Monday, May 17, 2010

Busy being lazy

We’re beginning to realise just how time consuming a new house and new garden can become. The recent good weather we’re having here means that we can get out and do lots in the garden. The late run in the evenings is particularly welcome, even just to sit out with a glass of wine and enjoy what we have. Of course, such lazing around doesn’t get a blog written; something we’ve rather neglected over the last week or two. Also, much of what we’ve written seems to be rather obsessed on our increasingly cursed 48 square-foot bean bed, with little attention given to the remaining acre or so.

One area we’ve been particularly lackadaisical has been salads – it’s May and we’re still not cropping our own leaves! The salad bed has, rather shame-facedly, only now been sown with lettuce, rocket, radishes, scallions (spring onions) and more lettuce, with a row of Perpetual Spinach (on the right-hand side) planted out from the seed sown in the greenhouse. The bed itself is a wonderful old wooden washtub. Yes, we know it’s a real piece of craftsmanship (you should see the dovetail joints up close) and that our use of it is hardly befitting, but what else do you use a six-foot by three-foot wooden washtub for these days? On sowing the seed, however, we realised that not only had we not bothered sowing it earlier, but also that the salad seed tin was rather bare. An order has been dispatched to The Organic Centre to remedy this.

The other area that has been a little neglected has been the herbs. In truth, we inherited several mighty rosemary shrubs with the garden, and have also discovered some chives and mint. We were also able to take some pots of Oregano and Sage with us from the old house, so we’ve not been totally without. So, all-in-all, we didn’t need to do anything much with the herbs, hence the neglect. We did sow some Basil in March, but it spectacularly failed to do anything at all. Some more Basil has therefore been sown to remedy the situation, along with Coriander and Parsley.

Finally, a quick look in the greenhouse reveals that the tomatoes are doing well, and that the Brussels Sprouts need pricked out. Sadly, this serves as a reminder that we need to get the brassica bed dug and read for these plants (and the poor cabbages) soon – another obsession for May?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cameras, companions and competitions

Camera problems, rather than weather, work, family or the multitude of other excuses we usually utilise to explain our lack of progress has been the reason for the lack of recent news. Fortunately, while camera problems stop the work being reported, the work itself can continue apace.

The pea and bean bed, where digging was completed last month, has received a few bagfuls of compost from the old compost heap, is largely complete and mostly planted with peas and beans (we realise that our naming is not hugely imaginative when it comes to the beds, but it does help us remember what’s going on!). We have a bit of room left for a row of late peas, a couple of rows of runner beans and, if space and germinating seeds permit, a row of French beans at the (far) end.

At each end of the bed we’ve also added an extra, small raised bed (the technical term for the shape is apparently trapezoidal – which not only looks good, but will give a bit of extra room for manoeuvring the wheelbarrow). We had these at one end of the plots in the previous garden. The idea of these was, initially, to end off the veg beds in an aesthetically-pleasing manner, and sow some nice flowers to brighten up the plot. Here, we’re more thinking of using these beds for companion planting (although most of these “companion” plants will be flowers to attract beneficial insects). One of these beds (the one at the far end) has been sown with nasturtiums – reputedly good for distracting slugs as well as providing some very attractive and tasty (peppery) flowers for salads and the seeds can be pickled as capers, or are easily saved for sowing again next year. The near bed (next the beans) has been sown with a mixtures of Summer Savoury (very few seeds left, so don’t know if it will germinate; said to deter bean beetle amongst other things), Calendula Marigolds (again, old seed, but good for hoverflies) and Hyssop (a herb with blue flowers that attracts bees).

Incidentally, the bright green plastic thingies in the bed are beer traps for slugs. Although planting out big plants reduces the effects of slugs on the beans and peas, the traps still get rid of a few of these unwelcome guests, although we also do after-dark slug hunts (which are probably the most effective control method of all).

The experiment to see which sowing vessels (window boxes, peat pots or toilet-roll tubes) are the best for the peas have shown that the window boxes are a clear winner (the two rows on the right). Sadly, however, they may be victims of their own success. The lateness of being planted out has meant that quite a few of these bigger plants got a bit damaged when being transplanted (“pricked out” seems to lack something given the size of the plants). As a result, second place (but possible eventual winner) goes to the peat pots (second row from left), with the toilet roll tubes last, with the smallest plants. The final verdict then: if you’re leaving your peas in the greenhouse for several weeks longer than is good for them, just sow them several weeks later, allowing you to get their bed prepared in time!