Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Seeds Planted in April

So, we got more digging done, built a low wall behind the herb bed with some of the stones that came from under the tree stump, and then got things planted. This post is as much a record of what went in when as it is an actual blog post, but it does mean I can find the details again.

So, the following were sown on Saturday, April 23rd: Potatoes (Organic Sarpo Mira), Onions (Bedfordshire Champion - from seed, not sets), Peas (Lincoln, an heirloom variety), Green Beans (Nomad), Rocket, and Coriander (Calypso).

We also bought and planted two courgettes (an F1 variety), some basil and rosemary, a couple of rather experimental tomato plants, a jalapeno pepper, and twelve Little Gem Improved lettuces.

It's astonishing how easy the sowing is compared to the work of digging. I'm very firmly resolved to use some sort of mulch or cover over the winter this year; something that can just be peeled back in springtime, so the beds can be dug over a bit, and set going again.

I'd also like to try to record the actual produce from the garden this year. This will involve some estimating, as we do eat some of the fruit and peas and the like there and then, and the herbs are essentially not measurable in weight. And the potatoes are being stored indoors this year, one way or another.

The next project is to get at the treestump, carefully, with the small chainsaw, and pull it out of there in bits - it doesn't look like it'll come out any other way. Getting it cleared down to about 40cm below ground level will suffice, and any more will be a bonus.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Edible Plans for 2011

There is, of course, a plan for all the work we're doing in the garden at the moment, a set of vegetables we want to plant. This is based partly on what we eat a lot of, partly on what we know we can grow reasonably well, and a bit on experimentation.

Things We Eat A Lot Of

Pak Choi is one of the new crops, but it's not quite as experimental as some of the others. I know it grows well in shade, and I'm told it'll get along on as little as two hours of sun a day. The spot we have planned for it is well within the shady south-end area of the garden, which gets sun only in the morning, now, and the evening, later in the year. We use pak choi in stir fries, a lot.

Onions were a definite success last year, and I'm intending to plant more of them this year. I use onions in just about everything I cook, so they won't go astray.

Strawberries grow fairly well for us, as long as they get enough sunshine, and have enough room. We can't affect the first, but we can deal with the second, so this year's strawberry bed will be better positioned and bigger.

Courgettes will be thinned to about two plants once they get going. There are limits to how many we can eat. I'm also tempted to let one or two go out to marrow size at the end of the season.

Things We Know Grow Well

Potatoes are not a thing we use a lot of, but we could use more - particularly if they're a waxy potato, rather than floury. Sadly, we lost much of last year's stored crop to frost. Given that they were in a potato sack, in a dark cupboard, in a shed which contains an always-on freezer and a tumble-dryer, I do feel this was rather bad luck. We'll try again, with a bigger bed and a different variety.

Peas did pretty well before, although few of them made it to the table - we tend to pop the pods and eat them there and then. They're getting what should be a good position this year, and we'll be planting more than before.


Green Beans are experiment number 1. They'll be a dwarf variety, so they don't shade the peas too much. We both like them, so I reckon if they grow well, they'll be added to the frequently-eaten list.

Carrots are something I tried before, but the soil was too heavy then, and they didn't get anywhere. This year they'll be going into a well-mixed bed of lighter soil, and I reckon we may get somewhere.

Corn - as in sweetcorn - will go into one sheltered corner. I know it'll grow in this climate, and I know it'll do ok as long as it gets some sun and not too much wind. I also know to grow it in a square block, rather than a row, so it gets pollinated. I have no idea how this will turn out, but I'll give it a shot.

Butternut squash will be another trial crop, on well-fertilised ground. I've had little success with squashes and pumpkins before, but I reckon I'll keep trying different varieties and see where I get to.

Lettuce was tried before, but got slugged. I'll try some slug preventatives this year, and plant some rocket as well. We use rocket much more as a vegetable than a herb.

We're also going to try some beetroot, in a small area, more for variety than anything else; we'll both eat it, and it looks like it might do well in our particular soil.

Things Already In Place

And of course, the apple trees, pear and plum, and fruit bushes (currants, gooseberries, blueberries and maybe raspberries, if they made it through the winter) are already there from last year, as are the herbs. There's also the twisted hazel in the front garden, which had some nuts last year, and might have some this year too, though that's not really the intention of it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Starting 2011's Gardening

This year, after the experimentation of the last two years, we're taking the gardening rather more seriously - or intending to, at least. Rather than have individual beds here and there, we're going to clear out the whole back 7m or so of the garden, except where there are already fruit trees and bushes, dig it all up, and plant vegetables. It's going to be a lot of work, but we're already getting started.

Yesterday, I spent a chunk of time clearing out old netting, pulling up the edging on an old raised bed, and moving out the pile of stones we've unearthed from under a tree-stump we're extracting. I also started some digging - mostly clearing back the sod where there was still lawn grass. Here's how the garden looked this morning:

Let me talk you through what can be seen here. Foreground, on the left, some old netting and small fences from around the strawberry bed. Just behind that, some rescued strawberry plants. Behind that, the plum tree - flowering this year for the first time. In on the extreme left, and probably only visible to me because I know they're there, two blueberry bushes. At the very back left, a pile of branches from the ash tree that we cut down last year.

Slightly right of the middle of the picture, you can see the stump from the ash. There's a line across the garden here where an old boundary wall was, and the ash apparently grew in/on this. Unfortunately, the basis of it was a dry-stone wall, so there are dozens and dozens of rocks snarled up in the roots of the stump. We've extracted about a cubic metre of stones so far from immediately around it. Just behind it, to the left, is the pile of soil from around the roots.

Along the back are two small apple trees and a somewhat larger pear, all getting going with the leafing and flowering. We had some apples last year, and I'm hoping for more this year. We might or might not get pears. They grey corner at the back right is the compost heap, and then there's the shed on the right-hand-side. This is the older of the two sheds we have, and it's starting to fall apart. I've done some repairs on the roof felting, after it pretty much blew off in a winter storm, and some other repairs here and there. It'll hold together for another few years, but that's going to be about it.

There's also a herb bed, much closer to the house, which currently looks like this:

That's some thyme overflowing on the right foreground, and some mint just resurfacing to the left. In the middle are two kinds of sage, some more mint behind those, and two outcrops of parsley at the back. I am rather mystified at the parsley still being there; it was under a foot of snow in December, and suffered temperatures down to -15C at one point. Presumably the snow helped hold off the frost. There was also some rosemary in this bed, but it was looking rather sorry last autumn, and just plain didn't make it through the winter. I need to do some weeding in this, and then look at filling in the gaps with other herbs before the mint and sage expand to fill the space, as they'll undoubtedly try.

We're now inside to get some lunch, and get out of the hottest part of the day, and the work thus far looks like this:

As you can see, we've dug up or at least uncovered a lot of the left-hand areas. There's about one square metre in there that's been dug to about 30cm down, had the top sod placed upside-down at the bottom, and then filled in again with good, loose, stone-free soil. That's one out of... about 40 square metres in total that'll be dug up, but not a bad start at all.