Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Getting down to the real Nitty Gritty .

The trouble with only posting once a week at this time of year is that things are happening fast as there is so much to show and talk about - so where to begin?

The improvement in the weather has meant getting off my backside, pulling my finger out and really getting down to the nitty gritty of seed sowing, transplanting and planting out.  All time consuming jobs - and that is on top of trying to get the Rosebank garden into shape, keep the home running smoothly and finding the time to write the odd blog post.

Romanesco Cauliflower Seedlings

I'm not moaning though, it is good to be busy again outdoors, forgetting to eat or make a cup of tea, resenting any time not spent in the garden and rushing through the boring chores indoors, so I can do just that.  After weeks of winter inactivity I am beginning to feel more like myself, becoming aware of my surroundings, at every little change of the season, feeling the dirt between my fingers and being in awe of the wonders of nature.

Sungold Tomato
l. to r. 
salad leaves . peas . pickling onions
lollo rosso . broad beans . rhubarb
raspberries . oak leaf lettuce . sorrel
I practice polyculture in my raised beds- that is another name for mixing everything together so that no one plant is dominant, hopefully lessening  decimation and disease of a crop, and when one plant is finished something different is planted in the same spot for a continual harvest.

Top left - leeks and purple sprouting broccoli
Top right - cabbage, lettuce, overwintered onions, feverfew and sorrel
Bottom left - shallots, onions, garlic, chives and sage
Bottom right - the leeks that have been cut off at ground level several times,  still growing and producing after two years.

I now have onions in the ground, potatoes, peas, parsnips and carrots in containers in the Rosebank garden and at the plot the potatoes, onions and peas are in.

Slowly but surely I am getting there.  I am off outside now to carry on where I left off yesterday.  I don't think I am doing too bad for an old gel who is somewhat past her prime.  IT'S ALL GO GO GO!

Happy gardening  - see you next week.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Broad Beans . Salad Leaves and Jack-by-the-Hedge

April - possibly the busiest month in the gardening calendar.   Sunshine plus warmth equals germination - seedlings are pushing through in the greenhouse eager to face the warmer weather - and who can blame them.  I think it affects us all the same way.  Working outdoors minus coats and scarves and freezing fingers is a joy - if only the wind would drop it would be perfect.

I have started moving stuff out of the greenhouse and into the grow- house to harden off.  After a really slow start the broad beans are now ready to be planted out.  I spread a load of garden compost over the area where they are to be planted in the Rosebank garden, and of course, plenty of weeds have now started growing, so once I have given it a good hoeing I can transplant them.  I don't grow too many plants, about eighteen this year, but it is enough for our needs.

I usually plant them in a block so that I can put a stake in each corner  and support them with string.  The Rosebank garden is very exposed so this method stops them from being blown over.  Something else I do is intercrop them with the lower growing French beans, so I get two crops from the same space.  Nipping the tops out to thwart black fly gives some tasty, fresh greens early in the season.

When they are small the beans can be eaten whole, pod and all, but as they grow they get a bit too tough and need to be shucked.  For any left over at the end of the season they can be dried for eating over winter, leaving the pods on the plant to dry before storing.

The Lollo Rosso are coming along nicely too, I love growing this lettuce if only for the sheer beauty of it.  It is slow to bolt and just pulling off leaves when you need them rather than pulling the whole lettuce, means it is in the garden for ages.  When I plant them out I'll cover them with pop bottles to give them a chance in case of slug attack later on.

My Garlic Mustard or Jack-by-the-Hedge is showing lovely young garlic-scented leaves which can be added to savoury dishes, the seed pods can be fried and the seeds used as a condiment.  Not bad for a plant normally found two-a-penny in the hedgerows.

Seedlings ready for transplanting

Chives putting on a lot of growth

Oriental salad leaves

  There is so much going on in the veg garden at the moment that I feel like a headless chicken running from one job to another.  Are you managing to keep up at this busy time of year?

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Dig . Sow . Pray and Plant Cucumbers

I have been lying on the bed practically comatose after a severe bout of digging at the plot.  My poor old body just isn't used to such strenuous activity.  And to add insult to injury I shifted a whole compost bin full of horse manure to spread round the fruit bushes.  No wonder I feel like a zombie.  But the sunshine was just too good to miss and I knew I couldn't waste the day, when according to the weather forecast, rain is on the horizon.

I have been sowing lots of seed too like a mad seed-sowey thing - the greenhouse is steadily filling up and I am already starting to run out of space.  But you know what - it feels great to be doing something positive in the garden at last, after all those months being shut in and looking out of the windows longingly.

The cucumber seedlings that I sowed last weekend are through as are the tomatoes

Last year the cucumbers started off okay but deteriorated rapidly so I bought a grafted plant

they are quite expensive compared to normal cucumber plants, but well worth it as I didn't have any problems with stem rot or mildew like I normally do

I always grow them in a mini-grow house inside the greenhouse  which is covered with mesh netting to give them some shade.  Because tomatoes like a dry atmosphere and cucumbers like it humid I spray the plants with water every day when it is hot (fat chance of that last year) but it seems to keep the growing conditions right for them.

This year I may try to grow one or two in bottomless containers outside as well (see YouTube video below) and see how they fare.  Any spare cukes are made into Cucumber and Onion Sandwich Pickle and a Chilled Cucumber Summer Soup, although this didn't happen last year as the weather just wasn't conducive to large harvests.

Will you be trying your hand at growing cucumbers this year - indoors or out - if you have a growing method that you have perfected I would love to hear about it.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Peas on the Plot and in Containers

28th May 2011 - Plot Peas

It's time to think about sowing peas.  I sowed some early ones a couple of months ago but germination has been pretty poor so I will have to start over.

Every year since I have been growing my own vegetables I have always sown a row of peas on the plot.  I just love picking and eating fresh garden peas straight from the plant.  Mixing two or three different varieties together gives you a long harvesting season.  But one year when germination wasn't very good I sowed an extra lot in troughs in the Rosebank garden just to make sure of getting at least a few helpings for dinner and they were very successful, I may even try some trailing from hanging baskets this year as well.

12tth June 2012 - Plot Peas
 I'm afraid I don't have enough room to spare to be self-sufficient in peas, but one row of mixed varieties gives me plenty to harvest over the summer, I know it's easier to open a bag of frozen peas which are of excellent quality, but there is just something about picking peas and podding them and popping them into your mouth to eat raw or in salads or cooked with mint and dressed with melted butter, that to me, is what veg gardening is all about.

27th June 2012
This time last year they were growing well - I started them off in pots in the greenhouse at the beginning of March and they were planted out by the middle of March, you may remember that last year March was gloriously sunny.

19th March 2012

28th March 2012
14th May 2012
23rd May 2012
I hope this year, when spring decides to get off its backside and start being springified, and the soil warms up a bit, that I will be able to plant out.  One of the benefits of growing in troughs is that you don't get much mice damage, it is always touch and go when you sow direct into the soil.  So I will adopt the same belt and braces technique again this year, one row at the plot, the rest in containers.  Just thinking about the fresh green growth and those little clinging tendrils and juicy fat pods lifts my spirits, and no matter what anyone says there should always be room to grow a few peas - just for the sheer pleasure of it, if nothing else.

Do you love growing peas as much as I do?

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