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 33 on the allotment!

Wow what a busy week! Lots of rain too so not really an opportunity to get to the allotment so I am a little behind on potting on and planting.

A quick update; My onions are peeking through the soil, I have had a chance to get the seeds in I wanted: carrots, parsnips, lettuce, beetroot, chard, celery and some French marigold for good measure. My potatoes are really going for it and need ridging up, the beans and sweetcorn are a little slow-growing tho.

I have been working hard and buzzing around a lot (and someone texted far too early this morning) so I am afraid it all caught up with me a little today, I wasn’t at the allotment for as long as I would have liked, I still had daylight hours and a jobs list to complete! I decided to leave a few tasks for tomorrow, but did make a point of raking over the beds again, particularly where I plan to add in a greenhouse, I am trying to level this off.

I also decided that I want to plant more peas and beans, I have the space to do so if I plan carefully, and I have the extra plants anyway. I added in some canes in between the corn and beans/peas as far away from the mounds as I can so to minimise any light being blocked from the corn. Tomorrow I shall plant the legumes in this structure.

I still need to finish off planting my onions, and would like to try to squeeze some more into the bed, I am thinking instead of adding more rows perhaps I should interplant the sets between those already growing, i.e. did I plant initially with too much space… I shall have to read up and find out. I also still need to sort out my strawberry plants.

I was gutted to find another allotment holder had moved some pallets on my plot and destroyed all my courgette seedlings (and the rabbits have finished them off), he has offered to sow some more for me which is lovely but it will make me a little more behind schedule. I shall have to go ahead and plant the squash and hope the courgette can catch up without being smothered.

I helped out again at an allotment in Haddenham again this morning and gained some borage plants and some Jerusalem artichoke plants from a plant swap there. I need to get them in the ground pretty sharpish so they get going.

Tomorrow I also need to head to Buckingham to start dismantling a greenhouse I was offered through Freecycle, this would be really good for my tomatoes so I am super excited about this!

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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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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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