
Plus they leave a black mark where they pierce the skin and can take days to settle down - the stuff should be made illegal IMO.

So it seems my ideas for clearing the land to create paddocks for horses may well take longer than we anticipated. Guess the tools needed for this job are not going to fit in my handmade trug!
We're going to need a serious weedkiller for this, something like Grazon90 and then a good plough and level before we seed it and then hopefully horses will prevent it coming back. Either that or an uber mower - now where can I get one of those..................


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I love coming up with solutions for the home and garden that are either space saving or just make life easier for me, so when I come up with something that does both things for me ......... well let's just I would have wet myself if I didn't have a bladder with an iron constitution!
During Spring and Summer I have loads of garden pots full of either veggie seedlings, perennial seedlings or just general plants waiting for their permanent home.
But when it comes to hardening these plants off before they're planted out or just needing somewhere to contain these many pots and protect them from being blown over by the terrible winds we get up here, well it's a nightmare.
The seedlings have to go out each day and come in each night for a short while and the ones that can stay out permanently in their pots were constantly blowing over, so I decided to make something that would make life easier for me, will protect those pots and space save as well.


Here's my solution - no more schlepping about with pots for me!


pallet wood project, garden space saver, garden pot holder


Okay so maybe it's not the most pretty of solutions and it does need another coat of protector but this took me just half a day to make, used up scrap wood and pallets and does the job perfectly.
So how does it work? Well like this


 pallet wood project, garden space saver, garden pot holder


Still not getting it? I mean holding one of those free garden pot holders is hardly a space saver is it! Nope, but this holds Twelve of those free pot holders - more of a space saver now isn't it!


Here's what I did:
  • opened it in CS5 - Oh wait, wrong project, that would be the photography projects I'm doing!
  • Used 2 old pallets to make the sides. These were then attached to a stake I hammered into the ground at one end of each pallet - the other end was screwed to the fence that already existed. (ps make sure both pallets are pretty much the same where the slats are concerned)
  • Then I measured the width of those free plastic pot holders the garden centres give away and placed battens across the top slat from one pallet to the other. I used 3 battens to the top slat and 3 to the bottom. This gave me enough for 6 pot holders to the top and 6 to the bottom.
  • Covered the base with plastic and bark mulch.
  • Stained the wood for protection.
It was that easy. I now have a pallet wood space saver that holds a total of 12 pot holders - 6 in rows of 2 at the top and 6 in rows of 2 at the bottom.
When deciding how many rows you want you do need to bear in mind the height of the plants you'll be putting there, that's why I only have 2 stages to this one - it means I can use the top or bottom for pretty much any of my pot plants.

 pallet wood project, garden space saver, garden pot holder

 pallet wood project, garden space saver, garden pot holder





Obviously it's not in full use at the moment cos all my plants and seedlings are under cover of the polytunnel but come Spring and this will be full of pots and best of all they stay put no matter what winds whip up!
Hope you like the idea and maybe give it a go yourself!



 

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I was giving my compost tumbler it’s annual coat of wood protection yesterday and thought it would be a great opportunity to show you guys how I made it so maybe you’ll feel you could have a go yourselves.
I have to say that this tumbler works so much better than the other two plastic box type ones I bought, I think it has something to do with how easy it is to tumble this one and aerate the goodness inside.
I didn’t take photos of each stage because I made it before blogging so I’ll try not to make this too confusing but if you can manage to fathom the steps out from my tutorial, write them down, familiarise yourself with them and you could make this in a day. It took me 2 days but only because I had to work stuff out as I went and I never organise myself beforehand – I looked for tools and materials as I needed them.
Here’s the finished piece – it’s no work of art but it’s efficient and not too difficult to make.


 diy, garden diy, compost tumbler <SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA>
I got inspiration for the design from a web page but unfortunately I didn’t keep a record of that page and cannot find it now – if I do happen to find it though I will of course post it on here.

Basic list of tools:
  • Scrap wood – 3x2” for frame, batten for frame plus scrap boarding for drum sides.
  • Plastic drum – cleaned of it’s contents.
  • Scaffold pole or some other pole about 2ft longer than the length of the drum.
  • Length of plastic pipe / tubing, about 4-5” wider than the width of the drum.
  • Hinges, nuts/bolts, screws, door clasps, handles (I used scrap kitchen unit handles)
  • Piece of metal gauze or even a piece of that green netting used for fences will do.

OK first off, the frame:
 diy, garden diy, compost tumbler <SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA>
Finished frame
As you can see I used substantial wood as it has to hold some weight (that’s not a bow in the wood it’s the camera – honest!).
Using 2 lengths of wood for each side I created 2 crosspoles. The cross points of the two pieces should be high enough that you’re not breaking your back bending when you rotate the tumbler.
Both pieces were bolted together with nuts, bolts and washers (I used an electric drill to pre drill the holes).  I made it so that my pole sat snugly in those top crosspoles so that when I turn it it’s the tumbler that turns and not the actual poles as the poles may end up moving off the cross poles.
Then I added 1 piece of scrap wood to the bottom of each X to help retain the shape and to just help support it. If you look at the above image you’ll see that these bottom pieces of wood are screwed from outside to inside of the X frame.
Next I screwed on two scrap pieces of wood across the back to hold the X pieces upright and in the right position – you need to measure your plastic drum and add clearance either side of it when deciding how far apart to place the ‘X’ posts. There’s no scientific rule though on how much clearance, just go with what you think.


diy, garden diy, compost tumbler <SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA>
Cross poles bolted together
Give the whole frame a protective coat of creosote substitute.

Now onto the tumbler itself.
I managed to get hold of 2 of these containers. I looked up on Google what they contained (chemical signs make no sense to me) and found them to just hold detergents so after a good scrub (once the door was cut obviously) they were good to go.
First off I turned the container onto its long side and marked in pencil a square opening in the centre - this square needs to be comfortable enough to get the compost out of.
I then drilled a hole in the corner of the pencil square big enough to get my jigsaw blade in to then cut the square out – keep the square, it’s the door!


compost tumbler, ladies diy, gardening,diy <SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA>
Tumbler door


Next I turned the container back up on its end and drilled out a hole in the centre of the top the same size as the circumference of a scaffold pole (or other metal pole). I then turned it over to the other end and did the same thing. At this point just insert the pole to make sure the hole is correct in size and place, then take it out again and set the pole aside.
Next we need an air vent so turn the drum back onto its long side and drill a hole in the centre just above the door opening you made. This hole needs to be the same size as a piece of plastic tubing so measure the circumference of your tubing first.
Roll the drum over to it’s other side and drill the same hole again. Check that your plastic tube  fits straight through the top hole and the bottom hole you just made, then remove the tube.
This tubing now needs to have several small holes drilled into it along it’s entire length – these holes will help aerate inside the tumbler. To fix this now holey pipe in its place, slide it back into the tumbler through your drilled holes – it needs about 1 – 2” clearance on both ends.
To stop this tube simply slipping back out insert a bolt and nut through a drilled hole on it where the tube enters and exits the drum (on the outside of the drum obviously). This then prevents it moving.
Next we need to make a rake for inside the drum to help mix the stuff we put in there. For this I used a piece of scrap batten and hammered long nails all the way along the length of the batten. This batten is then secured inside the drum by screwing it in place from the outside of the drum. Although my rake fits the entire length of the inside of the drum, you have to make it in 2 shorter lengths because one long one will not go through the door opening.


garden diy, ladies diy, compost tumbler, recycle barrel <SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA>
This shows the rake at bottom, drain hole at bottom, main scaffold pole left to right & air tube top to bottom.
We also need to drill a drainage hole in the bottom of the drum. I drilled a fairly big hole and then simply cut a piece of wire gauze and secured it over the top of the hole (from the inside) just so the hole didn’t block up with compost. You can see my drainage hole in the above photo – it’s the black gauze just below the rake.
Now go back to those holes we drilled top and bottom of the drum for the scaffold pipe - We need to reinforce the outside of these holes so that the turning of the drum doesn’t just wear them away or split the plastic drum.
I used scrap wood and cut out 2 blocks for each side, these were then secured together and a hole drilled through them the same size as the scaffold pole. These were then secured to the drum using bolts and nuts – I kept nuts on the inside but the preference is yours.

recycle, garden diy, compost tumbler <SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA>
Reinforced ends.
Finally go back to that door you cut out and set aside and attach one side of your hinges to it with bolts and the other side of the hinges on to the drum just above the square opening you cut, again using bolts.
To keep the door closed I found a couple of clasps that I attached to the door and the drum but you can use whatever you find or whatever works.
I also added a couple of metal handles - 1 just above the door and 1 further round, this is how you turn the drum.
Finally slide that scaffold pole (or whatever pole you have) straight through its holes which are top and bottom of the drum (and which now becomes the sides of the drum), and lift each end onto the cross poles of the frame you made.
All you have to do now is make sure your site it on level ground – I didn’t at first and the drum moved to one end – and then start filling it with all those composting goodies. Turn it as often as you remember.

I’m sorry if this tutorial was a little confusing, I’ve tried to make the steps as simple as they are but as long as you get the basic concept you should be able to produce it.

Thanks for staying this far, hopefully you're not too confuddled and will come back for more!





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I'm hiding indoors at the moment because the wind sounds awful outside. I placated the guilty feeling by convincing myself that I would use the indoor time to make my mums birthday card (it's her birthday in about 6 days) but I made the huge mistake of putting Create & Craft on the TV.  Just while I check my emails mind!
Yeah right!
I then logged in to my blog  to reply to some emails and comments but we all know what happens then don't we?  yup, I'm too engrossed in reading other blogs  that heading through to the cold craft room has just lost its appeal.
I could go outside and potter in the poytunnel BUT I figured instead of that I could just blog about a project I completed a couple of years ago before I had the polytunnel and needed some space saving ideas for the greenhouse - those rows of pots with seedling veg and flowers in em were just taking up too much room because I had to put them on just the one layer of staging.

Brainwave people!

I created this space saver (though excuse the dirty holders)

space saver, pot holder, DIY, garden diy, garden woodwork

The best bit is that it was easy enough to make with no technical tools needed if you don't have them AND it's all scrap wood AND it recycles those plastic milk containers.

OK so how to make it!
First gather your tools ( I have a habit of looking for what I need when I need it - not a good idea).
You'll need:
Wood - I used roof batten, small scrap bit of plywood, some scrap beading and some scrap pieces of  2"x 2". You can use any size you have though.
Screws (I literally use anything I can find. I used black plasterboard screws for this)
Nails if you don't want to use screws.
Tape measure.
Hammer.
Screwdriver.
Saw (unless you use a cutter as I do)
Pencil.
Milk cartons (I used 30 but you can make the frame and add them as you get them)
Scissors.

I made a basic 4 sided frame using scrap roofing batten and  nails or screws or whatever you have, and made corner supports for the top only.

 garden project, garden diy, garden space saver, seedling holder


Next I made 2 bottom plates to support the whole thing. I just used whatever cuts of wood we had for this as long as the bottom plate used is wider wood than the  top plate.

 garden diy, garden woodwork, seedling holder, greenhouse space saver, milk carton recycle

Screw the two bottom base blocks together then screw the actual square frame to the blocks - remembering to keep the corner supports to the top.

Then I cut some pieces of plywood into a rectangle shape and cut out 2 grooves to each one to hold the cross supports that the bottles attach to.

 garden diy, garden woodwork, milk carton recycle, scrap wood holder border=

Those rectangle pieces were then attached to the frame with screws as shown above.
Next I cut some small beading to use as supports for the Milk cartons, making sure the cuts I made in the rectangles kept the supports supported but not so tightly that they were awkward to lift out.

Finally grab some milk cartons (I used either 4 pint or six pint ones) and cut around the carton just about where the label starts. You don't need deep holders if they are for seedling pots.
*TIP - put the lid on the carton before you cut it. This keeps the air in and makes it rigid for that first incision with the scissors - try to pierce it without the cap and it will just collapse*.
Once you have them cut just slot them onto the frame through the milk carton handle. Leave the lid on if you want but you can take the lid off to aid drainage too.

Now you're left with a load of bottoms to milk cartons so lets use em to make plant labels.

Cut down the middle of the leftover bases to the next mark that goes all the way round the container (would have been the bottom of the label) then turn and cut all the way round the circumference of the container so you end up with a large rectangle of plastic.
Finally cut slices off that plastic as wide as you require your labels to be and then cut points on one end od each and voila! Plastic plant labels for free.

 milk carton recycle, garden diy, seedling holder, garden woodwork, scrapwood diy

I use these labels all the time and because they're free to make I don't worry about cleaning them when they're really bad, I just throw them away and make some more. You can stick them in a container of bleach though as they are easy enough to clean that way.
p.s. Once you've cut the side off the container to make your labels you are left with small pots made from the very bottom, I use these holding the labels or collecting seed etc. So even the bases can be used!



 

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I'm loving being able to get out into the garden lately. The weather is cold but as long as that ruddy awful wind stays at bay then I'll be outside renovating the garden.
At the moment I'm building a stone wall in front of a new fence so that I can then back fill it and fill it with scented plants. I can't wait for it to be finished but as is always the way with me it won't be totally complete until we've gotten around to finishing the length of the fence and subsequently the rest of the stone wall.

This is the sort of wall I lurve but am too lazy to get the hang of all that cement work

 garden diy, garden project, compost container
Stone Art
So this is more the look I'm going for
Retaining wall

I'm managing to get a lot of it done with what is there though and am getting quite a workout with the stone collecting and earth moving - both jobs entail walking back and forth a looooong way.
Won't be a professional finish but hey, I'm doing it all myself and am chuffed with it so far!

I've also been wanting to  build a compost holder for my polytunnel for a while now - ever since I first saw Monty Dons wooden ones on Gardeners World - but just never got round to it, so I decided to just get on with it this week - it took a couple of hours only and used up scrap wood leftover from a computer table. I figured the Melamine finish would help protect the wood somewhat.

Here's Montys potting shed with those seedmix containers


Heres what I started with:

 scrap wood, melamine, compost container, garden diy

A heap o Melamine with metal bits all over.

Once I'd got rid of all the metal parts I cut a base and then decided what height I wanted the back edge and the front rim and cut 2 sides to those dimensions. I have to say at this point that I did this entire project with no tape measure - despite hubby being a builder and despite the fact that I should have loads of my own I could not find one tape measure anywhere, I think we have a tape measure elf thief!
My measuring consisted of using bits of wood for marking and edges of wood for straight lines, soooo not the way to go!

This is the base and sides complete
 melamine, garden diy, compost container

Next I marked the back sizes on a piece of wood and cut it with my Jigsaw.
Same goes for the front.

 garden diy, compost container, melamine, scrap wood

I added the strips to the top of the side edges purely because the edges were raw and not protected.
That's it done and here it is in it's final position.

 garden diy, scrapwood garden, compost container


Now I can make my own mix of compost in bulk much more easily than just adding the ingredients to the staging and mixing, which always meant quite a loss of the black stuff!
So easy to make too which is always good because I like to see results the day I start a project - I'm just so impatient!


 

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Triffid Beans, Dessicated Cabbages & Sweetpeas.



Polytunnel growing has been a new adventure for me this year. I have upgraded from my small greenhouse to a 45ft polytunnel and am learning (usually from mistakes) what will and will not do well in the new plastic structure that is, on days, impossible to spend any time in due to the temperature (kind of defeats the object if you ask me).
We've had a decent crop of Cherries already - an added bonus really because we were told the inherited trees were actually Pears! We already have 2 Pear trees so the Cherry trees are a bonus!
I've tried Raspberries in there and although they crop well I wouldn't say they do better than the outdoor ones, they simply crop sooner.
The Tomatoes are what I'm really chuffed with. For years now I've never managed to get one Tomato to ripen in the greenhouse - I kid you not! Whether this is due to the weather up here in the Highlands or my impatience and need to keep plants 'tidy' I couldn't really say (though I do suspect my 'neatening up' of plants doesn't actually help in the way I think it should).
BUT it's the Sweetcorn and Climbing French Beans that are doing so well. The polytunnel actually looks like a scene from 'Day of the triffids' and it get's seriously scary trying to get by them. They've completely taken over and here was me thinking that 12 Bean plants would not suffice!!!
The Sweetcorn used to produce 1 cob per plant in the Greenhouse (though I always cropped them too early and couldn't eat them) but I have an average of 3 per plant this year. Yay!

This is the kind of crop of Beans I'm getting every couple of days! And they're still flowering!
Kinda getting sick of eating them now though. lol.

So the Polytunnel is doing quite well all in all. It's also housing Cucumber, Kohl Rabi, Celeriac (2 newbies for me, I've never even tried them so hope we like them), Squash, Onions and a few winter Brassica already putting down roots.

Outside however is a different story unfortunately!
I lost my entire Potato crop (again!) to Blight. I've managed to save a few tubers by cutting the foliage down as soon as the Blight was evident but they're teeny tiny pathetic excuses for Potatoes.
I also planted Parsnip, Cabbage, Cauli, Brussels, Courgette, Kale and Leeks and out of all of those only the Parsnip and Leeks have been turned down by the Caterpillars.
Usually I'd net the Brassica but I've not spent as much time with the veg garden this year and the Caterpillars have had a field day:

Oops!

My absolute favourite Polytunnel success this year though has to go to..............


Yup, Sweetpea!
I absolutely luuuuuurve Sweetpeas and I always grow them outside near the veg patch to encourage the pollinating insects but as soon as we get one wind from the sea it obliterates the whole lot.
I sowed a few seeds in the tunnel this year as an experiment and to encourage those pollinating insects to my Bean flowers and Tomato flowers and I've been astounded at the display.
From one tub I have had regular vases of flowers (about 4 times a week) for a little over 3 months now.
I keep assuming this next cut will be the last cut by they're tenacious little devils, determined to produce seed and as I keep cutting the flowers preventing the seeds from developing they simple keep producing.
Next year there'll be even more!




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