The theme for May’s photography challenge was the garden. I love plants at this time of year – everything is fresh and verdant, bursting with life. So I spent a happy hour pottering about the garden, trying to capture some of the textures and colours of May.
It took me a while to get round to looking at the photos I shot, and when I did I was disappointed with the results. A lot of them are unusable as the focus was off, or the composition too messy. I must remember to check the images in the screen as I go along, rather than waiting til I upload them on a computer. Here’s the best of the (poor) bunch.
When a delivery left us with a wooden pallet, in battered but solid condition, my Womble instinct took over. There had to be a garden wildlife project we could use it for. A quick search for inspiration came up with the idea of turning it into a vertical planter. It’s perfect for making more space for flowers in a small garden like ours. Planted with flowers of a variety of colours and shapes it will be a good additional food source for insects. It took Dr C and I an afternoon to build and plant up. Here’s how we did it.
What we used:
A wooden pallet (you can probably find one for free – some garden centres etc. give them away)
Heavy-duty landscape fabric (you can get this from a garden centre / DIY store – either buy a roll, or by the metre – we used 3m)
Staple gun and lots of staples
Peat-free compost (we used four 50l bags which cost £4 each)
Pipe to make an irrigation system (we used overflow pipe from a DIY store, which cost 86p for 1.5 metres – we used 3 metres worth, plus two elbow joints which cost 60p for two). A length of hosepipe would also work well, but seemed to cost quite a bit more
Hammer and nail to make small holes along the irrigation pipe
Screws and rawl plugs (and a drill and small screwdriver) to secure the pallet to the wall to stop it falling over)
A cheap plastic funnel
Lots of small plants (you can buy trays of bedding plants from a garden centre, or grow your own from seed in small pots)
Constructing the vertical planter
Our pallet was a bit mucky, so we gave it a bit of a wash down and let it dry. I suppose you could paint yours with paint suitable for exterior woodwork if you wanted to, but we decided to stick with its battered look. Hopefully the plants will grow to cover it soon anyway.
Work out where to position it. You’ll need a sturdy wall to attach it to, as otherwise it’s likely to fall over, and when filled with compost it will be heavy. We chose a small garden wall just opposite the window of my study. When choosing your site, pay attention to how much sun it gets, as that will affect which plants will thrive there.
Once you’ve worked out where you want it, drill a couple of holes through the pallet, and use a pencil to mark where this comes on the wall. Then drill a couple of holes into the wall, and insert a rawl plug. Don’t screw it in yet – you need to do some work on the planter first.
Cover the back and underneath of pallet with the landscaping fabric. Make sure there’s enough to cover the sides as well. Using the staple gun, attach the fabric to the pallet underneath and at the back. I used so many staples my hand muscles ached for days afterwards! You may want to use a double layer of landscape fabric for extra strength. Fold the cut ends in underneath before stapling, to give a neat finish and a bit more strength. Don’t staple the fabric in place at the sides yet, as you’ll need to be able to get to these to screw the pallet to the wall.
Using a hammer and nail, make lots of small holes randomly along the length of your irrigation pipe, so the water will reach all parts of your planter.
The photo shows how we arranged ours – a big v that went from the middle of the bottom to the sides of the top, and a smaller v that went from halfway down to the top.
Position your irrigation system in the pallet, making sure the tops of the pipes come out of the top of your planter so you can water it.
Move your pallet into place, and screw it into the wall (a Swiss Army knife screwdriver was handy for this, as most other screwdrivers would be too long to fit in the gap).
Staple the landscape fabric securely to the sides of your pallet (again tucking in the edge so you get a neat and strong finish).
Holding your irrigation pipes in place, fill your planter with compost, giving it a good water every so often as you go, so not just the top compost gets wet. Make sure you firm the compost down a reasonable amount, otherwise the level will sink quite a bit later.
Now it’s time for the fun bit – planting up your planter!
What plants to use
I’m definitely not an expert gardener, so can’t give you much advice on this, but here are a few points to consider:
If you think there’s a chance your pallet may have been treated with chemical preservatives its probably best not to grow plants for you to eat in it. Go for stuff that looks pretty instead.
Different sorts of insects prefer different shapes and colours of flowers, so try to pick a variety that will flower over a long period.
Trailing plants will look good cascading down the vertical planter – I chose a mix of trailing lobelia, petunias and other non-trailing flowers.
Go for single rather than double varieties, as these are easier for insects to get pollen from.
When choosing flowers, think about the conditions they’ll have where your planter is sited – do they like full sun, part shade or full shade?
If you’re not good at remembering to water plants every day you may want to pick varieties that don’t mind being a bit thirsty every now and then.
Pick ones that smell nice as well as look nice – this will help attract insects.
Growing from seed will be much cheaper than buying bedding plants from a garden centre, but requires greater organisation. We don’t have a greenhouse at the moment, which makes looking after young plants hard, so we went for the lazy option. I’m looking forward to being a bit more adventurous next year, and hope to choose some native wildflower species instead.
Planting it up
This is the fun bit. Make sure your compost is nice and damp (try out your irrigation system for the first time!), and water your plants well before starting. I started at the bottom row and used a wooden dibber to make a hole in the compost before poking the plant through. I planted it up quite densely (much closer than it said on the plant labels) to create the visual effect I wanted, but if you’re more patient than me then you could probably use fewer plants. I alternated different types of flowers, to try to keep it interesting visually.
For the first few days it’ll need plenty of water and TLC. Your funnel will help get the water into your irrigation system. Some of my lobelia have suffered as their roots aren’t well enough established yet, so I use a small watering can to make sure they get enough water. But others are doing well with the irrigation system. We’ll see how it does longer term… A few bumblebees have already started taking an interest.
This weekend I took a plunge (or, rather, dipped my toe) in the world of commerce. I have thousands of photos on my hard drive, a tiny fraction of which are (I think) quite presentable, but I rarely do anything with them. So when I heard that my church was organising a craft fair, it seemed like a chance to be brave and show them to the world, and see if the world liked them enough to buy them.
The first step was to find some photos good enough to sell. This meant trawling through my archives, which was a time consuming but pleasant occupation. I narrowed it down to 25 photos, mainly of British wildlife. But I had no idea which of these people might buy.
I thought Wild South would do as a name for my enterprise, and I knocked up a logo, incorporating oak leaves, as oaks are my favourite trees. What do you think of it?
In the end I got 4 of each of the 25 photos printed as cards. I also got a set of business cards printed, with a different photo on the back of each. I found a couple of bird images that would work as bookmarks, and got 50 double-sided bookmarks printed. I also picked 8 of my favourite photos to print out large, and mounted them. My plan was, if they didn’t sell I’d put them up at home (I’ve been meaning to do this for a while). I made up some themed packs of 3-5 cards.
Having never done this before, pricing was a bit of a stab in the dark. I knew what my costs were, but wasn’t sure how much mark-up to add – I wanted to make a decent profit for the charity, but didn’t want to be left with 100 cards at the end of the day.
After a dry run of setting up my stall at home, I was ready for the fair. I was relieved when I made my first sale of the day, and it was encouraging that it was a good one. I got lots of compliments on my photos. By the end of the day I had sold about half of my cards, and 4 mounted prints, but only 8 bookmarks. Some of the photos completely sold out. Owls, British mammals and pretty flowers all sold well, while some of my more exotic photos barely sold at all.
My business cards were very popular – people liked being able to choose which photo was on the back. And I did have more blog visits than usual this weekend, although I don’t know whether that’s connected. The other stallholders were very kind and encouraging, and Dr C helped out a lot. It was also a great opportunity to talk to people about wildlife.
It was a hard day’s work, but not unpleasant or dull. I’m not in a hurry to do another craft fair, and it’s not time to give up the day job quite yet. But I ‘d do it again to raise money for charity.
Anyway, here are the top selling images from the fair.
This is my diary of the wildlife where I live in Oxfordshire, and sometimes the places I visit. I am a 16 year old young naturalist with a passion for British wildlife, especially Badgers and Hares. I have been blogging since May 2013 and you can read my old blog posts at www.appletonwildlifediary.blogspot.co.uk