Friday, 25 May 2012

big blog (part two)

Now, where was I?

It ain't half hot, mum (but you won't see me striding through the garden in a pith helmet) so I've been doing a lot of the garden work early and late to avoid the full heat of the sun. Not a good idea to transplant things in hot conditions - that's an evening job and I've offered some shade to the plants for the first couple of days where I could. There's always weeding and tidying to be done in the sheltered areas or what I like to call the woodland glade at the bottom of the garden which has allowed me to get some respite from the heat among the trees. Next door neighbour decided he wanted to tidy up his garden which meant removing a couple of small trees and seriously cutting back a lot of shrubbery. Out came the chainsaw and I get to put all the smaller branches through my shredder for mulch and compost material. He wanted to borrow the chainsaw and do it himself but he's the sort of chap who doesn't look very comfortable with a hammer or screwdriver in his hand so I thought a chainsaw might have been tempting fate. I wouldn't really want a legless neighbour, in the literal sense!!

Made a start on my bean hedge with runner bean seeds kindly donated by UK Veg Gardeners member, Elaine. All have germinated successfully but I've run out of big tubs to plant them into so watch this space.
The tubs are filled with a very rich compost and the idea is to have the runners climb up the canes and then ramble through the hedge which is about two metres high. It might work, it might not but I just love trying new ways to increase veg production. 

But it's not all about gardening up here at Solway Towers. On Tuesday we had a trip out to the dark side (Scotland). My wife and I are both charity shop fanatics and Dumfries has a few good ones. It also has a very irreverent gull about to leave a deposit on the head of Robert Burns!

time for a big blog

After a week of hot sunny weather and plenty to do in the garden I've finally found time for a blog update. Because the first few weeks of May were so dismal I had a stack of stuff in the greenhouse ready for planting out and more hardening off on top of the coal bunker.

I've now got most of it into final positions with the runner and french beans out, celery planted in blocks of five in big square pots....

broccoli and summer cabbage in their beds, courgettes in more big pots and the first lot of leeks in a big box.
This is actually a plastic bread tray lined with cardboard to stop the compost falling out of the holes and the leeks will be picked as babies before the main crop is ready. When the early potatoes are lifted the bulk of the leeks will go in the space left behind. And talking of spuds the sunshine has really brought them on.
On the left are the first and second earlies which got nipped by the frost but have come back strongly.  The mains are on the right of the pic and in front of the greenhouse. All are growing in either polypots or flower buckets.

It won't be long now before I'm feasting on strawberries and cream and I'm hoping my friend mister frog is waiting for a feast of slugs.
to be continued....

Friday, 18 May 2012

first tomato

Today I noticed the first tomato fruit had set. It's on the variety Harzfeuer, which I got from Lidl.

This plant has two trusses of flowers while Alicante, sown at the same time, has just one starting to form. If we eventually get some sun this summer I'm hoping for an earlier crop than usual.

I'm growing more tomato varieties than normal this year simply because I seem to have acquired a lot of seeds. They're a bit like potatoes in that there so many to choose from. Come to think of it, they're a lot like potatoes, both being of the genus solanum. Anyway, it's great fun trying all the different ones in order to select those that you really want to grow. I hate it when people say things like 'I only grow Moneymaker as I get good yields'. Is that really the point of growing your own? I can understand the commercial boys wanting to maximize yields but I'm growing stuff that I want to eat!

I'm almost at the end of the greenhouse grown first early potatoes but the first of the outside crop are well behind due to the cold weather. Looks like I'll be buying potatoes for a couple of weeks after this weekend.

It's interesting how fast they bulk up once they get going. The first lot I lifted at the end of April gave around 210g per seed but after a further fortnight they were giving 540g per seed. I don't normally get more than 1kg per seed from the first earlies but I've never left them till they finished growing, preferring to eat them small.

Although May has so far proved to be a bit of a disaster from a gardening point of view there are some bright spots so here's a few pics of things floral. They all have an edible connection so don't start thinking I've turned into a flower arranger!

ramsons (wild garlic)



Thursday, 10 May 2012

what a day

We've had non-stop heavy rain all day which is set to continue through the night. Flood alerts are out on local rivers but at least the water butts are full, and half a dozen buckets and four watering cans. I really wish I had more water storage because with all the container-grown veggies I get through an amazing amount in dry weather (what's that!)

I hate days like this because there is so much I need to get on with outside and I'm stuck in the house. After repeatedly checking the seed trays in the propagator in the spare bedroom I eventually decided they'd germinate just as well without any encouragement from me. Actually, in one tray with small pots of squash and melons I noticed the compost pushing up so they are starting to move. Never grown squash before so it would be nice to have a good summer and actually get some fruit.

Most of the home-made compost has now been used up but as the potato sacks and tubs get emptied I can re-use what's in there for follow on crops like lettuce and beans. The french beans will have manure mixed in with the compost in addition to the BFB boost I normally add. And talking of beans I now have about twenty leggy plants waiting for a new home....when I can find space. Another sowing of about the same will give us enough for our own use. The first-sown broad beans are coming into flower so, with a bit of luck, we'll have fresh beans from June to October with any surplus going in the freezer.

No garden pics today but here is a piece of kidney ore. This is a form of hematite, one of the main ores of iron, which was extensively mined in west and south Cumbria until very recently.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

i'll be with you in...

apple blossom time.

and cherry blossom time.

Two of my fruit trees are laden with blossom but the weather has been a bit cool lately so not many insects about although I did see three or four bees busy in the cherry this evening. The pear and the early plum finished blooming last week so I'm not hopeful of bumper crops there. Three more apples and the late plum are starting to blossom so if we do manage to get some reasonable calm weather it could be jam and fruit pies at every meal come autumn!

Strawberries and gooseberries have fruit developing and it looks like I might get my first small crop of blueberries this year. As if I'm not fruity enough....

While I was sorting through the seed trays full of leeks I found some fat ones. Alright, they weren't leeks but red onions that I'd missed at planting out time. Anyway, with no room left on the plot I found an old tub held together with duct tape and that's now their new home.

They won't have time to bulb up properly but I can use them in salads. Nothing much gets wasted round here, a fact which my wife claims caused her hair to turn prematurely grey!