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November in the garden

I thought I'd write about seasonal folklore as we are in the Halloween period of our calendar, so stay with me as I ramble on, hope you enjoy it.

From the Irish Gaelic “Summers End”, Samhain is perhaps the most famous of all great sabbats. It is a time when the veil that separates the seen and the unseen is at its thinnest - the laws of time and space are temporarily suspended allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the land of the living. If the Autumn Equinox was a time for reflection then Samhain is a time for introspection, to look within at who we truly are.

Pronounced Sow-en, Samhain is an ancient Celtic Fire Festival. The Celts regarded 31 October as the end of Summer and celebrated New Year on 1 November, following a lunar calendar the festivities always began at sundown on the evening before.

It is now known outside of pagan circles as “Halloween”, a corruption of “All Hallows Eve”. The festivity is so disconnected from its original meaning that most people don’t know why they go “trick or treating” (it stems from the tradition of leaving food on the doorstep for our dead ancestors.

The Celts burned great bonfires on this eve. Costumes were worn and dancing took place around the fire, these costumes were worn to honour the dead and allow them to be released from the earth. Ghoulish costumes were worn in the hope they would fool the malevolent spirits who might cross over into the land of the living and cause havoc. Special attire was worn to honour the Celtic Gods and Goddesses, giving thanks for the abundance of the harvest and to welcome their blessings for the coming year.

Around this time of year as well Gwnn App Nudd - known as the King of the Faeries who is said to live in his mythical castle beneath Glastonbury Tor, he is also known as a Guardian God of the Celtic underworld venerated as a hunter stretching back at least to the Iron Age, traditionally rides out each Samhain scouring the countryside for the spirits of the dead on his white horse Du gathering souls together to lead them to the Land of the Ever Young.

A few snippets of folklore for you to read as sip your preferred beverage and rest from gardening.

Thanks for reading

 

Posted by on November 8th, 2016

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October in the garden

Show the slightest bit of concern for the environment and you get labelled a tree hugger. Is a tree hugger some dazed hippy who goes around giving hugs to trees as a way of connecting with nature?

You might be shocked to learn the real origin of the term. The first tree hungers were 294 men and 69 women belonging to the Bishnois branch Hinduism who in 1730 died while trying to protect the trees in their village from being turned into raw material for building a palace.

They literally clung to the trees while being slaughtered by the foresters. Their brave action led to a royal decree prohibiting the cutting down of trees in any Bishnois village. Now these villages are virtual wooded oases amidst an otherwise desert landscape.

Not only that, the Bishnois inspired the Chipko movement (Chipko means ‘to cling’ in Hindi) that started in the 1970’s, when a group of women in the Himalayan hills of Northern India threw their arms around trees designated to be cut down.

Within a few years this tactic also known as tree satyagraha (loosely translated means insistence on truth) had spread across India ultimately forcing reforms in forestry on tree felling in the Himalayan regions. Despite powerful history of non violent resistance “tree hugger” is still a derogatory term not so in my opinion.

Recently some asked me about their small wildflower meadow that they had turned their garden into. Last year they had sown a perennial wildflower seed mix and had a impressive display of corncockle, cornflower, poppies, corn marigold, it was cut last October and left. This year not a single bloom, what's happened?

Well it sounds as if the seed mix was more annual than perennial, wildflower meadows tend to be a riot of colour the first year then a balance happens, some species are crowded out while others settle in.

If you want some annuals you may have to re-sow in the spring. Removing the cut material after the seed has dropped would be beneficial for extra light to penetrate.

Reputable seed company as supplier of your seed, some companies keep their seed for years and years decreasing the viability of the seed to germinate so choose wisely.
Until next time Good Gardening

Posted by on October 10th, 2016

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September in the garden

Hi, my name is Peter Frances a.k.a. the Hairygardener

Using Crystals in your garden to help keep your plants healthy could be classed as a bit too quirky for some gardeners but apparently it works, what percentage of success using crystals achieves I’ve no idea at the moment but why not give it a try.

Crystals, being from the earth, are not only useful in healing the body and mind, but also in healing the earth itself. The surroundings you live in, if these aren’t healthy then this can reflect back on you.

Have a look at your garden, this can be anything from a couple of flowerpots to a country estate, any garden can benefit from a bit of crystal help. Crystals placed in and around your garden will make for healthier, more productive plants.

All living things have energy and all, our plants from trees to seedlings are no different and just as certain crystals heal certain physical ailments in our bodies and minds, so there are certain crystals that make your garden more productive and healthy.

Moss Agate is probably the most beneficial stone when you want increased plant growth. It  has become known as the gardeners talisman. Moss Agate is a healing stone and is associated with nature spirits and wearing it while gardening can increase your energy, relieve a stiff neck and tune you in to the energies of your garden. Placing moss agate stones in containers or in the ground will increase flower and plant growth and if you have fruit trees try hanging a moss agate stone from one of the branches to promote a healthy harvest.

Malachite is another green stone useful in the garden and was used by the Ancient Egyptians. Malachite is healing crystal and will encourage healthy growth and abundance from your plants. It is also a protective stone and protects you from negative influences so it very effective indoors placed near computers and televisions removing the negative energies from these devices.

Green Calcite is a calming, soothing stone, a healing stone. If your property is too loud, crowded or over active, you can place green calcite in a flowerpot or under a tree to soothe the area.

Moonstone is a crystal associated with the moon, a favourite of Native American Indian healers, it encourages healthy plants and flowers and promotes a soothing, restful area. Carrying one in your pocket while gardening is helpful.

For those of us who have ponds a small Aquamarine crystal placed in the water will keep the fish and plants healthy. Sometimes we gardeners need all the help we can get so don’t dismiss the idea of crystals helping us and our gardens to become more healthy.

Until next time Good Gardening

 

Posted by on September 6th, 2016

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August in the garden

At the time of writing this article, I thought how quickly we have entered another of the Earths cycle of celebration. This day August 1st is known as Lammas in both pre and post Christian times.

Lammas is the Summers height and the celebration of the grain harvest, the first grain harvest of the year and grain from this was baked into loaves and then the loaves split into four pieces and a piece put in each of the four corners of the barn to protect the rest of the harvested grain.

In pre-supermarket days this harvest hopefully provided food that would sustain families throughout the winter but also the seed,which will grow again in the spring to bring the following years harvest.

What is also happening at Lammas that concerns us modern day gardeners, foragers and like-minded people is if you hadn’t already worked it out, is that the sun’s energy begins to wane and with this we will have learnt what has grown and what not grown successfully in our gardens and from experience there are always more delights than disappointments.

At this time of year you can start making Smudge Sticks. Smudging is a traditional way of cleansing and clearing energy. A bundle of dried herbs are lit and blown out and the glowing embers are blown on so that it smoulders and smokes. The smoke is then wafted around a space to clear away any negative energy.

They can be made of mixed bundles of herbs or a single herb. The herbs most commonly used are as follows Mugwort and Wormwood these bring clarity and insight, Coltsfoot and Mullein which give off a smoke that is beneficial to the lungs, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme aromatic herbs that have a lot of oil in their leaves, burn well and smell good.

To make these smudge sticks cut the herbs the day before you need them, they wilt overnight and are easier to bind the next day. Tie the stems together using natural material such as hemp string, cotton or raffia. Leave so long lengths of thread. Using one the threads wrap the bundle of herbs as tightly as you can as you wind down to the bottom of the bundle and back up again. Tie it off at the top and then do the same with the other length and tie it off again making a hanging loop.

Finally hang in a warm dry place to completely dry out before use.
 

Until next time Good Gardening

Posted by on August 9th, 2016

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July in the garden

Hello, is it just me or has this growing season gone a bit flat, at the time of writing this article it is pouring with rain, not a problem I hear you say, put a hat and coat on and I would and will.

No the point I’m trying to make is plants got of to a great start in May and early June and then they have stood still since, outdoor food plants stopped growing, the temperature dropped eight degrees, plants thought September has arrived quickly.

Now readers you are thinking my plants are growing, he can’t be doing it right. That’s because you have some sort of protection for your plants, greenhouses, poly tunnels, cloches, yes you can grow tomato plants outdoors but can you get them to fruit without protection each year it appears to be getting harder to do and I think a great achievement if you succeed.

On a wildlife note, there seems to have been a lot more bumblebee of various descriptions around over the last month as well as leaf cutter bees who perennially take our wisteria leaves for their nests. Bumblebees made a nest in a birds nest box in a neighbouring property to ours and all was fine until we noticed no more bees buzzing around, now far from me to cast aspersions but if you had anything to do with the demise of these bees and you are reading this article then shame on you.

A smallish willow tree that we have in the front garden was immersed in black fly, not good for the tree or its appearance but it was a gourmet food stop for the legions of ladybirds and their larvae. An example of natures pest control at its best.

The birds nesting in or in the vicinity of our garden have all fledged now these include house sparrows, blackbirds, blue tits, wood pigeons, collard doves, robin, dunnock and gold finches. Those parents and fledglings will have been thankful that there has been a reduction of sparrowhawk activity this year for what reason I’m not sure.

Around about the 12th July you can start to lift your early potatoes if they were planted in March. Another job you can do in late July/August is encourage your Wisteria to produce flowers by pruning the leggy shoots to five buds from the base and then further pruning in November to two buds from the base.

Until next time Good Gardening

Posted by on July 5th, 2016

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June in the garden

We gardeners are great tea drinkers whether we garden in our own private gardens or on an allotment there is nothing better than having a brew and a few digestive biscuits while taking a well earned rest.

But what do you do with teabags, throw them away in a bin I hear say, that’s okay if it’s a compost bin, seriously though there are lots of uses for used teabags around the garden.

They can be used in hanging baskets mixed in with the compost before you plant it up which will give the plants in the basket an added feed also the bags hold extra moisture which is beneficial in hot weather as the plant roots dry out quickly.

They can be used as a mulch in big containers, they can be left in an old bucket and as the rain fills the bucket it makes a very cheap plant food, roses especially like a drop of tea.

If you’ve made other homemade plant food ie using nettles or comfrey, pour your mixture into a jug and then place a few teabags in the spout of the jug this then filters the comfrey or nettle juice stopping the fibres clogging your sprayer. The list is endless in use of used teabags.

If you are a regular waterer of your containers and you should be, your plants believe it or not will be in a routine and if you go away on holiday for a few days don’t despair too much about your plants they will recover but they have to recover slowly so don’t give them gallons of water all at once, water gently give the water time to soak in and repeat the process at the first container you started at, then get back into your routine watering for a few days before feeding the plant.

Regular sowing of salad crops should still be continuing especially in these summer months, my mizuna salad leaves are coming to an end now but the lettuce leaves are just about ready and the next salad leaves are ready to pot on.

Now I know that the salad is cheap in the shops at the moment but really the benefits you get from growing a small amount of food for yourselves are universal, think about them and then take time to smell the roses.

Until next time Good Gardening

Posted by on June 7th, 2016

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May in the garden

If you’ve got plants that you are not entirely happy with their position in your garden, you can move them even at this time of the year. With care they will recover from the stress of being dug up and replanted, l know because I’ve just done it again.

Only yesterday I moved three clumps of comfrey and two lavender plants, the comfrey was moved from front to back garden and the lavender plants suffered a bit in the winter but were recovering.

The care that you give the plants after replanting is important, if you can reduce water loss by cutting back or trimming the leaves then do it, easier with comfrey than lavender.

Now comes the important part – watering, remember the plant is stressed (an over used word nowadays) but in this case true. The secret to watering is don’t just water it and walk away and leave it for a few days, water it well and go for a walk around your garden checking other things and come back to the plant and water well again, go off and potter about and come back with a rose on your watering can and water the leaves.

Repeat this everyday using rain water if possible until you see the plant has recovered and then ease back on the water. A lot of work for I hear you say, then I say to you maybe you’re not a mindful gardener.

The poor nesting birds in our garden are having a bit of a rough time at the moment. The collared doves, wood pigeons are being persecuted by magpies, crows and starlings searching for the young and eggs, even the dunnock can’t get no peace as I’ve found broken dunnock egg shells. The blackbird pair cannot decide whether to nest in the ivy or the bay tree as they have built a nest in each of course they will probably nest in an entirely different place but that’s nature.

I’ve taken our seed feeders out of the pear tree now as it’s in full blossom and placed them by the bird table trying to reduce the amount of seed we give them which encourages the birds to eat more natural food. Water is essential for our birds as well as our plant, please try to rig up some kind of bird bath for them or splash out and install a pond.

Until next time Good Gardening

Posted by on May 10th, 2016

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April in the Garden

Hi, my name is Peter Frances a.k.a. the Hairygardener

The weather has turned a bit chilly, its nature testing us gardeners to see that any tender plants that we have planted out have got protection from the cold.

As a rule of thumb I like the soil temperature to be 7 degrees centigrade, I've found the plants are not just sitting in the soil they are actually beginning to grow at around this temperature.

If you are a vegetable grower you can start your potatoes growing in bags as long as they are chitted, if you’ve read my articles before you will know I am a great fan of this method of growing potatoes which taste far superior to shop bought ones no matter which variety you choose to grow.

Onions grown in window boxes were another success so I’ve expanded the amount I’m growing this season, planting onions in widow boxes these can also be under planted with radish, salad leaves or herbs, the choice is yours as long as you water and feed regularly, which brings me to the topic of watering containers.

Plants in containers cannot access moisture and nutrients beyond the confines of its container, in effect a plant in a container can be likened to an animal kept as a pet it relies on you as its keeper for all its care, once this is understood success will come your way. But don’t become a slave to your containers, gardening should be enjoyable not a chore.

Rain cannot always be relied upon to water container plants because the surface of the compost is usually covered by a canopy of foliage that even the heaviest downpour will penetrate sufficiently. For your plants to flourish you must replenish food and water manually. The most efficient way to water is slowly and thoroughly using a watering can.

Remove the rose and direct the water at the roots, not the foliage. Pour on a little and allow it to soak into the compost rather than running off to the sides. Repeat this process from different sides of the container until the entire rootball is saturated. Large pots may need 2-3 gallons at a time, although they will usually dry out less quickly than smaller pots but the rate at which they dry out is also governed by the crops they contain.

During summer many containers may need watering twice a day depending on their position, the weather, the thirst of the individual plant and the type of container. I find watering first thing of a morning to be the most beneficial time for the plant, it will use the water and nutrients during the daylight hours when it’s really needs them, for me watering of an evening leaving the compost wet only encourages slugs and snails even more than usual.

Remember most plants will forgive you the occasional missed watering but you will miss out as watering is therapeutic to you and the plant.
Until next time Good Gardening

Posted by on April 4th, 2016

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