Tuesday, 31 January 2012

almost ready

Although the soil is cold it is not actually frozen so I’ve been digging out more compost from the heap and applying it throughout the garden. As a companion all afternoon I had a robin who was either pecking in the heap or among the freshly spread compost. Disturbed ground means lovely creepy-crawlies for dinner.

The ivy you can see in the pic is invading from a neighbour's garden. Some people might think it looks very rustic to have ivy creeping over hedges and fences but I hate the darned stuff. It's just about the most pernicious weed imaginable and very difficult to get rid of. We used to have some trying to get a foothold on the front of the house and the only way I could get rid was by burning it off with a blowlamp.

The main veg plot is now just about ready for this year’s crops. All I really need to do is a final rake over when it dries out and then apply a dressing of BFB with pelleted chicken manure for the brassicas.

In addition to the compost from the heap I also added crushed dried seaweed and will, of course, be giving the crops my liquid seaweed feed throughout the season. So, that's most of the preparation done now all I can do is wait for spring!

A couple of weeks ago I sprouted some out-of-date pea seeds in the kitchen, intending to use them in a stir fry. Well, I didn't use them and they kept growing so I've transplanted the clump to a pot of compost. Wonder if I'll get an extra early crop of peas this year?

early peas?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


Well, it's compost really and not manure. Today I scraped the top off the main compost heap and dug out 12 buckets full of stuff to spread on part of the plot.

As you can see there's a bit of unrotted woody material in there but once it's been spread this is easy to rake off and then put back in the heap to further rot down.

The compost I dug out was roughly raked over two of the beds to let the worms pull it down. Brassicas will be going in one side and the other will probably be 'square footed'. You can see that there's still a few of last year's crops in the higher beds and if we can't eat the stuff fresh before the ground is needed I'll just freeze it.
The leeks are not as good as previous years but I put this down to getting them in late because the poor summer meant that the potatoes were lifted later.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

rhubarb rears its head

On my rounds of the garden this morning I noticed that the first shoots of rhubarb are now poking their heads above the mulch. This is earlier than the last few years but I guess that’s down to the mild winter so far.

I might have ago at forcing one of the plants this year to give an early crop but the disadvantage of doing this is that it weakens the plant and is likely to give a lower yield the following year. Am I that desperate for rhubarb?

In my efforts at compost self-sufficiency I've been hoarding sacks of stuff all last year in addition to the daleks and the open heap. When I tipped out one of the sacks of mulch material to see what condition it was in I was pleasantly surprised.

As you can see, it looks rather like shop-bought compost although it has some biggish woody bits that haven’t rotted down yet. This lot was made from shredded prunings, etc. mixed with grass mowings and a scatter of chicken manure pellets every three or four inches as the sack filled up. As a mulch round fruit trees and bushes it certainly helps to keep weeds down and must add something to the soil structure....and it's free!

I'll finish this post with a pic of tonight's sunset taken from the back garden. It's a great shame that so few people, because of work, etc. rarely see anything like this.

Saturday, 14 January 2012


A beautiful winter’s day with clear blue skies and a gentle breeze so I had every incentive to do some serious pottering. I like to think that if pottering were an olympic sport I’d be a member of the England team, although how the judges would measure a successful potter I can’t imagine.

winter beeches

Although the weather is too cold for any planting and sowing it's perfect for all those 'housekeeping' jobs that need doing before the new season really gets under way. I've cleaned the inside of the greenhouse glass and sorted out my pots which were just piled up or thrown into bin bags. It's amazing how much less space they take up when they're stacked!!

The blueberries have spent their early life in large pots so I made a start on preparing a permanent bed for them. The hardest part is digging out my heavy clay in order to replace it with something more to their liking. I need to take out about a spade depth and then the blueberries will go into a raised area on top of that which should give them a decent root run and hopefully, bumper crops. In the bottom of the bed I’ve put a mix of well-rotted compost and coarse grit to improve drainage. The compost also includes a sack of pine needle debris I collected last year which will help to acidify the soil.

Next I worked in some moss peat, leaf mould and shop-bought ericaceous compost with a sprinkle of iron sulphate to further help the acidity. I can't find my soil testing kit so I'm just guessing the end result will suit the blueberries. Whatever, it should be better than having their roots in a cold, wet pot.

Regular readers will know that I collect mole-hill soil when I'm out and about and the latest lot was very sandy, almost to the point of being more sand than soil. I sieved it but found not a single stone and only a few grass roots in a fifty litre sack full. Mixed with home-made compost it should make the perfect growing medium for my carrots and parsnips.

Like most gardeners I'm itching to get started with sowing new crops but it's still a bit risky, even with the heated propagator. The problem is not getting them to germinate but keeping them indoors until the weather is warm enough to plant out. I will have a go at some onions in the next few days as I've never grown them from seed before and would like to compare size and quality with onions grown from sets.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

green shoots

The first green shoots of the new season are now popping up and, as usual, it’s the chives that are the earliest to provide us with food.

I know it's not much but just adding chopped chives to mashed potato or in an egg sandwich lifts it from the ordinary and lets me know that the earth is beginning anew and things are as they should be.

All of my chives are constrained one way or another as they do have a tendency to run amok if left to their own devices. At the end of each summer I split off a good clump and put them in a pot of fresh compost to give us a very early picking from the greenhouse. Last year the first pick was at the end of February but it’s going to be much sooner this year due to the mildness of the winter so far.

Although the ground is very soft I did manage to get a bit done on the veg. plot today. The last of the swedes came out meaning that last years brassica bed can now be made ready for the following crop. That just leaves carrots, chard, kale and leeks for fresh food outside plus the lettuce, chives and spring onions in the greenhouse.

As an experiment last year I sowed some carrot seed in a grow sack that previously had potatoes in it. The last week in August is supposed to be too late for carrots, certainly this far north, but I have managed to get a couple of meals of baby carrots. The compost was already there so all it’s cost me is a few seeds. Well worth trying if you live further south.