Garden Journal - October 27th 2005

Wildchicken Garden Journal - Miranda Hodgson


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October 27th 2005 - Lawn mowers and mushrooms

The intensity of the gardening year is coming to an end. There are always plants to be put in the ground, but the main jobs will be raking leaves off the lawn and keeping on top of perennial weeds; dandelions, mainly. The legacy of that late verge cutting is still with us.


The lawn had what is probably its last cut of the year on October the 10th and I canít see the mower coming out of the shed again till spring. Thatís just as well, anyway, because when I turned it on, it made a funny noise, gave off a strange smell and then packed up and I had to borrow my neighbourís.

"I can see the sense in the dead manís handle but itís still irritating"

One thingís for sure, I never want another electric mower, ever. Saying that, weíll probably get one because theyíre cheap. Beastly things, though, with that damned cable which is constantly having to be dragged about, trips you up every five minutes and gets wrapped up round your legs. Well, my legs; it doesnít happen to Karl for some reason. And every time you loosen your grip on the handle, it switches off and you have to start it up again. Okay, I can see the sense in the dead manís handle but itís still irritating. Shanít be sorry to see it go to the Great Lawn in the Sky.


For this last cut I borrowed another electric mower which is, if thatís possible, even worse than ours. I donít know what either make is, to be honest. Karl bought ours and Iíve never looked at the label, and I havenít checked the brand of the borrowed one. You wouldnít think that switching from one mower to another would make that much difference but it felt like walking in shoes that someone else has worn in - very uncomfortable.


To start with, the wheel base and blade arenít as wide as ours, which means you have to walk up and down more often. With it being narrower, I found that on several occasions I inadvertently let it slip off the edge of the lawn, with the result that there are quite a few scalped patches, with neat spiral patterns cut into them.

"...the box on this mower is about the size of a large handbag"

Then, the box on this mower is about the size of a large handbag, so has to be emptied at least twice as often as the other one, and itís awkward to remove and put back because of these fiddling little pegs that you have to line up before it will all slot together. Then, I had huge trouble changing the height of the blade, which was set by adjusting some hard plastic card-like tags, which refused to move. Eventually, it took two of us to adjust it, and that with several colourful expletives. And, itís red. After driving half a dozen red cars over the years, Iím sick of things being red. Hateful machine.


After that, we both had a go with another borrowed mower. This one was a traditional push-mower, similar to the one that Grandad used to use, and which Iíd never tried before. Once you get the hang of it, it isnít bad but it didnít cope too well with our rather uneven and slightly longer grass, and I think it probably performs better on grass thatís kept to about 2.5cm, whereas we like ours to be around 4cm. Still, theyíre cheap enough to give it a go, and they donít use any but your own power which is a good thing.



Grandad's lawn mower

My older brother helping Grandad cut the lawn, in about 1963


Anyway, enough of the lawn. This last couple of weeks weíve had a great deal of what the Met Office describe as ĎRain, interspersed by showersí. Itís another way of saying that, whether in buckets or a fine spray, itís going to rain pretty much all the time. Suffice to say that itís kept me indoors more than Iíd like.

"...fungi are a sign of natural healthy balance in the garden and will thrive in an environment of Ďmild untidinessí"

All the wet has brought out a fine crop of various fungi on the bark chippings which surround the square-foot beds and on some of the decaying logs, which are piled in a couple of corners. Most of them Iíve seen before, though Iím not sure what they all are, but there is a small clump that were totally unfamiliar and had to be looked up. The caps are about currently up to 3cm across, domed, pale blue and slimy. From searching about for information, I think they are Clitocybe odora, or the Aniseed mushroom, and theyíre supposed to be poisonous. Blue food has never struck me as especially attractive, so Iím not disappointed but itís interesting to look at them. The others provide colour and interest too. The BBCís Ďwildlife gardening guruí, Chris Baines, says that fungi are a sign of natural healthy balance in the garden and will thrive in an environment of Ďmild untidinessí. So thatís okay, then.


Clitocybe odora

I think this is Clitocybe odora


I cut down the last of the tomato plants in the greenhouse last week. It wasnít a bad crop and we were especially pleased with a variety called Aunty Madgeís which we got from the Henry Doubleday Heritage Seed Library. A prolific fruiter, the tomatoes are small, plum-shaped and full of flavour. They were pleasantly sweet and there was little acidity. We also grew Brandywine, a beefsteak tomato, and Tigerella which is a rich red-orange, striped with gold. Both of them were very good, but for some reason the Tigerella was more prone to attack by slugs and snails than the others and quite a few were spoiled.


Those that werenít eaten fresh we made into soups and pizza bases, and very much enjoyed one of Monty Donís ideas, passed on by Karl's mum, who cooks them slowly in a little olive oil, with garlic and eats it with fresh crusty bread. He says a wonderful breakfast, but we've had it as a delicious light supper.

© Copyright Miranda Hodgson 2005


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Published: 28-10-2005

Updated:   28-10-2005