July 2020

Great Hockham Gardening Club Corona Diary, July

We have revamped the appearance of our website. The story of why and how this happened is long and boring, but visiting our site should now be a more pleasurable experience. These improvements would not have been possible without the help of people far more knowledgeable than myself. George Ross talked me through the philosophy of websites and Brian Brooker, one of our ex members and the man who originally set up the site, explained how to make some worthwhile changes. My thanks to both of them. You can find the new-look website at the old address: www.greathockhamgardeningclub.org.uk.


Julie Brown writes:

Hi Ed. Running behind as usual, had to check with Liz Head to see if I could tell of her project.During lockdown I was not able to see Liz, we spend a lot of time together in her garden. 7th June was her birthday and I visited, taking afternoon tea. Plans were discussed to begin the project of her wildlife pond.


You remember earlier in lockdown I emptied my pond and filled it in. The liner went to Liz for this project.


So a couple of days later the dig began. Fortunately Liz's son Michael lives in her village and he came by in the afternoon and did most of the digging. We girls had to do all the clearing of the site and making ready for the man to dig with a spade. Filled one of those tonne bags you get gravel and the like delivered in.

By tea time the hole was dug, the underlay and the liner was in and we were filling it with water. Much bigger than I expected but looks great. Because we have had ponds before and changed them, all manner of stones and pebbles available to re-use.

Those really hot two days, phew! When I expect none of us did very much. We met up at Swallow Aquatic to buy some plants and some bottom feeder for their ponds; Michael has a wildlife pond too.


Liz with Michael's help then went on to dig out and line and re-filled part of the site near the wildlife pond as a bog garden. That will be another trip out to find plants from Liz's list. I get to go visit again and my job is to help wash gravel that has been bagged up from another project to surround the pond and bog garden. It's looking great apart from looking like pea soup from all that hot sun. Liz has a formal pond too, the Koi that went in last summer have grown so much and a joy to see at feeding time, just need to get that water a little clearer.

Liz has worked hard over lockdown; luckily weeding is a pass-time she doesn't mind too much. The veg plot is looking good; sadly only half the raspberry canes have taken, but broad beans are looking good. Michael's sweet corn is coming along nicely.

Sadly the strawberries haven't fared so well in the heat. Liz thinks not enough water. The cucumbers are filling out and the tomatoes are forming in the greenhouse

Work in the front garden has moved a step forward and the narrow bed at the roadside has been widened to allow plants a better chance of succeeding to grow to maturity. Ian, Mr Head, has been doing the fence painting. What a difference s coat of paint makes.

Little has happened in my own garden, waiting for 'im indoors to help with the heavy stuff. I have laid bark around the silver birch tree now the bulb greenery has died off and it looks tidy. I have got my tomato plants set up: 4 Leo from Laura & Nigel, 2 purple Russian and 2 orange sungold from Liz, and also 3 cucumbers from Michael. Had my first cucumber, didn't let it get too big, delicious.



The partridge hatched her chicks and took them off without showing me. A few days later the 2 adults turned up on the patio strutting in front if the glass, but no sight of the young ones; disappointed me. The swallows on the porch have hatched and I can see the beaks peeping over the top of the nest cup and see them spreading their wings. If we are lucky they will roost with us. We have put up a perch, maybe another brood too, so lovely to see. I was watching them fly over the wheat catching insects, amazing flying skills.

Well now the partridge has vacated the nest I have started to dig up the rest of the day lily and the lily of the valley. There are one or two plants I want to save; a self sown hawthorn that I am trying to prune into a cloud tree, a royal fern and a vampire lily. Only one flower this year, but a beauty. Need to decide where it's going to go because it's not part of my new design for the old bog garden.


Liz and Michael came yesterday and together we cleared the bog garden.

I have day lily and lily of the valley aplenty, I have contacted Jane to see if she and her neighbour would like more for their ditch at the bottom of their garden. Jane said she had enough and that I should contact you to put the word out amongst the garden club members. They are in clumps in black bags. I will put them in the front garden and anyone who wants some can drive by and pick it up. If only a small clump is wanted they will need to bring a bag to put it in. Great to have moved forward with another project. Michael dug the 3 holes to sink the tubs I've bought to make ponds, I can manage the saucer. I've still got the agave Americana for you if you want.

Hope you are all keeping well and enjoying your gardens, how lucky we are, Julie.


Jane Dalton writes:

Lockdown times – at last things feel like they are beginning to ease. We are able to see family again and be in small ‘bubbles’, whatever that’s supposed to mean. Goodness knows when village halls will open. It would be possible to visit one another’s gardens maybe at timed intervals or keeping distanced; that would be good. Maybe we can arrange that as a committee meeting first and then for the rest of club to join in, weather permitting. 

I feel I am getting less focused and more lazy – I was keen to get all the jobs done when it all started – now they seem to need doing again and I really can’t be bothered… anyone feel the same?

The garden is running away with me – the rain then sun bringing on the weeds quicker than I can cope with them. We are beginning to harvest some of the rewards from our labour over the spring. The strawberries have never been better… The red currants are ready to pick. This week I have picked my first runner and French beans, first tomatoes, courgettes and beetroot. We have had a good crop of spinach and my new potatoes, mange-tout peas, lettuce and rocket are in full flood. Soon we will be harvesting cucumbers and as I have 7 plants in the polytunnel – I reckon I will be able to keep the whole of Hockham supplied!

The flower garden has looked so colourful this year and on the allotment I am picking Sweet Williams, Scabious, Dalias, Roses, Lilies Alstromeria and now sweet peas, my favourite! The sunflowers are growing nicely. So the house is cheerful and friends in the village have welcomed bunches of them, too.



The house Martins have bred, fed and fledged – which has been very exciting. Now I have grandchildren to stay (one at a time) and educate again which eases the tension in their home and increases it in ours! Hey–ho, the fun of Lockdown!!



Oh, and Chris was 70 last week – just thought I’d pop that in … he hates it! We booked to go to N.T. Anglesey Abbey, met some friends from long ago, which was lovely and we had a very posh afternoon tea picnic with Champagne and all the works. We only went 100 yds. into the grounds on the hottest day of the year, but for our first venture out in months it was truly lovely! Jane.


Sue Thomas writes:

Hi Ed, Very exciting month, have picked (and probably eaten), over 55lb of strawberries, and the late fruiting 'Florence' variety are now coming into flower. The roses have been divine and dead heading seems to be a full time job. 



It is so wonderful to pick as many or as few as you want, of produce such as beetroot, lettuce leaves, spring onions and radish.  So much better than having to buy a packet of veg. and find there are too few to go round the family or too many, you have to eat them until you are sick of them.  (I can't waste a thing!!)  Which is probably why I'm a couple of stone over weight.



Now picking beans from the poly tunnel, but as expected, due to lack of pollinating insects, not such a great crop!  Another rule learnt, but have just read an article on 'self pollinating' runner beans, so will try those next year. Have 24 tomato plants in the poly tunnel, so hope the produce from these will be enough to see me through to next year for all my soups, stews, spag bols and lasagnas!!



Everything in the garden is so early this year; apples are nearly the size of tennis balls, plums are so weighty we have had to support some of the branches they are so heavy.  We have eaten all the red gooseberries already, the only bushes which seem to be lagging behind are the black currants, still as green as grass!!!  Roll on the raspberries is all I can say.  Cheers, Sue.


Nigel and Laura Linclon write:

Oink House Garden diary July. Weeding, feeding and watering are the main activities at the moment. The roses have been performing particularly well this year, including about dozen that we got for a song as bare root stock from Diss auctions over winter. These were iceberg (white floribunda) and Doris Tysterman (orange hybrid tea), and some went into pots and some in the borders. Green and black fly were everywhere in June. Although we prefer to let the natural predators such as ladybirds get these under control, this year we had to resort to spraying with diluted washing up liquid (the only chemical pest control we use). The courgettes were also badly infested.



We were given an old tin bath and plan to make this into an Alpine display, a la Monty, using plants from another bed. We filled it with big stones and bricks dug up from a new line of hedging – so killing two birds with one stone. These were topped with some Breckland soil (sand) and gravel. So far, just a few house leeks have been planted. 



The new hedge was planted with about 10 small pyracantha that were grown from cuttings taken last year from my parents’ garden. It included yellow, orange and red plants. Unfortunately, the mole has taken a shine to the newly dug ground, and particularly the trench of fresh compost we put underneath to give the young plants a good start. Despite watering with weak Jeyes Fluid, the mole has been coming back every day to get the worms in the compost. Several cuttings have been broken off from their roots and died, so traps have been set. The mole has just burrowed around them.



Last week we saw a garden orchid (Calanthe) for sale in Morrisons, and decided to give it a try. It claims to be hardy and prefer shade. This is a new one to me; has anyone else ever grown one outside?


The bees have been biding their time during the June gap. The main nectar flow usually starts in July and lasts a month or so, but with the odd weather patterns we have had this year, who knows when they will suddenly start working seriously. Fingers crossed we get enough honey to extract some in August.

Enjoy your gardens everyone. Bee good! Nige & Lor


Prue and I have an agave.

This is the type with the fleshy leaves and spikes. It’s only about two meters tall; its length is divided half-and-half between clear stem at the bottom and leaves nearly a meter across at the top. It is very top heavy. It is slowly falling over. I am trying to pull it upright, but I am not strong enough. I am employing a pulley block with a 3:1 mechanical advantage. This is working. I am removing the old supporting post to replace it with one deeper into the soil. Whatever root the agave possesses is providing zero support. I am trying to stop it falling over and damaging itself and other plants. I am managing to hold it in an upright position, but it is heavy, must weigh at least a hundredweight, all at the top. I am trying to get myself into a more comfortable position. I am loosing my balance and the thing is moving from the vertical by a couple of inches. It is starting to fall. I am at the limit of my strength, but I have managed to restore its equilibrium. I am balancing the thing with one hand, holding the post in the other and swinging the sledgehammer with the other. There seems to be some fault with my technique, but I don’t seem to be able to put my finger on the problem. Small areas of the leaves are beginning to develop little tinges of red. I do not remember an agave having that colouration. I am hearing a voice: “You will have to soak that T-shirt in salt water.” I am propping it up with a combination of the old post and by leaning it against a nearby ragged looking plant. I am hearing the voice again: “You had better not be damaging my stag horn fern.” The current arrangement is stable. I seem to have overcome my earlier problem and am hammering the brand new post in at an angle of 45 degrees with the hammer striking the post some of the time. I am tying the Agave to the rustic looking post.  I am adjusting the chemistry of my bloodstream.



We also have two cactuses. They were a present from my mother when they were potted plants. I can’t remember where she got them, but they must have been kept in darkness for a while, as they had become a little yellow. But with a little TLC they perked up and reached a couple of feet in height. During the summer we would take them outside into the garden, then bring them in before the first frost. Eventually we finished building our conservatory and they found their permanent home. It was extremely rewarding to see them thrive, growing ever higher each year.



They have now become very impressive indeed, but it has to be said, that at four and a half meters tall they have become dangerous. But how to get them down? I can’t just fell them like a tree. Enclosed within the conservatory there is nowhere for them to fall. We also have two yuccas: it’s the same story with them except they are a little higher. I am hearing a voice: “I’ve just got hold of the estate agent.”



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