Monday, 8 March 2010

That's the Toms all Sown up

Another year has come around, along with all the hopes and wishes for a good growing season this year - the last few years have been quite a challenge on the weather front, but still have provided lots of learning opportunities, even if they have been quite tough ones at the time.
So yesterday was the first seed sowing, indoors, of tomatoes, chillies, peppers, leeks, lettuces and one errant artichoke seed that managed not to get planted last year!
A week ago I put the first early potatoes in the ground - pentland javelin (planted in a large tub planter actually). We had gone over a week without a hard frost so I took a gamble. The following night - hard frosts returned and have come back nightly. I'm hoping the spuds will be OK - I put them in 4" deep and covered them with frost fleece.

Monday, 25 May 2009

May Be

...just maybe we're in for a good summer this year.

With all the recent sunshine, everything's been springing to life. Just look at the spud planter, overflowing already. The beans are finally all planted out - I put them out in stages, half a dozen at a time. So far the later ones are looking better for being kept in the cold frame a couple of weeks longer.

The giant pumpkin has been out a few nights now, under a polytunnel. It's growing fast - I'm starting to wonder exactly how giant it might grow. I planted out the mini corn today, with the full size corn still looking too spindly to go in the ground. The cabbages are growing well, though they bear no resemblance to the Greyhound variety (as yet), and the broad beans (left) are looking good too.

Of the caulis I planted out, some have survived, others been eaten and a few succumbed to the cold. I'll be pleased if I end up harvesting a few - haven't ever managed to get them to grow before.

Most exciting development of the week (in the garden, anyway) was putting up the mini- greenhouse and getting the lanky tomato plants off the kitchen windowsill. It was easy to put together and will easily hold four tomatoes and two cucumbers (or gherkins, as I prefer) as well as a top shelf for shorter plants. I may have to find some chillies to put up there! It must be keeping the tomatoes nice and cosy at night as they're looking really happy in there. At the end of a hot day, it feels like a hothouse in there!

Still have several types of squash and pumpkin yet to go outdoors, but noticed today that none of the butternuts have germninated. Hastily sowed some more, hopefully not too late. They're my favourites!

Sticking with the seed sowing approach, one last go (this year) to grow some artichokes and haricot beans too. They went in today.

A few more pictures from today, then. See below for the bean row, rhubarb and spagetti squash with a touch of frost bite.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Make Your Own Mini-Greenhouse (Or Grow-House if you Prefer)

It won't look smart (except in an existential way) and it won't look pretty, but on the bright side it won't cost you a penny either, as long as you have lots of unused or even unusable tat and of course a wild and free imagination. And if you're lucky (and I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this one) as an added bonus it may work! Time will tell, and yes, I will spill the beans on whether the tomatoes will ripen. So far they have spent two nights out under plastic and I have to say they are looking healthier than I would be after camping out at this time of year.

Ok lets get specific. Materials used - one sack-truck (seen better days and one wheel falling off), one large plastic sack (see-through, came as wrapping on something), three plant pots 6" to 8", two tomato plants grown to two feet high, one gherkin plant about a foot high so far.

No need for instructions - it's fairly self explanatory. Takes one plant to the back and two to the front. As an afterthought I put some trays under the pots, for ease of watering - removed the need to take the plastic sack off to water. The sack will need removing on a regular basis in the daytimes, for pollination, but it fits well and lifts off easily.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Coldframe Floweth Over, and the Kitchen Windowsill Too!

It's that time of year - young plants and seedlings in pots and trays everywhere, all needing shelter for another couple of weeks. I ran out of space by the end of March and since then have spent trying to ingeniously re-arrange the collections of pots and seed trays, to make room for the seeds I'm still putting in. Today, after the nth attempt, I adopted a new strategy. I put out a flimsy polytunnel and planted out some of the seedling caulis under it and put some more in a large pot which I covered with a pane of glass. I put some of the leeks into the ground, even though they are still tiny. There are plenty left in trays, in case they fail. Fingers crossed for no more than a light breeze, as I don't think the polytunnel will survive a proper Welsh wind.
Also sowed today - more pumpkins, a variety called Snowman which are very pale in colour, Sweetcorn - full size and mini, and I saved the best til last.. Today was the day, the runner beans are in....or should I say... off. (I soaked them all afternoon before potting them up, so hopefully they will speed along)
Had a head count on the Tomato plants, and alarmingly found I have 16 of them. Found a new home for two of them later in the day, so only another ten to give away now.
Looking forward to more balmy days in the garden.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

One Potato, Two Potato, how many more?

Another five actually found their way to ground today - Reds, Desiree, not seed pots but kitchen rejects, too old too eat. So that's the running spud total at 23 today, with another seven on top of the fridge, waiting their turn. My strategy with spuds is to only plant them in places too inhospitable to grow much else, so rough ground, just reclaimed from wild and also the far corners of the veg plot, at the very frontier of wilderness where the giant slugs and snails venture in from the Bramble Land beyond the fence. I've never managed to successfully keep anything else alive in those far corners, but potatoes do OK there.
My Broad Beans are starting to look really healthy, though still less than two inches high, and the peas are growing slowly - almost past the inch now. I put another drill of them in today. They are Canoe (not Cannon as I previously mis-read. Since discovering their real name I have started to question what's going on in my head!). They are in fact the half pack that I complained loudly of losing over a month ago. A couple of weeks later I spotted them laughing at me from an outside windowsill. Though it had rained more than once, they appeared fine so I've taken a chance with them. Come to think of it, if you were looking for waterproof peas, what better variety than Canoe? I intended to stagger the sowing of the drills, but time is marching on and I am getting jittery about leaving it too late. There is a space for a third drill though, so I might yet get some late summer peas, if I can hold my nerve!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Lil' Peas and Lil' Beans

Yes indeed the peas are showing through, about time too, and I planted out the first broad beans today, though they are still tiny. Another week another tree to plant, I put a Crab Apple in the far corner of the vegetable garden. At less than a fiver per tree, how could I not plant another one! The Crab Apple is last chance saloon for the Jonagold which in two summers has never borne fruit. Fingers crossed it's a pollination issue. If no apples this year, that Jonagold will find itself re-planted on Llantrisant Common. I bought a large fruited Crab Apple - I doubt I'll use the apples but the birds will get a good feed off them.
I planted out some rocket for early salad and potted up about twenty leeks from a seed tray (there are loads more but I ran out of compost).
Indoors I sowed some marigolds and that was that - no more space in the propagators for now.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Madly March Marches On

It's been a busy month, though I haven't posted much. Early March I got some seeds going indoors - Cabbages and Caulis first, and broad beans outdoors in pots. Next in the propagator tomatoes, leeks, rocket, cucumber and sunflowers then lettuce, courgettes and squash. The kitchen looks more like a greenhouse and will do for another month at least.
I bought a conference pear tree today (£4.20 from Aldi) so there's a job for tomorrow if the weather is willing.
It's still way too windy to put up the coldframe - I'd be retrieving it from distant gardens, but I'm on the lookout for extra long tent pegs to hold it down.
It's hard to believe that April is only a few days away. I love the spring but ye gods it goes too fast.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Make a Potato Planter (or two)

It was one of those ideas that just sprung to mind and I knew it was a good one. Thanks to Sue who left a comment about making strawberry planters from an old composting bin, she started this train of thought. It was perfect - I had threee compost bins and only ever use two. All it took was a stanley knife and about twenty minutes to cut the bin in half. Two potato planters, no cost, no waste and they are easy to keep the cats off too. How's that for recycling!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Time to Sow Peas.

Yes the first peas are in the ground, just one wide drill of Hurst Greenshaft, if you will! Haven't grown them before but they look like a pretty vigorous variety. I planned to put Cannon (variety) in today (what is it with these names?) - one minute I had half a pack of them in my hand, the next they had gone, I've no idea where. I searched and searched but gone they truly are which is a shame as they are prolific plants and the peas taste great. I've given up on Kelvedon Wonder, as they produce small pods with only three to five peas, but take up just as much room as the bigger plants.
I left room for two more drills to go in later, at intervals of three to four weeks I think.
At my nan's later we ran a little experiment and sowed a few rows of early parsnips, to see how they do.

Friday, 27 February 2009

What a To Do I had at the Allotment

Just in case it appears to have vanished into thin air, I'm posting a short update on last year's adventures at the allotment. I kept visiting the plot regularly until around May, by which time I'd finished all the major weeding and tidying which pulled it back to looking like a reasonably well managed plot. Technically it wasn't actually my allotment, but I was using the larger part of it in return for keeping it in a good state, thus saving it's 80 plus year old owner from getting untidy notices. So it was the end of May when I inadvertently crossed the invisible line and oops I dared to plant stuff. It quickly became clear that this was unacceptable. I received a stern talking to from the steward who let me know that as I wasn't an official allotment keeper I could weed and tidy but not plant. He'd been asked to tell me that the other allotment holders would all be keeping a close eye on me from now on. Being watched was one thing, but on my next visit it became apparent that other regulars had ceased to speak to me, and instead of an Hello I got lots of cold icy stares. It worked. I left and decided to concentrate my efforts in my garden for now. I've been on a waiting list for one of those allotments for three years, though now I wouldn't want one. Last summer there were still nine in front of me on the list and no one had given up a plot for the last two years, with most of the longstanding plot-holders having two or three plots each. Hopefully the new Landshare initiative will free up some space elsewhere in the locality. Happy Gardening!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Make Your Own Strawberry Planter Part 2

Some further ideas and more detail, due to lots of interest:
The structure of a strawberry planter is basic – it’s a container with holes in the sides as well as room to plant at least a few plants in the top. I had a look around the shed and found I already had a container that was perfect for the job. It was a pop-up bin made out of (plastic) tarpaulin with metal supports. I had bought two of them in a pack for a pound in a sale. I’ve since seen them for sale in bargain shops at two to three pounds each or two for a fiver. As long as you can cut holes in the sides without too much effort any type of container will do. Many types of plastic bin can be cut with a Stanley knife and a hacksaw, or a wooden barrel or planter is fine if you are handy with a drill and a jig saw (drill a few holes next to each other, then you can use the jig saw to cut the rest.) If you like a project, make the planter from old palette wood. You could even build a brick or stone one (like a barbeque but leave holes in the sides as you build up.)
Make the holes about three inches in diameter and space them six to eight inches apart in all directions. Make a couple of small drainage holes around the base so it doesn’t get waterlogged (if you live in the UK!)
So once you have got a container with holes in the sides, it’s time to fill it. There’s no need to buy large quantities of compost for this – you can use soil as long as you add some extra nutrients to it (strawberries are hungry plants).
Aim to end up with a fine crumbly mixture to fill the bin. If your garden soil is light and dusty, you’ll need to add something nutritious like manure or well rotted compost. If you’re using dried chicken manure, take care not to overdo it, a few generous handfuls will be plenty. Or collect some horse or cow manure from a nearby farm, it’s usually free. If you do this, try to get some that’s been standing a while, rather than fresh, as it will break down into the soil quicker, plus fresh manure will kill the worms in the soil if the horses or cattle have been wormed recently.
If your soil is heavy and lumpy, you need something to break it up a bit. Sand is a good quick fix, and calcified seaweed works well too. You can still add a bit of manure or compost, but go easy on it, the soil will already be quite rich.
So start filling your container and plant the sides as the soil level rises – it’s easier to put the plants in through the inside of the holes and then add more soil to fill. Finish up with the plants on the top, remembering to space them so they have room to grow. Finally water the plants (not too much), make yourself a cuppa and sit back and admire your creation!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Onion Planting and Making a New Path

Spent a great afternoon in the garden today. First day this year that it's been mild enough to stay out all afternoon, so I got lots done and worked up a bit of an ache.
I put the onions in, though it's a little early really,as my nan set the pace by planting her's last week. Dug over the bed for the peas, and am pleased to note that the soil is looking really good with it's texture finally starting to look crumbly and much lighter than previous years. All that trenching and composting is finally starting to pay off. It was also pleasing to see that systematic weeding has cleared the ground of well established root systems so there were only surface weeds to pull out and they didn't take long.
I took the opportunity to dig in some half rotted compost, while the bed was freshly dug. To be honest I just needed somewhere to dispose of it, as I'd discovered a half sack of semi rotten green waste left in a bin since last autumn. I can date it to last autumn as the whole contents were a distinctive pumpkin colour and I can remember gathering up all the pumpkin pieces from a mass pumpkin carving session. I probably don't need to mention that it stank, absolutely and completely. And that was before I disturbed it.
So I had to bury it, and fast! As I put it in the ground, I wondered exactly how many gardens this smell could taint. I kept expecting windows to be suddenly pulled shut and children to be called indooors. And of course I spilled some on myself, not just a wee bit either. Still such a mucky child, I managed to get it on every bit of clothing. I swear, that smell was worse than pigs for sticking relentlessly to you. I put everything in the wash, scrubbed and bathed and I could still smell it. Still can actually, I think it's lodged in my nose! Or my imagination!
Just for the record, I pruned back and mulched the raspberry cane before leaving the garden, and yes, I did put in a new path at the side of the pea bed.