Sunday, 29 January 2012

Legumes suffering

Frost damaged legumes
The peas and broad beans have suffered from the weather despite it being generally mild, and despite the fact that both were described as extremely hardy varieties. (The peas are Meteor, the beans Aguadulce.)

We had a spell of frost about two weeks ago, then some strong winds, and now another frosty spell is starting. Several of the beans look totally dead, as do about a third of the peas. I will fill in the rows to replace casualties in March or so. Still, I was hoping for better from hardy varieties - the temperature never went below about -2°C, and it was only that cold for a few nights. Hrumph.

Crocuses flowering already

Crocuses starting to flower
The mild winter we've been having here has prompted some crocuses to start flowering - I noticed the shoots about ten days ago. This is early - apparently March is normal, and according to the BBC they can flower in February in mild conditions.
I didn't plant these, they're relics from a previous owner. I wonder what else is under the ground waiting?

Friday, 13 January 2012


Chopping logs

Log pile (on fence section to allow air circulation)
A friend delivered about half a ton of logs yesterday, and I spent a fair amount of this morning chopping them and stacking them for seasoning. Seasoning means allowing the logs to dry out - freshly cut wood may contain up to 45% water by weight, and it is unsuitable for burning. Partly this is for the obvious reason that a lot of the energy content of the wood goes to turning the water into steam rather than giving out heat, but also because the fire burns cooler, and the smoke contains heavier molecules of partially burned fuel. These can condense in the chimney, corroding the lining and forming a tarry coating which is much more prone to chimney fires than the dry soot produced at higher temperatures.

Apparently wood can be seasoned in the open, but I intend to cover this pile (somehow) when I've finished splitting the logs. In the meantime, I've stacked the log quarters with the bark side upwards, which should allow the rain to run off without soaking in.

The pile of split logs in the second photo is about half the amount I was given. The rest is made up of smaller diameter pieces, which I won't split at all, and much larger ones. The wider ones I may not be able to split, and some longer ones need to be sawn in two first. Chopping and piling the first half took a couple of hours, and I left the remainder for another day because my arms were tired and the axe wound in my leg was starting to hurt.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

New compost bin

New compost bin
Tony, the neighbour whose bow saw I broke (full story), gave me some old sections of fence for firewood. Since the wood was still quite sound, I used some of it to make a new compost bin. This is in an area right at the bottom of the garden (not shown on the layout) which is shaded by large trees, overgrown with ivy, and where the soil is full of half-bricks, old tiles, metal junk and bottles. Because of this I've just been using it for general garden waste - there's a big pile of the turfs I removed to make the beds, and another of woody prunings.

Having more than one compost heap means that I can leave the first to rot down without adding more fresh material, and it will be ready to use sooner.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Give peas a chance

Mesh for pea plants
The peas have been bashed about by the very strong winds last week, and were looking a bit forlorn, so I've given them something to climb up. Next time I will put in the supporting mesh as soon as the peas are in the ground. The canes and mesh are re-used from my  last garden, and since those peas came down with powdery mildew I left the equipment to soak in a fungicide solution before setting it up, in the hope that any spores are killed and I don't introduce a harmful species to this garden.

One of the broad bean plants had its stem broken, so I cut that off to a few inches above ground level. Possibly the root system will have enough stored energy to grow new stems and leaves.

Pruning apple tree

Before pruning

After pruning
January is a good time to prune apple trees, and the one in my garden definitely needed it. When I moved in there were hundreds of very small apples on the ground around the tree, and I hope by giving it a vigorous pruning I will get fewer but larger apples this year.

I found some useful information on pruning on the Royal Horticultural Society's website here, so I had a go. I've probably taken off more than they suggest, but the tree has been neglected for some time and there was a lot of dead wood. There was also a lot of growth which was too high to be able to pick the apples easily, and many branches were too close to each other, rubbing together or tangled together.

Now the structure is much more open, the highest branches have been removed, the lowest ones which were below head-height have also been trimmed back, and there are still plenty of fruit buds on the remaining branches. I left some long branches growing across the garden so that the open area is divided up visually, which should be more appealing to look at.