Category Archives: Progress

Now we have drought!

Since my last post we’ve had almost a month of sunshine and no rain. Nice to have good weather at first and did help get the plants going after the poor spring, but now it has become rather annoying. It’s too hot to work in the garden after mid-morning and it never really cools down. To make things worse it has been a period of intense preparation for our ‘Open Gardens’ weekend recently so I needed to spend a great deal of time not just getting things ready, but thanks to the weather, I needed to spend a lot of time watering as well.

Anyway, although the Open Gardens has been and gone (with several hundred visitors over 2 days) I’m busy harvesting as well as watering.

So, how are the vegetable coming on I hear you say. Well I’ve managed to keep them watered well enough and many are now producing.

So here is a fairly complete description of the current veg situation.

The garlic, which were of two types, spring sown and autumn sown has survived  (bed 9) and rather oddly the spring sown variety was ready first and so already harvested  This variety has only produced small bulbs, they are all hanging in our outhouse now ready for use but so far not used so I don’t know about their flavour. The autumn sown variety is certainly ready, I just haven’t had time to do it yet so we’ll see….

Garlic harvest

Meanwhile I’ve put one of the courgette plants (atena variety) into the space left by the garlic plus a sweet pepper plant since I had several I needed to locate somewhere and it will act as an experiment like some of the others to see it they produce – with weather as it is I would have thought there was not excuse!

Atena Courgette in the foreground, garlic to the right and cucumbers plus courgette & cornichon above (see below)

Taking the bed next to the garlic (bed 11), the strawberries have produced a decent crop around 2 weeks ago but the dry weather has really affected them, despite watering, little or no fruit is to be found now and not many flowers.

Next is the bed connected to the strawberries, nearer the greenhouse (bed 10). This has a courgette (Green Griller), cucmber (Baby), a squash (F1 Hunter) and a ‘cornichon’ (small cucumbers, Vert de Paris) as well as the collection of dwarf and cannellini beans that finally germinated. The are just starting to produce. The courgette has already produced a couple, and the cucumber. The cornichon not quite and the squash has yet to flower.

Beans, courgette, cucumber & squash

Next to that bed is a bed of broad beans, in front of the greenhouse (bed 7). These are almost finished and we’ve had quite a few pods, in fact I’ve picked some today but some plants have been affected by blackfly, but not enough to be a big problem. They are a mixture of ‘Aquadulce’ and ‘De Monica’ but no real difference in the pods that I cansee.

Broad beans

Finally, on that side of the path is the ‘cold frame’ bed (i.e. covered with a glass door, bed 8). That has 2 cucumbers (? bought & Baby), cornichon (Vert de Paris) and a courgette (?, bought). I’ve had a couple of cucumber from the ? variety, likewise from the ? courgette. Also, the ‘baby’ cucumber has been producing (yes we have too many cucumbers just now!, and the courgette glut is about to hit….).

In the greenhouse I have 5 tomato plants in growbags, 5 pepper plants (one in a growbag, the others in pots. There is also a cucumber plant (mini F1, bought plant) trained up a cane, which I suspect has more or less finished producing after growing 3 cucumbers. The tomato plants are Alicante (x2), Cocktail (small fruit type, bought) and San Marzano (x2, large fruit, Italian type). The peppers are all plants bought in when I thought none of mine would germinate, Capino (x4) and Bell Boy. The peppers seem to be doing well with peppers on at least three of them, and the tomatoes all have plenty of fruit and should be ripening soon.

Greenhouse tomatoes with the pepper plant in the grow-bag nearest

On the other side of the main path, starting near the flower section, is a ‘salad’ bed (bed 1) with a couple of rows of ‘cut and come’ salad leaves (now probably past their best), some Lollo Rosso lettuce (bought as seedlings) and a row of pak choi just getting big enough to use. There is a row of mixed salad lettuce just coming through and a row of salad leaves that seems to have  mostly failed to germinate!

Salad bed with pigeon scaring CDs – there should be a row of seedlings nearest but the weather has meant poor germination

Next to that is a bed of mangetout peas (bed 2), some of which (Sugar Snap) were bought as seedlings when mine didn’t seem to be germinating. The others and a mixture of Oregon Sugar Snap and Sweet Horizon grown from seed. They have been producing for a couple of weeks now and are a very welcome addition to our meals.

Mangetout Peas

The next bed has a squash (F1 Hunter) and a courgette plant (Atena) (bed 3). However, the courgette has been severely got at, I suspect by pigeons and I have put some netting round it today. Part of the bed is occupied by pots of tulips and other bulbs ‘resting’.

Here is a harvest collected yesterday from cucumbers, courgette (Green Griller , Atena plus unknown) and broad beans

Harvest courgettes, cucumbers & broad beans

Beyond the blackcurrant bushes – the berries just getting ripe at the moment – is a bed with beans (bed 4), ‘fine’ beans (bought as seedlings, again when when mine weren’t germinating) and climbing beans (some ‘various’, and blue lake). The fine beans have been producing for a couple of weeks and the climbing beans have just started producing.

Beans – ‘Fine’ beans round the edge and climbing beans in the middle. The labels were to help visitors

The last bed has potatoes in it (Desiree, bed 5 ), and I imagine the crop won’t be too good after the dry weather, despite my watering.

Across from the potatoes is my raised ‘tank’ with carrots, but a poor showing this year despite several sowings, the rhubarb, which is doing really well and has produced several pickings and a container with more garlic waiting to be harvested.

The next bed  has cauliflower and cabbage plants (bed 6), both bought in as seedlings. The dry weather has affected these as well I think with the cauliflowers just beginning to show now. On the end of this bed is a grow-bag with three sweet pepper plants.

Cabbage on the right, cauliflower on the right with pepper plants in the grow-bag

Outside the greenhouse are two grow-bags with tomatoes and one pepper plant. There is a mixture of tomato types all bought as seedlings apart from the Gardener’s Delight – F1 Shirley (largish fruit), Outdoor Girl (many small fruit), Totem (bush type),  and a Bell Boy pepper, which has heavily attacked by slugs to start with and is just about recovered. There is also another unknown bush type tomato in a container.

Tomatoes outside the greenhouse

Finally, near the kitchen is a container with three tomato plants – Tumbling Tom (bush), Sunbaby (small fruit) and Sweet Aperitif (small fruit), bought in as seedlings.

Last of all here are two berry harvests, redcurrants (around 2kg) harvested a couple of weeks ago) and just yesterday gooseberries (around 750g) from one of the two bushes (the other not quite ready):

Redcurrants

Gooseberries

Phew! that’s all for now folks…..

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Basking in Spring Sun (mostly)

Gosh – is it a month since I laast posted – that’s terrible.

Anyway as you might imagine there have been a lot of developments over the last month especially as the weather has been mostly good, with a few exceptions. Indeed it’s been so sunny especially the last couple of weeks I’ve had to get the hose out and it has been used in earnest a few time. Having said that, we’ve had rain today (quite welcome actually) and it has been mostly cloudy the last couple of days, and tomorrow doesn’t look to be much better.

The really big effort has gone into the flower beds with loads of annual bedding plants going in and a fair sprinkling of perennials as well, especially as quite a few didn’t make it over the winter.

A couple of pics of the flower borders – it was cloudy so colours a bit dull

Right now the lupins are just coming into flower, which is good as it’s the first winter I’ve had lupins survive so well (after several previous plantings), and of course lots of the bedding plants are in flower.

Lupins really doing well this year

Meanwhile on the vegetable front I’ve just about recovered from the terrible germination period, only in some cases by buying in seedlings. Laughably, I now have too many courgette and cucumber plants as many of the second sowings germinated! Only one more of my tomato seeds produced though, a ‘gardeners delight’. Also causing me much embarrassment is the germination of several sweet pepper seeds after I’d already bought some seedlings – I’m trying to work out where I can put them and the courgettes/cucumbers since there isn’t room in the greenhouse.

Tomatoes outside the greenhouse – just the ‘gardeners delight’ to add…. (it’s in front of the blank opening

 

Tomato plants in the greenhouse – note the courgette/cucumber/squash plants in front, still to be relocated somewhere. There is a pepper plant and a cucumber growing to the left of the tomatoes as well (they are staying)

It’s the same story with dwarf/french beans where I’d bought a pack of seedlings then plenty of ones I’d sown (second batch) decided to appear so they are in two other beds now. At least the second sowing of the climbing beans produced seven seedlings, and they are already out in one of the beds. A third sowing looks like at least two more plants might become available.

Dwarf bean (bought in as seedlings) and climbing beans in the middle – just starting to climb

More dwarf beans….

More dwarf beans – the ‘tent’ on the right covers some courgette and cucumber plants just put in)

The mangetout peas have been a bit better and around ten plants ore out and already climbing up twigs, with another four or so almost ready to join them. I really need to plant another pot full now to keep things going.

Mangetout peas – two varieties – ‘Oregon sugar pod’ & ‘Sweet Horizon’

The salad area didn’t look too good, particularly as I couldn’t seem to find the time to do any sowing initially. So again I bought in some ‘lollo rosso’ lettuce seedlings to mean that I would have something at least, and now they are just about big enough to start harvesting some leaves. Subsequently I did plant three rows of mixed salad leaves from three different packets, and of those two have produced but the third nothing. Just the other day I sowed a row of ‘pak choi’ from an old pack of seed so we’ll see if any of those come up. A couple of rows of ‘rocket’ near the kitchen have produced one plant! I’ve resown one of the row to see it I can get some more…

Lollo rosso lettuce and two rows of ‘cut n come again’ salad leaves

The broad beans are now producing pods so some of the early ones should be big enough to eat in the next few days (the whole pod)

Broad bean plants – you can just see some small pods…..

My potatoes (desiree) are through now and have been earthed up as far as I can in the restricted bed:

potato plants looking good

Not pictured above are the courgettes and cucumber plants under the ‘cold frame’ (door), one of the plants has baby cucumber already.

Wildlife

The last review of the trail cams a couple of weeks ago revealed (apart from the cats) that hedgehog activity is pretty intense now, with at least two and probably three going backwards and forwards plus one sighting of a fox.

The birds have been active and there are at least two robin nests in the hedges, as I could hear the chicks and the robins were pretty keen to collect food from around me when I was gardening. The dunnocks seem to have nests as well somewhere in the hedges. No ‘unusual’ birds have appeared recently though but the dunnocks, tits and robins are all going through mealworms at a great rate.

 

Seemed Like Summer – Briefly

Temperatures last week got into the mid-20’s degC for a couple of days and for most of the week it was really too hot to spend a lot of time in the garden during the middle of the day and the greenhouse was unbearable! Previously since my last post the weather had been cold and rainy so it was quite a dramatic change.

Despite all that there has been progress, though not as much as would have normally taken place by this time of year and some aspects are really behind.

So, what’s been done? Well the tomatoes that had germinated are now in a grow-bag in the greenhouse, rather three are in on and one in a second. Until today that was the sum total of vegetables planted in their final place. However, a burst of activity today saw me planting potatoes (‘desiree’) in the furthest bed and some cabbage and cauliflower seedlings in the bed alongside the greenhouse. I’m sorry to say I bought the brassicas from a DIY centre, well I’ve never had a lot of success with brassicas but last years cauliflowers gave me some hope. Those plants came from seedlings bought in the same place, so when I saw some this year I though they might be worth a go and they mostly fill a bed up. I’ve put one of my new larger cloches over most of them and those that didn’t fit under have clear plastic bottle halves over them to act as mini-greenhouses.

Three of the tomato plants safely in the growbag  (the fourth one is now in the bag in front)

Apart from that the seed germinating situation hasn’t been going too well with so far not too many of the vegetable seeds I’ve planted over the last month showing any signs yet. Some of the seeds sown a while back have produced though, the coriander (in a pot) is through and one! mangetout pea has appeared. The same sort of story is true for the flower seeds, though I do have some cosmos seedlings which were in a tray and now transplanted into individual pots. A second sowing in a half tray of sunflower ‘teddy bear’ (new seed) has produced a few seedlings.

Rather sadly one of the two cucumbers that had germinated and been re-potted into larger pots didn’t make it through one of the cold nights in the greenhouse so only one now. More seeds have been planted, and some from a new packet (‘cornichon’ baby cucumber ‘vert petit de paris’ – one has just germinated) plus I’ve planted squash (butternut F1 hunter) which I haven’t tried before and some french/dwarf beans as well as a couple of climbing beans. More tomatoes seeds also mostly of the smaller types (‘garnet’ & ‘sweet aperitif’) and some ‘gardeners delight’. Also sown and waiting for some to show are basil, russian tarragon. I’ve also, sown some carrots in the old tank I’ve used before (Nantes & )

The broad beans now – the slowest growing are the ones sown in the Autumn! (the furthest away)

Meanwhile the bedding plants bought online and at the DIY centre are piling up. I keep being surprised by deliveries of plants arriving at the house that I forgot I ever ordered – then having to hastily pot them up into big pots or matrix trays (which I had to do for 36 geraniums in the greenhouse heat last week!). I have made a start on clearing the borders ready for them now. It’s a shame but I’ll be pulling up a load of self-seeded forget-me-nots during the week. Normally they would be just about finished before I needed to clear them out but this year the weather has delayed them somewhat but they will just have to go.

A selection of flowers and veg seedlings under the ‘cold frame’

I did finally get round to mending the damaged raised bed at the end of last week so that’s now ready for action – though on my plan it has ‘TBD’ against it….

The repaired raised bed. The lone plant is a phlox which somehow managed to escape replanting last year – now planted in the flower border. Note the replacement side is higher quality timber – more or less accidental but there wasn’t much choice

Feels Like Spring – Again

Now as I write this (Thursday 29th) it feels like spring, it is sunny right now, but we had -1degC last night and this weekend promises to be cold again, though not as bad a previous events!

All this meant that as I had put the cucumber seedlings into the greenhouse the other day, I had to move them onto the bench with a tube heater under to make sure the frost didn’t zap them. This morning they ;looked a little sad but did seem to have survived.

Well whats been done since my last post? Starting with the last couple of days I’ve been busy potting on 72 bedding plants (gazania & bidens) which arrived as tiny plantlets in their little plastic holders and had to be potted into something pretty much straight away.

Since only 2 cucumber seeds germinated, botth the same type (baby), I’ve planted the remaining seeds from the ‘burpless’ variety in a pot (in the kitchen) to see if I can persuade them to produce.

The flower seeds in one of the heated propagators – 4 pots of various sweet peas and 4 pots of various sunflowers haven’t produced much unfortunately. there are  only 7 sweet pea seedlings (out of a possible 16) and no sunflowers. So I’ve sown some more sunflower seeds (teddy bear) and they are in the kitchen with the cucumbers in a plastic bag – hopefully a better environment.

Sweet pea seedlings at the back – sunflower pots nearest with no seedlings!

It’s not the only failure, a half tray of cosmos (2 varieties) in the lounge near the french window have not produced anything. A second half tray, split between nicotiana and rudbeckia, has produced just 8 rudbeckia seedlings – not very good at all.  new batch will need to be sown pretty soon though and I think I will need some new seed.

Also, I’ve sown some coriander in a pot in the greenhouse to see if they produce (oldish seed so not sure of the viability). Plus a pot of mangetout peas (oregon sugar snap) so hopefully to get peas soon…

Also, I’ve now plated out the remainder of the broad bean seedlings into the bed, which is now full (see below)

Broad bean bed now full – mostly ‘De Monica’ nearest and ‘Aquadulce the further half

Last week I had a good go at the ivy and branches of the old pear tree in the middle of the veg garden, hopefully before any serious bird nesting has occurred (the ivy is pretty thick around the trunk and is nested in every year) – it needs to be kept trim so there is less shadow over the beds in the summer.

The garlic bed is now looking pretty good now I’ve filled it up:

Garlic bed – 2 types, bigger plants were planted last year

Finally, I have taken the time to try and properly plan the raised bed contents so I have an idea what other seeds to buy, if any. More on that later when I’ve had time to properly document it.

The very first raised bed I constructed (from a kit, had kale in it last year) suffered some damage to one side over the winter, basically one side has rotted enough to more or less fall off, so I’ve mad a start at moving the soil away so I can add a new side, just needs me to buy the wood now!

Broken side of raised bed

I found some rather large fancy cloches/cold frames in a local shop recently – unfortunately slightly shorter than the raised beds and slightly wider than half the width, but they were a bargain and are over a couple of the beds now – we’ll see how useful they are.

New cloche/cold frame (green) with my old cloches nearest

I think I know which bed the potatoes will go in, and the ‘chitting’ potatoes (desiree) on a tray in the greenhouse have shoots on, but still pretty small, with the weather still pretty poor I guess I won’t plant until after Easter any way.

Wildlife

A review of one of the trail cameras at the bottom of the garden revealed that at least one hedgehog is active. which is encouraging

Another surprise turned up on the bird ground feeder the other day – I took some photos of a bird with my zoom camera, not because I recognised it but it just seemed to be behaving differently from the usual robin or dunnock. Then when I looked at the photo  I could see it was a blackcap (after I’d consulted my ‘bird book’) – as the photo was taken through the kitchen window it isn’t as sharp as it could be but here it is:

A surprise blackcap

 

 

 

After a week of gardening – Winter Returns!

As I write this first draft (Sunday 18th)  there is a covering of snow on the garden and a temperature of -1degC! Yesterday I was working in the garden in a temperature of 12degC. Quite some contract. We now have a ‘mini-Beast from the East’ affecting our weather this weekend.

Broad bean bed after snow!

As I mentioned, during the week it was fine and I managed to get a few jobs done in the garden. Threee more raised beds are now clear of weeds, had some pelleted chicken manure added and some ex-growbag compost added (if soil level was low enough). That leaves the bed with kale in to sort out – it has some damage to the retaining plank along one side that needs a repair. The only other bed not touched so far is the one nearest the house. That bed has had carpet over it for most of the winter so should n’t need much weeding, though it may need topping up with compost.

The beds here are clear of weeds – honest!

As far as plants and seeds go, the first lot of broad bean seedlings are now in the bed with the seedling from the overwintered plants. I’ve filled in the gaps of the ‘Aquadulce’ seedlings with the ones from the greenhouse – and they look a lot better than the plants from the autumn sowing. The other seedlings were ‘De Monica’ and they are all in. The bed isn’t yet full but there is another tray of broad beans just coming through in a greenhouse propagator. I was thinking of turning the power off but it’s just as well that I didn’t!.

Broad bean bed – with some of new seedlings in. All are now in

The picture above shows how much better it is to start the plants in pots rather than planting beans in the autumn…..

Meanwhile in the kitchen I have tomato seedlings through and cucumber as well. They rather took me by surprise, I hadn’t bothered to look inside the plastic bag covering the post (it wasn’t a clear one) and when I did the other day was rather surprised to find the seedlings already a bit etiolated and about 2 inches tall. Now the cover is off they are looking a bit more normal. Basically it is a 50% germination, 2 each of the tomato seeds (I think I put 4 in each pot) and 2 cucumber seedlings (‘Baby’) in one pot, the other (Burpless’) none so far. The tomatoes are ‘Alicante & ‘San Marzano’.

Kitchen seedlings just after bag taken off. The cucumber seedlings are upright now!

There is a tray of sweet peas in the other propagator and yesterday it looked as if they were starting to come through – well a couple at least.

More updates soon – as I finish this on Tuesday the snow is all gone and temperatures as high as 8degC today so there is some chance of getting something done in the garden again…..

Just to provide a bit of spring – here is a daffodil (taken before the snow):

 

The Beast has gone – gardening can begin

The ‘Beast from the East’ is no more!

Yes over the last couple of days all the snow hereabouts has melted (still lots in the N and Scotland). The temperature has risen enough to work outside and in the greenhouse – 10 degC outside yesterday and it reached the heights of 17 degC in the greenhouse!

So got round to a few jobs yesterday. and the day before I’ve planted more broad beans both ‘De Monica’ and ‘Aquadulce’. They maay be needed as I can see some gaps in the rows out in the raised bed now the snow has gone.

The broad beans in pots are now out of the propagator and in a tray and some of them are pretty much ready to plant out in the next few days. More shoots have appeared, so the germination rate looks rather better than when I last posted.

Being rather hopeful I’ve also planted some cucumber seeds – ‘Burpless Tasty’ and ‘Baby’ which are now in pots on the kitchen window ledge. Also in the same tray are a couple of pots of tomatoes (new seeds bought a couple of weeks ago) – ‘Alicante’& ‘San Marzano 2’ (rather like Pomodoro).

On top of that I’ve planted some flower seeds – sweet peas, several varieties and half a small tray of geranium and cosmos – in a half tray and inside the house inside a plastic bag by a window.

I’ve also finally cleared the ‘salad’ raised bed and covered it with my rather old long cloches – current plan is to plant beans in that bed (was a garlic bed last year) but I may yet change my mind…

Even though temperatures have risen, the daffodils in my bed of bulbs haven’t recovered yet, still look very sad.

Sad daffodils – knocked down by the frosts

Some spring flowers are out though, berengia (elephant ears) of course, plus some pulmonaria and at the bottom of the garden primroses (see below).

Pulmonaria

Berengia – ‘Elephants Ears’

Primroses

Still plenty of clearing up and other work to be done in the garden yet though!

Not much gardening outside just now!

We have been hit by the ‘beast from the east’ so gardening outside is a bit tricky just now! The picture bellow illustrates the situation.

A snowy garden!

You can just see the garlic shoots….

Meanwhile in the greenhouse, the germination rate of the broad beans doesn’t look too good – as you can see below so far only a few are through (2 beans per pot planted). Bearing in mind this weather (-5degC overnight and not above zero during the day) is going to continue for a few more days I’ll try and plant some in pots and keep them on the kitchen window ledge otherwise I’m going to be a bit short of plants once the weather clears….

There are loads of other seeds I should be planting but it will just have to wait until the cold snap ends.

Broad bean seedlings in the greenhouse – still some to appear

Wildlife

The birds are finding it hard of course – I’ve had to go out twice today already to add more mealworms and seed – most of of first lot were eaten, but some on the ground feeder were buried by more snow. One of the blackbirds was so desperate it worked out how to get into the ant-squirrel cage (see top pic) which up to now hadn’t managed to do.