Thursday, 30 May 2013

strawberries netted

Covered the other strawberry bed with netting.  I seem to have lost a few plants compared with last year.  Could be that my policy of cutting all the leaves back after fruiting didn't help, or was it just the rotten weather of last year.

It was cold today so to warm myself up I did some digging, clearing a bit more of the patch near the gate.  In doing so I dug up the fuchsia and relocated it a bit closer to the fence.  By the time I'm finished I hope to have space for all the antirrhinums.

The runners are hanging on, well some of them are, others have forgotten that they are supposed to be twining up the cane and I had to give them a bit of help. They are looking a bit battered and wind-blown.

The peas have gone into suspended animation - they, and me, need some sun.

These leaves peeping out from under next door's greenhouse have produced some rather decorative seed heads. Current opinion is that it is a carex pendula.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

rainy day

Cold (11C max) and rainy day today, no point in going to the allotment, so weeded the front garden in between showers.  It is the part of the garden I always put off, as it is in the shade and therefore cold on 364 days of the year, and it is full of snowdrop bulbs with couch grass intertwined. It's a right pain in the neck (or back).  But I bit the bullet and got on with it and it looks quite tidy now except for dying back snowdrop foliage cluttering up the place.

I also planted out the last of the Suttons perennials, except for 5 delphiniums which I have potted up and will put in the allotment shop.

I also spent some time in the greenhouse and potted on the rest of the squashes and/or cucurbits (I'm never sure whether a squash IS a cucurbit or if they are separate families).  They are ready to go any time the weather says so.
The only ones I haven't potted on is the courgette on the right with the flower on, that's because it has managed to put roots in two cells at once and I can't figure out how to get it into a pot without disturbing it too much.  I reckon that it has the space equivalent to two 3inch pots, so should be good for a while longer.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

netting on the strawberries

The squashes and cucurbits (I love saying that!) are getting rampant in the greenhouse.  I checked one and it has loads of roots growing out the bottom of the pot, so time to pot them on.  I was hoping to avoid that and would've liked to put them straight out but it just isn't warm enough at night yet, and even if it was, they haven't been hardened off  at all except for leaving the door open this past couple of days.
So I have potted on a few, but got bored with doing that and took some plants to the lottie.

The red cabbage plants.  A keen observer will note the row of bottles on the left.  This is where I sowed parsnips, at least I think I did, it could have been a dream, because nothing germinated.  Zero. Nada. So, 2013 is another parsnip free year.  A parsnip interregnum.  We've got Medina stores around the corner when we need parsnips, much less hassle.

Another 2 cosmos bit the dust so I filled the gaps  in the cutting garden with some oenothera.  I have no idea what they are going to look like and whether they make good cut flowers, but I put them in anyway, I've got to put them somewhere, I'm getting desperate to find them all homes.  I've still got a trayful of antirrhinum, aquilegia, and scabious left, plus about 10 delphiniums.  Oh, and the gaillardia, whatever they are. I think I could have a plant stall all on my own.  When I said I would grow more flowers this year, I didn't expect quite so many.  I blame Suttons.

The runner beans survived the night out in the open, but are looking a bit windswept.

Hoed the strawbs and the goosebs.  Lots of raspb suckers coming up.  I'm glad I decided not to get new raspberry plants just yet, otherwise I wouldn't be able to tell new from old.  I'm sure we can survive without raspberries for a couple of years.

Put some netting over the new strawberry bed, which was daft because all the flowers are on the old strawberries, but I will do that tomorrow.

I took the fleece off the sweetcorn, it keeps blowing off anyway, and the poor things aren't looking well at all.  Some have gone beyond yellow to brown and even an optimist can see they are not long for this world.  Never mind, I'll have somewhere to put those antirrhinums.

Still didn't get any more of the patch by the gate dug.  I think, deep down, I don't want to do it and all this other stuff is displacement activity.

Monday, 27 May 2013

runners and red cabbage

Considerably cooler today and a bit showery.  Of course! Its a bank holiday! Silly me!

Moved the remnants of the pile of soil improver, took off the bed covering and planted out 10 red cabbages.  Nice sturdy plants except one and that was an extra one in the tray of nine, so nothing lost if it doesn't make it. (dig hole, sprinkle of bfb in hole, sprinkle of lime in hole and on roots, pop it in, firm well) Put some netting over to defend against pesky pigeons. I've just realised that I didn't put any slug pellets out, oops! A job for tomorrow.

Planted out the runner beans (Enorma), it is a bit soon but they were outgrowing their pots and needed more space, so I took a chance on no more frosts.

 Saying that, they are the most developed runner plants I have ever grown, I have not previously been able to twine them around the cane at planting time. (Last year sown 13/4/12, planted out 22/5/12, this year sown 9/5/13, planted out 27/5/13)  I think they did better in pots, I usually grow them in the root trainers.  It was quite windy this afternoon so I put up a netting fence to baffle the wind a bit for the new plants.

Did some weeding and hoed the onion patches. The onion hoe is quite good, you can really see where you are going with it. Not good for the back though.

There are no more sprouts coming on the psb so they are for the high jump next, and I still haven't finished clearing that patch at the gate.
I haven't got much more to put in the plot, just leeks when they get bigger and the cucurbits when the nights get a bit warmer. Just as well as I haven't got much more room left.
One of the apple trees is looking lovely, covered in blossom.
The new apples in pots are flowering, the new apples in the ground are not.  The ones in the pots seem further on than the ones in the ground, even though they were bought later. Is this significant?

It started to rain, so me and the pram came home.

Mystery squash update

The mystery squash looks like it is a butternut, judging by the shape of the baby coming on.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

another warm day

Another warm day! We are getting spoilt here in north-east England, 25C max in the garden today.

I took some plants to the lottie's greenhouse, but I didn't stay long it was too hot for working out in the open.

I hate to be inside on fine days so I was out planting in the garden again.  Lots more perennials planted, the garden is getting stuffed with plants, but I'm not getting too excited I did something similar last year and everything died, toot sweet.

The lawn in the back, over the years, has crept over the path, so I decided that today was a good day to cut it back to where it was when we first moved in in 1971 (when the house cost £2,250, would you believe)
You can see the mark on the path where the grass got to, and there is now a step up to the lawn which must be about three or four inches higher than it was in 1971. I had forgotten that there was a brick edge to the lawn so long ago. The lawn looks amazingly smooth on the photo, but don't believe what you see, it is full of daisies and dandelions.

a warm day and lots of gardening

A lovely warm day today, so nice after all the cold and wind. The first thing to do when I got to the plot was put back the arch over the gate, it would have gone if it wasn't for the honeysuckle hanging on to it for me.  And retrieve the cloche from on top of the bluebells.  And replace the fleece on the sweetcorn.

There are some flowers on the strawberries (they think it is spring even if it hasn't felt like it much lately) so I put the hoops over the beds ready for the netting to go on.

I only came to check on some cabbage plants that I pricked out the other day.  They were so pot bound I had to tear them apart and I was worried there wouldn't be enough root left on after the rough surgery. They were suffering a bit in the heat, but otherwise look as if they will make it.

I did lots of work in the gardens at home, making space for and planting out the perennials, some from the Sutton's lucky dip and some from last year's plant scheme that I successfully over-wintered.  I've still got loads left, especially the delphiniums and oenothera which are quite big plants and difficult to know where to put them in our little garden.

I'm doing a sunflower trial for Which? so they went out into the front garden.

I have to study them and take note of the insects which visit them.  It will give me a good excuse not to do house-work, "Sorry, can't clean the cooker top today, I'm watching the sunflowers"
They gave me a check-list of plants to test and I ticked quite a few of them thinking I would just get one, not realising that they would send me them all.  So now on top of my own plants, and some of the allotments plants, I've got Which? plants - all in a little 6x8 lean-to greenhouse.

  • I've got about 45 antirrhinums, when I already had a couple of trays of my own. 
  • 5 more cucumber plants, extra to the 3 of my own
  • 6 more tomato seedlings, plus 4 given by a friend, I already have 6 of my own
  • 13 sunflowers
  • 3 petunias
  • 4 sweet peas
  • and some to direct sow when the weather gets warmer

I spent some time constructing the tomato growhouse got from Wilko's bargain shelf (£2.50) so two of the tomatoes can go in there, but I haven't got room for all of them so some will just have to be composted, I'm afraid.

A friend gave me a little widget for tightening the schrader valve on the wheelbarrow tyre, so hopefully the slow leak might be cured at last. Do you know that you can't buy new valves anymore?  I've been round every tyre shop in Newcastle! No, you have to buy a whole new inner tube. Of course, it might be possible online, I didn't try there, but I might have to if the tightening doesn't work.
[I remembered that I ranted a bit about this a while back(January) so apologies for repeating myself, but really!]

Thursday, 23 May 2013

cold wind

There is a really cold north-westerly wind today, just as I have planted out a tender crop (sweetcorn) and wouldn't you know the forecast for Friday night is frost!  All that blossom on the fruit trees. Temp today 7C but feeling much colder.
Is summer never going to come?

Oh, and that pear tree I spotted in the next garden? Its a cherry.  I told you I wasn't good on tree ids.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

rhubarb and sweetcorn

Went to pick a whole load of rhubarb for various friends and family, needless to say I got distracted into doing other things and ended up spending about 2 hours on the plot.

MGG and I were looking over the plants in the plant scheme greenhouses and noticed that the sweet corn leaves have gone very yellow.  We were of the opinion that they weren't in a saleable condition, but not quite sure what was wrong with them.  It could be nutritional, they have been in the modules for a while now and may have outgrown their pots. Could be over watering, could be under watering, your guess is as good as mine. I have an empty 4X4 raised bed which I could put them in to see if they would recover, so I leapt (!) over the fence (they are in the empty greenhouse next to mine), collected the worst affected plants and planted them in my garden.
If they come good I will put some money into the shop for them if they don't well I have lost nothing except a bit of garden space and a few handfuls of GrowOrganic.
They have come straight out of the greenhouse so I put some fleece over them for the first few days.

Those nasty snails have been at the cosmos! Grr! It wouldn't be so bad if they ate them, but they just seem to cut the stalks and leave the tops lying covered in slime.  Ugh!

Monday, 20 May 2013

A whole day on the plot.

The weather is damp and mild and overcast, perfect gardening conditions, apart from being a bit muddy. I'm having a starvation day so I'm going to spend the whole day keeping busy to distract myself from my stomach rumblings.

I had another look at the runner bean frame and decided that the intersecting points were too low

It will be top-heavy when full of foliage. So I undid all those carefully wound lashings and and made the centres higher.

The waters have subsided a lot today, so I was able to plant out some of the cosmos. The snails had decapitated a few of them in the cold frame and had a good go at the red cabbage plants, but the blue pellets have seen a lot of them off to cabbage patch heaven.

I made a start on my cutting garden. An incidental result of making the hugelkultur bed and the other raised beds, was that I lowered the level of the paths and raised the level of the soil.  Adding the depth of soil and the extra soil improver has meant that the bed is quite workable even though the paths are very wet.

I planted out cosmos and sweet william.....accompanied by plenty of slug pellets.
Didn't get around to the red cabbage yet.
Because I have so many flowers still to plant out, I started to clear a very overgrown section by the gate.  I have never worked it since I first took the plot on as it was often under water so I let it slide, but since I re-organised the beds, I feel as if I have less growing space.  It has a big clump of montbretia and a fuchsia but is overrun with couch grass, buttercups and dandelions.  It is pretty hard going so I will go back to it over the next few days, weather permitting.
Top left of the above photo shows the latest pea support system, a la DD.  I took the netting down as it was just too awkward getting to the middle to weed or kill slugs (and probably to harvest peas, should there ever be any) It is a simple arrangement (but quite time consuming to construct) of a line of string on either side of the row to support the growing plants and I will add more lines as they get taller. 

I have spotted a tree which looks very similar to my pear tree (I must admit that I can't tell the difference between pears and apples, or even cherries, when it comes to trees) in the plot over the back, and it is flowering at the same time so with luck we might have pears.

Legs very tired as I wend my way home.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

raised beds working

Lots of water now

Back to standing water on the plot, but do I care?  The raised beds have worked well and everything looks fine, I had to plodge a bit to get to them, but the potatoes and peas look unaffected.
The mangetout peas are going a little yellow so I will give them a shot of something. Might be cold, might be nutrition, I will try sprinkling some ammonium sulphate along the rows.

Assembled and erected a frame for the runners.  I'm using an X frame this year, so I bought some new canes and used the sturdiest ones.  Apparently they sometimes snap with the weight of the plants at the top of the X if old canes are used.  Picture later.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

no need to water

It has rained solidly all night by the looks of things, the wheelbarrow has a good 3 inches of water in the bottom, and there is standing water in the front garden.

No going to the plot this morning...

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

pear tree needs a partner

I have just found out that my only pear tree is self-sterile.  I wish Sutton's had told me this when I bought it, I might have bought 2 trees (on the other hand, I might have bought none, as it was a bit of an impulse).  I will just have to wait and see if there is another pear tree nearby which will step up to the mark this spring, if not I'll have to think about whether to dig it out or buy a pollinator for it.
(An email to Sutton's brought the reply: The pear Loffelbire is not self fertile and needs another variety of pear growing nearby. The varieties Concorde or Invincible would be suitable pollinators.)

Lots of rain overnight and this morning, enough to top up the water butt, but not enough for it to overflow or to fill the rain pond. This'll bring the slugs out.

There are some flowers on the Wikiem Manita broad beans, but not yet on the Bunyards Exhibition.  In a different bed, there also flowers on the Red Epicure but the plants are only about 8 inches high and very straggly, and something is eating them. Its isn't pea & bean weevil, could be slugs, but it looks more like insect damage to me.  They aren't looking very happy and never have from the start.  I might hoik them out and put something else in, it would give room for a few sweet corn after all.

All the potatoes have popped their foliage up and been earthed up.  Way ahead of last year at this time.

There are quite a few flowers on the redcurrant bush which I thought had died last year, a return from the dead.

Lifted some more of the smallest winter onions to use as green onions, they are very nice and much better than shop bought spring onions.

I used the last clove of the home-grown garlic today, and I had to use a bought one for the first time in a year! That must have been the best cropping plant of 2012.

Sunday, 12 May 2013


Didn't need to water today and yesterday as there has been some proper rain at last, not a lot, not enough to flood the garden, or even enough to close the cracks in the dried mud of the rain pond.  Thank goodness!

Quite cold and windy today but there is some blossom coming on the apple trees...

And the pear is doing its best, but seems to have developed a bit of a lean.
I bought 6 very fine looking red cabbage plants from the trading hut, which I will plant when I have cleared away the pile of soil improver. 
I don't think I will bother with any other brassicas unless the urge overtakes me when I am near a plant stall.  We like them, but we aren't mad about them.  The psb is nice, but I seem to be the only person who really likes it, which I suppose is just as well as it only ever seems to produce in dribs and drabs.  We like cauliflower, but very rare is the home grown cauli which is as good as a shop-bought one.
I might sow some summer sprouting broccolli if the soil will just soften a bit.

My parsnip seeds seem to have disappeared without trace, they have been in since the beginning of April, so I think something should've shown by now. There are some seed leaves but they don't seem to be in the right place and I'm not quite sure what a parsnip seedling leaf looks like. One plant's seed leaves are much the same as another.

Everything is looking promising, we just need the nights to warm up a bit and I can put the tomatillos, cucumbers, squashes and courgettes out. Not doing sweetcorn this year.

Thursday, 9 May 2013


I have been getting up early for the past few days to go to the plot to water the peas and baby onions, but today sees the first proper rain for several weeks. There was a light shower yesterday but not enough to really wet the ground.
After the disaster of last year, I hesitate to say thank you for the rain, but we do need it.  But just not as much as last year..

I had to pot on the runner beans today, because I sowed them in these quite small pots
  and they were heaving themselves out in no time at all. So they are new, more spacious accommodation.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

perennials overwintered.

Tidied up the perennials that were leftover from last year's plant scheme.  They have been sitting out the long winter in their pots in both the back garden and at the allotment. A surprising number have survived, I must have potted up 15 or 20 plants into 5 inch pots and only about 4 have not made it.

 Don't count the lupin,  it was a survivor but it was in MGG's tender care - mine died. Three penstemons went into the garden. That feathery one has lost its label, but I think it might be an achillea.
In passing, I took a picture of the bag of potatoes in the greenhouse.  They have doubled in size since the warm weather started.

Sowed some carrot seed in a black box in the back garden. (Meteor f1)

Monday, 6 May 2013

peas and onion seedlings planted

It has been an absolutely brilliant day today, perfect for the allotment.  I even got hot! and a bit pink!
The temperature got up to 24C on the weather station.

Planted out the peas (Hurst Greenshaft). I was going to support the growing peas with string on both sides, but I decided to put this netting up instead.  It looks very tall compared to the very small plants, but it is only 3 ft and the peas should grow that high. And it might keep the pigeons off.
So to recap, on the two far sides are mangetout (Sweet Horizon) which I planted out yesterday, and on the near sides are ordinary peas. The ones in the middle are overflow peas.
Stopped and set the ghillie kettle going and its little whistle summoned me for a cup of tea five minute later.  It makes such a difference when everything isn't damp.
Been here for over an hour and it is still not raining or snowing or blowing a gale!  I can hardly believe it!
I found a space which was going to be a seedbed, but I decided I didn't need one after all, so the onion seedlings are in there now.
Lots of watering done, no rain to speak of for weeks now.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

tomatoes potted up

 I did some potting in the greenhouse, the tomatoes looking rather dinky in their big pots and the various squashes falling about all over the place.  They are quite big already and it is still miles too soon to put them out.  I am half inclined to compost these and start some more.

And the potatoes I put in a bag in the greenhouse are looking pretty healthy.

sweet peas planted

Having erected the wigwam for the sweet peas yesterday, today being another nice day, I went to finish it off and plant the peas.  I carefully wound string around for the peas to cling to (discerning viewers might spot the deliberate mistake there), forgetting to take the tray of plants out of the middle of the wigwam first.
Oh well.

The potatoes are starting to come through, so I earthed them up.

Planted some fennel plants that I did for the plant scheme.  Because fennel apparently doesn't like root disturbance (which we hadn't realised when we bought the seeds), I grew them in paper pots, the theory being that the whole thing could be sold and planted without upsetting the roots.  But for some reason they were looking very sad in the greenhouse, very dry and quite small, and didn't seem as if they were getting watered along with everything else. They wouldn't sell, nobody in their right mind would buy them, so I put them out of their misery and planted them.  Kill or cure.

Re-sowed turnip seeds as something seems to have eaten the ones I took a photo of the other day.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Growing at last

Shh! Don't tell anybody, but things at the plot are looking quite good.  The onions which I had almost given up on are peeping up,
 and the ones I grew from seed have roots coming out of the bottom, so I'm going to have to find some space for them soon.  Barring disasters, we are set to have plenty onions this year, I od-ed a bit on Wilko's 3for2.

 the apples and strawberries have some nice fresh leaves,
 and there is loads of rhubarb and the garlic is big enough to see from a distance.
Even the turnip seeds have made an appearance, the beetroot are being a bit shy still, though.
I am cautiously optimistic, so I set up the cane wigwam for my sweet peas.