Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Digging finished

Small bed for runner bean wigwam
The last of this year's planned digging is done, a small bed under the apple tree for runner beans. I've dug in some of the compost from the first heap since beans are greedy plants, but I had to pick through it and put a lot of half-rotted stuff back in the heap. I should really have waited until it was all properly composted. 

The beans will be planted in late May or early June, so there is time for a quick crop of something else. I'll probably transplant the turnip seedlings there.

Pigeon damage

Pigeon-pecked cabbage
Some of the cabbages and kale plants in bed three have been pecked by pigeons. I'll have to make a cage out of chicken wire or plastic mesh to keep them off. Grrr!

However, there is a nice row of carrots appearing, and the first sowing of spring onions has shown a few seedlings. The radishes are coming on nicely, too, and the spinach and turnips in bed five are putting forth true leaves. Also in bed five, the six replacement broad beans are all growing well, but the replacement broad beans started in pots and transplanted to bed one are not so healthy-looking. I think the roots poked out of the bottom and either got damaged or dried out before I could transplant them.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Window box for parsley

Window box for parsley
This window box was in place when I moved to this house, so I tipped the old soil and dead plants on to the compost heap and filled it with fresh earth from the garden. I mixed in the last of a bag of potting compost into the top inch or so, and added a packet of parsley seeds.

I also planted out the first batch of leeks into gaps in the garlic (bed seven). I planted the garlic cloves much too far apart, and I hope the leeks will be OK in between them. I found that using two trowels facing each other produced very neat holes, just the right size for the paper pots, so I will not bother making another transplanting tool.

Sunday, 25 March 2012


Another major planting session today:
Bed eight: a row of peas (the last of the Greenshaft) and another row of spring onions (despite the fact that the first row hasn't appeared yet, after just over three weeks.)
Bed five: another row of carrots - half Nepal F1 and half Early Nantes. I think the Nepal ones in the first row are just starting to show, but they could be grass at this stage. I'm planning to plant four rows in this bed at monthly intervals, to get a continuous crop, which means that row four isn't going to be planted for ages - I put some radishes in that space, which will have come and gone by the time I want it for the last sowing of carrots.
Bed zero: On the same principal, I filled a space earmarked for courgettes with a direct sowing of a row of spinach (Samich F1).
In the salad bed, bed ten, I planted out the two pak choi from the first batch which germinated, leaving the rest of the row for the second batch. I also sowed a row of Little Gem lettuce, and three rows of mixed salad leaf seeds - mizuna, chicory, corn salad, rocket, and texsei. (I don't know what all of those are, hope I like them!)
Lastly, I put two tomato seeds in each of six pots - I'll keep whichever is the strongest plant in each one, before planting them out.

Then I tested my newest bit of garden equipment - a hammock. Great!

Update: Corn salad is the same thing as lamb's lettuce! So I'll have tons of that if it all comes up. 


Pot and bed in front garden
There's a tiny strip of flowerbed and two large pots by the front door, so I planted some flower seeds there. Honestyhollyhocks and aquilegia in the bed, and sweet william in the pots. All the seeds were provided by my parents from plants in their garden, so mad props to them.

While I was out there, I also hoed the weeds from the gravel. These will be added to the compost heap, but only when they've dried out completely. I don't want to add living weed root sections to the compost heap for obvious reasons.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Transplanting and sowing

The garden today
Yesterday I transplanted the purple choy sum and rocket seedlings into bed ten. Because there were only six or seven seedlings, I planted them quite widely separated, and sowed three or four more seeds between each plant.

Now that the greenhouse is fairly empty, I sowed more seeds into paper pots today:
  • 16 x Pak Choi (because only two out of six of the first batch germinated)
  • 16 x Leeks
  • 12 x Turnips

Monday, 19 March 2012

Planting out

Planting out turnip seedlings
Today I planted out a lot of the paper pots - cabbage 'greyhound' and cauliflower 'All Year Round' into bed eleven (and two spare cauliflowers in gaps in the kale bed). Bed five is turning into a collection of small numbers of different plants - there is some surviving land cress and two lamb's lettuces from the autumn planting, and six broad beans (one now showing leaves) planted as replacements for the dead ones in bed one. In the spaces left by these, I've now planted eight turnips, six beetroots, and five spinach plants.

All this planting was done using the transplanter I made, which worked better than I expected. I thought that the soil might not be lifted out of the hole, but it came up in neat little plugs leaving cylindrical holes of the right size. Unfortunately the plastic was too brittle to take the load, and after making about thirty holes it broke up. I'll call it a successful prototype, and think about making a more robust one out of metal. It would also be better if the handle was in line with the axis of the barrel. Hmmm.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Home made transplanter

Making transplanter
Finished article
I checked and some of the paper pots with the larger seedlings have now got roots poking out of the bottom. They need to be transplanted soon, so I made a transplanter out of an unused desk-tidy. I hope I can make holes just the right size with it.

Sunday night is predicted to be cold, 2ÂșC, and milder weather is forecast for next week, so I will plant them out on Monday.

Growth notes: the buds on the apple tree have started to open, and the radishes planted out in bed eight are now visible. The transplanted peas are growing well, but there is as yet no sign of the directly sown carrots, peas, and spring onions.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

More seeds planted

Another small batch of paper pots filled today:
  • 6x Spinach Samich F1
  • 6x Beetroot Chioggia Pink
  • 7x Kale Nero di Toscana

Monday, 12 March 2012

Signs of spring

Blackcurrant buds opening
 The buds on the blackcurrant bush have started to open, so they have decided it's spring. Hurrah!

The warmer weather and longer days have also caused the kale to start growing. I planted these in a seed tray indoors in October, and planted them out in mid-November. They didn't really grow at all over the winter, but at least most of them survived, and now seem to be growing quite strongly.

Lettuce and rocket seedlings have appeared, too. I haven't taken a picture of them because all my photos of seedlings do look very similar.
Young kale plant

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Overflow potato bed

Potato bed
Doing some calculations on the back of an envelope, I found that there wasn't enough room in the two beds earmarked for potatoes for all the seed potatoes I've got chitting on the windowsill. The early potato plants need to be about a foot apart each row, and the rows need to be about two feet apart, the maincrop potatoes want slightly more space than that.

To take the excess, I've dug a new long bed. It's a bit wider than I need, and I will plant the potatoes on the north edge, and use the other half for short, fast-growing things - possibly radishes, or maybe more lettuces.

That is almost all the digging I plan to do this year, the only thing left is a small bed (about four feet square) for a runner bean wigwam. I'll probably put that in the space between beds four and five. The beans won't be going in until late May, but I ought to dig it soon and mix in some organic matter.

Friday, 9 March 2012

The peas are dead, long live the peas

Pea seedling with long root
I noticed today that many of the pea seedlings in paper pots had long roots sticking out, no doubt groping around looking for soil to grow in. I decided to plant them out straight away, as the roots would probably dry out, entwine, or get damaged some other way if I left them for a couple of weeks as originally planned.

Since there was still no sign of life from the Meteor peas in bed one, I hoed over that area, and planted the pots directly into the soil. For the ones with roots coming out of the bottom, I dug a hole with a trowel in the normal way, then made a hole for the root at the bottom of it with a pencil.

The paper pots took up one of the two rows of climbing-mesh in bed one, and I planted more Greenshaft and Early Onwards seeds directly into the soil. I'm not sure peas need or benefit from going into pots first. The autumn sowing of Meteor came up OK, and weren't eaten by mice, they just didn't survive the winter.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

More seedlings appear

Beetroot seedlings - 'Chioggia Pink'
Three beetroot seedlings, and one spinachseedling have appeared now. Ten leeks are visible (which is great - I love leeks!). Peas, cauliflowers, turnips, and cabbage are growing well. Still no sign of the basil or broad beans. I'll give the (probably dead) peas in bed one another couple of weeks to show signs of life, and if there are none I will plant the potted peas there. If the existing peas recover, I'll put the potted ones along the back of bed eight. By the end of March, the weather should be good enough for all the pots to go into the soil, although I haven't worked out where they're all going to fit in yet. Then I will start more growing in pots.

The pots do dry out fairly quickly, but I'm watering them when they seem to need it with a mist-spray bottle.

Monday, 5 March 2012

New bed dug

Bed 11
After making a dog's dinner of a job interview this morning, I took advantage of the sunny weather and indulged in some therapeutic digging. Bed eleven is done, and will probably be used for lettuce and other salad leaves, since it is on the shady side of the garden, like beds nine and ten.

First sign of leeks, other seedlings, broad bean regrowth

Leek seedling
Cauliflower and pea seedlings
Broad bean regrowth
In the paper pots, two leek seedlings have appeared, half of the peas (of both varieties) are visible now, and most of the cauliflowers, turnips, and Greyhound cabbage have put forth their first pair of leaves. No sign yet of the spinach, basil, or beetroot.

Three of the broad beans in bed one are showing new leaf growth, but the rest of them, and all the Meteor peas, are not visible.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Beds two and four ready for spuds

Ready for spuds
I was feeling the after effects of digging yesterday, and I was going to take the day off, but the weather was so good (and promises to turn colder and rainy soon) that I went out and dug bed four. 

Both two and four now have the green manure (forage rye) dug in, along with a few handfuls of slow-release fertiliser pellets. You're supposed to dig compost in a month or two before planting potatoes, but mine isn't ready yet. I picked out stones as I went, and the soil now appears to be good tilth, with some organic matter, which should be ideal. Fingers crossed.

Potatoes are traditionally planted on Good Friday, which is April 6th this year, but mine might go in earlier if it is warm.  They are chitting nicely, and apparently you only need to wait for the soil to warm up.

Friday, 2 March 2012

On with the planting

The garden today
Marathon planting session this morning:
In paper pots:
  • 6x Pak Choi
  • 6x Purple Choy Sum
  • 6x Lamb's Lettuce Elan
  • 7x Lettuce Little Gem
  • 7x Rocket
  • 8x Chilli Peppers

Directly sown in beds:
  • 1 row of carrots - half Early Nantes, half Nepal F1 (bed 6)
  • 1 row of spring onions White Lisbon Winter Hardy (bed 8)
  • 1 row of radishes French Breakfast 3 (bed 8)
I'm planning to use bed six pretty much exclusively for carrots, because I like them, and they are a good productive crop in terms of space usage. I will plant another row every three to four weeks, so with luck I ought to have a continuous supply from June or so. I intend to do this with a lot of crops, sowing in small amounts every few weeks, so I don't have to deal with gluts, and I can be flexible as I find out what grows well and what I most like to eat.

I've been told that the root systems of the broad beans and peas may well survive and put new growth up, despite being apparently dead. I cut off all the above-ground parts, except where new growth is indeed appearing. If they survive, I'll have to find space for all the replacements currently germinating in the greenhouse. Several of each type of pea (Greenshaft and Early Onward) have germinated and shoots are starting to push above the soil. Oh well, can't have too many peas.

I also cut a couple of branches off an overhanging bush, and dug the green manure into bed two.