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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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!

Green Garden Gate Waddesdon

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Day 1 at the allotment!

I was at the allotment for about 6 hours today, lots of digging and weeding and getting to know other plot-holders. One bed was manured last year and may have had potatoes as their last crop so I shall probably put peas and beans there, the other had bolted brassica remaining on it so I think that will be good for my potatoes.

Another allotment holder offered to rotate a bed or two for me once I had dug the weeds out, probably tomorrow, it will be lovely if he does, I’m back there on Wednesday so we will see. He also gave me some spare onion sets, so I have promised him tomatoes in return!

My allotment came with a shed, a couple of water butts a couple of compost bins, a couple of chairs, a couple of rhubarb plants, assorted bamboo, pallets, frames, an old incinerator and paving slabs. After digging two beds clear I pulled up some old beetroot crop on another bed and added them to the compost bins, moved a few of the slabs to the other end to create a little patio and piled the weeds up neatly before I packed up to go home. I have no idea what I am going to do with them, possibly make a green water feed with one of the water butts, I shall have to read up!

Whilst I was there I saw red kites in the air, robins & wagtails spending time finding food in the soil and swifts flying rather slowly over the freshly dug earth. I also saw big black slugs twice the size of my thumb. I have never seen slugs that big before.

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French Pink Garlic

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Garlic being planted at the front of the bed

A little sunshine today warranted digging in compost to the beds and planting the pink French garlic. As I understand it, these cloves will be a deterrent to cats (and any mice that might be in the vicinity) and a few spare cloves in the greenhouse given a squeeze now and then should deter white fly. Three huge bulbs managed to supply 45 cloves, the fattest of which I’ve planted for growing in the veggie beds, the smaller ones in the flower beds to try to deter cats, if good garlic comes of this, ah well! There’s some more to be planted, but they can wait a while until the next bed is ready to start being filled.

I’ve had to plant them at the front of the beds as they shouldn’t be grown too close to peas and beans as they stunt their growth. Peas and beans will eventually be grown up the fences on these beds, with outdoor variety tomatoes hung from the fence posts. The garlic is however good for a lot of the other plants I am growing, as would several of the herbs I am growing.

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overnight cat poo prevention

More cat protection was required as previous efforts were ineffective, we have very acrobatic cats in Waddesdon! Hopefully the above will mean I no longer have to dig carefully.

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Getting started with seeds

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River Thame bursting it’s usually steep banks. Car is driving through water over bridge

We’ve had unprecedented amounts of rain in recent months and so planning to start off the gardening year has been a little problematic.  The ground may be too wet or more rain may cause germination problems. Soil preparation hasn’t really been possible. The growing season has already started, the weeds were looking really healthy and the snowdrops & daffodil are out in force.

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Snowdrops

In the last week I decided to prepare for a nice day so invested in a propagator and bought fresh seeds and seed potatoes and shopped for the required paraphernalia.  I thought I’d try to germinate some coriander seeds I had laying around in the kitchen (you never know), these have been in for about a week now (nothing happening yet!). My herb seeds have been sown in terracotta pots ready to be placed outside the kitchen door, although it’s too cold for the seedlings right now they are being germinated indoors. For info; Dill, Chives, Garlic Chives, Spearmint, Nasturtium, Sweet Marjoram, Thyme, Sweet Genovese Basil, Plain leaved Parsley and Giant Italian Parsley.

Finally, with a whole weekend of rain forecasted (and camping plans cancelled), I awoke 7am this morning to beautiful sunshine and lots of blue sky!  Needless to say the wellies were on and the fork and spade were on duty digging and weeding all the veggie beds in the garden. I don’t know what the soil in your garden is like but I have grown up gardening on clay soil so I expected this to be very heavy going. Surprisingly the soil was easy enough to deal with here in Waddesdon, also a little help does come in handy!  The lawn is still a little soggy tho.

Digging completed, random gladioli bulbs and a foxglove rescued for other beds, chitted seed potatoes untangled from the netting and I quickly realise I need twice the space I’d planned for the potatoes – ah well!  Potatoes in (Aaron first early’s) and a quick glance over the shoulder at a few clouds later I decide there is still plenty of time to get going on sowing some of the earlier seeds outdoors.

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Sowing wild primrose

Armed with those ‘Compostapots’ (the biodegradable pots that allow you to either remove for planting or just plant intact), my organic compost and some Rootgrow (first time trying this stuff – some friendly fungus that aids a growing root system organically), I get sowing catnep (have you ever used this in tea or as a seasoning?), mallow, wild primrose (great in salads) and broad bean (bunyard’s exhibition) and labelling them up. Adding the Rootgrow layer makes the process twice as long but I’m sure the healthy root growth will lead to more abundant tasty veggies!

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Poo prevention

These were all placed under a 3 metre length cloche in situ, which also served as cat poo prevention on the recently dug beds. Other poo prevention measures included garden canes criss-crossed over the potatoes and an old green gate laid over an empty bed. We seem to get the cons of cats without the benefit of ownership!

Tomato (maskotka), cucumber (bush champion) were sown in the propagator and slotted onto the kitchen windowsill.  The coriander was kicked out under the cloche so as to make room. We decided the bed viewed from the kitchen would be flowers, so the rescued foxglove took centre stage:

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Foxglove

Starting to get a little chilled and with the promise of a cup of tea I decided to call it a day, everything tidied away to what I am assured is not called the potting shed as it’s for specific man things. Whilst in town another propagator was acquired as was a mini greenhouse – lots to do tomorrow if the weather holds!

Green Garden Gate Waddesdon