Sunday, 30 March 2014

brainwave of the month

I've been trying to find a cover for the water butt that will keep out the light and insects (mostly) but that will let in the water from the downcomer on the shed.  Various things have been tried with varying degrees of success.
This is the latest effort and I think I might be on to a winner...
This is my old anorak with a sleeve threaded onto the drainpipe.  Brill!

I bought some more parsnip seeds because I have just learned that they don't keep very well from year to year.  The Tender & True parsnips which I sowed a week or two ago were 2 seasons old so I have ditched them and have sown a second batch of this year's seed (hollow crown).
I didn't do any fancy planting methods as there was zero germination last year, after all the hole poking and filling with compost that I did. So I simply scraped a row, lined it with mp compost, sprinkled seed generously, covered with more mp compost, tamped down. The compost is more for me rather than the seeds as it enables me to see better where I have sown.

Everything is picking up even though it has been cold and damp for the last week (and for the next week if the forecast is to be believed).

The winter onions are looking a bit happier...

The pear tree is looking enthusiastic, only leaf buds so far, but blossom won't be far behind.

 And all the apples trees have left the starting blocks (except the dead one, which is still dead)

I'll be putting in the potatoes next week, weather permitting.

Friday, 28 March 2014

avocado seed

There is something about an avocado seed which appeals to me.  It says (in an appropriately squeaky voice) "don't throw me in the bin, pleease, don't throw me in the bin!"
So here we go.....

Sputnik: day one.

You can tell the weather is horrible at the moment, I'm inside.  This morning's task is to paint a cardboard box, transforming it into a cold frame, a la Geoff Hamilton, for the sweet peas which are growing out of their pots.

The onion seedlings are also looking quite tall and I can start hardening them off at home if I have a cold frame of sorts in the back garden.

The frisee lettuce is looking good, but that won't go outside until the temperature in the greenhouse gets too high for it, at the moment it is loving these low temperatures.

I pricked out the tiny linaria seedlings in clumps as best I could, I don't know if they will survive.

The zinnia are also extremely leggy so I don't know if they will do anything, I planted them as deep as I could.
 But the gerbera are looking good.


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

more sowing seeds and pricking out

Moved the plant scheme boltardy beetroot to the greenhouse on 86 to leave more room in my greenhouse. I am going to need the space for peas and courgettes soon.

Sowed turnip seeds and scattered some nasturtium (cobra) seeds about.

Sowed some more beetroot seeds in cells and put them in the cold frame

Lots of leaf buds on the pear tree, the loganberry and gooseberry bushes.  Also buds on the white and blackcurrants, but not much life in the redcurrant or the apples as yet.

Pricked out gerbera and zinnia but the linaria seeds are so very tiny, the stems are like hairs, I am frightened to handle them, I think pricking out in clumps is probably the way to manage them.

It was a bright sunny day today but there was a pretty sharp frost last night, the thermometer in the back garden registered -1.7C, with a layer of ice on the pond, so still too soon to put out tender plants.
Most things seem to be surviving okay in the unheated greenhouse, but I am keeping the really small seedlings such as the celeriac in the house and I am putting the others in the mini greenhouse at night.

Hopefully not so cold tonight.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

nice day

Fully recovered from tiller trauma, but not completely from the virus which is still bugging (geddit?) me, I returned to the plot.

No sign of any beetroot seedlings coming up, and I have the sneaking suspicion that instead of compost I used GrowOrganic to bed the seeds in.  I'm not sure, so just in case, I scrubbed out the rows sown previously and did some more, this time I'm sure it is compost. Three short rows of Chioggia, Cylindra, and Detroit.

It was a nice afternoon so I faffed about weeding and tidying.

The broad bean babies needed watering and the tap water is still off so I'm using the water butts. The trouble with the water from the butts is that it is full of bits which clog up the watering can rose, so it has to be run through a piece of old fleece to sieve the rubbish out.

The soil surface is quite dry but still damp underneath.

Quite a few of the shallots, which all had nice strong roots when I transplanted them, don't seem to be growing any more.  Some of the bulbs have been hollowed out by something, and some just aren't doing anything.  Perhaps it has been too cold.
Its not looking to be a good shallot year.  The best year I ever had with shallots was the very first year I had an allotment; it just shows that ignorance is sometimes an blessing and managing to grow anything at all is a happy surprise.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

tiller try-out!

MGG very kindly allowed me to have a go of his latest toy, a Mantis tiller which has been on my wish list for a while.

And which is now crossed off!
No, it is not for me, I don't have the required muscle power to enjoy using it or even to feel that I was in control of this beast.  The saying "tiger by the tail..." came to mind.

It does do an excellent job, though.  Three beds looking beautiful in a couple of hours.

proposed asparagus bed

 It is almost a shame to spoil them by putting in some potatoes.

I have to admit that I only did some of the work involved,  MGG did the bulk of the work and what a good job he did, but that was enough of a taster to put me off completely.  Power tools and I don't get on and I should have remembered that.
The session finished with me managing to break it, so I don't think I will be allowed on it again anyway!

The soil in the above photo of the newest installation in the plot is an example of the untilled soil.

The pond is still in the making, it is looking a bit like a babybath sunk in the soil at the moment, but some plants around will soften the edges.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

seed beans

I planted out some spare (red epicure) broad bean plants as seed beans for next year.  It seemed a shame to throw them out.

Very cold today with rain spattering on the wind so I didn't stay long.  I still haven't shaken this heavy cold.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

planting broad beans

We have had three days of really lovely weather, warm days (up to 17C at one point) with lots of blue skies and sunshine, and cold nights down to 0C.  Sadly, that coincided with my current heavy cold and wheezy chest so I haven't been able to be out in the garden as much as I would like.

Of course, now I am feeling better, the weather has changed to grey, cloudy, with a cold wind.

The flash new cloche tunnel didn't survive the gusts for longer than a day, so that has been dispensed with. It wasn't really achieving anything anyway, and it is so mild so far this year, I think the beetroot seeds will manage quite nicely without it.

I sowed some parsnip seeds (Trusty &True) beside the beetroot. I hope I have better luck this year than last which was a complete no-show except for the one parsnip which came up in a completely different place.

The pram and I transported the broad bean plants to the plot yesterday and I raked the bed over, but my visit was curtailed by lack of oxygen to the lungs and a change in the weather, so I parked the trays of beans in the cold frame to keep safe until another day.

It is not so cold today, still pretty windy and grey, but I am feeling lots better, so I went this morning, to plant the beans out.  They look nice and healthy, some are a bit small so I have left them in their pots to develop a bit more, and have only planted out the biggest ones.

planting in progress
 I have made two double rows with a gap down the middle to make for easier picking.

I will put supports in later.

Also sowed in the propagator

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


I have never managed to get an amaryllis to survive from one season to the next.  I either bury them in the garden, never to be seen again, or I find a shrivelled lump somewhere in the garage, only recogniseable by the fact it is in a pot with some brown crusty dust around it.

So now that the flowers have finished and the leaves are sprouting away I have taken the bulb out of the pot of compost and parked it on top of, but not in, some water with a tinsy pinch of plant food. The theory is that taking it out of the moist compost lessens the risk of the bulb rotting, and that the plant food will feed the bulb for next December.

I need to find a quiet corner for it to oversummer in. It will have to be somewhere I can see it and not forget to water it, but somewhere out of the public eye, a bedroom windowsill might be the answer eventually, but they are currently full of trays and pots of germinating veg seeds.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Sowing seeds and pricking out

Beetroot (Boltardy) in modules, leeks (Musselburgh) in 3" pots for the plant scheme.

For myself
  • Celeriac (Monarch) in modules on a windowsill, 
  • Broccoli (sprouting) Early Purple sown in a half seed tray and put straight outside. 
  • Sowed Red Hot Poker, Hollyhock, Sunflowers all in 5" pots

Tomatoes and sweet peppers all pricked out into module trays.

My leeks have come up nicely, I sprinkled whole packets on each 5" pot.

On the left Autumn Mammoth (much  fewer seeds in the packet) and Autumn Giant, looking a bit overcrowded. Good germination rates on all.

The broad bean trays have gone out into the garden for the daytime. I will take them to the plot soon and they can sit in the cold frame for a while.

It was a lovely day and even though I am in the early stages of some kind of virus, I went to the plot.

I constructed the cloche tunnel which I bought at Lidl last year and didn't need because it was such a warm summer.

And it is surprisingly big!  As I had constructed it, I thought it would be a good idea to put something to grow in it.  So I sowed short rows of Cylindra and Chioggia beetroot inside as it is a little early for open sowing and the cloche might bring them on a bit quicker.

The onions seem undisturbed by the frosts and are sprouting away.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

one bed filled

Up to the plot bright and early as I was tipped off that there was to be a new delivery by the council of their soil improver.

It is a lovely bright, cold morning, with a thin sliver of ice on the water butts, just the day for a bit of manual labour.

The right-hand one of these beds has now been filled.

Seven wheelbarrows full of soil improver just about filled it to the brim, but I am aware that it will settle and need topping up later.

Legs and arms are a bit weary after filling and pushing the heavy barrow seven times up the hill, so when I had filled that one bed, I tucked it up with a length of fabric which has been lying around the plot for years(not because I think it needs covering, more to do something with the fabric), and went home for a lie-down.


Monday, 3 March 2014

It's feeling very springlike

The amaryllis are still going strong and the white one has another flower stalk ready to follow on. You certainly get your moneysworth with hippeastrum, as they are more correctly named (For some reason my internal memory banks have refused to accept the name amaryllis, but are quite happy with hippeastrum, so I never can remember the popular name and only remember the awkward name, which makes me look like a proper know-all.  Sadly this is true, I am, but I try not to admit it)

I checked the onions planted out the other day and they seem to have survived a couple of cold nights without any visible damage.  They seem snug enough under their fleece.

Sowed some more broad beans for the plant scheme, 32x Masterpiece Green Longpod.  Must make a note to ask the committee to buy seeds with shorter names as it is very tedious writing all the plant labels out.

In the greenhouse:  My own broad beans are peeping their little heads up. There seems to be a pretty high success rate so far.

 The lettuce Mazur has developed second leaves.  I wont bother pricking them out, there are only a few in each module.

 The tomato seedlings have been moved from the propagator to the greenhouse.  I will need to keep an eye out for very cold nights, though, and bring them into the house if necessary.  They are looking ridiculously leggy but are nicely developing second leaves.  When tomato seedlings go leggy like that (which they always seem to do) you can transplant them really deeply, but these are so long I will have to use extra large pots!

The carrots are showing at last! It has taken them almost a month to  to germinate, as it has been quite cold out there, I might get an early crop after all.

Everthing is looking good and it is lovely to see spring coming along apace.