Soggy on a Saturday 1.12.18

Yo, ho, ho! Let the festivities begin, with a dank, wet December Saturday. Today’s post has a business like feel to it, largely because it is that time of year when practical jobs and projects replace the joy of plants.


  1. Compost. Tepid compost. Inspired by our glorious leader’s hot composting post a week or two back (, I tried my own bay. Never short of compostables, I felt I had a good chance to get the temperatures up into the 40s and 50s needed for fast and then weed seed free compost. It is labour intensive (four turns of the heap so far) and requires regular monitoring, but I am moderately determined to give it a good go. After a fast start and three days the temperature peaked at 35 degrees, then declined to 30 or below. I am a bit miffed really as it has had ten days and plenty of the right stuff in the right ratio, with turning and water and covering. I will give it the same treatment for a week, but if there is no change, I might have to subside into cold composting and spend my turning time on weeding.


2. Leaves. A client has a big, healthy Ash tree which overlooks his garden from a neighbour. There are always lots of leaves to collect up in Autumn. He doesn’t want to compost or make leaf mould (weirdo, right?), so I came up with the solution of spreading a thick leafy mulch under his well established hedge. There are only so many leaves you can effectively do this with: Ash, Lime, Chestnut would be my favourites. They break down quickly. Better than letting the council have them.


3. Bird box. I had a spare couple of hours yesterday, so I went raiding one of the many loft conversion skips of Walthamstow and came up with some floorboards. This is my Mark 1 bird box, with three more in the pipeline. I have ordered those metal entrance cover things to stop Woodpeckers and Magpies raiding. They will be adorning some of the trees in the churchyard soon. Emma was delighted to see old floorboards and tools all over the recently cleared decking.


4. Just when I thought it was safe to put away the bulb planter, Helen Lerner offered me a job lot of free bulbs from the London Parks and Garden’s Trust (250 of them!). Never one to look a free bulb in the mouth, I gladly accepted. Three types of Tulip, two of Hyacinth, Allium Graceful Beauty, Camassia Leichtini (white), Ipheion Alberto Castillo, Triteleia Aquarius. So now the fun of finding little spots for them. Not today, it’s too wet.


5. Oh, ok then, a few plants, then. I quite like this little Winter combination of Cornus Midwinter Fire, Ophiopogon Nigrescens and Rubus Cockburnianus (my favourite plant name ever). This is a rubbish photo, but the combination works well over Winter in a slightly shady spot, even surrounded by big shrubs. Snowdrops come through it in early Spring. In Summer you have to prune out straggly Rubus stems.


6. Have I told you about Cypress spurge, Bonaparte’s Crown, Graveyard Moss, Kiss me Dick, Love in a Huddle, Welcome to our House or Euphorbia cyaparissias before? Well any plant with that many common names is going to be a prolific spreader. On poor dry soil, it will tick over, but in a lush bed it can be rampant. I keep this one tame in a pot by the front door where it gets no attention, no new compost, very little water and does really well. The Spring display is nice, like you would expect from a Euphorbia, but the Autumn colour is the best thing about it. Like little firework rockets going up. Recommended (in a pot).


24 thoughts on “Soggy on a Saturday 1.12.18

  1. What amuses me about composting is the hold it has on gardeners. It’s like you can’t really call yourself a gardener until you’ve succeeded at hot composting (and then seen sense and gone back to what you were doing before). Also inspired (that’s not really the word I want) by The Prop, I have my own ongoing compost experiment which I may share with the world if it seems interesting enough.

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  2. It’s strange, isn’t it? I am reading Henk Gerritson at the moment and he rails against added fertility, including compost! I still find a use for it and have lots of people locally who can do with it.


  3. I have pretty much the same experience as you with compost … I tested after the Prop’s post and the temperature went up but I forgot to turn the pile regularly and I think it was ruined .. I may have viable seeds and therefore weeding in the spring …

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  4. Those red twig dogwoods seem interesting. The main species that most of the cultivars is not native here, but the Cornus stolonifera is. I just featured it this morning. I have not seen the garden cultivars of it. Because it is something that I am in the habit of pulling out or pruning back, I would not feel right about planting any, even if it has more colorful twigs.

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  5. As, I suspect, one of the older members of this little meme, I can say (and have already) that I’ve been there, tried it and got the t-shirt (which I wear intermittently between outings of the “slave to a cat” ones which the boss insists I wear). Unless you’re running several hot heaps (there are limits on the size of an individual heap of course), the amount of effort for the amount of produce is slightly disproportionate and, as Jim hints, it’s something we try before reverting to the easier ways. I got bored with RC and am currently favouring Penstemon whippleanus as likely less painful. 😉

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  6. I also like photo 5 – our local park has the Midwinter Fire & white bramble, but not the black grass which really sets it off. Shall steal that idea from you sir, w/o so much as a thank you! (Thank you, btw, for sharing it!)

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      1. It sounds like lots of folk are cold composting – not by choice. However, there’s a ‘hotbed’ of ideas generated! (Has anyone been drummed out of SoS for really bad puns or will I be the first?) Seriously, it’s apparent in a few comments in other blogs, that SoS blog photos germinate (pun pun pun) lots of ideas in their readers. I, for one always appreciate that little spark in a new direction. Creativity breeds more creativity.

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  7. The yellow leaves in number 5 are just luminous! A wonderful combination of colours. As to compost, I keep mine in a very large black plastic bin and I would have thought with the temps here it would be too hot to put my hand in. But no, it isn’t, and weeds still grow out of the compost when I put it in the garden. So I’ve resigned myself to cold slow composting and more weeding.

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  8. I’m a compost lover too, I can never understand why some of my clients find it hard to understand why I push so hard to build a dedicated and working area for compost. When they see it working they then appreciate it. Not that I have any hot bins, but killing weed seed and perennial weed roots has got to be a good thing. Love the winter combo with the dodgy named bramble. Also the euphorbia, which is new to me. Happy composting!

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  9. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good compost and I have a large area of bays in my garden but I don’t understand the ‘obsession’ with getting the heat up! I just leave mine for the year -literally -and it’s glorious! I like to leave it as, in the Autumn, the slowworms and frogs live in there. I’d prefer not to have cooked critters!

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    1. It is a new obsession for me (40 degrees today!), but I can only indulge it at this time of year as my professional gardening slows down. It is all rather a faff, but I will see this heap through and probably call it a draw after that. No slow worms to cook in Walthamstow, sadly. Not that I would cook them…

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