August 2016

A couple of years ago a neighbour was having a large sycamore cut down and the tree surgeons didn’t do a brilliant job – a hefty branch which overhung our garden landed on top of one of my rare variety apple trees and basically broke it.

It had been producing a very nice eating apple called Michaelmas Red.  Rather than dig up the stump I thought there wouldn’t be any harm in leaving it, just to see what happened.  Last year it started producing shoots, turning into what looked a bit like a bushy shrub.  This year it produced four really nice apples in a single clump.  Which just goes to show, you never know what nature can do.  I’ve high hopes that it will continue to regenerate and produce more and more fruit.

The fruit this year has been amazing.  On some of the other trees there were so many apples that I gave them a summer prune, thinning out the weaker shoots and losing some of the smaller apples to give the tree more of a chance to develop the lager ones.  There’s a cooking apple called Early Victoria which has done really well this year – and true to its name, it’s finished already.

The redcurrant kept on producing; that’s the second year in a row we’ve had huge crops.  There’s only so much redcurrant jelly you can eat….

I sowed some more lettuce seeds in July and they’re coming through nicely.  The peas on the raised bed were finished by late July and I pulled up my onions in the nick of time, just before the wet weather at the end of July.

For the second year running I’ve had a problem getting my parsley seeds to germinate.  They were saying on the radio that it’s not too late to sow them but….

Apart from that I’ve got some leek plants going nicely, I’ve got runner beans thriving on a wigwam, and the bare ground round the raised bed is nearly ready to rotate and then I can get grass seed in next month.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next month.

July 2016

After a bit of a worrying time we’ve started to see signs of the hedgehogs again, which is a relief.  We haven’t actually seen the animals, but we think they are around somewhere and, better still, there are no obvious casualties in the garden.

We’ve had fabulous crops of soft fruits.  At the beginning of the month I picked 4 lb of strawberries, and our redcurrant and white currant bushes, just one of each, have been laden.  I took 4 lb off one of them and you could barely see the difference.  There are some redcurrant trays in the freezer now so we will be able to make good use of them – and neighbours and friends have been benefitting as well.  The same with the spring raspberries – there must have been something about the weather this year which has made all the fruit do so well.

Goldfinch

Carrots and lettuce are doing well in the raised bed and I’ve sown some more salad leaves; very happy with

the peas this year as well, some of those have also gone into the freezer.  The wallflowers I’m raising are well established too.

I’m doing my best to keep the weeds under control on the stretch of the old vegetable patch which is going to be put to grass.  I don’t want to seed it till as late as possible – September, probably, so there is as little competition from weeds as possible.  I’ve got some more top soil in now, to even up the levels a bit and it’s just a question of keep the weeds at bay as best I can.

So far so good – I’ll have some new photos for you next month as well.  Happy gardening meanwhile!

 

June 2016

Exciting news on strawberries – on June 14 I picked 4lb of very tasty berries.  I was on the point of putting matting under the plants (which I prefer to straw) when I saw how well they were doing.  Slightly mud-spattered, of course, with all the rain we’ve been having, but none the worse for that.  Now the matting (I use squares of carpet felt) is down we’ll be picking nice clean ones for ages.

I gave them a top dressing of manure at the end of May and netted them against the birds, and thought then they were looking pretty good.

The other crop which has been a big success this year is asparagus – delighted with the spears we have been picking and eating.

I put the sweetcorn out from the greenhouse into the raised bed and then immediately discovered the cat had decided that was a good place to dig – so I’ve had to protect them with chicken wire.  They’re looking good now.

I bought some runner bean plants as I hadn’t sown any this year and got out the canes I always use for a wigwam.  It would have taken up too much space in the raised bed, so they are sitting on a spare piece of ground I prepared for them.  They take a little while to get going but they look well established now.

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I also used the SeedSava to sow some wallflower seeds for flowering in the autumn.  It’s a good gadget for flower seeds as well as vegetables, they’re just starting to show through in a row in the raised bed.

And as well as the strawberries and asparagus we’ve been picking and eating cucumbers from the greenhouse – the first ones on June 8, which I was delighted about.

Hopefully we will now get some sun for everything – we’ve certainly got more than enough water!  See you next month….

May 2016

My greenhouse and the new raised bed are both starting to look a bit busier.

I’ve planted out some peas, carrots and lettuces, and of course the onions were already in there (the soil in the bed is so nice and friable that the cats love digging in it, or they did until we covered it over with some netting!)

In the greenhouse I’ve got six tomato plants on the go in large grow bags (the big ones seem much better, because the roots will have more space and they can take in more moisture), and some peppers as well. I’ve also got some sunflower seeds germinating in the greenhouse in pots, as well as melons and mini-cucumbers.

Sweetcorn always does well in our garden so I’ve also got some seeds in fibre pots in the greenhouse – they’ll be planted out in the next few days.

Inside Greenhouse

The first asparagus spear showed itself on May 6 – just the one at that point but by May 13 there were enough for a meal  and they’re still coming on.

I’m trying to give my blueberry bushes a bit more attention this year, to see if I can the fruit a bit bigger and juicier.  I’ve got them in pots because they need an acidic soil and they’re now in the fruit cage.  I’m watering them with rainwater only, which does them more good than water from the tap.

Sadly we haven’t seen any sign of our hedgehogs for the last month or so.  Fingers crossed they are ok and still around somewhere.  On the other hand the swallows are back, in the same nests as last year.  It’s wonderful to see them again and amazing the way they can find their way back here after their winter in Africa.

April 2016

Well the good news is that the raised bed is now in use…. The onions I’d been raising indoors spent a bit of time outside in late March and then on April 1 I planted them out in the raised bed, in cross-wise rows.  And I’m about to plant out the pea seedlings which have been coming through very nicely in the propagator.

I’ve also planted out the sweet peas we got as a free seed packet with a magazine.  They nearly all came through and the little plants are now about 9 inches tall, so hopefully they’ll make a great show later in the year.

We got all the apple trees pruned, taking out the knobbly bits and tidying them up – that was a pretty big job and some friends joined in.

On the wildlife front the exciting news is that we’ve seen signs of the hedgehogs coming back after their hibernation and their dish is empty in the mornings (hopefully it’s them not the birds eating their food) – and on April 10, which I thought was early, the swallows reappeared.

See you next month when the weather has warmed up and I’ll have pictures of progress in the raised bed…

March 2016

We’re starting to see signs of life – there’s more light every day and the soil is warming up a bit (at last!).  We dug over the original soil underneath the raised bed and weeded it – then spread four or five barrowloads of well-rotted manure and finally about three tons of topsoil.  It’s starting to settle a bit and there’ll be space for another few barrowloads but it won’t be too long now before we have a manageable and working raised bed.  20151220_121838

Around it we’ll be sowing grass seed (which I much prefer to laying turf).  I’ve still got my strawberry bed and asparagus where they have always been, but apart from them the whole area outside the raised bed will be grassed over.

So – getting ready for the new bed: I sowed some red and white onion seeds last month in fibre pots, sat them in the propagator at 15 degrees C on a shelf by the window in our tackroom where I keep all the tools.  They’ve germinated nicely, so I’ve just moved them into the greenhouse where they will get plenty of light.  I’ve now got some tomato seeds in the propagator, and then they in turn will move into the greenhouse when they come through.

I had some lettuce seeds left over from last year (thanks to the SeedSava!) so they are also now in fibre pots.  They will go into the raised bed when they establish themselves.

We’re still picking and eating our rhubarb – short stems now but they’re really tasty.

So by next month things will start to move forwards and the garden will take on its new look with a thriving and productive raised bed!

February 2016

You know those free seeds that sometimes come with gardening magazines?  Don’t throw them away or forget about them till it’s too late to do anything with them.  We got a packet of sweet pea seeds in the post with a magazine last month and I sowed them in a propagator at 15 degrees C on January 24 – by February 2, 90% of them had germinated already!

RhubarbAnd speaking of things coming through early, we picked our first forced rhubarb on February 6, and it was delicious.  We’ve had the plants under an upturned zinc bath (with a brick on top of it against the wind!).  I haven’t a clue what variety the rhubarb is – these are the same plants that were in our garden when we first came here in 1979.  I just give them a good mulch of manure and they seem to look after themselves.

I’m expecting about 3 tons of topsoil to arrive soon for the raised bed.  By next month we should have that all set up and ready to go for the new season.  By the way here’s an intriguing fact: the other day I was reorganising my water butts and I had a completely empty one – this morning it was full to the brim and according to my rain gauge we had had an inch of rain.  Did you know that an inch of rain falling on an acre of land weighs 100 tons??  Makes you think….

See you next month.

 

January 2016

A new year and a new era in my garden; the structure of the new raised bed is now in place and I’ll soon be ordering a couple of cubic yards of topsoil for it; I don’t want to use soil out of the existing garden.  Then I can start thinking about putting the SeedSava to use for this year’s crops.  20151220_121824The frame for the bed is made out of glass reinforced cement (GRC) and fixed into the ground with serrated metal spikes; outside the frame I’ve also banged in some short wooden posts for extra strength, attached to the frame with stainless steel screws.  The inside width of the frame is two metres, so that the netting cages I already have will fit neatly inside to protect young crops from the birds.  The planting in the frame will be much more intensive than I’m used to, with everything much closer together.  It’s going to be a great improvement and I’m really looking forward to a more manageable space. The ground all round the frame will be sown for grass when the soil is clear and ready for the seed.  I might have to put a path round the frame but we’ll wait and see how it works out.  20151220_121914I’ve still got some leeks to harvest before we start thinking about the grass.  I’ve put my old zinc baths over the rhubarb again so we should be able to pick some forced sticks before too long.  See you next month – by then we’ll be able to look forward to longer days and a bit more sunshine…..

December 2015

Happy Christmas to all our readers – and a mild, damp time we are having.  I’ve mulched the asparagus bed to protect it from frost, but there’s not much sign of that being needed at the moment.  The mowers have been serviced and put away for the winter (don’t forget to do that – some companies offer decent discounts if you do it early!), and I’m getting on with building my new raised bed.  It will give me a much more manageable area to work on next spring, which I’m looking forward to.  We’re still using the leeks from the ground and there’s a bit of parsley there which I’ll have to lift out of the way of the new bed.  Have a lovely time over Christmas and we’ll see you in 2016!

November 2015

A very quiet month – the weather’s been rotten and we haven’t got much in the ground because I’ve been concentrating on constructing our raised bed for next season.  I’ve got a row of leeks in which we’re gradually eating our way through, but that’s about it.  The flower beds have all been cut back and pruned and given a hefty load of manure as a mulch – likewise the strawberry patch.  So next month I’ll do a proper update on the raised bed and you can see how we’re getting on with it….