Hostas in window boxes

It’s the time of year when I plant up my window boxes. This will be their 3rd summer season, after Mr MBaF very kindly made them for my birthday in 2014. 

The boxes on the dark, north-facing, front of the house have always presented me with a bit of a challenge.
Last year trailing fuschias performed fairly well, particularly outside the upstairs (bedroom) windows, so I’ll be using them again up there. 

But I’m taking a different approach in the darkest spot, outside the living room. 

I’m going for greens. 

I’ve been mulling over trying smaller-leaves hostas in there for a while. The challenge was that I know hostas like to have nice moist, rich, soil. But window boxes are prone to drying out, and already in the box are a couple of ferns, which like a lighter soil (I believe). 

My solution has been to try creating a micro-environment that suits the hostas. So, I cut a deep bottom off two 2 litre plastic milk cartons, filled them with garden compost and manure, and plunged them into position in the boxes. The milk carton bottoms have a rectangular cross-section, which fits perfectly into the window box. 

Then I split one of the smaller hostas from a collection I’ve been growing in a tin bath. Prizing the bugger from the bath was tricky, but splitting it was pretty easy – just a stomp down between the shoots, into the rootball, with my spade. 

I planted the hosta-halves on top of/in the manured milk cartons, topped up with multipurpose compost mixed with garden compost, and hey presto. 

I planted them a week or two ago, before any leaves had burst forth, and they’re already looking great. 


Alongside them are the ferns, trailing nepeta and silvery lamiums – which the bees love if they flower. 

Fingers crossed everyone plays nicely together and I have a verdent, fresh and jungly outlook from my living room all summer!

A light February flurry

…of gardening, at last!

It sure has been a quiet winter on the MBaF front. I’m a fair-season gardener for sure, and even my Gardener’s World magazines festered largely untouched some months.

But for a few hours, on a couple of recent days, the feeling of spring’s approach has begun to cajole these green fingers to flex.

Today has been one of those days, and it happened to coincide with no work and Miss MBaF at nursery. I couldn’t deny it any longer. Seeds. Were. Sown.

Hello 2016, and in Delia Smith’s immortal words: Let’s be avenue!

 

Pea Douche Provence sown. Over-wintered Nigella potted on.

 

 

Bringing home the harvest 

Ok OK, this one’s a bit old. OK OK I found it in my drafts, unfinished, from way back when.

But hey, sweetcorn was one of my few successes this year so I’m not missing the chance to post about them, no matter how late.

Back in mid-September Miss MBaF and I pootled off to the plot. Well, I pootled, pushing her in her favourite ride, the wheelbarrow.

We’d already had a few sweetcorny meals, but some were poorly conceived – corn on the cob does not, I discovered, go with everything. So I decided to pick and freeze the rest of the harvest, quickly, before it got overripe.

Almost all of the 20 plants in my sweetcorn square had at least one usable cob (though some we’d eaten already). The second cobs on lots of plants were a bit skinny, and when I peeled back the husk it was clear they weren’t worth bothering with. But it was a good haul and, chuffed with our efforts, back we strolled…and rolled.


 I halved the cobs, blanched them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, plunged them into iced water to stop cooking, and drained them thoroughly, before freezing.Boiled straight from frozen for 5-6 minutes they’re a sweet taste of the summer in autumn. It’s true that there’s nothing like sweetcorn cooked fresh from picking, but these are the next best thing.

Lumpy-legs

I’m heavier than I’d like at the moment, but I’d like to think my legs don’t look quite this bad in tights!

The lumpy-legs were the starting point for two scarecrows created by me and Miss MBaF (mainly me!) as part of our village’s 2nd annual scarecrow trail. Masterminded by probably the busiest woman I’ve ever known, it’s a lovely village event that I predict will grow and grow – in number and ambition of scarecrows!

Ours was entitled ‘Grow your own’ and consisted of scarecrow versions of myself and my daughter, sitting on the bench at the allotments, with a ‘trug’ of straw-and-fabric veggies next to us.

A terrible accident?!

Miss MBaF’s self portrait

And here they are! I was dead chuffed with how they turned out – and the mild weather during the week of the trail was very kind to them. The bench also lent itself very nicely to having photographs with families who were walking the trail (including us!).

Pick of the week

As Keat’s famous ode goes, autumn is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

After a late breakfast we headed out into those seasonal mists so that Miss MBaF could take her new scooter for a spin. I didn’t even attempt to capture the fairytale atmosphere of the mist underneath the avenues of trees that lined our path. Here’s a snap from Mr MBaF.

Once the mists cleared we had another beautiful day, and I took the chance to head to the allotment for some weeding and picking.

Weeding didn’t happen. My tools have been taken hostage by my toolbox. The padlock is seized shut. I can’t even turn the numbers let alone open the blimin’ thing! Hard labour will have to wait until I get some oil into the thing.

So, I harvested several handfuls of fabulous mangetout, as a crisp accompaniment to the pot roast I’d left in the oven at home.

Then I picked all the remaining beetroot. It’s had a rocky road, with false starts in the cold spring and pesky pigeons giving it a hard time. Many of them were still pretty tiddly, but they look fine – and just like an earthy autumnal root should.

What to do with them? The lovely blog From Plot to Plate has some good ideas, including beetroot crisps (which even Mr MBaF might like!).

Tonight I had two roasted with my beef …and I forgot all about the mangetout!

What’s your Pick of the Week?

Pick of the week

Now then dear readers. Do you remember all those week ago – after a disastrous attempt at growing peas and mange tout at the allotment – I sowed some in guttering?? And then, a few weeks later, I stuck ’em in the allotment??

Well dear reader, I have marvellous news! Despite being far too late in the ground, the mange tout have persevered, enjoyed the late summer/early autumn warmth, and are cropping!! Hoo-bloody-rah!

I’ve had three pickings from them so far, and plenty more coming (until the weather kicks in, I suspect). It feels like such a late-season bonus – the guttering was really an experiment to see if I could evade the allotment nasties that did for my seedlings in the ground. But I kicked it off so late that I wasn’t sure much would come of it.

(And, admittedly, the peas were a disaster; got in the ground and gave up the ghost)

In other news, the wonderful – and long-awaited – sweetcorn harvest was overwhelming us. I didn’t want to waste it and let the cobs overripen, so Miss MBaF and I wheeled up to the plot and picked the lot.
  

I cut them in half, par-boiled them for a couple of minutes, cooled them in iced water and put them in the freezer. Now we don’t have to have them with EVERY meal, just the ones that they go with!

What’s been your Pick of the Week?

A pretty little prunus

Our back garden is still evolving from the blank unloved canvas it began as when we bought our modest little home in November 2010.

It has already changed beyond recognition (one day I’ll sort out a dramatic ‘before and after’ post!), but there’s more to do. The current major project going on out there is Mr MBaF’s uber-shed construction – to house bikes, potting shed, and DIY workshop.

The privet hedge at the end of our patch has taken the full force of ‘project uber-shed’, so we’re currently lacking part of the boundary between us and the right-hand neighbours. It’ll get replaced somehow, somewhen. But I wanted something pretty to stop-up the gert big view into our neighbours garden that you get when sitting on our fancypants decking supping G&T (or mulled wine soon!).

I thought: small tree or large shrub, with flowers. I thought vibernum, probably a winter-flowering one for some off-season interest.

But then we went to the garden centre and I spied this little beauty!

It’s a weeping ornamental cherry, and it was standing demurely on its own next to the crabapples – with their shiny show-off fruits – asking me to take it home. Fate was sealed when Mr MBaF also really liked it – we rarely agree on these matters!

The little thing will, apparently, reach 8x5ft in ten years. The height sounds perfect, the width could be tricksy – but hey, we’ve got a while to figure that out.

Today – in the most beautiful sunshine – I dug up the astrantia and bindweed in her spot and worked in some soil improver. Then popped her in and gave her a drink.

She looked gorgeous. The low sun – the late summer light that Monty’s always on about – glowed through her leaves. This effect is completely underwhelming in the terrible shots below (which include Miss MBaF’s slide, and a bucket!!) – so you’ll just have to take my word for it!

  

I’m so chuffed – she should have great autumn colours,  lovely spring blossom, and I’m planning to plant hellebores and spring bulbs beneath.

I can’t wait to see how she settles in as the seasons pass.