Monday, 30 March 2009

Busy Weekend

Well Saturday was a disappointment in the weather stakes. The icy wind cut through despite the sun, and when the showers came some were hail. I'd planted out 8 kohl rabi seedlings on Friday, so I hope they were sufficiently hardened off to cope, They look OK, and so far have not been attacked by slugs. We had a frost last night, the car needed scraping this morning.
Takae and I spent some time in the warmth cutting up 2l plastic drinks bottles, and circling them with copper tape. Vicky came up with the idea, so we had a trip to the garden centre to buy some, and I was also persuaded into some organic slug pellets. Based on iron, they stop the slugs feeding, and then they go underground to die. Sounds great, and Vicky is desperate to protect the kohl rabi. Anyway each plant is enclosed in a circle of copper, I just hope we haven't trapped any slugs inside!
The tops and bottoms were left a reasonable size, and we have used those as mini-cloches over 8 lettuce plants. I am going to put some of them in pots too, but I have quite a few seedlings so I decided to give some a go in the garden.
The Hurst Green Shaft peas are not showing yet, but some of the Meteors were just poking their heads through, so they have gone into the garden, against the fence. They are planted quite thickly, so I hope that will help them support each other, though I will put in some sticks to help them. I've put the rose cuttings over to try to disuade the cats, as the soil is lovely and soft, just as they like it. I also sprinkle some over the Stay Off granules around. They do help, but you need to keep applying them.
I noticed tiny red seedlings coming through between the raspberry canes, so the beetroot seeds I planted a while ago have germinated. Hopefully they will grow before the raspberries take over. Also I wish I could persuade the raspberries to grow their canes in the right place. I have little ones coming up in the rhubarb (which was delicious stewed and mixed with yogurt), and between the wooden deck squares I've used as stepping stones.
The count of parsnip seedlings is growing, I plant out each one as it pokes its head through. Hopefully the tap root will then grow straight, and I won't get forked parsnips, which are such a pain to prepare for dinner.
I am really trying to make a difference to the food bill this year, so I planted 10 french beans in pots on the kitchen windowsill. They are 'Speedy', so should produce quickly. My plan is to keep them indoors as long as I can manage, then put them out into the greenhouse (which is already bulging at the seems). French beans do not need bees to pollinate them, so they should do well as long as they do not get too cold.
My onions I planted in January do not look too promising, later on today I hope to transplant the best ones, so I might get a few. The plan was to use some as spring onions, and let the rest grow on, but at the rate they are dying off I won't have any left. I don't know if it's damping off disease, but they are the only seedlings with a problem, everything else is looking really healthy.

Inside I have been sprouting a lot of seeds for use in salads. My favourite are sunflowers. I buy the hulled ones now, I might have mentioned it before. It saves removing them from the husks once they have sprouted, a fiddly and horrible job. I am trying out a new idea I saw on the internet though, sunflower greens. After the seeds have spouted, you plant them in trays and harvest the seedlings at the first real leave stage, so they are not too tough. Apparently it takes about 7 days, but it might be longer for me, because they are outside in the PatioGro, so are colder. I'm not sure where people get these growing times from, it would be useful if they would publish the growing conditions to achieve salad leaves in 2 weeks, radish in 4 etc.

One of the camellias is coming out, and with the miniture daffodils in pots and the various primroses the garden is looking so colourful at the moment. As a follow on I have tulips, the alpine clematis and the fruit trees, they are all waiting in the wings , and I don't think it will be long until the show starts. The only thing is, I think I will then have a colour gap, because the hardy carnations in the back garden are not in bud, the ones in the garage garden look better.

In the garage garden I have put in some poppies and cornflowers. I am trying to disguise the veg a bit, so people do not give into temptation. The sweet peas I have planted around the nut bushes seem to have taken, but I need to decide where the others are going. I have pots in the greenhouse that really need to go out soon. So much to do still, I think I will close now, and go and get on with it.
Edit - I've put in some pics, but they won't stay where I want them too, so sorry for the mess!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Icy winds today

After a lovely few days of bright sun and warm (ish) days, today was a real reminder not to get too ahead of ourselves. The sun was shining, but the north wind was cold enough to cut you (and any tender seedlings) in half. I remember seeing runner beans last year in a diy store, but on SUnday there were some in a well known garden centre close to us. Madness!
However, talking of madness, the Dec 27th tomatoes have been out in the greenhouse for over a week now, and are doing fine. Even with a frost the other night, the fleece (and I have to admit, the fan heater on the frost free setting) seems to have done the job. There are flowers on 3 of them, so hopefully they will set. Acccording to info I found, it depends if the night time temperature is high enough for the pollen to remain viable, so fingers crossed. I counted up, I've 32 tomatoes, with room for about 8 inside permently.
The chillies are doing well too, I've 11 of those I think, and 6 peppers. (Yes I know I said last year I wasn't bothering, but well..) I did have 10 peppers, but when Amanda came round last week I gave her a couple of the orange bell, and a couple of canape (red). Hopefully she'll be able to get some fruit from them. She bought me a jar of her tomato chutney, absolutely delicious, and thats just from a spoon. I'm sure it's even better with cheese. Mine wasn't half as nice, so I need to get the recipie, ready for this autumn. She also gave me some Hurst Green Shaft peas and some Meteor. I soaked some of each overnight, then left them in my seed sprouter until the roots were just emerging. Some of the Meteor were sown in loo rolls, but the rest have had to make do with pots. The Hursts have gone into a deep trough (actually a recycling bin given back to us in mistake by the bin men, we left it out for a week, but the owner did not come and collect it so its been 'recycled'.
Contrary to what I'd been told, celeriac seed does last several years. I sowed the rest of the pack I had left over, and I reckon most grew! Takae pricked a load out for me, we now have 132 seedlings. The greenhouse is beginning to burst at the seams, what with the tomatoes, celeriac, sowings of lettuce, flowers, and parsnips in loo roll tubes (we just don't use enough). I haven't even got started with the more tender stuff like beans, courgettes and cucumbers yet.
In the garden things are moving on apace as well. In Takae I have a willing worker, she has dug over the beds for me, and we now have the bean sticks in position ready for sowing next month. It also lets me see what space we have available for other stuff.
In the garage garden the broad beans from last autumn have taken well, and even the new sowings, started off in the greenhouse, are looking good. The first 5 parsnips planted out seem to have grown bigger already, but there are no green shoots on the shallots yet. However the radish I sprinkled between them are coming through nicely. Those in the Patio Gro covered with the plastic cover are beginning to swell, so hopefully I'll be pulling some in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Wisley and what I've been up to in the week.

Last Saturday the meeting of the Grapes from the GYO Grapevine forum went really well. Most of us met around 11am, my daughter had made a lovely sign to tell people who we were. The weather was pretty good, in the sun it was really warm, but it blew up a bit cold in the afternoon. It was really busy, so others were a little later as they got stuck in the traffic jams, and had to park miles away. After a bit of a chat we went to see one of the first talks, but it was so busy we struck off in small groups to have a look around and meet up for lunch later. We needed 3 picnic tables moved together to fit us all in. Loads of people brought seeds to swap, giving us all a chance to try varieties we hadn't thought to buy, and swapping those we had too many of. It was lovely to meet people we had been talking to for months on the Internet, and we hope to go again later in the year, when the veg beds have something in, and the fruit trees have some leaves, and hopefully, fruit.
Despite being a bit out of it this week, with the medication making me very tired and confused, (several burned dinners didn't persuade anyone to take over for me), I have managed to get some stuff done in the garden. My 'test' tomato was alive and thriving after a week in the greenhouse, so yesterday I potted up all the others planted on 27th December. One even has a flower open, but it depends if the temperature is high enough for pollination to be successful.
I've planted the flower seeds I got from the seed swap. I noticed the aqualegia were supposed to be planted by 2000, so it will be interesting to see if I get any grow! I've also put in some french marigolds as they are good comapion plants to repel whitefly and aphids on tomatoes. There's also something called 'Flower of Peru', which lookes lovely on the seed packet, so fingers crossed.
The original parsnips were showing the tip of their roots out of the bottom of their loo rolls, so I've planted them outside. There's only 5 so far, but they're a month earlier than I put them in last year! I've planted more in the greenhouse, but they're not up yet. I also planted out the broad beans that finally showed themselves. The Claudia were more successful that the Express at germinating, so it will be interesting to see how they go on.
Amanda came to call yesterday, and generously gave me some pea seeds, as well as a jar of her homemade tomato chutney, yum! I've got hold of an interesting booklet with loads of recipies, if any ever make it to the kitchen; they usually get eaten straight from the plant.
She was going to give me a packet of celeriac, but as I planted the seeds from last year to see if they would grow, and I've now ended up with at least 120, we decided to save those for next year! I should have enough for any garden club members who are interested. As I had decided not to grow peppers this year, but ended up with 5 each of Orange bell and Canape (red), I passed 2 of each on to her, as well as a jar of chilli jam, as we still have loads left.
Takae pricked out a lot of the celeriac for me, as well as digging my side border, and putting compost in place for the beans yet to come. She said she really wants to learn about gardening, as she lives in an apartment in Tokyo with nowhere to grow things.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Into March Already

We've been enjoying a mild spell, but it's come to an end now. The night temperatures are supposed be down to freezing again, and some parts of the country, not us fortunately, are suffering snow again. One of my blueberries is already showing flower buds, althought the other one is not so far advanced, and one of my plum trees is beginning to burst its buds.
In the greenhouse the peach tree hasn't flowered, but it's not surprising as it was only a pip this time last year. The leaves are beginning to show, but it's still dodgy for peach leaf curl, so it will stay in until the end of March I would think. Apparently the danger time is when the leaves begin to expand. The lemon tree has come through the winter with all its leaves intact, last year I forgot to bring it in, and it lost the lot. Hopefully the small lemon will grow on, and the flower buds set fruit eventually. Home made lemon curd from this bush tastes nothing like that you buy from the shops.
I've got some celeriac seedlings (40!) pricked out and in an unheated propagator, as well as some more in the heated one. The auriculas which overwintered in the greenhouse are showing buds, so I think they will look good to replace the ornamental cabbages, which have finished now, in the outside pots. My second sowing of broad beans are not showing yet, which I'm a bit surprised about, but the parsnips that I germinated to test the seed are growing away in their loo roll tubes. I've found that the trays I grew my watercress in are a mass of new seedlings, despite being outside in all the weather over the winter. I've pricked out some into a seed tray and put them in the greenhouse to hopefully grow on a bit quicker.
The Patio Gro set has been built, and the troughs put into it. I think it's quite a bit warmer behind the greenhouse than in it, the seedlings have certainly moved faster since they were put into position. I think I will need to buy some more troughs though, it will take more than are supplied with it, so it seems a waste not to have it filled up. Sadly, even though Notcutts have some of the stuff for it on sale, it did not include spare troughs, so I will have to pay postage from the Internet.
In the 'Garage Garden', I've planted the shallots, although I wasn't best pleased to find one of the 10 rotten. In the process I found 2 more decent size parsnips. I've also been still eating my mooli, definitely worth growing, although some have got cabbage root fly. I make sure these bits are put in the bin, not the compost, as I don't want to give them the chance to mature in my garden. I also got rid of the old sage plant, taking some bits as cuttings in the meantime, and I've also got one in a pot in the back garden. However, the more the merrier, as it makes a delicious homemade sage and onion stuffing.
Finally indoors is being taken over with chilli, pepper and tomato seedlings. Well, the early sowings aren't really seedlings any more, as they have flower buds showing. I really need them to go into larger pots, which if I didn't have the cats wouldn't be such a problem. However I can see anything of any size would be thought of as a loo, and they are likely to just knock the smaller pots off any window sills. They don't stop going on them just because I put stuff there!
Busy week socially, Garden Club tonight, and then the Grapes Meet (online forum) at Wisley on Saturday. I'm aiming to take along some seeds in case anyone is interested. I still have quite a lot going spare. If the allotment initiative would move, I wouldn't need to get rid of so much!