Saturday, 23 February 2013

more new shoots

Late last summer I took some cuttings from gooseberry bushes, inserted them in sandy compost and then basically forgot about them, apart from sticking them in a corner of the greenhouse for the winter. Today I noticed that three of the four cuttings have fresh green shoots so it looks like they've taken.

Two well-rooted layers I severed from the blackcurrants are sitting happily in large pots waiting for some warmer weather when I can put them in their new homes. That will give me six black currant bushes and should ensure an adequate supply of vitamin C for the winter months.

And on the subject of new shoots the potted shallots are spurting into growth, as are the container-grown onion sets. The onions will be used small as I space them only about 5-6cms apart which does restrict their growth. They will give an earlier crop than those on the plot which will be the main crop for storage.
pot-grown shallots
It has been cold today but I've kept myself warm by sieving compost and making up tubs of potting mix for the first lot of carrots and parsnips of the year. By sowing a fast-maturing carrot like Early Nantes or Amsterdam Forcing and giving them some protection you can be pulling baby carrots in June. Parsnips, of course, take much longer but I never wait for the first frost before starting to lift them. 

Caldbeck Potato Day tomorrow and I don't really know why I'm going because I already have over 100 tubers chitting but I guess the sight of all those different varieties will inspire me after last year's disastrous harvest.

Friday, 15 February 2013

digging the dirt

After a covering of snow on Wednesday, the last two days have been almost wall-to-wall winter sunshine so lots to be getting on with. First job was to uncover the main compost heap. This is about eight feet by four by four and was covered with thick cardboard weighted down with more waste last autumn. All the loose stuff was scraped off the top to reveal all this gorgeous crumbly goodness. This, to me, is what compost should look like, not the sticky, smelly mess than some people manage to produce. The secret is getting the mix right and you'll notice the stringy bits which are the remains of clippings from our privet hedge. These do a great job of aerating the heap as they keep it open and they can be easily raked out before use and put back in to rot down.

As well as an ingredient in potting mix I spread this compost across the beds and rake it in to give a really nice sowing and planting surface.

Because I practice no-dig the soil is like this for a good way down. Considering it started as heavy clay that's quite an improvement.

With daytime temperatures in the greenhouse up to 17 degrees by mid afternoon it was time to risk some early sowings. One tub of broad beans (Sutton) and one of peas (Meteor) for the first crops of the new season. I also put four spuds in a big fish box, a bit risky but, nothing ventured. The containers are kept covered until shoots are well up in order to conserve a little heat and keep out the mice. More sowings will follow on a regular basis until the greenhouse is full, by which time I'll be ready to fill it with tomatoes!!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

a busy weekend

Reasonable weather over the weekend has enabled me to get quite a lot done. Much potting compost has been mixed and containers filled but these will just sit in the greenhouse to warm up for a week or two before anything goes into them. Germinated leeks, onions and cabbage have been moved from the propagator to a window sill and another lot will follow them, along with some Winter Gem lettuce. It's still too early for a lot of sowing but I've risked a tub of radishes which I'll keep under glass once germinated.

My main seed potato order arrived from JBA last week and thankfully it included the Lady Christl, my favourite earlies, but no Markies due to last year's weather. Not a great loss as they were just one of the new varieties I fancied trying. Lady Cs are now sitting in egg boxes in the spare bedroom but I've run out of space so the maincrops will have to stay in their bags for the time being.

I know it's not much but my first true harvest of the new season went into a lunchtime sandwich. Mustard and cress grown indoors and some fresh green shoots from the chives. Don't you just love watching things grow, even in the depths of winter!

Every year the entire population of barnacle geese from Svalbard in the Arctic fly south to spend the winter on the Solway marshes. There are tens of thousands of these birds and the noise they make when large flocks take to the air is unbelievable. Here's a pic of a few of them in a field just outside our village.

I did get a break from gardening activities and we had a drive round 'the island'. This is  a bit of land sticking out into the Solway surrounded by sea on three sides. Much of it is taken up with peat bog and salt marsh but there are settlements round the edges of it. This is a view from near Port Carlisle looking to the remains of the old pier with Annan on the Scottish side in the distance.

I sometimes think I should have been a geography teacher!!