Saturday, 30 April 2011

New potatoes....yummy

I couldn’t resist the temptation to empty one of the containers of Lady Christl potatoes in the greenhouse. First I scraped away some of the compost just to make sure there was something there.

Yes, those are definitely taties all snuggled up among the leaf mould.

It’s too early really as you can see by the number of tiddlers but oh, the taste was divine, and I can say in all honesty that I managed to eat home-grown new potatoes in April....just. I’ll leave the rest for at least a week and give them some tomato feed before I tip any more out. These were the February planted ones and it's an experiment that has been a great success, largely down to the fantastic weather we've had in April.
Yes, I know these are flowers and I'm a veg. grower, but these are potato flowers, Maris Peer to be exact. Interestingly the Lady Christl didn't produce any flowers. Some do, some don't which makes it a bit awkward when you listen to people who say the spuds are ready when the flowers die down.

Today wasn't just about savouring the delights of new potatoes. I also sowed twenty climbing beans in cells, potted up three tomato plants into their final positions in the greenhouse and planted out some cauliflowers as well as a little light weeding and cutting the back lawn. Highlight was definitely the new potatoes. I almost feel like a proud new dad. Silly isn't it.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

wall to wall sunshine

So far this month we've had more or less continuous sunshine which has brought things on a treat and they are weeks ahead of last year. Trouble is we could still get some sharp frosts which would now cause a lot of damage to the more tender plants. On top of that there has been no rain to speak of so watering all the containers has become a daily task, something unheard of in previous Aprils.

Broad beans are flowering nicely and there are plenty of pollinating insects about so I should get a decent crop. These are a dwarf variety 'The Sutton'
The overwintered onions are thickening up as well. Last year I lifted them in late July and I suspect it might well be earlier this time. These are closely spaced in the 'square foot' part of the plot and will give a medium-sized onion which we prefer.
I'm putting the tomatoes and peppers out in the greenhouse during the day but bringing them back in at night as the temperatures are still dropping into single figures under the glass.

The last pic of the day is of some azalea flowers which look more like plastic than real. This plant was rescued last year from underneath a jungle of couch grass and some thuggish, rampant brambles. I gave it light and air and a feed and it now seems happy enough.
P.S. I don't mind dandelions as long as they're not in my veg. patch.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

rain, glorious rain...

but, unfortunately, not enough of it. Number one water butt is back to half-full but I now have a healthy crop of weed seedlings to deal with. The combination of warm weather and recent rain has pushed everything forward, including chickweed, dandelions, buttercups and groundsel.

Because I use a block planting scheme on part of the plot the close spacing means no hoeing so I have to get down and remove the weeds by hand. Out comes the kneeler as that's the only way my poor old arthritic joints will allow me to get close enough to the ground. Once the veg. plants get well established I leave them to fight it and don't bother much with weeding.

A while ago I put some strawberry plants in the greenhouse which have now got good fruit on them. If the weather stays fair it shouldn't be long before I'm munching on fresh strawberries.

And talking of fruit, the cherry tree has so much blossom we should be in for a bumper crop. Well, the birds will be in for a bumper crop as they seem to prefer cherries not quite ripe. I do manage to net parts of the tree and get a few for myself but it really is a losing battle.
cherry blossom
I saw a damsel/dragon fly in the garden today. Not sure of the species but it was a bronze colour and about 4cm long. Whatever it was I hope that's a sign that summer is well on its way.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

water butt empty!

It's only April and already one of the water butts is empty with another about half full. I never thought when I moved to Cumbria that I'd ever be short of water. The problem is all the potatoes that I'm growing in containers this year. Now that they've reached a good size and are, hopefully, forming nice fat tubers they need copious amount to drink. How are all you growers down south coping. Watching the forecasts I see it's even warmer where you are so things must be getting a bit dry by now.

Friday, 15 April 2011


Today's pics are some of the apple and pear blossom which is currently brightening up an otherwise fairly bare garden. There have been plenty of bees about for pollination so I'm hopeful of good fruit crops this year. In fact I'd say the bees are much more active and much earlier than last year when it was still too cold for them during April.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Christmas new chance

As in previous years, as soon as they arrived, I put half a dozen or so seed potatoes in a box in the fridge to try and halt their progress so I can plant them in July for Christmas new potatoes. Once again I failed as they now have white shoots 2 or 3 cm long and will have to be planted soon. Ah well, never mind.

The early planted spuds from the greenhouse are now outside but some are still looking a bit leggy.
I'm just praying that we don't get any hard frosts now. I can move them back into the greenhouse but it's a pain having to find space for them.

For those who are growing several varieties of spuds in containers be sure to put the name on otherwise you'll  never know what you are eating. Sounds obvious but it's very easy to forget what you've planted.

This afternoon I sowed 20 Alderman peas in cells under glass. These will be planted out to climb up the wigwam I’ve constructed and are in addition to the Early Onward and Lincoln peas which I’m sowing successionally to ensure continuity of cropping.

I try different seed composts every year and of the three I’ve used this year only one, Westland John Innes, would I ever use again. It has just the right feel for sowing fine seeds like lettuce and carrot whereas some of the others have lumps or wood or loads of gravel in them which need to be sieved out. If you're selling something as seed compost it should be perfectly usable straight from the bag.  This is not an advert, just an observation!!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

all is not lost

Four of the asparagus crowns now have spears showing above ground so all is not lost. I thought the bed was finished after the severe winter but it is just sprouting later than last year. Then I realized I put a good thick mulch on it in November so the spears have a couple more inches to push through before they reach daylight.

I finally got the last of the compost heap dug and riddled which only leaves a little leaf mould to add to my potting mix. At the last count there were ninety-one assorted containers growing a range of veg from lettuce to potatoes, and all filled with home-grown compost. Imagine what that would have cost if I’d used commercial stuff.

Parsnips and carrots under glass have germinated nicely, as have some of the pot herbs I sowed. I think this year more than any other I’ll run out of growing space long before I get all the seedlings planted.

It’s looking good for another bumper crop of blackcurrants with all three bushes carrying healthy bundles of flower buds.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

all hands on deck....

Well, it would have been if there were any hands other than my own to help with the work. Glorious weather this last few days and so much to do.

Planted out the last of the onion sets, giving me about 150 if they all survive. That should see us through the winter. The first shallots are storming away and dividing nicely. As an experiment  I started these off in pots in the greenhouse last autumn and overwintered them before planting out under cover in March. I would say it was a success as the rest of the crop is just starting to shoot now.

The greenhouse potatoes are getting a bit leggy so I’ve put them outside and they can stay there unless frosts are forecast. It should harden them up a bit and slow down the soft growth.

Seed sowing has been going on in earnest and now that I’m growing flowers as well as veg. there’s even more to do. I've already planted out some nasturtiums and the marigolds are just about ready to go among some of the carrots in the vain hope of deterring the dreaded fly.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Phew, what a weekend.

Decent weather all weekend, apart from the cold wind but that helps to dry things out so mustn't grumble. Anyway, I got plenty done and the veg plot is looking a bit less bare than a couple of weeks ago.

Planted out ten cabbages which will have cloche protection until they get established. The spaces between will be intercropped with point wasting good growing space.

Fifty peas (early onward) went under the mini-tunnel, along with some winter density lettuce while all around me was the whirr and clatter of lawn mowers in neighbouring gardens. I really should attend to our lawns but they'll have to wait until the vegies are sorted.

As I was working a sparrow hawk swooped low over the gardens and sent all the small birds into a panic. I don't have a bird table for the simple reason that it would be like a fast food outlet for the local raptors.

But back to the garden. I got into a seed sowing frenzy with broad beans, carrots, lettuce, parsnips, radish, spring onions and tarragon going either into containers or the main plot. Then it was more potatoes. With eighty-odd planted I've really run out of space but I'm sure I'll squeeze a few more in somewhere!
Now, as I've mentioned before, my veg patch won't win any prizes for layout or beauty but It serves its purpose which suits me. Utilitarian is the word for it, if you're feeling in a generous mood. The wire netting and all the various protection systems are to keep the dear little birdies off. Much of what you see is home-made from other people's rubbish. I know, it shows!
The black tubs and polypots make the main part of the potato patch with others growing nicely in the greenhouse or dotted around the garden where I can find room for them. In the middle the old concrete clothes post makes a useful anchor for a wigwam of hazel sticks which will be used for the Alderman climbing peas. Climbing beans will go on two more wigwams in the west border.

Roll on the summer and all that lovely produce.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

potatoes progress

The spuds in containers in the greenhouse are storming away after the recent decent weather. In fact, some are in danger of getting all 'leggy' so I'm going to start putting them outside during the day. It's a bit of a pain moving all the tubs back and forth but I still feel it's too early to have them outside permanently.

The pics were taken four days ago and they've come on since then.

And it's not just the potatoes. I have some strawberries in pots and a hanging basket also in the greenhouse and they are now flowering. Ooh, fresh strawberries in May!!
And while we're on the subject of flowers here's a close-up of some rhododendron blooms. This deep red one always flowers before the others but it is even earlier this year, having had flowers for the past week.

All that we need now is for some severe late frosts to put the kybosh on all this lovely progress.