Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pansies and Primroses

Spring finally seems to have arrived. Only two weeks ago there was still snow on the ground and night-time temperatures were dipping to -5°C (22°F). And then suddenly today, it was here. Bright sunshine and 17°C (63°F). I was out on the balcony like a shot.

Off came the fleece, and the work of clearing up after the winter started. As I said after Christmas, I lost a lot during the big freeze this year, and there was a lot to throw away. But the real work on the balcony in February isn't really gardening at all. It's housework.

Washing down the railings, sweeping up the dead leaves, washing the floor, washing all the tables and container frames. As my husband said - Why don't you do that in the kitchen occasionally ?

Because that's his job. And anyway, he exaggerates. Back to the plot.

It couldn't be all boring stuff though. I had to have some reward for all the hard work. So while we were at the supermarket, I bought the first plants of the year - primroses and pansies. And concentrated on getting one corner of the balcony fully finished so that I could get the containers back up.

I've talked before about the dangers of buying plants on impulse at the supermarket. These looked healthy enough though. But sure enough, when I got them home, two of the pansies were completely waterlogged.

First aid was clearly called for, so I whipped them out of their pots, wrapped them in absorbent paper and sat them in the warm sun for a while. After a couple of hours the paper (which I changed a couple of times) had soaked up as much of the water as it was going to, so I popped them in the container with the others. I've left the surrounding compost fairly dry, so I think they'll make it. I'm hoping that they'd just been watered when I got there, rather than having been sitting with their roots water for a couple of days.

So we're off again. The cleaning up and washing down is going to take a while to complete, but there's plenty of more interesting stuff to do. The plumbago needs a good prune back, and the first seeds can go in. Please, please don't let the weather change back ...

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Does Father Christmas Hate Gardeners?

I'm starting to think so. If you've been around here a while, you'll know that two Christmases ago, the top item on my letter to Santa (and I sent it really early, honest) was a kitchen composter.

I was really excited. Milan is generally good for recycling - plastic, glass, paper etc all has to be separated - but they don't collect food waste for composting. And every night as I'm peeling veg for dinner, I'm there thinking Oh what a shame - if only I could have a compost heap on the balcony...

So when I found the kitchen composter, I thought I'd solved the problem. All my vegetable peelings could go in, and I'd save a fortune on fertiliser. And it would be organic.

The website promised no smell, no flies and quick decomposition - spurred on by the adition of a bokashi mix - a bran based culture containing bacteria, yeasts etc which spur on the decomposition. The answer to a balcony gardener's dream.

So off went my letter to Father Christmas. And I waited with anticipation. Christmas morning came. My presents were lovely. But no kitchen composter. I was so disappointed ...

So I asked Father Christmas' local representative what had happened to the composter. He looked puzzled. "You really wanted a rubbish bin for Christmas?"

Yes, I really wanted a rubbish bin for Christmas. Oh well. A year passed. This time I printed off the website page and attached it to my Christmas letter. With a note saying that I loved all the handbags, and jewellery, and perfume I'd got last year, but honestly, I really, really, really wanted this particular bin for the kitchen rubbish.

Christmas morning came. There was nothing under the Christmas tree that looked remotely the size of a kitchen composter. But when we came to open everything, I found a small envelope waiting for me. And there it was, in the shape of an order form. It would be arriving shortly.

Wheee ... day after day I asked our caretaker if anything had arrived. Nothing. I waited - the Italian post isn't renowned for speed so I didn't panic. There were other internet ordered presents that hadn't yet arrived either. But January wore on, and in the end I cracked and sent an e-mail to the company.

Oh.. they replied Didn't you get our message? we cancelled the order. We don't deliver outside the UK ...

At that point, I knew it was true. Father Christmas hates gardeners. Or at least kitchen composters. It's all right for him - he's got all that reindeer dung to work with ...

But you can't keep a good composter down, so back I get on the net. If Father Christmas won't do it, then I'll buy one myself. There must be a company somewhere who will deliver to me ... And yes, I found one. In fact the company where I'd originally found the composter ,
Just Green We welcome orders from outside the UK. Wheeee again.

So I think I'll finally get my kitchen composter. No more having to throw away the potato peelings. Lots of lovely liquid fertiliser for the plants. And my own supply of fresh compost. Watch this space ...

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