Friday, 30 May 2008

Nematodes go, go go....

I only ordered the Nemaslug 2 days ago, and it arrived today. The neighbours must have thought me mad if they saw me out watering the garden after all the rain we've had. I don't know if they re-formulated the carrier, but I found it didn't clump together so much as last year, although I still mixed it to a smooth paste before adding it to the large quantity of water. I also made a coarse rose for my watering can by enlarging the holes in my plastic rose with a corkscrew. I've still got my fine metal one, so I can use that for watering seeds etc.
After watering on the nematodes, I then watered again to make sure that any left on the leaves were washed into the soil. I just hope it isn't too wet for them. The radish I planted on Sunday are already poking through, so it will be interesting to see the amount of slug damage I get on them. It should be much less by the time they start to swell. I do think my red lettuce has been attacked less by the slugs than the green though, so that is something to take on board in the war against the horrible slimy things.
I also decided to site a black dustbin on the drive, and I've filled it with water from the water butts in the garden. This will be useful for watering the garage garden, and also makes more room in the water butts if it rains again, which, looking at the sky, seems quite likely. I will find it quite strange to be back at work next week, after being able to potter in the garden for the past 3 weeks (when I felt well enough!)

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Slugs, no snails!

Since the torrential rain of the past few days, the slugs have declared war, and have been feasting on any small tasty plant they can find. My radishes are a favourite with all the enemy, from the tiny black ones to the large creamy white ones. I have some nemaslug on order, nematodes that are watered into the ground, and then they attack the slugs. As most slugs live below ground these little critters are pretty efficient at seek and destroy missions, although there are a few things that can cause problems. They find it difficult to move through clay soil, and the ground has to be kept moist. We will probably get a drought now, just as they arrive!

If you decide to give them a go you can order packs online, but check not only the price, but the delivery costs too. Some places deliver free, others charge as much as £4. I usually get mine from Greengardener. They have always been reliable, will happily discuss any problems you have, and even sent out replacement packs when my sister and I felt the nematodes hadn't killed many slugs. When they arrive they must be kept in the fridge and as they are living creatures, they have to be applied within 2 weeks. You do need a coarse rose for the watering can though, as it can easily get blocked with the carrier substance they use. If you do have snails as well as slugs the website says customers have reported less snails too, but there are no official claims that they are effective against them.

I spent quite a while yesterday sorting plants from the greenhouse into their final pots. All the courgettes and patty pans are now planted up; it will be interesting to see how Cavil do. This is a quote from the Thompson and Morgan Website "Unique parthenocarpic habit (ability to set fruit without pollination), therefore adverse weather, poor light levels and a lack of pollinating insects does not affect cropping performance!" By the way, they appear to still have their half price seed sale on at the moment, if anyone out there is interested.

The potatoes bines are trying to take over the world, and many are coming into flower, which is supposed to be a sign the tubers are forming underground. I have found in the past it is best to give them a bit longer if you want a decent crop, but as usual I am dying of curiosity to see how we have done this year. Homegrown new potatoes, yum!!

I am really pleased with the home grown watercress so far. It keeps trying to flower, but I'm picking off the shoots so regularily that it doesn't really get a chance, except for the pot I am growing for seed production. I suppose I could also plant up some of the shoots as they root really easily at the leaf joint, but I don't know if it will be possible to keep it going through the winter, so seeds are an insurance policy. Salads at the moment rely heavily on radish, watercress and lettuce; it will be lovely when the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers join the line up.

Flowers wise, the climbing rose took a battering from the storms, but is still covered with lovely scented blooms. I need to get the secateurs out and deadhead for repeat flowers. Vicky's Ice Cream rose is a bit later this year, as a lot of the early growth died off for some reason, but is finally showing small buds. I've planted up the fuchsias and geraniums, together with the free scented begonias sent from Thompson and Morgan. I am pleased I didn't pay for them though, only 4 out of 6 grew! I've pushed the boat out and ordered some half price double petunias, which I adore, and some patio growing bags, which have handles so they are easy to move around. I was wondering if they would be big enough to put some of the dwarf peas into.

In the 'garage garden', the currants are looking good, it will be interesting to see if they are left alone, or if anyone has the nerve to steal them. I've put the yacon out now, it seems to me there is a lot of growing to be done before it reaches the 5ft mark, but hopefully it will do well. There are a few parsnips and beetroot coming in between the marker radishes, and the carnations I put in at the front look well. The follow on broad beans seem to have established as well, the rain certainly helped there. My globe artichokes have put on a lot of leaf, but although all the books talk about them producing offsets, mine seem reluctant to do so, there's still only one growing point to each plant. My sage bush, which I intended to get rid of this year because it was looking a bit tired, is now coming into flower, so it can have a reprieve for now. I've got a couple of replacement cutting rooted, so I might take the opportunity to resite it.

I'm dithering over whether to plant out the surviving lavender seedlings in their hedge positions, or to leave them in the pots a bit longer. After the success of germinating so many, and giving most away, disaster struck in the form of Daniel a few weeks ago. I had put some of them under the BBQ for a bit of protection, and he didn't think to move them when he lit it. Anyone want some lavender with their burger?

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Water, water

If you ignore the mess in the garden, you can see the amount of rain we've had overnight, I now have a river instead of a path!
Yesterday the ground was so dry, but I had used up all the water in the butts again, and as I was keeping my cat it, carrying water through the house, or setting up the hosepipe, was not really an option. As you can see, I think all the plants are now getting a good drink.
I had planted my courgettes into their final pots, and had them dotted around the garden, but the wind blew up so strongly last night that one snapped right through. Dan moved the others back into the greenhouse for me overnight.

Amazingly, my radishes have been successful this year, I wonder if it was because I have planted them in a more open space, my 'garage garden', as I call it. Some people have questioned the wisdom of using the space for edible crops, but if anyone helps themsleves, well they do, and at least it's given me more space and opportunities. The slugs have got in a few nibbles of the radishes, but as you can see, they are still reasonable. I've also been harvesting lettuce and watercress regularly.

The rhododendron, which I have in a large pot, is looking a bit bedraggled today, but I took this picture last week. Considering it was a rescue plant, found by my sons dumped at the roadside around 6 years ago and carried home to me, because they were sure I wouldn't want it to die, I am very pleased with the show.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Grapes Galore

My grapevine, planted as a cutting 3 years ago, has loads of tiny grape flower bunches on it. Some laterals have 3 bunches! Last week I tied all the laterals in to the trellis, but I'll now need to go out and prune each one back. It seems a bit harsh, but Hessayon says with a young vine to limit bunches to 1 per lateral, so I'll have to bite the bullet. The vine has 2 main rods growing horizontally about 9 inches from the ground. Last year I retained some of the vertical grow, and its from these that the fruiting shoots are growing. It covers a 6ft square heavy duty trellis placed in front of my greenhouse, the idea being natural shade in the summer when it's needed, and in the winter the light gets in because there are no leaves on the vine. The only problem is that I have trouble reaching the top, as I'm only 4ft 11! The wooden step stool from Ikea comes into use in the garden as well as the kitchen :) The grape is Himrod, a seedless white, which ripens outside about the end of Sept. I bought the parent around 18 years ago, and it has moved with me, in the guise of cuttings, ever since. The original was planted in a 12 by 8 greenhouse, and we used to get loads of grapes. Hopefully we will be more settled now, and this one can get really established.

Its cloudy today, so hopefully we might get a useful amount of rain to fill the water butts. The yacon could also do with going into the garden, Dans might do that for me later when he gets back from school. I'm feeling much frailer than I thought I would, but I suppose if the standard time off for the procedure I underwent is a week, and lots of people need more time, I can't complain yet. I haven't even felt like going out and doing anything in the garden, which is a measure of how yucky I feel!

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Back at last

After wishing for a wet and windy Bank Holiday last week, so I wasn't depressed by having to spend the weekend marking, I was pleased to find the weather was good. So many of my pupils missed their final deadline that I had little to mark. It did make for a very stressful week this week though, with work being submitted right up t0 5pm on Thursday, and I had to have everything marked, with a sample for moderation ready by Friday lunch time!
Anyway, back in time to last weekend. Fed up with the persistent puddle in the corner of the greenhouse, and unable to place the tomatoes properly without them sitting in it, I invested in a gravel flooring. I have made it about 4 inches deep, to the top of the greenhouse base. Hopefully it will retain the moisture in summer to help with humidity, and warm things up in winter. I still have the flagstone up the middle, so there is a stable path.
I planted out some of my runner beans, and the French climbers. Miraculously they have all survived, no slug damage at all. I also potted up the cucumbers and courgette plants. Why is it when you plant extras they all grow, but if you plant just what you need, they don't? I now have 8 strong courgettes and 4 healthy looking cucumbers, as well as my peppers and chillies to find space for. I counted up that I really need at least an extra 6 large pots, although if we eat the lettuce quicker some of those will be vacant. But wait, what about the small ones coming along? Sigh!
I was trying to work out where my later sowing of broad beans should go, there's no space at all! I thought of putting them up the fence, under the fan trained cherry, but then realised the feathery foliage was the free anemonies I had planted last month! I've still got 30 celeriac plants to find homes for too. Daniel told me it was hopeless when I asked him how I could re-arrange the pots so I could get my comfy chair outside next week while I am recovering from a minor (I hope) operation!
You won't believe, after all the rain we've had, how quickly the garden is drying out. With so many pots I have already emptied both water butts, so now it will be back to tap or recycled water. With the outside tap at the front of the house, and being in the middle of a terrace, watering is not easy. I won't be able to fill up cans and carry them next week, so I had to buy a new hose pipe today. It is on a reel, and the idea is to connect it to the front tap, run the hose through the kitchen window, and out of the back door. That way we shouldn't get any drips of water in the house itself. I always seem to slop it out of the watering can when I carry it through anyway. The other idea is to save all the shower water in the bath, then siphon it out to the water butts. We did that the year before last, when we had the drought. The only problem is that the bathroom is actually in the middle of the house, so the pipe has to go through the back bedroom window and down the conservatory roof to get to the patio! Still everything did well that year, even the camellias, so well worth it.
I'm really pleased that we've finally had useful amounts of salad stuff from the garden. Barbeques 2 days running have been supplemented by home grown lettuce (red and green), as well as watercress. I also sacrificed a couple of the weedier looking garlic plants to make some garlic bread. They looked rather like spring onions, but chopped and blended with the butter in the food processor they made a green speckled paste that worked well with the french bread.
Tomorrow I hope to get most stuff planted into the bigger pots so they are easier to care for and earth up the potatoes for the last time. They need plenty of water in the heat we've been having.