Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mini Greenhouse up & running

I returned to the task of setting up the mini greenhouse today, it is still very strained but hopefully will stay upright for the season!. The cover fit over it OK and I have anchored it down around the sides inside and out. I cable tied the shelves in place as I did last year because I think it gives some degree of stability to the whole frame.
I insulated it with bubble wrap as some late frosts could wipe out any tender seedlings and we can get frost well into April or early May.
I transferred the seed potatoes from the shed into the greenhouse as they will get a lot more light in there.
Home guard top left,Sharpe's Express & Duke of York on right.
Onion sets spread out in seed trays as recommended by Terry Walton,you can see if there are any soft or damaged ones.
Shallots will be started in modules, we have not grown these before so will have to read up on them.
What not to do with your seed potatoes!
For some reason I did not put this bag of Duke of York out to seed wen I was doing the others, maybe I ran out of trays or time? They have been in the bag under the stairs and when I went to get them today this is what I found.
White spindly stalks which will not be good for growing.Some of them broke while I was trying to remove them from the bag. They may grow other stronger stalks in the light
Duke of York which had been chitting in the shed
Duke of York mutants from under the stairs!

Snow White came to visit today and climbed on my rocking chair!
GD Katie loves dressing up in floaty frocks and as much bling as she can get her hands on,just 2 years old she is definitely a girly girl despite having 2 older brothers!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lavender Hearts

Every time I open one of my wardrobes I was getting the distinct smell of lavender. Investigating today I found the source, a 400grm bag of dried lavender which I must have put in there myself and forgotten about!
We have 6 lavender plants growing on the plot and having wrestled some of it from the bees which spent the entire summer buzzing around collecting pollen, I dried it and packed it into a zip lock bag.
These crafty hearts are appearing in most of the garden centres/craft shops etc, so I got the idea to make some packed with lavender.I had this rose patterned fabric, maybe not the most suitable for lavender but shabby chic and vintage roses are 'in'!The lavender is inside a muslin heart shape inside the rose fabric.They can be hung on the bedroom doors or inside a wardrobe.

They also look OK hanging on drawer handles etc.
I have to visit a craft shop over the weekend to buy some more fabric etc.,it is forecast more rain so there will be no gardening for a few days and I can try out some more lavender inspired craft ideas.
These lavender hearts are in the post as I write!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Works in Progress?!

Broad beans sown last week are up a couple of days now.They now have the lids removed to prevent them getting soft and spindly.They are on the bedroom windowsill, my usual 'hotspot' for starting seeds as regular readers to the blog will remember.As soon as they grow a little bigger they will be transplanted into 3" pots to grow on.

The 3 broad beans moved to the side and now joined by Inca tomatoes,Golden promise tomatoes, peppers, and half a tray of greyhound cabbage and half a tray of lettuce.
Potatoes are chitting in the shed but the weather has been against us in getting out to the plot so the onions are still waiting to go in.
The decision to get hens has been taken and after online and land line investigation the hen house and run has been bought. It arrived today flatpacked as I will not be ready to put it into place for another couple of weeks. I have been reliably informed by the vendor that even a man could assemble it easily!
I will be getting 4 hens and this size house and run allows ample room for them to move around.They will also be allowed the run of the garden when I am home.
The area next to the shed where the hen house will be situated, as you can see it is still a work very much in progress and very unfinished!
This area had black membrane under gravel and this has now been removed and the earth underneath raked up.When it was removed I found bindweed roots entwined like ropes growing underneath, snaking across from one side of the garden to the other!
This patch will be grassed for the hens and there is enough room to move the house and run around.
The water butt will be moved to the front of the shed which entails extending the shoot and down pipe to the front too.
One of my compost bins has found a new home and this one is going to be moved down the garden away from the shed.The hole through which the rats entered the shed came to light behind one of the compost bins and I think they were attracted by the bins. When I began composting a few years ago I put egg shells in the bins, I read somewhere that they attract rodents so I stopped putting them into the compost. The first bin when emptied still had a few egg shells in the bottom since then and may have tempted them this time around.
The seed potatoes in the shed have not been touched this time but the bait is still left out to be on the safe side.
I decided to erect the plastic walk in greenhouse which I had since last year.I had dismantled it around Oct and had put all of the bits into a plastic sack (as I thought) but after assembling it as best I could I have some pieces left over?!
I have been going back over the blog looking for photos to help with the construction but they don't give too much detail on the actual framework!
Advice to anyone getting one this year, they are a marvellous asset ,we had loads of tomatoes last year and all of our seedlings were reared in it, PHOTOCOPY the instructions and put a copy away safely for future reference.
Sam is peering out at me as if I have completely lost the plot !

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Seed Sowing & Reading

I had sorted through my seeds and knew I did not have Tomato or Pepper seeds. I bought them a couple of days ago in a local garden centre but they did not have a big range of seeds as yet.
Incas, marked Organic cost 3.99e for approx 8 seeds!
Yellow Perfection I meant to pick up Sungold but had these when I got home! I will try them as I have them ,they are supposed to be a sweet tomato. Approx 50 seeds for 2.99e
I will pick up other tomatoes of different varieties over the next few days.
Sweet Peppers approx 10 seeds for 2.99e
Our peppers never seem to do well and I think I know why, we sow the seed to late! Reading Matron's blog, pepper seed is being sown NOW because they need such a long growing season!
Aldi are getting in the garden supplies, and have fruit trees ,plug plants etc. I got 2 packets of Sweet Pea seeds, each packet contains approx 20 seeds for 69 cent!!! They have some veg seeds but I already have them.I did use some of their seed last year and could not fault them. The price of seeds from the main seed companies is prohibitive.

Last year I bought 'Garden News' fairly regularly and found it very informative with down to earth (pardon the pun) advice as it is written by gardeners for gardeners. It is in tabloid form with lots of photos without big glossy glamour or price.I spotted it in the newsagents yesterday and was lucky enough to find last weeks one as well.
Terry Walton, who I first saw on an allotment series of programmes on TV (the name of it escapes me now)wrote for the GN last year but this year he is doing a step by step growing guide each week and there are FREE seeds each week, which does something to offset the 3.03e price over here.
This weeks seeds are White Lisbon spring onions, last weeks free seeds were Valdor lettuce.
Check list of jobs from previous 2 issues but there is still time to do them (Whew)!
Sow Broad beans ...done
Sow lettuce seeds
Sow sweet pea seeds
Feed fruit Bushes

This weeks check list
Sow spring onions
Sow rocket
Sow early carrots
Chit potatoes....done
Spread manure
2 out of 9 done?!
I will have to buy it each week from now on as it will keep us on our toes and I would certainly recommend it for anyone starting off vegetable growing for the first time as there are photos on the basics of doing things like chitting potatoes etc.

I sowed broad Beans 2 days ago, I had Meteor seeds since last year and got itchy fingers to be doing something!I heaved a sigh of relief when I read the GN that they should have been sown 2 weeks ago!
I had the seed trays from soft fruits from Aldi or the supermarkets usually have these too.These are deep which allow room for the roots and the raised lid is like a little incubator for the seeds.They will be transplanted individually into 3" pots when large enough.
The seed trays got a good scrubbing in warm water to clean them up since last year.
I also have broad beans from Matron which I will sow over the week end.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Seed Potatoes

Shopping has commenced in the garden centre for the new season.Seed potatoes, onion sets and shallots, enough to be getting on with at present!
Seed potatoes are all first earlies, we decided this is what we would grow last year and will continue for this year.
Early potatoes are priceless especially when you can dig your own!
They will probably escape blight or at least the worst of it.
They are at their most expensive early in the season, at the moment we can buy 10kgs of Roosters for 2.99!
Home Guard, Sharpe's Express & Duke of York are going in, I still have to source Colleen which we have grown each year.
There will be a lot more space given over to potatoes this year,it is a staple we use a lot of and with the recession continuing unabated we are going to grow produce we buy on a regular basis.
First earlies can be used within 12 weeks from sowing.
Second earlies 14 to 16 weeks and main crop at least 20 weeks and are suitable for storing over winter.
First earlies mean we can use the ground again from June onwards, which is a big bonus in a small space.
Spring is definitely on the way with new life showing up in the garden almost daily. My first crocus was alone for a couple of days but companions arrived even if they are all on the same plant!We are getting weather forecasts of more severe wintry weather for at least another month!
I have not sown any seed as yet, probably the first year we did not have the windowsills full up of seed trays at this time.If this cold snap is to continue then we will wait as I am sure all seeds will catch up once the ground warms up a little.The first seeds I will sow will be Broad beans, we had a great early crop of these last year.

Sharpe's Express chitting in their egg boxes.
The 'rose' end of the potato is turned up to the light to encourage it to sprout shoots. The rose end is the end with the most 'eyes'.When they are ready sprouted before planting it is generally believed to give the potatoes a head start.The egg boxes are ideal as they protect the new shoots when moving to the plot. I have also used seed trays with individual sections as the potatoes will hopefully be in the ground before I need the trays.
They should be in a position to get good light but not heat ( don't use the hot press) as the shoots will be weakened and spindly.
Regular readers of the blog over the last few years may remember thisBefore I put out the seed potatoes in the shed, I purchased this in the Co Op store, I put it out for about 5 nights and for 4 of the 5 all of the poison was taken only some being taken on the last night. I have left it out and SIL Nigel also set a trap for them. I have since put out the remainder of the seed potatoes and so far so good nothing has been damaged.
Elsewhere in the garden, the Spirea has buds on, I love the Spring colour of this shrub.
My 2 lupin plants had new growth when I cleared away the winter debris.

The Peony Rose had frost burned foliage but when clearing it I discovered lots of new shoots coming through, after hearing the forecast for more frosty weather I covered them with compost.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First Day of Spring on the Plot

The first day of Spring really did feel like Spring!There was some frost during the night but the morning/day was sunny and mild. It was also the first day of the new season on the allotments so I went out to take stock after the long cold winter.The turnips took me by surprise as there was not a vestige of green foliage left!They look OK otherwise, behind them are the skeletal stalks of the Brussels sprouts,stripped bare by the pigeons no doubt!
The leeks survived the extreme frost apart from some damage to the outer leaves. I took some home with me after taking the photo, a couple went to D.Aisling and I added a couple to a pot of leek and potato soup.
Rhubarb poking through the mulch, 2 of the plants had new growth visible but I covered them over once I had taken the photo as frost could do damage to this tender growth now as we are not out of the woods where frost is concerned yet.
The day was so nice I persuaded myself to get stuck in with some digging. I was surprised the ground was in such good nick after the snow and frost, it was quite easy to turn over. These are the beds as they have been for years running from side to side of the plot.
I dug a section down the side, changing the orientation of the beds to top to bottom. The leeks will be out by the time the seed potatoes are chitted and this whole area will be set with different varieties of first early potatoes.
Again we are sticking to first earlies as last year. We don't have the space for main crop and not only are they susceptible to blight but need space for storage through the winter too. New season potatoes are more expensive and the taste of the first earlies just dug from the garden is hard to beat!
Hard to see in this photo but our 2 Goji berry bushes are budding in their space next to the shed.

New birds!Zwena got hens on the allotments last year and today showed me her latest acquisition, ducks and geese!They are in a walled in garden with their own water feature so are very privileged birds!
There are ganders and geese, turkey cocks and hens all milling around wanting to be fed.They add a new dimension to the whole allotment area and the children I know will be fascinated with them.