Monday, May 21

Topsy, turvy weather

So far this year has been a bit of a battle garden wise. Last month we were gardening - or should I say trying to garden - in mud and wishing that the ground would dry out so the beds could be prepared for this year's crops.

I guess we should be careful what we wish for as the change of weather in May not only dried the soil but baked it hard. Some beds were prepared during the brief period when the ground was workable but now it is proving almost impossible.

Martyn has managed to knock some beds into shape but it is taking a long time and is very hard going. We took all the weed control fabric off the beds to allow some drying to take place - now we wonder whether that was a mistake.


On top of all this last week a frost was forecast for a couple of nights so we took a couple of precautions. Strawberry plants that were in flower we covered with fleece, potatoes growing without weed control fabric were earthed up and those growing through fabric were covered with wood chippings. The temperatures briefly dropped to 2.2C (36F). We thought we had escaped any damage but the potatoes grew through their covering and some seem to have been nipped a little. We are unsure of whether the problem is frost damage or the result of excessive dryness.
We have given them plenty of water just in case.  In fact we spent much of Sunday watering and now have arms a foot or so longer due to lugging heavy watering cans about.

Most of the fruit like the greengages, plums and blueberries have set lots of fruit and have obviously enjoyed the conditions.
At least one gooseberry though hasn't fared too well. The problem is that despite pruning to create an open bush, the bushes on the fruit beds have produced an excessive amount of growth and the gooseberry being low growing is suffering from lack of air flow. Every berry on one bush was badly mildewed. I have removed all the fruit to try and cut down the spread but it looks like we could be gooseberriless this year. It's a shame as the bush was loaded. We'll just have to hope other gooseberry bushes are unaffected
The carrots and parsnips are germinating fairly well but in need of constant watering as are all the seedlings. I just hope that the slugs and snails keep their distance. Must admit that, this year, the parsnips seem to have started germinating faster than I expected.
The first lot of peas had grown enough to need supports and we have sown another two rows of peas and a couple of rows of mangetout and sugarsnap peas. The circles shown in the photo above right are sown with beetroot and chard.

The first lot of sweet peas have now been planted and the rest are waiting for a bed to be ready for them.

Back at home the watercress is now flowering profusely. Reading up on this it seems that the leaves become bitter after the plant flowers. Can anyone confirm this. If this is the case I suppose it will have to come out and more started.
All our rhubarb has grown well this year and some clumps are now sending up more unwelcome flowers. These have been removed.

Flowers or not we still have plenty of stems to harvest
Just one of the stems above were used in the batch of Rhubarb Crumble Muffins that I made this week. Some of the rest was stewed to add to our morning porridge. 

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 
Dave's blog Our Happy Acres


Wednesday, May 16

Turning from brown to green








Tuesday, May 15

Our allotment just now


Things are starting to move on our allotment plot. Fruit is setting. As well as the honeyberries, pears, apples and jostaberries shown in the photos below, plums, greengages, and the various currant bushes have set fruit.

Whilst some fruit has already set other trees and bushes are flowering. Shown below are later flowering apples, blueberries and quince. All have lots of flower which I hope will convert to lots of fruit.
The raspberries, tayberries and blackberries  have produced lots of flower buds which have yet to open. This succession is good news for the bees and other pollen and nectar loving insects
It's not only the bushes and trees that are sporting flowers. The first lot of broad beans are flowering and the earliest varieties of strawberries also have lots of flowers. With potential frosty nights forecasts I only hope the flowers are not spoiled. You may notice that the bean leaves have the tell tale notches that show bean weevils have been lunching. The pea shoots are also their favoured food but hopefully the plants are growing quickly enough to shrug off the damage that occurs every year. It is only a problem when the weevils munch faster than the plant grow.
There are plenty of ornamental flowers putting on a display too. The forget-me-nots have been strutting their stuff for weeks but others are just coming into their own.
Under the plum trees are a couple of large clumps of bluebells. Unfortunately they are Spanish and so lack the gorgeous scent but they provide a pretty display and as there are no nearby English bluebells to cross pollinate we are happy to have them.
 Martyn managed to till more beds. It was hard going but he persevered so that we had some areas ready to plant up.
I sowed a half a bed of hardy annuals. The other half will be sown a little later for succession. The area at the far end of this bed is where I planted the overwintered hardy annuals. You may remember that I had to sow these in modules last year rather than direct. The conditions meant that they were very late to be planted out and were consequently weedy looking plantlets. I'm afraid little has improved. Actually considering the weather we had I'm not sure a direct sowing would have fared any better.
 We were really pleased to have managed to plant the last of our seed potatoes.

The earliest planted potatoes are well through which is a happy and a worrying event in equal measures. As I mentioned before frosts are forecasts for some nights later in the week.

The first lot of peas are also growing well and will soon need staking with hazel twigs. It's probably time to get a second lot in. The recent sunny, dry weather has meant that lots and lots of watering is required.
The onion and shallots are growing really well. I am convinced that had we started the sets in modules they would have done no better at this stage and it certainly freed up greenhouse space.

Some beds have required some adaptation. The bed below has been divided into two. We needed to walk on the beds to harvest and tended to always trudge along the same route creating a hard pan so a path will now be created down the centre. The bed below will have climbing beans at either side of the path.
We have 'ancient' lavender hedges around some of our fruit beds. These have become infiltrated with grass and are also very straggly looking. My plan was to dig them up and replant them deep in the soil. This has proved to be impossible - the plants just will not come out of the ground without damaging the closely planted quince and blackcurrant bushes  so plan B has been put into action. This is to remove as much grass as possible and prune the bushes back as hard as I dare. Any spaces left between the remaining plants will be filled by what I hope will be plants grown from rooted cuttings.
Before and After
Despite the dry weather the grass is growing quickly and so some time each week is spent strimming to keep it and the many dandelions that try to colonise the grass in check.
Dandelions have a fascinating habit. The closer the grass is cut the shorter the flower stems grow until the flowers are virtually stemless.
Of course we are still pulling rhubarb, although rhubarb isn't a fan of the type of weather we have been experiencing. If the clumps start to flag we may need to think of pulling some to stew and freeze. 
At the moment the sticks are things of beauty, unlike the flaccid anaemic looking specimens being sold at the greengrocers.


Thursday, May 10

A snapshot inside our garden greenhouse

Martyn usually takes videos and I usually stick to photographs. Our gardening videos are posted on our vlog here as well as on our YouTube channels which contain more of a mixture of themes.

On Sunday I fancied having another go at making a video and so I filmed a 'tour' (doesn't that sound grand?) of our garden greenhouse.

Any images of inside a greenhouse at this time can only be a snapshot of one day, as things are changing daily if not even hourly. Since I filmed the video seeds have been sown and germinated, seedlings have been pricked out and shoots have sprouted. Herbs have been potted into larger pots. Lettuces have been planted in the raised bed in the garden and growing bag on the allotment and sweet peas have been moved to the cold frame.

By the time you read this no doubt more changed will have occurred but if you fancy a peep back in time to last Sunday in our garden greenhouse my video is below.

The video is nine and a half minutes long.




Wednesday, May 9

Anemone de Caen









Monday, May 7

Things are looking up

Last week we 'made hay whilst the sun shone' - not literally of course. We skipped spring and had a taste of summer. The race was on to get some of the beds tilled before the sun baked what had been mud into concrete.

Almost all the remaining weed control fabric was removed, any weeds that had survived under the covering or popped through the holes were removed and the tiller was fired up.
Although the surface of the soil is dry, there is still plenty of moisture lower  down but enough beds were in a 'tillable' condition to keep Martyn busy. Once tilled the appropriate sheet of weed control fabric was put in place and mulched using wood chippings.

As beds became ready, planting and sowing began. One bed was sown with parsnips and carrots.
We're hoping that the present weather conditions will encourage germination and that we have a better carrot harvest this year than last. The carrots were covered with enviromesh to keep the carrot fly at bay but that will be no protection against slugs. It seems strange to be watering but as the seeds are near the surface which is fairly dry it IS necessary.

The watering cans have come out of hibernation as, until the plants roots reach down from the top layers of soil, the newly planted beds as well as newly sown seeds need watering too.
I noticed quite a few white butterflies over the weekend, luckily our brassicas are hiding under mesh.
Additionally to sowing carrots into the ground, I decided to sow a few in one of our growing bags. If they produce a crop it will make for an interesting comparison. I sowed a few radishes in another bag. Once they germinate I'll sow a few more to try to produce a succession. In another bag I planted two varieties of lettuce - Tom Thumb and All Year Round. The bags have also been covered with mesh to protect from carrot fly and birds.
The potatoes that we planted in bags are growing well and the first lot planted on the allotment are pushing through. Another bed became available so I planted two rows of Vivaldi. We have quite a few seed potatoes left of varieties already planted which are still in the greenhouse awaiting a home.
We've come to the end of our stored potatoes and are having to buy some which is always a shock to the system.

Amid all the activity we did manage a tiny harvest of Purple Sprouting broccoli.
It may be a modest amount but very welcome. We think club root may be a factor in our lack of success with this plant. Unfortunately there is currently no club root resistant variety available so we are working on a plan to try to improve our chances of a decent harvest next year.

We are also harvesting watercress from our garden pond. Lots has been cleared out and now lovely fresh growth is being produced. Of course it has decided to grow a little further into the middle of the pond and needs coaxing to the side to make picking easier.
We could have harvested some rhubarb but let's face it there is only so much rhubarb that you can eat isn't there?


By the way Martyn has posted a video of last week's plot activity on his blog here.

I'm rather cheekily hoping this little posy of PSB and the watercress pickings qualify this post for a link to  Harvest Monday hosted on Dave's blog Our Happy Acres