Tuesday, 29 March 2011

New edging for beds.

Last week I scrounged a load more used tiling laths from the lad who’s re-roofing a house in the village and made a start on cutting it up into suitable lengths for ‘rustic’ edging for the beds and back lawn. With a bit of preservative slapped on it looks rather good which is a surprise to me as I was never much good at woodwork!

The extra depth will allow me to bung loads of home-made compost on the beds over the coming years but the best thing about it is that it cost nothing. The nails and screws to hold it together I've had for 30 years and the preservative was left over from when I treated the shed!

With the recent good weather I've managed to get quite a lot done, including planting out another forty onion sets and more container potatoes. The bottom bed is now ready to receive the new season's crops and over the next few weeks things should really start to take off. I have cabbage and calabrese plants ready to put out and the first peas will be going in soon.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

and the last crop standing is...

Leeks. It's always leeks in my garden but I had to dig up this lot today as I really need to get the ground prepared for the new season's crops. I chopped them and put them in the freezer but we’re all a bit sick of leeks by this time of year so they might just end up as a soup ingredient.
I made up another barrow load of potting compost which is going into the potato containers. It's a good feeling not having to buy bags of commercial compost, not just because of the money saved but also because I think mine is actually better quality. The proof of the pudding will be in the crops I get this year so we'll just have to wait and see.

A house in the village is being re-roofed and I managed to scrounge about 120 metres of old tiling laths. These are going to make some nice rustic edging for the beds when sawn and treated. Pics will follow when the job is complete. I didn't think you'd want to see a pile of old timber!

Saw my first bumble bee of the year this afternoon. Surely a sign that spring is almost here.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

digging the leaf mould

Yesterday it rained non-stop all day but today I’ve been working outside in my shirtsleeves. Don’t you just love the British weather.

Opened the first leaf mould cage and started sieving some of the crumbly stuff inside. The unrotted leaves have gone into the second cage where they’ll stay until this time next year. The best stuff is right in the middle of the heap and shows no visible leaf structure at all. This is what goes into the potting compost mix while the coarser material makes a good mulch.

It’s about time I was getting some tomatoes and peppers sowed so I did six of each in small pots and brought them into the house to germinate. I’m a couple of weeks later than last year but I find it pays to err on the side of caution with tender plants as they can suffer a real setback if the weather’s too cold when you put them out.  Also sowed a container of beetroot which will be the year’s first picking if they germinate. I tend to make small sowings of beetroot at regular intervals so that I have a constant supply of small, fresh roots. Later on a bigger sowing of maincrop will be made and these used for pickling.

Nasturtium and marigolds have germinated and these will be used for companion planting among other crops in the hope of deterring pests.

Because of the rotation system I use all my potatoes will be container grown this year and if it's the success I hope for I'll do it every year from now on. I know some people will say they do much better in the open ground but if they are fed and watered correctly I reckon similar or even better yields can be achieved in containers. Anyway I made a start on preparing some of the ground where the pots will sit and I'll be documenting my progress through the year.
I drew out a shallow trench and then...
positioned the pots and put four inches of compost in each one followed by one seed spud which was covered with more compost. The soil removed from the trench was pushed back around the pots to anchor them.
I'm using a variety of containers from flower buckets for first earlies to 40 litre polypots for maincrop with all manner of tubs and pots in between. If anyone else out there is doing anything similar I'd be interested in comparing techniques and yields.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

a timely reminder...

Awoke this morning to see snow on the Scottish border hills and Lakeland fells. Mid morning we had a heavy shower of wet sleet...a timely reminder that winter is far from over yet. At least between showers the sun is coming out and temps in the greenhouse are well up into double figures. It was quite pleasant working in there and I managed to squeeze in another large container with four Maris Bard potatoes but that is definitely it for the indoor crop...unless I can persuade Cath to let me bring them into the house. Fat chance of that, though.

Also sowed more leeks and some peas and broad beans in containers. I usually grow at least two varieties of leeks in order to get a succession of pickings through the winter. With an early variety like Zermatt you can actually be eating baby leeks in August from a February sowing. A new one for me this year is ‘Porbella’ which is supposed to be very hardy and should stand till March. For the months when fresh leeks are not available there’s the frozen ones to fall back on although we don’t eat so many in the summer months as there’s plenty of other veg. available.

I did a sowing of AYR lettuce last October which germinated and then sulked all winter in the greenhouse. But it survived and is now storming away. Trouble is I’ve no space to put it all so it will probably go as hen food for my neighbour.
leggy lettuce waiting to be transplanted  
from the same sowing but potted on a few weeks ago. I also put some out on the plot under a cloche
The broad beans sown in individual pots are coming along nicely and will soon be ready to go out into the open ground. The last two years I've tried overwintering some 'Aquadulce Claudia' but lost the lot to the frosts. This seems a much better idea and should give an early crop.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

....and a wren popped out

I opened the shed door this morning and a wren popped out. It must have got in yesterday as I leave the door open most of the day when I’m pottering. Anyway, after that little surprise I got down to a pleasant day’s work.

The remaining shallots that were growing in pots in the greenhouse have now gone into the ground under my new mini-polytunnel, along with AYR lettuce and early sowings of beetroot and carrots. Hopefully the tunnel will give them the protection they need from the elements.  This is part of the plot that will be block planted (or ‘square-footed’ if you prefer). The shallots are interspersed with other crops In the hope that this will deter pests.

In the greenhouse the first lot of container planted potatoes now have shoots poking through the compost and the broad beans are also showing their heads. We are still getting night frosts but they are not severe and the temperature under glass doesn’t dip below 3˚ or 4˚C.

blackcurrant cuttings coming into leaf
I managed to find a stake long enough so I got my Aldi apple tree into its final position. The buds were starting to open so I couldn't really leave it much longer. Sowed the first two containers of parsnips and will do the rest at fortnightly intervals. I find this method gives me much better results than growing in the open ground. Also sowed more leeks but have yet to sow any toms or peppers. Apart from the fact that I haven't any spare window sills to put them on it's still a little early for this part of the world.