Sunday, March 28, 2010

The earth unearthed (at last!)

Finally managed to turn over a sod in the veg plot and get a first look at what lies beneath. The verdict: it could be better, but it could be worse. The soil itself appears to be a slightly clayey loam (which is okay, although it does still need its pH tested) and digging it is not too much of a back-breaker (our previous veg plot was not so much dug as quarried). The downside is that the nice black organic layer of soil is barely six inches deep, below which is the lovely, reddish subsoil in the photos. The original plan was to double-dig the whole thing, incorporating extra organic matter during this. We are sticking to this plan, digging a trench about nine inches deep, forking over the nine inches below that, before filling the trench back up. However, we clearly now need a lot more organic matter than originally anticipated. Sadly, this wasn’t to hand this weekend, so will now be added as layers of mulch to the surface and forked in as we go. This first bed is for peas and beans, which will probably need planted out in about three to four weeks hopefully giving us time to get the organic matter in there. The dearth of deeper nutrients also means that additional fertilisers may be required during the growing season. The second bed that we’re putting in this year will be for brassicas, and hopefully won’t be required until May, giving us a bit more time to prepare the soil.

The beds themselves measure twelve feet by four feet (internally) and the wooden frame (boards measuring nine inches by inch-and-a-half) will remain in place until they rots away. The whole veg plot is also on a bit of a slope (a drop of about six inches across the bed we’re busy working on), so the beds will likely be slightly “terraced” on the slope. Again, not too worried about this, although we hope that the top of the veg plot (the bit with the two corner frame sections in the photo) will be flat enough for a poly-tunnel.

Apart from laying out some of the beds in the veg garden, and starting to dig the first bed, we managed to sow some Carrots (Amsterdam Forcing in a big pot) for salads, some leaf beet (perpetual spinach) and the first Brussels sprout (Falstaff). All this seed was quite old, and needed using up, so it is going to be a bit of a lottery to see if anything appears. We also began clearing off the old weeds and growth from the raised beds out front. A few interesting-looking plants starting to emerge from amongst the shrubs, so will exciting to see what appears as the summer progresses – another lottery!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

That mad month of March

Wow…that was a quick month! Holidays, finally getting moved in and a few other distractions largely kept us out of the garden, so not too much done. In fairness, the very cold weather in late February and into early March, when the ground was still frozen, did limit what we could do, so not feeling too guilty about it.

An extravagance saw us purchase a Lidl walk-in greenhouse. The small Aldi one was a real success, but filled up very quickly, so we decided that we could make use of more space. Fortunately, the Aldi one fits perfectly inside the Lidl one, so can be used as extra staging for the time being, and moved back out as a separate greenhouse again if more room is needed.

The seeds sown last month all appear to be doing very well, with the exception of both tomatoes, which completely failed to germinate. Not sure why – perhaps conditions weren’t great with the cold weather, although the seed used wasn’t particularly new. The only new sowings since the last post is the first herbs (Basil) of the summer – a tray on the windowsill and another in the greenhouse.

The peat pots have, sadly, out-performed the toilet roll tubes, with 100% success compared to just 79%. Also, the growth in the peat-pots was substantially better than in the toilet rolls. However, we only had room for 18 peat pots compared to 24 bog-rolls, so the 19 peas in those actually outnumber those in the peat pots, so perhaps something of a hollow victory?

Next jobs, now that the ground is thawing out, is to get a bed dug for the peas and beans (something of a priority now judging by the size of the seedlings in the greenhouse), sow some more tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and herbs, get the salad bed started and sort out a compost heap. Regarding compost, is a veritable bible for all home composters – we’ll be trying some of the ideas there this summer in our search for perfect compost!