Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Spring shoots

The Broad Beans are now appearing through the soil in their pots.

It seems very strange to see them, when the ground outside is still frozen solid. Another frosty start this morning - but there are a few signs of spring about. Snowdrops flowering in the garden, and catkins seen from the train.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Seed orders 2

My second seed order is with Real Seeds - http://www.realseeds.co.uk/ - a small business run by 3 people in Pembrokeshire.

There seeds are all open pollinated, so that you can save your own seeds in future years - they even send you instructions on how to do this out with the seeds. In short, I've been buying from them for a few years now, and have always found them extremely helpful and kind, and downright inspirational in their newsletters.

This year I ordered -

* Broccoli raab
* White cousa courgette
* Kailaan chinese broccoli (grown for fat stems not buds)
* Minidor yellow dwarf french bean
* Champion of England climbing pea
* Golden sweet mange-tout
* Morton's secret mix of lettuces

I'm looking forward to trying them all.

Starting seeds

Another cold, wet and grey day - but despite this it's a good day today - because I'm doing the first real seed starting of the year. Soaking Broad Bean Bunyards Exhibition overnight to be planted in pots indoors and then transplanted out to the garden.

One of the things Linda Woodrow mentions in the Permaculture Home Garden is planting by the moon. It probably sounds quite mad to most people but it appeals to me ... partly because I love to see the various stages of the moon. Anyway she makes the point that it is useful as a time management tool even if you don't believe in it as such. Because you can only plant certain things at certain times. Today for instance is a good day for planting fruiting plants like Broad Beans. I like that idea, because there are certainly times in the spring when it can become overwhelming feeling like everything needs to be sown at one.

I have found this useful website and plan to give it a go this year....


Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Seed orders 1

One of my little indulgences each year is to make a seed order from Sarah Raven's catalogue. I can never resist as it is such a beautiful production.

Some of the seeds may be a little more expensive than elsewhere....but then some are cheaper so I think it probably evens out. Anyhow, it is a treat. Last year I failed to grow any flowers for cutting at the allotments....I've previously grown quite a lot. I realised this was a mistake. I love vases of flowers around the place...but don't want to buy flowers that have required chemicals in their production, not to mention the cost of transporting them. So I grow my own, and I get the added bonus of them attracting beneficial insects...something my allotment neighbours are beginning to notice.

My order this year is for -
Red Russian Kale (my favourite kale, yes I know its not a flower, but it is gorgeous!)
* Climbing Nasturtium Alaska
* Ammi Visgna white
* Greater Quaking Grass
* Larkspur Dark Blue
* Lupin Sunrise
* Cosmos Antiquity
* Didiscus Blue Lace
* Pennisetum Villosum

and most excitingly for me - two green manure/companian plants -
* Yellow Trefoil and Phacelia.

I've recently read about growing the Trefoil around Courgette Plants so I must try that, to encourage pollinators and nitrogen production.

Worm farming begins

My composting worm starter kit arrived today.

This consists of -

* coir block
* composting worms 250g
* worm meal

The first task was to soak the coir block for two hours.

The instructions said to add 7 litres of water so I did -- this made the coir far too wet so I drained the mix for some time before adding to my home-made wormery.
I made this from a £3.97 storage box, which my husband drilled for me. Holes in lid for aeration and to allow worms to move up if another layer is added.

Holes in the side for aeration, and holes in the base for drainage.

The next step is to add the composting worms.

Leave them to burrow down into the bedding, and then sprinkle of meal on the surface.
Before ordering the worms I did a bit of research online, and read that until they get settled into the new environment the worms might try to escape overnight! So the advice is to tie the whole thing in a bin bag at night to make sure you can rehome them. Don't forget to untie in the morning for air. (How do they know it's night?)

Monday, 1 February 2010

Spring cleaning the polytunnel

Well, I didn't get very far with this blog last year!!

Hopefully this year will see more posts.

Over the last week I have been spending a little time re-shaping the beds in the polytunnel, digging out some couch grass that was creeping in at the edges and generally tidying up.

After digging out the couch grass infiltrating the corners, I've managed to create a new bed - perhaps for salads?

All set for seed sowing. I have ordered some green manures : Phacelia and Yellow Trefoil. I've also been learning more about permaculture methods. One idea I tried last year came from Emilia Hazelip's mini-films about her gardens - letting plants go to seed to get more volunteer plants, saving yourself the bother of starting them from seed. This worked very well and the Mizuna seeded itself last year in the central bed...and more seedlings are appearing now...

(This is the view looking north in the polytunnel.)

One idea I'm considering is using barrier plants to stop weeds like couch encroaching. After reading about this it occurred to me that the cat-mint hedges I have on the other garden seem to stop any grass creeping in from the shared path side. Why have I never really noticed this before?? Anyway, having read Linda Woodrow's wonderful book "The permaculture home garden" I've been inspired to try this method out elsewhere on the allotments. If it works it will be much easier than digging out couch grass every year.