Tag Archives: Gardening

Bindweed…. Bane or Boon?

If you are of a vaguely horticultural bent, your instant reaction to the that title is most probably… BANE… of my very existence.  Well, read on… because it might change your mind.

Lawn stripes

It has been the perfect day for getting out into the garden today, and as it has been nearly two weeks since the grass had stripes in it, due to a marquee being in the way as well as terrible weather and the painting of the kitchen to be done, the grass was seriously due for a cut.  We had begun to lose small garden birds in the grass growth, and it was looking untidy.

As I wrestled the green monster (our lawnmower) around the back garden I happened to notice that there was a significant patch of bindweed doing its level best to strangle the columbines and other plants in my prime site flower bed – just outside the big greenhouse.  Now this bed has always been prone to a bindweed infestation, but this growth?  Wow.  It is rivalling Japanese Knotweed!!  I continued to put my stripes in my lawn (diagonal this time, if you are interested!) and mused about whether there was anything medicinal or beneficial about bindweed.

bindweed

When I came in having exerted some order over our outside space, I decided to Google bindweed and see what I could come up with.  And would you know it…!  It is actually useful!!  I have been studying herbalism and plant based medicines for over 2 years now, and I am still gobsmacked at how useful everything seems to be, even those plants we moan about for being weeds.  Bindweed is exactly the same.

Apparently, it is well known that Convolvulus arvensis (Bindweed to you and me) has purification properties.  It is well known that bindweed can really lift the heavy metals and other chemical which might be hidden in over used agricultural land.  It can also act as a nitrogen fixer and restore the fertility and balance of the soil.  It is a fabulous detoxifier – not just externally but internally too.  It is apparently a rich source of all kinds of compounds too which are mostly used in anti depressive drugs.

The roots of bindweed, assuming you can find them, act as a purgative – so basically vomit inducing.  I would seriously avoid making homemade preparations with these effects.  Native Americans used the leaves as an antidote to spider bites.  At the moment there is some serious research going on with extract of bindweed to see if it helps to halt the growth of tumours.  In addition, bindweed seems to exhibit a lot of similar actions to anti-diabetic drugs.  Again, I issue the health warning.  Please do not make homemade preparations and use them as an alternative to drugs that your doctor may have given you.

pink bindweed

The flowers of bindweed, which can be either pink or white, also exhibit antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and there is evidence that they work on E.coli, Salmonella and Candida.

My research did throw up one thing that just made me laugh and laugh though.  Apparently Bindweed is great for treating stress to soothe and calm the mind and nerves.  The irony is that most gardeners who find a huge patch of it will react precisely the opposite!!  I am sorry, but that made me giggle.

So… why have I posted a second blog in as many days?  Well, partly to keep my hand in and partly because I had the inspiration, but also because I am not going to be around tomorrow, which would be my usual posting day.  I am off to White Post Farm, a local children’s attraction with my Godson and his family!  It is going to be so much fun.  We are packing a picnic and everything!  I hope you enjoyed it and I plan to be back on Friday, if I get any more inspiration.

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Bad blogger… bad bad blogger…

I am so sorry to my loyal readers… I have been having a fortnight from hell and I have not been able to get onto my computer to crank out a blog post.  I do apologise… however, there are good reasons for the lack of communication.

gardening fun

First of all, it is the time of year when there needs to be a lot of work done in the garden.  This year, being our second growing season in this garden, we have more work to do than usual!  I have been planting up a storm since January and I am now taking care of the baby plants the best way I can.  There are some which are already out in our little lean to green house, hardening off before they get put out into the soil, and then there are the ones I am trying to germinate.  They are currently in the conservatory, and they seem to be doing okay in there, soaking up whatever sun there is!

veg patch

We have taken out an old box hedge, we have painted the shed and the big greenhouse, we have taken possession of the big greenhouse and are planning what we are going to grow in it and we have begun to dig what will be the vegetable patch.  We have raised beds to paint, we have dwarf fruit trees to plant, we have strawberries to revive and plant, we have raspberries and other soft fruit to fertilise and weed around.  We have a compost heap to sort out as well and the flower beds all need weeding and getting sorted for the annuals and bulbs to show off later on.

frazzled owl

Are you tired yet?!

Well, add into the mix of this,  that the Adoption is beginning to get tricky as well.  Not with the actual process… that is meandering about the way it does.  But my patience is wearing very thin indeed.  I needed to think very carefully about whether I wanted to continue with the process and what was I going to do if it didn’t work.  Although everyone thinks that there is always a payoff of a baby when you go through the Adoption process, the facts are somewhat different and it is in no way guaranteed.  Our process has already been so long and so difficult (and out of the ordinary – of course… I never do anything the easy or the ordinary way!) I am not sure how much more I am going to be able to take.  It has been quite stressful and difficult as I am sure you can all imagine.  There wasn’t much other head space for anything else, let alone sorting out blog posts.

All I can promise is that I will try and do better after Easter.  I will even try and sort out some blog themes and interesting things to post about… and I need to get back to my studying.  I haven’t done any lessons for weeks.

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to everyone, and see you on the other side!

Biodynamic Gardening and the effect of the solar eclipse

First, I must apologise for silence this week.  It has been hugely busy all week, and the days I would usually write a blog have been taken up with dealing with gas men quoting for boilers, delivering Easter treats to Godchildren and then trying to catch up on the chores which have been left alone while doing the other things.  This madness is not going to let up over the weekend, but I thought while I wait for the next gas man to arrive, I would write a blog post.

eclipse

As I am in the Northern Hemisphere and in Europe, as I type, we are in the process of experiencing a solar eclipse.  The last time there was such a visible spectacle was in 1999, and I remember being part of the awed crowds watching the process (through appropriate methods to safeguard the eyes, of course).  As far as I can tell, if you have seen one eclipse, you have seen them all, so I am not that concerned about the whole process (though it is interesting watching the birds and the squirrels in the garden – they are very confused indeed!) but one thing that did get the old grey cells exercising was whether the solar eclipse would effect biodynamic gardening methods.

veg patch

You may not know about biodynamic gardening, but it is a subject that is really peaking my interest at the moment.  I am not sure if I am going to pursue it, but I want to know more, and so I have been doing a bit of digging around on the internet.   I found a really interesting article in the Daily Telegraph (interestingly, printed on my birthday in 2009) which detailed the writer’s experience with biodynamic agriculture.  It was an enlightening read (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/6202917/Why-biodynamic-gardening-makes-sense.html) .

This form of gardening was promulgated in 1924 by Austrian Rudolf Steiner, and is effectively a process to deepen our understanding of the life forces that underlie nature’s processes in order to produce food of the highest quality.  I can’t help thinking that it is gardening on the same basis that healing using herbalism is for medicine.  Supporting the life force in order to get the best result.  I guess that might make me sound supremely “crunchy” but it makes sense to me.

lunar planting

Most people are aware of the organic principles of natural sustainability and not using any chemicals.  Biodynamics requires a very strong basis of organic husbandry combined with a few practices that “normal” gardeners might find to be a bit odd, including planting according to a lunar calendar, preparation of the soil in particular ways and clearly,  very open mind!

I recall that the Royal Horticultural Society did some field trials using chemical, organic and biodynamic methods and the results were quite remarkable.  Biodynamic planting, according to the lunar calendar, really made a difference to the health of the plants and the yield they produced.  Something definitely works then even if we aren’t sure what.

What about the solar eclipse?  If the moon moving through various constellations has such an impact, what about the moon moving across the sun, obliterating it from sight?  From my research it is considered sensible to leave all gardening alone for a while – though to be honest, a lot of the sites I found were less than fullsome in their explanations.

biodynamic books

I think that I need to do a good deal of research into the methods of biodynamic horticulture before I decide whether to make my vegetable and herb patch a biodynamic experiment.

Mind you, if I could find a method of biodynamic pest control which meant that slug and squirrels went elsewhere for their snacks, I would be on it like a flash!    I would also be more than happy to be called “loony”.

Going a little crazy(er)…

Not at the moment… I have too much going on to be going crazy really. Not only are we waiting for a match for the adoption, but I have a humungous pile of jobs to do in the house and the garden and then there is the whole #NaBloWriMo thing into the bargain.

crazy

However, I am aware that in some regions where this blog is read, they have had the first snowfall. I always think of getting cabin fever when I think of the first snowfall. It only happened to me once, but once is more than enough.

 

What is cabin fever? Well, the idiom was only coined in 1918, but the term can cover all levels of things from feeling like you want to hibernate and being a bit grouchy to having a totally claustrophobic reaction to being kept in the house and not being able to go outside.

 

My book of reference for this month “Home Remedies from a Country Doctor” reckons that it is probably a form of SAD, which I have written about recently. However, my own personal experience, and what my research has turned up is a definition which encompasses a much deeper and more visceral reaction to having to stay inside due to inclement weather.

cabin fever

Symptoms of cabin fever are a need to sleep more than is usual, to sort of enter a kind of hibernation state, extreme irritability, restlessness, even paranoia about the people they share a living space with, an urge to go outside regardless of the weather, just to escape. It is understandable that people might associate this with being snowed in, but my experience was in the depths of summer.

 

I was living in Woking at the time and had been struck down with a fever and vomiting bug. I was living on my own in a bedsit which was painted purple (I loathe purple on the walls, and especially the dirty purpley sort of colour, purely down to that place). I was cut off from everybody and everything for 3 days. By the end of that 3 days I was climbing the walls. As soon as I got out of the place though and took a walk up and down the road (because I was too weak to go far) I immediately felt better.

raking leaves

That is one of the suggestions of how to cure cabin fever. Get outside. Obviously, dress for the weather. No point going outside in shorts and a t-shirt when it is 20 below zero with a 10 degree windchill, because you are asking for trouble. And frostbite. But getting into the weather appropriate garb and getting out there to top up the Vitamin D is worth the fuss.

My reference for the month also suggests putting fluorescent lighting in the rooms you spend most time in, finding company in some way (thank you social media and book clubs), and even working creatively inside can really help matters.

It is interesting.  I think I suffer from cabin fever a lot more than I thought.  The best medicine for me is to go out and get the gardening done.  On that note… I am off to sweep up more leaves!

Hellebores… what are they good for?

I received my recently ordered hellebores this morning.  Cue much excitement.  They are lovely little plants, and need to be grown on a bit before I put them where they are actually going to live in the garden.

double ellen picotee

A couple of Fridays ago I received an email which gave me an excellent deal on these lovely, lovely plants.  After due consultation with the husband, I ordered 9 lovely baby hellebores.  There are three plants of three different sorts of Double Ellen varieties – Pictoee, Pink and White Spotted.  They are going to go in the front garden in an area I have named the Helleborium.  I am hoping to find and relocate another couple of hellebores I think might be lurking in the back garden as well, so there should be some rather lovely colours over in that forgotten corner of the garden come spring 2 years from now.

Anyway… it got me thinking… are hellebores good herbal plants?  Quite often in the past, I have found that the plants I really like are actually really useful medicinally.  So I thought i would do a bit of research and find out.

poison

After my research, my take away lesson is that Hellebores (both the white and the black varieties) are really poisonous and should not be messed around with in terms of self treatment.  So… no, they are not really good herbal plants.  I have also filed away the fact that historically white hellebore was used to create a poison in ancient Rome and other cultures have used it as an arrow tip poison.  Useful information for potential mystery novel plots, or if my neighbours really wind me up.  (That last bit is a joke.  Honest.)

Apparently even though hellebore is really, really poisonous, people do still use it.  White Hellebore is used for cholera, gout and high blood pressure and black hellebore is used for nausea, worms, kidney infections, colds and constipation.  Black hellebore can also help to regulate menstrual periods.  Still.  I am not going to suggest anyone plays around with it, and I am certainly going to steer well clear of it.

double hellebores

I shall keep hellebores in the garden as flowers where they belong.  It will add a burst of colour to the front patch and will make me smile when I look up from my desk.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…

autumn

And annoying neighbours burning wet leaves and effectively smoking you out of your own garden.  I tell you, if I wasn’t so tired from all I have done today, and interested in rotting my leaves down for soil improvement purposes… I would return the favour.  When their washing is on the line.  Just saying.

Anyway… Autumn is officially here.  The nights are drawing in, the leaves are turning brown and falling off (they don’t really turn pretty colours in the UK… they just go brown and hit the deck), and in theory, the garden should be full of stuff to harvest and store for the winter.  Obviously, this year we haven’t had a chance to really get our garden producing anything much because we haven’t been in it long enough.  I can tell you we have had a lovely crop of tomatoes, our chilli peppers are looking great, we have some aubergines (eggplants) coming on in the greenhouse, we have had 6 cucumbers from 1 plant, which I think is pretty awesome… Over all, I am really happy with what we have managed to produce.

pretty veg patch

But… ooh the plans that I have.  First of all though we need to dispose of a box hedge which is in the way, and then I am going to dig myself a veg patch.  We are going to grow those veggies which we love to eat – peas, beans, courgettes, pumpkins, onions, lettuce, radishes, potatoes (but in bags, not in the ground), carrots (the same as the potatoes), beetroot, spinach, maybe I will try some brussels sprouts (though maybe not… cos they can be tricky little blighters.)  The patch is going to have a border of dwarf fruit trees (which we already have and which are currently in pots) and a little fence as well – with strawberries growing by the little fence as well.  Can you picture it?

One of the beds which currently houses a whole load of fuschias (shudder – I loathe the things) and other assorted items which have self seeded there, will be cleared and it will become my medicinal herb bed, with a backdrop of the most gorgeous peonies.  Lots of lovely things will grow there… and will no doubt feature in future blog posts as well!

shrbbery

All of the specimen plants which can be moved, will be transplanted across the lawn to the perennial border.  That needs a serious haircut on all fronts.  And I have some bay trees which have got all wild and wooly this year and need significant taming.  (I wish it looked half as nice as the one in the picture at Sheringham Park!!  Maybe in a few years time…!)

So, autumn might be the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness… but it is also the time for fervent planning and plotting, as well as dreaming of future produce.  So tonight I shall dream of full cornucopia… and a medicine cabinet full of home made remedies.

Trying to fit it all in…

Seriously, if this year needed a subtitle, like they do in the movies, this would be the one for me.

fitting it all in

I am in something of a reflective mood today, after I attended the funeral of a friend’s Father yesterday.  I went to support my friend, and I was so proud of how she held herself together and dealt with the raw emotion that goes along with these sorts of occasions.  Having been there myself, not so long ago, I know how useful it is to have people to lean on.  But as with every funeral, it makes me think about things.

One of the things I was thinking about yesterday and today is how frantically (even maniacally) busy I am.  I have no idea how I had the time to go to work.  I am a full time homemaker and even now I don’t always get to all of the jobs that I want to get to. I dread to think what the place would look like if I was out of the house 10 plus hours per day with a commute on top.  The garden would be a wilderness and the dust bunnies in the house would be unionising and militating for self rule!

housekeeping

As it is, I haven’t managed to get a duster or a vacuum around the place in three weeks (but to be fair, I was out of the country for 10 days!) and I feel like such a slattern.  I am doing a deep clean in every room today, in the vain hope that keeping on top of it will be easier thereafter.  Yeah… I am not hopeful about that either.  Also, the fact we have a meeting with our new Adoption Social Worker tomorrow morning is also rather a motivating factor.  “Yes, this is how tidy the house will never ever be again once a child arrives in our lives”

I have told myself off, and I am attempting to cut myself some slack, but it is really hard.  I set such high standards for myself, and I get cross with myself (and whoever is standing close by, to be fair) when I can’t reach them.  Perfectionism is a total b*tch. But practically speaking, is keeping the house clean the most important thing?  No, not really.  Keeping it hygienic is different from keeping it perfect.  It is hygienic.  No one is going to contract a communicable disease when coming into this house.  You might get cat and dog fur all over you, but in this house, that is how we accessorise!  I have a plaque somewhere that says “Welcome to our home – clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be fun”.  That is what I am aiming for.

As I go around the house getting into some fairly mucky corners, I am thinking that I need to reassess my priorities.  I don’t think I actually have a set of them at the moment.  Everything is at the top of the list, and that is not a sustainable way to be.  In fact, as I have been uncomfortably close to having a total meltdown this week, I can tell that sustainability is out of the window and running down the path screaming.  Somehow I need to reassert some control over everything that I need/want to achieve.  I can feel a big old list coming on.

priorites

Any reader of this blog will know that I love a good list.  But having one is just the first step.  Then you need to prioritise the list.  No point having a list of stuff which is all a priority because then you look at it and go all clammy and sweaty palmed and think “EEP! Where do I start!”.  So, you need a system.  When I was at work and dealing with competing priorities from every which way, I used a simple ABC method.  A’s were the things I needed to do.  The ones where the ONLY person who COULD do them was me.  The ones with a time limitation that was measured in microns, or at the very most hours.  B’s were the jobs that it would be nice to get to.  The jobs that would make people smile a little bit, or the one’s that would make my job a little easier if they were out of the way.  C’s were the jobs which I would get to eventually, but no one one would holler about if I left them.  Or the ones I could delegate to someone else.

Transferring that system to the house then…  A’s would be the stuff that makes the place safe; B’s would be the tasks I might have put off for a while but once they are done life will be a little better;  C’s would the bits which can stay on the list until someone says “A dust bunny actually talked to me”.  (I am thinking painting.  I hate painting.)

I wonder if I can extend that system to the garden as well?