Another month, Another catch-up.

Well, its been a while again. It seems, although social media is a more immediate media, blogging in its own right appears to be a much more infrequent and premeditated practice.

The slight amount of effort required to pull a smart phone from your pocket/bag compared to finding your laptop,plugging it in because the battery is probably flat and then actually typing up a blog is part of the problem.

I could just become a modern, hipster friendly blogger and leave my computer set up and charged at all times but I have small humans who visit regularly and love tech, so maybe not.

Anyway, frequency aside, it’s a catch up of what’s been going on since…well, June I think!

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The first thing that is noticeable from the photograph above is , I have a new camera ,new phone. Not entirely by choice but by default. My HTC just decided to stop working. No warning, no wobbles just black screen one day that never recovered.

That means I’ve been taking quite a few pictures.

Which in turn means I’m going to post a few on here.

I’ll try to add an explanation behind each one but I’ve tried to keep it garden related.

The Hydrangea are coming into their own as the temperatures drop, the autumn colours of russets and purples are giving way to the fiery reds and oranges, the flowers are becoming hips or dry seed pods and the garden is taking on its winter wardrobe again.

I sowed some late salads in the form of oriental greens and all season lettuces, plus a risky sowing of beetroot, around august. The lettuce have survived the worst of the pests and the beetroot have already given me enough roots for sandwiches and salads for not only myself but also my dear Father-in-Law, a lovely man who relishes a beetroot sandwich.

The Chinese cabbages are starting to heart up but the mustard went to seed pretty quickly. Despite this, I just nipped the flowers off and I’m still picking lots of leaves from them. The Mizuna is a glorious success, handfuls of these peppery finely cut leaves are filling the fridge. 43242314_174660853399860_5716958557997547190_n

In the polytunnel I’ve decided to risk a few salads under cover. I moved three veg trugs from home to the tunnel and sowed a selection of veg/salads in them to see what works.

So far the Purple Top Milan turnips have popped up like weeds, with the Chard and Egyptian Beetroot following shortly. The Peppers from earlier in the year are still hanging on so they’ll stay.

I’ve decided to risk Peas, both in a border and in a window box, both in the tunnel. If the window box residents pop up, I’ll plant them outside if it’s not frosty. The ones in the bed may well just serve as shoots,as will the boxed ones if the temperature drops too low. That’s no great problem though, I like pea shoots!

I caved to my love of fruit on the plot and added another Pear tree. The long story is that I tried a fruit from a friends tree. It was a revelation and , by its shape and size, and of course, it’s flavour, I knew it wasn’t the same as my boring by comparison Conference Pear.

It turned out to be a Doyenne Du Comice, an ancient French variety that dates back to at least the 1880’s.

So I didn’t have to look far to find one, as I’d seen them for sale at The Range.

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It’s now in a big hole in well drained but moisture retentative soil, packed with garden compost , topped with a membrane cover to keep the weeds at bay while it establishes.

Having spent a cold afternoon cutting back limbs that have grown and spread over the joint path between my neighbour and I, I made sure this was planted so that the side with the least growth was facing the plot next door.

To find the space I could either have moved a few randfom strawberries to fit it n with the existing framework of trees or through caution to the wind and plant wherever a clear spot presented itself. I’ve seen strawberries grown in tunnels, in fact commercially it’s the norm , so they went and the tree joined the grid of nine other mixed fruit trees.

Coincidently there were nine strawberry plants to relocate.

Fate?

Serendipity?

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Finally, as it’s the season of terrible ghouls and horrific monsters, we come to my grandchildren.

No, not them, the pumpkins I grew and we carved.

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I can happily admit, I did most of the work, from growing to scooping out and even burningmy fingers lighting, but they drew the pictures on them for me to cut . They are only 5 and 3 after all.

 

 

 

 

Squashed!

I’ve been trying my hand at growing some of a range of vegetables that have been fast gaining popularity,the squashes.

Squash are from the species Cucurbita and are mainly known as pumpkins,butternut or courgettes. Commonly large courgettes are mistaken for Vegetable marrows but they are technically a different plant.

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I’m growing a few Jack O’Lantern pumpkins for carving and hopefully eating,a few yellow courgettes and a singular butternut. I’m also trying a second attempt at a heritage variety, Cornell’s Bush Delicata.

From the top working down are the first early shots of the following: Two Jack O’Lanterns amongst the Sweetcorn, a small Delicata with three runner beans and two Jacks with a yellow courgette beneath a dual row of Runner Beans.

The Polytunnel contains,amongst other things, another yellow courgette, a Jack O’Lantern in a tub and a small Butternut. In fact, there is another squash but it has been so slow to start I can’t really identify if it is a butter nut or not. I’m not pinning much hope on it.

Anyway, the ones that are doing well are looking like we might have a store cupboard full by Autumn.

So far it’s only been courgettes but the pumpkins are producing small fruits and the Butternut is showing embryonic fruits on the female flower stems.

I’m sure from looking at the fruits from the courgettes that I have two different varieties. I’ll have to go back through my records to see if that’s the case. Either way, I’m getting lots of yellow courgettes.

 

Hit The Gravel And Go!

This week we took delivery of two large/jumbo sacks of 20 mm gravel, for the purpose of covering our side border at the front of the house.

We had previously covered the front border quite successfully and wanted to continue along the side to complete the job. We didn’t do it all in one hit simply because the cost was prohibitive at the time. The timing here was vital as I’d already booked two weeks off work and this was one of the main jobs I had planned.

We ordered the materials from a local trade supplier a few days before and I had purchased a roll of heavy duty weed control membrane before winter, as the money was available and we had formulated a plan by then. Membrane doesn’t go off so it was worth getting it while the price was right and funds were available.

Putting down the membrane meant removing any pernicious weeds and old stumps first.

That itself was a challenge as the stump I had my eye on was from a still live Hawthorn, complete with deadly needle sharp thorns.

Now, sensible people would use heavy, thick gloves and long thick sleeves when doing this, but then I’m never one to make a job easy on myself,so several stabs and swear words later it was out and I could begin laying down the ground cover.

Once again, planning would have said put down your ground cover first then add plants afterwards but we have established shrubs already so I had to work around those. We could have dug them out, covered and replanted but as it has been one of the hottest, driest in a long time, with a prevailing drying wind, I didn’t want to risk losing any plants.

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Now, the problem I didn’t anticipate was the location of the sacks. Directly in front of my huge Hebe bush. Now, I LOVE my Hebes and so do the insects. Hoverflies,butterflies, bees and wasps. I don’t know which one took offence to a great big sweaty human standing and shovelling gravel right where they wanted to fly but I felt a sting and caught something tangled in my chest hair within twenty minutes of starting!

One application of anti bug spray (citronella) later and the job was on again.

Three bottles of water, two cans of lager and several rest breaks later it was …well, started at least. I managed to empty the first bag within the first day but knew I was wavering by about 3:30 pm and decided to give my back a break.

As I’ve said, and been reminded, I’ve got two weeks off. I don’t need to damage myself doing it all in one go, so, after a long soak in the bath, I’ve set my sights on finishing it this week, rather than immediately.

I mean , I’ve still got the greenhouse, allotment, polytunnel and a social life to handle as well!

Be Water wise..

Oh  it’s hot and dry at last.

 

But we’ll get the doom prophets and the naysayers who’ll bemoan the weather.

I’m going to ignore the subject of whether the weather is good or bad for us and just stick to the fact that it is warm, it has been a bit arid, and we need to adopt certain measures to deal with it.

As gardeners, growers of edibles and ornamentals, we are used to compromise. Pruning things to restrict growth, changing soil to suit and more are all par for this particular course we choose to play.

Water is a luxury we can be forgiven for taking for granted.  It’s always available. At home it’s at the end of a hose pipe, just the twist of a tap away.

At the plot, if you are lucky as I am, it’s from a trough, a cattle trough with a cistern. Mains water direct to your plants via a dipped watering can. At worst, it’s a water butt collecting rain water from a shed or greenhouse roof. I’ve read of plot holders who share a small number of taps with a large site, suffering low pressure and queues, those who transport large containers of water by car to their remote plots.

However you get your water, we will all at some point find there simply isn’t enough.

Let’s have a look at ways of conserving what we do have, using less and providing ways in which we can reduce the demand for it.

  1. Look at the ways you waste water. Change them. Stop leaving the tap or hose running, Put the plug in when you shower and then use the water collected for plants. Soaps and detergent s in general won’t do too much harm but if in doubt, dilute it further and don’t use for anything you grow to eat.
  2. Reduce the water you lose from the garden itself after or during watering. Evaporation is a big water loser. Mulch after watering, direct water to a point, at the stem or directly to the roots via pipe or empty pot sunk to root level. Avoid leaving a wet or damp surface as it will wick water away from the soil as it evaporates from the surface.
  3. Grow plants that are less thirsty or lose less through their leaves (transpiration). Grow plants to increase the deep roots, so avoid watering little and often or on the soil surface. This creates short, shallow roots which cannot source water easily from the soil and rely entirely on you. Giving a good drenching when planting, watering to the roots as described and watering less frequently. Make the plants delve deeper to find the water table.
  4. It may sound obvious but don’t water when it as at the hottest point of the day. Warm the water. It sounds daft but imagine spending the day on a hot, sunny beach then being soaked in ice cold water. Fill the watering can then leave it near to the plants you will be watering so it can acclimatise.
  5. Make a sponge out of your soil. Add lots of soil conditioners that hold water and release it slowly, deep down at the roots. Lots of what garden advisors and professionals call humus. Material that has broken down naturally and is fibrous and light when dry. Rotted stable or farm manure, composted kitchen and garden waste (compost) or leaf mould from rotted or decayed leaves. Try to avoid materials that dry out and are hard to re-wet, such as peat or coir.
  6. Before you water, check if the plants actually need it. Stick a finger deep into the soil and check if it is damp. If it is, don’t water. If the leaves are drooping and limp, wait until it is cooler later in the day and check again. Sometimes it is heat, not thirst that is the problem.
  7. Use shade to reduce the temperature and water loss. Try planting to provide natural shade, see if the plants will grow in partial shade. A surprising number of vegetables will.
  8. My pet hate, stop watering your lawn! An established lawn will have a complex root system designed to survive almost anything we throw at it, including prolonged drought. Stop cutting it too short and let it go brown, even yellow.
  9. Reuse household water. We get all our household water from one source. Mains water, treated and purified for drinking, is the same water used to flush toilets, wash clothes and cars, fill radiators and heating systems. We only need purified water for eating and drinking purposes. Try to reuse as much water as possible and let nothing go down the plug hole to join sewer water.
  10. Finally, if you’re a keen grower at home you will probably have at least a lawn, possibly borders too to the front of your home. Far beneath that will be natural water courses which carry water draining through the soil layers to reservoirs, rivers, lakes and other natural water points. Replacing your lawn or soil with tarmac or concrete means rain water will run off to gutters and soakaways, to go directly into sewers along with toilet waste, rainwater running off roofs and out of baths. When we see images of bone dry reservoirs and a few months later horrendous floods, this is why. If you must have a driveway, use a fast draining material that allows the rain water to drain through into the soil and away naturally.

 

Not all of these tips will apply to you and your world but share them, change the people and the environment around you.

Get water wise.

 

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Heavy mulch over moisture retentive soil.

Water pots and pipes, directing water to the roots and not the surface/

Cardboard, then grass clippings and compost to hold water deep at root level.

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Deep down beneath the mulch, the new potatoes were cool and damp and growing really happily, despite never having been watered, other than by rainfall.

I’ve done some odd things before but….

….tonight I joined several like minded adults and played with Lego at an organised event.

I’d maybe make that loosely in the like minded description but still, we were all there with a unified aim: to build Lego and have fun.

I’ll admit, part of the fun was a cash bar, another was having my adult sons and son in law with me, but the event itself was a uniquely entertaining experience.

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The Beer and Lego Experience was a follow up to a children’s event I was fortunate enough to attend with my grandson a few weeks before.

Whereas that involved a semi organised, more of suggestion of what to built platform, the adult night was a little more directed. As this was a debut for Gincandescence,the organisation behind it,a lot was play by ear, suck it and see progress, but the basic premise was in place.

Beer/Wine/Cider-Adults only so therefore safe to drink, sensibly.

A venue suitable for education and fun – the local,recently relaunched museum.

A fun activity that revives childhood memories and activates the geek in us all-LEGO!!!

split the event into two stages,first a rapid fire,quick thinking game consisting of two minutes in which to build something based around one word.

a spaceship,toilet,animal whatever.

Next, Lego  charades. Either as individuals or teams, build something as a clue to a film,book,play,band or song. Just like the parlour game but with less mute arm waving.

We went ,as a team, for this:

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Take a closer look, it’s a film.

Yes, Captain Phillips.

Once we had finished, feeling smug as others seem to still be building, we were instructed to place our magnificent creation on the judging table.

The table full already of multiple entries from several other teams and individuals!

So we hurriedly mashed more plastic bricks into barely recognisable shapes and settled down for results.

Needless to say, we all had a rare and different fun couple of hours that I would highly recommend. If you need more evidence,check their website,Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Ultimately though,get along to another event yourself. If there isn’t one, book one!

Spuds!

I’m inclined,like most gardeners, to try something new each year.

This year one thing I tried,amongst others,was growing New Potatoes in a specially designed vegetable bag.

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The bags were packs of two different sizes and came from Wilkinsons.

The compost was just whatever I had left lying around. Potato variety was one of two I’m growing at the plot using a no-dig method,Rocket.

Sown/planted on April 4th ,watered sparingly but much more once flowering, they have been left outdoors since starting off in the greenhouse for about a fortnight,they were harvested today, June 18th.

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Despite being watered the night before, then rained on an hour before tipping out, the soil/compost was bone dry. This made picking out the tubers a lot easier and cleaner as a bonus. I always water when they flower as this is when the tubers start to form and swell. Even if you expect rain, water regularly as a sudden heavy downpour on a dry crop can cause the tubers to swell rapidly and split.

As you can see, from the three seed tubers I got quite a decent c rop of perfect egg sized tubers.