Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A Happy Harvest

This is our first time growing radishes. I wasn't sure if they were ready but Leah wanted to pull one up to see and as I've sown quite a few successively I didn't think we'd miss one. So, when out came a small but perfectly formed radish, I was chuffed as can be. Had to record it for posterity of course. Leah pulled two, got Chris to pull one and I of course had to have a go.
 Now, I'm not the most well travelled person in the world but I'm pretty sure there a few things more satisfying than pulling up some perfect little package of edible loveliness knowing that you had a hand in its very existance.
10 minutes or so later, Leah had chopped them up and we worked together on putting them in a salad with our homegrown mixed salad leaves.

Gardening is good for the soul. x

Monday, 28 May 2012

Yesterday was so incredibly hot, in the afternoon I went out the front to gather the pine cones that land on our drive from the neighbours tree (they're great to burn on the bbq) and I spotted this little fella sprawled out trying to keep cool.

Can't say I blame him!

I've given up trying to work in the garden during the day, we get full shade for the whole garden around 6ish. The couple of times I tried to start something during the day, I would feel my shoulders start to fry. Last night, I stayed in the garden till after 9.30. It was bliss!

I was mainly working on the bed with the broccoli and kale. I'd covered the bed because I'd had real problems with cabbage root fly last year. I found out that what they do is they lay their larvae in the soil at the base of young plants and this basically messes up your plant. I thought this would do the job but I couldn't see if the bed was getting enough water so I decided to make some collars.

The idea of the collars is that they stop the larvae from getting into the soil and surviving. My first attempt at collars was from scrap card from cardmaking.

By the end of Saturday, I realised white card wasn't such a good idea as it just reflected the sun which burn't the leaves. Seems very obvious now. Also had my spacing all wrong and needed to put more space between them. Think the heat must of got to me!

So, Sunday evening, I put right my wrongs. Thankfully I had quite a few spare plants so I removed the damaged ones and spaced them better.

Planted some in another bed too.

I used some liner that was left over from the beds and a cocktail stick to hold it in place. It works!

Looking forward to some rain now.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Things are looking lush...

...and I couldn't be happier with how the garden is looking.

The various lettuces and rockets are cropping well, we've picked from them most days this week.
 The "open-air tomatoes" in this bed seem to be doing fine.
 In this bed we now have, peas (back, left), 1 sunflower (back, right), radishes and corn (left), toms with aubergine and peppers (right) and finally strawberries and garlic (front of pic). I like this bed for the fact that there is just such alot going on.

The growhouse plants look good to me. Last year, I wasn't this far ahead with planting and all my toms have flowers or buds on now so I have gained ground and experience on last year.
My one potted tom (which, frustratingly had it's first little tomato set) has now got a new home. I took it upto Leah's school today,  her class have a little patio outside their classroom and her teacher said we could use it for growing and planting and as Leah is the nominated class "eco-warrior" (?) she wanted to grow some peas they were given. This then snowballed into more than just peas. It was really lovely actually working with the children and we sowed some peas, radishes, coriander, sunflowers and lettuces, all stuff that will hopefully grow quickly for them and before the summer holidays. Lovely to see kids so enthused about gardening.

I'm using every available inch of space, managed to get 3 radishes tucked in alongside the tomato plant and they're coming along.

The pumpkin and squash are looking good (despite the yellow leaves). I think I've given them enough room, time will tell.

So. it's been an amazing week of scarily high temperatures, I've watered daily but frugally until today where I gave everything a really good soaking. Water butts are now empty, all the harvested water I stored in bottles is now gone, we are now down to grey and tap water. I used up the last of the rain water on the blueberries (they really do prefer rain water and not tap water) and I'm hoping it can hold out, a  little rain is forecast for Tuesday, hoping it turns out to be alot. But I won't complain, it's just so amazingly summery at the moment, it would seem ungrateful to moan about it.
I'll sign off with a picture or two of a perennial, non-edible (lost the label, so sorry can't tell you what it is). Looks lovely though and makes me smile, inside and out. Enjoy the weather. x

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Bread, beds, brassicas and other stuff......

Dave and I joked the other day that he is the bread winner and I am the bread maker, so the things that I do that are supposed to make/save money (cardmaking, jewellery making, making our own bread and gardening) tend to usually involve us spending the money in the first place. Like I've said, Dave is a very patient man! When I found that the reward vouchers you get from shopping at Tescos can be used at Thompson and Morgan, I jumped at the chance. It feels a bit less like I'm spending Dave's (our) hard earned cash. I've already had one raised bed, seeds, bits and pieces and an apple tree. With the latest vouchers, just £15 got me a £39 raised bed, a clematis and a lily. Bargain! But, I am not here to advertise for Tescos so I shall move on.

Raised bed filled with soil, I set about planting up some brassicas (kale and broccoli). The few I grew last year were plagued by bugs, so this year I am going to protect them as much as I can for as long as I can. I still have some seedlings which I will hang onto, I will probably pot them on until I can find space for them in one of the other beds.

Been doing a bit of rearranging over the past few days.
The last of the tomatoes are planted up and are now fending for themselves, using reusable grow bags which I've had about 3 years now and are wearing well. I've started leaving the bottles off the corn at night. So far, no casualties.

Today, I spotted the start of the first flowers on the peas. That is something I am really looking forward to eating. Fresh peas really are something that is hard to beat.

Blueberries. Not a great picture but they are coming along. That is one of the great things about growing so many things I haven't grown before, watching the process of plants as they grow and develope is really fascinating.

The weather forecasts says it's going to be a great week, finally!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

A bottle garden

So, when I look out the kitchen window I see a garden full of bottles and growhouses.

Now I can't really complain, nothing has died so far and all seems to be growing and making progress. The past couple of days I've tried taking the bottles off during the day as it's been slightly warmer. It is still only the middle of May.

I'm loving watching the tiny apples starting to form and gradually get bigger, there's something a bit magical about it.

That's it for today.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Tuesday morning, just got home from a  very soggy school run (jeans are just starting to dry out). It looks to be brightening up a little, but these days, who knows?

By my bed there is a large and very untidy pile of gardening books and magazines which I tend to dip into  before I goto sleep. One of my favourite books and a book that really inspired me is this one.....
The programme had been on tv a few years ago, Alys Fowler's aim was to grow and forage sufficient that she wouldn't buy any supermarket fruit or veg for a year. I bought the book (at a reduced price, as I mostly do). What intrigued me was the idea of polyculture, something I'd never heard of before. "true polyculture is to grow a variety of plants together that will benefit from being in an ecological community". I don't know enough about gardening, maybe lots of people do this and it's along the lines of "companion planting" like planting marigolds and basil with tomatoes because it helps keep the bugs away and some say enhances the flavour of the toms. Alys Fowler wrote, "I find myself somewhere between polyculture and edible landscaping, dipping in to both to steal the best bits from each". I like the idea of polyculture and my gardening is somewhere along these lines, that and just trying to maximise my use of space. Well, I find myself open to all ideas, I'm learning. This book is a lovely read, I have dipped into it again and again. It gives loads of advice on varieties to try, how to plant/sow, has some recipes at the back and is just a really pleasing book to look at again and again.

This was the second book I bought.

To me, cookery and gardening books should have lots of photos. This book is great for photos, is very simple to follow and does exactly what it says on the tin. I like that it has a breakdown, month by month of what to sow, what to plant and what to harvest. It doesn't go in to a huge amount of detail but I found it a great help when I first started and I can see myself still finding it useful for a long time to come.



Sunday, 13 May 2012

Getting carried away in the sunshine.

So, Saturday was gloriously sunny, after stocking up on more bags of soil (£3.49 for a 50 litre bag from Tesco x3) got home and got busy. I potted up more jalapenos and aubergine and now the tomato growhouse is full.
The plants that went out the other day seem to have settled in happily so I'm just keeping a close eye on the weather forecasts and keeping the fleece at the ready. I suppose I was bouyed by the good weather and the success of the filling of this growhouse that I got even more daring and really decided to go for it.....

I realised that the small growhouse would fit on the raised bed, covering most of the plants growing and  I could place more plants in their final place.

In this space I've planted sungold and moneymaker toms, an aubergine and big banana pepper with marigolds of course. The seedlings you can see in the picture above are radish and sweetcorn. I'm really hoping that the growhouse is effective in providing the perfect growing conditions and again have the fleece on standby.

The next few weeks, I think I shall be on tenterhooks. Does fortune really favour the brave? I'll let you know for certain in a few weeks.

Friday, 11 May 2012

A productive day....

Today the weather was sunny, no rain. Time to garden!

I've had two tomato plants (one sungold, one moneymaker) which have been in the growhouses fulltime for over a week. They are both really tall and have buds that are pretty big so I decided to risk it and pot them up in the tomato growhouse. I've been itching to do this for ages, just couldn't wait any longer. Once I got started, I got brave and really went for it. So I planted up an aubergine, jalapeno and banana pepper. Three are in the bottomless tomato pots in the wooden planter (not the best of pictures, sorry).

I planted them with a mix of organic manure, compost and a handful of potash. I managed to squeeze some marigolds in between, bit of a squash but hey ho. I am cautiously optimistic that they will be fine and it's not too early. I zipped the door up mostly, but with a gap for ventilation as it was so sunny then closed it completely just as it got the last of the sun so it should be nice and warm in there. That's plan A, plan B is that if they all die (worst case scenario) I still have other plants to replace them.

 In April's issue of Gardener's World magazine, they gave away free Maskotka tomato seeds, they're a tumbling cherry tomato so I planted them in my last free hanging basket.
It's not a big basket, I planted 3 plants and a marigold which I think may well be pushing my luck but we will see. You live and learn. The basket hangs by the back door during sunny days and will live in the growhouse the rest of the time until things warm up a bit.

The seeds I planted just a few days ago are already starting to peak through the soil. I have to admit, one of the first things I do in the morning is nip into the garden to see how things are coming along, it is an exciting time!

Against all the odds, this rhubarb root I planted in February has taken. I hadn't held out much hope that it would do anything, it's a bit of a Godforsaken bit of the garden. For years, this was where a rotten old tree stump resided, this was to the side of the shed that once was and was mostly covered with old pots and junk. It doesn't get much sun so I don't imagine the rhubarb will thrive but I haven't the space to put it anywhere else. So we'll see how it goes for this year. From what I've read, you leave it alone for the first year then hopefully next year we'll have rhubarb!

It's great to see some of the flowers starting to open and attract the wildlife. Even with space at a premium, I have made a point of growing some flowers, I realised from the few veg I grew last year that it really helps to get the bugs in and get things pollinated.

And this was the salad I served at dinner, rocket, lettuce and spinach, which went great with wraps, chicken and cheese. No shop bought salads in this house, this summer!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Yesterday actually did some work on the garden with Dave. We are gradually putting up new fence panels, our neighbour has alot of stuff growing against our fence on her side so we can't do it all in one go as she is (understandably) reluctant to hack all her stuff back. We've done as much as we can, just hoping we can persuade her to let us do the final two panels in the Autumn/Winter.

The good news is that the garden is progressing and I can see a bit more clearly the direction I want to go in, moved a few pots around and low and behold a space has appeared just about the right size to fit a small raised bed. Yay! Mentioned it to Dave and he didn't bat an eye. Yay again!

Had a thorough go through the growhouse, a rogue snail had found it's way all the way to the top shelf and had helped itself to my coriander and fennel seedlings. Not happy! Still, it made me have to clear out the growhouse and rearrange the plants, also realised I had badly neglected the cosmos, which all needed potting on. Quite proud of the fact that because the water butts are so full, I've washed out all the empty pots ready for the next time they're needed.

Sowed some broccoli and kale in the growhouse, also sowed some rainbow carrots in the raised bed.

I know my sowing style has been a bit haphazard in the other bed so I'm going to be more disciplined with this bed and sow in rows. Keeping it covered at the moment just in case it gets too cold and (mostly) to help keep the cat off. She seems to think it's just a great big litter tray purely for her. Empty garden bags and a liberal sprinkling of pepper is my answer to that.

The carrots in the Ikea bag are coming along nicely, I read somewhere that carrots don't like too much water so I've been covering them up when we've had long periods of rain (so, quite alot). I think the theory is that if they are too wet, you get lots of green tops and not lot of root. I've thinned out a few and they do seem to be progressing nicely. We'll see.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Spreading the gardening bug

Today we went to Polhill, Badgers Mount. Such a great garden centre and well worth the drive. We go every 6 weeks or so. They have a great butchers there and we tend to get most of our meat shop there, it's much tastier than the supermarket stuff. The place is huge and does such a variety of stuff, garden furniture that is as big as my garden. Great way to spend a few hours.

 I managed to avoid the temptation to buy seedlings, really do have enough to be getting on with. Leah made a special request for some "ballerina flowers", fuchsias so I let her pick the 2 varieties she liked and they were planted in a wall basket then put to bed in the grow house for the night. I picked out some purple sprouting broccoli seeds, loved having these in the garden last season. Dave actually picked out some cut and come again coriander seeds, requested that I try growing romanescu broccoli and him and Leah picked out some colourful carrot seeds. Could the growing and gardening bug be spreading? In some ways that would be great, though the selfish part of me likes pottering around on my todd, never was big on sharing. I am really lucky that Dave supports me and humours me the way he does.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A work in progress

A couple of months ago, I drew up my plan for the garden and tried to allocate the space I have. This is my first year taking my gardening seriously and I am very much learning along the way. Plans aren't written in stone and can be changed as the plants and weather dictate, I am learning to be flexible. I must look a bit demented or, at the very least, obsessive to my neighbours because I spend quite alot of time in the garden (rain permitting) looking and thinking and trying to get the layout how I want it, maximise space and visualise how it might look once plants are in place and grown. It feels like it's moving in the right direction.

I realised that if we used old plastic bottles as cloches for Leah's sweetcorn, I could use the long cloche on the larger raised bed,.

Once I cloched the sweetcorn, I realised I could sow some seeds in the large raised bed. In this bed (on the left handside), I've sown some peas at the back with sweetcorn coming forward, interspersed with radishes. This bed gets the best sun out of the two large beds so I'm hoping I might be able to try growing some of the tomatoes on the right handside towards the end of the month.

The lettuce is coming along. Leah comes into the garden and I'll point her towards the spinach or a tasty looking lettuce leaf or a pea shoot and she'll have a nibble. She reckons it's like having a supermarket in the garden where you can just go and help yourself, as the weeks go on there will hopefully be more to nibble on.

I love the anticipation, waiting for this to open fully. Planted several bulbs in October(ish), think they are alliums (don't recall exact variety) and the wait is almost over.