Monday 30 March 2009

Sowing the seeds of success

Well hopefully. Although I've got to say it's a slow start - probably not warm enough for seeds to germinate properly and, as a result, not much is showing in the veg plot at home. Of all the things I've sown so far only the radish and broad beans are doing anything.

But onwards and upwards. With so much to do in the garden - and keeping true to my word (so far), not spending as much time as usual in front of the computer screen - I decided to take a day off work today. I also needed to recharge the batteries as the RHS website is going through a major overhaul and it's exhausting.

I spent a few hours on the allotment, doing some more weeding and tidying up. I also planted out a Coronet family apple tree, which came courtesy of Springfield Nurseries in Ireland. This joins the other two Coronets, which fruited magnificently last year.

Because things aren't germinating at home I've decided to give sowing on the allotment a miss at the moment. But at least the onions, garlic and shallots are making a breakthrough. And the potatoes are chitting nicely at home waiting to be planted out, probably - to keep things traditional - at Easter.

Instead we've decided to sow things in pots and modules here and then transplant them into the allotment later. So, there's three trays of leek 'Jaune de Poitou' (a lovely early yellow variety), one each of beetroot 'Burpees Golden Globe' and kale 'Nero di Toscana' and another follow-on crop of broad bean 'The Sutton'.

I've also put in a few more rows of salad crops outside at home - it must be warm enough now surely (but I've covered them with fleece just in case!) including carrot 'Early Nantes 2', radish 'Zlata' (a golden-yellow variety), cos lettuce and red-veined sorrel.

And I decided to sow a Westland Horticulture Instant Planter in the greenhouse with more cos lettuce (should grow quicker than outside), rocket and some salad leaves from the new collection from Lakeland.

But all good things must come to an end - I've now got to get ready to give a talk to a local(ish) gardening club. It's one I've never been to before, but they sound a friendly bunch and I always enjoy giving talks.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Spring on the allotment

True to my word, Sunday was spent on the allotment. Although we've had a slow start and didn't go there for weeks for one reason or another, I'm amazed at how good it looks. Hardly any weeds, and what there were came out really easily.

The main reason for going was to (finally) plant out the garlic, shallots and onion sets - both red and white.

We'd also been given a couple of blackcurrant 'Big Ben' bushes by Suttons and these needed planting out. This spectacular new blackcurrant has huge fruit - double the size of other varieties - and is very high yielding too. The fruits are produced early in the season and are sweet and juicy. Plants show good resistance to mildew and leaf spot.

After a spot of weeding and tidying up we'd more or less finished for the day - apart from harvesting a whole load of leeks, a load of cut daffs and some pretty unspectacular celeriac. They may have looked unspectacular but they have made some really delicious cream of celeriac soup.

It was interesting to see who and how the other plots had changed. The plot run by the school kids had disappeared and the gravel and raised beds were replaced with a standard plot. The greenhouse a few plots down had been completely de-glazed - apparently by the lovely youth of the area! New people had started two plots up from us - Clare picked them a bunch of daffs as a welcome present. But there was one standard - Bruce the site guardian - and his cultivator. His plots are the most cultivated anywhere, but he loves to rotovate other plots too if you let him. He can never understand why we say no. But we can never understand why he likes rotovating couch grass!

Sunday 15 March 2009

Spring resolutions under way

My new spring resolution - spend more time gardening not thinking about it, is working a treat. Yesterday I spent most of the day in the garden or doing things connected with gardening. Although, the spanking the Red Devils took from the Scousers did split up the day and make me sit indoors enduring torture - plus the texts from Liverpool supporting friends.

Most of the gardening time was spent making a start on getting the veg garden up and running.
The garden frame has been sitting on the raised beds all winter, so the soil was lovely and warm and welcoming for some early crops. So an early row of rocket, a row of beetroot 'Detroit' and one of lettuce 'Stoke' (a variety from the Heritage Seed Library) have joined the broad beans sowed last week.

Outside I put in a row of salad onion 'White Lisbon', Continental salad mix, radish 'Amethyst', celtuce and carrot 'Egmont Gold' (another from the Heritage Seed Library) plus some 'Early Purple Sprouting' broccoli in a seed bed.

I'm also testing a new product - the Seedbed Roll from The Master Herbalist. The company produces a couple of different types and I've used the English Summer Salad - a mix of lettuce and salad leaves. This is a professional way of growing veg that is meant to produce better and faster germination, stronger growth and needs less water and no chemical controls. The seed comes pre-sown on a biodegradable paper mat that is covered in a clear layer of compostable film that conserves moisture and warmth and acts like a propagator. It'll be interesting to see how it performs.

Finally, Clare and I set up our exotic veg seed sowing production line - filling pots, firming compost, writing labels, sowing seeds, covering with vermiculite and watering. We've sown our first batch of indoor tomatoes, aubergines, sweet and chilli peppers, basil and courgettes. Last year we sowed too much too early and all in one go - this year we're doing things more carefully and steadily to prevent the seedling mountain we suffered last year.

Well, The Archers omnibus has just finished, the sun is shining and it's a proper spring day out there, so we're off to the allotment. Twice in quick succession - the allotment won't know what hit it! But there's lots to do and we've got onions, shallots and garlic to plant as well as some new fruit trees and bushes.

Sunday 8 March 2009

Stir crazy

At least I think I might be going that way. What with an excess of work, excesses of weather and the fact that the EU decimal 100-hour day hasn't yet been introduced, I haven't had much/any/enough time in the garden recently.

Last weekend I managed a couple of hours - much of which was spent dealing with/tidying up the ivy-covered tree stump that came down in the snow; luckily it hadn't done much damage - apart from bending the frame of the lean-to greenhouse a tad. The lawn had its first cut of 2009 too, after nearly killing myself with the annual raking and scarifying. I even managed to sow a couple of rows and a couple of trays of broad beans, including an old heirloom variety called 'Martock'; don't know it, never grown it, but who cares!

Today was definitely - "right, I'm going to the allotment whatever happens" day; bad choice really. Apart from the fact that it was blowing a gale, it started raining/sleeting/hailing/snowing and was just flippin' cold. Never mind, I got quite a bit of tidying up done and even dug over quite a lot of it too. Message to self: must spend more time there this year; message from self: then don't take on lots of other/new projects as well.

Now, if only the clocks would go forward and that 100-hour day was introduced...!