Making the right path…

Above, you can see the last photo I took a couple of weeks ago, the last time we did stuff in the garden together. I was away doing awesome charitable deeds last weekend, so Steve cracked on without me. He strimmed the strawberries back to ground level (sorry, but they are like a badly behaved child – spreading everywhere and bearing teeny tiny fruit just to annoy us) and covered them with cardboard. He also had a wood-chipper session which saw off all but the chunkiest branches that you can see above.

Which means that quite a bit has been done between that, and today’s “before” picture. If you look closely you will also see some compost around the base of the raspberry canes – apparently fresh mulch leeches nitrogen out of hte ground, so this is an attempt to redress that balance.

Today’s activity was centred around laying out the paths we want around the vegetable patches, and putting a layer of compost (of which we now have two ENORMOUS bags) over the cardboard. Oh, and completing the layer of cardboard. By the time we had finished, it had turned into a LOVELY day, which plays havoc with my panorama-ing. We have 1m paths down each side, across the back and in front of the existing bed. The plan for the rest of the patch is to split into 3 beds across by 2 beds along, which we think will give us some good flexibility in terms of crop rotation.

For those who like more details, this is the partially cardboarded patch – we’ve added more and evened it out a bit since this was taken…

And an action shot of Steve doing the spreading. I thought he looked all zen and in-the-moment and immediately afterwards he looked up and made a rude gesture at me. So now we all know where we stand…

 

Digging out the garden

We saw several things while on holiday that inspired us (mainly Steve) to think about the many marvellous vegetable-related things we could do with the garden… and so we are embarking on a revival and expansion project on the vegetable garden. First, the obligatory “before” picture:

The highlights, above are… a new fence that stretches from side to side of the whole garden #security, and unfortunate gap in the lilac tree screen to the left of the gate, where two of them have mysteriously died :-(, and on the right, the original vegetable patch with 2 years worth of rampant weed growth and bits I’ve cut off trees and bushes around the garden. The bed straight ahead is knee deep in wild strawberries, apart from where it’s thigh deep in nettles. Really, the only things worth salvaging are the rhubarb and the raspberries.

And so, here is the same scene after a day’s effort last week:

I picked up the litter, dug out half of the strawberries, and dug over that bit of the bed, then built one of the new compost bins (a wooden slatted effort, barely visible off to the left, next to the raspberries) and moved the contents of the old compost bin into a combination of the new bin and the emptied strawberry patch. And moved the rhubarb.

Steve was a complete hero, and cleared away A LOT of the old veggie patch. There was all sorts on there – bean frames, wooden planks, piles of dead wood, plus the “hedge” had grown out at least 6 feet from the fence. Oh, and a bit of path that mum & I started to build about 10 years ago. There’s a big pile of concrete rubble in the back corner as well, which he’s moving out of there.

I cut back the lower branches of the lilacs, as they kept attacking me when I was emptying the compost… sadly, the Hayes-manufactured compost bin has pretty much had it – any slots that stay together are doing so more out of habit than anything, by now!

The big tree that’s overhanging the main patch has gone today, as well. We finally got rid of the last mulch pile from the yard over the summer – and now we have a fresh one! Having said that, we have big plans of new veggie patches with mulch paths around them for the big green patch in the foreground of the panorama shots above, so hopefully we’ll get this one moved a bit quicker…

Harvest number one

This is how the garden looked “before” this weekend’s gardening… The weeds are plentiful, the onions clearly need lifting, and it all needs a bit of TLC… …and this, below, is the “after”. This view shows how I’ve lifted all the onions and broad beans and dug over where they were. You can’t see where I’ve lifted the potatoes because they were at the back corner by the compost heap, but I assure you, ’twas done.
So, the empty patch where the potatoes were is at the left of the photo below.

To the right, with the flowers on, you can see the evidence that we really need to pull our fingers out and eat more things with rocket on/in. At the back you can see that the tomatoes are doing OK. I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to describe them as “thriving” but they are larger than they were and, crucially, not dead.
So, the dug-out patch below is where the onions and broad beans were. The rows at the back of the dug-over patch are garlic, some of which have now fallen over, so are ready to be picked. Behind that is a super-large clump of lettuce – we need to eat more lettuce!!  The carrots are ready, too, so I’ll have to dig them up soon as well. Next year I’d like to have more space and do more staggered planting – especially with the stuff like lettuce. I’ve managed it a bit, but I still seem to have over-catered by quite a lot.

This is the onion harvest – I’ve attempted plaiting them into strings, many of which are now hanging up in the shed. Fingers crossed I let them dry out enough that they keep a bit longer. And finally, these are some of the garlic I lifted on Sunday – they smell *gorgeous*, especially the little nuggets which have sprouted in the stems.

I’m hoping that further practice will help my onion/garlic plaiting skills…

Oh so stiff…

I had another time-ran-away moment in the garden today. Well, many moments: another incidence.

  • Lily, Joel and I weeded the drive.
  • I tidied up the tool shed and found some paper that some mice have shredded.
  • I planted out the tomatoes into the ground and some pots.
  • I planted out a courgette plant. Or 3.
  • I moved some mulch.
  • I set up a trellis for the tomatoes to cling on to.
  • I planted more French beans.
  • I planted chives, basil, coriander and dill.
  • I ran out of compost.
  • I decided that the peas have had more than enough time to germinate, and that the space will be given over to plants that show some willing.


The tomatoes still look very sorry for themselves, but I’m hoping that’s just shock. I’ve watered them plenty, but not too much.

Later on, I tried to get some pictures of Lily making massive bubbles. It’s harder than you’d think.  

garden update

Today I’ve expended so much energy in the garden I don’t have the energy to think of a snappy title to go with it. I started out tidying up the patio a bit by taking some weeds out, and then moved on to the weeds in the veggie patch.

newly planted rocket

This strip up the middle of the picture above had been planted with spinach at the same time as the onions (left) and shortly before the shallots (right) were planted. I’d left things to get a bit out of hand because I have no idea what newly sprouting spinach looks like. Before today, things had got out of hand enough that I could say with some confidence that *none* of the things that were growing in this space were spinach.

This is pretty disappointing, because they were new seeds – not ones that I’ve kept in a cupboard for 5 years, which has been known.

So I decided that enough was enough, and after I’d performed a weedathon across the two veggie patches, half of a new packet of Rocket was put in here. The archways of twigs are an attempt to stop the local cat population from digging them up under the mistaken impression that newly turned ground is an ideal place to poo!

carrots & lettuces

Much poo was removed from here, along with a lot of weeds. Removing the weeds uncovered the few carrots which appear to have germinated – you can see some here to the left of the poly tunnel – two rows were put in but looking at it we’ll be lucky to get 3 meals. Fingers crossed! The lettuce again, very disappointingly, have all but failed to grow. You can see a tightly knit cluster of 3 at the far end of the tunnel, and I moved one from the middle of the path to the far end of the row. I’ve put in another half packet of seeds of assorted lettuces in a couple of rows, and then put the tunnel over for anit-cat protection while they get going. The hydrangea heads are another attempt at an anti-cat device. They are quite flimsy so I’m not super-confident, but we’ll see. It’s possible they may make it just uncomfortable enough that the cats are deterred…

disappointing peas

The peas, as you can see, have so far been super-disappointing. Of 3 rows planted, I have had TWO PLANTS poke their noses above ground. They don’t even have the common decency to be in the same row. And, the large green thing you can see in the middle of the middle row is not a pea. OH NO. It’s a sodding potato.

I’m told that the peas may be slow to germinate because of the cold weather. They have either one day or a few weeks, depending on how energetic I’m feeling tomorrow. The space could be used for something a bit more enthusiastic. Like courgettes. Or tomatoes. Tomatoes are looking good right now.

On the theme of potatoes, the compost heap is doing us proud again this year. And appears to be a refuge for snails.

compost potatoes

I also pulled about 5 plants out of the winter onion patch. Fortunately, of the 3 I planted before the frosts were over, two potato plants have survived & appear to be thriving in their intended location, so I may have broken the intentionally-planted-potato curse.

panorama

And so to the overview – I put a couple of wind breaks in to “protect” the courgettes after taking away their poly-tunnel, as it was a bit blowy this morning. The beans have been wind-blasted to oblivion, I fear, so I will start some off again tomorrow and plant in the many wide gaps.

All in, it’s not looking too bad I think – could just do with a little more space which I will see to… presently!

We’re going to need a bigger boat.

Variable weather this weekend meant I didn’t really crack on with anything garden-like until Sunday. Saturday was earmarked for acquiring a smart new outfit for Joel to attend his first communion in – fortunately we found just the right style of pure white dress in the form of a spiderman suit with purple monocle, so there was plenty of time to have a make-me-favourite-parent lunch at MacDonalds before braving the rain on the way home.

Anyway – garden news.

strawberry terraces

On Sunday my plan was to “free” the strawberries and rhubarb – a thick carpet of weeds had grown up around them and all over Lily’s patch, so my happy plan was to dig out the weeds, expose the strawberries and give the rhubarb a bit more breathing space. That turned into “relocate the strawberries to the front of the veggie patch for most sunlight as you’re digging them up anyway” which then turned into “and terrace the patch and have another strip of strawberries because it turns out you’ve got LOADS in there”. So, they are salvaged, spread out and heavily mulched. I found a couple of old shelves in the garage to hold back the dirt and I think it looks more attractive than the previous sloped effect.

You can see from the picture above that not much rhubarb was freed up. More on that later, if I remember.

The onions and garlic I planted last autumn are going great guns – I’m now wondering how I know when they should be harvested. I’m sure a short amount of research will give me the answer…

onions, garlic and broad beans

On Monday I had a helper – she actually came out to help briefly on Sunday but interest waned pretty quickly. Monday was a longer session, with clearing of her little patch, planting a couple of plants and chopping back of the bush which is really really invasive.

Lily gardening

Here she can be seen planting a couple of “spare” courgettes next to some french beans.

beans & courgettes & garden architecture

As usual, I’ve totally over-catered on planting stuff in pots. I had about 20 french bean seedlings altogether. Some are sharing holes, there’s a row down the middle of the tunnel and Lily has 5 planted in her patch. Luckily we like beans – I hope these survive the cool spring we are having and are super-tasty. The cloche contains 4 courgette plants. I still have 8 in pots, so if anyone wants any, give me a shout. NOBODY wants a repeat of the great marrow glut of ’76 and I fear that’s where we are heading if I don’t offload some of these plants.

panorama
panorama – click to embiggen

So – the beds that I have are pretty full now. I’ve kind-of decided that the tomates are going to be in containers on the patio. Assuming I have enough containers and patio space, which let’s face it is quite the assumption, given how many I’ve planted. I have lots of seeds left to plant, though, and nowhere to put them. These include things like rocket, more lettuces (although new lettuces could go where the existing lettuces are, given that only a handful appear to have successfully germinated – grr!), fennel and squash. And I’m sure I can think of more things as time goes by. Possibly even some courgettes…

I have my eye on this bit of lawn. Watch this space!

doomed lawn

ps. The rhubarb? Has been mostly freed in what we in the half-arsed gardening trade like to call a half-arsed job.

pps. in other news, I got stung on the bot by a nettle. The nettle is now stewing in order to provide us with tasty nettle wine later in the season. I know, I’m not really convinced either, but I feel as though I ought to try it at least once…

Progress

I planted lettuce a while ago, and have been a little disappointed that there are no signs of life yet… (Click to embiggen)

 

Given the general apparently cat-based disruption in this area, and the single clump of sprouting things that could be lettuces, I’m quite concerned that the local cat population has sabotaged my attempts to grow cheap salad.

All I can say for now is “watch this space”. I may have to employ more active anti-cat measures in future as (predictably, some might say) a single piece of string along the row just isn’t doing the magic.

On the other hand, this is a view of the tomato seed tray I planted up at the weekend. I’m hoping these are both tomatoes – they appear to be in the right places, and so far don’t look like not tomatoes, and I used proper compost from a shop, so I’m quietly optimistic.

 

Howling gales

No pictures today on account of the howling gale which kicked in about 5 minutes after I’d started gardening. The last time I was outside attempting to do stuff in weather that bad was when Mum & I were laying a brick path across the back of the “old” veggie patch. When it got so bad we couldn’t see the ground, Mum finally persuaded me that continuing was folly. The path never got finished…

Today I had got as far as digging over the next area for planting and putting in a row of shallots when my lack of a waterproof layer became ridiculous. I came back in to warm up and get a coat on. Leaving it a short while until I thought it was raining less, I went back out with a hat and coat on. It was awfully muddy, but I managed to get 3 rows of sugarsnap peas, 2 rows of broad beans, and another row of carrots in. Just for good measure I “planted” an old packet of marigold seeds I had. They were a gift from mum so they are at least 5 years old, if not more, but I figured that if I left them in the packet they would never grow. If they do grow, they are good companion plants for the onions and garlic.

My concerns with the shallots are that I’m not really sure what to expect. The things I planted were about the size of shallots I’d buy from the supermarket. Do they divide into multiple bulbs? Or just get bigger? I’m not optimistic about there being any outcome other than I’ve just stored some shallots in the ground for a few months.

Anyway – I’ve scheduled in another plant-a-thon (ish) for next weekend. In the meantime I need to get some tomatoes started, but frankly, by the time I’d got everything else in the ground, I was too darned cold to stop out any longer.

Overflowing

Another lovely Saturday means I get to spend a bit of time in the garden. We are well within the window of opportunity for getting stuff in the ground, so I’m going for it now. I used the small bit of tree you can see in the vegetable patch as a stool to rest on while I read the instructions about depth & density of planting. I left a bit of a gap and shored up the change in height between the left & right side of the patch with a rotten old plank. The gap will eventually be filled with companion planting – marigolds and nasturtiums – or possibly something else, depending on my seed-buying promptness and how pesky the pests are.

 

New crops, then, are assorted lettuce (free to National Trust members from the Sarah Raven site – where I ended up getting the rest of my recent seed purchases from #marketingthatworked), carrots (they are a fly-resistant variety, but I still want to get some fleece just in case) – and a gap left for some staggered planting – 2 rows of garlic and a row of onions. Then I overflowed to the raised bed at the right (I remember giving them funny names, but will have to look back to see what they were  – clearly they weren’t so obvious that I’ve ended up remembering them). In the new bed there is another row of onions and a row of spinach. I also planted the 3 potatoes that I’ve been “chitting” om the window sill for about a month.  I don’t have high hopes, but can’t really put my finger on why. Every other year I haven’t planted any potatoes and yet have wound up with a fine old crop – usually in the  compost heap. I transplanted a couple of potatoes from the compost heap in the autumn, and then haven’t seen any sign of them since (I since found out that when building up around potatoes you’re supposed to leave some leaves above ground, you live & learn). I also transplanted one I dug up which was sprouting, with no leaves, but that, too, disappeared without a trace. The message I’m taking away from this is that my potato growing technique needs to be so passive as to be completely unintentional, otherwise the spuds rebel and die just to spite me.

There are plenty more crops in the pipeline, but some need to be planted later than others. I also have a schedule laid out for rhubarb wine making, starting in a couple of weeks – the forced stuff is a good 8″ tall under its dustbin, and you can see how the other stuff is doing.

Lily came out to help and so I had her plant a row of onions and empty the watering can over the newly planted stuff. We have agreed that she can have the patch behind the new rhubarb to grow some things of her own. I may be generous and clear the weeds off – or I may  not!

II had a happy plan of planting more broad beans – I used to hate them as a child, but am now of the opinion that there are few things nicer than a fresh broad bean. Sadly the dozen or so seeds I had left from the autumn had started to go mouldy, and I’m not willing to risk the wasted space if they fail to germinate.

So: shopping list is for more carrots and some broad beans. And some fleece. I thought I might need to get some more short canes for marking rows, but then hit on the genius plan of breaking the long sticks I have into short sticks. I’m aware that this may leave me short of long sticks, but in the short term I’m not worried. I have quite a few. I *am* out of llabels, though, so I will have to fish a milk carton out of the recycling and get chopping.

In house-related news, we had a chap in to do some plastering today. More years ago than either of us care to admit to we (and by we, I mean Steve) attempted to cover over the stippled artex in the back hallway with some “smooth-over”. It turns out smooth-over is really hard to get smooth if you’re covering something really spiky, so it has been in a semi-completed state ever since. Well, today it became actually nearly-smooth. I think it could still take a light sanding before being painted, but it’s very much closer than it was and will ultimately be all the same colour and look finished. It’s still very dusty (Joel has asked why I haven’t mopped the floor yet. I said he was welcome to butt in and do it for me) but I will clean it up presently.

 

Tonight is a bit of programming, some crochet (update anon – it’s all VERY EXCITING) and total control of the remote as Steve is away.

footnote: wordpress have a new version of the editor for mobile devices. It’s a big improvement – the main thing I love is that I’ve been able to resize the images without having to mess about with the html. It’s one of those things that I *can* do, I’d just rather not if I don’t have to. Big tick and a star to WordPress 🙂

Let it snow, let it snow…

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Just a quick trip out in the garden this morning to do some tidying (litter-picking~ I’m hoping mostly blown in by the wind) and rake over the soil I moved around last week, then tidying up the patio pots a bit.

Tidying up the fence is underway as well – we had a chap come around to give us a quite and we just need to check with the council what we want to do, as the two hawthorne trees are right on the border (we think on our side) and the ground is in no way level or solid, which makes putting a fence on it a tad tricky.

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The rhubarb is starting to grow, which is awesome as I was a bit concerned that moving & dividing it was fatal. Clearly not. The clump under the rubbish bin is about twice the height of this which bodes well for a harvest & wine making. Om Nom.

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I finished with some tidying of the patio pots – getting rid of the leaves & helicopters which have gathered and removing dead stems.

It had been drizzling lightly while I was out there, allowing me to road test my new rain Mac, acquired from a charity shop last weekend, and just as I stepped inside, massive snow flakes started falling, almost as though the weather was waiting for me to give in.

This afternoon will all be indoor activities – we have tickets to see “Big hero 6” at the seaside – hopefully we won’t get blown away!