For the Best Gardeners in the Cardiff Area

   Mar 29

Your Questions About Gardening

Chris asks…

How do I make a large clay sculpture?

I want to make a lifesize sculpture of my dog that I can have a concrete mould made from for a garden statue. Can someone tell me what materials I should use? Like, what kind of clay, what should I use for the bulk of the sculpture, etc? I’ve made small clay sculptures, but never anything on such a large scale….I don’t think sculpey is what I’m going to need. ;o)
okay, so I would need to use an air drying clay, not one that needs to be baked or fired?

GardenersCardiff answers:

As you want to make a mold of it, you don’t have to construct it so it will fire. If you can weld, I would recommend to weld a basic armature together of the correct proportions as the finished piece will be heavy (how big is your dog, dwarf pincher or irish wolfhound?). Then you can use newspaper/straw or whatever other filler you can think of. Chickenwire is useful to keep filler in place. After you modeled approximately what you want with your filler you can put your clay on. If you have a receipe for oil based clay you can make some of that. It’s more expensive, but it gives you more time to work on it – which is however not necessarily a good thing. I prefer paper clay as it is easier to fix if it gets to dry, but normal clay will do only you have to be careful so it stays workable.
If you want to have a ceramic piece (which I agree will be nicer than concrete), preferable make your own paper clay. First figure out how big the kiln you have available is. If necessary plan to construct different sections to be put together after firing (look at the work of Viola Frey).
Make slabs. Usually you will have to let them dry over night a bit, so they are not too floppy. Then I would construct the body as a hollow piece. Use pieces of slabs as internal struts to give it stability (obviously never enclosing a space completely, poke a hole through). The key is working slowly but steadily, letting each section dry somewhat (not completely) to stabilize before you build up on it. Then if the body is reasonably firm, I’d build some support to fit (e.g. From bricks) so I could build the legs. Support anything (e.g. Head or tail) by pieces of wood or whatever you need until they are hard enough to support their own weight. You can build quite large sculptures (I mananged 5-6 feet high) without any internal metal or wood support structures this way. Which makes firing possible – if you have access to a kiln big enough. Universities can have kilns of the walk in size.

Ruth asks…

Which are the best / easiest plants / flowers / veggies to grow in pots / containers in small ish UK garden th

I have a fairly small garden and am hoping to pretty it up a bit with containers and pots. I would welcome any suggestions and tips as to which plants / flowers / veggies are best to grow in pots etc. Thanx in advance

GardenersCardiff answers:

You don’t want much, do you! I am in the same position as you and I also came late to horticulture. Therefore, I cannot ‘do a Monty Don’ for you! I can only tell you what successes I have had in my small garden, with containers and pots. Much depends, by the way, on which way your garden faces. Soil condition is not a problem if you are just using containers – as you can look for plants which do well in widely available composts. I have have always done well with my local supermarket bags of all-purpose compost. I avoided ‘specialist’ plants which need particular attention.

Basically, it was a hit and miss affair but the flowers I had most success with were the good old Busy Lizzies (Impatiens). After the growing season I often ‘chopped off’ stalks and put them in water in coffee jars inside on window sills and most stalks grew roots ready for the next season. You can’t get cheaper propagation than that!

Petunias always work well and the colour varieties seem to be endless. Long growing season. Cheap to buy. Dwarf geraniums, which actually look like miniature roses, do well in pots.

A great buy was the osteospermum range. These come in many colours and look a little like daises. You can’t stop them flowering and coming back each year!

Pansies and lobelias, for delicate looking plants, are surprisingly hardy, as are Sweet Williams.

More expensive plants are perenniels. I have had success with Asiatic lilies of various colours. They grow quite tall and are hardy but the spectacular flowers only last for a few weeks. Camelias give good colour during winter and spring. Peiris give good foliage and delicate flowers. For other foliage contrast, various ivy plants do well, as do slow-growing conifers – which you must have seen in people’s front gardens. I have even tried ‘supermarket roses’ and they gave fantastic results for a few years, although they can’t stay in pots forever. Still, they are cheap enough. Dahlias have done well, also, for several years at a time.

Hanging baskets always look nice. You can buy ready-made ones if you are lazy!

Care of the plants.

I only go for those which require minimal maintenance. I am not keen on reading up on minute details, as I am not a gardener! I want to ‘pretty up’ the garden, as you say.

However, make sure that the containers are of suitable size for the plants. Put broken crockery/pots, etc. In the bottoms of pots for drainage. ‘Dead head’ flowers regularly to promote growth. Feed with, say, ‘Miracle Grow’ during the growing season. Water reasonably but not excessively. The hardy plants I have mentioned can stand a bit of neglect! Remove dead growth ready for the winter and take inside those plants which cannot tolerate frost.

I place many pots on those plastic saucers – but with the saucers upside down. This prevents waterlogging in heavy rain and helps to keep off garden pests. You can then sprinkle anti-slug pellets around the bases.

As for ‘veggies’, I have only tried a few, as there is too much involved with propagtion, ‘planting on’, sheds and greenouses, etc.! I bought one of those supermarket ‘potato towers’ and bought the recommended varieties of potatoes from the garden centre. Quite good success, except for one year when disease struck. You would need mesh covering to keep out the critters! Some fruits like tomatoes and strawberries have done very well but you have to look out for the squirrels!

I am not into all of the things which experts talk about. However, for years, my little garden has been a ‘blast of colour and contrast’. Where there were failures, I tried something else, as long as it was cheap. I did all of this with one pair of garden gloves, a trowel and a pair of secateurs! I am not Capability Brown and I don’t care about designer gardens and ‘balance’ and that sort of thing..

Experts would be horrified to read all of this and tell me how much more I could have achieved but I would not have been ashamed to ‘open my garden to the public’ – three or four at a time, that is!

I hope that my ‘non-gardener tips’ will help you. If you become more serious about gardening, ignore me completely and go to the experts! Good luck.

Carol asks…

How is gardening compost made?

Our soil in TN is horrible for growing vegetables and I’ve been told next year to try and mix compost 12″ deep with peat moss and this should help?

GardenersCardiff answers:

Compost is used vegetable matter, that is broken down, to produce a “peat”, or soil if left to its own long enough…

DO NOT ADD ANY PROTEIN – MEATS IN THE PILE!!! This will make it smell like a garbage dump! And your neighbor will have a right to complain because there WILL be rats then!

Also, grass is not a good thing to add, because its mostly all water 90% and it will STINK!! When it decompose, so it has to be turned once a day, until its decomposed in there, (and not everyone wants to turn it that much, because grass decomposes down to almost nothing after the water is out of it, so, its not worth the bother!).

What you do, is take all the vegetable matter, and put it in a bin, or a pile, and turn it every week. (I would put in leaves, and other plant materials to make it a huge amount, because a little bit and rodents may come into the thing, if a lot, then the compost pile will get “hot” and no rodents will live in it!)…

A proper compost will get to about 114 degrees, as I recall, and no rodents will live in that. The best thing you can get is a pitch fork, to turn the large compost at least once a week, thus it will break down faster into a moss like material.

Then, you take that, and add it to the soil, so the organics will make the ground more permeable and water and air can get through the soil better, plus, it wont compact as tight and be easier to work the next time.

I wish you well..


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