Sunday, 12 February 2012

What I did during my break

Well this won't do!  Nothing posted in my 'garden diary' since last September? I've no idea where the time's gone and there are no excuses; just a blur of family and friends visiting, working weekends on dementia events, Christmas with the family and friends and to top it all I picked up some sort of cold bug which lingered around for 3 - 4 weeks.

I did manage to spend some time in the garden though.....just to maintain some form of sanity!

The log store was completed, with help from my neighbour (very handy living next to a builder!). We used lengths of wood from the cut fence to make the posts and sides and palettes were used as the base.  My neighbour put a roof on and covered it with roof felt and I had a piece of tarpaulin which now hangs down over the store to help keep out the south westerly rain.  Not the most attractive cover but at least it does the job.

I bought a blueberry (Spartan) and a couple of raspberry bushes (Autumn Bliss) last autumn so the fruit cage was brought out of its box in the shed and finally erected.

My first year of growing vegetables was an interesting one - more of a 'taster' session than anything. I just wanted to see what grew and what didn't, what was easy and what was time-consuming.  The beetroot, peas, leeks and rhubarb did well.  The carrots and parsnips came up small and wouldn't have looked out of place in a 'strange-shaped vegetable' competition! No onions or beans showed themselves...don't know whether the seeds were eaten or something else got to them, but I'm not deterred and will try again this year.  However, I won't be bothering with the brassiceae this year.  They need much more space than I have for them at the moment and it's a lot of time and effort producing such large plants that produced so little - well, in my garden at least.  Maybe I'll have a go in another year or so but not this year. At least that will leave me room to try growing something else.  My pumpkins didn't amount to anything either.  I got three really good little fruits on the go and then suddenly they just disintegrated.  I have no idea what caused it.  The mildew on the leaves didn't spread, so if anyone has any suggestions I'd really appreciate them.

Indoors, the kitchen became the wine-making HQ as I went on a frenzy to make enough for Christmas presents. In the end 11 bottles of  elderberry, 6 bottles of carrot and 6 bottles of sloe wine were labelled and wrapped as gifts - making Christmas a lot cheaper this year.  At the family Christmas there was a little tasting session of all of them and everyone said that the carrot was the best - yay! Personally I prefer the sloe but, although drinkable, I think it will be better in another month.

Not wanting to follow the norm, I named all my wines:  Old Fogey, Tortoise Tipple and Donkey's Treat.  I'll leave you to work out which one is which! I also added my own personal labels; lots of feathers, glitter etc. Well, I try to be creative.

Following on from that I've recently bottled the last wine;  It's called Squingah and is a mixture of......well, answers on a postcard please.............It should be ready to drink around May time.

Elderberry fermenting nicely
Not the best picture; it's paler and
less cloudy in real life!

So, goodbye 2011 and hello 2012!

Seeing as how Cornwall has had the least amount of snow compared to the rest of the country (I think there was a light dusting over Bodmin Moor) I've been able to get into the garden this weekend and begin the process of tidying up and preparing for this year's work.

The first thing I had to do was put a bark path alongside the log store. We may not have suffered the snow but the amount of rain we've had turned the earth path into a quagmire.  Later in the year I might improve it by turning it into a gravel path.

The raised beds have had some attention.  I've added compost over the top and hopefully the worms will do the rest.  Black plastic sheeting over the top should help keep them warm until planting begins.  The rhubarb was beginning to come up again (like so many other plants in the garden convinced spring is here) so I've popped a black bucket over it. I'm not convinced we're over the frosty period just yet so I've also lain straw around the base of the apple trees.  I didn't let them fruit last year so I'm looking forward to a good crop this year.

The rhubarb and soil protected against frost

The False Spirea thinks it's spring already!

Unfortunately, time got the better of me this winter and I've left it a bit late to get any decent amount of hedge-laying done.  Instead I began filling in some gaps in the hedge this weekend using hazel coppiced in winter 2010.  Snedding the branches and making stakes is possible now that I've bought myself a double-bladed billhook. I love my garden tools!

A natural fence underway using coppiced hazel

So now it's time to start thinking about what to plant this year.  All the inner cardboard from toilet and kitchen rolls have been saved over the months and are now making themselves useful as seed pots.  Today, I started off rocket 'runway'and spinach 'Samish F1' (I sowed seeds straight outside last year but got nothing) alongside tomato 'Sweet William F1' and some mixed leaf 'Spicy Oriental'.

cardboard rolls recycled as seed pots

Carrots, parsnips, beetroot and red onion will be attempted again this year along with chard and swede.  There's space for me to add another couple of beds and I'm tempted to just dig a couple of plots straight in the ground this time instead of raised beds.  It'll be interesting to see if the rabbits take any notice; they don't seem to have bothered to come that far down the garden.  Perhaps Jasper has something to do with that!

Well, that's enough for this evening.  Now that I'm 'back in the saddle' I'll do my best not to fall off again!