Garden update Monday 22nd April – Easter Special

What a glorious Easter is has been, weather wise at least. In the garden there has been a lot of progress, projects beginning and others taking shape. We’ve had almost no rain this month and everything is bone dry. But I do so love these warm sunny days. I hope you have all had a lovely long weekend too.

In the greenhouse

Seeds are still being sown, seedlings are being potted on, and some being moved out altogether. Space is now a premium with all shelves and a lot of the floor being covered with trays.

Some of the seedlings in the greenhouse.
Just some of the seedlings in the greenhouse

It may seem odd, being early spring, but I am thinking about winter and what crops I can grow that can be harvested or overwintered. I have sown kale (var. Emerald Ice) and leeks (var. Lyon) and have some tiny lambs lettuce seedlings already growing. I do like cabbage, brussels sprouts and cauliflower, but the yield on my small plot would not make it worth the space they need. Kale on the other hand will just keep growing as I keep picking so will be much more productive for the space it needs. Leeks do not take up much space and can be harvested as needed. I will also grow carrots, in particular a variety called “Autumn King” which can also be harvested as needed and will keep perfectly in the ground all winter.

Planting out

Ok, so I have digressed a little speaking about winter. Back to the now! I decided to take the fleece off the broad beans, which were sowed in January. Concerned that the local cats would see this bed of soft earth as a lovely bathroom, I filled the rest with my little pak choi seedlings. I’ve had to half cover it again as I almost had a casualty when I caught a cat digging in it. One pak choi seedling was dug up, however I replanted and watered it and it seems to have survived the onslaught. The broad beans are in full flower now, I can’t wait for that first harvest of little green pods of loveliness!

Broad beans (var. The Sutton - dwarf variety) in flower
Broad beans (var. The Sutton – dwarf variety) in flower

Potato update

The Vivaldi potatoes that I posted abouthave been planted! These are a second early variety, meaning the second earliest to mature, and should be ready to harvest in as little as 12 weeks from now. Once these have been harvested I will put another crop straight in, possibly french beans. I have some early and maincrop potatoes to plant still, these will go in pots. I didn’t want to put these varieties in the raised bed as they were not as good a quality as the Vivaldi’s. So to compensate I will boost the compost they are in with some extra fertiliser and see how they get on.

I am now happy to say that following a little burst of planting today that all four raised beds have now been fully planted! Some peas, two varieties of lettuce, spinach and pak choi went in the final bed. The peas (var. Kelvedon Wonder) are a dwarf variety that wont need support, but should give some shade to the leafy crops behind them. These should provide me with salad leaves for a couple of months before I need to plant a second crop.

Peas on the left, leafy salad crops on the right
Peas on the left, leafy salad crops on the right

Carrot update

Surprisingly, the carrots that I sowed on 8 April are already up! They poked their little heads up on 18 April, 10 days after sowing. My method involves sieving compost to get the lumps out firstly. The helps to stop your carrots from “forking”. I added a little vermiculite to open up the structure and retain water. You can also add a little sand to help drainage. I filled a pot to within half an inch of the top and placed the grid in the photo on top of the compost.

With my seeds ready in a small container, I used a dibber (moistened with water) to pick up individual seeds and place one seed in every other square. This gives you an even spread of carrots, therefore no need to thin them out. Carrot root fly can smell carrots up to a mile away so the less we touch them, or thin them, the less risk of this pest there is ruining your crop.

Cover the seeds with another layer of compost, one quarter of an inch deep, and keep it moist. I placed my pot in the greenhouse which may have helped the quick germination. Nonetheless I am pleased with the germination rate. There are still a couple of empty spaces but I will give it a little longer before I sow more seed. To deter cats, I have left the grid on the pot for the time being.

Carrot seedlings
Carrot seedlings

Water butts everywhere

There are two slimline water butts in my garden. One by the back door of the house and one by the greenhouse. However, I saw that our garage roof with its corrugated panels, was a great source of water to capture. Therefore I enlisted my partner to help me and put up guttering and install water butt number 3, to the left of my plot. I now have 300 litres of water to call on should we have any dry spells. We also moved a small storage shed from near the house and placed it next to the water butt, so my tools and spare pots are much closer to where they are needed.

New guttering and water butt.
New guttering and water butt

More projects

I have an old pallet that I have wanted to do something with for ages. By chance, I came across some discarded guttering in a refuse pile at the bottom of my brothers garden. This is now a work in progress and will be unveiled shortly! What do you think I will be making with these two items?

We have also decided to start a long thought about project on our garden pond. The pond liner is some sort of fibre glass and has been deteriorating for some time, so will be replaced. I bought some here quite inexpensively and it included the underlay . Behind the pond, looking from the house, is an extremely overgrown rockery. It doesn’t give me any pleasure at all and it somewhat of an eyesore. There is a St. Johns Wort growing out of control which really needs to go as it is invasive. It also does not flower like it used to. Each year in May we used to have two or three weeks of it carpeted in yellow flowers. Now there is the odd flower here and there at random times. So I think its had its day.

We’ve made a start on pulling the growth out. Having tried and failed to use a fork to remove it, we are having to clear it by hand. The rockery only serves to impede the fork.

I intend to enlarge the pond a little and replace the liner, flatten the rockery and rebuild it in a circular fashion. This is what has been cleared so far. A long way to go but it will be worth it.

What projects have you planned, or started this Spring? Tell me!

Garden update Monday 8 April

Sometimes, you just have to make a sacrifice. And you have to think about smart planting.

Now I’m not talking lamb at the altar or anything like that! I noticed in the greenhouse the other day that one of my Pak Choi seedlings had been nibbled. It was clearly a nibble and not just damaged by accident.

Nibbled seedling
Nibbled Pak Choi seedling

Most of the seedlings were untouched. Despite checking each pot I was unable to find the culprit. So I decided to make a sacrifice. I would leave this pot in situ, and move the other seedlings elsewhere to, hopefully, escape the hungry creature.

This morning the sacrificial seedling had been nibbled even more. The creature must be hiding in this pot! I still could not find it, however.

All the other seedlings that I moved elsewhere looked fine. So, I come to the conclusion that the nibbler was isolated to this one pot.

Healthy Pak Choi seedling
Healthy Pak Choi seedling

Growing pains and smart planting

There are occasions where you actually grow a crop specifically to draw creatures away from other crops. Nasturtium, for example, is great to grow with beans as they attract blackfly away from your precious food.

Another way to deter pests is to grow plants together than repel each others pests. A good example of this is onions and carrots. When grown together the onions repel or confuse the carrot fly, and the carrots repel or confuse the onion fly.

I firmly believe that for every problem in nature, there is an answer in nature. This way you negate the need for nasty chemicals in your growing space. We can only benefit by not ingesting these hideous things. If you lose a seedling or two, or your nasturtiums take the brunt of a hungry fly, you will be safe in the knowledge that the only thing you have put in your body is the goodness of that treasured plant.

Elsewhere in the garden

All the other seedlings are coming along nicely, including lettuce, spinach, calendula, sunflowers, peas, tomatoes, busy lizzies, nasturtiums. The list seems short but the space is filling up. There will be some potting on and planting out happening soon. Mid April is also the time (in my area) to plant seed potatoes. As a general rule of thumb, they can be planted about one month before the last expected frost date. In East Anglia that is the second week of May.

If you haven’t yet got your seed potatoes, there is still time. Many garden centres and supermarkets try to offload their stock of seed potatoes really cheaply now. You might pick up a bargain!

I will also be sowing some carrots soon, outdoors in pot. I have a method for this which means that you do not have to sow more seeds than you need, and therefore do not have to thin the seedlings out. It seems so wasteful to do this. Admittedly you do get a lot of seeds in a packet but with succession sowing you will have plenty and may have some to save for next year.

Now the weather is warmer it feels like all stations go right now, but oh the eating to come in just a few short months. All that extra sun helps to keep my mood afloat, and allows the body to manufacture its own vitamin D.

Exciting times!