Sunday, 10 April 2011

Something's eating my radishes

Progress has been made in the garden, and we've inspired the neighbours to get some raised beds. This is, apparently, the green side of the street!
This picture shows the garden two weeks ago.. I have, unfortunately, started multiple jobs and not really finished any of them, though the veggies are the first thing I always start with - to make sure I'm planting when I should be and keeping an eye on any weeds.. My square feet gardens are taking shape, and I'm using two rectangular pot side by side to create 2x2 gardens for leeks and carrots that need deeper soil. The plastic covers are held on by bungee cord - which stops them flapping about in the wind. I've also kept a triangle of fleece on each garden during the day to provide a little bit of shade for any new seedlings that have been planted out.
Other than the veg, the main tasks have been to start to create a bed out of a boggy patch right outside the backdoor, and to cut branches off the trees that are crowding the garden. The boggy patch needs improving as we have clay soil, so I've been turning the soil over and incorporating compost & vermiculite - but it's hard going and not yet complete. Cutting branches down left a huge pile of scrub and branches in the middle of the garden that needed sawing up and disposing of.
This picture above was last weekend, with the work party who were tempted to come and help out with the offer of a roast dinner. This left my kitchen floor rather muddy as I ran in and out of the house combining gardening and cooking. They also brought tools with them that I don't have - a brush cutter, and a chipper (that I've kept hold of for the moment) which meant that we attacked a huge bush in the front garden that was threatening to take over the driveway, made a huge dent in the pile of wood and scrub in the back garden, repotted the heathers in the "frost-proof" pots that cracked and fell apart, repotted the clematis that I'd dug up from the old garden with an obelisk for it to climb, and got some onion sets and potatoes planted.. Something has been nibbling at my radishes and broccoli - but it's not caterpillars or slugs or snails...

Yesterday I spent most of the day in the back garden, and am a little bit pink as a result.
I spent a bit of time with the square feet gardens, thinning out any seedlings that needed it - SFG recommends station sowing and then snipping any additional seedlings that come up, rather than pulling them out as that can disturb the roots of the remaining plants. I also planted some additional leek , pea and onion seeds where the seedlings had either died after transplanting, or hadn't come up. New sowings included climbing french beans, peas, leeks and lettuces. I had a discovery yesterday - I have been finding sowing difficult because I soak the seeds first and then they stick to your fingers and don't fall in the hole. Yesterday I picked the seeds up with a small stick and then washed them into the holes with a little water.. Some of the potatoes have started to peek through, so I've been earthing them up. Our first harvest was the thinnings of the lettuces I planted a few weeks ago - so we had those leaves in our sandwiches at lunchtime. Finally the gnomes are outdoors and guarding my veggies.
I finished off the pile of wood - adding the chippings to a bed at the end of the garden, discovered a patio that had been covered in soil, and mowed the lawn for the first time since we moved. Next job is to start levelling the lawn - hmmmmm..

Saturday, 5 March 2011

A new space to play in - so much space!

Although I haven't written a post in a while I have been busy planting flower seeds each weekend, and doing my best to keep the seedlings alive. This has been the background garden activity while we have been moving house. I was fierce with my threats to the removals men that if they damaged my plants there would be hell to pay, and from their face it's clear that I have turned into "Crazy Plant Lady". Some seedlings did not survive the move, but I am pushing on and trying to persevere. I think the final number of plants per packet of seeds will be minimal in all honesty!
So now I have a new garden to play in, but we only be here temporarily so my challenge is to improve it without spending too much cash on things we can't take with us. The new space is so much bigger than my last garden that my collection of pots now looks rather lonely!
Thanks to my Mum and Dad, some progress has been made (in the rain): a water trap for under the garden tap to stop a big muddy puddle forming, lots of branches and undergrowth removed, and lots of Mel's mix made up for my square foot gardens. Birthday presents have included some climbing roses and a planter with trellis attached for them to grow up (very clever), and so they are planted too.
This week I've planted some leeks outdoors, and indoors - some tomato and pepper seeds, and some lettuce seeds to replace the tiny plants that died in the move.
My biggest enemy is a very fat squirrel that has dug up bulbs in my containers (so I've covered every pot with pebbles to stop that), attacked my bird feeder, and is now trying to steal horticultual fleece to line it's nest.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

The fight against dying seedlings continues..

So this week, the seedlings that I had lovingly sprinkled cinnamon on were doing ok, but the soil was developing a whitish hue.. More internet research required, and the opinions were that sprinkling vermiculite on top of the soil would help (why I'm not sure of the science of) but regular fans of the Gardening on the Move blog (!) will remember that I have more vermiculite than you can shake a stick at, having ordered wholesale, so I've tried that. They also were saying that a lack of air movement can also contribute to fungus forming, so I've bought a small fan and a timer to give the seedlings some breeze.
As well as all this, I've spent a good amount of time chopping at my compost heap with a spade to encourage it to break down, and of course turning it over to get some air into it..
I've also laid out my potatoes so that they will start chitting - I've bought some sacks to plant them in - and have bought Epicure, Charlotte and Rooster potatoes. I love roosters bought from the shop for making roasties, so am hoping these home-grown ones will be just as yummy.
You can also see the state that the frost-resistant pots have ended up in - so we went and exchanged them for nice new wooden ones. Except we can't get the heather out of the current pots because the soil is frozen solid..
Lastly, I have ordered 3ft x 3ft raised beds today - just need to set about turning them into square foot gardens before the outdoor planting season starts. (NB - there are varying views from hubby and Daddy as to whether these should have bases, or be on stilts or what.. Watch this space to see who wins!)
Compost progress:

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Cinnamon on seedlings

As we creep towards gardening weather that I know I prefer (light in the evenings and sunny in the day), most of my energies are on tending to the seedlings I'm trying to grow. 
Flowers include Lemon Eucalyptus, Chaenorhinum, Polyanthus, Scabious Japonica, and Red Hot Pokers. 
I've found I'm doing OK with getting the seeds to germinate now, using quarter size seed trays and heated propagators. I'm removing the lids once the leaves unfurl, and that is keeping them healthy. My challenge now is getting them to survive once I transplant the seedlings into little pots. I think I've not been precise enough about what I'm doing, so I've now bought special seedling compost, and am going to water them less. I also think that I transplanted some seedlings too early (too small) and others too late (too leggy). I read on the web that sprinkling cinnamon on the soil will help to prevent damping off disease (which I think might have been the cause of some of the seedling deaths), so I'm giving that a go too. Let's see how things progress.

The photos above show broccoli seedlings I transplanted today, shoots coming through on the Dicentra spectabilis that withered away over the Autumn & winter, snowdrops making a show, shoots on the honeysuckle, the greenhouse I've made out of plastic sheeting and cheap hosepipe, red hot poker seedlings, my new bird feeder, "frost resistant" pots (going back to the garden centre next weekend!), and buds on the rose bush.

I've turned over the compost heap again today, and although it's going mushy and brown it's not compost yet. The heap needs to get bigger in order for it to get hot inside. The worms seem to be liking though! I wonder if the removal men will have a compost heap moving strategy?

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Thawing out and loving seedlings

Due to popular demand the gardening blog is back.. Snow and minus temperatures revealed that I'm a fair weather gardener. My feet turned blue in wellies in November.
So now that the snow has melted and the weather has warmed up a little bit, I've ventured back outdoors to see what damage the frost did to my plants and the cuttings I took in the Autumn. Unfortunately the frost saw off the osteopurmum cuttings, and also took it's toll on one of my "frost-resistant" pots, but other than that there are buds forming and snowdrop shoots showing themselves.
 I've started off some flower seedlings over the last couple of weeks, in an attempts to have pots and pots of colour over the summer - I'm learning not to over water, not to transplant into cold soil, and to uncover the propagator as soon as the first leaves unfurl.
The first veg seeds (broccoli) have gone into some vermiculite, and I'm reviewing the list of supplies I'm going to need for the Square Foot Garden this year.. 

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Poo hunting

This weekend I have been hunting poo. Having heard the advice of my experienced gardener friend, Dave, I am now under the impression that adding manure to my compost heap is an absolute MUST. 
My in-laws advised me, when we were staying with them last weekend, that there was a local farm that would sell us manure at 50p a bag (it is The North) but that it would stink the car out as we stopped off at a posh hotel on the way home. My parents helped out by pointing out every cow-pat and dung heap possible when we went for a walk earlier in the week. With such supportive family, how could I go wrong?
I went poo-hunting today. My husband stayed at home, not declaring but, obviously thinking that my enthusiasm for the garden had reached new lows. Virtuously avoiding the giant stinking heaps of dung that were obviously awaiting muck-spreading by the farmer, I cycled the bridleways of Hertfordshire looking for poo.
I had some lows - I lost my pink trowel (bought as a moving into our first home together present by hubby) and had to cycle back for half a mile in order to find it. I squinted and scraped at a few piles of mud, unsure whether they were poo or not. I hid on a farm track, waiting for a BMW to pass, hoping they wouldn't squash a pile of poo I had my eye on. Worst of all, I took a short-cut home across a bumpy field and lost a quarter of my treasure.
However. I collected poo. It was sunny (if cold). And when I got home hubby was glad to see me, because I had the recipe for dinner.
The picture below shows the halloween efforts (including f-in-l's drill) and today's poo treasure. 

Other gardening moments I've enjoyed today have included:
  • scrapping the impatien and aster cuttings that have died because I made rooky errors (namely taking flowering cuttings and covering them)
  • taking new aster cuttings to replace the ones that died,
  • weeding the front garden, 
  • tidying the front garden of leaves,
  • digging up tired summer bedding for the compost heap,
  • potting up the clematis that appeared to die earlier in the year, but may well come with us to our new home.. 
  • taking rose and ostespurmum cuttings.
Having wrestled a bike, two chairs, a rake, a workbench, 80l of vermiculite (approx), a lawnmower, and a lawnmower bucket out of our wendy house, I begged hubby for a big shed at our next house - he agreed - hurrah!

For those of you who were wondering what the leaf was a few weeks ago that I found in my garden and put on my blog, the photo above shows it was an osteospurmum. Rose cuttings (that I've done a bit wrong, as I was meant to leave a leaf on them) are also shown. Still in the pursuit of a cheap and flowery back garden in pots next year. 
Compost heap week on week (I was away last week)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Focusing on flowers

This week I've trying my hand at propagation - planting the seeds that arrived for Eucalyptus Lemon, Polyanthus and Chaenorhinum. Some are happily sitting in a heated propagator in the kitchen, but some of them had to go in the fridge for a few weeks. I think that this is called cold stratification - tricking the seeds into thinking winter has been and gone so that when I put them on the windowsill they will start to grow.

I've taken some cuttings from plants I bought when we remodelled the front garden - I've started with the Dianthus and Convolvulus Cneorum (also called Silver Bush). I found out from Gardener's World this week that you shouldn't cover up cuttings or they get too damp and rot, so let's see how they do on the window sill. 
While I was at the Garden Centre buying a pot to plant the tulip bulbs I got sent for free with my seeds I saw some amazingly coloured heather plants, that I just had to buy, to kick-start my plans for clusters of pots in the back garden. Having planted them though, and washing out the pots - I'm wondering if they plants have been spray-painted? Next year will they grow back white?

Compost heap week-on-week progress.. 

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

How much is 100 litres?

Square Foot Gardening calls for vermiculite. The"soil" that you grow your veg in is made up of  ⅓ compost, ⅓ sphagnum moss, and ⅓ vermiculite. So as part of my research I had found a supplier in readiness for ordering in the New Year when the building of my Square Feet will start in earnest.
As I spent the weekend researching how to propagate the shrubs and perennials I have planted in the garden this year, planning on taking cuttings or divisions in pots to our new home, it turned out I need vermiculite to grow some of the cuttings in. So I ordered some.
I didn't really realise how big a 100 litre bag would be! It was on my doorstep when I got home one night this week, and it sat in my living room looking ominous as I wondered how I would hide it from my husband who has determined that my gardening won't take over the house!
I used some to pot up the cuttings I had been preparing - that's one litre used, only 99 left to find a home for!!
 I can't wait for the seeds I've ordered to arrive - I have found some perennials I can start off indoors over the winter, ready to plant in the Spring. I'm also thinking about grasses, but I don't think I can plant them yet - I have visions of a cluster of different shape and height pots with different and interesting grasses in..
Week on week compost heap progress..   

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Mini harvest, and preparing for the winter

This week has been quite productive in the garden.. Turning the compost heap as often as I have time to, to try and get things moving - though the frame did move rather too far after I fixed a cover to the top, I woke up in the morning, the wind had got under the cover and taken the whole frame down the garden. The heap wasn't very big though, and was still sat there in a tiny tidy pile on the ground cover with no frame around it.
I thought I should share photos of this year's late mini-harvest, before and after cooking (supplemented with chicken, roast potatoes and asparagus from the shops!). Next year, next year, a bumper harvest will be mine!! I've shown you my smallest mini carrots - caused by sowing too closely together. There's also a pic of sweet peas planted in preparation for next year, and some aster cuttings I've taken - which I originally mistook for osteopermums...
So today, having spent the afternoon poring over a seed catalogue to figure out what hardy perennials I can grow from seed over the winter, and hunting the internet for care information on the plants I have already planted over the summer I got going in the garden.

Starting with turning the compost heap, I went on to finish planting the daffodil and snowdrop bulbs I'd bought a couple of weeks ago and plaited the very petite onion harvest that had been drying in the top of my little greenhouse (picture below).
In preparation for the winter, I lifted the salvias (pic below, top left) from the border that I planted in the summer (unfortunately they have rather been attacked by slugs in the last few months, better those than the lettuces though!), tidied up some other containers and added gravel to the tops to make them look pretty, lifted and divided a veronica (pic below, bottom middle) in an attempt at propagation, and found a plant in my garden that I have no idea what is it even though I planted it.
I've included a picture of the leaf - any ideas on what it is?  

Sunday, 10 October 2010

My first SFG step - composting!!

Having read almost half of the Square Foot Gardening book, I am so keen to get on and do something in preparation for next year's garden. I've been doing research into where to buy timber for the boxes, conduit for the frames for climbing plants, and moss & vermiculite for the mix, as I am resisting the temptation to buy and build everything now, and just getting the plans in place.

Compost Heap
However, the one thing I can legitimately do now is make my own compost for the mix, and so today I've made a compost frame (as per the book) out of chicken wire, and collected leaves and weeds from around the garden (and the back path) to try and make a good start on my compost pile.  

The SFG concept of compost making involves mixing different types of plant-based materials, chopping everything up into small pieces first, keeping the pile moist, and regularly moving or turning the pile. I've made my frame out of chicken wire and put it on ground-cover material. The idea is that a few times a week, I'll put down the second square of the ground cover, remove the frame from the pile and put it onto the second ground cover square, and move the compost pile into the frame again, mixing it up as I go. The chicken wire will also allow air into the pile - hopefully creating better compost and not a slimy sludge...

Since I took this photo I have covered the top of the pile with one of the squares of ground cover material, so as to prevent the pile from getting overly wet from rain..

Sundaville Red?
As well as this, I've started planting bulbs for daffs and snowdrops next year, extended the growing support for an amazing Sundaville Red (is that what it's called?), and I ran a 10k for Cancer Research UK on Saturday morning..

Thursday, 7 October 2010

This year in the garden

As I've started this blog one year into my gardening adventure, after most of the growing this year is over and before much planting starts for next year, I thought I'd share some pictures of my garden in my first year of trying to grow veg and flowers.

This doesn't show the latest harvest, but does show my first (small) carrot, leeks and runner beans. The first salad I tried to grow bolted in the heat, but in my second attempt I planted lettuces and these have been far more successful - I have been eating it in salads and sandwiches for a few weeks. The peas I ate straight off the plants - I will need to grow far more next year if any are likely to reach the house for a meal!

My book about Square Foot Gardening arrived and I was avidly reading it on the train home last night, and dreaming up veg plans non-stop! However, being sensible, my first plans are to build a few 2x2 SFGs next year, and see how I get on. Putting a base on them will mean we can take them with us if we move house mid-season.

First things first, I need to find out how I can get the different bits and pieces I need relatively cheaply.. Research, research - my other half would be proud of me! 

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Planning next year's garden

Having spent all weekend reading gardening books, drawing plans, surfing the internet for tips, ordering seed catalogues, and creating a planting plan for next year, my enthusiasm for next year's garden is still strong.

My little greenhouse in the snow in February..
This has been the first year that I have had outdoor space to enjoy, all be it rather small and paved in places, and have had a great time this spring and summer creating borders in the back garden, redesigning the border in the front garden - with the help of my parents, tending the front lawn with TLC (and buying a little lawnmower - hurrah) to try and get green grass, and growing some veg in pots. I started off early this year, growing veg in a propagator indoors, as we had some snow..

This weekend, I have harvested most of the final (rather teeny crop) and been trying to figure out what to do next year to have better success. I've made quite a few mistakes - the main one being unsure when to harvest veg at the right time - and am determined to do better next year.

My biggest challenge is that my husband has a job that means we will move every 2 years or so, and so I am looking for a veg and flower growing approach that will survive moving frequently. My main plan is to grow flowers in pots and take them with us, and to grow veg in smallish raised beds as well as containers.

I am patiently waiting for Mel Bartholomew's book on square foot gardening to arrive to see what inspiration that provides..

The reason I've started this blog is to try and join the community of online gardeners, especially those with square foot gardens, as I reckon it might just work!