Sunday, 31 March 2013

hugelkultur bed, step 5

Still cold but bright and sunny. Max 4C all day.

I took some more bean plants to the plant scheme greenhouse and my onions seedlings went into the cold frame on the plot.

 I stayed a while to finish off the hugelkultur bed. The big blue tub was full of rainwater so buckets of that went on to the mound, followed by the topsoil.  I forgot to take the camera or phone with me so no pictures, but if you imagine a 2 foot high mound of soil, you are just about there.  I will add some pictures later.


Told you....large mound of soil.

It should ideally run east/west, so I can plant shady things like lettuce on the north side and sun loving things on the south side, but I didn't think of that until too late.

Transplanted the courgettes into a 4 cell tray and put it back on the windowsill and the mystery squash has gone back into the front room, it is still far too cold for them.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

cosmos pricked out

I am such a sad person that I can find gardening related things for my diary just about every day.

I pricked out 84 cosmos seedlings, leggy ones at that.  It is in the lap of the gods as to whether they will survive.

This is but a few of them.
I separated the broad beans that I had sown 4 to a pot as they were looking a wee bit cramped and transplanted them one to a cell.
Again this is but a few of them.  I am getting rather pushed for space so some of them have gone to the greenhouse at the allotment.  In fact, so pushed for space I have started to build upwards.

 I am planning to sow my peas in sections of guttering, but they take up a lot of bench space so I had the brainwave of buying some brackets and fixing them to the greenhouse frame, and so far it is working quite well.  I haven't got any peas in yet, they are currently chitting in damp kitchen paper, but the guttering works as shelves for small pots in the meantime.  I didn't bother getting end caps for the guttering, I just used duct tape and will renew it as it needs.

Mystery squash update:  I potted it on to a bigger pot as it was looking a bit top-heavy, but actually the roots were only just starting to fill the 5 inch pot and could have gone a little longer.
It has gone into the greenhouse, but because it has been living the life of a pampered house-plant in the front room, I think I will bring it in at night until the weather warms up, as it is still occasionally a bit nippy out there.

Friday, 29 March 2013

hugelkultur bed steps 1 to 4

Only the occasional snow flurry so I went to the garden to collect a bag of compost.  It turned out quite nice when I got there, even the sun came out in between showers, so I stayed and began work on the hugelkultur bed.
1.  I widened the trench that was one of the rain ponds and piled the topsoil to one side. (Those guys in the States used a JCB for theirs, but as mine is only about two metres long and one metre wide,  it seemed an unnecessary luxury here.)
2.  I piled the logs, acquired earlier, into the trench, and made several more trips to gather some barrows of smaller brushwood and branches to put on the top.  It made quite a respectable sized pile.
 3.   I jumped up and down on it for a while, to flatten and shake the smaller twigs down into the gaps.  Then on the top of that went some wood chippings and leaves saved from last autumn.  There were lots of worms in the bags of leaves.
4.  Some more jumping up and down, almost breaking ankles in the process.  After which I opened up the old compost heap, sending the local woodlouse population into a frenzy of activity, sorry! Onto the bed went several barrows of semi-rotted compost.
Completely pooped after all those exertions, I am leaving the rest until the next fine day. More compost and then the topsoil to go next, and apparently it has to be watered before the topsoil goes on.  But it goes against the grain after all those months of flooding, and the taps aren't working yet so it would be buckets from the butts. The water is due to come back on soon so we will see...

The photo above has just shown me that my levelling skills need polishing.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

potted some more..

Potted up the rest of my Wilko's 3fer.  Hemerocallis (Stella d'Oro) and Dicentra Spectabilis (Alba).  Am running out of compost now. No pix of those, just pots with compost, boring.

Bought some more autumn bulbs when I was at Lidl yesterday.  Oxalis Deppei, £1 for 40 corms.  I just can't resist! Some people hit clothes shops, others go for plant stalls.

Pricked out 48 Aubretia seedlings, they are tiny and made me feel very clumsy and big-fingered.  Heaven knows if they will survive. Next time remember to sow them straight into modules rather than a tray.
The Masterpiece broad beans will have to go on sale soon or they will be climbing out of their pots.  I think maybe 4 per pot was a bit too many.
Here are the onion seedlings, looking just the same but slightly bigger.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Hostas etc

Still a bitterly cold wind.  The temp got up to 5C, briefly when the sun shone for a few minutes.

Planted up 3 pots with hosta, and 3 pots with anemone.

Moved the tomato plants upstairs to the spare bedroom, they aren't developing in the cold of the greenhouse.

Switched off the propagator as the cosmos have gone all leggy. Might be having to start again with those.

The celeriac I sowed a couple of weeks ago have showed now that I have put them on the kitchen windowsill, for such a butch looking vegetable, it has teeny tiny seedlings.  But no sign of the celeriac I sowed for myself in the propagator yet.

Two of the courgettes have come up and a third is on its way.

Oh, and I got a new cloche tunnel. (£5.99 Lidl)

Monday, 25 March 2013

broad beans planted

Freezing cold day with a bitter wind. 0/3C

Went to the plot, prepared to come straight back again if it was too cold, but I managed to stay long enough to plant out the baby broad beans. They have survived the weather quite well, a couple of the red epicure had brown tips to the leaves, frost or cold I assume, but otherwise looking quite fit.

I tried planting through some weed fabric with the red epicure beans, and I succeeded after a fashion, but it is very fiddly poking the plantlets through the cuts in the fabric.  Reminded me why I can't be bothered doing hanging baskets. And I would never make a gynaecologist.

Some of the peas I planted in the cold greenhouse on the 4th March are starting to sprout at last.

Packed in when my fingertips lost all feeling.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

hot propagating!

The propagator is certainly doing the biz!  Cosmos seedlings up in two days! Also, signs that the courgette seeds might have stirred, like sleeping giants.  No signs from the celeriac yet but they generally are a bit slower in germinating.

Bitter cold again today, my cheeks just about froze off when I went for the Sunday papers, so no plotting today. Temperature hovering between 0 and 3C all day, but with wind chill it feels like -3C

Thursday, 21 March 2013

a new toy

A heated propagator!

Something I have been lusting after for some time.  I have been debating whether to get a paraffin heater for the greenhouse or a heated propagator, but I eventually came to the conclusion that it would be more economic to heat the smaller space, given how few plants I would want to be hustling on.

So I sowed some seed for a round courgette (tondo di pacienza), celeriac (Monarch), cosmos (dwarf Sonata mixed) and cosmos (gazebo white)

Of course, it is all very well bringing the seedlings on, but it is going to have to start warming up pretty damn soon to get back on track for planting things out in the open.

I put some peas (Hurst Greenshaft), for myself, to chit on damp kitchen paper and sorted out a couple of gutter pipe sections from the garage to put them in.

Still too cold (-1C last night and no higher than 3C today) so I haven't been to the plot. I hope the broad beans in the cold frame are okay, they should be, they are pretty hardy.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

pricking out tomatoes

Still too wet on the plot. (I spent an hour on Sunday barrowing wood chippings to the muddy patches on the communal paths. I'm being quite selfish about this, I'm sick of slipping and plodging in mud, so anything I can do to reduce it, I will.)
So I stayed home and pricked out the tomato seedlings into pots.  I have Bambino, Gerdener's Delight, and 100s & 1000s. They aren't growing very fast, still too cold. I chucked out the seedlings that I had pricked out far too soon, they hadn't budged since they got their first true leaves.  I noticed when I pulled them out of the compost they had minimal root systems and would always have struggled.

The sweet peas in the rootrainers are starting to show, they have been on the kitchen windowsill, so I have taken the transparent lid off and moved them to the mini-greenhouse.

The red epicure broad beans sown in paper pots are showing signs at last.
The peas I sowed at the same time (Feb) for the shop are showing so they have gone to live in the greenhouse at the allotment.
I must get around to sowing some peas for myself.

Monday, 18 March 2013


It is snowing again today.  Is this winter ever going to end?

I have found a pile of logs up one the alleys at the allotment, which doesn't belong to anyone and I have  the go-ahead to help myself!  Yey!  Maybe my hugelkultur experiment idea can be revived!  I already have a hole, one of the rain ponds, I will just need to make it a bit bigger (I might wait until the ground has shed this last lot of snow though). I can put my old compost heap on top of the logs, and anything else organic I can get my shovel under. And then the topsoil from the hole and hey presto!
Pics to follow.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

spring, I think..

It has been the first nice day for ages.  Spring is springing regardless of the weather, or in spite of...  There is mayhem going on in the next plot's pond, about 20 frogs all jumping on each other, with only one thing on their collective mind.
There are some buds on the fruit bushes, even some I thought were goners, the gooseberry cuttings given me last year are sprouting beautifully and the redcurrant I thought was dead, is showing signs of life. No signs from the gooseberry (Xenia), or the raspberries (Polka). 
The garlic has appeared above ground at last, I thought it was never going to make it.  The winter onions are starting to look as if they are growing.
The forecast is for another cold spell though, so I didn't plant out the broad beans, but I did put the cloches out to help warm the soil in the bed where the beans are going.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Celery experiment

An idea pinched from the Grapevine.  I happened to have the end of a bunch of celery so thought I would try rooting it.
Compost, hormone rooting powder, all pieces cut except for the bunch base with a couple of tiny sticks attached (front right).

Tuesday, 12 March 2013


The second coming of the orchid - orchidus horizontalis!

 The broad beans are coming along nicely, if it would just give over freezing and snowing I might get a chance to get them out under cloches.  I've moved some other broad beans to the cold frame in the plot and they will be the first to go out as soon as the weather permits.
 The mystery seed from the compost heap, living a life of luxury on the front room windowsill.

My maxnmin told me this morning that it was 38.6C in the mini greenhouse (2.3C outside), and down to  2C inside (-2C outside) overnight. No wonder the tomato plants were looking distressed. They picked up visibly when I took them out of the mini greenhouse, I could actually see them straightening up again.

I put 3 of my chitted potatoes (kestrel) in compost, in a growing bag, in the green house.

Apart from sowing seeds there isn't much to be doing until the spring arrives properly, and my shelves are getting a bit full of seed trays now.  

Sunday, 10 March 2013

More snow

Snow again, and the rain ponds are full. The land has been draining nicely but it just needs a day of rain, yesterday and some melting snow to fill it up again.  The water table must be very high at the moment. But the raised beds are looking good, not too soggy, so it looks as if I might be able to use a lot of the garden even if it stays very wet, that is if I can get to the beds through the surrounding waters.

Just think, March last year it was red hot! 24C! But it did snow in April too.

Thursday, 7 March 2013


Remember the peppers overwintering on the bathroom windowsill? I made like a bee with the sable hair brush and this is the result.  Leastways, I think it wouldn't have happened by itself as there are no insects (except those annoying little flies that breed in damp compost, fly in your face and commit suicide in your teacup) about to do the pollinating, but not sure on my plant biology there, I must admit.

Its cute innit!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

buying and sowing seeds

I was on the internet last night buying seeds (I have since checked my seed box and I need more seeds like I need a hole in the head!) when I came to the checkout and realised it was nearly £5 postage and packing.  £5! for 8 packets of seeds in a jiffy bag!  No!  So I went to Wilko's today instead and spent £23 on seeds and bulbs!  I didn't pay p&p on it all, but it probably would've been cheaper to have gone with Sarah Raven and given Wilko's a wide berth.

This morning in the greenhouse, I sowed ...
Aquilegia, my own seed saved from the plot.  (The parent plant was a double pink flower, very pretty but I don't know whether they breed true. I think I tried them last year but I can't remember what happened to them, it was such a miserable year everything seemed to die.)
Scabiosa Japonica, Ritz Blue
Nasturtium, tall single mixed
Sunflower, giant single
Antirrhinum, deep red, own seed saved from the front garden.
Sweet peas, 3 different sorts, 2 leftovers from last year and one new pack bought today.

Went to the plot this afternoon, sowed more peas and beans for the allotment shop, forked over the wild flower bed, now to become a cut flower bed. I have the seeds...
One of my purchases was a ph and moisture tester, I have heard tell that they aren't very reliable so I really wanted a soil testing kit, but Wilko doesn't seem to stock those. This was only £4 and my one that was given me last Christmas has did a runner before I had a chance to see if it was any good, so I thought I would try it. I also got a pack of mycorrhizal fungus (Rootgrow) for half the price of that on the internet.

(Some tricky spellings in my diary today, but I think I've got them right.)

Monday, 4 March 2013

Levelling beds

Did some pea sowing for the shop plant scheme, but I got so cold I had to do something to warm myself up, so I shifted some soil, levelling my wooden borders for the raised beds.  Well, when I say levelled, its levelled-ish. But they look quite tidy and not too many gaps around the edges.  They will bed themselves in as I work them. I'm sure.
I put some lime on the bed that had the potatoes in last year and also on the bed that was euphemistically called the wild flower bed.  It was mostly buttercup, plantain and daisies that grew successfully and they are acid soil plants, so probably a bit of lime won't do it any harm. (Must get a soil testing kit)
The wild flower bed is the end of the plot which floods most often so I am thinking of using most of it for the rain ponds and on the level part I will try a cut flower bed.  Perhaps I won't feel so upset if it floods again and I lose flowers instead of vegetables.