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. 

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Deeds and seeds

Blimey, I'm exhausted! 4 hours out in the garden yesterday and another 4 today - what glorious spring weather we had over the weekend!  Doesn't it just make you feel like doing something outside? Whether it's working in the garden, like me, or going for a walk, or just sitting outside enjoying the warm sunshine - the sun makes us feel good; plus I certainly feel like I've had some exercise this weekend!

Sometimes I never know what I'm going to do in the garden until I actually stand in it. Yesterday I had the urge to finally erect the seed cloche/mini greenhouse.  It's been sitting in its box since I bought it last summer, waiting for me to decide where it should go.  With the everlasting rabbit problem, the best place for it is next to the raised beds inside the wire fencing. It was a good job I hadn't actually put the fence up yet; the area I'd marked out wasn't bit enough for the cloche to fit in.  As with every other structure in my garden, I had to dig a level area for it to go on. Oh the joy of having a garden on a slope!

Getting the ground ready for the cloch/mini greenhouse

I can't make my mind up about digging. I find it very therapeutic and in an odd way it relaxes me but - ouch! - it can be a back-breaking exercise sometimes.  Even with the 'bending knees and keeping the back straight' rule, after you've spent 4 hours digging increasing amounts of soil (my garden is on a slope) and trudging up and down the garden a few times with a wheelbarrow full of top soil, you start to make those noises which are a constant reminder that your'e not 20-something any more.  If they're not a big enough hint then the twinges at the base of your back certainly are!

Still, I got the job done in the end and the cloche dutifully erected. It's not quite finished; I need to go to the garden centre next pay day and get some gravel to go in as a 'floor' and to help with the drainage.  But I couldn't wait to start using it and promptly fetched my seed tray containing the cauliflower and leek plants and installed them inside.  Today, I re-potted the cauliflowers into small pots; they're big enough now to handle, but the leeks are still a bit too small and will stay in the seeds trays just a little longer. At the moment they're all sitting on straw which is not ideal I know, but it will help retain some of the heat inside at night for the time being.

Cloche installed and ready for use

Excited and revitalised by my new addition to the productive garden I went out this morning and bought more seeds:
  • Beetroot 'Rhonda' F1 (a sweet tasting beet)
  • Broccoli Early Purple Sprouting (easy to grow and hardy)
  • Broccoli Green Calabrese (easy to grow, yields in autumn of same year
  • Brussel sprout 'Nelson' F1 (produces high yield and has good resistance to being blown over)
  • Carrot 'Flyaway' F1 (easy to grow and resistant to carrot fly)
  • Chives (easy-grow seed mats, good for growing in pots on a windowsill or can be grown with carrots to keep the carrot fly away)
  • Dwarf bean 'Ferrari' (produces high yield, freezes well and is resistant to Anthracnose Halo Blight and Mosaic virus)
  • Lettuce 'Salad Bowl Red' & Green Mixed (good for beginners - like me!, loose-leaf, looks good in a border as well as a vegetable patch)
  • Marigold 'Boy-O-Boy Mixed' (French, easy to grow, dwarf plant, a good companion plant to tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli and squash but not beans)
  • Parsnip 'Countess' F1 (heavy cropper, resistant to canker)
  • Pea 'Hurst Green Shaft' (produces high yield, highly disease resistant, also good for freezing)
  • Perpetual Spinach (not Spinach but a leaf beet; a 'cut and come again' plant that tastes like Spinach but doesn't bolt; winter hardy)
  • Sweetcorn 'Incredible' F1 (produces very sweet large cobs, resistant to rust, freezes well)
  • Tomato 'Sweet Million' F1 (cherry tomato, grows well in a greenhouse or on a sunny patio, disease resistant)
By the way, in case you're wondering.......I got all the information about each plant either from the back of the seed packet or the internet.  Remember, I'm just a beginner at all this which is why I've selected many that are easy-to-grow and are disease resistant. I'm not brave enough yet to try the more difficult varieties.

So next week I'll be busy in the evenings sowing Chives, Dwarf Beans, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Sweetcorn, Tomato and Marigold seeds and filling up my back bedroom with the seed trays.  The rest I'll sow outside as soon as the fence is finished around the raised beds.

Talking of which, that was a job I started today.  I got the first 6 metres of the wire mesh fence up along the back of the beds. As usual, I was joined by the rest of the Tywardreath Highway Gardening Team; no sooner do I pick up a tool I hear that familiar sound "Can we help?".  It's not child-labour, honestly, they love helping! So they held the wire whilst I hammered in the staples. It looks very rough at the moment, I need to add another couple of stakes along the back and screw the posts to the garden fence and the raised beds to make them slightly more solid, but it's a start. When it's all up then I'll clip the top off and use it as a skirt around the bottom, buried under the soil. I know what you're thinking "Why didn't you bury the wire whilst you went along?"  Well, to be honest, I just wanted to get the fence started and when the girls asked if they could help it was easier to get them involved this way; the digging would have been too hard and I can do that myself later.  It least once it's done it should act as a deterrent against those damn 'wabbits'!

Starting to look like a proper growing area

Not exactly the Great Wall of China but it'll do the job