Archive for September, 2011

New books

Ok, this is it now, any more books I want I’ll see if I can get from the library or it will go on my Christmas wish list, but just before that happens……….these just arrived

Purely by chance one day last week I flicked on the TV at lunchtime and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was looking very dapper on Loose Women (oh the shame!), talking about this new book.  I looked it up online and amazon had it for half price!! (and still do).  Well you can’t turn down a bargain like that can you?  The other two happened to fall into the basket on the way to the checkout (ahem!!)

Edging suggestions?

This is my new veg patch, with it’s lovely dog protection trellis all the way round!

When the edging blocks were laid, they were set in cement which is wider than the width of the stones themselves.  So when we came to push the bamboo poles into the ground we had to move them in a bit in order to avoid the cement.  This means I have a strip of about 4-6 inches all the way round outside of the trellis………

I can’t grow anything obviously edible here because the mutt will eat it so I’m open for suggestions!  I was thinking herbs, borage or companion flowers but I don’t want anything too large, or anything that is going to use the water and nutrients intended for the veggies.  With the cement below, the soil layer is quite shallow there too.


Tidy toms

I had a new commenter today, Alison who blogs at House, Chickens, Eggs & Cakes.  As I scrolled back through a few of her posts to see what she gets up to, I noticed a post from about 10 days ago where she said that Monty Don on Gardener’s World was cutting all the leaves from his tomato plants to direct the energy into ripening the last of the fruits.  I still have a lot of green tomatoes on my plants so this afternoon I have been cutting all the leaves off.  I only had one mishap and cut the wrong bit, so I now have a small bunch of green tomatoes in with my bananas.

But this is what I am left with………

The whole thing is leaning rather precariously!  The red tomatoes belong to two plants, one is a Gardener’s Delight and the other is supposedly a Sweet Millions, but I have my doubts about that because the pictures I’ve seen of SM are round cherry tomatoes, whereas mine are more of a plum tomato.  It’s possible the labels got mixed up when I bought the plants.  At the very bottom of the picture you can just see my yellow tumbler which also still has loads of toms on it.  I picked this lot before I did the tidying…..

Exactly two weeks ago I planted a supermarket clove of garlic in a pot, and look what I found today….

The dog was allowed back into the garden this weekend and has peed on the lawn, and walked all over the borders!  Not the veg patch though because we have put up some trellis all the way round it just high enough for me to step over.  She could jump it if she really wanted to but hopefully she won’t work that out!

Stopped reading and started doing

So for the last 4-5 months or so I have been buying magazines, reading books and generally learning about the theory of veg gardening.  Ok I’ve grown a few things in pots this summer but now I have a veg patch.  So it was time to stop reading and start doing!

I was a little bit wary of doing anything too physical as I haven’t really done any kind of exercise in years and wasn’t sure how it might affect by blood sugar levels (I have diabetes).  So I didn’t go mad.

First thing I did was move the growhouse from the kitchen, outside to the side of the shed.  I put a couple of bricks on the bottom shelf to give it a bit of weight until I can secure it to the shed itself.  It seems ok there.

Then I decided to spread my organic chicken manure pellets on the veg bed and work them in.  Phew-eeeeeee, no-one told me they stank so much but the clue is in the name I suppose. It is, after all, poo!!  I threw them on and then used my cultivator to rake them in really.  It was quite difficult as I had to reach over the fencing we put up to keep the dog off as I didn’t want to walk on the bed.  The soil has broken down a bit and is getting finer now.The sun was out and I was quite warm by the time I finished.

My Jiffy 7 discs came in the post so I thought I would put some seeds in and see what happened.  I decided to compare them against peat-free multipurpose in cardboard pots.  I’ve planted 4 pea seeds and 4 cabbage seeds in Jiffys (left) and 3 of each in the pots (right).  The Jiffys are quite fun when you add water and watch them swell up.

I really have no idea what I’m doing so who knows what is going to happen.  But guess where I have put them?

If any of this looks wrong to you, please tell me, ta!

My copy of All New Square Foot Gardening came today too, so back to the reading again I’m afraid.



Watch out seeds!

Half an hour of slotting poles into holes and this is what I have…………

… growhouse!!  It was really easy to put together, you just slot everything in and give it a good push and it’s done.  When I stood it up I leaned all my body weight on each corner to make sure everything was fully in place.  The cover ties onto the frame and there are zips to hold the “door” closed.  It is fairly lightweight so will have to be fixed to the side of the shed somehow.  The wire rack shelves are a little flimsy but once they have some pots on them they should be fine.  It is about 5’6″ tall, perfect for me at 5’1″, and if it is raining I can throw the cover over my shoulders to keep the worst off if I need to.

My order from SimplySeeds arrived this morning so I may start off some cabbage and pea seeds in the growhouse.  From the Veg Patch book I learned about Jiffy 7s, little discs made of coir (from coconuts and peat-free) which expand when you wet them into little modules large enough for starting seeds off.  I’ve ordered some from ebay, so I’ll give those a try.  I know you can sow peas directly but this way I can give the new bed another couple of weeks to settle in and possibly deter the pigeons from the tiny shoots.  We have a pair of pigeons who spend all day snogging on our back fence!

We’ve had a lot of drizzly rain this morning so hopefully it is helping the new lawn, but we are watering it every day too.  So far (3 days old!) it is still green.


Book review: Veg Patch (River Cottage Handbook No. 4) by Mark Diacono

Veg Patch: River Cottage Handbook No.4 (River Cottage Handbook 4)Veg Patch: River Cottage Handbook No.4 by Mark Diacono

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book as a birthday present from a friend, and I’m grateful to Anne because I may not have bought it myself and missed out on it.
I cheated a bit and didn’t read every page but those were the recipe pages and the individual vegetable detail pages which will be useful to come back to throughout the gardening year.
There is some good information in this book, and it clarified the rotation system to me, I now know which crops should follow which!
The book is a nice neat size, with a textured cover. Lovely photography, and well written. It also contains some unbelievable facts like most peas and French beans are imported from abroad, which makes no sense at all. I grew French beans in a container this year and apart from keeping them watered they practically grew themselves. And they are ideal for freezing so there’s no need to import them.
The author, Mark Diacono is head gardener at River Cottage, and has his own garden at Otter Farm.

View all my reviews

Blueberry mishap.

I re-potted my blueberry bush this morning and may have discovered why it hasn’t flourished.

This is a “Top Hat” blueberry bush I sent off for from either Kitchen Garden or Grow Your Own magazine.  It was free but you had to pay P+P.  When it arrived in March I potted it into ericaceous compost (they need acid soil) mixed with a bit of garden soil and left it be.  I try to water it from the water butt but sometimes I do put the hose on it which isn’t recommended because of the more alkaline tap water and chlorine.

It hasn’t really developed any new growth and the old growth is spindly and pretty sad looking.

So I decided to repot it in case the pot wasn’t large enough.  In doing this I discovered that the drainage holes were blocked so no water was draining out and the soil was all a bit claggy.  The original root ball hadn’t developed any new roots, so I teased the old ones out a bit and put it into a larger pot with just the ericaceous compost this time, no garden soil.

I don’t know if I’ve done the right thing or if the water-logging was the problem, but I’ll see what happens.

Oooo, and I got an email this morning from SimplySeeds to say my onion sets, garlic bulbs, pea and cabbage seeds are being sent today!

It’s finished already!!

I can’t believe that the garden is finished!!  The guys worked so hard for the two days, a few times today having to make a run for it to shelter in the shed when the heaven’s opened.  I’m really pleased with it.  We just have to get some kind of dog proofing around the veg patch and get some decent compost dug in as the soil is pretty depleted.  And we have to water the new turf every day for at least a week and not walk on it.  So here it is……..(click each pic for larger versions)

If you want a reminder of the before pictures they are here

We are so pleased with the results.  Look at that veg bed!!  I should get plenty in there next year.  I’m really happy with the lawn edging too.  They have put them in level with the turf so the lawn mower should slide over them.  The gravel is a little bit dirty but a couple more good downpours like we had today and it should be fine.

I can’t wait to get planting now!!!

And if anyone has any tips on stopping dog wee scorching the grass PLEASE let me know!!

Garden re-vamp: End of Day One

Wow, these guys are hard-workers.  They arrived before 7.30 this morning and didn’t stop until the rain got too heavy at about 3.45.  The old lawn was in the skip before 9.30!  And they’ve even put my bird box up.

So here are the day one progress photos……(click each one for a bigger version)

Looks a bit of a mud bath after the rain but it’s definitely taking shape.  We are recycling some things, such as edging the path with left over blocks from when the patio was done, and some old slabs that were down in the gravel are going round the back of the shed to put the grow house on.  The rocks will go round the bottom of the holly to make a bed for comfrey.  And at the risk of reintroducing self seeded weeds were are reusing the gravel.  There will be weed membrane underneath so nothing will come upwards but we’ll just have to keep on top of the ones that grow on top. Unfortunately there isn’t space to have kept the old turf and composted it down.  So that went in the skip with the forsythia and the holly prunings (and an old gate).

So we shall see what tomorrow brings…..

It’s all happening this weekend

Tomorrow is a big day.  The guys come in to do the garden.  So today I have been trying to finalise what I want them to do.

A couple of days ago I signed up to Garden Planner for their 30 day free trial.  They don’t ask you for any card details or anything so a subscription won’t automatically kick-in at the end of the 30 days, which is good if you forget and then wonder why there is money going out of your account!

I played around a bit with putting various types of veg into a virtual veg patch and lining everything up in lovely straight rows.  But there is also a feature called “square foot gardening” where it will show you how many of each type of plant you can fit into a square foot of soil.  (There is also a book available on this type of gardening which I may or may not have ordered – ahem!!)  Then I realised it didn’t only have to be the veg patch you could design.  So I went out this morning and took all the measurements of my garden, size of the shed, position of shrubs that are already there, and did a whole garden plan.  There are still some pretty vague areas such as how much lawn to have and how big the non-veg beds will be but I printed it off so I can scribble on it as things come to me before tomorrow.  So it’s pretty useful.

As you add veg to the plan it will give you spacing information and sowing and harvesting dates and you can set frost dates. You can also get it to remember what you planted where so that when you come to plant your veg the following year it will tell you where NOT to plant things because you had things in there this year.  Great if you forget to make a note of it and then don’t know where to rotate your crops to!!

So the heavy digging and renovating is happening this weekend and just in time because I got my garlic this morning from Organic Catalogue.  They only had one variety called  Vallelado so I ordered the smallest amount – 150g.  It wasn’t until a few days ago that I realised I didn’t know how much 150g of garlic was so when it arrived I was very pleased to find that I got 3 whole bulbs plus 1 clove.  Should be plenty enough for us if they all grow.  Plus I also have some Solent Wight coming with the onion sets from SimplySeeds.  I’ll be interested to see if I can taste the difference between different garlic varieties.

I also bought a bird feeder and bird box last weekend, so I’ll ask them to put the box up in the holly while they are trimming it.  We seem to get a lot of blue tits in the holly so hopefully one will take a shine to it for next spring.