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.