Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Seat of the pants gardening.

Having planted out 10 tomato plants before the weekend, I was away at the weekend and unsure what I was going to come back to. I hoped I had hardened everything off enough for them to survive whatever the weather was going to throw at them.
Thankfully the weather was great and everything was as it should be when I came back Sunday night.
The weather is so up and down, it really is hard to know whether the decision you make are the right ones.
Tomatoes in final position

Half of the tomatoes had flowers forming of opening so they needed to go out, these were from an early January sowing.
I was really surprised to find I had my first tomatoes,  ferline, which I'm not sure will work in my favour.
The broad beans and peas are all coming along.
I've used canes and shelves from the grow houses to help support the stems.

I've planted out the cucamelon with barely a whisper of optimism, they do look quite pathetic.

First strawberries

Future raspberries

Dave had shown a lot of interest in us growing red strawberry popcorn as shown in James Wong's book, I had wanted to grow regular corn but it's not recommended that you grow different variety close together.
So in the interest of matrimonial harmony I got the seeds.

The general advice on growing corn is to germinate in toilet roll tubes as they don't like root disturbance. I tried this but after two weeks nothing had happened so I tried again in a regular window sill propagator and they started to germinate after a week.



I was very gentle at lifting the seedlings and planted them out and now, nearly a week on, they are definitely getting bigger.
Indoor jalapeno, sown on the 5th Jan.

I am grateful that I have plants that are doing what they should be doing somewhat early but now is not the time to get cocky, very few things are a certainty.
I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and see where it gets us.



Thursday, 23 May 2013

Keeping my dirt stained fingers crossed.

So very much is going on the garden.
It was great to see a bee busy visiting every single blossom on the apple tree about a week or so ago.
And thanks to him and others we have the first bulges of potential apples.
Very exciting!
 Sowings of coriander, fenugreek, lettuce and radish.
A second sowing of cucamelon.
I want so much for these to work but the first batch look insipid and this second batch look like they are heading in the same direction.
I've tried everything I can think of, now it is just a case of fingers crossed.

This year I'm going to try growing chillies, peppers and aubergine in the tomato grow house.
I've put a potted marigold on each shelf to help with bugs and despite the temperatures being so erratic, they seem to be thriving.

Now according to James Wong (Home grown revolution), asparagus pea will trail nicely in a hanging basket. That is, I suppose if they survive the weather which has been decidedly nippy today
All the strawberry plants are flowering. 

Cavolo de nero  and romanesco seedlings.

These lilies are thriving against all odds.
They had spent last year growing in the old tyre and I most unceremoniously yanked them out and stuffed them in these pots and they seem to be loving it.

My yearly attempt at a hanging basket.
I shall reserve judgement.

On what was already a pretty busy day, the Rocket Garden pack I won last year arrived after lunch.
It was like Christmas, opening it up and pealing back layer after layer of straw to reveal different young plants.
I have potted up a lot and found a home for quite a lot.
Hoping to pass some more to others who haven't confirmed with me yet.
I have kept a bit more than I had intended. couldn't help myself.

We shall have no shortage of lettuce.
I've kept some of the straw and put it around the strawberries.

I kept some of the borlotti beans and runner beans.
It is going to be a tad cramped but I suppose it will really be proof of how much we can squeeze in and get out of these beds.

Leah helped me build the wigwams, plant the beans and took the photo.
It is noticeably chilly tonight, just really hoping everything survives.
Fingers and toes crossed.
Happy gardening.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

In and out, the ups and downs of hardening off!

I'm a fairly patient person, I like to think, but  taking the plants out in the morning and then bringing them back in at night has lost its allure. Hardening plants off is necessary, so the plants can be acclimatised to the temperatures and not die of shock when they are planted out, the exposure to wind also strengthens the stems, so I will suck it up and get on with it.
The massive grow house is proving useful now and once I dare to leave the plants overnight, they shall be tucked up in there.
The beds are on their way to being ready for planting up.

The peas and broad beans that had been undercover, are now exposed to the elements.
Proof that hardening off is so important in the scheme of things, though they had the grow house over them, I would leave it open over night and the seedlings are growing on beautifully despite the weird weather and unpredictable temperatures we've been experiencing these past couple of weeks..


These peas are a little further on, such a useful and compact little growing system.

I'm starting to feel like I'm getting somewhere.
There's still some of last season's debris to get rid of but things are coming together.
Beds are ready for when the plants are ready. All we need now is some good weather, that I can't do anything about.
Yesterday morning, I said to Dave that I was going into the garden to do an hour before getting on with house work. That hour turned out to be more like two.
 Lots of potting on of tomatoes and peppers, putting canes in to support plants and some successional sowings of lettuce and radish.
 Next time, I don't think I'll specify a time and just say I'm going into the garden and leave it at that.
This stunning poppy has sprung up, no idea how it got to nestling just behind the rhubarb but it's lovely so he's welcome to stay.
Have a great weekend.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Not enough hours in the day.

There really aren't!
Such a lot going on!

I've been working on the latest bed (made from remnants of the kid's beds so I call it the bed bed (original, eh?)).
There are rosemary and thyme plants and Chinese chives and parsley I have grown from seed.
I don't remember planting that many but I do seem to have a lot of bulbs coming through, along side garlic, strawberries, teasel, a dianthus plants and a perennial daisy type plant I've long forgotten the name of. It really is a busy bed.
So, there are still usable spaces where plants have yet to fill so I thought rather than wait for them to grow, I would make the most of it.
I sowed something in this bed in a little space and I can't for the life of me remember what it was. And, no I didn't write a label. I just assumed I would remember.
Bottom left hand corner of the photo, the seeds have germinated. I'm thinking they could be radish.
Lesson learnt, use labels from now on.
This uninspiring patch is out the front, our driveway.
I've had lavender here for a year or two and it was only happy in patches.
I was going to pull it all up but then changed my mind at the last minute a gave it a severe hacking.
The alliums I planted are in their second season and I've planted a mixture of foxglove, poppies, verbena and aquilega, they were left over from our friend's garden. My plan is to just see which ones work. I also did a light sowing of love in the mist seeds (pack of 750 seeds, 39p from Aldi) in the gaps.
It's not going to be stylish but hopefully it will be colourful.
Whatever happens, I'm sure to learn something from the whole experience.
These are just next to our plot, in our neighbours garden.
They looked stunning and I had to get a photo to share.
Hope you are all not too busy.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


Gardening is off the menu today. Time to catch up on some blogging and ironing.
My two water butts are empty so I'm hoping for plenty of rain to fill them up.
It was a busy weekend, working on two gardens. I got the kids to help with our friend's garden, Chris dug over the veg plot and earned himself a couple of blisters and Leah dug a large hole and managed to help uproot a bramble bush, both worked really hard and I was dead proud. We returned home to a roast dinner with huge appetites.
I'd spent a few hours working on our garden, removing the last of the broccoli and kale.
Both beds have now been given a good dose of fish blood and bone dug in and they are ready to go when it's time to start planting out.
I've set up this makeshift cage for strawberry corn and the pots in front are ready for tomatoes.
I am raring to go but making every effort to be cautious. It is not easy. 

I have an abundance of plants that are now a very viable size for outdoor life.
I am putting many of them, mainly toms and peppers outside to harden off during the day.
My plan is to soon have them out at night but under the large cloche that is currently over the other bed. This will be great as it can get frustrating carrying the plants to and fro.
With one eye on the weather, I'm thinking maybe another week and I might see about leaving out at night.

I'm now hardening off this bed by leaving the cloche open at night but I'm pretty sure everything is hardy enough.
In the far left we have peas and then broad beans.
The rest of the bed is filled with a half hearted attempt at sowing some radish, beetroot and carrot just to alleviate the need to sow. Having said that, we've had a good few radish that have been welcome.
And of course, there are some garlic.
This area at the bottom of the garden has turned into a bit of a fruit corner.
We have the 3 variety apple tree, blueberry and jostaberry all in their second year and the new addition of the pinkberry. The other side of the step is a bargain redcurrant bush from Aldi which I'm not holding out much hope for as it's taken a few batterings from Chris's football.
 Apple blossom is such a beautiful thing!
This grow house, I love. Not to pour scorn of plastic grow houses (they have served me well and I respect them for that) but this feels a bit more proper. We'll never fit a greenhouse in our garden so this is really as good as it's going to get.
It is gradually being emptied of perennials as I find homes for them and they are being replaced with gradually more edibles which is exciting.
I have a mixed sprinkling of lettuces for microgreens (the kids have taken to them this year and Leah likes to cut them) and a tray of peas just for the shoots.

Here was a plant that caught our eye at the garden centre. Could be interesting.
I have to confess, I have been pushing boundaries a bit.
I sowed a lot of seeds early.
A couple of tomatoes went very leggy and failed.
I sowed some squashes and courgettes far too soon and then planted them out, having said that they did lure out the slugs which was helpful.
But, on the bright side, I have a good number of very viable tomatoes from the first and second sowings I made. The chili and pepper plants are all good.
This jalapeno in the kitchen is doing amazingly well and already has flowers forming. I have one a similar size so I've pinched that one out and I'm leaving this one as is at the moment to compare how they fare.
I also did an early sowing and placing out of asparagus pea and I've found that by covering it with an old glass worktop protector and a bit of horticultural fleece at night they have survived.
Well, I think that's a very thorough update for now.
Can't put it off any longer, the ironing awaits.


Friday, 3 May 2013

Rewarding patience.

So, last year I planted some rhubarb in a forgotten corner of the garden.
This was a real exercise in patience.
For the first year there was no harvesting, I just removed any dead stalks and hoped that it would be happy enough in it's new home.
Thankfully it has done amazingly well, this part of the garden gets no sun in the Autumn/Winter months and then only a few hours of sunlight the rest of the year.
Finally, we can now harvest our first home grown rhubarb!
On Sunday, I picked just 2 stalks.
I didn't really have anything in mind as to what to do with it but I just got a huge kick out of picking it.
 It didn't go to waste.

I used this well loved recipe for apple streusel cake from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook (great book!) and replaced the apple with rhubarb. I looked on line and I found a recipe that coated the rhubarb in sugar  before pouring onto the cake batter, so that's what I did.

I only used one of the stalks, which Dave said wasn't enough. So 2 stalks and it is spot on.
Yesterday, it was finally time to say goodbye to the plants I've been growing on for friends, almost 80 individual plants in all.
I did a lot of research, looking at height and spread, where best to plant etc.
Also had to try and identify some of the plants, strangely the permanent pen I used for the plant labels wasn't.
This is just some of them.
So, last evening, I helped my friend to plant some up.
It was lovely to finally get them in place and I wished them well and a long and full life (yes, out loud).
 I couldn't resist, today I made sure I passed by the garden and checked up on them. They looked just fine.
On Sunday I'll be back to do some more planting up and work on their garden.
It is nice to have more space in the garden now though.
I know everything is all a bit out of whack this Spring, but in a way it's been quite nice because it seems like more trees are blossoming at the same time than normal.
I think it was maybe Tuesday, round these parts, that many trees seemed to be at blossom perfection.
That moment when the blossom looks plump and fluffy and there wasn't enough breeze to dislodge it.
Our tree in the back garden, on Tuesday.
The photo doesn't quite do it justice.
Have a great Bank Holiday.