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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Sarah Peters

Saturday, 13th July for Gardening for Disabled Trust.  

Court Lodge, Bodium, TN32 5UJ from 10.30 until 4.00pm

£5.00 entrance.

Teas, coffee, cake and Rodda’s Cream Teas.

A sense of panic has been slowly pervading this household over the past few weeks. In the depths of winter, after a couple of gin and tonics, it seemed a warming thought that summer would eventually come and we would share our garden with others in aid of charity. The reality is now beginning to bite. In six weeks, garden enthusiasts will hopefully be queuing at the gate and paying money to see what in my darkest moments is a bomb site strewn with weeds. We have agreed to open our garden to the public to raise funds for St. Michael’s Hospice and for the Gardening for Disabled Trust. We have actually done this before, but it’s rather like having a baby….somehow you block out memories of the pain and happily only remember the good bits. I had conveniently forgotten the work involved and the sleepless nights fretting about gaps in borders and rampant bindweed.

When first asked a few years ago my immediate reaction was “absolutely NO”…our garden is not nearly good enough….we have no specialist plants or water features and what design there is has had to fit in what was already there. But the very persuasive and charming lady from the Hospice reassured me that it wasn’t like the NGS  (which has very high standards)…and that people are curious, or actually just plain nosey, and love to see other peoples gardens, in fact they quite like to see other peoples weeds and messy little corners….it gives them a lift in a schadenfreude kind of way. We are lucky to have a fabulous view over Bodiam Castle and to the east along the Rother Valley…I rely on this as the main attraction….or distraction.

Gardens and gardening are my passion and it is immensely rewarding to share the fruits of labour with others for a good cause. It has the added advantage for an innate procrastinator, of forcing one to plan ahead, keeping up to date with all the chores and constantly thinking of where improvements could be made.

Gardening life started for me growing sweet peas on a London balcony. We moved here to East Sussex 27 years ago in the depths of winter. The comparatively large garden looked neat and tidy, if a little bare. We knew we had to mow the lawn, although a new mower was stolen within 2 weeks of our arrival. But spring came and a wonderful garden appeared, lush borders full of colour and unfamiliar plants. However, we did not understand the dynamics of herbaceous borders and the amount of care required. Within a few years some plants had grown enormous, and others had completely disappeared; the whole lot held together by a mass of tangled bindweed and dandelions. Sorting out the beds was a steep learning curve but eventually we learnt the mysteries of digging, dividing and staking.

My main interest has always been vegetables, they are rather more controllable and there is nothing more heartening than finding something to cook at the last minute after failing to plan ahead for the evening meal. It is also immensely satisfying to cut out shelf life, food miles, and all the chemicals. At this time of year asparagus to plate, covered in butter, in under 15 minutes is heaven, and freshly dug leeks in the winter almost as satisfying.

I am a list person, and lists of jobs for the garden are no exception. The “Pre Open Garden Countdown List” started in the autumn. It went something like this….

AUTUMN

  • Make a list of seeds
  • Order seeds
  • Sow seeds.  The only seeds I sow in the autumn are sweet peas, on October 6th (my birthday)
  • Look at catalogues again, order more seeds
  • Take cuttings. This is an exciting and satisfying way to obtain more plants, for free. Some of the ones that work well for me are lavender, artemesia (Powys Castle) Argyranthemum (Jamaica Primrose)
  • Decide on any structural work needed and get it done early. (We did decide that it was time that the greenhouse was renovated, but unfortunately that slipped and won’t be done until the week after the open garden)
  • Re-tiling the front of the house will have to wait another year….or two.
  • Look at catalogues again, order more seeds

SPRING

  • Start sowing early. I invested in a heated propagation mat a few years ago which makes life very exciting.  This year I am growing some unusual beans…Borlotto Lamon and the purple climbing French bean, Blauhilde. I am also trying a new tomato called Black Sea Man which is supposed to have very good flavour.
  • Start weed control early, especially the drive and paths. Repeat every 3-4 weeks.
  • Keep on top of mowing, edging and watering (check weather forecast daily)
  • Put out plant supports before plants start to fall over, about 2nd/3rd week May
  • Think about a Chelsea Chop at the end of May. Hopefully this should delay some of the flowering until the open garden in July.
  • Recruit helpers for on the day, cake donors, scone makers. A wonderful outfit called “Rodda’s Good deeds” who make Cornish Clotted Cream are donating clotted cream and Tiptree Jam.
  • Organise a tea urn, crockery, tables and chairs…gazebo?
  • Pot on plants needed for the plant stall, as well for church coffee morning, and   village boot fair. 
  • Friday Feed…this was a useful tip I heard on Gardener’s Question Time to encourage a weekly habit. Unfortunately I have only managed it once so far this season.
  • Check for slug damage. Coffee grounds scattered around the base of plants seem to work for a while, beer traps are effective and I often resort to hand picking slugs off at night by the light of a torch. I enjoy feeding  them to the chickens.
  • Check for badger damage, fill holes with soil and grass-seed. This year seems to have been a bumper year for leather jackets and chafers… Michelin meals for badgers.
  • Check for mole hills. After a nightmare last year, so far this year there have been very few. I invested in some special French Putange mole traps which worked very well but thick gloves are essential to avoid broken fingers. Thank goodness we don’t have deer or wild boar……yet.
  • Vow never to read another seed catalogue

SUMMER

This list goes on a bit. Nearer the time it gets more specific…

  • Final mow, edging, final weed
  • Sweep paths
  • Rake the drive
  • Dead head roses etc
  • Cordon off areas that might be dangerous….remember the greenhouse?… swimming pool… or unsightly…the compost heap…behind the old pig sty
  • Water, water, water
  • Mow again

Inevitably not all of these jobs are completed….the day arrives…you take a deep breath and resolve that people will have to accept us as we are…and pray for good weather.

It did occur to me that after all the hard work, neatly trimmed edges, swept paths, weedless beds, neatly trimmed lawn, all over in one day…why not open for a second day whilst it is still looking good and double the donation? So this is what we are doing.

Tuesday, July 9th for St.Michael’s Hospice.   10.30-4.00pm

£5.00 entrance. Teas, coffee, cake, and lunch.

Saturday, 13th July for Gardening for Disabled Trust.   10.30-4.00pm

£5.00 entrance. Teas, coffee, cake and Rodda’s Cream Teas.

Do come and visit us but please don’t point out the bindweed.

Garden Opening gives all the hard work a genuine sense of purpose and it is a great privilege to share nature and man’s wonders with our visitors and raise a little money for good causes.

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