March 2022

 

28th March- a week of glorious sunshine has meant the grass dried out enough to cut, without leaving muddy smears all over the place, and insects are enjoying basking in the warmth. It has been great to be able to work in shirt sleeves rather than bundled up in Winter woollies temperatures are forecst to dip again for a few days , to probably sosmehting more usual at the time in the year, with April just around the corner.

Harvest Monday has a few crops to share, one last, one forst, and one seemingly everlasting ...Cabbage!

This week I cut two, one a beautiful deep Red, and one lovely green crinkly Savoy. This was a bit too big really for me, so I cut it in half and went to give one piece to thersa across the road, who laughed out loud when she saw it. Was it that paltry, I wondered? Had she noticed  a tiny black slug...I did think I'd got them all off? No, she had an identical Cabbage in the sink that she had just brought home from their plot. It even had the same tiny balck slug population on the outer leaves!! I took mine home again, so I shall be having quite a lot of Cabbage this week I think. Last night was steamed, tonight some will cut very fine to go in the pasta sauce. And then who knows? A slaw of some kind maybe?

These are almost the last of the Parsnips. They are startng to develop flowering stems, which makes the middle a little tough, but they certainly cooked down into a very tasy puree with some butter and black pepper

Must be time to sow next year's now... it always seems to coincide with me finishing the previous crop

And as one crop ends, another one provides a first harvest of the  ...

...Rhubarb

Often this is ready to pull earlier than the end of March,, but for some reason this year it has been slower off the mark. Not to worry, stewed and served with good thick yoghourt it was just delicious

Out on The Plots This Week:

At long last the remains of the shelter have gone, and I have tidied up the area, getting rid of lots of thtings really no longer needed, so now there is at least sace to sit around th etbale, even if it does feel somewhat exposed

The hyacinths in the bath to the side are in full bloom, and coupled with a large pot full, and some planted in the adjoining border, it smells absolutely gorgeous. 

So far, the bath of bulbs is proving to be a success. There are still more to look forward to, but to extend the display a little further I have planted two Thalictrum delavayi (Chinese Meadow Rue), which I hope will flower this year. They have airy clouds of small mauve and white flowers, and lovely blue-green leaves, so plenty to look forward to

I also added some Scabious to the triangular flower bed, the kind with a pincushion flower surrounded by frilly petals, which are blue, and some yellow Helianthus and red and Orange Helichrysums in the long bed by the table and chairs. I hope these thrive better than the last ones I planted, which just faded away. I have weeded the bed, and will keep them watered and fed. Fingers crossed, as some Autumn flowers would be welcome there

The flowers on the large Plum tree are out bnow, and this early Pear blossom is open now too. Last year the Pear blossom was damaged by frosts, so I hope these set some fruit before this happens. There are plenty of bees and other insects around so there is a good chance

The Autumn planted Alliums ate growing well. I weeded the beds this morning, trying to keep my resolution to not let weeds grow very big this year. The soil is very drythough, so if we don't have any rain this week I shall give them a good soak

This bed has the Elephant Garlic in it, whilst below are the Garlic and Shallots, all looking promising

I also have Autumn planted Onions sets, now about 10cm tall, and Spring planted Onion sets, which are just beginning to grow

 

There have been Butterflies galore this week, brought out by the warm Spring sunshine. These two Peacocks hug around together for ages, clearly a pair (or otherwise they would have ben fighting in flight)

I hope the do breed, as there are plenty of nice new Stinging Nettle leaves perfect for egg laying

In The Polytunnels This Week:

My bargain basement potting table is now assembled, and it will provide me with a sensible place to keep small tools, string, scissors etc to hand in this tunnel... these are all in the second tunnel and it seems I spend ages walking round from one to the other. No longer!!

The Radishes sown recently have germinated, and I noticed a couple of shoots of Early Potatoes poking through the ground this morning. These are safely protected by a cloche, which will stay in place for a while yet, as it is still pretty chilly at nght, often at or just below zero. Sunny days  lead to cold nights at this time in the year and it is easy to get lulled into a false sense of security where tender plants are concerned

The Leeks are well hardened off though, and I have now planted these tiny plants out in deep troughs, so they have enough space to carry on growing until their final bed is ready: the space currently occupied  over on #146 by Early Potatoes.. a way off yet then!

These can sit outside now, whatver the weather: there are 21 plants in each trough, so there will be more than enough to keep me supplied, even though right now they look like skinny blades of grass!

At Home This Week:

Most of the seedlings from the greenhouse are now planted out, leaving only the Chillies, Peppers and some of the flower seeds sown recently. Have to keep an eye on these as they will need pricking out fairly soon

The Skimmia bushes outside the backdoor are just wonderful right now, with their froth of flowers and a scent that fills the air, rather reminding me of an expensive soap somehow, but in a good way though

 

The Camellias in the back garden are starting to pu on a good show again. Once this bush has finished flowering, I shall crwon lift it  abit further to there is more light underneath for the Hellebores, which have suffered a bit in the gloom

Jobs to complete before the weekend:

- clear the bed where Carrots and Parsnips will be sown... and sow these

- sow the late Broad Beans and maincrop Peas in modules in the greenhouse

- sow Cosmos in the greenhouse

- Water the Onions and Garlic if there is no/little rain

- makes sure everyrthing in the polytunnels is well watered

And that will be quite enough to get through, I think!

Hope you have been enjoying the oportunity to be outside in the sunshine!

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

 

14th March - How are we half way through March already? I know they say time seems to pass more quickly the older you get, but my goodness it is just whizzing by! What will it be like when I am 90... a year'll only seem to last about a month at this rate!!

Weather has been a real mixed bag, but at least a few days meant I could work on the plot outside. With having such a heavy time load in our re-development of the Site, the committee agreed a week without any communal "jobs" would be good... and indeed it has been, as I have managed to catch up quite a lot. 

Starting again tomorrow though with measuring and marking out more plots, but there are really only about a dozen left to let now, and existing new tenants are mostly settling in on their plots

The tree planted in our road in memory of Abi is in full flower, and I am glad that Clive & Theresa, who live right next to it, will be home again in time to see it at its best. It is a lovely sight across the road from my window, and makes me smile to look at it. Abi would have liked it for sure

Harvest Monday where we link with growers from around the world to celebrate our home grown food (hosted by Dave from Our Happy Acres in the US.. link at the end) is based on salad ingredients this week ...

 

Lettuce is now getting to the hearting up stage, and this Little Gem is beautiful and crisp, just right to carry a gorgeous dressing

 

These are the leaves I picked today for tonight's salad: 

Wild Garlic, which is just now large enough for a proper harvest, and I plan to pick a lot more to make pesto in this coming week

Scarlet Kale has been cropping all Winter and is a bit of a star. I only harvest a few leaves at a time, and so don't usually show it as part of my weekly harvest, but I thought I should, or it is will be finished without anyone else seeing it!

Purslane self seeded from last year's four plants, and has been another small but regular harvest throughout the Winter. It has rather overtaken one of the beds in the top tunnel, but it will be easy enough to remove when the space is needed for Tomatoes, which is a little way off yet, of course

And there is also the first picking of Spearmint for tea! This escaped when we used to have a tiny polytunnel, and it now suits itself where it grows. I do pull a lot out over the year, but it never disappears, which is fine really, as I do like it. I just don't want it to rule the world, just be available for mint sauce the required

Out On The Plots This Week:

A couple of dry, mild days gave me time to catch up with some of those jobs that seem to have been hanging on for ages, including finishing pruning the Apple trees. I sawed several more large branches off the Bramley, which opened up the centre. I hope this also means that the top end of the adjacent veg bed will be less shaded this Summer, so that crops can grow better. Climbing Beans will be planted there, but even they need light to be able to get going up the sticks!

The oddly shaped bed at the top end of #145 has never been particularly productive, but in a spurt of optimism I dug out all the huge weeds and clumps of grass, broke down the soil surface and sowed some flowers seeds; Ammi majus, Nigella 'Black Pod', Gypsophila and Calendula. Jane gave me some Golden Marjoram, I had a pot of Thyme, and this morning I planted lost of Acidanthera corms there too. Surely some of those things will grow, so that the bed  doesn't just look neglected this year?

I also filled some of the gaps in the Triangle Bed: 6 tall LiIlies "Miss Lily" and a red Astrantia, with Crocosmia 'Emily McKenzie', which I especially like, going in the new bed by the metal shed. Epimedium 'White Hart' was planted in the Forage Garden both ground cover and a splash of brightness: not everyhting has to be edible, after all!

I've laid some slabs to make a short path so I can more easily access the water cistern alongside the shed, as well as cutting back hard the two Buddleia that are either side of the path between the two plots.... plus failed to catch the rabbit yet again! 

No pics, as my camera was at home, but it feels like things are moving forward. I'll take some for next week

The next tasks are to prep the main Potato bed, and clear the Broccoli bed, as the harvest will be ending within days. This is where the Squashes and Sweetcorn will go in the Summer, so the soil will need a good feed, and then be covered to avoid weeds growing  until it is needed. The narrow bed alongside the lower polytunnel was unused last year and looks a bit of a mess, so that needs to go on the list too

And there is the not-so.small matter of the broken arches and other debris from the storm to start facing up to, which I am not looking forward to...I  have a bit of a plan now though, so  perhaps it is time to step up....

In The Polytunnels This Week:

The Beetroot seedlings appear to have "taken," and the small Cabbage and Brussels Sprout plants are looking perky

After last week's blitz in the lower tunnel, there has not been too much going on, as the main jobs were really at home in the greenhouse, excpet of course harvesting The top tunnel will certainly need a bit of attention now though, as it is time to start planting up in there too now

At Home This Week:

In the greenhouse, plants have been growing steadily and some are ready to move on to their final homes. The Leek plants are still coping in their pots, but will need to be divided up soon to ensure they have enough space to continue growing. These will not be going in the ground until the early Potatoes are harvested, so I shall be potting them on into large pots with about ten or twelve plants in each

The Early Peas are large enough now to be planted out in the polytunnel, as soon as their bed is ready. I have kept them in a cooler part of the greenhouse to they will be fine to move into the ground now. Broad Beans will soon be following them. The Spring Onions are also sufficiently hardened off to plant in their final position: a trough in the new cloche, plus a row in one of the tunnels.

I potted on the Chillies, Sweet Peppers and Aubergines that survived their drying out two weeks ago. I need to sow more Jalapenos, as none of these made it, but as I had decided not to grow so many plants this year, there will be enough of the others. I still have to add Okra to the mix in a few weeks' time, and need to consider the space needed by mature plants, so they are not over crowded 

I sowed seeds of several flowers in the week: Gypsophila, Moluccella and  Zinnia, which have been on the heat mat in the greenhouse. Blue Lace Flower needs darkness to germinate so is covered with a saucer, and Honeywort needs 2 weeks of cold temperatures so is in the fridge

The Zinnias are up already, so I have moved them off the mat, and filled the space with the Celery and Celeriac sown at the same time. I also sowed some Khol Rabi seeds, which were a little bit on the old side, but I am hopeful a few might germinate. I do have more seeds, so if necessary can put these in instead

This juggling around of pots and trays will last for a couple of months now, trying to give everything optimum conditions

The Rosemary around the edge of my front window was humming with bees the afternoon sunshine

And there are several of these self sown Euphorbias around in the front too. When I grew some from seeds, they were tricky to pot and really were quite feeble plants... just look at this nice bushy one, grown all by itself!! I daren't move any of the in case they collapse

Nature seems to have done an excellent job

Having managed to catch up with a few jobs last week, I am now moving into crop planting time so Jobs This Week will include:

- clearing out the remaining pots of spent compost from the top polytunnel,so that I can organise the support mesh, prep the soil and set out the Early Pea plants

- plant out the modules of Spring Onions in troughs in the new cloche

-clear the bed for the remaining Potatoes and plant these

- pruning the remaining Buddleia on #146

- sow Jalapenos and put the pot on the heat mat

Considering I was away for three days, there seems ot have been a move forward this week, with more areas tended than not, and more seeds/plant in the ground than not. The balance will probably quickly swing the other way so I am enjoying it while i can

Hope you are all OK. I shall do my best to be back next week, probably Tuesday though

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

7th March - at the moment the sun is shining and it feels quite warm outside, which makes a nice chnage after days and days of freezing cold weather.This weekend was out site's key exchange time, for tenants to give in their key to the site, and have the code number for the new combination lock. Lots os smiley faces from people, offers of hot drinks, food, whisky and even potcheen. I think they all realised we were frozen!

80% of tenants are now fully equipped to use the new lock... and the others, well I am not sure how they are going to get in, but I guess they will have to make an arrangement with someone from the committee

Glad that job is done and I can focus on my lfor a while!

Harvest Monday is quite similar to last week's really...

...although Lettuce is starting to figure a little more often. There are several varieties in the polytunnel, all looking tempting. I m havesting individual leaves , usually to add to sandwiches, but there are definite signs of hearting up from a few now

I harvested all the rest of the Romanescu, including those plants that had also grown a crop of individual spears after I cut the main head. This will all be blanched and frozen, in meal-sized amounts

Other harvests have included Parsnips, and Swede. 


These last were the few that escaped rat-gnaw, and were really quite skinny, but were totally delicious mashed with butter and black pepper

And Sage & Thyme were used with roast chicken

Out On The Plots This Week:

The Bramley Apple tree now has a much more open framework of branches as I sawed out one huge one that had grown diagonally through the centre of the tree. It was about 6-7cm thick and took me ages, but definitely worth the effort. Just a bit more tidying to do this week and it will be back to a decent shape again. The other trees are now all pruned, and arr full of flower buds

The bed for the early Potatoes is ready, now the rest of the Romanescu plants are out. I shall plant these later on in the week, a little bit early but I can cover them up if frost threatens when the start to poke up through the soil

Garlic is looking as it should now, and I am starting to think about covering it with fine mesh. The first generation of Allium Leaf Miner will soon be out and about, and I don't want any damage from them, for the Garlic or the Onions. With Onion Fly hatching in May, as well, it is certainly a good idea!

 The new cloche has its first proper occupants.. the long planter has a row of Beetroot seedlngs, whoch so far seem to have taken

 

 

In the Autumn I planted up the plot bath with a whole range of bulbs, and the first of these are in bloom, looking very pretty indeed,  Iris reticulata ''Pauline'

The tiny Rose bushes that I planted in there seem to have survived the Winter , and look quite healthy, so I am now wondering if they will flower in the Summer, which would be very good indeed

Plenty more bulbs to come though

While Iris reticulata 'Katherine Hodgkin' is giving a very different look over by the shed door

I have started clearing a small bed of  tufts of grass, so that I can prepare a space to sow some flower seed. The soil is very heavy clay and doesn't look at all seed friendly, so I think some compost will be the best bet there

The new Summer fruiting Raspberry canes are planted in two short rows in the Food Forage area. These are long canes of this year's fruiting growth, so I am hoping for a small crop as a little taster of things to come. They shouldn't shade any of the veg beds on the edge of the area, and hopefully will flourish there for years

In The Polytunnels This Week:

The Brussels Sprouts seedlings are now in individidual 9cm pots. I am hoping that an earlier start with these this year will mean more productive plants, as last year everything was a bit late and I think the crop suffered as a result.

Nice to have a bit of staging to put them on now, well away from the attention of any passing voles fancying a snack of a juicy Brassica stem or two

The Spring Cabbage seedlings are in the ground now, with a bit of protection from the wind coming through the tunnel windows from an open topped plastic cloche. I hope the voles leave these alone

I do have four much larger plants in the other tunnel, but these little ones should give me a succession, even if I eat them as Spring Greens, This is a sweetheart variety though, so nice crisp hearts would be even better

This morning I sowed some Radish Seed ...my favourite Cherry Belle.. and some Nantes Carrots, both directly in the bed, and pricked out the first lot of Beetroot seedlings too

I usually plant them out as small clumps, but decided to take  abit of time and set them in as individual little plants. They are just starting to develop their first true leaves, so hopefully with take well

This is the tunnel where I am trying wormcast compost on the beds, so I added some in for them. I have to say the Lettuces seem to be doing well, where I added some of this in the Autumn, I sowed the Carrots alongside them, as I was a bit unsure about adding it to the soil immediately before sowing these

At Home This Week:

The Pea seeds in the greenhouse are starting to germinate, as are the next lot of Beetroot, and the CIllies and Peppers are ready to be potted on... anoher job on the list! I shall move the Spring Onions and Leeks ot the collest oart of the greenhouse for a few days, before moving them out to the polytunnel

I have sorted my flower seeds and have a nice seection of "fillers" such as dark podded NIgella and bright blue Larkspur. Some will cope with being sown directly, such as the NIgella, but other will do much better being started off in trays. I shall have to sort some space on the greenhouse staging for these

Before Christmas I bought som huge Amaryllis bulbs, and these made good presents: the recipients of the paech frilly one, the pink and white striped one and the pink blotched one were all very happy. I kept the green one for myself, and I am very gladd I did, as it has taken forever to grow, and then had a wonky stem. Imagine givng that to someone!! At long last it is in bloom, a pale, greenish yellow, which is quite pretty but not what I expected from the photograph, not really a show stopper though

 

There are a few fairly pressing jobs such as;

Planting my fruit trees in pots at home. I need to buy some soil and compost for these first.

Potting on the Chillies and Peppers

Plant early potatoes

Start to harden off Spring Onions and Leeks

 

And some that I'd like to do, but are less urgent:

Prepare the bed for the maincrop Potatoes

Add compost to soil in new flower bed and sowsome seeds

Organise space in the greenhouse for trays to sow flowers, Lettuce, Celeriac and Khol Rabi

I hope your growing is moving along now too. I shall be back next Monday

 

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