Sunday, 27 August 2017

Time to order specialist seeds for 2018 ?

Late summer might not seem the time that thoughts should turn to seed sowing and propagation, but if you want to grow any out-of-the-ordinary species next year it may be time to order the seeds now.

There's nothing more frustrating in early spring to find those exotic seeds you've just received come with growing instructions that require them to be 'stratified' for several months to break dormancy.   

This usually means a long period of refrigeration to fool them into thinking they've been through a cold winter, so they'll be ready to burst into life when you eventually put them into warm soil.  

Some may even need an initial warm spell before they experience the cold, and then they'll germinate in the warmth again next year - in this case, first keep them somewhere warm in the house for a few months before popping them in the fridge.

If you leave the seed ordering until next year, it means they may not be ready for sowing for a long time, and then it could take a couple of months afterwards before they even germinate, so you've effectively lost a whole growing season.  Any seedlings sown later in the year might also not have enough time to become properly established before the cold weather arrives, which could easily kill them off.

So get thinking now about those trees, shrubs and palms etc you want to start off next year, research their propagation requirements on the internet and if necessary order the seeds soon.   

When you receive them they can go into the fridge over the winter, you can forget about them for six months and they'll be ready to sow indoors early next year.


Monday, 17 July 2017

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Hedging our bets ...

Our mixed native hedge on the western boundary, planted in early 2013, is maturing very nicely and is now a high, dense barrier.   

There's only one problem - it's deciduous so we only have a full privacy screen from May to the end of October.

So we decided to supplement it with a parallel evergreen screen, by trimming the existing hedge back to half its thickness and then planting another hedge in front of it, i.e. on the eastern side.   The plan is that eventually the existing hedge will be totally hidden by the new evergreen hedge. 

Of course, the best time to have planted an evergreen hedge would have been four years ago, but we didn't and so the next best time is right now ...

We're a little unsure of how well a new hedge will grow in this position, but reckon that early summer is the best time to try - there's still a good five months of growing season ahead this year - and in any event if it fails to take then we've still got the deciduous hedge so we'll be no worse off than we are now.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Half-barrel Planter for our Palm Tree...

We've quite a large Trachycarpus Fortunei palm which used to reside in a ceramic planter, but the roots had outgrown the space and it had become potbound.  In addition, the planter was not very wide at the base, with the result that the palm would frequently blow over in strong winds.

To give the roots more room to grow, and to provide a much more stable platform against high winds, we decided to put the palm into a half barrel.

The local garden centre sells old oak half barrels for £25, but I found an old knackered one for a fiver that had been used as a mini-pond for goldfish.   

 
as purchased ...

The bottom of the barrel was hanging out and needed refitting and some reinforcement, but the rest of the treatment we gave the barrel we would also have done even if we'd bought one in better condition.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Converting an old Pine Bedstead to an Electric Bed ...

We have a very solid old pine bed frame, 1,500 mm (5') wide which in the UK is generally called 'kingsize' although in the US I believe it would be a queen.

For various health & comfort reasons, we were looking at replacing it with an electric bed of the same size, with independently adjustable mechanisms, i.e. basically two 2' 6" frames fixed side-by-side.  Such beds are common enough these days and readily available to buy new, and they start at around £600 and go on all the way up to several thousand.  

However, we couldn't find a suitable version with an open base that stands well clear of the floor on four legs in the same way our existing bed does, and which allows us to store all sorts of crap under there.   In addition, all the other furniture in the bedroom is quite substantial and also made from pine, so a modern lightweight fabric-covered bed base just wouldn't feel right in there.

Therefore, I decided to convert our own pine bedstead to electrically-adjustable operation rather than buying a new bed version in a different style.  

There are one or two European vendors I found that sell the articulating slatted assemblies on their own, complete with the actuators and controllers etc but without the rest of the bed frame.   One place stocks them at around £225 each ex-VAT, i.e. £590 in total including £50 delivery.  Allowing £150 each for two new mattresses would have brought the total to around £900, so still around the price of a new mid-range version.

However, I managed instead to find a used electric bed base to use as a 'donor' for the conversion, at £225.  By stripping the mechanisms off this old bed base, we would save nearly four hundred quid.



the donor bed delivered ...


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Fig Tree Planter ...

We've a south-facing sun trap formed by the kitchen wall, garage extension, and the eastern boundary fence with our neighbours.

On this small area, we've astroturf laid down on top of the concrete and this is where we've placed our palm trees and other hardy 'exotics'.

To add to the Mediterranean flavour, we've decided to grow a fig tree and so I set about making a planter with an integral trellis.

After playing around with several designs, we decided which one we wanted to go with and then out came the cut-off saw and a batch of our hardwood slats.

Construction was quite straightforward.  We made the trellis fan first, the lower part of which also ties into the back wall of the planter.


forming the fan ...


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Financial Planning - 2017 Annual Review

I've now been following our Grand Plan for four years, and here's the annual progress update on the anniversary date of 31 March 2017.

Firstly, the usual pair of graphs of Actuals v Targets :-


SAVINGS POT
SIPP POT

As usual, click on the images for a larger version.