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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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 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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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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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