Saturday, 23 June 2012

Word of the day.....alliteration

Why? Because my taties are trashed, broad beans battered, courgettes crushed and foxgloves flattened.
broad bean stem broken just below where flowers have formed!
Monsoon rains and gale force winds have, yet again, tried to upscuttle my gardening efforts but all is not lost. I had the foresight to get out on Thursday night with stakes and string and truss up as many plants as I thought would be affected by the weather. I couldn’t do them all, hence the damage, and I’m sure most will survive although it does set them back a bit.

These container-grown onions had their tops bent and broken but at least they can be used. Unfortunately the foxgloves, which were attracting a lot of insects, will probably not pick themselves up.

As for the courgettes, their large leaves act like sails in the wind and get really blown around. Some stems are broken but these plants are so vigorous that they'll soon send out new ones. If this weather is to become the norm for summer I can see plant breeders rushing to produce dwarf varieties that succeed in low light conditions. Until then we'll just have to put up with it.

Thursday, 14 June 2012


Inspired by Chelsea (not!) I decided I needed a centrepiece or focal point for the garden. In a flash of inspiration I came up with......

........the tattie barra. Five healthy potato plants in a fetching green and yellow wheelbarrow. I wanted to adorn it with a garland of foxgloves but my wife said that would be really silly!

O.K. enough of the frivolity. It's just that at this time of year when everything is growing away nicely my mind starts to wander a bit, a bit more than usual I mean. Most of the jobs around the garden are more in the way of maintenance such as grass cutting, weeding and summer pruning. I'm still sowing a few things such as carrots and salad crops and I still have to find homes for three squash plants but I'll squeeze them in somewhere.

I suppose this 'slack' period allows me to appreciate the fruits of my earlier efforts and plan any changes that I intend to make next year. It also gives me time to watch and photograph some of the visiting wildlife like this dragonfly

We've also had lots more birds this year, including many goldfinches, a few greenfinches and small warblers (unidentified as they all look the same to me). I'd like to think that my garden was wildlife friendly and show that it is possible to grow decent crops without being at odds with the rest of creation. There are always going to be some losses but to me that's a small price to pay for not throwing chemicals all over the place.

This is one of my tub corners with courgette, celery, potatoes, french beans, chives and asparagus. Under the green netting are carrots, the first of which are almost ready for picking.

To be honest I'm a bit fed up of the manky carrots in shops and am really looking forward to the first truly fresh ones of the year, along with the peas, beans, cabbage......

Saturday, 9 June 2012

blooms means.....

I like flowers, especially when they're growing on broad bean plants because blooms means beans.

I like them on peas for much the same reason.

But flowers on brassicas....NOOooo
This is calabrese which just shot straight up after planting out and produced flowers which, although they are edible, was not really what I was looking for. I have other broccoli, kale, etc to plant out and will be sowing more but this year's weather is not making things easy.


Always on the lookout for new ways to get more growing space last year I made a ‘ladder allotment’. It was a big unwieldy thing and difficult to move but entirely consistent with my engineering skills which are decidedly agricultural. By that I mean that most jobs can be easily accomplished with just two simple tools: a big hammer and a welding torch! Oh, and if in doubt make it twice as thick as it needs to be.

So I decided to have another go having seen some plastic troughs on offer at £1.99 in one of our local cheapie shops. They are deeper than many and would even allow me to grow stumpy carrots. The end result is much lighter and leans against our privet hedge which I’d decided was a complete waste of space unless I can get edible things to grow up it, through it or against it.

All the timber and screws, etc. I had lying about so for six quid I give you....

.......the ladder allotment mark two. From bottom to top I’ve sown CCA lettuce, beetroot and spring onions and probably won’t get more than the one crop this year but in future years I should manage two crops from each trough. I'll get that hedge to feed me if it's the last thing I do.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

first fruits

I picked a pound or so of gooseberries this afternoon...the first fruit of the year. Oh, I've had rhubarb but technically that's a vegetable so it doesn't count.

The bushes are so heavy with fruit that the branches were almost touching the ground so I picked these from the ends to lighten the load. The rest will be left to ripen properly, birds and disease willing.

It's funny how, whatever the weather, some crop always seems to perform well. For the last two years tree fruit harvests have been poor but the soft fruit have been excellent so there is always something to eat. Mind you, I'd rather bite into an apple than a gooseberry!

We also had the first peas of the year today. Only a handful of pods but almost a month earlier than last year. They were container grown in the greenhouse at first so are well ahead of the outdoor sown plants.

So many things are now almost ready that the anticipation is getting too much. Beetroot are reaching golf ball size, carrots, cabbage, turnip and broad beans are only weeks away and the first flowers have appeared on the french beans. Salad crops are being picked almost on a daily basis so all the hard work is paying off. And, as if that wasn't enough, we also have some pretty flowers

Beautiful rhododendrons and a not so beautiful compost bin.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

back to British weather

After ten days of glorious sunshine we are now back in the grip of a typical British summer. Today it's been quite chilly with a brisk easterly wind blowing so it was a case of much pottering in the greenhouse to keep warm.
The tomatoes are coming along nicely as this plant shows. I have ten plants in the greenhouse with a couple of 'tumbler' types ready to pot on and put outside when I can find some space. 

As last year it looks like I'll be harvesting bumper crops of soft fruit again. Some of the gooseberry branches are so laden with fruit they're in danger of breaking and may need to be propped to keep the fruit off the soil.
Blackcurrants, raspberries and strawberries are all bearing an abundance of small fruits as well. Broad beans are absolutely laden with flowers and if they all make pods I'll have a surfeit of a veg. that no-one else in the house will eat.

Beans in general seem to be doing very well but we do need some more of that hot weather to get the pollinating insects flying. No insects means no beans.

As an experiment I've been feeding my brassicas on diluted urine and it seems to be doing them a power of good. It's also useful for newly potted plants as the nutrients in it are all in ionic form and thus instantly available to the plant. It does, however, contain salt so should not be overused.
healthy cabbages fertilized with urine
You could look at it as the ultimate in recycling and it is certainly organic although the Soil Association would not classify it as such due to its potential to contain heavy metal residues and drugs, particularly hormones. Such considerations don't bother me as I live in the country, eat very little processed food and am not taking a cocktail of medicines or supplements. I should point out that I don't produce enough urine every day to fertilize the whole garden so the plants that get this treatment get it about once a week.