Sunday, 18 September 2011

Autumn is a-comin'

  • The carrot wine is bottled 
  • Elder tree has been stripped of berries (not by me!)
  • The log store framework is underway
  • Hazelnuts have been collected
  • The borders are almost tidy
  • Compost pile no. 2 is breaking down nicely
  • No sign of the rocket or spinach I planted
  • Rabbits are trying to dig back into the wild area at the top of the garden
  • Pumpkin fruit have been de-cluttered

Carrot wine
After a little taster and the addition of a tad more sugar the wine is bottled and sitting in the rack ready for Christmas.  It's a little sweet for my taste, but it would have been too sharp without the additional sugar. But wow, does it have a kick!  The difficulty now is keeping my hands off it until Christmas, although hiding it in the cupboard under the stairs does help.

Unfortunately for me, my elder tree produced most of its berries on the side that overhangs my neighbours garden. Fortunately for me, I have lovely neighbours and they were happy for me to pop round anytime and pick the berries.  Unfortunately for me, by the time I got round there early last week, the tree had been picked clean the birds! Not to worry, a short trip this weekend to nearby Respryn with my neighbour Sue and her two girls brought in great rewards with 5 freezer bags full (just over 6lbs) of elderberries.  Just some large bags of sugar required and I'll be starting it later this week.

I've also been keeping an eye on the sloes in the hedgerow at work; they're in abundance this year.  I know you're supposed to wait until there's been a frost before you pick them but, to be honest, we don't tend to get frosts down here until later in winter so I'm just going to wait until they feel soft and I'll pick them; not for sloe gin, but to have a go at sloe wine.  There's also a recipe in my CJJ Berry book that says 2/3 elderberry and 1/3 sloe makes a good wine - possibly 6 bottles of elderberry and 6 of elderberry & sloe wine this year then?

Log store
I've had some much appreciated help from Sue's husband this past week, in getting the log store underway. A couple of weekends ago, I started by clearing, levelling (which also included removing enough soil to fill 7 wheelbarrows) and compacting the ground only to then remember that I'd lent my saw to a friend and couldn't proceed with installing the support posts.  In steps Carl with his trusty saw, hammer and nails and up go the posts and 2/3 of the roof.  There's only the side slats to put in - I'll be using the wood left over from when the fence was cut down earlier this year - and a cover for the front to be found (I'm thinking along the lines of heavy tarpaulin) and it'll be finished. Hurray!

Well I've managed to get enough to make what I call my 'winter cookies' this year; the filling is white chocolate, cranberry and hazelnuts.  It's popular amongst family and friends.  If I remember I'll post the recipe when I make them. Thankfully, the strong winds of the last week have helped by shedding loads of nuts into the garden; saving me the trouble of having to reach up into the trees in my hedge to try and get at those 'just out of reach' ones.  There's about 12oz (340gms) in the dish so far; I'd like to get a full 1lb (450gms) if I can.....just a few more windy days might help.

Border plants
I've been far too ashamed to show any images of my lawn borders recently; for fear of being accused of cruelty to plants or neglecting my gardening duties. So the last couple of weeks, I've been out after work on the odd pleasant evening and tidied them up.  The Forget-Me-Nots have gone mad this year and it's about time they were replaced with something less invasive, so I've been clearing them out (I know I won't get them all this year) to make space for something with an autumn/winter interest. I've also been dead-heading the Siddalcea, the Herb Marsh Mallows and the Glory-of-the-Snow but left the seed heads of the Alliums on for a little longer; I rather enjoy the silvery grey colour in the garden this time of year.

Weeding has been a big problem as the weather's been ideal for weeds and I've struggled to keep on top of it. But I'm finally managing to get around the borders one bit at a time. I'm using the last of the compost from Pile no. 1 as a layer of mulch on top of the border soil; I hope it will help to keep them down. Talking of compost........

Pile no. 2 is breaking down nicely; I bought an 'activator' to help speed up the process and it's worked a treat - just wish I could remember the name of it now!  Once I've used the rest of Pile no. 1 on the borders I'll be starting it over again.  There's still a couple of bags of horse manure that have been breaking down for 12 months and they'll go on the raised veg beds soon enough.  Should all help towards a good growing season next year.

Rocket and spinach
Of which there has not been a peep! Maybe I did leave it a little too late to plant the seeds, but I was hoping for at least some small leaves around now.  Never mind, keeping a record of things like this will help me to do better next time.

Those damn 'wabbits'
Ok so some of it's my fault, I haven't managed to get up the top of the garden and strim away the rest of the overgrown area.  As a result, on taking a walk up there the other evening I discovered a freshly dug hole in the ground. Now it was heading towards the hedge and my neighbour's garden on the other side (not Sue and Carl's garden) so I didn't feel too bad about digging it back in as there's probably other entrances on his side of the garden.  But it does mean that if we get a dry evening this week (not looking hopeful I have to say) then I'm going to have to get up there with the strimmer and clear it down to the ground and check for other potential 'digs'.  Oh, and I'll be having a serious word with Jasper as well - obviously not the great rabbit killer he made himself out to be last year!

These have developed around 6 small fruit and there are still some flowers developing.  So, I've taken all but two fruits off so far and raised them above the ground to prevent them from rotting.  The plant will need to be helped along with some tomato feed now.  The mildew (see previous post 'Future fruits' dated 28th August)  that appeared on some leaves doesn't seem to have spread since I sprayed with the mixture of Bicarbonate of Soda and water, so fingers crossed...........!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Future fruits

I've begun another bout of digging. This time it's the area next to the shed which I'm prepping for the installation of a fruit cage and a couple more raised beds. The jury's still out on what fruit to grow yet but I'm toying with the idea of having a Boysenberry. I only came across this fruit recently; we bought some for the care home garden because it doesn't have any thorns. A little different from the usual berries, it's a cross between a blackberry, raspberry and loganberry. Well I'll give it a go once the cage is up and see what happens. Perhaps I'll plant a blackcurrent and a couple of blueberries with it. I'll have to check the size of the fruit cage before I go shopping!

I'm making the most of this productive mood and have also started clearing the ground on the other side of the shed to make room for the log store. Maybe it's because I'm beginning to feel like summer is coming to an end and occasionally my thoughts are turning to autumn and winter.  It's time to look into getting some logs delivered. Two more pallets have been retrieved from work to provide the base and there are some large posts and planks of wood left over from when the fence was reduced which I'll use to make the slatted sides. It's a good job it's a Bank Holiday weekend; I'm grateful for the extra day.

As far as the vegetable garden goes, all the peas are now bagged and in the freezer, the last of the beetroot have been cooked and sliced and I've cleared the spaces and planted a small row of rocket and another of spinach.  The spinach will only produce small leaves at this time of year but I do love them in a salad.

The pumpkin I planted back in July is doing well but has developed mildew on the leaves.  A quick search on the internet has revealed a couple of non-chemical solutions. One is to mix 1/4 ounce of baking soda in a gallon of water and the other is a 50:50 mixture of milk and water.  I'll try the baking soda solution first and see if that helps.  I'm informed that the mildew doesn't affect the fruit but if it kills the leaves off then the fruit could get sun-scorched without the protection.

What else has been happening? Well, I've added a few more plants to the borders around the lawn; a couple of Gypsophyla, a Lantana and a Dahlia.  The Forget-Me-Nots are being removed as well as most of the Aquilegia.  They were very helpful in filling in the borders in the early days but are taking over now so it's time to replace them with more variety.

Oh and the carrot wine is finally away from the starting blocks. It's almost ready to have it's first syphoning.  But I must admit, it's an odd colour!  I expect only time will tell with this one.
Hopefully it'll be ready for Christmas and
will taste better than it looks
I've also been given a bag full of windfall apples by a friend and I'm wondering if I should get some apple wine on the go as well.  It's all down to the amount of equipment I have - which isn't much - and the fact that the elderberries are ready to be picked, both from my tree in the garden and from one at work so there's an opportunity to make several gallons of elderberry wine this year.   Decisions, decisions.

A little note to end on........I've accidentally stepped on several green hazelnuts lying on the ground in the garden recently.   I wasn't sure if you could eat them 'green' but have found a few tasty-looking recipes so I'll be out foraging along the hedge tomorrow and trying these recipes out.  It won't be long before the race against the squirrels begins to see who gets to the ripened one first; I think I can predict the outcome of that in advance!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Make Haste Whilst the Sun Shines!

It's a bit of a blockbuster diary this week - there's been a lot going on in the garden.

The two girls from next door have been helping by clearing overgrowth around the veg beds and the shed.  It's a major job keeping the Productive area clear of weeds and their efforts have been a real help.  There may soon come a time, in a few years, when they're interest in gardening is surpassed by more 'girlie' interests such as boys, shopping and parties so I try and encourage their enthusiasm as much as possible at the moment in the hope that it will come back to them when they're older as it did for me.

Whilst the two girls were getting on with that I  tackled the barren area between what I call the Alpine Bank and the lawn area.  Most of this area will eventually form the pathway through the formal area to the gate into the Productive area. However I'll eventually do something with the small area (shown on the right in the next photo), at the bottom of the Alpine Bank; install a small water feature there and probably plant amongst gravel......well that's the thinking so far.

I've added 5 more alpines to the bank hoping that they will eventually help stabilise the soil. I planted a couple of Sedums (album 'Coral Carpet' and Acre 'Aureum'), a Rock Rose (Helianthemum 'Jubilee'), a Poppy (Papaver neudicaule 'Pacino')and a Phlox (x Procumbens 'Variegata'). I understand that the Sedum Acre could become pretty invasive but for the time being I'm happy for it to grow and stabilise the bank; I'll worry about the invasive-ness of it later.

Sedum 'Coral Carpet'

Phlox x Probumbens Variegata
 On the opposite side of the path to the Alpine bank is another 'unused' banked area, next to the patio. It's been slowly taken over by Aquilegia plants and it was time to clear them and add a bit of variety to the garden. So off I went to the garden centre and purchased 3 ornamental grasses; a Carex 'Amazon Mist', an Uncinia 'Rubra' and a Molinea 'Caerulea Variegata' (aka 'purple moor grass - which is weird because it's not!).  I chose these three simply because I liked the combination of their colours and because they will grow to different heights (the Molinea grows to about 60cms in height, the Uncinia around 30cms and the Carex 20cms). I'm now on the lookout for a larger, scented plant to sit in the corner of this bank against the fence (see the picture below) so that you can smell it's aroma as you enter the garden.

patio bank cleared and new grasses installed

closest to the patio - the Molinea

half way down the bank I planted the Uncinea
followed by the Carex at the bottom
As for the veg beds, well the last cauliflower was dug up and eaten at the weekend.  The pumpkin plant is doing really well and developing fruit so I should mulch the ground around it soon; whilst the courgette plant is not doing well at all.  It's flower heads have all dropped off and despite various anti-slug tactics it seems something has been having a nibble at it. I'm keeping a close eye on it at the moment. The peas are coming along brilliantly and several pods should be ready to pick sometime this week and I have 3 cobs coming along nicely on the sweetcorn.

Not long now!

A lantern in the making perhaps?

two little white tufts indicate sweetcorn
in the making

But the most exciting addition to the garden this week is my new outside tap. My next door neighbour fitted it for me this weekend which means I can finally stop making numerous trips up and down between house and garden carrying a watering can and bucket full of water. Not only can I water my plants properly now but it's also going to be easier for me to fill up the water butt in the Productive area.  I was so excited at finally having an outside tap that I spent this evening watering various plants and veg, trying out the different watering options on the hose gun - from 'watering can' to full 'wide spray'.  I'm not sure the novelty of this is going to wear out all that quickly!

By the way, I've just discovered it's supposed to rain tonight.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

You win some, you lose some

A trip to Ireland, then Milton Keynes (this girl knows how to travel!) and bad weather intertwined with bouts of illness equals very little time spent in the garden over the past few weeks.

Came back from Ireland to find that something had eaten all the leaves off my carrots despite the use of netting and some slug pellets! Still over the past few weeks my pea pods have appeared, the sweetcorn is flowering and I've been able to eat my own broccoli, rhubarb and some teeny weeny beetroot (well, I had to thin them out so one or two small ones have made their way into my salad for tea).  The broccoli wasn't huge, but enough for me in a meal, and there's still some florets coming on the plants.

Looking forward to eating some of these straight from the pod
Weeny beet; grated on a salad they're...
Really delighted to see the peas coming on though; considering I got nothing at all from planting dwarf beans seeds.............I wonder if mice got to them?  Haven't seen any holes in the soil though.

Managed to strim a third of the field before the bad weather came in a couple of weeks ago (it is July isn't it?!! sure it's not October?) and now I keep looking at the rest of it growing and waiting for a chance to get out with the brushcutter again. I was hoping the weather would be kinder this month so I could keep on top of the strimming. Ah well sometimes you just feel like you're losing the battle.....but I will win the war!

at least it's not brambles and thistles this year

still got access to the shed........just about!
The Plympton Pippin apple tree that had the frost damage seems to be none-the-worse so far. I've wrapped up the damaged area using a piece of that fibrous material you use to line hanging baskets with.  It's good for retaining water, which will help the scar to heal.  One of the Sunset apple trees got attacked by Blackfly and several of the leaves were curling in and wilting as a result and it generally looked tired and poorly!  There was only one thing for it.....the bug spray I'm afraid!  I try not to use chemicals on the garden but every now and then I don't feel I have a choice.  If anyone knows of any other non-chemical way of getting rid of Blackfly from an apple tree I'd really be interested to hear about it.

A couple of weeks ago I bought some herbs from People and Gardens who are based where I work;  Basil, Lemon Basil, Purple Basil, Sage, Thyme and Oregano.  I've planted them in the bed with the cauliflowers in, as most of the caulis died off and left me with some space to fill. I haven't had much success with herbs in pots for some reason so I'm hoping they'll do well in the bed.  So far everything seems to be surviving. I also bought a pumpkin plant and a courgette plant and planted in the same bed.  The pumpkin has already started to spread along the bed but it shouldn't interfere with the herbs and both are flowering nicely.  Once the fruits start to show I'll mulch around them to keep the moisture in the ground.

Today was a goo day for getting out in the garden so it was time to attack the weeds that have grown up along the path into the garden and the Alpine bank I'm trying to create as you enter.  An accidental dislodging of a stone on the bank revealed an ants nest.  Talk about frantic! Operation 'Rescue The Eggs' kicked in instantly and I was so fascinated to watch them that I just had to record a little of the highly coordinated recovery plan!

Oh and I almost forgot to mention - I was surprised and delighted to discover recently that my two surviving cauliflowers have grown hearts! Brilliant - I thought I'd failed on that one.  Fingers crossed they grow a bit bigger. I read somewhere that it's a good idea to bend the leaves over the hearts to keep them white, so I've done that today and I'll be keeping a close eye on them - the Cabbage White butterflies are hanging around - time to get more fleece I reckon.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Guilty pleasures

I haven't posted for a month and I've missed it.  The reasons being that I took a couple of weeks holiday over the Easter/Royal Wedding/Bank Holiday period to see various family members, plus my internet connection has been a bit dodgy at home recently and, to be perfectly honest I've been too tired in the evenings after work to sit down in front of another computer screen and start typing again.

So it's going to be hard to write this one without it ending up being a small novel.  I'll do my very best not to waffle........but I'm making no promises! So, what shall I begin with? ah, yes, the plum wine.

A few weeks ago I finally bottled my plum wine. All 3 bottles! Yep, out of a gallon initially made I ended up with half a gallon which made the grand total of 3 bottles.  People had warned me that you get a lot of sediment in making plum wine but I wasn't prepared for how much.  Still, it's made a good wine and I'm pleased with the taste and the look of it.  I will make more in the future but

a) I'll make a much bigger batch and
b) remember to add more sugar (the initial tasting revealed an extremely sharp wine, so I added an extra 5ozs of sugar and went through the fermentation process again; making a total of 5 'racking' sessions)

It's slightly sweet, not too sickly though, and has a pale peach colour. I usually like my wines dry but this isn't a bad drink at all!  Slightly thicker - if that's the right word - in consistency than the elderberry I made last autumn, which apparently means it has a higher alcohol content. When I tip the glass there's a little delay in some of the liquid sliding back down; something to do with evaporation and surface tension?  Yeah, that's getting far too technical for me too.

Next on the list? I think I'm going to have a go at making carrot wine.  I've made wine from berries and it's time to have a go at the root.

I began this blog mainly to keep a record of the development of my garden; alongside that I'll occasionally ramble on about other things - usually around the subject of outdoor spaces - that I feel like sharing.  So here's some ramblings about some places I visited whilst away.  I'll get to the status of the vegetables towards the end - something to look forward to.

During the two week break I did nothing in the garden.  Instead I took time out to visit various family members.  I did have a slight guilty feeling about not using the time to crack on with jobs outside, which lasted around half a day before being pushed firmly to the back of my mind. Sometimes it's not just work I need a break from.

First stop - Northamptonshire branch of the family; my younger brother and his girlfriend. We took a picnic to Stowe gardens, a National Trust property near Silverstone. If you've never been it's definitely worth a visit.  Although you pay an entry fee into the gardens, the parkland is free....oh and don't forget to take a picnic. Your food will definitely taste better in these surroundings! It's full of lakes, rivers, fabulous old trees, temples, ornate stone bridges, spectacular, scratch that....... vistas is a better word to describe the vast open landscape of rolling hills, wide paths meandering through ancient woodlands and broad riverbanks where groups of families and friends sit chatting, eating or play games together.

A bottle of the plum wine had travelled with me and we opened it during an impromptu music session one afternoon.  I swear we played so much better after a couple of glasses each!

Surely, this has to have been in a film?

Mr. Darcy will be appearing out of the water,
any second now

A few days later I was in Exmoor with more family members, staying in a holiday cottage.  Lynton, Lynmouth, Dunster and the moor itself were all part of the itinerary.  I've never been to Dunster before and was seriously impressed with the castle and grounds which stands overlooking the town (you can see right out to the coast from its battlements). Not to mention the town itself (not a mobile phone shop, MacDonalds or Tescos in sight!) which has numerous places to eat and the best triple layer Victoria sponge cake I've tasted in a long time.

Oh and the second bottle of plum wine came to Exmoor and went down well with a large chocolate birthday cake. It seems to go with everything!

Dunster town viewed from the castle
Dunster Castle and the coast beyond

The first thing I did when I returned home was to plant out all my vegetables, except the tomato plants, in the raised beds. The leeks, sweetcorn, cauliflowers, broccoli and brussel sprouts are planted out with mats around the bases of the brassicaceae to prevent cabbage root fly getting in. I've also sown carrot, parsnip, red onion, beetroot, peas and dwarf bean seeds and sadly resorted to sprinkling slug pellets (safe to use around children and pets) sparingly in between all the plants.  I try not to use chemicals in the garden but broken egg shells and crockery only do so much to keep the pests at bay.

Two weeks on and there are signs that things are growing.  The peas were the first to show but now I can see tiny leaves along the rows of carrots and beetroot.  It looks like I'll have to do some thinning out soon too.

The leeks, sweetcorn, broccoli and brussel sprouts seem to enjoy being in the beds, however the cauliflowers aren't looking so happy...............wait for the bad pun......................... they're hearts just don't seem to be in it! And I mean that literally, joking aside.

Beetroot popping up
Mind your peas in queues!

The leeks are doing well... are the sweetcorn but.....

.....the cauliflowers? not so good
I have a little suggestion before I go. Are you looking for a good read? something a bit different from the usual '101 things to do with your parsnips'?  Add this on your birthday/Christmas/Anniversary wish lists....'Minding My Peas and Cucumbers'.  The author, Kay Sexton, takes you through her story of owning an allotment plot and all the ups and downs that go with it.  Full of humour, recipes, quirky characters,  handy tips and, of course, the trials and tribulations of growing crops, it's a great read.  A nice, easy read. In fact, you don't have to be into growing your own to enjoy this book. I was bought a copy by my sister for my birthday and I've enjoyed reading it 'in drips' in the evenings. If you don't receive it as a present then I suggest you treat yourself to a copy..........curl up on the sofa on a drizzly Saturday afternoon and enjoy the read; it's working for me!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Mistaken Identity (also known as Not-Quite-Sure-What-The-Hell-I'm-Doing!)

Saxifraga Peniculata 'Rosea'! THAT'S the name of the pink flowering plant I posted a picture of in last week's blog.  Lord knows where I got the other one from...........Note to self:  check several websites and books when trying to ID a plant which has lost it's label; don't just go for the first one you see!  So with it finally named correctly it can carry on helping to keep the weeds at bay in my border and rockery by slowly spreading itself across the ground.  Useful little plant and extremely pretty - I think I'll look out for some more varieties to plant on the rockery.

Now correctly identified, the Saxifraga adds a spash of colour to
borders and banks in my garden

Thankfully I had a quick reply from my brother and his partner Dancin' Fool (who also has an arboricultural blog - The Green Man) last week about the damage to one of my apple trees; frost damage apparently.  Although not good news, I have to admit to being slightly relieved that it wasn't caused by any animal...I get all sorts in the garden; rabbits, badgers and foxes.  Anyway, here's his suggestions for looking after the tree.  I've copied this straight from his email:
a) wrap the damaged area in hessian and leave it on as long as necessary
b) 30g of 'Tate & Lyle' per 1 litre of water per 1 square metre - this will artificially provide the tree with sugars (that it would normally obtain from photosynthesis) and encourage fibrous root development. Do this once a month for the next 4-5 months and repeat again same time next year. You could also try it on your other newly planted trees (or anything else that's struggling and requires photosynthesis) The more fibrous roots that a young tree (plant) can develop, the healthier it will be and the more able it will be to fight off any secondary 'host specific' pests & diseases that may want to take advantage of the exposed wound. 
c) If the tree isn't staked, you should stake it (windward side) and place the ties around the wound area to relieve any structural stresses. 
d) Don't prune it (except to remove damaged, diseased twigs & leaves 
e) pray
c) is already taken care of; d) is fine because I haven't pruned it so that just leaves a) and b) to carry out and then rely heavily on a lot of e).

Saturday afternoon was spent at The Lost Gardens of Heligan with a group from the dementia project - Creative Spaces. Small groups of residents and staff from the care home spent a lovely couple of hours wandering around the Northern Gardens with young people and their parents from the community.  One lad was provided with a recording microphone by a local radio station so that he could record some of his conversations with one resident.  It's going to go out on the station's gardening programme shortly.  These two chaps have formed a bond over the past 18 months and it was a delight to come across them sitting on a bench on Flora's Green, just enjoying their surroundings; not chattering but sitting quietly, arms and hands linked.

Unfortunately, due to a bout of illness over Sunday I didn't get any work done in the garden at the weekend.  However, a short walk up to the top revealed that the brambles this year have been replaced with intermittent 'rugs' of Forget-Me-Nots, gatherings of Bluebells, Red Campion and Buttercups. I even discovered one tiny Wild Violet that was struggling towards the light through a clump of nettles.  Ah yes, the nettles return each year........little do they know that the strimmer is coming in for a clean up this weekend in preparation for much use!

Does anyone else have an invasion of Hairy Bittercress? I pull it out of the borders around the lawn every year and this year it's gone mad in the rest of the garden; particularly in the area beyond the vegetable garden.  Reading up on it, in Richard Mabey's 'Food For Free', I've discovered that you can actually eat the whole plant; I thought you could just eat the leaves.  According to the book it goes well with cream cheese (sorry Jane!).  It has beautiful, delicate flowers which can be appreciated either by getting on your hands and knees with a magnifying lens or, like me, using the super macro on your camera.  The seed pods protrude from within the flower and look as though the stem has pushed through and beyond the petals.  Even the slightest brush allows them to scatter their seeds on the helpful to us gardeners!

A small army of Hairy Bittercress; strim or salad?

Take a closer look; there's beauty in weeds

Have a wonderful Easter everyone and I hope you all have a great time outdoors (illnesses and weather permitting!).

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Friends + Fresh Air = Fun!

I had a really enjoyable Saturday morning up at the care home as part of the dementia project.  With the garden redevelopment well under way I thought we'd get the residents and young people growing plants to go in it once it's finished.  There was quite a group of us; staff, residents, young people from the local school and one of the relatives, whose a gardener, ran the session and had us sowing seeds, pricking out and potting on.  Obviously tea, juice and biscuits were involved, and with the sun shining and a slight breeze we spent a great few hours outside as a group of friends, laughing, chatting and helping each other. You can't help but come away from those moments feeling positive and proud.

I came home and got stuck into transplanting my own small plants, from seed trays to small pots and then moving them out into the mini greenhouse.  Was I inspired by the morning session? I guess so!  I spend a lot of time in my garden by myself.  Not that I mind, I find it's a place where I can think whilst I'm busy with my hands and gardening is very good for the soul of course. But I think the time that we spend with friends outside are some of the best times we have.  Whether it's in each others gardens or a day out together these times are often creative, inspirational and fun. I look forward to having many more of these days during this project.

So, how are my plants doing?  Well, the second lot of cauliflowers are looking better than the first; only 3 survived from the first batch. I'm not sure what killed off the first ones, so as a precaution against slugs and snails I've battened down the sides of the little greenhouse with planks of wood underneath which I've buried the 'skirt' of the greenhouse and then packed the wood in tight with soil and straw. If anything crawls over the wood it's only going to come across the plastic barrier. In addition to that, I've also sprinkled some anti-slug granules around the edge of the greenhouse - see if that works.  That's the theory at least!

An almost full 'greenhouse' housing sweetcorn, broccoli, leeks,
cauliflower,tomatoes, a couple of sad-looking brussel sprout plants
and a tray of, what I believe are Asters

I took a wander up beyond the vegetable area to look at the apple trees this weekend.  The two Sunsets are in full bloom and look amazing. At least double the flowers on them this year than last, despite the fact that I left half a dozen on last year just to taste my first home-grown apples! Not so the Plympton Pippins.  One has a few flowers on it and the other has nothing at all.  Oh dear! what's going on there?  To add to my disappointment I've found some bark damage on the one that has a few flowers on it. Not sure what that is but I've put in a plea to my friend Dancin' Fool who also runs a blog called The Green Man and her partner Mr. Dancin' (my brother!) to identify what the problem is and what may have caused it.

A Sunset apple tree in full bloom; planted last year
Not such good news for one of my Plympton Pippins
 - what's been having a go at this?

No more has been done to the fence around the raised beds.  Sadly that's going to have to wait until next pay day before I can get any more wire mesh.  Fingers crossed it won't be too long before it's finished and I can get some seeds sown into the ground, as well as getting my greenhouse plants actually into the ground. I don't want to miss the growing season another year.

I'm going to end this post with some lovely pics of flowering plants that are growing well in the garden at the moment.  Always end of a good note!

The first bluebells appear

Dainty Bleeding Hearts

Lost the label for this one but I think it's an Eridium
Forget-me-nots are in abundance this year due to full-on strimming
of The Field last year!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Spring borders

Oh dear - disaster has struck my little cauliflower plants.  I transplanted them into small pots last week and all but 4 have withered!  They haven't been chewed; the tiny leaves have just wilted.  Did I transplant them too soon I wonder?  Where they still too young to be outside, even if they were under cover? I've no idea but it's something I'll have to notch up as a failure and hopefully learn from it. Thankfully I've got some more growing in a seed tray upstairs and I'll make sure I don't pot those up so quickly.  It's a real learning curve this veg growing business!

Aargh! the Cauliflower Catastrophe Conundrum
at least the second year rhubarb is doing well......
...and I've somehow managed to grow a cat too! (Felinus Relaxiflorum!)

Earlier this week I planted some of the marigold, broccoli (both the Early Purple and the Autumn), tomato, brussel sprout and sweetcorn seeds; along with more leek and cauliflower (thank goodness).  They're also up in the windowsill in the spare room and already starting to pop their tiny heads up in the trays. I'm growing these ones in seed compost; I used a normal multi-compost for the first leeks and cauliflowers......could that be another reason why the caulis didn't establish well in the pots?

No work on the productive garden this weekend.  A friend's 30th birthday party on Friday night put paid to doing too much on Saturday.  I did make it down to my first Seed Swap event, held in Lostwithiel (after a good breakfast and a couple of paracetamol!).  I took some seeds down to swap and came back with salad onion (Red Baron), Penstemon (Miniature Bells) and Chard (Mangold Witerbi) seeds.  Plus an edging tool for the lawn, a brilliant little hand scythe and some great 'cloches' made out of old street lamp know, the clear plastic covers that go over the light itself.  What a brilliant idea; and all for £5!  Great fun; I hope there's more of these events locally in the future.

AND, with all my concentration being on the productive areas of the garden,I've seriously neglected the borders around the lawn.  So today I spent the afternoon weeding them and redefining the edges - with my new edging tool of course. I got 3 out of the 4 done and I'll finish the rest over the week. Fingers crossed the good weather stays with us for a while longer.  Having said that, I had to top up the water butt today because we haven't had any rain in over a week and I've been watering the seeds, rhubarb and apple trees during this dry, warm weather we've been having.  It was only half full to begin with because it's not long been in the garden but I think I'm going to have to get another one because my garden isn't directly outside my house and it's, quite frankly, a pain in the butt (pardon the pun!) having to carry buckets of water up and down in the evenings.

Back to the borders. They're an eclectic mix of shrubs, bulbs and perennials.  I suppose all I've done over the past 4 years is fill them with anything I've seen around the garden centres that I like the look of, or plants that people have given me.  There's been no planting scheme in my thoughts at all. When I first created them I just wanted to plant for the sake of having something in them.  Aquilegias and Forget-Me-Nots began to grow soon after I'd dug the ground over and cleared most of the weeds. The first plants I put in were the cowslips (Primula Veris), a couple of Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra) and Siddalcea 'Elsie Heugh's then came the bulbs; Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Alliums (Ornamental Onion), Chionodoxa (Glory-of-the-snow) dwarf crocuses and the odd bluebell bulb that I uncovered during my early days of frantic digging.

Grape Hyacinth & Cowslips sitting pretty side-by-side

Delicate blue flowers of the Chionodoxa

Next came the shrubs along the back of the borders; a Honeysuckle, Hairy Canary Clover (Lotus Hirutus), False Spirea (Sorbaria Sorbifolia), Pieris 'Forest Flame', Red Robin (Photinia), Choisya, a Flowering Current (Ribes Sanguineum), Exochorda x macrantha 'The Bride' and most recently a Hydrangea Petiolaris and an Escallonia Peach Blossom.
Exochorda planted last year
Aquilegia growing by the False Spirea - photo taken 2010
I hope to be able to add some Penstemons if I'm successful in growing them from seed.

In the meantime, I should think about planting between the bulbs to add some interest during the autumn/winter period, especially whilst I can see where the bulbs are growing! Perhaps some hostas or something taller like Echinaceas. Looks like I'm in for trawling the 'net' to find something suitable.

Finally, just a quick note about the plum wine.  Hmmm, semi-successful I think. There was so much sediment that after racking it 3 times I'm down to half a gallon!! Just enough for about 2-3 bottles I reckon. Ah well, let's look at it as being half full rather than half empty and start thinking about getting some carrot wine on the go.