October is the month for bulb planting; something I really enjoy. There is real pleasure in popping the unassuming brown bulbs into the soil and knowing that, in Spring, they will bring a burst of much-needed colour to the garden.
The Cottage Garden border has now been weeded and the soil enriched with manure. I have chosen two varieties of daffodils: Carlton and Tahiti. I’ve planted them in swathes, snuggled among compost, towards the back of the border. The two varieties will, hopefully, make a striking contrast.
The general rule with planting bulbs is they should be three times as deep as the bulb itself and the point needs to face upwards; it was hard work putting all those daffodil bulbs in, I can tell you! As daffodils take a while to die back after the flowers have faded, they don’t look particularly interesting. Cut them too early and they don’t flower the following year; by keeping them at the back of the border the less interesting green foliage is not so noticeable, once the flowers have finished.
I have also planted two varieties of tulips: Triumph Apeldoorn which is a deep pink and Menton, a pale pink. They will appear slightly later than the daffodils, in April to May. I couldn’t resist adding in a patch of mixed crocuses too with their bright yellows and purples. In the front garden I have planted 60 narcissus Tete-a-Tete bulbs. I think they will look really pretty here. A cheerful reminder that the better weather is on its way! Following a watering, I added a thick layer of mulch to the borders to help keeps the weeds under control.
I’m excited already to see how these displays turn out.
Living near woods it seems like every day the lawn is covered in leaves, they fall as often as rain. We clear them up regularly or they start to damage the grass. Dan always has the job of mowing; he quite likes it because it’s a good workout. But the mowing is less often now and he sets the blades higher. Once Dan has mowed, it gives the whole garden a lift; there is an illusion of it being larger and, the areas between grass and flower-beds are more clearly defined.
Yesterday, Dan decided to dedicate some time lawn care. He shifted the leaves, mowed and then, used a rake to aerate. There are compacted areas, like around the children’s play set, where the ground has become thick and solid, the grass virtually disappeared. Now is a good time to start to repair those patches.
Dan added an Autumn feed to the grass which will help toughen the roots; this particular one also kills moss. We usually avoid using chemicals but if we don’t control the moss we will end up with more of that than grass! It rained just after so that should help the feed get absorbed into the ground.
The next step will be to repair patches of lawn which have been damaged, often through the squirrel who is a regular here. The children are not playing out so often which will give the grass seeds chance to grow. And until the leaves stop falling, we will continue to rake them up, maybe even burn some in the fire-pit.
Dan decided to use some of our apples to make an apple pie with cheese crust. It’s a Nigel Slater recipe and one we haven’t tried before. We weren’t too sure about the idea of a cheese crust with what is, essentially, a dessert. But an apple from the fridge with a piece of Cheddar cheese is a perfect combination. And all the family loves cheesecake. So why not a cheese pastry with apple at its centre? The recipe itself was straightforward and smelt lovely whilst in the oven.
So, the verdict once the pie was cooked? Dan and I enjoyed it with vanilla yoghurt, feeling that it would be too weird with our usual custard. But the children were not so keen. I preferred the pie once we had left it in the fridge for a day; for some reason it was definitely tastier cold. Although Nigel’s recipe was certainly interesting, nothing beats traditional apple pie with custard in my opinion!
Much of what was originally in the garden has been trimmed back and pruned beyond recognition. This rosemary (botanical name Rosmarinus Officinalis) which is in one of the top patio beds has grown beyond what most people would consider a useful size. Generally rosemary is used for cooking with lamb; or perhaps beef or fish. But we’ve become accustomed to and now, indeed, love its giant sprawling messiness. It is somehow rather magnificent and I love the pungent smell when, as I pass by it, I rub a few of the leaves between my fingers. Apparently, rosemary has antioxidant qualities and can aid digestion, though we’ve only ever used it to improve the taste of food (it is not safe to ingest in large quantities in any case). Whether it carries health benefits or not, from my point of view, I love the way it looks and smells.
Rosemary has an interesting history; it is native to the Mediterranean area and, was used in Spain against witchcraft. In French hospitals, it was burned with juniper berries to improve air quality and stop infection. Meanwhile, in England, Anne of Cleves, Henry the Eight’s fourth wife, wore a rosemary wreath at their wedding. Rosemary is also mentioned in five of Shakespeare’s plays.
We enjoy using rosemary for our Sunday dinner which is, quite often, roast lamb. To prepare the lamb you make around 20 to 30 small, deep incisions in the meat prior to cooking, with a sharp knife. Then push a slice of garlic, followed by rosemary, into the incisions. There is nothing quite like the aroma of roast shoulder of lamb infused with rosemary as it begins to cooks, wafting waves of distinctive mouth-watering flavours through the house.
The Wendy House was here when we arrived and it looked rather sorry for itself but in decent enough condition that we could repair it. In the absence of a large shed we initially used it to store the children’s outside toys. But as the garden is taking shape, we’re keen to restore this two-storey play house.
My Dad fixed the floorboards which were rotten and Dan replaced the windows with a plastic that is (hopefully) virtually unbreakable. However, the roof on one side is open with just plastic sheeting over the gap so that is something we will need to get on and tackle. The other side of the roof is fine, as you can see in the second picture.
We need to fix the gaping hole in the roof before the poor weather really sets in. I imagine the house painted duck egg blue, with window boxes planted with pretty flowers, curtains inside and painted furniture. It’s a project I need to prioritise as my daughter, in particular, is still at an age when she can enjoy it
We recently decided to invest in a log store; it has felt like a necessity for a while as we regularly use the stove in our living room throughout the Autumn and Winter. Last year, logs were piled up all over the place: under plastic sheeting on the patio, in the garage, stacked up against the Wendy House and under the storm porch. The ones under the porch are, it has to be said, very convenient. But the rest we have shifted into the log store. It sits at the side of the house and I’ve stained it the same shade as the wood edging on the patio.
With luck, the stack we have will last into early next year; the logs are seasoned and the store should protect them from getting too wet. I’m not too sure how environmentally friendly it is to burn wood; the jury seems to be out on that one. It is a renewable energy source, mostly carbon neutral but, burning it still adds to air pollution.
We’ve been considering whether to buy a small fan to sit on top of the stove which is designed to pump the heat into other parts of the house. Might cut down on the sting of the heating bills!