Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Ivy: on walls and on trees

Ah, ivy.


I hate, loathe and detest ivy. Yup, I'll come right out and say it, I hate the stuff. I know the bees love it, and it's an important nectar source for the tail end of the year, but in gardens? Seriously, no thank you.

From my many years working as part of a canal restoration group, I can assure all suburban gardeners out there that there are miles upon miles of mature ivy all over the country, and it really is not necessary for domestic-scale gardeners to allow their smaller gardens to be swamped by monstrous growths of ivy.

Yesterday I was doing a one-off job locally, where the lady owner was quite upset at the horrendous growth of ivy coming over the back party wall: she had done her best to cut it off as high as she could reach, but it was actually coming under and through the wall as well.

Yes, I did say "through" the wall: a lot of garden walls (the sort you find dividing plots on modern housing estates) are built of only one thickness of brick. This is known as a half-brick thickness wall (don't you love these jargon terms?) and are easily spotted because when you look at them, all you can see are long edges of bricks.

There you go - look familiar?

The problem is that ivy shoots can easily work their way through any tiny weakness in the mortar and can end up popping out on the other side.

Then, as the shoot grows and enlarges, it displaces the mortar: and as it enlarges further, it can push the bricks apart, leading to the collapse of the wall.

This doesn't happen on house walls, generally speaking: they are made more sturdily, of a double layer of bricks  and are better pointed (the mortar between the joints) - the old prejudice about ivy on houses dates back to the days of lime mortar, which was easily penetrated by ivy roots. On modern houses, it merely grows over the windows, rips off the gutters, and makes your house look as though it's derelict. Well, that's my opinion!

In this case, I suggested that the lady owner pop round and ask the neighbour backing onto her whether they'd be kind enough to clear the ivy off: as in most of these cases, something which the houseowner had not even considered doing, and - again, as in most cases - the neighbour was as nice as pie about it, saying that they had "no idea" there was so much ivy there, and agreeing to pull off as much as they could, the very next day.

Honestly, it is well worth having a quiet word as soon as you notice something like this, rather than letting it go on for years and merely heaping curses upon the unknowing neighbour. The same goes for hedges, conifers, trees, etc: it's always better to go round and ask them before you start getting really cross about it. Approaching them in a fighting spirit is NOT the way to get it done: a calm approach along the lines of "I wonder if you'd be kind enough to.." is much better.

And in the rare cases where you meet refusal, well, then we go to Other Methods, which I won't discuss here!

Another example of Horrible Ivy in a different garden is here - just look at this plum tree branch:

Isn't that horrendous?

In case you can't make sense of what you are seeing, there is a dark grey tree branch coming towards us, being strangled by the lighter grey ivy, which, in the case of the strand above the branch, is very nearly as thick as the branch itself.

The weight of all this ivy had caused the plum tree's branches to lean over so far that the tips were sweeping the ground, and although this should have made it easier to get at the crop, in fact the tree was so smothered in ivy that we couldn't even see any crop, let alone get to it.

Drastic measures were called for, and my client agreed that the only thing to do was to remove the worst affected limbs altogether, as it was completely impossible to remove the ivy from the branches, and that edge of the garden was disappearing under the ivy.

Half an hour with a bowsaw later, and the garden was miraculously enlarged by some five yards or more!

Even once I had this branch on the ground in pieces, it was still impossible to remove the ivy, it was welded that fast to the bark. So I took (with permission, of course) a few lengths of it for my friend  Morag, who has a small lathe,  and who had expressed an interest in irregular fruit tree wood, to see if she could extract something lovely from it.

So there you are, two reasons for my dislike of ivy, along with reassurance that although yes, the bees love and need it, there is plenty of it out there and you don't need to sacrifice your garden to the God of Ivy. 


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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Tousled meadows and badgered wheat...

I came across this phrase the other day, and thought "what a lovely expression".

"Tousled meadows" exactly describes the sort of mowing that I get lumbered with am asked to do - that's why I was so pleased to get a chance to do some proper scything the other day, in the big paddock.

And as for the badgered wheat, I had never heard the phrase before, but somehow I knew exactly what they meant: instead of  nice neat upstanding wheat, easy to reap, you get a tangled mess of stuff lying in all directions.

The dictionary definition of "badgered" :

"To tease or annoy, as a badger when baited; to worry or irritate persistently."

So there I was at 6.45 the other morning, standing in a tousled meadow, looking at the badgered grasses.

My client and I had been discussing the generally poor performance of the meadow this year, with me firmly of the view that we should never have allowed the Cow Parsley to get a hold two years ago.

We've had hardly any wild flowers this season - a few horseshoe vetch, some clovers, meadow buttercup of course, but not much else besides, and the grass was definitely getting stronger and taller than ever before - probably due to the reduction of the semi-parasitical Yellow Rattle (Rhianthus minor).

So we have been assiduously pulling up the cow parsley ( I say "we" but of course I mean "I") and spraying certain areas with Verdone - lawn weed killer, kills broadleaves but does not kill grass, allegedly - and, in moments of stress, I have even resorted to just ripping off the flowering heads to prevent them from seeding.

So here is one small corner of the meadow.

Bit of a mess, eh?

As you can see, nil in the way of wildflowers, and the grass is getting rank: instead of the smaller knee-high varieties, we appear to be overtaken by waist-high stuff, which is not as attractive, and which "badgers" easily.

There's a crab apple in amongst all that lot,  it used to have a nice neat planting hole around it, but the meadow grass has somewhat smothered the area.

Ten minutes with the scythe later:

There you go! Much better.

It is still rough old grass, and there are molehills - the enemy of all scythers. Scythemen? What do you call people who scythe?

No, not Reapers, grim or otherwise *laughs*,  because "reaping" is where you are cutting something with a crop at the top of it, a grain such as wheat or barley.

Cutting grass - for a hay crop, or just for neatness - is called "mowing" so I could be a Mower-man, I suppose. "Man" in this context is, of course, short for "human" so we don't need to get involved with any of that silly "chair-person"  rubbish.

Once I had scythed off all the tousled grass, I discovered - having forgotten to bring along my pitchfork for tidying up the grass - that I could use the scythe to gently roll the cut stuff up into a sausage, which was easy to pick up and cart off to the grass pile.

I am not at all sure that the supplier of the scythe would be pleased to see me doing it!

Here's my scythe being used to roll up the grass:

Doesn't it still look clean and new? Who said the camera never lies? It's actually covered in grass stains, mud, and yes, I admit it, blood, from where I was merrily scything under a hedge (The Merry Mower-Man? The Merry Mower-Maid? Oh good lord no, far too much like a folk song *theatrical shudder*) and didn't realise that the hedge contained huge brambles, which grabbed my left hand as I completed a swing, and ripped it right open.

Blood! Blood everywhere! Oh, how I suffer for my job. (Cries of "sympathy! sympathy!")

Er hem, sorry about that, on with the plot - having done all the work I had been asked to do, and the sun not yet being hot, I decided to re-cut the bit under the Black Walnut tree, to see what sort of job a scythe makes of short grass.

Here it is: earlier this season this area was waist-high in cow parsley, with an underplanting of Hogweed, despite an application of Verdone in spring. We re-sprayed, despite the instructions to "only apply once per year" and it managed to kill off quite a lot. I hand-pulled a couple of barrows-full, and ripped the heads off some more that came through, and on balance it wasn't too bad. By last week, the grass was actually starting to recover, and there were tufts to be seen: I set to work, concentrating on getting a nice even swing, and reduced it down to this:

Go on, admit it, you can't see the difference, can you?

I can - although while I was scything it didn't seem to have much effect, by the end I could see my windrows - long rows of cut grass - and it was now evenly short. Well, if I were being totally honest, unevenly short. I'm no expert scyther! (nope, I don't like "scyther"  as a name: having just googled it, apparently it's a Pokemon species. Say no more.)  But overall I'm quite impressed with the effect of a scythe on tufty grass,  handled by an only moderately competent operator (nope, I don't like "operator" at all. Might have to go with Mower-Maid. *sigh*).

I don't think I'd care to attempt to cut a lawn with my scythe, but I'm now quite happy to work on fairly short grass, as well as long grass.

All I had to do then was go and rip off the ivy trying to grow up the trunk - one of my pet hates - and I was done with the meadow.

Best of all, I'd completed the work, and the extra experimental  short-tufts-mowing, with no-one being any the wiser, as the scythe is so quiet. I absolutely cannot imagine getting a strimmer going before 7am, can you?!

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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Box hedge topiary: starting a new wave

For the last couple of months, one of my clients has been considering changing a short length of box hedging into something more interesting, and each time I arrived I would find canes in various places, loops of rope, or small areas chopped out of it, as she experimented with various looks.

At one point it was going to be another cloud hedge: then it was going to have regular rises and falls, and several notches were cut in the top to see what that would look like - luckily, box is very forgiving, and keeps on growing back!

Last week the decision was made: it's to be a wavy-topped hedge, a little higher than it is at present, with rounded ends and two main humps.

Here is the existing hedge, somewhat in need of a trim as we'd been letting it grow for a while on the grounds that we weren't sure how much of it we would need:

Canes were put in to mark the position of the two "dips", and were cut to the right height. The plan is to allow the sections between the dips to grow a little higher than they are at present, so it's going to look a bit odd for a while.

I cut across the top of the hedge first, to get the right height: then cut the front and back in the normal way, then tapered off the dip once I could see where I was. I also rounded off the far right-hand end.

Here is the first dip in place - as you can see, nasty bare brown stems have been revealed, but they will quickly "green up".

Here's the second dip, just starting: the first cut straight across from front to back, using secateurs, (as many of the stems are tough and woody) revealing the bare brown inner stems.

And here is the same dip after using the shears to clip the front face and the back face, which drastically improves the look of the new part, then levelling off the new dip. I also lightly clipped the top edge, even though we want it higher: light clipping encourages bushy growth, so although it seems the wrong thing to do, it will result in a stronger hedge.

And here is the finished article, looking somewhat lumpy, due to the earlier try-outs, but once those smaller dips have filled in, we should have a sort of upside down "swag".

As always after clipping box, we gave it a good feed and some water,  and now we will leave it for a few weeks to "fluff up".

And if we don't like it, we can always cut it into something different!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Gardening in Excessive Heat.

There, I said it, now the heatwave is guaranteed to break, and it will probably be cold and wet until the end of the year....

OK, no sounds of thunder so far...

People are constantly asking me how I can bear to work in this heat. At the time of writing, the UK is two weeks into a heatwave, yesterday it was 32 degrees, which must be very nearly ninety degrees in old money, and therefore far too hot to work.

But work I did.

Well, after the winter just gone, I need to make as much hay as I can, while the sun is shining! No, we're not talking about scythes today, it's just an expression.

So how to cope with the heat?

Obvious rules;

1) Clothing.  Loose clothes are cooler than skimpy tight fitting ones. You might think that a strappy sleeveless tee is cool, but keeping the sun off your skin is actually better.  Wicking tees are much, much more comfy than cotton ones which cling damply to your body. I habitually work in shorts anyway (my motto: "Live and Die in Shorts") and yes, I am still wearing thick socks inside my boots, but they wick the sweat away and are perfectly comfortable to wear. They're nothing special, just wicking walking socks from Milletts, the camping shop.

2) Water. Keep drinking it. I take a small bottle of tap water with me and swig it when I need it, topping up from various outside taps. It's always best to run the water for a while before drinking, to ensure that it's "fresh" water, not water that's been sitting in their pipes for months... once it runs cold, it's clean to drink, and more refreshing than lukewarm. Never, ever drink from water butts.... when you do drink, don't gollop it:  take a big swig, and swish it around in your mouth before swallowing. This way you get more benefit from the same volume. If very thirsty, swish it around then gargle before swallowing it. I know, sounds disgusting, and best done out of sight of the house, but very refreshing. There are no hard and fast rules as to how much you should drink, but I can tell you that I got through four bottles-worth yesterday afternoon, that's about two litres.

3) Water II. Every time you pass the outside tap or the watering can - oh dear! I've spilled water on myself! Wiping wet hands along your bare arms and legs promotes cooling. In moments of stress, plunge your hands into cold water, or run the tap over the inside of your wrists - blood is like radiator fluid, and the palms of your hands are full of blood vessels.

4) Shade. Try to stay in the shade. You know your garden, you know where the shade is and when: put off jobs on the sunny side until later in the day. If you have jobs that must be done and which are in the sun, try to do ten minutes in the sun, then ten minutes on a shady job, to cool down again. It's all about "core temperature" and not letting it get too high.

5) Hats. Not for me - I find wearing a hat makes me hotter than not doing so, but you might find it helpful.

6) The Wet Hanky Trick. Take a large cotton hanky - a man's one, preferably - and soak in cold water. Squeeze out the excess, fold in half into a triangle, roll it up and tie loosely around your neck, with the "point" at the back. This has the dual function of protecting the back of your neck from the sun, and cooling you down. Every ten or fifteen minutes, take it off, wipe the sweat off your face and neck, "flap" it a couple of times, which will miraculously turn hot sweat into cool water, re-fold and re-tie. Magically, it's cold again. Lovely.

There, hope that helps!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

"Why did you get a scythe in the first place?"

...someone asked me.

The story starts several years ago, when I bought a chainsaw in order to help with chopping down trees on the canal - I am a member of my local canal restoration group, and we were going through a phase of constantly having to be chopping down trees.

I did the training course, got the certificate, bought a suitable machine and all the (expensive) protective clothing: used it for a while, then there was one day when I'd forgotten to take it, and was handed an ancient bow-saw.

I guess you can imagine the look on my face.

However, being a hard-working and dedicated volunteer as I am, I bravely took hold of the bowsaw, applied it to the tree in question, expecting to be there for the rest of the day, and to my surprise it was quick, simple, and not actually that much hard work.

Compared to the faff of preparing my chainsaw, togging up safely, getting a banksman to stand guard, using the thing, sweating buckets inside the safety clothing, then cleaning and sharpening it afterwards... well, the bowsaw seemed to be so very simple, safe, and quiet. Also I could stop for a rest whenever I wanted to, and I didn't need anyone on hand for Health & Safety reasons.  And frankly, a chainsaw is a scary piece of equipment, you always, ALWAYS have to be so aware of the many dangers. With a bowsaw, you just have to avoid falling over onto it, and even that does not always break the skin. ("Ask me how I know that..." yes, I've cut myself on the teeth of a bowsaw in transit once or twice (never while using one), it blimmin' hurts, but not as much as falling onto a chainsaw would do.)

So I learned a valuable lesson all those years ago, that we are rather quick to reach for the power tools these days, when sometimes there are perfectly adequate hand tools that do the same job: maybe a little slower, but without the danger, and - important when working on the canal - very nearly silently. Sometimes it is good not to attract attention.

Then, coincidence being what it is, the canal group brought in new H&S rules which would have meant I had to re-qualify, and at that time I changed my business insurance (for gardening) and the chainsaw was no longer covered, so I would not be using it at work any more.

It therefore got put away  ("For sale: one chainsaw, not used for many years") and ever since,  I have used a bowsaw. My clients are constantly amazed at how "big" a tree I can tackle with just a bowsaw,  and how fast it is: and I have come to accept that anything too big for my bowsaw is big enough to warrant a tree surgeon anyway.

This has saved me a fortune in petrol over the years, not to mentioning reducing my eco-footprint to, well, very little indeed when you consider an annual bowsaw blade replacement (about £1.50) against the expense of running a chainsaw, insurance included.

And I have to admit, there is a certain satisfaction in using just your own muscle power to get these jobs done.

So when I was introduced to the scythe, it was a similar feeling - it's silent (nearly),  I can go at my own pace, I can do it at any time of day - an unsung virtue, incidentally, which I should have included in the earlier post comparing scythe V strimmer - as it's not noisy enough to frighten the neighbours: it doesn't use any petrol, and is in fact very nearly cost-free to use.

I don't want you to think that I am one of those "the end is nigh" doom merchants, buying up stocks of tinned food against the end of the world, but it's nice to know that if there are power cuts or petrol shortages, I can still chop down trees to feed the fire, and keep the weeds under control!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Scythe V Strimmer

Almost the first question everyone asks  - apart from "is it heavy?" followed by "Gosh! Isn't it light!" when I let them hold it - is "how fast is it, compared to a strimmer?"

That's the wrong question.

For several reasons.

Firstly, it's not a competition between one and the other. There is no competition, in my view: I will never use a strimmer again, but I will be using my scythe wherever I would previously have used a strimmer.

(NB, "For Sale, Petrol Strimmer : also for sale,  Electric Strimmer with long lead, contact me for details.")

But if you really wanted to compare them, then I would invite you to check out YouTube, and the west country scythe V strimmer competitions. It's quite interesting:. Scythes are slower on some terrains, faster in other situations, so the results are not a clear victory for either side. Personally I would say that a strimmer is generally faster, but not really by much, and it's not actually about speed, it's about precision, and also about enjoying the work rather than sweating yourself to death.

Here are my comparison thoughts:

1) Preparation.

The scythe takes a couple of minutes to assemble, as you can't really move it around with the blade on. Well, you can, actually (thinking about it) with a blade cover: luckily my good mate Jim very kindly made me a superb plastic ventilated cover, perfect for moving it, so if it would fit in my car in one piece, then there is no reason why I couldn't carry it ready assembled, other than attracting rather a lot of attention... but at present I carry it in pieces, so it takes a minute or two to bolt it together. You then have to fill the honing stone holder with water and clip it onto your belt.

A strimmer needs to be filled with petrol, and the operator needs to tog up with all the protective gear, and then you need to get the darned thing started, all of which used to take me 10-20 mins.

Scythe 1, Strimmer 0.

2) Using it.

It's quite similar in use - most strimmer operators swing it from left to right as they move, and I swing my scythe in a similar way, but I cut from right to left only. Theoretically I therefore cut half as much but in practise I still seem to progress through the grass at the same speed.

No points to either side.

3) Nettles etc.

My petrol strimmer used to struggle to get through tough stuff like nettles and burdock. I would often end up with ragged stumps where I had blasted away at them for some time.

My scythe goes through everything. Like butter. It's amazing.

Scythe 2, Strimmer 0

4) Long grass

With the strimmer, it would cut the long grass easily enough, but after a couple of swipes you were up to your knees in tumbled stalks, and couldn't see where you were strimming.

The scythe moves them all neatly to the left, so you can see your next stroke clearly.

Scythe 3, Strimmer 0

5) Goose grass and bindweed.

Oh dear, they both get horribly tangled: the strimmer used to get all choked up with long bits, and the scythe can't move the cut stalks away cleanly if they are all tied up together. No points to either side.

6) Clearing up the mess

The strimmer tends to mash everything down to nothing, whereas the scythe makes hay. So if I am being honest about clearing up afterwards, and discounting the fact that scything produces a crop, then I have to say the strimmer gets the point.

Scythe 3, Strimmer 1

7) Interruptions while working: maintenance.

It's about equal - the strimmer needs occasional fuel stops, and frequent line adjustment, but if you have a decent bump-stop reel, then you don't have to stop the machine to get more line out. Mind you, it normally gets stuff wrapped around the spool several times in a session, which means stopping to clear it. Properly, you should turn the engine off while you do this...

The scythe has to be honed every five or ten minutes or so. It takes about 30seconds to do - experts do it in about 10 seconds but a) I am not an expert (yet) and b) it's not a race!

On balance, no points to either side.

8) Interruptions while working: spectators.

I have never, EVER, had anyone come up to me and start chatting while I was strimming. Dogs would yap, babes would cry, windows would shut, but no-one ever stopped me to talk about it.

Scything, on the other hand... everyone and his dog wants to have a closer look, ask "why are you not using a strimmer?" and tell me stories about their great-great grandfathers.

At least you can continue to scythe while talking, once a boundary has been established:
"May I watch you?"
"Not if you stand there!"
"Why not?"
"Well, you see this wide sweep of cut grass..."
"And you see this pointy end of this sharp blade?"
"If you stand there, you'll get this pointy end right in your shins!"

So, again, being honest, scything does suffer from distractions if there are people around.

Scythe 3, Strimmer 2

9) Cleaning up afterwards.

My strimmer has to be emptied of petrol ("pooey!") which invariably spills all over it and the petrol container, making the car stink all the way home. Then, at home, it needs a good clean, especially of the shield around the line, which gets clogged with a green mush.

The Scythe has to have the blade taken off - although, as per above, I'm thinking I might stop doing that - a quick wipe with a glove, a quick squirt of WD40 on the blade,  empty out the water and that's it.

That's two points for the Scythe.

Scythe 5, Strimmer 2.

We have a winner!

And I'm not awarding any points for sheer enjoyment of using it. But I assure you, it is a pleasure to use!

OK, you get blisters the first few times, especially if it's really hot weather, as it has been, but the strimmer - oh I forgot to add a point for the scythe not weighing as much - used to make both arms and my shoulders ache, not to mention cramp in the hand from holding the trigger down.

So, on balance, then? Scythe wins, hands down!  But that's only my opinion...

Monday, 15 July 2013

Strimmer? I am never using one again, ever!

Never! Never!

And why not, you ask?

Answer, last year I bought an Austrian Scythe, after my mate Jim let me have a go with his one when we were working on the canal. I was impressed with how easy it was to use, how light it was, and how very, very quiet it was.

A couple of weeks ago I started getting the usual requests from clients to bring my strimmer for specific jobs: one client had a mass of nettles, one had a meadow that had got out of hand, then there's trimming the rough stuff around the tree trunks - that sort of thing. They crop up every year, they always make me groan, but they have to be done.

This year, instead of the noisy strimmer,  I took along my scythe and did the jobs with that: I was really impressed with how easy it was, how quick it was, and the quality of the job was no less than it used to be with a strimmer.

Last week I got the chance to use it as it is supposed to be used, on plain long grass, which was quite a treat after scything round obstacles, rough grass, mole hills, sticky weeds, ivy etc.... I was looking forward to improving my swing.

Here's one client's top paddock, a rolling stretch of unmown grassland, with my newly scythed strip, to show you how wide a swathe it cuts, and that's my scythe lying on the freshly cut grass at the far end:

and here is my finished strip, going right round the corner and down towards the barn, showing the "rail tracks" of my feet, not quite perfect lines as I forgot that the grass edge curved round, and had to make a course correction mid-way down the row, whoops!:

My windrows are not at all bad - that's the pile of cut grass on the left - and you can see that the area of newly cut grass is quite clear of bits and pieces.

Scything is the easy bit, it's raking up all the grass that takes the time: luckily this client was happy for me to leave the windrows, as they leave the cuttings on the short-grass area.

But oh, it's heavenly not to have to wear thick trousers (against all the bits a strimmer spits out at high speed) and gloves (ditto) and a hard hat and visor (for eye protection) and ear muffs (against the incredible noise of a strimmer) and so on, not to mention the stink of the petrol, the constant pulling out of more line as it snaps off, and the arm-ache of having to keep restarting the thing. Plus it stinks up the car on each journey.

A scythe, on the other hand, can be used with bare hands and feet if you wish, as the only real danger is to onlookers stupid enough to stand behind your left shoulder. Personally, I wear shoes as my feet are not particularly tough, and I wear one glove when honing, as the blade is very, very, VERY, sharp. And as for the noise, well, the blade goes "swish! swish!" and every five minutes you get "tzing! tzing!" as the blade is honed, and that's it.

And I can't tell you how much pleasure there is, in using your own strength, with a well-made, well-balanced tool, to get a job done quietly, smoothly, and easily.

Ah, I love my scythe!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Refurbishing the sale bench.

It's been there a while, and it was getting a bit tatty - so I decided it was time to repaint my sales bench up at Dews Meadow Farm Shop (shameless plug) which is on the A338 just north of Wantage.

The blackboard top is working very well, I use it to draw attention to new plants, or to promote particular lines: it's also self-cleaning, as the rain removes the chalk!

The rest of the bench, however, does not clean itself, and it's getting quite tired-looking.

They close on Tuesdays, so after work on Monday I headed up there, took off all the plants, removed the printed signs, wiped off all the cobwebs, and repainted it.

Here it is, freshly painted and looking much, much better than it did.

The Honesty Box on the corner is tilted forward to allow the underneath part to dry, in case you are wondering why it is at such a crazy angle.

Painting the bench has made me aware that it's getting a bit decayed now, so I will have to think about replacing it with a newer one - but I think it will hold out for another few months yet.

Then on Tuesday afternoon, having given it plenty of time to dry, I popped back, and restocked the bench with some fresh plants, newly labelled, and some new printed signs to replace the old ones, which were getting a bit faded.

On the left-hand side - not visible from here - is the Rachel's Plants sign, as that is the side that faces the shop door and the car park, so people will see it first.

On this side I have the note about recycling pots, to encourage people to bring them back for re-use, along with what turned out to be a very necessary sign pointing out where the payment box is.

Yes, I know that painting it the same colour as the bench is not the best idea!  I suppose bright yellow might make it stand out...

So there you go, that's that job done for the summer.

Talking of which, it's raining again today.