Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Steamed tomatoes and soft fruit

We have some good news and bad news. The bad news is that our onion seedlings seem determined to follow the tomato seedlings to the great compost heap in the sky (or, at least, in the yard). The good news is that we've doscovered the problem. In our efforts to protect and nurture our seedlings, we put them inside a walk-in greenhouse inside another walk-in greenhouse. We thought it'd be cosy. It was. Very cosy. So cosy, in fact, that the water in the trays underneath the pots was scalding hot. We managed, very slowly, to cook our seedlings to death. Ironic really that despite having some great plants, none of last year's tomatoes made it to being cooked (the one tomato that did grew got eaten raw, and then largely spat out). Although they got cooked this year, it is very much a case of one step forward, two steps back with our tomatoes. Thank goodness we failed early enough this year that we still have time to sow some more.

Soft fruit bushes at end of plot
(Gooseberry is closest, things are a bit hazy further away...)
On perhaps more poitive news, we finally managed to get some soft fruit transplanted. A gooseberry, two Blackcurrants and one Redcurrant (or, possibly, one Blackcurrant and two Redcurrants) made the trip to the new veg plot. These were pruned quite heavily and rather indiscriminantly (in the case of the Gooseberry, it was literally shoved in the car and any bits sticking out cut off so that the boot would close!), so we're not hoping for too much from them this year, but it is good to have some in place at last.

The Veg Plot Plan
(green is done; the future is blue)
When deciding where we were going to put the fruit bushes, we worked up a plan for the whole veg plot. To be honest, plan is probably a bit optimistic here, since that sounds like we know what we're doing. Perhaps "vision" would be more appropriate (that's the kind of things companies normally put together at great expense to make it look like they know what's going on, usually about six months before the liquidators are called in, typically due to the company wasting all its cash on these sorts of things, rather than focusing on being profitable, but I digress). It will be interesting to see how things change over the coming years as we come up with new ideas or fail at ones we've already had. It will probably be more interesting to see how long we actually take to complete the plot - as things stand now, we'd sell small parts of our anatomy for a 2015 finish date.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Could this be it for another year...

Somewhat unbelievably, and less than a year after the last one, we finally managed to finish our second veg bed. In truth, this was actually finished last month, but holidays and camera problems have meant that the blog is a bit behind (or, as we prefer to think of it, fashionably late) of where we actually are. We are working up a bit of a slope here, so the top side of the bed is actually at ground level, with it being raised about 9" at the bottom side. This looks like the steepest bit of the veg plot, so the next bed (and we have planned for another six - should be finished in 2017 then!) should be rather flatter. The new bed is going to be used for beans and peas (if we ever get around ot sowing them - this week I promise) while the old bed, which had these last year, will be for onions and allies.

Bed two: job done
(with the rather optimistic start of bed three in the background!)

Of course, while these beds look lovely, they are somewhat useless if there is nothing to grow in them. Having learned our lesson from last year (that you can sow lots of things, but with no beds to plant them out in they rather go to waste), we have chosen to swing to the other extreme and sown virtually nothing. However, we do have about 120 "Radar" onion sets (got from ISSA in the autumn, and forgotten about until they started to sprout out the paper bag last month) potted up in the greenhouse and, with a decent looking forecast, they look about ready to plant out in the bed, although we'll probably keep them undercover for a few weeks. Also in the greenhouse are some onion seeds (not ready to even be pricked out yet) and some tomatoes.
Onion sets
(looking good (well, better than the tomatoes at any rate))
We all have our achillies heel. For us, tomatoes appear to be determined to wreak misery and hardship upon our lives. Last year they grew really well, and nine, healthy, well-cared for, nurtured, perhaps even pampered, plants produced a single, solitary fruit (and it wasn't even that nice). We thought we might have been a bit late sowing them, so this year they were sown by the end of January. We put them in pots on the window sill, covered by plastic and kept watered - they thrived. We put them out in the greenhouse at the beginning of this month and, three weeks later, all but one has died. Were they unhappy we left them to go on holiday? Should we have taken them with us? For some reason I feel guilty - its all so sad.