Friday, 6 May 2016

Let the growing begin - onions

Following my last post on almost time to plant onions, which I wrote in late March, read it here, there was something of a time delay with a very cold April. However, with the arrival of May, we've also seen the arrival of warmer frost free nights. 


With this in mind, I had an hour or two to spare during the week and used it wisely by planting my onion sets.

'Once the bed is in place it's the fun part ... '

I outlined the method I use for the bed preparation a couple of years ago, see it here, and it essentially involves putting down newspaper over the existing soil, to suppress weeds (at least for a time), then use some lovely fresh compost and topsoil to create a bed two to three inches in depth. This year I used an organic peat free compost, by a company called 'Klassman', mixed with some nice sieved topsoil. I normally add in a couple of handfuls of fish, blood and bonemeal just for good measure.

A thorough watering at this point is highly recommended.

Once the bed is in place it's the fun part, planting time. In this scenario I'm planting each plant about 3 inches apart in rows, again 3 inches apart. Again, another good watering to finish the job. As I mentioned before, I'm growing from sets, and after giving these a head start by starting them undercover,they are now well hardened off and delighted to be planted.

I have to say, the final result is pleasing to the eye, and with some look and a little heat, we'll be harvesting lovely onions in no time, have a look at this monster I grew a couple of years ago here.

Happy gardening.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Edible gardening, potager planting time

So here we are, May Bank Holiday weekend, and for the first time in many weeks there is no frost forecast, with night time temperatures expected to be five degrees Celsius and above.For me, this means I can finally plant out some of the young seedlings I've been hardening off over the past week or so, diligently taking them in at night and putting them out during daytime hours. 

As I mentioned recently, I'm changing this 'production garden' area into a 'Potager', which is essentially the same thing with the addition of plants with edible flowers and herbs, to add a certain amount of beauty and interest for viewers.

First steps first though. I dug over the soil in one of the beds to the depth of my digging forks, removing any weeds or litter that was coming to the fore. This particular area is one I was using as a 'no dig' bed for the past three to four years, so there is plenty of good growing medium layered over what is some heavy clay soil.
I didn't want to dig too deep and start pulling up this soil, as it wouldn't serve well for what I want to do. 

Once the area was dug over, it was time to start the fun of planting. The first to go in were some of my Hemerocallis plants, named varieties that have been in pots for three years, and it is time to give them more freedom. Although each flower only lasts a day, the plants have colour for at least two months during summer, and their blooms are very edible. I'm quite partial to the light coloured unnamed seedling which has a slight perfumed flavour.

"I have to confess not many [mange tout] pods made it back to the kitchen table, as they were eaten fresh off the plant ... Lol!"

Next to go in was some of the chive plants I propagated last year. These will flower soon and be useful for regular picking for salads. The flowers are a beautiful lavender colour and are prolific in May and into June. Beside them I planted some Calendula, or English marigolds, which will flower all summer and well into autumn. To finish this grouping, I added red flowering clover. All of these will be excellent for attracting insects into the garden as well as providing a nice touch of colour. 

Next to go in were to rows of plants I'll be using to harvest salad leaves, rocket and beetroot. Of course the beetroot will also produce some fresh beets, which will be thoroughly enjoyed in Autumn time. On the far side of the Hemerocallis I hammered in two stout posts, in between which I planted mange tout peas, a lovely variety called 'Shiraz'. 
I grew a few plants of these last year, and I have to confess not many pods made it back to the kitchen table, as they were eaten fresh off the plant ... Lol! To support this year's crop, I recycled some of the old canes pruned from last year's raspberry plants and arranged them in a lattice framework, which will be supplemented with twine run between the two posts.
As I had a small number of beetroot seedlings left, I put in another row at the edge, just for good measure. 

Finally, I planted a row of Borage, which provides beautiful blue edible flowers in summer, and will also look very nice in this bed too. It will be important to remove spent flower stems as these guys can seed themselves too well in surrounding areas. Fertiliser wise, all the plants were planted using the organic 'Fish, blood and bonemeal', and for additional supplements, I'll use pelleted chicken manure later on in the summer. Until then, I'll keep an eye out for cold weather returning, laying out fleece when I need to, and of course set up some slug traps to try and hinder any potential damage.

Happy gardening.

Monday, 25 April 2016

'It's too early'- April potager update

If you're like me, which I suspect a number of people that read this blog are, you're sowing and growing plants at this time of year, ad infinitum (well for these spring months anyway). And as we go through the cycle of sowing, pricking out and growing each batch, the inevitable happens - we run out of space. Well, this saturation point has happened here, and there has been more than a comment or two from others about sharing the space. In addition, with the spring being so cool, with another cold snap expected, the end is not quite yet in sight for this conundrum. So there has been discussions on 'too many plants indoors', 'plants getting in the way', etc. particularly in the evening when I bring in the ones I'm hardening off, to protect from cold and frosts. On teenager asked 'why can't they be moved outdoors and left there'.  In fact there was a funny pause when one of these points was being raised by the Other Half, where she then stated 'it's like this every year, isn't it?'. 

Yes, it sure is ... Lol
So thank goodness for Sir Alan Titchmarsh, who gave his gardening tip on Saturday morning Lyric FM show, to wait 2-3 weeks to plant out tender plants, that it's simply too early. This helped my point no end, particularly when it was said on the radio, it must be right ... Lol. 
The reality is that if plants were to be moved out this week, with temperatures expected to go below zero degrees Celsius, they would not last, particularly the more tender ones or seedlings that have not been hardend off. So, we'll have to persist for a couple of more weeks with the status quo. Mind you, I can't wait for the warmth to kick in, as I've grown not only a variety of vegetable and salad seeds, but also some nice flower seeds too, which will encourage bees and other insects. I got my inspiration from the number of trips to the Botanic Gardens and seeing what they do in their production/ vegetable garden. 

So thank goodness for Sir Alan Titchmarsh ...

In fact, I'm changing from calling this part of my garden the 'production garden' to the 'potager' as it more accurately describes what I'm doing this year.  

Chitted sweet corn seeds
Un-chitted sweet corn seed
In other news, after reading one about chitting seed, I've tried it to see how this method differs from straight forward germinating them in the soil. (Chitting is another name for pre-germinating seed before it is sown). I tried it with some how harvested sweetcorn seeds I collected last autumn and stored over winter. At the same time as sowing these, I sowed a batch of un-chitted seed, from the same batch. The results are quite telling, with the chitted batch far out performing the unchitted. In reading up a little more on this, my learning is to only plant the chitted seed that has actually sprouted. I'll definitely be using this method again as it's a good way of identifying which seed are viable and which aren't. 

And then there is the mice. I sowed some broad bean seeds there two weeks ago, and most of them germinated within seven days. Imagine my surprise to come out the other morning to see that half of the plants disappeared or only bits of them were left! Yes, some mice decided to drop by and have some dinner. Luckily there are still seven or so plants remaining, which is enough for now. These guys will be closely watched to ensure they avoid the same fate. 
Finally, the early rhubarb is worth another mention. It's reached waist height with a bunch of it being harvested once a week over the past month. Amazing really considering the weather, but these two just plants seem to carry on regardless ... Come the autumn time, I will be lifting and dividing them, so any tips or hints you have on this is welcome. 

Happy Gardening