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Taking two weeks off of, well, pretty much everything seems to have actually done me some good, despite the depression (which is now lifting again). I'm having a very middle class Sunday, listening to the Archers omnibus. Tomorrow I try going back to the voluntary work.

Pol's sent me a graphics tablet, which should arrive this week, *and* I've found my camera charging cable, so I can get creative again. I do actually like creating art, however dreadful, but depression made me not want to. I've also had some lovely phone conversations, which is something I really enjoy. Time was, I couldn't cope with phone calls because of the migraines, but my pain management is just so good these days that I can cope, even if sometimes I'm a bit scatty. Anyway, everyone I talked to has been delightful and I loved hearing about what people have been doing.

I have garlic sprouting well, but no sign of peas or potatoes. It's been quite dry and I have no watering can. I've got an Amazon voucher for kitchenware (again from Pol)... perhaps if I kept it in the kitchen?

I might have energy this afternoon for calligraphy. I hope I do - I have a half-finished letter for Pol that has been sitting there literally for weeks. I have no idea why letter-writing seems so very hard to me right now, but it does.
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Expanded form of a Facebook update:

I've just done some very heavy gardening in very heavy rain. Brr. The dead bush that defeated me all year is now finally in pieces, on the patio and in the compost heap. I had to take a saw to it in the end, which worked well. The larger pieces will make good firewood (along with the very large pile of other good firewood still waiting to be cut down to wood-burning-stove size and delivered to friends).

The four new fruit trees are standing in the places they will be planted, tomorrow, when it's dry (2pm according to the forecast). Pol took me out yesterday to get them and it was rather a nice day all in all, if really very cold. He got me a lovely lunch at a Horwich pub, slow roast pork belly. The fruit trees are: Sunburst and Stella cherries, Victoria plum, Golden Delicious apple (the only apple Pol likes and probably the only food he'll ever get out of the garden). They're going against the tall, brick West-facing wall that runs down one side of the garden. They'll be cut down to less than wall height and then fastened in horribly unnatural contortions to nails driven into the brick, because you get lots of fruit that way. I'm thinking of covering their feet in strawberries and pineberries.

I have pork roasting in the oven. There's a bowl of coleslaw inspired by ruthi, ready to go with it. But for now, I'm appreciating the invention of one Slavoljub Eduard Penkala. He invented many things, but I most appreciate the modern form of the rubber hot water bottle. I love him very much. Unfortunately, he's married. Also, dead.
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I have finally, finally uploaded and labelled the pictures of my garden I took some weeks ago. Here they are in an imgur album. Just click and visit. There is no need to sign in or anything. The images are fairly large. These pictures were taken just before summer turned to autumn proper.
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After a slump in energy and spirits, I've finally sown all the seeds which were left over from 27th April, as well as done a few other jobs. So, Giant Yellow Sunflowers are in the garden again, as well as Lupins and Sweet Williams. In the greenhouse, I have sown Leaf Beet and Spinach in the same container as the Giant Green Mustard. The plan is to harvest leaves as they arrive, so the fact they're crowded shouldn't matter.

I have 10 sown Autumn Mammoth Leeks and 12 Elefant Leeks, since, of the Autumn Mammoth Leeks I put outside to die in the winter, two are *still* alive. I sowed more Asparagus Peas to make up for the mixup earlier in the year - it's late for them, but they should cope.

My White Lisbon Spring Onions are doing very well indeed and want but a couple of weeks to harvest the first three. I planted out the spare Arcoat Turnips, as they're all fine big plants and I have nowhere in the greenhouse to plant them to. I suspect they'll be eaten, but they're spares anyway. If they actually survive, any turnips I get will be a bonus. Since the garden is so voraciously pest-ridden, and since I can't do much about it until I can rearrange the beds in November (and even then, slugs are *always* going to be numerous as we're very wet here), I've kept some turnips inside to mature.

*All* my Watercress plants got eaten to the ground, but a few are coming back. I'm inclined to try again, but this time in a trough container, and to plant them out when they're in danger of being potbound. My sugar snap peas are doing variably well. Some are vanished, and some are now a foot tall.

My special wet-climate Garlic is thriving, as is the Catnip I planted outside. There are probably other plants I've sown or planted and forgotten about - it's been a busy couple of hours.
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Before I get onto gardening, I liked this letter to a girl.

The part of the house inspection I am given to get ready for is the garden. So, today, I:

Sawed out neat squares from the blown-down trellises to make smaller frames for the winter squash.

Took the rest of them apart and stacked the pieces.

Cleaned the masonry to repaint, only to find we're out of masonry paint.

Took out about fifty dead canes from last year's bushes.

Mowed the lawn, filling our not-small mower's basket up twice.

Edged same.

Stained the decking rails, fence and bird feeder. (You can't even see where I stained the decking rails in November - the weather has scoured it all back to bare wood).

Weeded, although only enough to appease the house agent.

I'm going to see if the local nursery will deliver me a bulk amount of bedding compost for all the May sowing, and the delayed late-April sowing. I basically need enough to cover the vast bulk of a twenty-foot-long, four-foot-deep bed six inches deep.
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Had a nice dinner with Pol's family.

I've also been in the garden, where I found all my dill has been killed. If I want dill, I have to start again from scratch. I probably will do just that, and let it get large before I plant it out. This dill had been out for weeks and been fine, so I am sad.

I have a few live turnips outside, (Arcoat, which grow to the size of a golf ball) until they get chomped. In the greenhouse, I have sixteen I've transplanted to get nice and big. The rest can stay in modules for a while longer, since they have room. Seed compost is low in nutrients, so they should be retarded compared to the moved on ones (which are the biggest anyway), so I'll move them on for an ad hoc succession planting. I wasn't expecting so many to germinate and do so well so soon.

I now have two nasturtium plants, one well-chewed and one okay. And I have to stop typing because Spice has missed me and keeps wanting a cuddle. She can be very heavy and demanding when she wants to be.
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I've just discovered a new plant in the garden, growing very vigorously. Japanese Knotweed. Well, fucknuggets. I'm going to treat it with glyphosate, not a substance I was expecting to be buying but leaving it alone to grow is very much not an option.

Edit: had long, long chat with local council bod and will be painting it lovingly with Roundup, then waiting a few months, then painting it again, then waiting until it starts dying back in the autumn, and painting it again. And waiting until it's *really* dead and burning what is left in a very hot fire until there are just ashes. For three years.
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I've scrubbed one of the two waterbutts that takes the rain from the greenhouse and, from now on, feeds it back into the greenhouse. If the weather continues this wet, I will never have to make the trek to the garden tap again. The other one waits to be emptied of the various rotting yuk and scrubbed in turn. I also cleaned out the guttering on the garden side of the greenhouse. The wall side will be impossible to clean. I'll assume that plant roots will act as a filter for that water. Yes.

The Watercress I sowed last month is all now out by the pond side. The Watercress I planted out last week is thriving, the plants that stayed in the greenhouse less so. The left-indoor ones will soon catch up. I finally have a Nasturtium plant, under the Blackcurrant bush. Just one, out of about a hundred sown. There's no sign of any of the others in any other place. There are a whole bunch of identical seedlings under the Blackcurrant, suggesting I sowed something there, but I have no idea what.

I have baby Leaf Beets still, and plenty of Sugar Snap Peas and Mange Tout. One Asparagus Pea is still visibly alive. I am learning for next year, certainly. I have a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaby Victoria Rhubarb which won't reach its final place in the garden until November. I also have thriving Spring Onions in a window box, in need rows, graded from 'really getting tall' to 'baby wee seedling'. Poached Egg plants are sprouting in all the places I want Tomatoes to eventually be - this is deliberate. The Dill and Comfrey plants are well. Except for the ones who are dead, but there's no use crying over every mistake. Comfrey is apparently delicious to something in the garden. I have baby Lovage (just one!) and Cosmos ready to go out to the Carrot, Brassica and Allium bed. I have also plenty of baby Arcoat Turnips in a greenhouse and even a few alive outside. My Crystal Lemon Cucumbers look very well so far.

I'm starting to wonder if the unknown tree standing guard over the Rhubarb patch is actually some variety of Apple. It is covered in deep pink buds opening to pale pink blossom and the bees are delirious. I've planted out Tayberries, along the same wall as the Raspberries and Loganberries. They can all pollinate each other.

The weather is wet with occasional sunny intervals during which gardening can be done.
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I've finally started trimming all the bushes around the garden. It's a bit of a hack job on some for now, and I'll wait a couple of weeks and do them again before the house inspection on the 9th May. The new metal garden burner works beautifully. I've green binning some and composting a lot, but it's nice to have a third way to get rid of all this excess growth.

I've emptied one of the water butts EW, so that it can be scrubbed out and used as a source of clean(ish) water over the summer. There's another one I have to do, with about a million, million snails clustered around the top, but today I had enough to do.

I've planted out Watercress around the pond, although it won't actually contact the water for ages and will need frequent watering until it gets something over the lip of the tiny little plastic pond (which is about two feet by eighteen inches). I've tidied up the little show pond, killing off the Pyracantha shrub and seedlings, and cutting back other plants. The pond has been dredged and wasn't as nasty as I feared. No sulphurous smell of rotting nastiness, just mud and water. I've swept out that part of the driveway and gathered all the rubbish, so it looks a lot nicer now. Pebbles and decorative glazed beads have been taken away, washed and put back again on top of the new compost. There's a 'Welcome to My Garden' frog-and-flower statuette, which I shall scrub and paint with acrylics, before putting back. It's not something I'd choose, but I can take care of it. Every bit of this newly cleaned and trimmed pond is hidden behind Pol's Delica, but it will be a nice surprise for House Inspection Number Two.

Campanula is rife everywhere in the North (South-facing) shrubbery bed. I should have an amazing show of flowers, and then I can find out what sort of Campanula is actually is. They're bell-flowers, so I should end up with something pretty. Or the identification could be completely wrong - I just don't know! So exciting! The tree above all this maybe-Campanula has budded with very, very many potential deep pink flowers which are slow to actually come out.

Foxglove and Red Poppy have been sown to make insects happy. I already have established Foxglove plants and some sort of Poppy, but more would be nice. The 'wildflowers for bees' and Cornflowers are coming through. Next to that bit, I've put in a rosemary bush and sown stock all around it. I'll be adding another try of Morning Glories next month after the Hawthorns have blossomed. The bit of 'wildflower meadow' where the bird table used to be is alive but apparently with only grass. At least the square hole in the lawn has been filled.

I've cut back the Hellebores, which, far from succumbing to the Hellebore Black Death I thought they had, are now vigorous and green with new (unmottled) leaf. Hellebores can apparently foster a great many snails in their old, dying leaves - these treats have been saved and given to the rats. The snails seem to be doing no harm at all to the new leaves.

I should have sowed seed last Friday, but was away, so today I got on with it. I've sacrificed the excess Sugar Snap Peas, instead of umming and awwing endlessly about what to do with them. The actual Asparagus Peas (as opposed to the sugar snaps that somehow climbed into their modules) are now planted out and will take their chances. I've sown Borage everywhere, and French Marigold in tidy lines which I make by getting a long box, putting in compost to the recommended sowing depth, adding seeds, filling the rest of the box with damp compost and then making a seed-castle on a bit of ground I've roughly weeded but haven't actually dug. Quite a lot of my seeds are in face sown this way, and this makes it easy to find them.

Planting out 'Red Baron' red onions, I found out that the allium/brassica bed of compost which was four inches deep is now half an inch deep - soil fauna has been very busy, clearly. This bodes well for my plants, I think. Little baby Arcoat turnips are now everywhere. There are three leeks left. Something ate one of my comfrey plants, so I replaced it with two bigger comfrey plants. I couldn't find the culprit, but having more and bigger plants may let them outgrow whatever is eating them. If not, I've learned something. The sweet peas are still mostly not dead, but aren't thriving either. Then again, they haven't been thriving since I sowed them. I'll outdoor sow the rest of the packet later on and then give up.

The Leaf Beet is showing nicely everywhere I put it, and the sugar snap peas are mostly fine although one has been thoroughly eaten. I put out supermarket fennel and excess baby leeks out to die, and they are getting on with that but rather slowly. The fennel is in a concrete planter, which is full of tiny, tiny Pansy plants all flowering busily. The leeks are stuck into the allium bed and have been there for well over a week. There is no sign of even a single Nasturtium, not in any of the many beds I've planted it in. I don't know what's happening there.

The 'dead' apple tree is very green suddenly, having been black when I left for Eastercon. All those new leaves are thumbing their noses at me. I don't mind at all, as I want cooking apples later. Blackberry is showing itself on the very overgrown bit, and will be encouraged where possible in order to shade out the Winter Jasmine. I have so many more uses for excess Blackberry Bush than I do for Winter Jasmine - the shoots are edible as a vegetable, the fruits obviously so and the canes can be used (once worked to suppleness) as tying wires.

All in all, a very productive day.
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The wind made a real mess of the garden, and the cold made tidying it back up unpleasant. Our landlords came to fix the shower cubicle, which meant that last night we had to sneak hide the rats and hide all trace, then Jenny couldn't clean upstairs because the landlords were both traipsing in and put with shower bits, and they finally finished at 5:30pm, long after she'd gone home. Our kitchen, however, is immaculate. I gave her a present of home-grown rhubarb as ours needs thinning, hers hasn't come up yet and I am too tired to want to make more crumble.

Chicken bones and scraps are simmering in the slow cooker, remnants of yesterday's roast. Tomorrow I will make chicken noodle soup for those who want it. Our smallest houseguest goes home in the morning. I'll miss her, and I will certainly eat less well once she's gone.

The plants are all fine. No new dead ones, and no new appearances. I forgot to mention I have a baaaaaaaaaaaaaby rhubarb which is more or less a 'because I could' sort of thing. I sowed it, it's come up, now I just have to work out where to put it if it lives.

I have a cold.
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So, the frost did *not* kill the tomatoes (!) but it did kill very nearly all the morning glories. However, since they take a massive two weeks to get from sown to ready-to-plant, I'll just do those once the last danger of frost is gone.

I have planted out all but five of the sugar snap peas. I only have three mange tout, but tons and tons of sugar snap - thirty plants I think. Heaven only knows what happened there. I do know some of the asparagus peas turned into sugar snaps, despite the seeds being totally and utterly different in appearance and size.

Spice is having a mad episode just now. I've played with her, but mostly she wants to run madly about the house, making tribble noises and with her fur all on end. I've learned that her fur being all on end often means excitement rather than terror - her whiskers are forward and she's easy to approach. Just... brushy. There are lots of insects around, so she's been kept happy and occupied. She hates the rain, but will come out into it anyway if I am there. Hatter doesn't care, as long as he can come back to me later and warm and dry his feet on my neck.

There are now twice as many turnip plants as there were - there are now two. I planted out some comfrey and managed to drive a thorn deep into my thumb. I got the splinter out eventually and it bled freely, so it should be okay.

I've run out of compost, again.
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The reason I so often garden in my pyjamas is that before or after breakfast, but before dressing, I'll put my wellies on and stump out to the greenhouse to check and water my plants, and then around the garden to see how everything is doing. I then will see something that needs doing, forget I am not dressed yet and suddenly I've spent hours planting out or whatever. Cotton pyjamas wash well, which is just as well really.

The weather has turned cooler and greyer, although rain isn't expected until Monday night. I'll be quite glad of it. Meanwhile, I've had the fun of expanding coir compost in 60 litre buckets, then the fun of draining it after I realised I put in too much water. I think my '60 litres when expanded' is closer to 50, to be honest. The process of stirring it involved getting into the tub and treading the compost like grapes. That was when I discovered a small hole in my super duper wellies. Does anyone know how to fix wellies? I don't want new ones, as these are the nicest wellies I've ever had since I was about three and had a bright red pair with daisies around the top.

I planted out dill and some sacrificial tomatoes which are surplus to requirements and got in my way. The tomatoes are Roma VF plum tomatoes. They're hardy little seedlings, but even so I think I've signed their death warrant, with no hardening off or anything. If they make it, I'll merely put the rest of the tomatoes somewhere else. They're in a pile on the soil, of living alehoof, followed by dead rhubarb leaves (well chewed by now), followed by blood, bone and fish, followed by coir compost which tomatoes supposedly like. I need to shove some lime in there (easy to do when it's a heap), and they won't get any nitrogen at all beyond the initial dose. What they will get is a companion group of comfrey plants I can cut down and let rot into their heap from time to time. If I *really* need to, I'll give them comfrey tea, but I'm reluctant to use liquid feed. The tomato heap is next to some planted-out dill which should live.

From the same tray as the dill and tomatoes, I've planted out five sweet marjoram seedlings of six sown modules and one lavender seedling, again of six sown modules (I overwatered them, poor things.) They're in a seed tray heaped up well with compost, and will be planted out as an entire unit. I'll sow new lavender in the same tray, for a lovely fragrant double row of herbs. I think the lavender will do a lot better in the bigger tray because it's a lot less drown-and-drought than the little modules. I love that I am learning what works, and what doesn't, and still ending up with plants. Plus, seeds are cheap.

I have a container ready for when the black cherry tomatoes come up. I have more pea seedlings, still, than I can face planting out in a day. Hopefully, I can put out more tomorrow, in their own little piles of compost. I'll put the compost out in the morning and put the peas in it in the evening, to make sure the compost has had a chance to drain further. Every edible pea I've planted out so far is alive and well. The sweet peas are more finicky and apparently tastier, but by letting some grow taller and then hiding them under bottles, I've managed to keep a dozen or so plants alive. I'll supplement them later in the year with outdoor-sown seed.

Dill has also been placed to one side of the brassica/allium bed, on the opposite side to where the carrots will go. Everything else on the bed supposedly really benefits carrots, and dill really benefits the everything else, so I'll just let the everything else play chaperone. I also planted out some spring onions, as my spring onion trough (with eighteen healthy plants in it) is full. I also planted out some spring onion ends that I soaked in water overnight. Apparently, you can get three spring onions from each one you buy if you only save the root end. Let's see if it works in practice. It also works for celery ends, apparently, except those you bury straight into the soil an inch deep.

My nasturtiums are just at the stage of splitting and putting out the first bit of root, as I found out when I turned one up. By this time next week, I should have little baby nasturtiums everywhere. The eventual plan is that every bit of ground not growing something else I want will be covered with nasturtium. All I have to do for the nasturtiums is put them in a crappy bit of soil and leave them well alone.

My catnip is doing very well and every plant now has new proper leaves. In COMPLETELY UNRELATED news, both cats have suddenly become very interested in joining me in the greenhouse and I keep having to chase them out. I'll pot them on and let them get good and big before I throw them out to the mercy of every neighbourhood cat. The plan is to place them strategically to keep the birds away from my tomatoes. They'll go on their own in a bit of 'waste' earth next to the greenhouse where it won't hurt anything to have cats rolling on it. I also have to look up what it was they were meant to be a companion for in the west-facing bed, and where they can go to do that and not cause cats to crush my other vegetables.
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Today I was outside before dawn. The radio had forecast a week ahead of scorching hot days, so I watered all the plants before the sun could hit them. Last thing at night would be better, but I am always so very tired by then. By the time I was done, there was a thin skin of ice on the bird bath, by that magical process that uses a black, shallow dish, morning sunlight and some weird trick of radiation. It allows people in hot countries to make ice in above-zero temperatures and I have no idea how it works. The outside was chill enough to see my breath, but the greenhouse was nice and cosy already. Thank goodness for the automatic vent. I foresee myself having to put blinds in as well later on.

I've planted out lots of strong young morning glory "Grandpa Otis" plants, which were sown less than two weeks ago. After only three days, they were strong seedlings with two leaves each, and now they're starting with their true leaves. They're poisonous as anything, so they're safe from slugs.

My sweet peas I wanted to cover the ivy have been eaten, so I planted out more. Learning from last night, I strewed the ground about them with dandelion leaves, but then I got nervous and gave each one a plastic bottle greenhouse as protection. They only get morning sunlight unless they get a lot taller, so they should be fine.

I had the idea of watering the holes into which I was planting my sugar snap peas before planting the peas themselves. I have no idea why I thought to do that, but doing so revealed that one of the holes had a major drainage problem and would have drowned my poor pea. I solved the problem by poking holes down through the clay pan with a knife-sharpening steel (one of my favourite gardening tools) until decent drainage was achieved. I put a comfrey plant in next to that pea, so it can drill down with its massive tap root and break through the pan of clay. It isn't quite ready to go out, really, so it got a little bottle greenhouse too.

My turnip seeds I think got baked to death in all the hot dry weather, so I planted out more under square clear plastic tubs. That particular bed (brassicas, carrots, alliums and helpful herbs and flowers) is a no-dig bed - a four-inch deep layer of rough compost on top of the existing layer of dead leaves. One dandelion has so far managed to work its way through even that layer, but its single long, blanched yellow leaf was simply plucked out and left for the slugs. Six leeks still survive, poor things. I actually plant leeks 'for real' next month with decent hopes that *those* ones will make it. I've learned more since the January sowing, and the future leeks will sit in plastic cups until a decent size, then go out. I'm not sure how many leeks I should sow for myself, anyone got an idea?

Not everything I plant out is dead or dying! The sugar snap peas I planted out a while ago are absolutely fine, thriving even. The raspberry, loganberry and redcurrants are fine. My calendula pot marigolds, by the blackcurrant bush, are starting to sprout. The potted nettles have already provided a meal. I have three living parsley plants and one coriander (I drowned the other one, which is very, very easy to do). I think some outdoor-sown asparagus peas are sprouting.

There are dandelion leaves everywhere now. I am starting to run out of dandelion plants. This is a new and refreshing situation.
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So, there's this hippyish organic idea that dandelions, instead of being a scourge, actually draw up minerals from deep down and bring them up to the surface as leaves. And that you can bring these minerals to the top of the soil by trimming the dandelions and dropping the leaves on the ground in your vegetable beds instead of wrecking the soil digging them up.

The idea then goes that the wilted dandelion leaves will be more attractive to slugs than your precious seedlings. Slugs won't touch fresh dandelion, but the hippy idea is that wilted leaves are madly attractive to slugs. Even dandelion leaves.

So, I went out with a torch tonight, and what do you know, it works. My tender plants had slugs making a beeline for them, but where there were wilted leaves on the ground, they'd all gathered there instead.

I still killed them with scissors, but that's really good to know. If wilted dandelion leaves will keep slugs away from my seedlings, then the dandelions can keep on growing, and welcome. Even if they're only being cut-and-come-again salad for slugs.

The thing about the minerals might even be true.
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It was beautifully warm and sunny again today. This spring has been remarkably clement. I mowed the lawn, which is quite the undertaking, especially as the lawnmower has to have its electrics taken apart and put back together again every time.

I've had another harvest - the same foods again, but more of them. Rhubarb, chives, nettles and rocket salad, in case anyone is wondering. Fifteen rocket plants yield enough leaves for a one-person bowl of salad a week. One rhubarb plant will yield five stems in a week (there are a good number of stems ready to replace what I've just cut very soon). The nettles are perennial so counting the number of plants is problematic, and the chives are in clumps.

The massively-yielding apple tree over the east (west-facing) wall looks very dead. I'd expect some sign of life by now. That means *all* the trees along that wall are very, very dead, and died last year some time, although the other plants are alive and well. Anyone got any idea what could have happened?

Bumble bees are busy looking for nest sites and the honey bees are out. There are butterflies around too. The food I am putting out for the birds is apparently especially attractive to reed buntings, as I had at least four and I think a half-dozen in my garden today. The robin was active where I had been planting out parsley. I'd like to have put out more pea plants but was unable to stand the crouching needed to do so, and was also too clumsy to really handle seedlings today. Perhaps tomorrow. Anyway, the lawn was a great big job and I am glad it's over.

On another note, I had an idea that it would be nice to *just* cook hickory smoked sausages, slice them up and put them in a muffin tin with corn muffin mix on top. It's going to be a regular treat, I think, served with baked beans.
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Had another burst of energy, oddly enough following the onset of migraine. So, in my greenhouse, I've sown Crystal Lemon Cucumber, Lovage, Cosmos, Celery, Sage, Sunflower 'Black Magic', Tomato 'Black Cherry', Wild Strawberry, Buddleia and more Comfrey. I'd have sown more Dill too but it meant going back to the house and it's pouring it down now.

Outside, I've sown English Lavender and dumped Basil and Thyme rather than repotting them. There's another Thyme and some baby Basil in a long box on the kitchen windowsill, so it doesn't matter that the planted out stuff will probably die. Also there are the Morning Glory I sowed about three days ago which is already a nice healthy set of young plants with two leaves each. They make the Sugar-Snap Peas look hesitant.

In the conservatory, I have some Chilli 'Twilight' - look them up, they're gorgeous.

I'm now pretty much out of room for more plants until I start planting things out. I can do half a dozen Dill in the space next to the Sunflowers, that's really all. Tomorrow, I'll check the planting plan and see if I've missed anything. I know I am not doing more peas for a while yet as this lot will keep me going for about a month solid. The next planting is in three weeks time in April.
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It did rain during the night, so I haven't suddenly moved to the continent. Spice, the autumnal-coloured rescue cat, has hurt her leg, having been bitten by probably another cat. She's on antibiotics. It remains to be seen how easy it is to put pills down her throat. Hatter's a champion - if you can get them onto the back of his tongue, you're done. Just as well, really.

I'm eating a really, really nice burger from the local coffee shop, after some gardening. I've put wood ash on the brassica bed, to ward off club root, and nematodes *everywhere* to kill slugs (they can come back in the summer, but right now I have too many tender delicious things sprouting). I've also sown some leaf beet, also known as perpetual spinach. I'll sow lots of other things later, when I have more energy and less hunger. The 120 litres of compost I had the day before yesterday is already down to about 40 litres. Most seeds get dumped on top of a few handfuls of compost to make an improvised miniature 'bed' on top of the real bed.

If you cut dandelions off at soil level and spread the leaves out to die on the soil, slugs will apparently go for the wilting leaves first in preference to your living plants. They also dump a lot of nutrients into your soil from right down where the tap root goes to, making them available to shallow-rooted plants. Suddenly, these pernicious and ever-spreading weeds have become green mulches and quite valuable. I'm glad, as they're a massive pain to try to get rid of. Now I can just cut them off with scissors and make sure they don't overgrow the cultivated stuff. (You can eat the leaves too, but personally I think they taste foul).

It remains to be seen whether, after all the companion planting and green mulches and 'working with nature', I actually end up with any vegetables outside at all.
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Today was a big planting day - I have one of these every three weeks until October. I only got about a third of what I wanted planted done. I took advantage of warmish, still, not-raining weather to get the outdoor ones done.

I planted out all the fancy nasturtiums - Black Velvet and Empress of India - out among the blackcurrant bushes (to draw down aphids) and where my lemon cucumber is going to be between ranks of peas and rubes canes. I have Tom Thumb to scatter around the allium patch another day.

I sowed turnips in the allium bed, and only remembered after doing it that all my brassicas should start indoors for a good while to avoid club root - in the winter I'll have had chance to properly lime the soil. So, I have to hope they turn out fine, or not grow brassicas there again for fifteen years. I'm wondering if I should scoop the seeds out and put them in a pot inside. They're on a thick bed of compost on top of dead leaves. I already scattered leftover Winter Over spring onion seed around, as it's a disappointing germinator and I don't feel like I've lost anything. The White Lisbon is growing in modules and a window box in succession plantings.

Black sunflowers went in, in various places, a few days ago. I'll start some indoors too. I planted a rosebush out from the too-small pot to the garden, as it feels like this is a warm spring, and the garden is sheltered. If it gets nippy, I'll fleece it. Hardening off would be ideal, except I don't trust myself to remember to bring it in at night. The rose bush got asparagus peas sown next to it. If they sprout, great - if not, I have some in the greenhouse that can go out in a week or so, once the slug nematodes have done their thing. I'll plant garlic nearby.

I put poached egg plant in both places outside where I hope to try an outdoor tomato plant or two. The bulk will stay, all alone, in the greenhouse as I would actually like some fruit.

I have lots and lots more to sow tomorrow.
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I spent this morning planning out my plantings and reading up on companion plants. Here's my plan so far - is there anything wrong you can see with it?

Holly bed:

Dill, Cosmos, Leeks, Romanesco, Violetta, Rosemary, Bramble, Turnips, Chamomile, Lavender, Carrots, Garlic.

Notes: keep dill away from carrots and near the brassicas. Romanesco is a fractal cauliflower and Violetta is a deep purple cauliflower.

Greenhouse bed:

Tomato, Spinach, Borage, Asparagus, Comfrey, Nettle, Catnip, Dill, Rhubarb, Strawberry, Thyme.

The tomatoes and spinach are together behind the asparagus and away from everything else. This bed gets the most sunshine, although the spinach will end up quite shaded.

West Wall:

Lilies, Freesia, Parsley, Sugar Snap Pea, Marjoram, Raspberry, Spinach, Squash, Radishes, Loganberry, Roses, Lemon Cucumber, Mange Tout, Rosemary, Lavender, Sweet Pea, Black Sunflower, Daffodils, Polyanthus, Bamboo (non-spreading), Snowdrops

Notes: in August, the peas will be cut down to rot, and overplanted with Rocket Salad and Pak Choi. This is a very, very long bed and has room for everything.

Patio Bed:

Roses, Asparagus Pea, Morning Glory, Cornflower, 'Bee Mixture', Garlic, Parsnips

Back door:

(In pots)
'Black Cherry' tomato, Poached Egg Plant, Bramble

Notes: this part of the house is a complete sun trap, with a southern facing wall. The poached egg plant is going in with the tomatoes.

North Facing Bed:

Rotting wood, Snowdrops, Ivy

Currant Bed:

Redcurrants, Blackcurrants, Gooseberries, Winter Jasmine, Nettles, Nasturtium, Sage, Sunflowers

Everywhere there's still room:

Marigolds, Borage, Comfrey, Nasturtium, Sweet Marjoram, Tarragon, Hyssop. I'm also leaving existing weeds in place unless they're actually overshadowing something edible.
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I put my peas in far-too-small modules, and the sugar snap peas and asparagus peas took off like rockets. So Random took me out to Tescos to get plastic cups to be temporary pots (she also holed the bottoms for me, all 100 of them). My sugar snap peas especially are very vigorous and fertile. The sugar ann sugar snaps and the asparagus peas are all now sitting in cups, waiting to be big enough to go out. The mange tout, I discovered, have much smaller roots and might make it straight from module to pot, as will the sweet peas. I find myself not caring over much about the Kelvedon Wonders.

We also accidentally two redcurrant bushes (which will make great 'decoy' bushes for birds, distracting them from the blackcurrants), and a loganberry and a raspberry. The raspberry will be more or less there for visitors. They're going on the west wall, I think, which this year is the 'pea' bed.

I'm also reading up on permaculture. I'm not applying it this year, other than lots of interplanting, companion planting and growing things at different levels in the same space. That's more or me being lazy and not wanting to dig or spray though. If we're here long enough, I expect more and more will start creeping in. One thing I *am* doing is leaving weeds alone until they're where I want to put something else or eating my food plants. Well, except the lawn thistles. They have to go.

The lawn's not mine so that's staying, permaculturish or not, and anyway I like having an outdoor 'carpeted' room to go and sit in.


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May 2014

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