Green Garden Gate Waddesdon

Gardening Blog

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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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 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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Day 20 on the allotment!

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Despite the lovely sunshine and few hours off work yesterday, I didn’t actually get to do much at the allotment other than deliver some plants and water them. I was far too busy trying to find somewhere that sold garden lime for my newly acquired cauliflowers (thanks to a wonderful Freecycler) and find some courgette seeds as I have none.

I have to thank everyone who has helped me out so far with the allotment, I won’t name names, but I have the aforementioned cauliflowers, a handful of tools and a garden bench on which to sit and admire the view after a hard day (it’ll be a few years yet before HS2 goes past the allotment), some globe artichoke tubers and help rotorvating the beds.  I have had a few plants swaps and seed swaps so I’m so close to getting on track! Thank you!

Yesterday afternoon in the main spent shopping; both Homebase and B&Q didn’t sell lime and as I was in town rather than near as one staff member called it ‘a proper garden centre’ I tried QD and Wilko – both of which sell lime! I went for a smaller box from Wilko and on my way there popped into Poundland and spotted a variety pack of seeds, 8 types including courgette for £1 – bargain! Of course, I also checked out the price of a few things whilst in Homebase (blummin expensive) but I did find they were selling off strawberry plants 3 for 20p – so I picked the best 9 I could, along with a reduced price rosemary looking a little sorry for itself but most likely rescuable. I also picked up some organic slug pellets and 2 mouse traps. There are a few red kites that could do with a fast food joint on my shed roof.

Today started leisurely in the garden; watering and general pottering in the garden before the sun got too hot for it followed by a trip to the allotment. Firstly I sprinkled the organic slug pellets around the perimeter of the beds. I then started on adding the lime to the Brassica bed and raking it in (I’m not sure if I should water it, I must read up), then I added in the frame I found on the allotment with chicken wire round it. Later on I covered this with netting and left the plants still in their pots within for protection after a watering.

After a quick trip home to pick up the trug to transport compost (and a cup of tea!) later, I started fishing out the lovely compost left for me by the previous plot holder (this is where I don’t know if it’s organic, so any corn, legumes or squash I give to friends will have this proviso). I found the bins too heavy to lift off and really awkward to get to the good stuff so not an easy job. Finally after a disturbance of an ant’s nest, I had gathered enough compost for 5 mounds (I had worked out how many corn needed per mound in advance).

The mounds are the foundation of the ‘3 sisters’ technique developed by native Americans over thousands of years. Now, our temperate climate may not yield the same results so it’s more of an experiment than an expectation of success. The idea is to plant a few sweetcorn per mound, the beans (and peas) use these to climb up as well as fix nitrogen in the soil which benefits the corn. The third sister is squash (I’ll be trying butternut squash, cucumbers and courgettes) which acts as a mulch conserving water and protecting roots from scorching, as well as suppressing weeds and deterring pests with their prickly vines. Oh and they also love the nitrogen fixed in the soil by the legumes. I like the principle because I like to companion plant, but I also like to keep a plant diversity there, mono crops are not good – for the plants themselves or the ecology of the area.

So after a busy day, I gave everything a water, said goodbye to my fellow allotmenteers, packed away, set my mousetraps inside the shed and headed home.

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Baby spiders and sweetcorn

I took these photos about a week ago in the garden, not long after our last frost, unfortunately I lost most of my cucumbers (apart from two that were still in the mini-greenhouse) and I had no seed left. My friend kindly gave me some of hers (‘Masterpiece’) so I have sown them, hopefully they will catch up!

There were some baby spiders that had made some garden string their home for a day, with a bit of forethought I should have put a couple in the greenhouse, one or two made it in with my tomatoes – which also didn’t look too happy with the frost but survived, I had hardened them off pretty well, but the last frost was a lesson learned.  The frost also caught a good proportion of my French beans, but they are still growing new leaves so hopefully no lasting damage. Lastly, I lost a couple of squash plants, but the rest look happy enough and will need potting on soon.

I am very excited by my baby sweetcorn plants, they look very cute! I shall plant them on the allotment using the 3-sisters technique, a type of companion planting with beans and squash, as mentioned in another post.

In the garden the broad beans are growing very fast, as are all my potatoes, I should have earthed these up already but have been so busy I haven’t gotten around to it, they by rights should have also been affected by the frost but no issues there at all. All my salad plants are growing bigger, but not ready for harvesting yet but there will be spinach and rocket and radishes soon. The herbs seem to like the longer days and are responding well, soon I shall be using my garden herbs in cooking.

Finally I have noticed a few lavender seedlings starting to germinate, perhaps I sowed these a little early, but it is two months since I sowed them.

I am really pleased at the pace at which everything is happening, I just need to speed up my soil prep in readiness, it’s a shame I didn’t get the allotment even a few weeks sooner so I wouldn’t be playing catch up, and I could have used the frost to break up the soil, it’s slower waiting for rain and sunshine to do so!

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Day 14 at the allotment!

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The last couple of weeks have been very busy indeed, as you’ll have seen from the previous post, the plot had become overgrown with weeds. It took about a week of weeding to get to the point where I could start to dig over the beds, fortunately, a couple of the other plot holders offered to give me a helping hand by rotorvating the beds once the weeds were clear and the edges of the beds were defined (tomato plants as thank yous!) so I have planted all my chitted potatoes in the bed in front of the shed.

I’ll draw up a plan once I have it all planned out, but I have it in pencil at the moment. If I can find an old greenhouse from somewhere then I shall go with that, otherwise I shall try to fashion a polytunnel for the tender crops: tomatoes, aubergine, chillies etc.

If you’ve heard of native American Indian cultivating technique know as the three sisters, then you’ll know that sweetcorn, squash and beans make for good growing companions. I shall test this out on the bed next to the potatoes that  over the winter.

I have chatted quite a bit with other allotment holders about various crops, including some globe artichoke tubers I have been given,  I had a few spare so offered them around – no-one wanted them – apparently they are quite prolific. I am forewarned, but I shall probably grow some in a corner of the allotment as they are rather pretty, and see how they go.

I have started a new job in the last week and the weather has been a little rainy (ideal for breaking up the soil after rotorvating) and windy so really all I have done since is rake over the soil to break it down some more ready for planting.  In the next couple of days I shall plant out my onion sets, I have beans and peas to plant out too but I think I shall have to invest in organic slug pellets before then!

My sweetcorn are almost ready to plant out too but I shall have to wait for the soil to break down a little more. The same with a few other young plants.

This evening I was give a small amount of home brewing kit, specifically the containers, so already I am looking at where to buy hop seeds….

A lot is about to happen on the plot, it’s rather exciting!

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