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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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


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Sprouting garlic, tomato and mini-greenhouse

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garlic sprouting

My garlic cloves are sprouting!

Those who’ve read earlier posts will remember I have had problems with locals cats in the beds. Well I am happy to report that the cats are mostly avoiding the beds these days and part of that I think is down to the smell of the garlic cloves planted recently.

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tomato Maskotka seedlings

The Maskotka tomatoes were really starting to need more space to grow, the other varieties planted later (but in propagators cells) were starting to put them to shame. I think my experiment of re-using egg boxes has been successful in that I now know that it’s not a very good idea! I planted them into both Compostapots and traditional plastic pots, I wonder if there will be any difference between them.

There’s now a hand-made extra shelf in the mini-greenhouse, mainly to give a bit more storage, but to also keep seedlings that like it a little warmer higher up. I have noted that the slugs like the plants lower down so I’ve taken everything off the floor for now and installed a slug trap (cider in a tin can). My poor coriander really was being eaten to ground level every night so fingers crossed this recovers. I hope to reduce the slug population here before I need to plant my tomatoes and cucumbers in the grow bags!

Speaking of tender, I put my cucumber seedlings in the mini-greenhouse overnight for the first time last night and was reading several weather apps worried that it might go as low as -1°C and I possibly went a little OTT in putting a small terracotta oil lamp (fuelled by olive oil) on the grass at the bottom at 2am so as to keep the temperature up above freezing. I checked it first thing this morning and it appears to have worked perfectly, there was no chill in the air inside the mini-greenhouse.

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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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