Garden Reclamation

We’re being given a hand with the garden from a friend – at least from her eldest son (15) and one of his friends too. As she delicately put it – ” Jill, you need all the help you can get!” If I only I could be sure she was only talking about the garden ūüėČ


I haven’t had much time to use the waste material for food/ herbal/dye experiments but there’s plenty of biomass of all the types still there to work with.

Plans are afoot to move ferrets and sheds to various places in the garden so we can put in another outbuilding that will house more choccy related stuff . As I’m travelling to the kitchen a lot it makes sense to bring it closer; it ¬†avoids rent, reduces travelling time and fuel costs. The outhouse where the chocolate will go is already there but there’s not a lot of room in it and I’ve found that dehydrators and chocolate making don’t work well together, so the new ‘lodge’ will have wet stuff – oven,stove, dehydrators etc in it to prevent over heating and humidity issues with the chocs. At least that’s the plan….

So to work on garden, hacking, cutting, slashing, managing teenagers (deep sigh), actually, to be fair, the friend’s son is pretty good and reliable, the friend, mheh, not so much…

IMG_4252¬†Uncovering nice things loitering with lack of intent . I’d forgotten this was here!

IMG_4253¬†this area has a surprising amount of good quality raspberries in amongst the willowherb and nettles, so I plan to grow soft fruit here when it’s all done.


IMG_4251 Stumps still to be dug out but at least we can see where it is now, sans nettles. Sycamore are incredibly fast growers that latch onto any place to grow. Pests.


IMG_4254 Cleared area, just about ready for levelling. Bricks, hardcore and sand are now in bags there ready for a good flat base for the ferret cages Рbasically chicken coops Рthey have good bedding, hutch and run around space for them!

IMG_4256  IMG_4257 Snowberry gone completely riotous! All needs hacked back.

The area ( pictures above)is going to have a stair/decking/style arrangement so we can get into the top bit of garden. It’s all steep and built on a hill. My fantasy is permaculture based gardening schemes up here. It’s a mass of sycamore over the wall and if we took it out it would erode the hillside, so trying to think of ways of working with it…answers or ideas freely welcome!

It was very wet today so the boys decided not to come over – then it cleared up and I ventured out when it was drier – only to hurry back in less than an hour later with Cowdenbeath’s version of a tropical rainstorm. It has been very muggy and humid around here today.

IMG_4261 monsoon season!

More development to come – I really want the outhouse ready and yard cleared so we get the okay from health and hygiene – lots to still do, and I want to play with the plants and experiment re dyeing with them. What I’d like to do is to make a book out of the garden itself to chart it’s progress and the process…

Re-purposing the garden

Weedin’ Wednesday comes round quickly. I’ve been trying to pace myself as I find pulling up weeds hard on my hands, so it’s been little and probably not often enough for any noticeable difference. although the brown bin for compostables is full and there is a healthy pile of weeds sitting in the drive ready to go to compost recycling.


It all feels a bit of a waste. I thought that there must be something I can do with the weeds. So far in the area that I’ve been tackling the main weed varieties have been Rosebay Willow Herb ¬†(Epilobium angustifoilium aka Chamerion angustifolium)and Nettles.

Rosebay Willow herb (RWH) is a stately plant with a striking ¬†pink ¬†cone of flowers. Tees rather likes it, so do I for that matter, however it spreads like wildfire, reminiscent of one of it’s other names ‘Fireweed’, as it has an impressive root spread and growth and a full head of cottony seeds that billow and spread easily.

So to find other uses for this invader.. I tried a variety of things today…

1. RWH tea – I tried a variety of leaves in different cups of tea. I tried young leaves in one teapot and older leaves in another. I know that they are quite astringent and that’s why you choose young leaves to eat in salads in Spring (note; this is Summer, perhaps the young leaves are still not young enough?) I’ve read about them being used as a drink and with the tannins thought they might be relatively ‘tea-like’… No. Both cups of tea were strongly Green tasting and not very pleasant. If I thought I was getting a great deal of good out of them I might persevere, but while it may help with diarrhoea (which I don’t have) and may help with a respiratory condition (thankfully nope again to that) there are plenty of others that I would go to first.


2. A syrup from the flowers. In one word…Ugh! I gently heated up several racemes of the flowers and got a beautiful tinted infusion, strained it, tried it and thought it tasted revolting. Undaunted I thought a bit of lemon juice might help and went on to make a syrup by adding equal amounts of sugar to the infusion. Nope, still revolting.



3. Using the canes from last years stems. This works pretty well if you use the really sturdy ones. They are lighter than bamboo, and still quite strong due to the hollow nature of them. I put them around my young sweet pea plants for support. We’ll see how they last in the weather away from other stems to protect them.

4. Dyeing. I tried dyeing a paper bundle a la India Flint using the RWH and a few other plants I picked from the wilderness that is the front garden. The paper worked surprisingly well and coped with the saturation and steaming process, which I wasn’t sure it would. It was a pretty standard water colour paper.


IMG_4163 A good way to use up herbs past their use by date too Рjust throw them in for good measure!

Unfortunately, my weight arrangement wasn’t great and so the bundle didn’t stay effectively clamped. It was a proper bodge job as I hadn’t thought I was going to do this, it just sort of happened and so didn’t have all the kit and caboodle required.

IMG_4165Impromptu wight arrangement, oops, no disrespect intended.

I got nice tints to the paper but no prints. I know I can get them as I managed before on the workshop. Ah well lesson learned.


The seeds aren’t ready yet but they can provide tinder for fire lighting, and the inside of the stems has fibre that can be dried and used as tinder too, though there are easier sources.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARWH leaves giving a good print on India’s workshop. The flowers didn’t and were hard to seperate from the paper as the mucilage in the flowers became more glue like.

All in all a good day for experiments, tho’ not many were overly successful. The books definitely make RWH sound much more appetising than it actually is, though I have eaten the young leaves fine in Spring. I don’t plan on keeping lots of it around as a salad crop or plant supports.



Large Garden of Horrors!

Instead of Little Shop of Horrors with one large ‘weed’, I have a large garden of horrors filled with just about every pernicious weed native to this country. I know, I checked, and ‘pernicious’ was a quote from one of many RHS books!

In my infinite wisdom( like I don’t have enough to do!), I’ve decided to get the garden into some sort of order….this is a pretty big ask and task, in fact it’s a rest of my life project, never mind a 5 year plan.

My best fantasy is turn the garden into working space, in that I want it to have plants that I can use in the edibles and chocolates. I also want it to be medicinal where possible so that there are added benefits to the edibles. I want dye plants and plants that are good for insects, as I’d love to keep bees at some point.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA¬†These 2 pics are of mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) growing wild in garden. I want to keep this or grow it elsewhere as it’s a goodie.

The problem lies in that I have no time…which actually means that I’ve started this process before, cleared, fertilised, then not looked at it for ages, which means that I’ve given the best growth condition possible for , duh, duh, DUH….THE WEEDS. My weeds are architectural specimens, seriously, they’re taller than me by a long way!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA¬†Fancy Brambles and Berries spreading out and taking over. Honestly, it’s like the briar wall out of Sleeping Beauty, or for those less ancient, Maleficent, the new updated slant on the old Sleeping Beauty,I liked it for the record.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo put things in perspective, the bit of wall with the ‘hat’ on is my almost 6 ft gatepost, weeds, though raised a bit are waving up at the 8-10 ft level! Mainly Rosebay Willow herb, nettles, with generous smatterings of Ground Elder, unwanted young Sycamore and Willow!

An ecologist client saw the garden the other day with- in the Star Trek Next Gen words- “His eyes wide open”. His suggestion was agent orange, and bulldozers.

The problem is I feel it’s a challenge, the gauntlet has been thrown, it’s it – the garden, or me, mano a mano, planto a femano, as it were. But I don’t like to make things easy, I don’t want pesticides and weedkillers so it’s going to be a long hard slog of mulching and cutting back, so don’t expect pretty pictures for a long while! Just sayin’.


I also want to use what I cut back. I want to weave the willow and young saplings into wee hurdles and path edges. I want to try dyeing with the plant material and using as much of it as I can, if not going straight to mulch or compost.

I believe that ¬†committing to writing it down here will make me commit to the process. I’ll keep you posted – how about Weedin’ Wednesdays!? (She says posting on a Thursday..)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmoss and mini gardens in the mono block

The plan is to work on one small space and project at a time. Wish me luck, I have the mission impossible theme music running through me head at this very moment. ¬†I wish I could say I’m goin’ in now… but that would be a lie, I’ve got the birds to do before another dog walk, before doing ¬†several clients in Edinburgh today….then I might be goin’ in..