Sunday, 28 April 2013

spuds coming along nicely

The greenhouse potato crop is looking very healthy, even though we haven't yet had a lot of sunshine.

They've been growing away for 10 weeks now so I had a 'furtle' round under the compost and found plenty of small tubers. The biggest was about the size of a pigeon's egg so I'll leave them another week or two and give them some tomato feed. For the last couple of years I've had my first picking the last week in April but the cold spring has delayed that eagerly awaited event this time.

In between showers today I managed to pot up some lettuces which will stay in the these pots for some nice early heads. The CCA lettuce I plant 3 or 4 to a large pot and pull the leaves as required.
Little Gem and AYR lettuce
Another early container crop is beetroot which I absolutely love. After the disaster with the hailstorm the other day I'm glad I have a few tubs growing in the greenhouse for some sweet baby beets at the start of the season.

We had a couple of magpies hopping about on the back lawn today and, according to the old saying, it's two for joy. We could certainly do with some of that to kick-start the gardening year.

Friday, 26 April 2013

what next? a plague of locusts perhaps!

This long cold spring has been a bit of a trial for all of us growers but we've had some decent sunshine this week, even if it is still chilly. Plenty to be getting on with so I sowed some beetroot this afternoon. Before I could get them covered with soil the sky darkened, the lightning flashed and then a tremendous hail storm struck. End result: beetroot seeds buried under a layer of ice!
seeds under this lot!
Newly emerged seedlings of beetroot, parsnips and turnip were flattened and have leaves stripped from them. I know there's plenty of time for more sowings but it is a bit disheartening and you end up wondering what on earth is the weather going to throw at us next.

I'd fleeced over my potatoes in readiness for the expected frost this weekend and the fleece was weighed down with ice.
Managed to get rid of most of it but some very cold water must have dripped through on to the young plants.

We had a couple more hail showers so I decided that greenhouse work was the preferred option and transplanted about 50 leeks into deeper containers.  I have another tray of seeedlings to do then that should be it for leeks this year.

I can get any amount of these plastic produce trays from the shop in the next village and they are ideal for leeks, being about four inches deep. You can even grow a decent crop of spring onions in them.

For lunch we had tomato and pepper soup made from frozen fruit from last year's crop. Where would we be without our freezers?

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Life gets in the way again..

It's been a while since my last post so in case anyone was wondering if I'd been abducted by aliens or dragged off to some sultan's harem I have to say it was that bane of all It gets in the way of all of our plans, takes us from our beloved plants and forces us to 'look presentable'.

Anyway, with other commitments now mostly out of the way I can get back to where I feel most comfortable and where no-one cares if I've got muck under my finger nails.

Greenhouse potatoes are storming away after the recent sunny weather and should be ready to give the first crop in two or three weeks. That's a bit later than previous years but hardly surprising, given the cold spring.

All the outdoor potatoes are now planted in their tubs/polypots and some of the earlies are already poking through. This is the tricky period when frosts are still a distinct possibility but I have plenty of fleece ready to cover them. Last year's crop was set back as they grew well in April but were hit by frost in May. Then, of course we had blight. Best forget last year, I think.

We had our first pickings of radishes the other day. These were pot grown in the greenhouse, along with spring onions and salad leaves which are also now producing.

Parsnip germination has been excellent, as usual and I put this down to growing in deep containers started off the greenhouse. I'm sure many failures are down to sowing into cold wet soil. It might say on the seed packet you can sow in February but that's far too early for outdoor sowing in most areas, especially given the recent cold winters.

Had to take a family member to a hospital appointment in Keswick and got some pics of our local sheep breed. These are Herdwicks or 'herdies' as everybody calls them. They are supposed to have been brought over by Viking settlers more than a thousand years ago and are perfectly suited to survive harsh winters on the fells.

Cute, eh. The wool is coarse and hard wearing and the meat has a distinctive flavour not found in lowland breeds.