Green Garden Gate Waddesdon

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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 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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Companion planting

I have been doing a lot of reading up on companion planting recently to refresh myself on what plants grow better together, those that don’t like to grow together and those that help deter pests. The garlic already sown should repel slugs (as well as cats!) and carrots and garlic grown together helps both. Onions sown with carrots helps to mask the smell of carrot fly (and the carrots confuse onion fly) and there is some evidence that garlic may help peas, but possibly stunt the pea’s growth, so it’s nearby, but not too near. I also read that lettuce helps onions and carrots and vice versa. I have sown in the marked rows: spring onion, Lilya on the left, then carrot, early Nantes 5, then spring onion white Lisbon, then a row of Garden Lettuce seeds – a lucky dip from a seed swap, all I noted down was ‘Lactuca saliva’ so it could end up growing as anything! Around these rows I have transplanted a few French marigold seedlings, with the hope that the slugs might give them a chance to grow, if not, I have held plenty back and have enough seeds to re-sow if needed. Finally at the back I added in 3 types of peas (in soda bottle cloches) with the intent of training them up the fence. There’s room in the bed to do successive sowing.

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the layout

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French Marigold, Naughty Marietta seedlings near garlic cloves

Once the carrot and onion seeds start to grow, I will consider what other herbs I might want to grow interspersed between the veggies. The garden still seems to attract bees and a Peacock butterfly even landed on my head the other day as I was watering. I just wish the slugs and ants would find a new home! The cats are learning not to visit so often, this could be garlic related, or it could be that I just made their favourite facilities too wet for their liking. I had a chance to try some herbal medicine today; I stung the back of my hand on a nettle whilst planting and it wouldn’t stop itching, so I did as I learned as a child, found a dock leaf and rubbed the bruised juices on the sting – instant relief! Green Garden Gate Waddesdon