Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A sweet spring in the step

Early spring is always a busy time. It’s too early for serious failure – even losing the greenhouse is now a hiccup more than a seizure. Enthusiasm is still high for the coming year with the excitement of planning and preparation. Seed sowing is busy, but manageable – there is space in the greenhouse (and windowsill) for everything we need. Nothing is growing so madly that we have to cut, weed or tend too much. We can enjoy the heralds of spring, such as the first flowers, frog-spawn, bud-burst or bird-song. Life is good.

First Rhubarb Crop
(sweetened by March sunshine)
This good life is always improved by the year’s first harvest which, as usual, is Rhubarb. This year the Timperley Early provides our first taste of 2015 (baked in a beautifully-simple and beautifully-tasty tart).


The plot ready
(With the new beds ready for digging)
Of course, all this tranquillity rapidly comes crashing down around the time of this first harvest, as this is a sure sign that actually things actually are growing. April is nearly upon us, the greenhouse and windowsill are worryingly full, and we need to start getting moving. Good weather through March has allowed us to get our “core” plot ready – four 4’x12’ deep beds, as well as our permanent beds (two for Rhubarb and two for Asparagus) and soft fruit (Rasps and various other berry bushes). In the deep beds, the autumn-sown Garlic and Onion sets are doing well, and the Broad Beans and Peas are just about managing. We’re hoping to double our production area over the next two years, adding two more deep beds as well as fruit bushes and perennial crops (Globe Artichoke please) this year alone. We’ve sown some salads, some more Onion seeds, and a few brassicas, Tomatoes (which are due to perish within the next week going by our normal timetable), Aubergines and Peppers for some colour.

However, we need to get our late crops of Broad Beans and Peas in, more salads, herbs, flowers (those pollinators need something to keep them here) as well as all the other stuff we’ve planned. The already-chitted Potatoes need planted and the Shallot sets need to be ordered. We need to get pricking out (of the greenhouse) so we can get more sowings in. So much to do, so little time.

The Windowsill
(getting more crowded by the day...)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Greenhouse Blues

There’s no denying that we’ve been lucky with this place. A lovely house, lots of sheds and a decent plot of ground. The kind of place many people dream of. And we do appreciate that. This was, and still most definitely is, our dream place. However, the indoor gardening facilities are one area of the garden where we’ve always struggled a wee bit.

Greenhouse brassicas in January
(Gone, but not forgotten)
A greenhouse was probably the only thing that wasn’t really here when we arrived, and something we’ve not really done anything about. Yes, we have plans for putting in a greenhouse. We have an idea where we’ll put it, and what it will look like. The same goes for a poly tunnel. But neither has appeared. We’ve made do with windowsills and the small shelved, and even walk-in, cheapie versions. Truth is that, in general, they’ve done quite well, and allowed us to keep going without anything proper.
January's other (now sacrificial) offerings
(Somehow, Lambs Lettuce "Elan" survived, as did the
tray of Onion "Globo" and Shallot "Zebrunne" at the bottom)
However, matters are now coming to a head. Firstly, the house extension is done, so we have few excuses not to go ahead with the greenhouse – it is now the biggest project left to sort out. More-or-less anyway. Actually, sorting out the sheds is easily a much bigger project, but not one we’re likely to be tackling anytime soon – the greenhouse is more manageable. Secondly, recent events have conspired to make a proper, permanent greenhouse more urgent. Those recent events are the four-shelved cheapie greenhouse, which had all our onion, leek, brassica and salad seedlings pricked out and hardening off in, blew over at the weekend. This happened in the wilds of a storm last night, so thankfully no pictures which would need some type of ratings certificate for sensitive gardeners because, for some reason, pretty much decapitated all our spinach, cabbage, calabrese and cauliflower seedlings, and mash up most of the onions and leeks. We do have fond memories of these seedlings from some January photos as many that did survive were unidentifiable, leaving just a handful of Lambs Lettuce and Onion seedlings worth saving. Heartbreaking. Not just for the loss of seedlings – we can replace most of what was lost – but for the loss of time. We’ll have to put back our expected harvest of calabrese and the like by at least a month. There will be no spring cabbage and we’re also now going to struggle to get any decent kind of an onion crop – into March with almost no seedlings. At least for those we can fall back to sets, but even so, not very consoling at the moment. No, resolve is strengthening. We need a greenhouse that won’t blow over; that will look good, provide great crops of tomatoes, peppers and aubergines and, who knows – maybe even space for a rocking chair…? Perhaps such a minor disaster could lead to something better?