New containers and herbs, oh my!

A decent bit of gardening work has been going on here, with a bunch of posts on the G+ page.

I particularly wanted to replace the dead thyme and get some more sage planted, so I gave into temptation and ordered a bunch of mostly herb plants from a couple of eBay shops early this week. The first batch arrived today, with no spare pots for their new homes.

Left to right: Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor – and some excellent photos of it growing wild), lovage (Levisticum officinale), lemon thyme (Thymus ร— citriodorus).

So, I had to go out in search of more pots. I had meant to do that earlier in the week, but pretty much everything but that ended up happening. ๐Ÿ™‚ Having scoped out availability and price several other places, I ended up going back to Poundland, which tends to have a decent stock of not-so-huge planters.

Today’s haul: 3 medium-sized boxes, 6 of the squarish pots (at 2/ยฃ1), and the three tiered planter pieces. That was fun to lug home on the bus, walking with a cane…

I was hoping to get all pseudo-terracotta colored pots to match the ones already out there, but the green ones were all they had in boxes that size. For ยฃ1 rather than the ยฃ4 I found similar elsewhere, mixing things up some is A-OK. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The stacking tiered planters were a particularly good find. Not too long ago, I was struck by what a good idea a similar one was at my little garden in japan, which they found at a 100 yen store. So, I peer back into the corner space behind a huge column (grrr) where Poundland had hidden their pots, and what do I find today?

Yes, I often wear walking sandals with socks when it is not actively raining, because I’m just stylish that way. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Other people with chronic musculoskeletal problems may recognize that style, yes. ) I could have cropped the foot out, but left it in for scale.

The 100 yen store ones were more attractive, but these look a bit larger–and I was very glad to find some! They also had in some bigger four-lobed ones, but I thought this would do nicely for now. It seemed like an excellent solution for some herbs, including the several kinds of thyme still expected in the post. It’s hard to see in that shot, but there is a decent bit of root space in the middle with that design.

I was tired enough by the time I got home that I texted Mr. Patio to let him know it had been declared Takeaway Night for supper–but, of course, I still had to mess around with the shiny new goodies. ๐Ÿ™‚

The marked drainage holes didn’t look like enough, especially since they were all in the center, with a ridge between them and the lobes. So, I punched some extra holes in the bottom of each lobe. Go go handy utility knives Mr. Patio picked up from Clas Ohlson. And I feel obliged to say: please don’t do stupid things with a sharp knife and let all your blood leak out, OK? ๐Ÿ™‚

I only planted one tier of it today, with the lemon thyme and salad burnet that arrived today. Not that it will likely make much difference after they’ve had a while to grow out, but I purposely angled them toward the outside. Not sure yet what wants to go in the remaining lobe–or, indeed, the other tiers–but, that can wait.

It will be a while before one or more of these orange thymeย ย (Thymus ‘Fragrantissima’) seedlings is ready to go in there. ๐Ÿ™‚

There were two, but I spotted a third today. They were sown outdoors in that 4″/10cm pot in, I think, March.

Another thing I couldn’t resist picking up at/rescuting from Poundland: a tiny Geum ‘Lady Stratheden’. I had never grown that variety before, but enjoyed ‘Mrs Bradshaw’ (with red rather than yellow double flowers). Much showier than the wild kindย that’s all over the place here, and it should put out tons of bloomsย all summer.

I was tempted by a couple of other perennials which were still in decent shape, but yeah, limited space.

Since those like the same sunny, dryish conditions as the other things that are going to live in the tiered planter, I was tempted to chuck it in there as well. But, not only is it fairly upright, with the kind of taproot I remember them growing, a deeper pot seemed like a good plan. So, I grabbed one of the squarish ones also bought today.

It looks tiny and a bit pathetic, but it should grow out just fine. Especially judging by the Coreopsis ‘Sunburst’ I bought there last year, in the same size pot.

That’s it on the left, with the new growth starting to bush out a lot, in a 40L+ planter. The sage to the right is still looking sad, but is recovering well from a kill-or-cure pruning to get rid of as much of the old powdery mildew-infested growth as possible. *crosses fingers*

I was about to forget about the lovage, but it went into the back of the raised bed, since it will get big and enjoys part shade.

I’ve never grown it before, but do enjoy the celery-like flavor in the mainly soups I’ve eaten it in–and look forward to trying it in other things. (A good post I ran across:ย Acquiring a taste for lovage)

That was all I could do this evening, worn out as I was from the trip out. Besides the lugging of bulky-if-light items, noisy crowded situations and I do not mix so well; a little gardening work was good to decompress. ๐Ÿ™‚

Other things which have been going on out there, while I’m posting photos:

The lone columbine Diggity Dog did not manage to destroy is starting into bloom now. Only a single bud at the top of the plant has opened so far.

I really do need to get better at photography…

Also, it’s definitely molting time for the wood pigeons and collared doves. We have a pair of each who visit the feeding station up on the patio wall, and I’m not sure who shed this down feather on the Jasminum beesianum. But, oddly enough, it’s stayed there for days in spite of some fairly strong breezes.

Yesterday, I finally got a six-pack of mixed ‘Liberty Classic’ snapdragonsย (impulse-bought at Tesco) planted out. They should be a fairly tall variety, which is fine by me. I may end up needing to thin them out, but I also planted some more morning glory seeds next to the wall behind them; no sign of germination yet with the first batch.

I’m still not thrilled at the placement of the lilies there, but they seem to be doing well–and a couple of them are putting out babies this year.

Also, the first crop of radishes I planted in the covered tomato bed are starting to make, erm, radishes. ๐Ÿ™‚ I haven’t harvested any of the greens because I thought it might slow down the root growth. ย Still a little while to go yet, but I will be glad to get them out of the way to make room for the other tomato plant set to go in there.

Today: Touch-me-nots (Impatiens balsamina)

Today, I tried to do more sustainable work outside, after ending up in a lot of pain last night (with some lingering this morning). I’d wanted to get back at clearing out and sowing more seeds in the big raised bed, but thought it was better to try to find something I could mostly do sitting on my memory foam cushion, without much bending or lifting. (Good luck with that last bit! *wry smile*)

Diggity Dog was enjoying the cushion, last week. ๐Ÿ™‚

So, I settled on dealing with Horrible Container, which got shifted out of the raised bed a couple of days ago.

It was a bit of a mess last season, though I just left it once a sunflower from the bird feeders started growing well in there. There are already a couple more sprouting up toward the front, but I decided to clear it out anyway.

There’s also one coming up in a patio crack, incidentally.

I briefly considered just weeding it and removing the bird seed and assorted crap from the top, and reusing the soil, so as not to disturb the mini narcissus in there. But, that soil had been in there for at least three seasons, so time to change it out. (I usually prefer every other year, for most things.) So, I carefully dug out the narcissus bulbs, which haven’t bloomed this year and have very leggy top growth from coming up in a shady spot.

The sun was hot enough that I took the bulbs inside and wrapped the roots up in a wet paper towel, to try to keep from shocking them way too much.

So, time to get the pot emptied. I didn’t want to carry it straight to the raised bed and try to tip the contents out and work with it while standing up there, so I got a bag and carefully started tipping the pot over into it, while sitting in the doorway on my comfy cushion. The soil at the bottom was full of huge worms. First I spotted one:

Then several more, all in a cluster. I also found a few smaller ones, and removed them all to the big raised bed.

I still didn’t feel like spreading the whole pot full of soil on the bed, so I made sure to put the bag in the shade so whatever worms were still in there wouldn’t get cooked!

Again, I set the chunks of brick used for drainage aside, and put them back into the bottom of the pot over the holes once it was emptied. You can see at least one of them among the worms in the second photo.

Time to try to refill it without hurting myself. Carefully lugging one of the bags over to the door was not too much of a problem. (I ended up buying a couple of growbags to plunder for soil, since it was half the price on sale of regular bags.) This approach was slow, but it worked.

I emptied part of the bag like that, broke up the clumps with my hands, then slid the bag over and emptied some more. I started out dubious that those bags really contained 40L, but it was really, really compacted.

The lighting is really bad to see very well, but it was coming out in big chunks.

It’s not quite the same as the Durston’s Multipurpose (same brand) that I had been buying, but it certainly looked OK. The bag was just about enough to fill the pot, as I’d hoped. We have another of the same, but better not to have to wrestle a second bag if you don’t have to. ๐Ÿ™‚

I had been thinking of sowing some calendula in there, but with that nice, big container, I thought of the touch-me-not seeds (Impatiens balsamina). I’ve always loved them, but don’t even want to get them started in the big bed, because it would be nice to have room for other plants in there. ๐Ÿ™‚ ย A reasonably large planter box seemed like a good compromise. I’ll probably be weeding seedlings out of the cracks later, but… ๐Ÿ˜‰

So far, I’ve been mostly direct sowing things which are very prone to seeding themselves and coming up as they like in the spring, and this would certainly fit the bill! ๐Ÿ™‚

Himalayan Balsam seed bursting (slowed x16) — Not the same species; that one grows very tall and is an invasive weed here! There is a lot growing on the banks of the River Rom in a park where we take Diggity Dog sometimes, and it’s also very pretty in bloom.


I got the seed sown and covered over lightly with some other soil I had sitting in a tray, before I remembered the narcissus bulbs. So, they went back in before I dragged out the watering can. Any bald spots from uneven seed distribution ought to get covered over pretty quickly once they start growing. *crossing fingers* Before it was watered in, I had the sense to shove the pot over out of the walkway a bit, and I’m planning to ask Mr. Patio to pick it up and move it later, once I figure out a good temporary place to put it for germination.

Today: Seeding morning glories

I seemingly only got a little done today out there, but it involved a lot of moving stuff around and bending over, which is tricky while still trying to heal a stress fractured sacrum–and I still need to clean the goldfish tank. *sigh* Getting out in the sun and digging around in the soil felt wonderful, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

The bed, starting out, from a few days ago:

The builders stacked planters in there, on top of perennials. ๐Ÿ˜

I got more of the crap cleared out of one side of the big raised bed. Yesterday, I got the remaining full planting box off where the Asiatic lilies were trying to sprout up.

I will probably move them into a planter later, though they did better than expected in partial shade last year. In any case, they need a little while to recover! There are a few shoots that weren’t right under the pot, but yeah.

Today, I cleared the dead plants, pond hose, empty pots, etc. to direct seed some mixed morning glories, which always make me smile.ย They get more sun the further they climb up the wall there, and have done well in that spot before. They tend to be much slower-growing and less likely to take over everything in this cooler climate than back in Virginia. But, with the weirdly warm weather and drought this year so far, who knows?

Not perfect, but much better. That lone surviving columbine at the front is coming along nicely, too. After clearing most of the detritus out of there, I dug the soil some (it was already pretty loose) and made a little furrow across most of that side of the bed; this is just a small part. With a piece of grass I missed. ๐Ÿ™‚

I took about half the smallish packet of seeds, and tried to distribute them evenly along there. They should stay moist enough that I didn’t even bother soaking them overnight; IME, that mostly makes a difference in a planting location that doesn’t stay as uniformly moist while they’re trying to germinate.

Another thing that even the seed coat colors are mixed. ๐Ÿ™‚

To cover them up, I snagged the soil out of an old hanging basket that I wanted to refill this year anyway. It should be a good amendment to the bed, which even with a decent bit of organic matter added is still a little clayey and prone to clumping. Easier for seedlings to push through, too.

I was going to use the soil from a second basket, too, but there were what looked suspiciously like petunia seedlings coming up in there. (I haven’t even grown petunias for a couple of years, but, then, the same thing happened with trailing lobelia last year…) So, I just took out the dead plant tops and gave it a good watering, for now.

There was enough in the first basket, anyway. Broken up with the old roots removed:

So I put that over the seeds, patted it down some, and watered it in down the wall, since I need to get another watering can rose.

Looking much better, even from a distance. The white speckles seem to be a strange lighting effect from the bright sunlight and the phone auto-adjusting levels.

Another thing I might need to move: aย Lobelia cardinalisย ‘Queen Victoria’ย  plant which has been pretty seriously overrun by the huger-in-part-shade red valerian next to it. But, it looks to be doing well so far, anyway.

That’s with me holding the other plant back off it.

Today: Mixed lettuce, and the Bucket o’ Chard

One of the things I did this afternoon was (finally) sow some mixed salad greens, and while I was at it replanted the Bucket o’ Chard.

One box, with a slightly broken corner from the builders piling things up:

It had soil left in it from a scented geranium last season, which I just loosened up and reused. I needed to add some more, enough came out with the roots. Some of the old roots were also blocking a couple of the drainage holes, as I only noticed after getting water in there to rehydrate the big dry lump of soil and roots, so I had to sort of tilt it up and poke through from the bottom with a bamboo skewer.

A better view of the packet, though it’s still kind of washed out from the afternoon sun. This was a free packet with last year’s order from Nicky’s Nursery–and I got more of the same last week–so, I thought I’d use the old.

Just a little sprinkle of seeds over the soil:

Add another 1/4″ / 0.75 cm or so of soil over the top, smooth and press it down a bit, and water in.

We do have some other lettuce, wild rocket/arugula, and lamb’s lettuce/corn salad/mรขche seeds, and I’m hoping to get more planted soon. If the warm weather we’ve been having lately holds, it ought to germinate and grow pretty quickly.

On to the Bucket o’ Chard. I hadn’t planned to mess with that today, but since I was planting some kind of greens anyway, well… ๐Ÿ™‚

The bucket is about what it sounds like: an old mop bucket that got dropped so the bottom cracked for drainage. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The handle also came off at some point. Not the prettiest container ever, but it works. I don’t expect it to last past this season, since it’s not UV resistant or anything.

It was back against one of the walls, but I pulled it out to where it will get better sun, before I even got started. The chard didn’t do much last year, mostly because where I tried to hide it back was shadier than I thought.

Before I pulled out the dratted maple seeds and loosened the soil up:

The bucket seems like an appropriate container for an underappreciated kitchen workhorse veggie like the chard. OK, I just made that up after the fact; I’m just cheap. ๐Ÿ˜‰

One of last year’s stems was trying valiantly to get new top growth. I heartlessly threw it away, anyway.

The packet:

It should do fine direct-sown in the container now.

I decided to use about half the seed left in the packet:

Time for some hand cream later.

Covered it with about 1/2″/1 cm more soil, pressed it down a bit, and watered it in.

The bucket may get moved again later, but this is a good place for it to live, temporarily.

For safety’s sake, the lettuce went down next to it. I had several of those planter boxes on the edge of the pond last year, but the cats kept knocking them into the water every time they dried out to the point they were light enough. (Good thing there were no fish…) I may try mounting some brackets around the edge. if I can find a suitable type for under ยฃ25 each!

Last year, the lettuce all went into hanging baskets, but that traded slugs and snails for aphids off the rose bushes! So, this time around, I’m taking my chances with a planter box.

Over the weekend: The parsley that turned to dill

Lately, I’ve been having a lot more energy than stamina–but, at least the energy is coming back! After doing gardening work (and cooking, and…) I am often too tired to deal with the photos and write a post. So, here is some of the stuff I got done over the weekend.

Here’s a parsley plant I started from seed last year. It was looking really raggedy, and was also covered in green aphids. The pot was totally dried out.



There was also a sad little clump of chives in the edge of the pot, which I saved and repotted. At least, judging by experience with chives, they should spring back pretty quickly. *crossing fingers* At least now they have a fighting chance.


The old parsley just had to go bye-bye.


The chunks of brick went back into the pot for drainage…


After I’d gently removed the baby snails. If you’d ever wondered where they overwinter, yeah. I’ve reached a live-and-let-live truce with them by now. As many gastropods as there are in this damp climate, better just to leave them alone and try to plant things they don’t like much.


I tried saving some seeds off the parsley, but only noticed after getting soil back into the pot that they were not fully developed. They looked better than they felt.


So, of course, I couldn’t find the packet of flat-leaf parsley seed I started the previous plant from. (Most of my squirreled-away seeds disappeared, though I’m sure they’ll turn up after planting time! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ) I did find this:


LIDL has some very good seeds, cheap–and often less usual varieties for here (many German, not surprisingly). I do a lot of shopping there, for pretty much the same reasons all around. Better quality than Tesco, in general, that’s for sure.

So, I bought that pack mostly for the savory seeds. It’s not a common herb here, and I spotted that pack and grabbed it. I briefly considered planting the curly parsley, but no. It’s pretty, but not nearly as tasty for cooking. So, I settled on the dill, which I’d been wanting to plant anyway. We can pick up more parsley seed, possibly at LIDL. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Cut-off pieces of seed tape. I don’t want to crowd the pot too badly, so just cut three strips. It feels remarkably like toilet paper. And one of the cats, helping. ๐Ÿ™‚ All of them love to help me when I’m trying to do gardening stuff.

I am also not used to being so pale, even coming out of winter. Great opportunity for the D deficiency, yeah. ๐Ÿ˜

Helpful kitty helps some more. Just where I was trying to set a pot.


Strips laid into little furrows I made in the soil. I am usually a little too much like Mr. Monk with getting things straight, but it really doesn’t matter here.


With more soil spread over the top of the strips, ready to move to a sunny spot and water in.

Moroccan mint

Slightly expandedย from the G+ page.

I started moving out more of the stuff the builders stacked in the large raised bed, and was pleased to see that some very tasty mint was gamely sprouting back up, in two clumps. I’ll have to watch that it doesn’t take over the whole bed, but it really is a delicious sweet spearmint type.

Last year, when I put it in, it grew pretty well but not wildly (unlike the not-so-tasty lime mint that I still need to try to grub out of there), probably because there’s a huge climate difference between anywhere in Morocco and London. I may lay down some bricks, slightly down into the soil, to help keep it from sending runners where I don’t want them.

Also, apparently the combo of Diggity Dog and my having to totally redig that bed last spring–as much as his little doggy paws had compacted what he didn’t dig up–did not totally wipe out the bluebells. ๐Ÿ™‚ The grassy-looking stuff in the first photo is gangly, light-deprived bluebell leaves that came up under an empty planter the builders stuck up there. Though, they’re not going to get much sun back near the wall, anyway. ๐Ÿ˜

In the beginning: The space at hand

As I said in the intro, it’s a bit of a mess right now. More so since we recently had some builders in to redo the stucco, and they moved everything around and stacked pots up to get them out of the way. (Good thing Mr. Patio told them not to haul all the containers off with the rubble, like they wanted to!)

Going around from left to right, starting from the back door. On all of these, you can click through for a bigger version.

I want to put a shelf/รฉtagรจre in that corner, for more growing space. It previously held Rusting Bicycle.

A weird little bed somebody built, which just about worked for small plants until we adopted Diggity Dog. In front of it: the dirt that used to be in the bed, compacted by canine paws. I plan to finally get it scraped up soon; bending is still a problem for my back, and Mr. Patio just doesn't notice stuff like that. Maybe the best plan for the not-so-useful bed: just set a suitably sized container down in there again.

Wider view. The builders aren't totally responsible for the corner congestion; I've been blocking off the opening under the stairs with a potted rosebush and a couple of other containers, which have been enough to deter Diggity Dog. Soon time to rearrange that, though. There are several hanging basket spots up above; again, time to rearrange and get rid of dead annuals.

Argh, just argh. I have already moved a couple of containers out of the bed so they would get some sun and not smother emerging perennials, but still a lot of work to do there. Including finding a better place for the inevitable patio junk, also piled up by the builders. Though, those (cleaned) out-of-use litter boxes that didn't get thrown away have actually been coming in handy for potting and holding small garden debris.

Mystery shoes, which showed up when the builders were here. There used to be three pairs of them; nobody has retrieved the remaining ones in weeks now. It's very odd. Somehow I think it's time that rained-on shoes can go away.
Plus, we need to replace two sections of trellis up there. One was threatening to fall off, and the one next to it somehow got broken--again, when they were working back there.

The other side of the big raised bed. With some stuff the builders left. Since they haven't come back after the crate, I may plant some beans in it, against the pole-and-netting trellis in the corner there. If I can figure out a decent way to keep birdseed from the feeder on the wall out of there.

New growth on the red-flowered jasmine (Jasminum beesianum) I planted last year. ๐Ÿ™‚ And an old mesh bag from suet balls that I need to get down from there.

Where growbags go to die. And trash stays mostly out of the way.
As best we can tell, someone built that little platform as a shed foundation. *scratches head*

That whole wall, with the gate.

From a few days ago. The mosquito ranch, and another concrete block planter behind it overcrowded with a giant sprangly hybrid tea rose that was here when Mr. Patio bought the place, some lavender currently choked by weeds, and the rosemary I planted not long after I moved in. Which needs hacked back again, before it totally takes over the pond.
Tentative plans this spring: since there are no fish in there now, convert the pond to a bog garden with carnivorous plants. I am usually a softy when it comes to getting rid of plants, but if it looked in any way feasible, that ugly, black spot-ridden rose bush would be gone. ๐Ÿ˜

And, coming back around toward the back door. That wall gets good sun pretty much all day, with extra reflective value from the fresh white paint. There are some containers stashed there for now, which aren't very visible in this shot. But, I want to put a small raised bed with tomatoes up next to the wall, basically in the space between the pipes.

And this concludes our tour of the patio. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s not much space, but I am hoping to put it to much better use this year.

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