Monday 18 April 2022

A garden in Ukraine

Yes, Spring has arrived in Tipton - our cherry blossom

Our cherry tree is in blossom - a joy! But as I took this shot this morning it was a joy tinged more than a little with sorrow

In the same way when collecting medicines from our nearby pharmacy - grateful that so much care is available to us - yet my thoughts dwelling on folk in Ukraine unable to get the help they need. I'm sure you have seen the harrowing pictures

I could draw many more parallels. Amid the utter devastation it is often the small detail that tells a story - the abandoned toy, the empty pushchair, the lost shoe. Old Codger notices the gardens ...

One of many, many devastated gardens - see editor's note below for acknowlegement
We came across this sad photograph earlier in the week. It appeared in the Kyiv Independent, a publication launched not too long before Christmas. It is an English language newspaper and an excellent source of information - I check it out every day. You can find it here

So, if I may say, the next time you step outside into your garden, you have some thing to thank God for. And, I might add, something to pray for

[Editor's note: I have applied for permission to use the photograph taken on 6 April 2022. The Kyiv Independent is run by a small and, no doubt, overworked team so I still await a reply. I gladly ackowledge the source and the photographer, Kostyantyn Chernichkin. The location is the village of Andriivkan 40 km from Kyiv]

These former Polish soldiers were resettled in the Staffordshire
Moorlands, seen here in a Buxton quarry. I often drive past their
former Blackshaw camp near the Roaches and Ramshaw Rocks 
Personal reminiscence
Last week, we explained a little of our Polish connections dating back to 1968. However, I ought to mention something that well predates that - I had a uncle by marriage who fled from Poland when the war broke out and fought with the Allies in Italy

He married one of my dad's sisters and never returned to his farm - the predations of the Germans and then the Russians meant that there was nothing to return to. I still have warm memories of him - Uncle Nick (and Aunt Sis)

Wiki acknowledged: by Kosar - own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Only recently, I have recollected that when I was a student, I often worked at a mental hospital. It was a lowly position that brought me into contact with Anna, one of the older cleaners. I learned how she, too, came here - in her case after the end of the war and from Ukraine - yes, the Ukraine

She had suffered the doubled privation of being twice 'liberated' in her homeland by invading armies. She survived the second (by Soviet troops) by hiding in a dustbin and, somehow, getting safely to Britain. Perhaps I should tell you more - call in again, next week

[Note: I wrote the above piece a week ago but then went down with Covid - having escaped right through the various lockdowns. Now, I'm  trying to catch up but a bit short of energy, I'm afraid]

Weeds like this definitely spoil the lawn
- dig out the tap root
A bit of gardening!
No, I have not forgotten that this is a gardening column - but I'm sure you'll bear with me. In terms of catching up let me share few tips about Spring jobs - first of all the favourite: weeding!

It's not too late - in fact, it's a really good time to weed as, with the spurt in growth, it's now easier to tell what's what. Nearly everything that comes out is grist for the mill - the compost heap, that is. Mix with grass mowings and the heap will heat up nicely - mine is running at 60 degrees just now. Whilst you are mowing, look out for weeds that can be removed from the lawn. The worst are like the type in the photo. I only go for the worst - sorry, better things to do

Ground Elder rhizomes
Persistent weeds
Although Codger is relaxed about weeds in the lawn, he does mount the occasional attack on persistent weeds in the garden. The worst offender is ground elder - a word of encouragement: it can be controlled! Just keep at it - a blitz once per year knocks it back BUT do not put it on the compost heap - instead condemn to the council green bin

With a bit of practice you can recognise the roots (strictly, rhizomes - they are white with sharp growth points). Track them back and take out as much as you can - they eventually become demoralised - keep at it. Try not to leaves bit in - they regenerate like lightening

I tried this out as an experiment - worked fine
as a mulch. Would not use as compost, though
Once weeding is complete, it is time for a good mulch. keen as I am on making your own compost for this purpose, Codger is first to admit that it is difficult to produce enough of the stuff. You could use commercial potting compost but that is an expensive option

However, an alternative: I recently experimented with the organic soild improver sold at The Range - at four bags (200 litres) for £10 - a good deal in my reckoning. It was heavy to lift - probably because it was packed wet - but it seems to have done the job

I would not use this as as a potting compost and, as far as I can tell, it's not sold for that purpose. Worth knowing about if you live in range of The Range!

Last year I was buying Homebase.
Asda has shaped up best this year
Compost deals
You may have spotted that, like everything else, the garden centres are charging more - often a lot more - for compost. This could be related to the move to peat-free - more on thattopic another time. Having shopped around a bit, currently I rate Asda as doing the best deal - four bags (150 litres) for £12

As I type this, the goldfinches are raiding the birdfeeder. In our garden they seem to have taken over from the sparrows. They still visit but in smaller numbers. Greenfinches are number two - plus the usual bossy pigeons and a few blackbirds keeping them company. Things go a bit quiet now and then - usually a sign that the sparrowhawk is around. We also gets frequently checked by the heron - but I have ways of outwitting this wily old bird

See the upturned crates on the left of the picture. My homebrew anti-heron measure - the fish hide when in danger!

He (or she, or both!) have spotted the fish feeding. I have probably told you about this before. When the water temperature is below 10 degrees they do not feed. Nudge ten - and they are away!

Queen bumble bees are on the prowl. Following a tip on a BBC Radio programme I sometimes drop what I am doing doing follow them around. Fascinating to watch as they try to set up a home in our garden

The map of Central Europe once looked very different
(Map acknowledgement: Mathiasrex via Wikipedia)
Excellent radio programme
Before I finsh - and time presses - I must tell you about a top-class series on Radio Four. Three programmes called The Invention of Poland. Did you know the the most spoken lanuage in this country, after English, is Polish? Probably not! We are poor in of knowledge of Central and Eastern Europe - but the present crisis in Ukraine gives us a reason to put that right - and this series is a good place to start as the history of Poland and Ukraine and very closely linked

If you only have half-an-hour I suggest you listen to episode three - the final programme. You can find it here

Getting relief to Ukraine
We are now back on our feet.
The weeding is done and we're
ready to receive visitors.
Come and take a look!
As I explained in our previous post, I am intent on helping to get relief to Ukrainians suffering at home - or in neighbouring Poland. I have been speaking to my favoured giving charity - Stewardship - about this. I hoping that the organisation run by my Polish friends will soon be on the Stewardship Partners list

Click here - and you'll see an impressive array of humanitarian work already in progress. Our friends ahve just got 20 tonnes of food and medical supplies out to the East - driving their own van. I'll be giving more details next week

In the meantime ...
... if you are doing some work in the garden and need plants - do get in touch. Why not make a visit now we are back on our feet? Every penny will be well used - and you will be doing a bit of good for others at the same time

Best wishes from the Garden Codger

Stop Press. Even as I have produced this episode, news has continued to flow in about vicious and  unwarranted attcakes on Ukraine. Please stay with us and support if you can

Promising pear blossom

Marsh marigolds making their seasonal splash

One effect of the mild winter: last year's geraniums surived and flower again

Cherry blossom says: Spring is here!

Our little woodland corner


  1. Cheers for putting in the link for the radio programme, will listen to it this week

  2. I often listen to the radio whilst gardening - combination works well. I'll be mentioning another excellent Radio 4 series soon. Watch out for the next instalment