Inkwell’s Guide to Gardening #8

Gardening up to the season of summer means you may have done quite a bit of work over the past few months. Now though it is time to sit back and relax a little, take in your gardens sights and enjoy. If you notice areas that you think would benefit from filling in or changing somehow then why not make a few notes? Gardens can be fluid and everchanging areas and you may notice plants thriving or not. There are many reasons why plants have not worked so well, even if they have in the past. The weather can prove challenging especially because of global warming meaning that we have longer dryer spots of weather and longer periods of rain. Taking notes means that you can work on these things the following year. That may mean getting more drought resistant plants for certain areas or plants more suited for boggy areas of the garden. I have an east facing back garden where I find certain areas very shaded and have, over the past four years researched a lot about plants that thrive in partial and shaded areas. I have gradually managed to fill these areas but always feel with gardening that I want more plants and love learning about the different varieties. The plant nursery is my sweetshop!

Over the past blogs I have talked about trying to cut spending by talking cuttings, splitting plants and collecting seeds. I have had success with the hydrangea cuttings I took six weeks ago. At the time I put some cuttings straight in soil and others I simply left in a jar of water on the kitchen windowsill. Both methods worked well, and I will continue to nurture them in the greenhouse. The success has willed my on to take more cuttings and while at my parents the other day I took cuttings from their hydrangea, a different colour to mine and have left them in water as before. I have also taken cuttings from a summer flowering clematis in the garden. Again, I have tried two methods of rooting, one batch in water and the other in soil. I am hoping that clematis will give more height to the garden and colour in the summer months. I do find that when not planting annuals the flower garden tends to have a lull in colour about now.

As my ‘free plant’ quest continues, and I took some seeds from my Aunt’s garden the other day. We believe the seeds to be dwarf lavatera, daisy leucanthemum and peony poppy. I have been impatient with the seeds and planted them right away, although it is suggested that planting poppy and lavatera seeds be done in the spring. The seeds were spread over some tissue soaked in water and left overnight before being planted in seed trays, which are covered and left to germinate in the greenhouse. If I am successful with germination, then all these plants should help boost the colour in the garden at this time next year.

I would really like my gardens to be functional spaces. Ones that look pretty, giving us joy, attract wildlife and help everyone eat delicious foods. The garden should be nourishing and considerate and do we already feed the birds and try get wildlife friendly plants, but I wonder what more could be done? There have been sightings of a prickly hog in the street over the past couple of weeks, which got me thinking, so I did a little research. Although one of the most recognised of British animals there are less than one million hedgehogs living in the UK. Parents of hoglets are out hunting for bugs and grubs now, fattening up their young in preparation for them leaving the nest and perhaps moving into my garden? I wondered how I could facilitate this. You can buy hedgehog houses online, but I wanted to make a low-cost home for them with materials I already have. Cue the brick, rooftile and log camouflage hedgehog home.

This house was super easy to make. You simply find a sheltered spot where there will not me much noise, level it out and build a simple square shape with a little tunnel using about fifteen bricks. The tunnel ensures other animals cannot get in, such as cats and foxes. I collected some dried leaves and twigs for bedding/nesting and then placed two rooftiles over the top. The camouflage could have been more dried leaves, but I had some logs laying around, so I used those. The house is dual purpose as bugs will take up habitat between the bricks and logs, serving as a supply of food for the hedgehogs. The house is also next to the raspberry bush and so fallen fruit could also be a food source. As the hedgehog house is in the area where I grow vegetables, I have also been careful to tidy up the netting used to protect the vegetables. My daughter and I carefully placed a twig in the doorway so that we can check if anything has been in for a look. Only time can tell.

Another lovely activity that you can do with children is to make a butterfly feeder. Not exclusive to butterflies of course the feeder ensures insects have a supply of food and water. Again, we used items that we had at home and so the activity did not cost us a penny. If you want to make one, then you will need a sponge, some small pebbles, a dinner plate and an old hanging basket. The sponge is used to absorb a sugar syrup, which you can make with half a cup of freshly boiled water and a tablespoon or two of sugar. Simply arrange and add some slices of fruit such as banana, orange or melon and then hang in your garden.


The vegetable garden is looking nice and full now and we continue to harvest crops bit by bit and I hope you have been enjoying the fruits of your labour. The blackcurrants have been good this year although I did notice the new shoots have aphid inhabitants, so I continue to treat with soapy water. It may be that the shoots need to be cut back if too much damage has been done. I have been trying to think innovatively about what to do with the blackcurrants. My sweet tooth has led me to making ice cream, which is a popular dessert in our house, in fact so popular that we would probably benefit from an ice cream making machine and save a bunch of cash! I have managed to find a recipe that does not require such a machine or hours of churning by hand. You can see the recipe by following link below.

I have had a battle in the greenhouse this year with mildew on the courgette and cucumber plants. From experience I would have harvested some of each crop by now but alas I have harvested none. This can feel disheartening, but nature does have its way and gardening can teach valuable lessons. It is time fix the problem and I think the problem is my untidiness. I have tested methods such as spraying the leaves and leaving the door open to circulate air, but the ineffectiveness leads me to clear out the greenhouse, cleaning it and its contents. Although a fairly big job, due to the amount of pots, bags, BBQ coal and various other things that have been left in there I know that the overall outcome will mean less clutter and further circulation of purer air and inevitably a clean slate to keep on top of.

Clearing out the greenhouse has enabled me to create room for seed planting. I have in previous blogs discussed what can be planted around now to take us through to winter. We chose to plant kohl rabi, fennel, swiss chard and some more kale. There are also some Christmas cropping potatoes to be planted in a container once we have sourced some more soil. It is apparent to me now that gardening is here to teach vital organisation skills including time management and tidiness, both of which I struggle with but hopefully I am improving on!

If you have courgettes growing in pots like myself then you may have noticed that a courgette may grow but then turn yellow and die off. Please do not be disheartened if this does happen because there is an easy fix. The yellowing can be because of a magnesium deficiency and is treated using a feed containing magnesium or by adding a small amount of Epson salts to the plants water for a day. Just a teaspoon of Epson salts is enough when diluted in eight litres of water and fed to a few plants.


Sadly, this week we said goodbye to Mavis. He was a joy to have as a pet but not what we were after in a bird. On the brighter side we have a new addition to the flock. Introducing Crystal. She is most definitely she and is a light Sussex breed. Although shy at first Crystal seems to be fitting in quite well and is getting used to free ranging in the garden. The chickens have been re-establishing the pecking order and currently it looks like Belle wants to be the boss.

We still eagerly await the first egg which we anticipate sometime over the coming few weeks.