Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Winding down...

Well it's been a glorious September with no rain at all that I can remember. All the water butts are empty and the poor lawns and flower beds are dry dusty and in very poor condition.

I have had to plant all my spring bulbs in pots as the ground is so hard I cannot get them in the ground. I have also planted a fig tree and 3 patio apple trees in pots.

The runner beans are all but finished here and at Nanna's. I still have cabbage, kale and the leeks are just starting to be ready as are the parsnips. I am impressed with how straight they are - they were sown into loo rolls!

Still got spuds in the ground at Nanna's but they will be coming up this week. I have been harvesting celeriac and making mash potato with celeriac mixed in. It makes a nice change from 'ordinary' mash. The Jerusalem artichokes are on flower so looks like the wind will be starting soon ;o)

Not sure if we will get any sprouts for xmas as they look a bit funny and not very big. Nobody likes them anyway but we need them on our plate!

I am still getting peppers and tomatoes and chillis from the greenhouse but it is only a matter of days I think before they will also be finished.

The courgettes are just about finished as are the summer squash. I have had a few Invincible' pumpkins and butternut squashes and I have 3 whoppers (well relatively speaking) which I hope will be ready for Halloween. Be great to carve our own! I have also dried the borlottis from Nanna's garden and am looking forward to making things with them over winter.

I have been planting onion sets (red and white) earlier in the month and have just got my garlic in yesterday. A bit early maybe but the opportunity was there.

We have been going crazy with the home brew - as well as about 10 demijohns of cider on the go, there is also apple wine, blackberry and apple wine, 2 types of plum wine, sloe wine, blackberry and sloe wine and a kit wine (to see if they are any good). We managed to acquire another 12 demijohns from a lovely lady on freecycle and I am slowly cleaning them all up as it was like they had been filled with pond water!

In the garden we have had hedgehogs (one poorly who we took to the vet), squirrels, woodpeckers... and the dreaded D word is back - got to check all the fencing again. Just glad there isn't much around for them to destroy at the mo.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Not much occuring

Except for runner beans coming out of our ears at home and at Nanna's. I cannot give them away anymore, we are all beaned out!
I have even started off some elderberry and runner bean wine to try and use some up.
In fact homebrew is what has been happening most here.

On the go I currently have: apple wine, plum wine, cherry plum wine, elderberry & runner bean. I also have 4 lots of cider on the go using various combinations of our apples and those I have pinched from other people. Marc has made a press to get the juice out of the apples but it still needs tweaking to be really efficient. We are hoping to be more professional with the cider this year and do some blending after fermentation has finished, also stopping some fermentations to ensure some of them are not too dry and also add some sugar to some and kick start a second fermention for a smoother cider - Watch This Space. My mother says I will kill myself with all the homebrew (surely not, at the very worse gut-rot I'd have thought!) but at least I will go with a drink in my hand...

I also have plum brandy, plum vodka and blackcurrant vodka 'stewing' hopefully ready for Christmas.

I have aslo been harvesting loads of tomatoes and making passata type sauces and soup. Also harvested chillis, baby sweetcorn, loads of lovely carrots and courgettes from Nanna's. And squahes and mini pumpkins. Will be roasting them later with rosemary couscous... yum.

The florence fennel has bolted (not unusual I am told), and the potaoes (Golden Wonder) are ready for lifting. I have also picked the dried borlottis left on the pants for stews etc over winter.

Stil harvesting cabbage and kale from our garden.

At Nanna's I have lifted the netting from the brassicas as it was a bit ineffective and there is a huge problem with little jumping bugs. I think they are flea beetles. The crop seems to be coping though and I am picking off and squishing regularly. The sprouts see little affected and these are the ones I want most for Christmas! Fingers crossed for them...

We rescued a poorly hedgehog from the garden the other day and took him to the vets who will decide if he can be rehabilitated. They suspect lungworm which I think is not good news for hedgehogs, but at least we gave him/ her a chance.

Other than that... the weeds are definitely winning at the moment.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Reap the Harvest

Well, not been posting for ages as been so busy. We have been on holiday - bliss - and had children's parties and been getting ready for the invasion of the builders. Again.

I have been harvesting mainly rather than planting. And of course weeding.
We have been eating, in no particular order:
Peas, mangetout, runner beans, climbing beans, tomatoes, cucumber, cherries, peaches, potatoes, carrots, beetroot, lettuce, cabbage, kale (this year and last year's), calabrese, caulis (the purple ones are fab!) onions, garlic, marrow, courgettes...

The deer got in while we were away, ate loads of beans and lettuce and parnsips leaves. It even went IN the greenhouse and munched a cucumber - the cheek! So the deer proofing continues. And the chickens escaped - really glad I missed it really! Think they missed me as I am out there with them all the time giving them weeds, and worms etc!

Am planning to sow basil and parsley on the window sill. A last row of carrots and radish. And some cabbage.

We had bizarre weather while away, scorchio for 2 days then hammering down with rain for 2 days. I lost some plants and the peaches got damaged. Ended up with 2 out of the 40 I had before I went away but boy were they the BEST peaches I have ever eaten!

At Nanna's I have planted a row of peas and mangetout, and been harvesting courgettes, marrow, and runners. The borlottis are heavy with beans but I am leaving the on for drying and using over winter.

Think that's it for now.

I had fun with some of the veggies - Louis thinks I am a bit bonkers!

Monday, 18 May 2009

Looking at the peaches...

I Have Peaches! The hand pollinating obviously worked as the tree is full of them. They are the size of 'dobbers' now. I have thinned them out a bit and am now hoping the mad winds we have at the mo don't blow them all off.

The tomatoes destined for friends or for outdoors are now all outside.

We have had the first of the potatoes - admittedly some of them were meant to be ready at xmas but hey-ho yummy none-the-less. I managed to furtle in the buckets to get the first crop, then put the rest back. Got some baby turnips too, which we fried with butter, carrots, garlic and herbs. The first spring onions are ready and have a real bite to them. Loads of salad leaves and spicy leaves and lettuce, and lambs lettuce too every lunchtime. I am NOT going to buy salads this year at all.

The PSB is all finished now - what a treat that was. In the end we managed 47 portions (not that I was counting...)

9 strawberries so far, (first one on May 10th) not all at the same time though so not enough for a proper bowlful, but they are coming along and a real treat still warm from the sun. Half of mine are in the greenhouse for an early crop and the rest will hopefully give us later delights. I have alpines too, not had those before.

What have I been doing? Weeding obviously, sowing more mizuna, salad leaves, herbs, gherkins, and the like. The climbing beans and runners were planted out yesterday. The peas and mangetout are looking good and were planted out a couple of weeks back, the broadies have masses of flowers on them (fingers crossed the deer don't get in again) and should be ready to pick within a few weeks. Globe (F)artichokes have been planted out in with the flower beds. Sweetcorn has been sown, 'minipop' and 'applause'. Borlotti beans are almost ready to be planted out as are the leeks, and the rest of the brassicas.

I have been planting things out in my Nanna's garden a few miles away (she has surplus space she was only too glad is now being used by someone). So there I have put the extra spuds that didn't fit in my raised beds, celeriac, pumpkin squashes and courgettes, all sown back in early april and hardened off before going there. I have also sown some florence fennel direct.

Made some rhubarb and ginger jam with some of my FIRST rhubarb but had to supplement it with some from a friend

We have started off some dandelion wine! No idea what it wll taste like but it's being fermented in the cupboard under the sink and you get a lovely boozy waft when you open the door! I am overrun with weeds on the lawns so decided to put some to good use... Watch this space about xmas time for the final verdict.

We have some new arrivals in the garden - a pressie from my Mum!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Spring Has Definitely Sprung...

Well it has here anyway. The weather has been unseasonably warm for several weeks and no rain either. I wish it would (only overnight obviously!), as the ground is already like mid-summer, cracked and dry. The veg beds are fine to dig but the flower borders and veg bed no5 are like concrete.

I had a couple of weeks of relative inactivity garden-wise as the children and OH were all ill over and over in a horrible cycle. I just wanted to run away! But now they are all better (for now) so it's been a very busy time outside.

It's hard to remember all the things I have done since my last effort so bear with me....

The carrot bed is coming along nicely, it now has parsnips planted out in loo rolls, plus some more sown direct. It has 2 rows of carrots - no signs yet, a row of transplanted beetroot, a row of radish and a row of turnips. And one lettuce. There were 8 but slugs have been around when I wasn't looking.

The onion bed is looking great! The garlic, shallots, and onions are all looking healthy and green and all several inches high.

The potato bed has first earlies in, and one lot of maincrop (I accidentally planted the main-crop thinking they were first earlies - doh!) so they went in a bit early. I have another lot of maincrop to go in later in the month and also I have loads of salad potatoes and earlies in buckets. Some in the greenhouse and some outside. The xmas potatoes that were meant to be ready 4 months ago have been earthed up twice and I think will be ready first. About time too!

The bean bed has had disaster strike twice. I planted them out in loo rolls and the next day they were all munched. Some of the loo rolls had even been pulled up. The pesky deer had managed to get in after not getting in for 2 weeks. I covered them all up with half bottles, after replanting them and they grew on again. I took the covers off 10 days later and that night the deer got in again. So they are now covered for a second time but I don't think they will catch up this time. Bummer. The fence has been checked and checked but we are not really sure where they are getting in. So I will have to net the whole bed until they are big enough not to be damaged. The deer also munched the strawbs that I had taken out of the greenhouse as they had flowers - no leaves left now, and the lemon bush that was outside the greenhouse.

The early tomatoes (December experiment) are already in the greenhouse, but they get covered with 2 or 3 layers of fleece each night. I am not sure if they will all make it but have run out of room for them in the house.

Sowing wise I have been busy too - more cabbage, more sprouts, more spinach, sunflowers, more leeks, salad leaves, more lettuce, more rocket, more mizuna, chamomile, summer savoury and more herbs. I have also sown courgettes, pumpkin, summer squash, marrow, melon and cucumbers. Mangetout and peas have been sown and are through already. More spring onions have been sown too. PSB and kale have been sown but won't be going anywhere for a while.

I dug over Louis' garden area and we have sown lots of annuals (poppies, wildflowers, cornflowers...). I hope they come up soon as it's hard keeping the cats off the bare earth! I have planted out some foxgloves and lavenders, calendulas and sweet peas in pots to climb the fence trellis.

Veg bed no5 (down past the greenhouse has been a MAMMOTH task as it was stony and rock hard, but finally tonight I finished it and we got the raised bed in place. There will be netting over it too as this one is for brassicas which are ready to go in. I think I will have to walk on the bed to settle the soil a bit as they like it firm. I am on a caterpillar mission this year as have been getting lots of net curtains from charity shops to put over the hoops. Just got to stitch them all together now....

I have potted on celeriac, asparagus, alpine strawbs, lemon bush, toms, peppers, chillies,

Harvest-wise I have had some kale which was delish, the carrots from the greenhouse which were meant to be for xmas are lovely and small and sweet, and the psb has gone bonkers. I have so far harvested 31 portions of it! As it retails at £2.69 for about 200g (waitrose) I have saved LOADS on this. It was definitely worth the twice daily caterpillar vigils in the summer. And everyone is getting some as there is no way we can eat all that broccoli! I have also harvested the radishes I put in pots in the greenhouse, salad leaves and rocket. An excellent start to the season!

And the final things to mention (that I can remember anyway) is that we shifted a tonne of topsoil onto the bit of lawn that dipped and put grass seed down. And a man with bigger muscles than mine laid the membrane and gravel between the vegetable beds.

Phew - is that all... no wonder I am tired!

ps - I really could do with some rain now if only to let me catch up on the house-work!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Over a Barrel...

The weather has been glorious, really 'springy' lately so we have been very busy outside.
Marc has made 4 raised beds now and they are all painted and in position. The path round the beds is also finished. Two of the beds were covered with fleece to warm things up a bit. Today I sowed 2 rows of parsnips, a row of carrots, a row of beetroot and a row of turnips, all under the fleece. I also planted out some lettuce under it too. One of our cats likes to sneak under the fleece to 'sauna' himself so I have sprinkled garlic 'cat off' granules in the hope he won't like the smell and will sunbathe elsewhere. I have also finished the onion bed and it is no full of garlic, shallots and red and white onions. No idea where the leeks will be going... I had to put a few onions in with the flower beds but by the time anyone notices I will be ready to harvest them!

Marc has made a water butt, from some old food barrels he picked up locally and cheaply. As they don't have taps etc attached we had fun and games getting one on. He had to climb in it to attach the tap and came out of the barrel smelling of olives! Could have been worse, if he'd bought an ex-marmite barrel!) He has moved the small one which was on the house onto the greenhouse and put guttering round it.

I have potted on some more tomatoes and been putting the big ones outside of it's warm enough.
I sowed some celeriac and asparagus and alpine strawberries in the house. I have also been sowing more flower seeds. I have also managed to get my summerflower bulbs in the ground and in pots.

The peach tree has been in the greenhouse all winter and is now full of pink buds and flowers. I have been hand-pollinating them with a paintbrush. You could call me a 'busy bee'!

One of the compost bins has been emptied and spread about the flower beds. Another one was turned - that's hard work. Not my favourite garden job!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Cheeky Deer...

We have been busy as usual. The weather is being kind (that will jinx that now then) and progress is being made.
I now have 4 raised beds made and painted up. 2 are now in final positions.
The transplanted garlic is fine (phew) and I have got some spring planted in with it too. I have also got lots of shallots in. This means the 'onion' bed is half full, and I've not got any onions in it yet!
Other things I have been doing include, digging the area to be paved (almost there and I can see the finish line...) potted on some savoy cabbage that I managed to drop a brick on (doh!) and think I've only lost 2 out of 12. Sowed a pot of chives in the greenhouse. Sowed some flower seeds including aquilegia, cosmos.
Potted on chillis, aubergines, and tomatoes again.
I have got some potatoes in buckets in the greenhouse and discovered that one that got frosted (was meant to be for Xmas spuds) has re-sprouted and needed earthing up. So we may be in for some early earlies!
Some parsnips have been sowed into loo-rolls (the crop was delicious but minimal last year so I am experimenting). I transplanted some radish into troughs and popped the min the greenhouse.
I planted a grapevine that a kindly member of the garden forum I frequent sent me.
I have also received free strawberry runners from GW magazine and potted them up.
I have planted some Jerusalem Fartichokes, oops I mean artichokes too, they are in the bit of garden we won't get round to doing anything with this year.
I put some of the early tomatoes outside while I potted them on yesterday, it was beautiful, but I swear within half an hour they were shivering!
The new mini-greenhouse is up so some of the things that were clogging up the windowsills have been moved into there, eg, sweetpeas and french marigolds.

The funniest thing happened at breakfast the other morning. Some 'frisky' deer came chasing into the garden and Louis wanted to know what they were actually doing. We told him they were making babies.... after breakfast he declared he was going outside to see the baby deer! Hopefully they have now been fenced out as they have been so destructive lately. Then the first night they couldn't get in the back garden, they decided to trash the front instead. Whole pots of tulips have been uprooted and bulbs bitten off at ground level. They look lovely but boy can they eat!

Good news - on of the PSB's has about 12 buds on it and will be ripe for eating anyday - yay!

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Feels Like Progress....

Well the snow has finally left us (it took ages to clear, very unusual) and I have managed to get out and do a bit more on the new bed area. Yesterday we managed to get the first of the big new beds in position (11 feet by 5) and I transplanted the autumn garlic into it. It would have been intersected by the edge of the bed had I not done so. The poor things had to be put into buckets then transplanted into their (hopefully) final positions. The rows are a bit wonky now but I am sure they will be fine.

Today I managed to get some more digging down. Marc laid a few more slabs and has started on bed no2. This one will be bigger still at 13 feet long by 5 wide. It is starting to take shape and I am very excited to view the larger growing spaces!

I thought about putting the onion sets in today but think I will give it another couple of weeks. It might have felt like spring today and yesterday but I am sure I am just being fooled....

I have also potted on the second lot of tomatoes I sowed. The chillis and aubergines will be done within the next few days. I have got 13/15 strawberry seeds germinated, they are tiny, but will come good I am sure. No sign of the golden berry yet, or the cayenne chillis.
I need to sow a few more Roma tomatoes for sauces and I have also promised to nurture a few plants for a friend so will sow some more later in the week.

I also need to pot on the original tomatoes to the next size pot as thwe roots are just visible at the bottom. I will hopefully get this done next week too.

Most of the herbs I sowed are up, including parsley ( I am clearly the boss of this household!), basil, sage, coriander. The oregano has vanished, maybe I took the clingfilm off too early?! I am also trying some lemon balm and thyme from seed. I bought a rosemary plant and that is now on a pot on the decking. I never do much with fresh herbs so this year I am going to make a real effort with them.

I include a pic of one of the PSB plants lovingly cleared of bugs and the like all last summer. I wonder if they will EVER be ready?! The pigeons are eyeing them up too.

Meant to be raining tomorrow so glad we got lots done this weekend...

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Snow Stops Play!

Well after the rest of the country having lots of snow and us missing most of it we woke this morning to about 4 inchs of the white stuff.

My eldest son was VERY excited as school was shut and he has had fun in the garden with daddy making snowmen and throwing snowballs at each other. I went out with our younger son who hadn't encountered snow before! It was so deep he couldn't walk in it! He loved it though and cried when I brought him in again.

The chickens were less than impressed with the snow. In fact it is the most they have encountered too. I went down to feed them some warm porridge and they were still in the coop! Wusses. They all huddled under the shelter for their porridge and I threw some scraps under the conifers where it's still dry. I don't think they quite know what to make of this weather!
There were still 2 eggs this morning and I believe Delia (white one) has also laid as I heard her crowing later on.

I had planned to take Dominic to mum's this morning so I could get outside and dig some more, but I think my plans have been revised somewhat!

Yesterday however, I managed to move the strawberries from the open bed which is going to be raised, into pots in the greenhouse, and lift the raspberries and put them into temporary pots while the beds are made. I think it will affect their harvest this year but can't be helped. The strawbs may well put on a spurt now they are indoors though which would be nice. We love strawberries.

Seeds sown:
I have lettuce, rocket, and salad leaves all up and doing well in the greenhouse.
Sowed a big pot of spring onions into the greenhouse.
I have 2 out of 4 aubergines up in the propagator. No signs of the strawberry, golden berry or toms yet though.
Basil is through in the windowsill.
I am waiting for parsley, coriander and oregano on the windowsill.
I sowed 2 types of cabbage yesterday, a tray of french marigolds, 2 types of globe artichoke, all indoors. Running out of window-sill space now.
I also sowed 2 trays of leeks in the coldframe, and a few summer and autumn ready calabrese.

Run out of seed trays now.... I think a trip to Wilkos is due once the snow has gone.

Pics of us in the snow were more interesting than ones of seed trays!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

So today and yesterday we have been busy. I have been digging and Marc has been making me some new raised beds and making modifications to the chicken coop (the darn thing has been a work in progress for about 16 months now!). Still the girls are happy, although they don't knwo what to make of the shredded papaer I have been using lately as bedding.

I managed to paint the first raised bed (5 feet by 11) just before it snowed. Oh well it has got 2 chances like everything in my garden!

I also had a lovely afternoon in the warm sowing seeds while Marc took the boys visiting. This meant no little hands in the compost 'helping'.

I sowed (in no particular order): Parsely, Sage, Oregano and Coriander on the kitchen window-sill; strawberry seeds into the propagator along with, 3 types of tomato and golden berry; radish, beetroot calabrese into the coldframe (although the snow means they will go in tomorrow morning, on the landing window at present.

I was going to chance my arm with some early peas but as it was snowing thought it best to wait.

No need for pics today, a tray of compost is rather dull!

Aubergines, chillis in the propagator almost a week - still no progress.

Wanted to move the outdoor strawberries into the greenhouse by lifting them from the bed as we have got to get a raised bed in behind them and I fugure with clumsy and clumsier doing the job they will be safer off in the greenhouse for a while - might even get some early fruits, but it was just too cold for me so I gave up and came inside to potter instead.

I also want to lift the raspberries (1 year old but not much of a crop last year) for the same reason. I am going to try them in pots for this year while we re-organise the beds.

Hope this cold spell doesn't last long, I was just being lulled into a false sense of 'spring is coming...'

Monday, 26 January 2009

So after missing lots of last week due to the whole family being ill (not sure our healthy lifestyle agrees with us!) I was back out again digging out the new beds this morning.
Inside, my early tomatoes (following moon planting with them for an experiment) have been potted on. I have about 23 plants. Hmmm, and a couple of seeds left to sow next month too. Need a bigger greenhouse maybe? Some of them are looking a bit leggy still despite being potted on deeply.

I have moved some salad leaves (2 types) from the cold frame to the greenhouse as they are looking good (only sowed them a couple of weeks back), 2 out of 4 grafitti caulis have germinated in the cold frame. Still no sign on the onion seeds I sowed just into January. Might bring them indoors for a bit and see if it speeds them up. Nothing yet from the sweet peas or the broadbeans... BUT I am a very impatient person. I normally expect to see shoots appearing the next day or I am disappointed!
Moved the red fuego cabbage from the landing windowsill where it's coldish to the coldframe. They have been put outside most days if it was sunny enough so I think they will be ok.

Tonight I have sowed into the heated propagator: 5 varieties of hot chilli and one of mild chilli (WHY?? I only like them mild! I must be bonkers), 2 types of aubergine (I am told they can be tricky. I had a plant from the garden centre last year and it was fabulous), and 2 types of sweet peppers. Only a couple of seeds of each of the above as it's still coldish and I will run out of windowsill space before they can all go in the greenhouse! And for insurance of course in case they fail miserably...

Nothing like optimism!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Journey So Far...

We moved to this house Jan 2008. Mainly because I had decided that we absolutely had to have a big garden for growing stuff, keeping chickens and so the children could run around. I had only ever grown a few strawberries, herbs and tomaotoes in pots before.

The garden was a mess, in two parts with half of it overgrown, and some massive evergreens near the house.

We set about clearing some of the trees (all except the apple), and bringing the two parts together.

We made 6 beds, 4 of them raised, which I thought would be all I needed for growing (beds were 8 feet by 3 feet each). I had some veg in the flower beds (courgette, pumpkin, squash and PSB).
We put in more fruit trees as well as a 4 year old cherry we brought with us from the
old house.

We got 3 chickens, put them in a homemade 6 feet by 6 feet run, let them weed some of the ground for us, then moved them to a permanent run of about 24 feet by 20 feet. They are much happier in there but sadly the grass is long gone!

We bought a coldframe then a greenhouse.

I had success with most things last year (but don't talk to me about brassicas, I should have listened to the man next door) but have decided we need more growing space, so we are currently working to make 4 raised beds, 11 feet by 5 feet each, plus one smaller one at the side of the greenhouse. I hope this is the only time I will say we need 'bigger'!

Not been able to get out much this year so far as it's been sooo cold - and I have a lot of digging to do to get the new beds ready for planting!