March

 

29th March - This feels like a special day, Spring is well and truly here, the clocks changed yesterday , we had glorious sunshine today and Lock Down restrictions are easing. I spent the afternoon with my daughter in her garden, which after so long without seeing her, was just lovely. I could see her most recent chickens too, so much glossier than they looked in the photos, and enjoy all her Spring flowers too

Yesterday was the third full moon of the year, named The Worm Moon as it marks the warming of the soil, so worms and other grubs start to wake up from the cold of Winter. It was quite a sight in last night's misty conditions as it rose up over the trees in the back garden

There is still plenty to harvest from the plots, and so, Osemary this week, to share on Harvest Monday are some tasty offerings

One of things I enjoy at this time in the year is that over-Wintered plants are putting on a growth spurt with the increased light levels, and so larger harvests are possible. Instead of  a meagre amount of leaves, they can become the main event on the plate

This is especially true of Mustard Greens, which are a joy cooked with Garlic, Onion, finely sliced Chilli, salt and some well flavoured butter

There is enough Purple Sprouting and Tenderstem Broccoli for a real feast now. I am enjoying it just steamed and plain at the moment, as a side vegetable. More inventive uses will follow as harvests increase of course

Other harvests have included Wild Garlic Leaves, Rhubarb, Flat Leaved Parsley, Purslane/Miners Lettuce, young Beetroot Leaves, Rosemary and Kale

Out On The Plots This Week:

The longest job has been emptying the shed  where I store bags of shredded paper to add to the compost, empty plastic bottles and netting not in use, as well as the push-along lawnmower. My son already re-covered the roof for me, but this wasn't the only problem with it: it had developed an alarming lean forwards, so that the bottom of the door dragged on the ground as it was opened. You could see the top was a good 15cm out of line with the little shed next to it.

Once the shed was empty, it didn't take too long to find some suitable wood and create diagonal crossbraces on the inside of each side, in the direction away from the lean. While I pushed the shed up into the proper position, Gary attached the braces using his  sonic screwdriver, and there it was, a shed as good as new!

Yes, well. The longest job was sorting what was going back, what was going to be thrown away and what I didn't want but might be some use to someone else. Most of this last group went pretty much straight away, which was good!

 And just when I was really tired and ready to go home, I realised that the slightly odd sounds coming from alongside the metal shed on my other plot were in fact being made by a Pheasant, trapped between the side of the shed and the wire mesh fence. 

It couldn't go any further, it couldn't go backwards, it was just stuck! With two thick sticks I managed to manoeuvre the bird upright and then twist round over onto its feet again, and prod it until it went along back the way it had come, and out

What an end to the day! The poor bird was exhausted, so I shuffled it out of the gate, as it wasn't inclined to fly. The silly thing was back inmy plot again the next day, but I wasn't having any of it! Attractive birds, but not the brightest brainwise

 

Other than that, I have been sowing seeds: Amazon Spinach, Purple Delicacy Khol Rabi, Fordhook Giant Chard and Nigella sativa, which produces the little black seeds used in Indian cookery, varously known as Black Onion Seeds (no relation to Onions) Black Cumin (which I know as Kali Jeera, a relation of actual Cumin) and Kalonji. I guess it depends where you learn about it, as to what you call it.

I prefer Kalonji as then there is no confusion as to its origins. It is a close relative of Love-in-the-Mist, so I hope it grows as prolifically on my plot as its cousin has done for years

This morning I sowed Calendula, which weirdly seems to have vanished from my plot this Spring, A short Mallow and some Love-in-the-Mist, all in the trianagular flower bed in front of the gate on #145 Thet will all be easy to transplant if it turns out they are in the wrong position as perennials start to fill out, and hopefully will give season-long show of colour

In The Polytunnels This Week:

Watering the polytunnels has been less of a chore since the water is back on, thank goodness. I had a good clear up this week, allocating growing spaces for the crops currently at seedling stage, and sowed some Pak Choi directly into the soil too. I also sowed some mixed salad into one of the small planting boxes I have, which should grow reasonably quickly, and planted out some seedlings of Merveille de Quatre Saisons Lettuce.

The tray of seedling Onions has been re-located to the the shelving in the polytunnels, and I have started adding some week general plant nutrients when watering them

Interestingly, last season's Celery plants have started growing new leaves. I think it is a biennial, so perhaps will grow flower stalks, but in the meanwhile I am very glad of some fresh Celery stalks, even if they are still quite short

The Broad Bean plants have started to flower. Some stems were bending over onto the ground, but they are now all tied up, which should keep developing pods clean

I had been going to sow more, but with these plants, a similar number of younger plants outside, both Aquadulce Claudia, plus the Crimson Flowered plants, I think there will be enough

 

At Home This Week:

Some weeks back, I put two Lemon Grass stems in water to root, and with the help of some bottom heat, they started to grow little white roots. When I checked again this week they both had a big tangle of roots in the jar, so I potted them up, and hope they carry on growing. These are new to me, so might need to check out if they need any special conditions from here forward

I have not grown Okra before either. They seem to be quite slow at the moment, so I hope they start to put on a few more leaves soon. Their first proper leaves have only just started to develop. I potted them on this week, and they do have some decent root growth, so hopefully all is well. I shall be moving them to a brighter spot now that they have settled in to their new pots. I have two dozen altogether: I have no idea what sort of crop I can expect from each plant, but their space in the polytunnel is allocated, and sticks for later support at the ready

On the other hand, the Aubergine plants are romping away and will soon need larger pots! One or two have the beginnings of roots creeping out through the holes in the bottom of their pots, and i don't want their growth to check at all. 

Just thinking... perhaps twenty four Okra plants will need 9cm pots at some stage, at the same time as the Tomatoes are still in the greenhouse... EEEK!

All the Tomato seed sown last week is up, and plenty of Cucumbers and Spiky Gherkins have shown their heads, but not yet that single Courgette, or any Mexican Tarragon.

The Brassicas to mostly need potting on now, but they can go out into the small plastic plant house... once I have put the temporary staging together again of course. The Peas and Mangetout can join them as well, and that will clear a litle bit of space... early French Beans will be next

 

Not all new Spring flowers are showy: this little Epemidium under the edge of a Rhododendron has beautifl flowers, like clusters of miniature Daffodils, and is all the special for being able to grow in this fairly inhospitable spot

 

I am sitting here with this glorious Amaryllis on one side and the Christmas Poinsettia on the other, at the end of March! The Amaryllis bulb overwintered in the grrenhouse and suddenly sprung into life and the Poinsietta has given a wonderful display since early December when I bought it, brilliant

The list of things to do is somewhat shorter this week

Jobs For The Week

A few jobs not done: sowing the remaining Carrots and Parsnips, plus those Paris Silverskin Onions

- sow early dwarf French Beans in modules in the greenhouse

- sow Cosmos and French Marigolds in modules in the greenhouse

- mix up more compost for potting on, and plant all the Brassicas into individual pots

- Re-build the temporary staging  for the plastic grow house in the garden, and move the Peas, Mangetout, Beetroot and Brassicas out into it

- Weed over all three Onion beds, and water if there is no rain

- if time, start to clear the bed for Climbing Beans, and add some compost from the bins as a top dressing

- also if time, top dress the Potato beds with compost

And that will do for now. The list keep me focussed, although it is not set in stone of course, as you can probably tell!

Thank you for reading about the week: I shall be back next week with more photos and updates

 

 

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

22nd March -- Yesterday was the Spring Equinox, one of only two days in the year where the days of daylight and darkness are of equal length, and the first day of Astrological Spring. It is often thought of as the time of new beginnings and new possibilities. This year, for us on our Site, it is certainly a new beginning as we start to enable new tenants to start working some of the vacant plots. It has been a long time coming, and has taken a lot of hard work from lots of people, but here we are at last! Ten plots already allocated, three more people to visit in the next couple of days and then more letters of invitation being sent out

The sunny weather has made it easier to spend more time outside, and although I haven't got as much done on my own plot as I might have liked, time spent with new tenants to ensure they can choose a suitable plot is an investment in our community's future really, so all good

The little Cherry Tree is the same one I added last week, but its flowers are now the best they have ever been, and are a really pretty sight. The forecast frosts have so far stayed away, so perhaps this year the flowers will be undamaged and set some fruit. I do hope so ... new possibilities abound!

 New harvests for Harvest Monday too, alongside Leeks, Purslane and Perpetual Spinach

This week was the first Rhubarb harvest of the year, and it made me so glad I have a really early-cropping variety, as lots of plots have Rhubarb with only red buds poking up through the ground, weeks away from being picked and enjoyed

Gently stewed, with a sprinkle of sugar, it was totally lush!

 

I look forward to Wild Garlic leaves every Spring, to the moment they are large enough to harvest, and then decide what to use them for. This year's first harvest went into some really, really good Cheese & Wild Garlic Scones, made from a National Trust recipe. They were so good I shall make some more, and add the recipe to my files, to remind myself of them this time next year!

Out On The Plots This Week:

The remaining Leeks have been heeled in, to keep them fresh until they are needed, and the mesh to support Peas and Mangetout put up. The soil was beautiful, dark, crumbly and full of worms, so it was a real pleasure to plant out the small clumps of plants of Lettice's family Pea and Sweet Sensation Mangetout, with Aquadulce Claudia Broad Beans alongside them.

A Wood Pigeon had its beady eye on the juicy green leaves, so I built a boggly kind of wire cage to keep them off. The Crimson Flowered Broad Beans were planted amongst the Tulip plants in one of the flower beds... never done this before but thought they would look pretty over there

All the Potatoes are in the ground now, planted about 20cm deep, with enough space bewteen the rows to earth up over shoots as they appear. This has two purposes: protecting emerging shoots from frost, and ensuring the plants grow long stems, as it is from these stems that the little Potatoes will grow, and longer stems mean more Potatoes

Bed One (on #146)

Rocket, Casa Blanca, Jazzy and International Kidney, to fill three quarters of the bed, leaving space alongside for early Leeks to be planted out

Bed Two (on 145)

Casa Blanca, International Kidney, Kestrel, Jazzy and Setanta, to fill the whole 5m bed

The reason some varieties are in both beds is that Bed One will be harvested first, and then replanted with late Leeks. Bed Two can be left for much longer, allowing the Potatoes to grow larger, and more suitable for storage. Last to be harvested will be Setanta, a Blight resistant variety that keeps very well in storage. I am still eating last year's crop, and the tubers are in good condition

 

Visitors to our site this week all commented on the calm atmosphere, and were surprised at how many birds there were. We are in an area far away from any housing, so really the site is quite a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife, which is a real bonus for all of us.

The stars of the week have been these two: Pheasants, and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, which, as my son commented at the weekend, are gloriously coloured as many "tropical" birds!

The sight of two cock Pheasants fighting stopped us in our tracks, it was as stunning as a Chinese silk painting. It was such a shame my camera wasn't to hand, but this single bird came for a visit later in the afternoon

(The Woodpecker is not my photo)

On the rare occasions I get to sit down, it is lovely to have flowers that look pretty, and also smell gorgeous, close enough to really enjoy. These Hyacinths come up year after year, and today there looked at their best! There is also a newly planted pot of similar flowers alongside the shed door in the sunshine, so whichever way I face, I can enjoy them

In The Polytunnels This Week:

The transplanted Pea and Mangetout plants have just started to cling on to their supports, Radishes sown alongside have germinated, and the Spring Onions are starting to grow new leaves. No Potato shoots yet, but that is as expected, as they are quite deep down

I have spent some time planning exactly where crops such as Okra, Cucumbers, Gherkins,  Tomatoes and Peppers will be planted, so that space for direct sown crops can be allocated. These will include leafy crops such as Pak Choi and Choi Sum to sow this coming week. 

Under cover growing space is precious, so needs to be planned carefully to make the most efficient use of it and keep the soil healthy at the same time. With four 11m by 1.2m beds between the two tunnels, I can more or less have a four year rotation, which is helpful in reducing nutrient deficiencies or disease build up

At Home This Week:

The greenhouse is overflowing with seedlings now, with almost everything sown last week already germinated. The notable exceptions are the small white pickling Onions, where there is not a single showing, despite being on the heat mat, so as I have some Paris Silverskin seeds I shall re-sow. The original seeds were quite old, so it was a bit hopeful to sow them!  The other no-show as yet is the Shiso Perilla, but I have now moved these onto the heat mat to give them a bit of encouragement. Keeping  my fingers crossed

All the Brassicas and Lettuces have germinated and will need pricking out as soon as they get their first true leaves, as they will be too overcrowded otherwise. Hopefully there will be lots of plants to share in the coming weeks

The Aubergines are growing really quickly, and it might be time to start movng on plants to share, before they get overcrowded. The transplanted Chilli and Sweer Pepper plants have spent the week settling into their new pots, but I expect them to start growing away more rapidly very soon.

Those Lobelia seeds came up like a film of moss across the compost, and both Thunbergia and Nemesia are coming up too. No sign of the Cleome yet though

I sowed more seeds of course: it is that time in the year when so many plants need to get going! I am a little later than usual in putting in the indoor Tomatoes, so as I had propagator space I sowed all of them, indoor and outdoor, at the same time, just three seeds of each:

Indoor Varieties:  

Sungold & San Marzano, both very successful last year (although the seed packet of Honeymoon is in the photo, it turned out to be empty, which was disappointing, so I added in another new one instead)

Orange Queen, Yellow Delight, Black Russian, Rosella and Tiger Red. This last looks very much like the fruits from seeds we had from Lanzarote a few years ago, so I hope it tastes as good as those did

 

The varieties chosen for outdoor growing are mainly those with a high level of resistance to Late Blight:  Crimson Crush, Crimson Blush, Mountain Magic & Ferline are all ones previously grown, with new ones this year being, Mountain Merit, Lizzano, Fandango & Primabella, plus these two non- Blight resistant varieties: Gardener's Delight and Tumbling Tiger

Also sown was one, yes just one, seed of Sure Thing Courgette , destined for the polytunnel, which, as it is self fertile, is perfect for inside growing. Also in now are three seeds of Cucumbe La Diva and all ten of the West Indian Prickle Gherkins. Hopefully these last will do well enough for me to give a couple of plants to plot friends, and even perhaps be able to swap for a plant of Caribbean Cucumber if all goes well

Needless to say, the windowsill propagator is absolutely full, and as soon as those seedlings need potting on, creating space in the greenhouse for them will be essential. It'll be time then to install the extra staging again and put up the temporary little plastic greenhouse in the garden. THis worked quite wll last year, and meant plants that are slightly more hardy can still have a degree of protection before they move to the cooler conditions of the plot polytunnels

The Begonia tubers have small leaf buds starting to develop, so I have laid them on slightly damp compost in trays, in the greenhouse. Once they have settled, I shall harden them off and put them out into the temporary greenhouse, as I want them to grow strong stems, not long floppy ones through being too warm

Forgot to show you that those overcrowded Primroses on the plot have come good, with a wonderful display of delicate flowers. Soon be time to divide them, but not yet as I am still enjoying the flowers

Jobs for This Week:

- sow Spinach and Khol Rabi outside and Pak Choi and other Oriental leaves in the polytunnel

- move the Onion plantlets to the polytunnel to harden off

- sow the Paris Silverskin Onions in modules

- prick out the Brassicas as soon as they develop their first true leaves, into fibre pots to make them easy to give surplus away in a few weeks' time

- sow Spinach & Khol Rabi outdoors, and Oriental greens in the polytunnel

- sow a third batch of Broad Beans to ensure succession

- organise next lot of seeds to sow during April: various Beans, Squashes , Outdoor Cucumbers etc

- Start to dig over the bed for the Climbing Beans, and if time, put up supports

- Refresh compost and sow Carrots in large box outside

- Sow Summer salad leaves in deep trays to keep in polytunnel on wire shelves.

- Feed Cauliflower plants in modules with Nitrogen-rich fertiliser

I guess that will keep me plenty busy enough for now! I hope your season is going well so far... remember, new possibilities!

I shall be back next Monday.. in the meanwhile, check out harvests in other areas and other countries in Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave, via the link below

 

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

15th March - In the week where the South-Westerly Gale ripped pieces off my verandah roof, knocked over friends' sheds, took some polytunnels on a flight into the hedgerow and gave our wheelie bins unexpected trips along the street in the night, I feel I have made huge strides forward to having a plentiful supply of vegetables again this year! The wind has been exhausting though, and i am glad to see it ease up a bit today, so I can work without having to restrain my hair in order to see what I am doing

Nature of course, has just carried on in her own sweet way, providing plenty of flowers to feed those early-rising insects, and of course delight us too

This little Cherry tree has never yet produced a single fruit, as the blossom always gets damaged by frost. I shall try to cover it over with some insulating fleece this year when the nights are cold again, in the hope it helps. It is very pretty though even if Cherries are not forthcoming

Harvest Monday has something to share though, as well as the last of the Parsnips and Swede (which you have all seen plenty of by now!), as Purple Sprouting Broccoli is now providing delicious shoots to steam gently and enjoy with a dab of butter

At this time in the year a change is very welcome!

Out On The Plots This Week:

Once the wind abated, I gave the soil in the Autumn Onion beds a dressing of Potasium Sulphate, which I hope witth strengthen growth as we move into Spring. Tking the nets off for this gave me the chance for a quick weed  over as well.

The Centurion Spring planting sets are now in their bed, safely covered with netting against Pheasant nibbling and insect egg laying. I managed to make the frame out of some old hoops, held up with canes and cable ties. It took a bit of  a battering in the gales, but it was easily fixed. 

The big Brassica cage folded up a bit, but it does still keep Pigeons from feasting on the PSB, so repairing it isin't an immediate priority

I tidied over a bed at the side of the Forest Garden, added some sand in the section where Carrots were planned, took out a rotted piece of wood dividing the area and made one long section, which is much more easily covered that two sections at right angles to each other

This morning I sowed three rows of Carrost (Amsterdam Forcing) and two of Parsnips (self-saved seed from last Autumn). They are covered with cloches to retain some moisture to help germination, as the wind dries the surface out very quickly. 

The area to the right is for Beetroot, but I forgot to take the Cylindra seed with me today. Last year I left it far too late for these, as they take a while to develop their long roots, so aim to get a bit of a head start this year.  These should also be space for a little nursery bed ,where I can sow some perennial flower seeds, then move the plants to their permanent spaces when large enough

Perennial crops are coming along well, with the trusty Rhubarb almost ready for a first picking ...I am so looking forward to a little Rhubarb Crumble!

And the menu starts to very much be dictated by what is growing. with Wild Garlic leaves looking temptingly lush. Pesto is on the way once more!

The small cloves I moved further up the plot have survived but are not looking that vigorous, so I shall attampt to move some more once these are almost dormant again. They do work their way down to an incredible depth, so perhaps I need to re-plant them more deeply next time

Spring flowers are coming out, and the Primroses in the extended bed by the brown shed are looking gorgeous. It just shows the difference when they have enough space to grow, because look at these really congested plants in the cornoer by the bath, desperately in need  of splitting up. On the plus side, I should have masses of Primroses next Spring, once these all increase in size over the Summer

Another plant in need of division is Muscari. These ones were moved from the main clump in the Summer while they were dormant, and they are thriving, but the main clump is more leaf then flower this year...another job of the list!

The new Daffodils in the Herb bed look good, at a time when really, most of the plants in there are not yet looking their best  They will soon put out fresh leaves though and look much more inviting to harvest

 

The Hyacinths in this pots are ready to burst into colour, and being very sheltered down by the green shed, they should fill the air with their perfume when they flowers open

 The new fruit trees have arrived, bare rooted, and are sitting in abusket of water at home, hoepfully to be planted tomrrow mornig: Braeburn Apple, Conference Pear and a Victoria Plum, all of which will go in the bed with the Rugosa Roses, completing the tree planting of the "Forest"

I also have a  Peach Tree ...Redhaven... that will go in a large pot, as then it can more easily be protected against Peach Leaf Curl, or frost damage to the blossom. Not sure yet whether this will be at home or at the plot

The long journey towards our Site managing its own waiting list continues. This weekend we divided some of the empty plots to increases the number we can offer out, and made sure they were all clearly numbered too. About a third of them have been done now, so all we need ar the new tenants to make contact!

We are fortunate in that lots of people here help out, tree planting,organising woodchip and pallet deliveries etc, with an ever-growing sense of community.

This lot of pallets were claimed within a day of arrival, and it is great to see what they are being used for: making seating, tables, fencing, signage .... and all for free! 

This is worth looking into if you have an allotment on a communal site, because lots of companies are only too glad to be able to unload their lorry closer to where they collected from, rather than a long journey to their depot

 

In The Polytunnels This Week

 There was no damage from the gales, although I did hold back from planting out the Broad Bean plants, which are more than ready now, so sorting their bed outside next week is a job high up on the list now. The rest of the Pea and Mangtout plants could also go out now, as they are accustomed to the cooler temperatures

Last week's sowing are not yet showing any sign of life: Radish Cherry Belle, Turnip Snowball, Coriander, Beetroot Boltardy and Rocket. Shouldn't be long though

Although our water was turned on this week, it had to go off again until a leak is repaired. Hope it not too long, as the water butts in the tunnels are almost empty now

 

At Home This Week:

The poor weather meant I stayed home more than usual, but made the most of it by indulging in a sowing-fest, getting into pots or modules everything that was planned for an early March sowing, plus a few that weren't:

In the propagator: 

OKra Clemson's Spineless

Lobelia Riviera MIxed

Thunbergia

Cleome Violet Queen

In the Greenhouse:

Peas Hurst Greenshaft

Snap Peas Nairobi

Mangetout Snow Wind

Spring Onion Green Banner

Silverskin Onion Barletta

Winter Cabbage Kilaton

Red Cabbage Lodero

Savoy Cabbage Cordesa

Early PSB

Brussels Sprouts Darkmar 21

Summer Cabbage Greyhound & Primo

Calabrese Early Green

Leeks Autumn Giant

Perilla Shiso

Korean Mint - Agastache rugosa

Beetroot Burpee's Golden & Detroit Crimson Ball

Lettuce Merveille de Quatre Saisons & Little Gem

Heated Mat in the Greenhouse

Nemesia Masquerade

Phytostegia Summer Snow

 It might seem strange sowing Winter greens now, but they do take a long time to mature, and by starting them off now, then growing them on in pots, they will go out at the optimum time to make good growth before the colder weather returns

The Summer Brassicas will grow quickly though, and be ready to harvest in June, or July at the latest, freeing up space then for further crops

The greenhouse is jammed to capacity, especially as most the seed Potatoes are still there. I have brought the First Early Rocket indoors, as they will be planted in the coming week. Other will soon follow. I shall also need to erect the temporary staging soon I think!

I also potted on the Chillies from my daughter and all the Sweet Peppers into 9cm pots, the remaining Celeriac into small modules and the early Leeks nine to 18cm pots. The Leeks have gone straight outside in a sheltered spot. I grew Leeks like this last year very successfully: they can stay in these pots for a few weeks to bulk up before being planted out

The Aubergine plants are now growing away well. Keeping an eye out for greenfly, as they can multiply so quickly and I want to avoid spraying if I can

The transplated Onions have greened up a bit and look slightly less limp now, but I am keeping the in the greenhouse for a further week, before hardening them off at home, then to the polytunnel

The Okra germinated in four days, and is now in the greenhouse, to ensure it doesn't get too leggy. Wow, that was quick!

Jobs for This Week

- mix up another batch of sowing mix

- sort out the Indoor Tomato seeds, plus the parthenogenic Courgette for the polytunnel, and sow as soon as there is propagator or heated mat space with a small cloche over the top

- Prep the bed on #146 for Peas and Broad Beans; plant out the ones in the polytunnel; heel in remaining leeks to keep them fresh

- Plant the new fruit trees alongside R. rosa. Prune Roses

- Weed path between that bed and the Blackberry hedge, lay woodchip

- Prep the bed for the FE Potatoes and plant up.. cover again

- Mend the tall Brassica cage, remove remains of any spent crops

- Complete the new perennial bed,making a pigeon-proof cover and finding home for excess Daubenton's Perennial Kale plants

- Sow Cylindra Beetroot and some outdoor early Radishes

- Harvest the first Rhubarb and Wild Garlic leaves

Doesn't sound too bad ......

Abi's tree across the road is in full flower now, and looks beautiful, giving people who pass by a smile. He would have loved it. Hope you like it too.

I shall be back next Monday, perhaps knee deep in seedlings! Until then, stay well

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

8th March - Always a day of memories, this date, as it is my late husband's birthday, although in Nature it is a day like any other and growing prep still needs to be done

This past week has been unseasonably mild and dry, and I have enjoyed spending time outside in the sunshine, without having to wear so many layers of clothing it made it difficult to bend down. Cold weather is fast approaching though, as you might expect for this time in the year really .. enjoy the sunshine while you can

Harvest Monday has some better offerings this week, the first being these last few Red Dragon Winter Radishes, which have been growing outside all Winter. Some had some rodent damage to the tops... off to the compost bin for those...but there were enough to have in salad for the whole week! Definitely worth growing again next Winter

I am gradually digging up the remaining Parsnips before they start to develop a flower stalk and become little woody. At this time in the year they start to grow again, and a little tuft of bright green leaves gives their positions away. You never know what is down there though: it can range from something the size of a baby Carrot to...a HUGE one like this!!!

Leeks are also coming to and end, again, needing to be used before their thick hard flower stalks grow, and this one is actually as thick as my wrist... which gives you a better idea of the size of the Pasrnip next to it!

The Parsnip was roasted and the Leek made an excellent quiche, with some Feta Cheese

And of course there was another glorious Red Cabbage, this one so large I am cutting itnto quarters to share, as I shal never get through it all myself

Other Harvests this week have included a vegetable new to me:  Miners' Lettuce Apparently it's"season" is April to May, but no-one told the plants growing both in the tunnels and on the plot! It has been great all Winter, and continues to provide a regualr generous harvest of succulent green leaves, whcih are excellent in mixed salad, or in fact in egg sandwiches too. All from a small bundle of teeny planst Jane gave me in the Autumn. Definitely another one to grow again

Out on The Plots This Week:

I have made the most of the dry, mild weather, weeding the three  beds where Autumn Onions, Garlic and Shallots are growing, including the seedlings of Yellow Senshyu, which ae still looking exactly the same as they did before Christmas. The instructions said to thin then in early March and replant the thinnings. As mine are already a fair distance apart as I sowed the carefully, they are staying put. All the beds need a feed now, but i have run out of Sulphate of Potash, and so will have to order more

Onions are very shallow rooting, so cannot access nutrients from very far down, so at this time in the year a top-up of nourishment does them good, ith the extra Sulphur supporting healthy cell wall development and therefore improvng disease resistance

The nets are there to prevent Pheasants eating the tops off the leaves, and then later in the season they stop Onion Fly and other pests attacking the plants

The Garlic given to me by Alston is growing well, looking suspiciously similar to Elephant Garlic in leaf shape. I am more than happy if it is in fact Elephant Garlic as I really like this! Oddly, some Tulips have appeared too. Goodness knows how the bulbs arrived, but I am leaving them to flower and will move them when they start to die back 

The mass of flowers at the far end of this funny shaped bed are Corncockle, under which is growing Comfrey. I expect that will start to poke up some leaves in the next couple of weeks. I am trying to confine it a little, as it was beginning to take over in some areas, and I hope this is enough to give a regular supply of leaves for Potassium-rich plant food throughout the sesaon

I have been getting ready the beds where rootcrops will be sown very soon, and the space for the Spring Onion sets too. Certainly been plenty of weeds for the compost bin were gathered up, and the beds look much better with visible soil rather than a covering of weeds, and of course crops prefer to get their roots into nice soil without the competition weeds bring

I also started work on another bed of permanent planting at the edge of the Forest Garden. I moved Rowan's Apple tree, which she grew from a pip four years ago, into the corner of this bed.  As you can see, the tree has a healthy root system, and I managed to dig it up without too much damage, although it had a long, long leader, which I pruned back by half, in the hope it might stimulate fruit bud production next year

I staked it well against the prevailing wind, using cloth ties to protect the bark from rub damage against the stake. The stake can come out after a year or so, as the roots should then be able to hold the tree firm on ther own. It is up straight, this is some weird camera angle!

Rowan has created some decorations around the tree, alongside the Welsh Onions, which have also been moved to their permanent spot.  A young red-stemmed Rhubarb is just out of shot, and that, together with the perennial Brassicas (Daubenton's Kale and Nine Star Perennial Cauliflower) plus the Wild Garlic and Lemon Balm at the closest end, completes the occupants of that bed

In The Polytunnels This Week:

Both tunnels are now weeded and tidied , ready for new crops to go in. I have re-organised the planting plan, to take into acount how long crops are likely to occupy the bed space, before follow-on crops can go in. The Pea section is now down by the door, so I installed the curved weld-mesh frame for them to climb up before planting the module-clumps out. I took off the little seed bits left, as voles and mice find these irresistable and damage the stems chewing off the seed remains

An old and rather bent set of cheap greenhouseshelving has been re-purposed as a support for Mangetout. Snow Wind is a short variety, and on the packet it said they would grow without suport if planted in a block. I wasn't sure I was growing quite enough to make a decent "block", but hopefully the support provided will be enough to keep them up off the ground

The Winter Radishes Red Moon and Blue Moon are still good enough to eat, but as this space is allocated to Okra, there is no hurry to harvest all of them now. 

Beyond the Peas on the left is the space for Aisla Crag Onions and some of the long oval Elisha and Karminska too, before reaching the First Early Potatoes planted under the plastic towards the end of the bed

The second tunnel is still full of Winter crops such as Mustard Greens and Sprouting Broccolis, as well as some early Spring Cabbages that are growing on quite well now

 

As our site is near near the river, we regularly have skeins of geese fly over, and numerous Swans. These ones again a dark sky looked magnificent, and gave a moment to pause, look up from the weeds and smile

 

At Home This Week:

More frogspawn in the garden pond now, and hopefully enough will survive any freezing weather in the next few days to give lots of tadpoles.

The plants in the greenhouse are all growing well, although some are in need of potting on, which will of course mean another juggle around to fit in their individual pots rather than small modules. The Potatoes will be going soon, which will ease the squeeze a little

There are still some bit needing to go in the ground in the garden, such as the new sscented Yellow Daylilies, but I think this coming week will mainly be taken up with sowing and planting of edibles somehow!

I spent an enjoyable hour or so perusing seeds and getiing out ones that will soon need sowing, not just for crops going directly into the soil like Parsnips and Carrots, but those that will need to be grown on for planting out in May and June, such as Sweetcorn and late season Cabbages. I shall be making a planting plan for these, that will hopefully avoid anything having to sit in a pot too long before going into the ground. I try to do this ever year, but of course every year conditions are different, so it is a bit of a guessing game really

I also know I have enough seed for next year too, without having to buy any more in.: I even now have Globo Onion seeds!!

Jobs For The Week:

- potting on remaining Aubergines, Sweet Peppers, Chillies and Early Leeks

- sow second cropping Peas & Mangetout in modules, in greenhouse

- Sow Okra in modules in propagator

- Sow indoor Tomatoes on heat mat in the greenhouse

- sow more Lettuce in greenhouse

- sow Brussels Sprouts in greenhouse

- dig sand into Carrot bed; sow 2 shorts rows and replace netting over bed

- prep the Parsnip bed and sow 1 long row of self-saved seed; cover with plastic

- prep bed for Onion sets and plant if time.. net needed

- take up Autumn sown Daubenton's Perennial Kale plants, replant three in permanent planting bed at edge of Forest Garden and give other to friends. (Leave space for Perennial Cauliflowers)

- order Potassium Sulphate to feed soil in beds with Autumn Onion, Shallots and Garlic

- Cut the grass at home

It does feel as though I am staying abreast of things at the moment, at least where the plots are concerned, and I hope that continues. Usually hoever there is a kind of tipping point where there are more things need doing than there are hours in the day and I feel it all sliding away out of control again.

Never mind, let's stay positive and enjoy the better times while we can. I shall be back next Monday, pwrhaps with the pond frozen over, perhaps with sunshine. Either way, I hope more seeds get sown!

 

 

 

 

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

1st March  the start of meteorological Spring, with weather to match! Unseasonably warm sunshine, although frosts at night under those cloud-free skies. Almost warm enough to be the end of May, not the beginning of March, but let's enjoy it while we can

Let's not forget that cold weather is almost certainly going to reappear, and only the hardiest of plants will survive outside for a good few weeks yet

This week's Harvest Monday has a couple of things on the table, although as I left my camera at my son's house over the weekend some of them have no accompanying photos

There was the first proper picking of Tenderstem Broccoli from the polytunnel, after the initial heads were destroyed by voles, plus some beautiful deep purple Sprouting Broccoli too. As it is likely more will follow, photographs will appear at a later date

There was also a very good green salad this weekend, of Mizuna flower stalks, Miner's Lettuce and Radiccio. This last was picked from the short row of plants in the polytunnel, most of which are the glorious deep red of the plant in the header photo, but one is a red-splashed green one. They both have that bite of bitterness to them, which really offsets the sweetness of other leaves and shoots. I have not had much success with this in the past, as the leaves tend to get damaged in wet weather, but in the shelter of the tunnel they have really thrived

These Leeks are the ones planted in a spare corner because there was not enough space in the designated bed, but they had the benefit of a net cover ...unlike the "proper" ones... so were undamaged by Leek Moth. Quite pleased with them considering they would otherwise have been consigned to the compost heap

Out On The Plots This Week:

Well the weeds are certainly starting to grow apace! Another job to add to The List. I tried to ignore them though, to get on with other jobs that needed doing, and were far more pleasant in the sunshine, namely painting the wooden planters and herb trough stand, to help them last a bit longer. They also look rarher smart again, which of course feels good

The wooden sheds on #145 look much more business-like now they are painted all round. With some help from Gary, the smallest one now also has new hinges too, so the door can open and close. Much more useful than when it was jammed shut! 

The longest part of the job of course was emptying that little shed and sorting the contents: large, very large in fact, pieces of debris netting (now rehomed to the Chicken Club) and masses of what was basically rubbish (gone into the grey waste bin at home) so there now an empty shed. The orginal purpose  was in for it to house toilet facilities, so some thinking round that is now possible.

The shed on #146 has already been sorted, and this morning i was very grateful, as The Rat in The Shed became The Rat in the LIvetrap!!! I should have take a photo of him, a huge, healthy looking beast, but an uninvited guest at the party nonetheless. I didn't really know what to do with him, but eventually took him right down to the far corner of the site where there are no plots, just wilderness, and released him. I then cleaned the shed as best I could... no rubbish to deal with this time of course... and re-set the trap.

I suddenly realised it is time to sow Carrots. I usually have some in a pot or a box already, and the outssdie bed ready to go by now. Having re-orgnaide my planting plan, I knew which bed was for Carrots this year so set to and cleared it this morning. I have some sand being delivered next week, weirdly with my shopping (!!) so I can add some to the soil then. 

This led on to pruning the Roses as the large climber with the huge hooked thorns is at the end of this bed, and I thought I might as well do the Floribundas on the endge of the Forest Garden too. The Rugosas are on The LIst now, as is the peach Shrub Rose on the boundary

Definitely time to get a proper sowing plan together, not only focus on those maintenance tasks

Other growers' thought are certainly turning to seeds and sowing, as a group are busy organising a Seed Swap Station on the central Community Plot. Excellent development!

In The Polytunnels This Week:

I did clear out the pile of pots and trays that had accumulated, and brought them home to wask, but unfortunately the shelving I thought I could use in that space is all boggled and won't stand up... not much good for trays of precious seedlings! A re-think needed there. At least there are wire shelves in the other tunnel to use, but more would be really useful at this time in the year

However, on a more positive note, the over Wintering crops are thriving in the extra sunshine, and I think there will be plenty of Perpetual Spinach and Mustard Greens to keep me going, as well as Sprouting Broccoli (especially as the outdoor plants haven't any sign of "sprouting" yet) and of course the beautiful Radiccios. This is the spotty one I mentioned earier: really lovely crunchy leaves. Odd there was one like this as I expected them all to be red, but a good surprise to have. There are also still plenty of Winter Radishes and various salad leaves too

The soil is fairly warm in there, especially where it has been covered, so I planted four First Early Potatoes... Rocket . Having dressed the soil with some Blood, Fish & Bone and given it a good soak, I covered the area back up to keep it warm and damp. Once the shoots start to come through I can earth them up and cover again, to try to keep them free from frost damage. There is always the option of putting fleece over them as well if necessary. Night time temperatures have been below zero all week, and may well continue like this for a while yet

The Spring Onions sown at home have been hardened off and planted out, a row in one tunnel, which will eventually be between two rows of Beetroot, and this short row behind the Potatoes in the other, where they will not be in the way of any follow-on crops. These three droopy clumps may look very unpromising, but should pick up quite quickly and the new leaves will be upright and perfect for eating

At Home This Week:

The greenhouse is lovely and warm in the sunshine, and smells gorgeous, thanks to the pink Hyacinths in bloom. Most seeds have now germinated, just the Rosa de Mallorca Peppers to go now. There are so many that need potting on I think I shall have to dedicate a whole day to it, making up a huge batch of compost mix and just getting my head down. Peppers, Chillies, Aubergines, Cauliflowers, Celeriac and Peruvian Black Mint all need attention now. Both lots of Onions are partially hardened off and ready to pot on. I had some difficulties in sourcing the size pots that I prefer for this, but now have managed to buy some, so these Onions are first on that extensive list

Pinks come in all sorts of colours

Fortunately all the Peas, Mangetout and Broad Beans can transfer to the polytunnels along with the Onions once potted on, plus the Sweet Peas too, and so make space on the greenhouse  stagingfor all those newly potted tender plants. Now's the time to keep an eye out for pesky  little greenfly, that just love these juicy stems and leaves!

I did find time to pot up the Korean Firs, give all the Bonsai trays a top-up of fresh soil, and also plant up my new Pinks plants which arrived this week as small modules. They are going to grow in the pots along the drive this year, as well as some at the plot. I really like their perfume so am looking forward to their flowers this Summer.  They are not called Pinks beacuse of their colour, but after the little zigzags along the edges of their petals, as though they have been cut with pinking shears. I think they look really pretty, and they make good cut flowers too

In the garden, I can now reach the washing line since I pruned the Fig tree. Luckily the sap wasn't moving yet, and so I didn't get covered in sticky latex from the cuts, thank goodness

I took all the dead leaves off the Hellebore plants, so that the pretty flowers are much more visible, and there, under some that had flopped over onto the path, I found a teeny tiny Cyclamen Coum plant in flower, having grown in a gap in the brickwork

I am not sure I shall be able to prise it out undamaged, so it may just have to stay there. Such a lovely colour! The seeds are dispersed by ants, which eat the sticky coating before discarding the seed itself, so one must have carried this one a fair way, because the other plants are over a metre away from this little one in the flower bed

 

The purple Crocuses are in full flower now, and are being much enjoyed by the bees. I look forward to seing these flowers every year, as their opening is a sign the seasons are moving on, with the sunshine reaching that part of the garden again

I feel I managed to deal with the majority of what was planned, especially the big jobs at the plot, but always, here is the next list:

Jobs For The Week

- sow Lobelia and Thunbergia seeds in the propagator

- pot on Onion seedlings into newly purchased pots and take these to the polytunnel, along with the Pea, Mangetout, Broad Bean and Sweet Pea plants

- organise the planting area for the Peas and Mangetout in the polytunnel, and plant if possible

- pot on all those seedlings from the greenhouse, and re-organise them to acommodate their pots/modules

- carry on with bed prep for Carrots & Parsnips on #146. 

- sow early Carrots and Beetroot in the polytunnel

Will there be time to weed the Garlic, Shallots and Onions? Probably not, but it can hover on the list just in case!

Hope you found this week's progress interesting: I am fairly happy with what I managed, it feels almost under control, albeit briefly. I hope I can say the same in a week's time. 

PS I have Frog spawn in the garden pond, at least three weeks earlier than usual!

My contact email is

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com