Thursday, 30 April 2009

Brassicas all settled in

Here are the brassicas which have taken me all week to plant out, due to rain, work and other inconveniences.

Starting at the back, under the enviromesh is my purple sprouting brocolli - which I promise to stake as soon as it gets too tall, and to feed and mulch in autumn and spring, and generally take better care of this year. Next are winter cabbages, then romanesco, cauliflowers and calabrese, and at the front, Greyhound cabbages, with some grass clippings around them, as I had to trim the edge to make room for the netting. I didn't have room for all the plants, so I have kept some in reserve, in case of casualties. I think I have probably also planted them all too close together, it was too tempting to try and squeeze in as many as possible.

Here are the broad beans, flowering promisingly - they will need some sort of support, one is already starting to lean over. On the far left you can see a row of lettuce seedlings. Comfrey and rhubarb in the background.

The early potatoes, after several earthings up. You can see the peas behind. I spotted the first maincrop potato today too.

Onions, shallots and garlic, and a row of spring onions seedlings, which are too small to see from here. And some weeds.

This daft sparrow spent a whole day sitting on the cherry tree, which is just outside the kitchen window, twittering to its own reflection, and providing me with a perfect photo opportunity!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Vandals back again

On Friday I noticed one of my tennis balls from the top of the pea support canes was missing - it set alarm bells ringing but what could I do? On Sunday lunchtime I arrived to pick some rhubarb, only to find the rest of the tennis balls gone, and the shed flat on its face - AGAIN! Every time the shed gets pushed over it weakens it, and every time I have to push it back up and reposition it it gets ricketier. A couple of the planks on the door had got broken so I have patched them up with a couple of nails but I am going to have to think of a more reliable solution. One idea is this: drive some stout posts into the ground (into Metposts or similar) and screw the corners of the shed to the posts. Then reinforce the sides and door with pieces of pallet or similar - because once they realise they can no longer push it over they are bound to start kicking it in frustration.

I don't really want to get a new shed, it makes more sense to reinforce and vandal-proof the one I've got than to spend lots of money on a new one that could just as easily get damaged.

Anyone got any tried and tested vandal-proofing tricks?

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Strawberry bonus

These strawberries seeded themselves last year at the bottom of the garden. I just left them to see what would happen (it's not particularly sunny down there) and now they're developing flowers!

On the down side, there are now several asparagus spears coming, but they're all looking a bit like this:

There's no sign of the dreaded asparagus beetle, so I wonder if it could be slugs? It seems unlikely, there aren't many slugs around at the moment, especially in this area. It's a mystery.

On the plot, the potatoes are starting to come through, so I have earthed them up. There are also a few carrots just coming up, and some lettuces and spring onion.

I have just sowed sweetcorn (about 40 seeds), runner beans - only about 16, there are always far too many, french beans, Blue Ballet squash, Butternut squash, courgette, pumpkins (large and small). Not sure about the pumpkins, it occurred to me as I was sowing the seeds, they were kept from last year's fruit, and as they were next to squashes and courgettes, it's possible they got cross pollinated, and might actually be some sort of strange hybrid pumpsquash. We'll see.
The greenhouse is now chock-a-block.

Next big hurdle is to plant out the brassicas. There are lots of them, and it will involve constructing tunnels with net etc, which I probably don't have enough of. I have already prepared the bed, but I can't say I'm looking forward to this job.

I have now potted on all the tomatoes and decided I definitely have far too many. Never mind, they shouldn't be too hard to give away (although I don't really want to give away the pots, old skinflint that I am). The Marmande are starting to produce flowers. These will be the earliest tomatoes I have ever produced, at this rate they will be fruiting before the cucumbers, which would be a first.

There is still so much to do.....

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Potting on... and recycling

As from next week, the Council are starting a new recycling regime here in Rugby. We have the green wheelie bin collected every two weeks, which takes garden and food waste (not mine though because it all goes into my Bokashi bins!). Every other week we put out the black (landfill) bin and the new blue-lid wheelie bin, into which go all the 'dry' recyclables, which now includes plastics, cardboard, foil, paper and glass bottles and cans.

This means that the two red boxes which were previously used for paper, bottles and cans, are now redundant. What better use for them therefore, than for planting tomatoes in?

The artwork on the window behind is by my children, not me.

I have decided to put two of each of the five tomato varieties inside the greenhouse, the rest can go on the allotment. These two are Marmande. Hopefully there will still be enough room for my cucumbers, peppers, chillies and melons (if there are any left).

Friday, 17 April 2009

Successes and failures

First the good news:

I pruned this vine right down in February, so I could replace the tangle of wires that was supporting it with this new trellis. Up until very recently, I was convinced it was a gonner - no signs of life whatsoever, but suddenly lots of buds started appearing. It is regenerating, like Dr Who. (You can see the better if you click for a close-up)

Secondly, I just love the colour of these tulips, planted last autumn.

Thirdly, flowers are appearing on the broad beans (and also on the strawberries)

And finally, the appearance of the very first asparagus spear of the year- hurrah!! May there be lots more (and no asparagus beetles). The netting is just to keep the cat off.

Now for the not so good news: something (looks like a fox?) has walked straight across my potato patch! Surely even a fox can see that this is hallowed ground and strictly not for walking on??

Secondly, another branch has snapped off the cherry tree - this is the second since last year. I don't know how they manage to break, they're not exactly heavy. Still, there is plenty of blossom and maybe I can encourage more branches to form with some judicious pruning techniques.

Now for the worst news of all: something has attacked one of my two last remaining melon seedlings - just LOOK at it!!!

One side of the stem has been eaten and it has just fallen over. Out of the four that originally germinated, there is now only one left, so I have immediately sown the last four seeds, in the hopes that I will end up with more than one melon plant this summer.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Potatoes and Peas

The maincrop potatoes are now in - there was just enough room for every last tuber. I have also planted out my first lot of peas:

and they have been pigeon-proofed and slug-proofed (slug traps are 2 for £1 in Poundland!!)

I hoed the onions, which are coming up nicely:

and shallots in the foreground, which I saved from last year. I also planted out some sunflowers, and slug-proofed. Here is the cowslip I planted last autumn:

I used up all the compost from one bin, so decided to transfer the contents of the other bin by way of turning it, which it really needed, because the bokashi had got rather compacted and smelly. Hopefully a good airing will help it to finish decomposing.

Dug up a few weeds here and there, and watered where I sowed the carrots and spring onions the other day (no sign yet). Picked a few purple broccoli sprouts and came home.

Now that the peas and sunflowers have gone out, I have been able to put some of the more advanced brassicas into the coldframe, and I swear they have got noticeably bigger overnight. Unfortunately there isn't room to put them all in there, I think maybe it's too warm in the greenhouse. They are not yet big enough to plant out though.

One of my cucumber plants (and I only have four!) has become stunted and floppy, I think it's got damping-off disease. And my peppers and chillis are just not growing at all. You would think that being sown back in February, they would have more than one pair of true leaves by now wouldn't you? But since moving them to the greenhouse they don't seem to have made any progress at all. Perhaps it's just not hot enough yet? I understand I am supposed to keep them fairly dry, which I have been doing, but this morning I gave them quite a generous watering, to see if that helps at all. Failing that, I believe there is more warm weather on the way, so maybe that will get them going.

Monday, 6 April 2009

A windy day on the plot

I've been at the allotment today but I have to say I didn't really enjoy myself because of the strong wind. It makes me really irritable. Despite this I did manage to put up the pea supports (fingers crossed the vandals will leave them alone), sow 2 short rows of carrots under enviromesh cloches, and sow a row of spring onions.

The onions and shallots I had already put in a couple of weeks ago are starting to put shoots up. I also moved a couple of things - some lovage my neighbour gave me, which I thought had died because I put it a bit too close to the comfrey last year and it got smothered, and the one surviving blackcurrant bush. I also cleared out and tidied the shed.

In the garden this week I have planted out my lettuces in the raised bed, and also divided my chives. Also going in here will be parsley and coriander. It's under the tree so a bit shady. The various sticks and netting, as you might have guessed, are to keep the cat off.

I have bodged up this makeshift coldframe, in which I've put the peas waiting to be planted outside, the sunflowers and some cornflower seedlings. I need to plant the peas out soon so there will be room for the next lot of seedlings to be moved in. There isn't much capacity.

That's it really, except to report that there is quite a lot of blossom on the cherry tree I planted last year, and there are even a few blossom buds on one of the apple trees, which I only put in this February. It did say in the blurb that this variety (Scrumptious) was quite precocious!