Green Garden Gate Waddesdon

Gardening Blog

Spring Equinox AND Solar Eclipse

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As I type the cloudy sky is getting darker but I’ve not been able to see anything of the sun all  morning – and right now a quick break in the cloud reveals a partial eclipse, about 25%! This will obviously be a lucky post!

In recent weeks I have been focussing on getting organised as much as I can for the 2015 growing season, I have taken one or two pics but the plot isn’t looking that photogenic right now, hence a lack of posting!

I’m on a heavy clay soil and have learned a little too late that the easiest time to dig it is when it is frozen – the opposite of my thinking until an allotment neighbour suggested as such and I tried it. I missed quite a few opportunities to dig this winter!

So I have struggled with digging the wet clay – my thinking is that I am doing more harm than good to the soil structure and I’ve been holding off a little. It’s been that little ‘sweet spot’ time for hoeing on clay, so I have hoed a large amount of the weeds out. Theres couch grass that I have spent a lot of backbreaking hours trying to dig out. I finally gave in a week ago and decided to use glyphosate. I am not happy about the situation, but this couch grass is nigh on impossible to dig out of clay.

I have planted a row of raspberries and white current, as well as a plum and cherry tree that I am restricting growth of but tying the branches at right angles. The buds are just beginning to sprout.

I have managed to plant a row of garlic I had in the greenhouse on a section of the onion bed that has been dug – there is more to go in tho!

I’ve also tidied up the corner near the gate which had been left with an old broken water butt full of soil (no idea why) and a working water butt collecting from the rickety shed (that a neighbouring plot holder claimed as my predecessor said he could store his rotorvator in and has put his own padlock on). I’ve moved both and made a little bed there with the soil.

We’ve had a few quite warm days in between the frosts and I am conscious that I will not be able to get down to the plot as much as I should over the coming summer, so I have installed an auto-vent in the greenhouse. One thing to note, a wren managed to fly in and died hitting a pane. I would urge all reading this who have an auto-vent to net it so that birds cannot become trapped inside as I have now done.

Early March I watered in some nematodes to try and nip any slug problem in the bud, I have some more on order for the next application due, tho I am tempted to culture my own nematodes!

The strawberries are showing sings of Spring growth, as are the potatoes in the greenhouse, my radishes are swelling and the first of the crop should be ready quite soon! I have sown my peas in modules in the greenhouse – I learned my lesson last year with the rabbits and mice getting them! My 2nd attempt at beans this year are also in modules, hidden away from mice – the first batch were decimated by the mice that got into the greenhouse.

My onion seedlings are growing happily away, soon I shall have to thin them out to allow them more room. I shall pot on the first sown ones and keep some in the greenhouse to see if that makes any difference.

For a few minutes I have been looking through my shoebox pinhole camera and although the cloud is still there I can see an image that’s gone to about 70% cover fairly quickly. It’s rather strange to have shadows defined well as the sun is out, but it to be a dull and darkening sky.  The cloud cover has obscured the sun again now, and I was too busy watching to get a decent picture – they’re not so impressive photos but rather exciting to watch.

The moon appears to be receding again now: 9:50am I had best get the pics uploaded and publish the thread!

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Frozen January – preparations!

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I’ve tweaked the plan a little to accommodate growing borlotti beans (mostly to dry) and one or two other refinements.

Recent preparation jobs have included repairing the shed roof which was leaking (probably not a good idea in gusty weather – I nearly took my head off), then built a compost area out of reclaimed pallets, raised my water-butt so gravity gave my solar-powered pump a hand which I have positioned on the shed roof.  This leads to my greenhouse for use as required.

The ground has either been frozen or waterlogged in January, I have done a little digging where the garlic needs planting but I am hesitant as I heard this can damage the soil structure if the ground is too wet.

I have proven that giving in to itchy sowing fingers is bad idea – the small quantity of squash and tomatoes I tried in the propagator were struggling in the low light levels on the windowsills so I took them to the allotment greenhouse, still inside the propagator, but the recent night that was forecast as -5C in reality was -8C which was just too much for the majority. I’ll hold off a while yet before I re-attempt anything tender. The good news is that now it’s starting to get to the time of year I can sow a limited number of things.

In the meantime I took the challenge to grow successive sowings of radishes; French Breakfast, Scarlet Globe and Sparkler. I have discovered they need initial heat of the windowsill, but are quite happy in the greenhouse after germination. I also have the main of my onion crops just starting to germinate; Red Brunswick and Bedfordshire Champion. I have some initial sowings too that I shall keep in the greenhouse as long as possible before I need the room with the intent that they will be an ‘early’ crop before the main sowings start to crop. I have ordered some shallot seeds that will be harvested next year, so in a while I shall need to buy some sets if I wish to grow shallots for harvest this year, they’re so expensive!

I have started off some early potatoes in pots in the greenhouse (like a fellow plot holder did last year) in the last week, they were supposed to be chitted in time for planting mid-February but they were well chitted by this point; 8 tubers of ‘Swift’ (1 per 12 litre pot) and 6 of Aaron Pilot (3 per 56 litre bag). there are a further 28-30 tubers of Aaron Pilot chitting away to direct sow later in the month. I need to decide what my main crop potato will be, which needs good blight resistance.

I bought some supposedly blight resistant tomatoes (Losetto and Ferline) which are new varieties for me and I am not sure how they will taste. A few of the plot-holders advised that it would be the only way I would be able to grow tomatoes outside my greenhouse there, so I’ll add to the potato bed and see how they grow. I have also signed up to the ‘blight watch’ website – watch this space!

 

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2015 growing season plans!

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I am getting rather itchy fingered about the lengthening days even if the days are still cold! There’s quite a bit of planning going into the next growing season in terms of what is going where, especially as I have been rather weak-willed when it comes to buying new seeds and have a lot of things to fit in.

Update – here is a rough plan of the 2015 growing year:

Around November last year I added garlic cloves to trays in the greenhouse and they’re about ready to go outside now. I am also over-wintering my new strawberry plants in there until spring – if the mice leave them alone long enough!

I heard that village veggie competitors sow their onion seeds on Boxing Day to give them the best chance of large vegetables so I thought I’d give it a try. They really did need the heat tho, nothing was happening in the unheated greenhouse so they have come inside on the windowsill and they are sprouting now!

Similar story for some far too early sowings (did I mention I had itchy fingers?!) of squash, pumpkins and tomatoes. The aubergines and chillies I tried tho have yet to sprout.

One of the gardening forums I joined recently prompted me to start of some radishes too; I’m so excited they have actually started to sprout!

 

 

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Blogging hiatus over

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Well, for the last 6 months of 2014 I was working a lot of hours/away, meaning I got to the plot infrequently, the latter part of the year I only saw daylight at weekends! Fortunately the was enough rain for watering and nothing precious in the greenhouse. Tho plants had to put up with a few weeds.

I’ll give you a quick run-down of successes and failures with a few pics I did take.

Successes:

Sweetcorn – very abundant crop for the neglect it had, tasted fantastic and I gave quite a bit away. Fantastic BBQ’d in their skins and peeled as it cooks. Also great when camping I found; cooked at the edge of one of those fire buckets (no nasty chemical used to start it!)

Cosse Violette beans – far more successful than any other type

Potatoes – particularly Aaron Pilot and Maris Piper, tho I didn’t manage to get them all out in time

Onions – managed to fight their way through any weeds I missed and tasted amazing, there are some I missed at harvest which are growing happily now, I need to pull these up shortly to prepare the bed for the next crop

Garlic – I mostly planted this in the garden tho, the most garlicky garlic I have ever eaten

Beetroot – so tasty, I ‘thinned’ by pulling the big ones out as I wanted to eat them, leaving the others to catch up over the season. I made some amazingly chocolatey subtley beetroot Red Velvet cakes for the office and ‘cake club’. I shall definitely grow this again! Also great roasted.

Spinach and rocket – more robust than I thought they would be, tasty picked as needed.

Chard – easy peasy, if anything I need to crop it more next time

Lettuce – once the plants got going, there was very little slug damage🙂 rather tasty too

Rhubarb – lots of tasty desserts from this

Jerusalem artichokes – shot up happily surprisingly, tho I am yet to crop them

Failures:

Peas – the mice ravaged them on the allotment, not one plant survived. I had some at home tho so not all was lost

Cauliflower – the rain benefitted the other plants but not the cauli’s it was just as they were ripening too, they were lost😦

Carrots/parsnip – possibly weeded up as seedlings, or just didn’t grow well in the clay and weeds. Will try again but with better drainage

Squash – rabbits and frost didn’t help these – I ended up with 2 sisters rather than 3-sisters!

Pak choi – I didn’t look after these as I should have so they ended up not very happy

Broad beans – I suspect it was just too late in the season to get them going well last year, they have a head start this year! I had a small crop which was tasty

Some pics:

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Day 33 on the allotment!

Wow what a busy week! Lots of rain too so not really an opportunity to get to the allotment so I am a little behind on potting on and planting.

A quick update; My onions are peeking through the soil, I have had a chance to get the seeds in I wanted: carrots, parsnips, lettuce, beetroot, chard, celery and some French marigold for good measure. My potatoes are really going for it and need ridging up, the beans and sweetcorn are a little slow-growing tho.

I have been working hard and buzzing around a lot (and someone texted far too early this morning) so I am afraid it all caught up with me a little today, I wasn’t at the allotment for as long as I would have liked, I still had daylight hours and a jobs list to complete! I decided to leave a few tasks for tomorrow, but did make a point of raking over the beds again, particularly where I plan to add in a greenhouse, I am trying to level this off.

I also decided that I want to plant more peas and beans, I have the space to do so if I plan carefully, and I have the extra plants anyway. I added in some canes in between the corn and beans/peas as far away from the mounds as I can so to minimise any light being blocked from the corn. Tomorrow I shall plant the legumes in this structure.

I still need to finish off planting my onions, and would like to try to squeeze some more into the bed, I am thinking instead of adding more rows perhaps I should interplant the sets between those already growing, i.e. did I plant initially with too much space… I shall have to read up and find out. I also still need to sort out my strawberry plants.

I was gutted to find another allotment holder had moved some pallets on my plot and destroyed all my courgette seedlings (and the rabbits have finished them off), he has offered to sow some more for me which is lovely but it will make me a little more behind schedule. I shall have to go ahead and plant the squash and hope the courgette can catch up without being smothered.

I helped out again at an allotment in Haddenham again this morning and gained some borage plants and some Jerusalem artichoke plants from a plant swap there. I need to get them in the ground pretty sharpish so they get going.

Tomorrow I also need to head to Buckingham to start dismantling a greenhouse I was offered through Freecycle, this would be really good for my tomatoes so I am super excited about this!

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Day 28 on the allotment!

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Today I was back to the allotment for 3 hours, I did lots of soil preparation on what will be the carrot bed.  As I shall be sowing seeds the soil has to be really fine; the last few days of rain and a lot of elbow grease with a rake means that it’s pretty much there. I’ve been debating for a while whether to intermingle the carrots and onions per the companion planting view, or to keep them separate per the crop rotation plan. Both options have their pro’s and cons in organic growing.

Next job was to plant the cauliflowers (I limed the soil a week ago to prepare) so that bed also got a raking over. I placed bits of wood found on the plot strategically to hold up netting, then planted around them. At which point I planned how the netting would sit. It might have been wiser to wait until I’d finished planting but I wanted to make sure I’d fit under the net when I needed to work.

I then planted my pak choi seedlings that had been hardening off in the last week. As I planted them I thought it a good idea to sow some more pak choi seeds and seeing as I had my seed box, I may as well sow other seeds that fit with the planting plan. So as well as some more pak choi, in went a row each of radishes, rocket and some purple sprouting broccoli, which I hadn’t planned to sow; I wanted to grow quicker growing crops but the label said this year was the best before date so I figured why not.

At this point I had enough light still and good weather that I wanted to start putting in my root veg and finish planting my onion sets however I have been bidding on a few manual/petrol lawnmowers on the internet and an auction for one I particularly liked was due to end so I wanted to nip back – and I was in need of something to eat too. Being that the weather is forecast as awful for planting tomorrow and that I didn’t win the lawnmower anyway, I probably should have stayed!

In the end I added some organic slug pellets around the Brassica, closed the end of the netting and tidied away, hoping that the weatherman is being pessimistic again so that we all smile when they are wrong tomorrow!

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Day 26 on the allotment!

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I planted my chitted potatoes (Anya new potatoes and Maris Piper main crop) on the 5th May (the Bank Holiday Monday) and although expecting them to grow a little quicker that the 30 days they took planted 1st March in the garden as the soil is warmer, I didn’t expect that they’d be poking through the soil already!

The weather has been rather rainy in the last few days so that and the fact I sliced my thumb with a parang, plus other commitments have meant that I haven’t been to the plot since the weekend, it’s good to see that things are starting to grow. Unfortunately so are the slugs and I perhaps need to invest in some more organic slug pellets.

I’m really impressed with the efforts the rhubarb has made in the last few days and that the potatoes sprouted after only 18 days is fantastic.  The jerusalem artichoke is settling in ok, despite the slugs.

This weekend I have to fit in time to plant the rest of my onion sets, pot on the strawberry plants as well as the butternut squash plants and give the mini-greenhouse at home a lot of attention.  I need to plan where I am planting the outdoor tomato plants too.  Fingers crossed the sun shines for us all!

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