There is a great sigh of relief this time of year when we finally complete the chipping up of the compost.
For five years we have been storing and then chipping our garden waste instead of burning it. This seemed kinder to the environment but I have no proof, calculations or evidence this is true.
However there was an economic case, especially if we took the long view because we are able to reuse the green waste and cut down the amount of compost, top soil and fertilizer we buy. We have seen the beds looking more ‘voluptuous’ (if you are allowed to use such a word to describe a pile of mud), easier to work and with fewer weeds.
Significant factors to consider when chipping include:
Getting a decent chipper. If you don’t raise a sweat feeding your chipper (and I don’t mean unblocking it) then get a different one. We need two or three fit people to keep the Bandit 65XP fully busy.
Sort your waste. Chippers don’t like soil. They can take green material but only if woody material is going through with it. So if you choose to pile your garden cuttings and pruning for a later chipping session then separate out the waste so you can blend it appropriately through the machine making the use of your time quick and efficient.
Turn regularly or two year cycle. If you can turn your chippings regularly and keep them damp a finely chipped large pile of several tonnes will compost suitably in a year. If you can’t turn regularly then it will take longer and it is worth trying a two year cycle for which obviously you will need twice the space.
This year we undertook a heavy cutting back of the laurels to encourage some thicker growth. This created a lot of extra waste which we decided to chip straight into a trailer to go back on the ground under the laurels. This relieved us of having to find more space for composting but will also prevent unwanted growth among the laurels while they thicken up again.
It is difficult to quantify exactly how much we chipped this year but we had the machine running for two and half days and put in excess of 45 man hours behind it. It’s a good feeling when its done!
In 2003 we acquired a selection of 15 Proteas, King Proteas and Lucadendrons. Sadly, despite following the advice, we systematically lost 14 plants over a period of two years.
However just before we killed the 15th plant we worked out the right soil, temp and watering mix and we have managed to keep one Protea going. Naturally we are quite fond of this lovely plant and of course it connects us with its wonderful floral kingdom home of South Africa.
Each year it rewards us with a couple of flowers and this year we were actually brave enough to cut the first one for the house – and take a picture of it!
We have a real deer problem in the garden. Every time we plant something in the garden, outside the walled garden, no sooner is it established than the deer either eat it, smash it or fatally mark it.
This time it has been the cypress trees. As usual, they have been allowed to establish themselves for a few years. Then all of a sudden this winter the deer have decided to smash them to bits. Ripping all the bark and lower branches off one by one and each night finding a way to do a bit more damage.
Before Christmas I put up a security light hoping to scare them away. But it has made no difference and they have continued their destruction and have even got closer to the buildings.
Does anyone know how to stop deer destroying your garden?
We have tried every kind of smell and chemical to deter them but it really hasn’t made any difference that we can see.
The local pest control guy says the only thing to do is shoot them but down here it is too flat and populated for anyone to do this safely – although I wish our neighbouring farmers on the Downs would do their bit.
I am trying something new this evening. I have tied all the trees together with fishing line and then put some runs in the bushes where the deer push through to make their way around the garden.
The idea is that an unknown obstacle and one that can’t be seen might just give them a proper fright. It is safe because if they get tangled up the line will break easily but not before giving the bushes nearby a good shake.
I feel the benefit of something that can’t be seen is that the deer can’t jump it so easily which they have done with the high barbed wire fences we put up.
I’ll try and report back on progress and I hope this isn’t simply that I have tripped myself up ten times with my own hidden wires!
The kids came back last night reporting they had seen a fox in the garden near the chickens. We put this down to imagination until this morning it was seen again hiding in the barn right outside the chicken run presumably waiting for us to let the chickens out (which we do most days).
We knew we had lost one chicken already but with only a wing to go on it was difficult to know when or how.
All credit to the fox which seemed happy to play the waiting game for one of our scrawny chickens but I’m afraid we couldn’t see a way of accommodating a fox with a taste for chicken so it sadly had to be escorted off the property.
Before I go any further I need to acknowledge that this is not an issue facing the majority of the population. However if addressed, I believe it could bring benefits to the wider society.
This concerns the issue of private individuals becoming employers to help them in private affairs and in particular maintaining privately owned Listed Buildings.
Currently the owner of the Listed building or garden earns income on which they pay Income Tax at various rates. If they choose to employ someone to help maintain the building or garden (domestic staff) they then have to pay those employees out of net income (that is left after tax has been paid), and then undertake the same Pay As You Earn administration (collecting the income tax from that employee and paying the employers share of the National Insurance) as would any other employer.
Here’s the issue: any employer running a business is able to set their employment costs against their income to reduce their tax, so why can’t owners of Listed Buildings or for that matter employers of domestic staff (nannies etc), whose employees are paid through the PAYE scheme get some sort of tax relief on their income for doing so.
It would be easy to administer because HMRC has records of both the employers and employees tax affairs. It should only work where employees are paid through PAYE. There are loads of benefits:
This would encourage employment by making it more affordable for private individuals to employ staff in domestic, childcare, gardening, and property maintenance jobs.
It would encourage employers to pay staff currently paid cash in hand into the PAYE system and probably increase tax revenues.
It would be easy to administer as HMRC has all the records it needs to cross check claims by private employers.
By encouraging individuals to employ domestic staff it would free up their time and encourage them to spend in the local economy.
Owners of our heritage would be able to employ sufficient help to make it possible and desirable to open their properties/gardens on an occasional basis to the public.
With more manpower employed in upkeep our heritage stock would be kept in a better state of repair.
There is a reason for mentioning the listed building element. Presumably the main case against such tax relief is that it lines the pockets of the already wealthy and is an unfair tax break. The Listed Building element addresses this. Owners of Listed Buildings provide a service of national benefit by maintaining the Nation’s Cultural Heritage. While they often get the benefit of living in attractive properties they are essentially unpaid private guardians, restricted in what they can do to reduce the costly maintenance of their properties because as a Nation we want them to preserve our past. As they get little or no financial assistance for this role and their properties usually require the most labour intensive form of upkeep it would appear not that unfair to assist them in the labour element of looking after our heritage.
And this is the shift in thinking proposed. To see this role in the same light as small businesses. To see the owners of these Listed Buildings as operating in the business of maintaining our heritage. So just as every other business in the country gets a tax break for encouraging employment and employing individuals to help it go about its business, then these private individuals should be given similar treatment and some form of reduction in their income tax liability where that income is going towards the employment of individuals to assist them in the maintenance of our Heritage.
Your comments would be appreciated in this debate.
When you load the 2009 HMRC Employers CD-ROM you are greeted with this message, ‘A Helping Hand from HM Revenue & Customs’. I think this message is put there to rile all the HMRC customers who they seem incapable of helping.
Take for example PAYE and the Simplified Deduction Scheme. Here is a system where the responsibility to collect HMRC’s taxes was loaded onto the employer. BUT at the time this system was introduced it was recognised that employers of a single domestic employee should not be required to ‘man’ a system as onerous as that of a company employing 10 or more staff. Hence the Simplified Deduction Scheme, which was a scheme open to employers of domestic employees.
The SDS allowed the domestic employer to be spared the complicated forms and the requirement to know the tax system inside out because they completed simple forms and the tax office helped with the calculations and checked your ‘workings’.
Obviously this system couldn’t be open to all and so an upper earnings limit was put in.
And that is where the catch comes. In order to gradually reduce the number of employers on this system and force them into the full PAYE system the upper earnings limit appears to have never moved or at least it has risen well below the rate of wage inflation. The result is that unless you pay below a living wage for a full time employee there is no way in 2009 that a domestic employer could qualify to be on the Simplified Deduction Scheme.
So today a domestic employer with one gardener/housekeeper etc is either required to wade through the full HMRC Employers Pack and play around with extraordinarily inefficient ‘calculators’ on the Employers CD-ROM or pay a professional to calculate the tax for them.
Had HMRC been a privately run organisation with a focus on it’s clients needs it would, of course, realised the Web was the perfect opportunity to offer a simple online calculator for Domestic Employers. Instead the public sector machine rolls along using all its best know how to find ways of un-improving its service without anyone noticing.
Some good things have come out of this recession, and in this instance I am referring to the Sennicotts Gardens National Gardens Scheme opening in 2009.
Presumably due to the recession and a reduced appetite for travel abroad the numbers of people attending our garden opening in May 2009 were significantly higher than usual. Roughly double the numbers. Which meant this year we welcomed over 600 people in four hours one sunny Sunday afternoon in May.
It would also be perfectly possible that the high turnout was partly caused by the word getting out about the quality of the homemade cakes on sale! Predominantly made with the eggs from Sennicotts chickens and ducks and by Jeanne Jupp and her assistants they are exceptionally good and the whole proceeds of tea and cake sales goes directly to the NGS.
The afternoon went very smoothly with the exception of the traffic jam on opening when 60 cars were clocked arriving in the first 15 minutes. We apologise if you were in this queue.
We were therefore thrilled to be able to raise £3,000 for the NGS on this single afternoon – our record for a single day.
Many thanks to all who attended.
Do please get in touch if you lost anything while enjoying the gardens (web enquiry email)