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 4th February

Here on the border of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire we avoided the worst of the weather last week. This was to the delight of some and disappointment of others.

It did, however, allow me some bonus time in the garden. I was very happy about this as I was expecting to get very little done due to the impending weather crisis. I needed inspiration this week. Spending a couple of hours in the winter sun does give me a real lift.

A little disappointment

Firstly, I had to plant some spring bulbs. I had forgotten about a bag of mixed bulbs. I discarded some of the bulbs. sadly. They had gone mouldy. This was my fault as I left them in a padded envelope with no ventilation.

Fortunately, I salvaged most of the bulbs, and I have a few more pots which will hopefully bring some glorious spring colour.

There are Puschkinia (Russian snowdrops), Daffodils (Tete a Tete), Ipheion (mixed), and Fritillaria (Uva-Vulpa) in various combinations.

Pots with spring bulbs
Pots with spring bulbs

Then, off to the local garden centre I went, as I felt an urge for instant gratification. The garden seemed drab. I needed colour, and I needed it now. As I had a voucher for £4 off a £20 spend, what more justification did I need?

So, voucher in hand, I added these beautiful primroses to my basket. In addition followed some daffodils, irises, tulips and snowdrops in the green. This means that they have already started to grow.

Primroses
Primroses

Admittedly, I felt a little naughty for buying them. However should the worst happen and my own bulbs fail to grow, I will have some colour in the garden this spring.

One thing I do like is to have choices and back up plans. Putting all your eggs in one basket runs the risk of disappointment.

Getting on with it

I have a lot of seeds. These are just the vegetable seeds. I need to trim this down a bit!

Many seeds
Many seeds

I simply don’t have the physical space to grow everything here, so I will narrow this down to maybe one third. There are a few duplicates in there and some I may will never grow. These are often freebies bundled with other things that I did want to keep. There are a handful of vegetables that I
really dislike. For example squash, celery and aubergine will never feature on my plot.

Once I have decided what to grow, the seeds need to be sorted into sowing months. I sort my seeds by the first month given to sow. The beauty of nature is that if you forget, have a failed batch or simply don’t have time or space, another later sowing will catch up.

Fortunately, many seeds can be sown over a period of months. This is great for things like peas and carrots where you want to stagger your harvests. There are only so many peas you can eat at once. And they don’t usually feature for breakfast!

Don’t panic!

There is still plenty of time to buy seeds and decide what to sow. Many garden centres are having a clear out and you can pick up packets of seed for 50p or less. Often they will have a year or more left to sow them. I would advise to buy only the freshest seeds for parsnips however. They are notoriously bad for germination and old seeds are almost certainly going to fail.

Nonetheless, I find it exciting to make plans for the year ahead and think about the delicious results to come.

What are your seed plans?

Cool beans

Today I wanted to spend an hour in the garden. It was sunny and mild, and we get precious few days like that in winter.

So, my target was to tidy up one of my raised beds and plant some seeds. I chose to plant some dwarf broad beans, var. The Sutton.

Apparently, it is a little early or a little late to plant them, January being the only month they say not to on the packet. However with the weather mild, and cold weather forecast, I had a window and I wanted to use it.

Dwarf broad beans var. "The Sutton" from Mr Fothergills

I set to work and cleared the bed, and topped it up with a bag of fresh compost. Next I sowed these little beauties 2 inches deep. To stop them rotting in the soil, plant them on their thin side. If the soil is dry, water before planting. My soil was already moist so it did not need watering.

Then I covered them over with soil. Most importantly, I covered the bed with some horticultural fleece. This has two benefits. Firstly it helps to keep the soil warm. Secondly it helps to keep the wildlife off. Well that’s the plan!

rhdr

I bought four of these raised beds last year. They are brilliant, easy to assemble, won’t rot, and can be assembled in a variety of ways.

Sadly, they don’t seem to be available any more. However, if you want to try and find them they are by an Australian brand called Birdies. You can see the raised bed on the other side with the onions and garlic.

It felt great to spend some time in the garden again, only an hour, but I accomplished something. It’s really important to remind yourself sometimes that achieving something every day, no matter how small, is so beneficial for your well being.

And you get to eat the result, what could be better!