Tag Archives: organics

Grow Food, Teach Others, Get Well

Garden progress0001_9

New label and pen. Tired of the ordinary ones fading, and these are on show to the public.

What a packed and progressive few days! So many seeds sown, so many improvements made. My son has been over and strimmed much of the wilderness back, at least making the ground visible and easier to navigate. The old greenhouse base halfway down the garden is now cleared of rubbish and ready to set up as a shaded seating area and I have sorted out every last container on the main patio-my main view from the conservatory, and it’s all looking really good!

My main source of pride is the trays and trays of seeds and seedlings, and the sprouted seeds we had with our salad tonight, flavoured with edible chive flowers and lemon balm leaves. Herbs add depth to what could be pretty boring lettuce!

Seeds sown? In the vegetable bed Rick cleared for me: Carrots – Nantes 5, parsnip Tender and True and beetroot Boltardy. Out on the patio in modules we have most other things, like lettuce, spring onions, garlic chives, loose leaf salad, sugar snap peas, runner beans, dwarf French beans, climbing French beans, chard, and more. Strength may be lacking but determination certainly isn’t. Bit by bit the garden I thought may go to ruin this year because of recuperation time is getting done because I need to incorporate it to recover! My doctor last week prescribed anti-depressants. But the ones IN the soil (yes, scientists have found antidepressants in the soil) seem to be working for me. Now I’m gardening again I’m happy again!

Being keen on conservation and organic growing, we had two linked water barrels taking the water off the house roof. They have both now developed bad leaks, so my plan is to cut them in half (his job) and turn the bases into planters for my demonstration front garden, then use the others as raised beds in the back. I’ve seen this done before and they look great, and there’s no plastic waste, just up cycling! We still have to get new water barrels, though. I also have an old council composting bin which can be re used as a potato barrel next year. For now it lives behind the shed. And I bought special black labels and a white maker pen for labels that stand out and won’t fade. So they say. Time will tell.

Up the path by the greenhouse

View back towards the house, newly sorted patio looking good!

Raspberries planted last year, good crop expected!

Raised beds. One cleared, but work needed on the rest

Wire doggie protection for my seedlings.

My newly sorted and tidy patio. At last somewhere nice to sit.

View from my bench down the garden

Aubergine Triumph!

 

Aubergine Flower

Aubergine Flower

I was nineteen when I got my first garden and attempted to grow my own tomatoes. I had a plant sitting by my newly purchased back door, before I’d even had the chance to garden. My dad was envious, as my tomatoes in a pot, with yellow leaves and restricted growth yielded more tomatoes than his cosseted greenhouse plants. Forty years on, I have a large garden and a bit more ambition. So as I have a greenhouse big enough I decided to try aubergines this year, and wow, I’m so pleased. Fruits are forming! The flowers are beautiful and the fruits curious and exciting. There’s always something new to learn and try with gardening. Always something exciting happening. They seem to have done well with regular potting on in good compost and fed about fortnightly since the flowers started to form.

Aubergine Forming

Aubergine Forming

The strawberries are about finished now and I’m going to root some runners. Some for me and some to give to friends. Figs are swelling and I’ve cut back its growth. It is going mad, as it’s planted in the ground and has too big a root run. I inherited it, so I’m going to give its roots a prune come autumn, to hopefully restrict its growth a bit next year, otherwise this triffid will take over!

On the vegetable bed, we’re still eating new potatoes, yielding about 1k per plant. We’re also eating turnips, khol rabi, French beans, runner beans, lettuce and swiss chard. It’s brilliant! I’m so pleased with progress. It’s very satisfying to have at least half of your dinner plate filled with home grown, fresh, vitamin loaded produce. Flavour and health combined with satisfaction. Great for the digestion! I just need to produce more soft fruit now.

Where potatoes have come out, broccoli is going in. The ground has to be stomped on to firm it for them, but it’s best use of the space, and will give us a late autumn/winter crop to look forward to.

Tah Dah! Aubergine definitely growing bigger!

Tah Dah! Aubergine definitely growing bigger!

Today I’m taking cuttings of perennials, to increase stock. I’ve bought quite a few new ones this year, with the intention of bulking them out to make a better display next year. Gardening is all about patience. It has its rewards. It’s so satisfying to see the fruits of your labours and plans, even if you have to wait a year for the results. It’s also worth taking cuttings to ensure I have replacements should any die off during the winter.

I have a holiday planned. A road trip to catch up with old friends. I’ll have to leave my partner in charge of the garden and greenhouse, but I think he’ll cope. As long as I leave a set of instructions and phone regularly, I should come home to a living garden!

Summer Rewards The Work Of Spring and Butterflies Where Are You?

Buddleia for the butterflies

Buddleia for the butterflies

Spring is hard work in the garden. Digging, weeding, the preparation of vegetable beds and the propagation of flowers for those bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinating insects.

Summer brings the rewards, as well as the maintenance jobs and late summer sowings.

We’re now eating lettuce, khol rabi, turnip, a bumper crop of new potatoes, strawberries, beans (runner and French) radish and leaf beet. Tomatoes are delicious and aubergines are forming in the greenhouse. Delightful! I’m now a little frustrated, as I tripped and fell flat on my face on a hard wooden floor a couple of days ago, and muscles and bruising now have to be rested and nursed better. So how I’m going to remove the foxgloves, dead head the ladies mantle and other plants that will seed everywhere I don’t know. I also want to sow more beetroot and spring onions. Despite all the stuff that seems to be growing well, spring onions aren’t. I don’t know why I’m having such trouble with them, as they are normally easy to grow, but this year I’m having to buy them in. Very few have germinated and grown. Maybe I need to change to another seed supplier for them, or grow them in a different spot.

Wow, just went out to get some veg for lunch and realised what a great crop of Dwarf French beans we have. I’ve grown the climbing variety before but didn’t have room for the dwarf ones. They’re quite prolific and will definitely be on next year’s grow list, as they’re my partners favourite! Some you lose, but others you win. I’ve already got a small later crop sown in a container, so we should have even more to come.

Using Painted Lady runner beans seems to have helped keep the pigeons at bay, too, so my runner crop has set much better than last year, with less nipped off pods. I’m glad pigeons aren’t more intelligent! Now the beans just need a little time to develop. They are MY favourite! I could eat a plateful at a time.

Cosmos for the Butterflies

Cosmos for the Butterflies

The rest of the garden is great at the moment, with lots of flowers chosen to attract the insects, especially butterflies. So where are they? I have cosmos, buddleia, sedums and different daisies in flower now, but very few visiting butterflies. Even the verbena bonariensis has only attracted the odd small tortoishell. Disappointing and worrying. Are numbers really that low? Bees are here. I’ve even spotted a leaf cutter bee nesting in one of my alpine troughs, and I think is what is carving up my dahlia leaves,  and hoverflies are here too. So please come, butterflies. There’s a whole snack bar waiting for you!

Pallet Planter For ME

Pallet Planter For ME

Our experiment with a pallet planters is a resounding success. We made one into a wall planter for alpine strawberries (better than opal fruits for a burst of flavour) and the other into a free standing planter for my precious flowers, mainly fuchsias. That stands against a fence which was bare and boring before, but not now. Re-cycling at its best!

 

Biennials For Next Year’s Flowers And Insects

Aquilegia

Aquilegia

This year’s biennials were very late to flower, but they’ve now set seed, which all thrifty gardeners will want to collect. Of course, if your aquilegias or foxgloves were f1 hybrids, they won’t come from seed, but ordinary garden plants could produce some interesting seedlings. Many of the biennials in my garden are self-sown, including the stunning aquilegia in the photo above.

Allium Purple Sensation attended by grateful bee.

Allium Purple Sensation attended by grateful bee.

So I am collecting what I can and sowing now for next spring. The bees and butterflies will love me for it, judging my the numbers of them feeding on the nectar this year. I’ve also collected seed of some allium purple sensation, which I planted last autumn and took pride of place in the border while in flower. I want more of them so have saved seed for sowing in spring. They may take two or three years to come into flower, but I’ll have raised them myself for nothing. That’s a pretty healthy budget!

Foxglove

Foxglove

Grow High Value Food

Khol Rabi

Khol Rabi

If you’re going to grow your own, it makes sense to grow the foods that are expensive in the shops. We purchased khol rabi for £1.50 each when we wanted to try it last year. We liked it, so I bought a packet of seed for about £2. This is one of the results. We’ve been eating khol rabi raw on salad and used as a steamed vegetable similar to turnip. It tastes something like a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, so a nice new flavour for me to enjoy, and I have to say they are very easy to grow! They don’t seem to suffer from pests, save for one being attacked by a mouse, and slugs seem to leave them alone, preferring more tender snacks. Aren’t they attractive, too?

As we’ve eaten about six so far and I’ve more coming, (you sow in succession) I believe we are making substantial savings as well as increasing our choice of vegetables. What do you grow and how are you saving money?

What a Difference a Year Makes

The Garden Being Cleared

The Garden Being Cleared

What a difference a year makes! Last year, when the monsoon summer threatened to wash gardens away, we were just beginning to clear a neglected-for-several-years plot. This bed was a tangle of brambles, nettles and neglected shrubs.

But look at it now! Still not perfect, still not as I want it, but a huge improvement, and buzzing with bees and butterflies.

I lifted the plants that were in the bed, removed tons of Spanish bluebells, added some organic matter, replanted some shrubs and plants after cutting them, quite harshly, back. Then I started adding my own plants, either grown from seed or bought from various places. As you know, I wanted to help wildlife as much as possible. I’ve used some wild plants, like the mullein (see last post) and some garden cultivars to fill the bed with colour and flowers for our bees, butterflies and moths. Achillea, foxlgloves, heuchera lambs ear and geranium have attracted lots of different bees, and the buddleia, just starting to flower, is a butterfly magnet. We’ve had a lot of Meadow Browns so far, but hope to see other kinds as they build their numbers back up following last year’s wash out. There is still a lot of work to do on our 120ft long plot, but it’s great to see some planting working out. I will, of course, be moving those plants that are in the wrong places, but not until the autumn.

Garden After a Year

Garden After a Year

Food Glorious Food

Apple Blossom

Apple Blossom

Warmth and sunshine with us at long last. I now have a greenhouse full of seedlings and a new 14′ x 9′ raised vegetable bed. As space is limited for vegetables, I’m aiming to get the most out of it for my money. Kohl Rabi, a root veg said to taste like a cross between cabbage and turnip is over £2 each in the shops. Seed packet to grow plenty, £2. They’re growing well in modules before I plant out to beat the slugs. Also in modules are lettuce, salad leaves, turnip, leeks, cabbage, broccoli and calabrese. I’m growing food we love to eat. I have to have a special diet as I’m celiac and have food allergies to dairy and eggs. Variety in my veg is therefore important. My apple tree is flowering now, and this year there are some bees around, so hopefully there will be pollination and fruit.

There will also be french beans, runner beans and sugar snap peas. I’ll wait until after the forecast gales and rain in the next couple of days before doing much planting, though. Not least because of my back, which has me hobbling around at the moment.

How does your garden grow?

Spring. It’s Surely Now Here!

Spring Violas. They made it through the snow.

Spring Violas. They made it through the snow.

Spring is finally on its way, according to the weather forecast. Warming up this weekend, or at least the Easterly wind reducing in strength. So at last we might be able to contemplate sowing seed outdoors soon. The snow has now gone from the garden, thankfully, though in northerly aspects on the fields it remains.

My son came over yesterday and helped me complete the clearing of the bed near the house I’ve decided will be a good vegetable starting point for this year. It’s higher, being closer to the house, so better drained, easy to access from the patio and therefore easier to water and harvest. There’s a water butt very close by and outdoor tap should I need it. Here I will plant the broad beans I sowed last October and are now desperately in need of planting. I’ve put a tunnel cloche with fleece over the newly invigorated soil. It’s been cleared of builder’s rubble, thoroughly aired, stones and old tree roots removed and every weed removed. It’s also been protected from the cold by covering it loosely with plastic sheeting since before the snow. This has kept it relatively free of frost and will consequently be warmer to put my young plants in.

A Work in progress. Tunnel cloche up.

A Work in progress. Tunnel cloche up.

I then added loam made from last year’s turf stripping that has been stacked and covered with old carpet ever since. So my beans and garlic plants, in modules since October, can finally go in. I’ve also got rhubarb to plant, though that will be in the lower bed that drowned last year. I’m raising it using gravel boards (very cheap) and praying for a better growing year with a more moderate rainfall. There is a lot to do.

I’ve also had a rare brainwave. I’d bought some little plastic balls designed to connect canes together to make a cloche. They didn’t work very well, but I had some old tent poles that link together. With the addition of the plastic balls I’ve made a cloche for the small bed next to my greenhouse, so that’s now covered with a decorating sheet and an old shower curtain just to get the soil warmed before I sow and cover with protection from the pigeons. I’m not sure yet what to plant there, but I’d like to put some meadow flowers in to attract in the bees and other insects. I have plenty of seed, so it’s just a case of making up my mind!

I’ve written this over a couple of days. Today (Sunday) I finally managed to get my garlic out of modules and into actual living soil. Hooray! I’ve put it in the bed near the patio, which has now had some blood, fish and bone added. I’ve spent the last two days on gardening after a long period of cabin fever caused by the cold and snow. It’s been hard work but bliss to be outside. As I’ve been given a power washer by a kind neighbour, I’ve even  started cleaning the filthy, neglected for twenty years patio. The slabs are coming up OK. It all needs re-doing, really but cash is needed for that so it will have to wait. It’s uneven, we think because of the trees that were planted too close to the house, so we will attempt to level it up for now with the help of my son.

Cheery daffodil

Cheery daffodil

Last years’ Spanish Bluebell fight is back on. I’m still digging them out. But my daffodils are open, and look lovely. Strangely, so are snowdrops. They’ve been delayed by the cold, but are a welcome sight. The big hit is my violas, planted last Autumn. They sat under all that snow and flowered as soon as it melted.

The jet stream is still too far south, but tomatoes were ready to be pricked out today, and now sit on my windowsill in the conservatory. Three varieties. More about those next time.

My new dog, Daisy, has really settled in and is determined to help by making sawdust of any stick I’ll throw for her. Here she is after an exhausting game of ball. She’s going to be my very own Nigel, for those who watch Gardeners World. She follows me around as I get on with work out there, and seems to love watching what I’m doing. Or chewing up wood, or watching next door’s chickens through the fence.

Daisy

Daisy

New Superfood to Grow?

398px-3836_-_Amaranthus_caudatus_(Zieramaranth)

I know, I know. It’s been ages again. Sorry. ‘Nuff said. I had to tell you about my recent discovery, though. It’s obviously time for seed sowing and I’m busy doing just that, filling my greenhouse (that wasn’t up in time for last spring’s sowing). I have grown for many years Love Lies Bleeding or Amaranthus Caudatus. I love the long red tassels. It was  plant I grew in my very first garden a long time ago.

I had two packets of seed which had conflicting advice about growing conditions and went online to check out what the official correct temperatures were, just out of interest. That’s when I found out that this ancient Andean plant is a superfood eaten in India and South America like quinoa. It’s known as kiwicha.  It has one of the best protein contents of any grain and is apparently easy to cook with. Amazing and brilliant! I’m celiac, so finding any grain I can eat is a marvellous new addition to my diet. I can’t find a UK source to buy it, so I might try to harvest the abundant seed from it this year and cook some. Why waste it when I’m growing it anyway? It’s a bonus to grow food that’s so gorgeous!

If anyone has recipes or a source I can order it from in the UK I’d be very grateful for a heads up. The photo I’ve used here is from Wikipedia as I don’t have a decent one of my own to show you. You can find out more about it there.

New Year, New Start

Icy Greenhouse

Icy Greenhouse

I’m back and big apologies for the long break. I won’t go into details, but family, health and other commitments caused this blog to drop off the bottom of my list of things that had to be done. Anyway, it goes almost without saying, but for the record, it’s been very cold! Another snowy winter week has had Britain struggling to cope. Beautiful, but hard work. Ice, snow and freezing fog conspired to make me feel like hibernating.

And it was a strange year last year, which totally threw me. A new house, a new start, and more rain than I ever remember seeing. Hopes for a great harvest were literally washed away. I, like most gardeners, was thoroughly discouraged. For those who had established gardens on high enough ground some crops did very well. Runner beans, apparently, gave bumper crops. My few, once they survived the slug attacks, did give me a late harvest, but onions rotted in the soil, cabbages were destroyed by pigeons and it was nigh on impossible to get any new cultivation underway as the land was so wet for so long. This year (I write with fingers crossed – not an easy task!) things will be better for growing.

Monkey Puzzle Tree with Iced Spiders Web

Monkey Puzzle Tree with Iced Spiders Web

Not least because I now have a functioning greenhouse, complete with heater, should I need it. I’ve also managed to remove twenty years of neglect from a border close to the house, which is slightly higher than the rest of the garden, and take all the overgrown plants out. It’s covered with tarpaulin at the moment, protecting it from the frost, snow and rain we’ve been experiencing. This will make it easier to work and should enable slightly earlier planting, with the help of a tunnel cloche. I’ve decided to make this my first vegetable bed this year, so I can grow crops that won’t drown if we have lots of rain, and I can protect from slugs and pigeons  more easily. A torch and bucket containing salt, plus my dedication should keep things under control. I’m also going to order some biological control in the form of nematodes, a natural slug parasite that won’t harm anything else.

Hoar Frost From My Window

I’m more prepared for pigeons, now, too. As I’ve always lived in more urban gardens in the past, the scourge of pigeons eating crops is new to me. Everything will be protected this year. We learn by our mistakes! I’m saving milk cartons, which will be butchered to put over my early broad beans, which are currently in the cold greenhouse in modules and will go out as soon as possible for a hopeful June crop. I’ve invested in a tunnel cloche, too, and my cabbage family will be protected with that against marauding birds. The cloche can be used with net, fleece or clear sheeting depending on what I want it to do. We’ll see how I get on with it once the thaw has taken place and planting can begin.

I now have a zombie and a skull in the garden. My partner bought Gregor for me when we went to the Cotswolds last year. He was sitting in The Herb Centre when I fell in love with him but didn’t expect to bring him home. By the time I got back from the camper having loaded up some plants he was paid for. Maximillion was found under the patio (only joking). Really, he was a Christmas present for Jon. He writes horror fiction, amongst other things, and loves skulls. He’d hinted he wanted one and I was lucky enough to get the last one in stock. I love his grin!

Gregor the Zombie

Gregor the Zombie

The wood burning stove has been an absolute gem. Despite this very cold snap, we’ve been able to keep warm using very little gas and electricity. We’ve kept the thermostat low and used the stove to pump out constant heat. Trees we felled last year and old telephone directories destined for the skip have fed the fire, so it’s all free.

Maximillion, Our Latest Resident

Maximillion, Our Latest Resident

It’s the last of the snow today. It is already melting under the sunshine and change of wind direction, but tonight we’re forecast rain and a rapid thaw, which may cause flooding for some. I hope it doesn’t, but it looks very likely. I must say, pretty though it’s been, I’m getting rather stir crazy stuck in the house, so milder weather will help, although lots of rain won’t. How about a ‘normal’ English year, please, the gods/goddesses that be? Please!!

Winter in the fields

Winter In the Fields

I have big plans for this year. The shed is being moved, as we placed it wrongly and I want that spot for veg. We’re trying new crops, such as kohlrabi, which we like and cost £1.50 each. The seed packet contains about 50 seeds, so there’s a potential £75 worth of food, though we won’t need all those! I want turnips, French, broad and runner beans, kale, broccoli, romanesco, salad and of course tomatoes. Last year I grew beefsteaks for the first time and loved them. Because of the lack of sunshine they were late, but did crop and we enjoyed them. Three types of tomato are going in the greenhouse. A salad one I adore called Gardeners Delight, a beefsteak and an Italian plum variety for sauces. With food prices going up daily I think we can save ourselves a fortune. In face, investment rates with banks are running at less than 1%, investment in seeds, if you look at my kholrabi example should yield a return of 3,750%. Wow! Even cheaper vegetables like tomatoes are going to be so worthwhile.

What will you grow this year? Let’s compare notes.