Saturday, 22 December 2007

Guilt Free Pot Grown Christmas Tree

I managed to heave the christmas tree indoors today. It's looking a little straggly this year - it's seven feet tall now and will have to be planted out after christmas. I've repotted it several times in the five years I've had it and it's roughly doubed in size since then. It's in the largest pot I could find for it, and it was difficult to get it through the doorways because it's so tall. I'm pleased it's lasted so well, and it'll be nice to see it in the ground next year.
Before this one, I'd bought several potted trees but they always died after being planted out in the new year. The difference is that this one was grown in it's pot (I bought it from a garden centre) instead of being dug up and stuck in one. I'm slightly worried that it might grow huge when it's planted out, so it's gonna have to go a long way from the house.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Wormery moved into the Warm

I should have done it about a month ago, but at last I've managed to move the wormery into the shed before it gets any colder out there. I hauled it over by adding some shredded newspaper and giving it a good stir up. The worms seem to be thriving - there are hundreds of 'em, young and old, all eating and presumably breeding like rabbits. They're still producing plenty of liquid feed too - I don't really know what to to with it at this time of year (it only keeps a few months) so have been adding it to the garden, though watering is the last thing the garden needs right now.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Happy Halloween!

I was hoping to be carving an own grown pumpkin this year - never mind, I'm still pleased with the look of this one. I chose the design as a reference to the Harry Potter books, which of course concluded this year. Farewell Harry!

Here's proof it really is a pumpkin..

Saturday, 27 October 2007

The Lost Summer

A part of me is still loooking for it on fine days.

The garden has been well and truly waterlogged this year, leaving the earth compacted and keeping pretty much everything looking straggly. As for garden, so for blog, which also came to an abrupt halt as the miserable weather set in.

Here then is a brief, sad history, after which we'll be definitely and determinedly moving on.

Runner beans - failed to manage even a stroll

Onions -1 (out of 20)

Potatoes - small and NOT perfectly formed

Butternut squash - quashed

Pumpkins - nothing plump about 'em

Sweetcorn - not sweet and quite frankly not funny either

Peas - not pleased, also got showered regularly by the kitties, so refused to grow.

Leeks - leeked conviction

Garlic - well hardly

Broad beans - narrow yield

Overall best crop and winner of most persistent plants this year - definitely the Tomatoes which were slow to start but hung on in there until the rain stopped (end of September, wasn't it?) and then grew like the survival of their genus depended on it.

So it was all rather grim in the garden. Luckily though, there is some good news - In the hope of better results next year, I've taken over an allotment
As you can see it's a bit ramshackle and overgrown (perfect!) but not too far gone, so the weeds are coming up quite easily, along with the large number of half grown potatoes I keep finding every time I stick my fork in the ground.
There's a good water system set up - a large vat and a number of butts, some roofed storage (Who needs walls?) and four long raised beds plus a topless (Oh!) - Calm down, it's a cold frame.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

It looked like Spiderwoman had visited the garden

...which would have saved me the effort of making the cucumber frame.

I planted out said cucumber about five days ago. It's doing OK, though looking slightly frayed at the edges, from the cold nights!

I've been steadily planting out the runner beans a few at a time and have put the Borlotti beans in the earth too. So far, at least they are all untroubled by slugs and snails, or at least the barrier of plastic collars and bits of copper pipe around the plants is working. Elsewhere in the garden the same slugs and snails are on the rampage - even having a nibble at tomatoes, shallots and garlic, which they usually leave in peace.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Beans, beans and more beans

Definitely the most fun plants to grow. This year I am branching out from my favourite runners. It's the first time I've grown broad beans - they are at last growing now, but they still seem hard work. I'm also giving Borlotti beans a go - these are a lot more entertaining, quick to germinate and more like sprinters than marathon runners.

From the top, Borlotti Nano, one and then three days old ( I couldn't believe it - they are supposed to be the small variety), and below, Borlotti Rampicante, which apparently will grow 12 to 18 feet high. I loved the shape - like a dragon's head.
I planted the nanos out a couple of days ago - I've grown three of them - now I'm wondering if that's enough -so have sown one more (space is limited!). Yesterday I planted out two of the runner beans (as a test run). They are still there today and have not been eaten, which is more than can be said for the peas, which have now been pretty much devestated by giant snails. I put the runners out with collars made from old water bottles - it gives them protection while they are young. I also had some old copper piping so put that round them too, as it's the best thing for keeping those snails away. Shame it's gone up in price so much recently.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Storm Damage

Heavy rain and high winds all through the night meant that I was a little afraid to look at the garden this morning. Most things survived in tact, though one of the apple trees broke a branch, leaving it hanging by a slim thread. And, of course, it was the only branch on that particular tree that has flower buds. I have been keeping a close eye on them, hoping they will open in time to pollinate the granny smith which has been in flower on its own for weeks now.
Some people take the view that a bit of sticking tape will fix most things. I have always preferred to think of myself as a bit more thorough than that. Today, I have to admit that the evidence to the contrary is building.

Introducing Gaffer Tape...

...a veritable sticking plaster for trees, though that's just one of it's uses.

Not convinced?

Look on.
Not only has this bit of tape held my wing mirror in place since christmas day, when some festive joker knocked it off, but my car passed it's MOT last month in this state. Quite frankly I was amazed.
(I don't expect the branch to survive for long, but if it last long enough for the flowers to open, that will be fine.)

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Makeshift Mini Greenhouse

...or Dubious Creations Of A Skinflint...

Yes, you may have to look twice (or even thrice) to work out what is going on here, but basically it's a large polythene bag with a window in it, turned on it's side, hung on a frame and pegged down. I aquired it as the packaging to some willow fencing. Being a natural born horder, I knew immediately it would come in useful!

It's now housing two black cherry tomatoes, and they are (so far) doing very well in it. The only possible drawback is it may get blown over (or even away) in high winds. Oh, and I suppose there is the matter of property prices to consider - if my garden gathers any more tat it is possible the local market could take a serious downturn.

Moving away from make-it-yourself corner, here's a progress report on the rest of the garden;

The peas are growing slowly despite being eaten regularly by slugs. I have been sowing more seeds in the gaps that keep appearing, and have had to give up on the far end of the rows, as I just can't keep the cats away from their chosen toilet area. I didn't give up without a fight though - there are more sticks in the ground than gaps in between now and I am left wondering how they still manage to get through, but they do. So the pea rows are shorter than hoped for and are being seriously slowed down by the slug onslaught which seems a lot worse than last year. Some will grow - it remains to be seen how many.

The onions, shallots and garlic are doing much better, being neither eaten nor pee-ed on.

I planted one of the aubergines out last week, into a container, and it is doing fine, though only about four inches tall.

The broad beans continue to be difficult - I can't believe they are supposed to be easy to grow. Slugs have devestated about two thirds of them and the ones that are growing are very slow indeed. The largest one is still only three inches tall, though it's been up for about six weeks.

About ten runner beans are up in pots, and another ten should follow shortly. Also coming up in the pots are sunflowers, sweetcorn and borlotti beans at the moment.

My courgette plants and globe artichokes are about ready to go into the ground - I am waiting for the next dry spell to give them a fighting chance against the dread slugs.

There are tomatoes already on the largest plant (the one I bought to get a head start). I count them everyday - today's count 16.

Best news of the week though - I have been round to the local allotments and put myself on the waiting list. With luck I may get one before the end of the summer.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

A Couple Of Great Finds

It might look like a load of old tat, but it was just what I was looking for. Spotted the window boxes outside someone's house around the corner - they had been left by the bins. I needed some wood to hold up the raised beds, so I knocked the door. The owner was happy for me to take them, as the refuse collectors had left them behind. They are massive - over five feet long. Trouble is, they have a certain charm about them - looks like they are made from old packing cases. I've been trying to work out where I could use them for planting, but basically there isn't a good place for them in my garden, and I find I keep putting off taking them apart!

The metal structure is part of a bed frame - I picked up two of them, again left out with the rubbish, on my way home from work. They are perfect for keeping the cats off freshly dug beds. I put this one to use immediately. I planted onion sets and sowed parsnip seeds beneath it.

Indoors I sowed some globe artichokes last week - they came up in a couple of days. I put two butternut squashes in the propagator over the weekend - no sign of them yet. And today was the long awaited day - I have sown the first of the runner beans. I put them in pots, as otherwise the slugs will have them as they come up. I'm trying the variety Wisley Magic for starters - I have a few more varieties at the ready for a bit later in the year.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Bringing Order Where Before There Was Chaos

I spent the day digging out pathways and raising the growing beds.

I lined the paths with stepping stones made from pieces of floor tile, bricks and flat stones. I need to get hold of some suitable wood to hold the earth in the raised beds. I finished off the weeding and general digging over too. That was a lot of digging, all told. I am feeling it now, though!

Halfway through, it looked like a JCB had visited, and I wondered to myself - is there such a thing as having too much topsoil?

Got it all under control in the end, after getting serious with the rake. Covered the beds with the weed surpressing fabric, so I won't have to do it all again in a fortnight, and then, best job of the day, put up the bean supports - one large double row and a wigwam.

The sun was setting by the time I was done, and I think I'll still be aching tomorrow!

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Haircuts All Round And Dinner From The Garden

Can it get any better?

Cut the chives last night, then got a haircut myself this afternoon - both short and choppy,it occurs to me the cuts are not dissimilar, though I think mine is a little shorter.

The cut chives provided the first edibles from the garden this year, so I made myself a lil' first and last dinner, with the last being the very last of last year's butternut squash. Very nice it was, too. Just after I took the photo I wished I'd used a slightly more this century plate!

One of the redcurrant bushes has been in flower for a few days now, and the other is just coming into bloom.

I planted out my biggest tomato plant today. I bought this one, just to get some early fruits. It's called Tumbler, though you wouldn't know it, as yet. I guess it will tumble when the fruits grow. It's already in flower. I'm protecting it with some frost fleece at night. I had to plant it out, as it's growing so fast.

Spurred on by noticing that some Gladioli have come up, I decided to put some effort into prettying up the garden - something I hardly ever do, being completely obsessed with functionality. I moved some wild primroses from under a shrub to put them in a more prominent position. I'd forgotten that this lovely stone semi-circle was there - that's how long it has been overgrown. I dug out the couch grass from inside and around it, took out lots of stones and replenished the soil with compost etc. There were so many primroses that I left a big clump under the shrub, filled the semi-circle and put more in other spots around the garden. They looked a bit straggly after transplanting, but hopefully they will perk up in the next couple of days. I sowed some dill behind them, (hence the sticks to keep the cats off), though it may be a little early to sow it outdoors.

I took some spagnum moss off the wall to use in the bottom of the tomato planter - to retain water. I love the fact that it grows in the garden, so I don't have to buy it.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Unexpected New View From The Garden

Picture the scene....

Early evening in the hazy sun. All is quiet except for the birdsong.

There I was digging over last year's bean trench to prepare it for the brassicas, appreciating the rich colour of the earth, the peace and the beautiful quality of the light. I looked up, taking a momentary breather. In my eyeline was my neighbour's kitchen. Through his window I casually noticed he was ironing. He moved away from the ironing board, and that was when the full impact hit me - he was ironing, naked.

No I am not joking, nor making it up. There he was in front of his large kitchen window, ironing in the nud. I have to admit I considered reaching for my camera phone - in fact my hand got as far as my pocket but he must have sensed my bad intentions and suddenly he was gone. So sorry, no photos (as yet!).

I don't know what to make of it really, except I am still chuckling at the thought - I mean I've heard of extreme ironing, but exhibitionist ironing? Or is it naturist ironing, not quite as catchy, but it does sound a lot more ethical.

I thought to myself, well maybe he's in a rush to get his clothes ironed - but then I remembered that I have seen him behind that board at the window many times, always shirtless, or at least that's what I'd assumed. The mind boggles but there it is, the barenaked truth - it seems my neighbour is a naked ironer.

Back to the proper garden stuff then.

I finally gave the lawn it's first cut today. Well I say lawn, but it's actually more of a hill, so mowing it feels like an hour at the gym. I was glad to get it done - I can stop worrying about it getting out of hand now.

I spent a bit of time tidying up the pea rows, thinning out where too many have grown and transplanting them at the end of the rows where the cats have been digging them up. Using up every spare stick in the garden I have now re-cat-proofed the peas. It may look a bit of a mess but it appears to have worked as I later spotted one of 'em having a pee in the potato bed. I sowed some maincrop peas in between the earlies, as it looked like there was a lot of space not being used there. Then after I'd done it, I wondered if I'd done the right thing! Time will tell.

I sowed some lettuce (Tom Thumb) in one of the window planters. It's one of the smallest varieties. I'm hoping the planter will hold about three fully grown, as I don't hold out much hope for growing them in the ground, due to slugs, of course. Thinking about next year, I sowed some purple sprouting broccoli in the other planter, using it as a nursery bed. That's about the most forward planning I've ever done in a garden.

Indoors I sowed a couple of globe artichokes. I have never eaten them, but would like to try.

Incidentally, I was amazed to see the size of some of last year's bean roots. They look like parsnips gone a bit wrong - the sort of parsnip you could customise to make a small figure, or a face. The earth left by the beans is looking good though - a little compacted but breaking up OK.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Fainthearted Beware

I spent a lovely couple of hours pottering in the evening sunshine today. The main task was to revitalise the Wormery which I have been struggling to get right since I set it up last November. It has been waterlogged a lot of late - I think I have put in too many teabags (a lot of tea gets drunk in this house!), so I have been adding newspaper regularly. Today I made a concerted effort to mix the whole thing around and get some newspaper right to the bottom where the problem is worst. I also added Calcified Seaweed as I went along, to keep it from getting too acidic. Oddly, I always find the worms in the same corner of the bin - I have no idea why.

After a good mix up it all looked (and smelt) a lot better.

In reference to the title, here are the pictures. If you eating, look away...

You can see why they are called tiger worms.

And here's a botttle of finest liquid feed, distilled by the worms over the last two weeks (I think they are on a go slow in protest about the conditions in there).

The early peas are starting to look like peas now.

I put in some more broad beans to fill in gaps from non-starters and re-potted some parsley that had seeded itself from last year. It looks a bit straggly but it might catch up. I potted up some chives last week - a root that was given to me by a friend (Win). I put it in a pot which has copper tape around it - last year the slugs enjoyed it far too much. The copper tape seems to be working and it is looking well. I sowed some cucumbers in pots - am trying two outdoor varieties, Marketmore and Burpless Green. I sowed some sweet peas too, for a bit of colour in the veg garden. I love this time of year.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Potatoes Planted

Yes I put the spuds in today - only six of them, maincrop Reds. Didn't buy seed potatoes as I only wanted a few - can't spare any more space. Used organic ones though, so I'm hopeful they should be a good variety to grow.
The strawberries seem to like their new home - they are looking very perky today. Indoors the tomato, courgette and aubergine seedlings are all getting bigger, and I am hardening off the tomatoes. Some basil has come up today. Tomorrow I plan to sow some cucumbers.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Make Your Own Strawberry Planter

Cost - 1 Pound

Time - Less than 1 hour

Difficulty rating - Easy!
Materials - 1 pop up bin bought from Tesco ( 2 for 2 pounds, reduced), soil from garden, bit o' this, bit o' that (compost, bonemeal, sand etc to mix in), strawberry plants (from garden).

Bish bash bosh, work it out as you go along - not very complicated....Job's a good 'un....Holds nine plants, no problem

And now that's a whole border freed up for other things.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Courgette On Camera!

Ok, so I haven't got much to report today. The courgette is already starting to grow scarily fast - it has doubled in size in the last twenty four hours and is already forming its second pair of leaves.

Today I sowed some leeks and yet more cabbages in pots outside, as well as two more courgettes indoors. Quite a few more peas are coming up in the garden, though still waiting for the rest of the broad beans.

And, hmm, I found evidence of cat prints in the recently filled window boxes. Is no-where safe?

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Rhubarb Rhubarb

Yes, I planted a crown of rhubarb which my nan kindly bought for me. Dug it in with the trustee soil improver, bonemeal and calcified seaweed, then covered it with mulch and finally sand to ward off the slugs, though I am not sure that they like rhubarb. I planted it next to the rose - all the digging in and mulching will benefit it too. Bargain. Topped it off with the old bucket trick, just to see if it works (and because my nan is impatient!)

Yesterday I dug out some old compost and filled a couple of window boxes which I plan to grow lettuce and salad leaves in. I put them up in a sunny spot, taking care to level them up against each other but...well quite frankly I don't know what went wrong...

The compost I dug out was sited on a heap I inherited when I moved here. Strangely there is a pipe coming out of the ground at one end of it. I assume this is some sort of ventilation shaft, but it is a little odd.

Meanwhile, some of the broad beans are thinking about putting in an appearance, though by the looks of they are still in two minds.

I was amazed to see today that the carrots sown only a couple of days ago are starting to come up. I put a cover over them for tonight's frost
The cabbage and cauli seedlings spent their first night outdoors last night and looked well for it, so they are staying out now (I have been hardening them off over the past week or so). They are also covered up tonight.
Indoors I sowed some basil today, and almost all of the other seeds sown have now come up, including the courgette.
I am impatient to sow the beans - runner and berlotti - but am going to wait until at least mid month.

Saturday, 31 March 2007

The peas have split

I didn't spot them at first look, in fact I only spotted them at all after noticing that the garden saboteurs (that's the cats) had been busy along the pea rows. So while removing the said deposits, that's when I noticed that the peas are finally coming through.
Still no broads though - not even a bean (sorry!)
Meanwhile the garlic is doing well - the ones I planted early March are looking much healthier than the ones that overwintered. And the apple buds are starting to resemble leaves.
Things are warming up then.
Indoors two out of three pepper plants are up, the cherry tomatoes are doing fine, along with various cabbage seedlings and a few cauli's which I am gradually hardening off, and the aubergines are growing... but ever so slowly. I put them outside for a few hours of sunshine the other day but after an hour I noticed they had all fallen over in shock - they'll be staying for the foreseable future.
I have seeded about four or five other varieties of tomato; plum, beefsteak, stripey etc but they are not up yet, and neither is the courgette.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Still no sign of the peas (or beans)

I am starting to wonder where they are!

Meanwhile, have been getting on with an endless list of things to do. I have planted three apple trees on the edges of what used to be a lawn. I wasn't really planning this one, but they were on offer at four pounds each in Aldi which seemed too good to miss. I got a Granny Smith, A Jonagold and an old english variety (apparently) called Elstar. It seemed like the rain descended the day I bought them, so they have been waiting in my shed for about three weeks. At least it gave me some time to read up on fruit trees and planting. Happily the ground has dried out just as the trees have started to bud, so getting them in the ground was timely. They don't look much as yet, but the buds are looking noticibly larger since I planted them two days ago. That's the Granny Smith above.

I got another great bargain recently at B + Q (I am a bit of a bargain shopper).I found some water damaged bamboo edging reduced from ten pounds to ten pence a strip. I bought as many as I could manage which was about fifeteen. I have used six of them around the fruit trees - to hold a mulch around their bases, and am thinking about using the rest to raise some beds in the veg patch, though I am not sure whether they have been treated with anything I might not want in the veg garden. Does anyone know?

Yesterday I planted six shallots next to the garlic. I will put some more in next month.

Today I have sown some carrot seeds in a container. I tried growing them in the ground last year but the slugs devestated them as they came up. So this year I've got some special Mini Finger seeds which are apparently suited to container growing. I used a pot that has copper tape around it - last year I grew a courgette in it. I have re-used the same compost, adding some sand, calcified seaweed and bonemeal to revitalise it. I bought the last two for the tree planting, so thought I might as well make use of them. I don't really know what I am doing with these mixes - I am hoping it will become clear as I go along!

That last photo is a nets of snails I found today living in a dry stone wall. Though they limit what I can grow in the garden I can't bring myself to harm them, as I am a bit daft like that and they are beautiful creatures when you look at them closely.