Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Garden

As you may have guessed from the shed post, my garden's been on my mind a lot. Actually my mind (and the rest of me) have been in the garden a lot so there's been no escaping thoughts of it.

There are two reasons for this - 1) the weather has been great and 2) we've been working hard to make the garden more attractive to our cats in the hope that they'll spend more time in our garden and less time messing up our neighbours' garden.

Also it's spring and I've been planting loads and loads and loads of seeds.

Our garden is small - there's a bit of patio, a bit of grass, borders along two sides and a raised bed. Taking up more space are, in order of decreasing size, the kids' trampoline, the playhouse, the mini-greenhouse, the compost bin and the washing-line. This means that attempting to tart the garden up takes a bit of planning - we can't just shove a new plant or feature into a spare space because there just aren't any.

Our efforts to make the garden cat-friendly do seem to be working though. In fact the other morning there were five cats (including our own two) in the garden, studiously ignoring each other and apparently playing what Terry Pratchett calls cat-chess*.

The two nepeta plants we put in last year, nepeta nervosa 'Blue Moon' and nepeta 'Six Hills Giant', have proved more appealing to neighbouring cats than our own (they're just beside the white and ginger cat in that picture), but I'm growing nepeta cataria from seed this year in the hope that it'll appeal more.

Anyway, getting to the point at last, as our little tortoiseshell-and-white cat is particularly attracted to our neighbours' pond we've built a pond of our own. This was quite an epic project for us, despite being such a small pond. It's really just a plastic tub sunk in the ground, but neither of us was really sure what we were doing so our first attempt produced a very small swamp. My Beloved is of the 'ah, sod it, it'll be okay' school of gardening whereas I'm more cautious and, being more of a Hermione by nature, inclined to read up on a subject endlessly before tackling it. Together we usually balance each other out. Our first tub sprang a leak - possibly not surprising as it had previously been used for mixing cement and we'd discovered as we dug the hole for the pond that our garden is full of rubbish. I mean actual rubbish. Like many an archaeologist we discovered pottery when we started digging - only ours was 1980s kitchen tiles. The spot we'd chosen, bearing in mind the limitations of a small garden, is where the one annoyingly mismatched wrong-sized slab was in the patio. So we gain a pond and lose a minor niggle!

We went and bought a new tub, lifted the aquatic plants and so forth out of the old one and put the old tub inside the new tub - in retrospect the other way round would have been more sensible. This time we added gravel after the aquatic compost (as suggested on the compost bag that obviously we didn't read until too late last time) and avoided the 'instant peat-bog' look. Plants and pondweed were replaced and it started looking actually pondlike. A few days on and it's settled and you can actually see into the water. The cats are fascinated by it especially now that insects are being attracted by the marginal plants.

We left the handles on the tub just in case we have to lift it again but if everything looks okay we'll cut them off soon and start planting things in among the pebbles so it looks less temporary. Looking at it as others might see it now I'm feeling faintly embarrassed by how amateur it is, but hey, we can't all be Titchmarshes and from what the books say, ponds always look a bit rubbish until the plants are established!

Inspired by Simone of Linden Grove's 'sowing and growing' list and Mother of Purl's inspiring allotment posts, I think I'll list what I'm growing - it's as well to keep track of these things..

From seed - nepeta cataria, nasturtiums, sweet peas (lots and lots - our neighbour gave us a load of seeds she didn't need), sunflowers (ditto), marigolds both tagetes and calendula for dyeing purposes, anthemis tinctoria for dyeing, night-scented stock. Also strawberry plants from some seeds I found in the garage - I don't know if anything will come up but we already have strawberries in the garden, so these will just be an added bonus if they do.

Plug plants - more marigolds (tagetes I think) , pinks.

Yet to plant - carrots, potatoes, salad things. Buddleia 'Buzz' (dwarf buddleia) ordered. I've ordered some more marigold seeds (calendula 'Lemon Zest') too, because they look pretty and I think this gorgeous flower I photographed at Kittochside a couple of years ago might be Lemon Zest:

And I'm about to cut out of a section of the lawn for a new flower bed so I've got a whole lot of flower seeds to sew for that - poppies, nigella, cornflowers and whatever else I have to hand. I've got my fingers crossed that we'll have a very colourful summer this year!


* See The Unadulterated Cat. Somebody lent me this book last year, I can't remember who (I thought it was my brother but he denies it), and nobody admits to it. It's all very strange, and having read the book I suspect it was a Schrodinger's cat nipping round the corner from next Tuesday to ensure that I have all the important cat behaviour books. One of this morning's cats appears twice in my photos, at both ends of the garden without apparently having moved. Just goes to show, Pratchett knows his cats.


Simone said...

Thought I would pop by and I see you have given my blog a mention. Thank you! I am glad I have inspired you to keep a list of what you are growing. I find it easy to start growing things but much more difficult to maintain them! Well done on the garden pond. I started one a couple of years ago (I blogged about it). It took me ages to dig out a huge hole in the ground. It was only when I put water in it, I realised the ground was uneven so I ended up filling it all in again! It will be interesting to see how yours develops.

Peeriemoot said...

I wonder how many people have to take more than one go at creating a pond - bet it's most! It's definitely the trickiest thing we've tackled in the garden so far.