Monday, June 25, 2018

Half a salad...

The weekend before we went away I managed to get a solid 9 hours in on the farm, and another 3 this weekend. Things are starting to look a lot more organised down there and now we have a bit produce to show for it at last, although with the longest day of the year gone I can't help thinking things still have a bit of catching up to do.

Here's where we are at the moment:

Bed One:
Tomatoes, cape gooseberries, Halloween pumpkins and courgettes are in this bed now. I've added the white plastic pipe to get water down to the roots. The toms have cane stakes for now but I'll  be replacing them with something more substantial soon. Last year several canes broke under the weight when the trusses got heavy.

Given the total failure of all my tomato plants at home I had to raid the local garden centre, so nothing too exciting this year, Alicante, Shirley, Moneymaker and some cherry toms, but I did find a Tigerella which we've never had before and it has the first set tom.

Heather potted up a couple of what she thought were winter eating pumpkins that self seeded in her compost bin so they have gone in too, however I now suspect they are in fact more courgettes and a sneaky way of getting more after I drew the line at 10 plants!! We do have our first tiny yellow courgette, silly season is upon us!

In the rest of the bed the salads are doing well, we are picking Salad Bowl and Tom Thumb lettuce, radishes, beetroot and chard now

Bed Two:
This sad looking patch of earth should be full of parsnips and carrots by now, but despite me pampering the area with sieved compost last year the seeds don't seem to have appreciated my efforts and only half a row of carrots came up. No parsnips and nothing from the carrot seed tape. I've replanted the parsnips and will do the carrots when I get some more seed.

Last year fennel was my best germinating seed, this year about half came up so I've sowed to fill in the gaps. The turnips are growing very slowly too but the shallots look OK.

There should be leeks in here too but I forgot about them up on Heather's balcony, I'll transplant them this week and dig up the random potato that is in the way.

The asparagus season is over now and it's being left to recharge. It was a good year and if you worked out what you would have paid for the amount we picked in the market, it paid the rent for the plot and then some. The 4 new crowns I put in haven't come up yet though. I bought a couple of bags of manure and covered the whole bed, topping it up to the top of the border, every year it drops a little.

Bed Three:
I've finally put the door on the brassica cage, helped by power tools running off the generator, not a bad job if I do say so myself.

The brassica seedlings at home were about as good as the tomatoes so the garden centre provided greyhound cabbages, some sprouts and curly kale. No PSB for us this year! A couple of cabbages haven't survived the transplant though.

The potatoes are flowering but we do have an issue with the main crop. Mosaic virus is showing on the leaves and the plants seem rather stunted. The Foremost and Charlotte's look ok though. I haven't dug any up yet. The virus isn't like blight so they will be left in, I won't be using last years left overs again though.

Finally the marrow and spaghetti squash are doing well and we have the first marrow set now.

Bed Four:
The beans are doing well, despite the best efforts of  the black fly which are even on the runners this year. We've picked a good carrier bag of broads so far and there are plenty more still on the plants. Some the plants have suffered from the black fly but the crop looks pretty reasonable this year.

The dwarf, runner and climbing beans are starting to climb the supports, the gaps have been replanted. No flowers yet but I don't think it will be too long.

The peas are now producing nicely, but picking them is a real pain under the pigeon netting, at 6'1 I don't fit under there very easily! They are a good size and nice and sweet, but I'm sure we are missing some as they are difficult to reach though. The second row is coming on but no flowers yet. 

Next year we need something similar to the brassica cage to grow them in. By the way, I hate pigeons!

This bed now has its boarder in place. It was a very wide bed so has been narrowed to the new 8'6 standard. This involved stripping the 19ft turf path and moving it over 18 inches. It was a lot of work and some people looked at me funny as I was doing it, I also made a hole in the hand with the lawn edger I was using to do it.

Bed Five:
Only half of this bed is currently planted. There are 25 sweetcorn, 3 courgettes and 5 cucumbers.

The sweetcorn all seem to have survived planting out and are growing on nicely, like the courgettes that are looking a lot greener now. There seems to have been an issue with the compost this year, it didn't provide enough nutrients for the plants and they all went in looking a bit sickly.

Strangely the Marketmore cucumbers did a lot better than the Burpless Tasty Green in the same compost. Hopefully this means that as the BTG's catch up I'll have a staggered crop.

I still have to dig over the area where the path was before I moved it, I have tried but it's ground that hasn't been touched in at least 15 years and with the lack of rain is too solid. I'm watering it in the hope of softening it to dig which I need to do before I can do the border on this bed.

Some time was spent Saturday just having a good clean up. All the buckets of weeds, rubbish, old wood etc were removed from the plot and the last of the plastic covers removed to generally tidy the place up.

Happy gardening Folks!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Foreign Soil

We've just come back from a few days in Barcelona, one of my favourite city's to visit. I love visiting food markets in other countries, the range of produce, especially the seafood always amazes me. The price of prawns on the continent also makes me very jealous, what we pay here is criminal!.

The market on La Rambla is well worth seeking out if you take a trip there, here are a few shots of the fruit and veg stalls, the presentation is always perfect and so well organised. The meat, fish and cheese stands are worth checking out too, as long as your don't mind coming eye to eye with the odd sheeps head.

You can even buy prepped fruit cups, and my favourite the cones, cheese, meat or seafood is available like this and makes a great snack for only a few euros.

As well the markets we find ourselves looking out for allotments and veg gardens these days as well.

Near our hotel we found a community garden that has just been started as an experiment by the city council. It allows the local residents the chance to grow some produce, most live in apartments, in a joint effort. The garden is divided into small plots, but the work is shared, no one owns a plot. They are also organic, no chemicals are allowed.

They seem to be doing well with tomatoes, courgettes, chillies and beans all growing nicely. They have a year round growing season, it must be nice not to worry about a late frost.

Just before we went I managed to get a solid 11 hours work in on the farm, progress report to follow shortly, until then...

Happy gardening folks!!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Gardening with kids..

(pic credit to Yard Care Gurus)

It's always nice to hear from someone who has read your blog, and I'm always happy to take suggestions for new links etc.

I was contacted recently by Mark who runs Yard Care Gurus and has put together a guide to gardening with kids, why you should, what are the benefits and what works best.

I feel very strongly that kids should be taught how to grow their food as well as the health benefits of fresh fruit and veg. 

You can read his guide here, it makes very good reading and there are more interesting articles on the site as well. 

Happy gardening folks!!

Saturday, June 09, 2018

We're Still He're

This time last year between the date of my last post this year and now I'd written 14 posts. My apologies for the tardiness this year. Its been a funny start to the year for personal reasons, with limited time and weather windows, and to be fair I was too embarrassed to post pics as the grass was a mess, more later. So where are we?

At home we've been planting the usual array of seeds and have even invested in some plant lights to stop the usual leggy plants as most of my window sills face west. Purchased from Amazon and running on a cheap plugin timer.

Purchase from Amazon

It as real mixed bag this year. The sweetcorn, leeks and most of the squashes are looking pretty good although some are a little small, they shouldn't be pot bound yet so maybe they don't like the compost. Hopefully planting them out and a feed will give them a push to catch up. Everything was planted a little late this year because of the cold weather and personal commitments so maybe that plays a part.

The brassicas, kale, cabbage, sprouts and PSB are looking rather small considering how long they have been growing, not unhealthy, just small. I'm not too worried as they aren't really needed until later in the year, they are more winter food to me. Again hopefully planting them out will help.

The tomatoes however are a disaster area. I have no idea why, they came up pretty quickly and the first two leaves were fine, but once the first proper leaves appears they stalled, despite the plant lights. It looks like we'll be buying in standard varieties  this year as there is no way these are ready to go out.

On the plot there is some progress. In bed 1 all the original plantings came to nothing but the second round is fairing better. We have beetroot, radishes, chard, spring onions and some lettuces. There is also Purple Orac, a new one for us. It's a spinach substitute, I've no idea what it tastes like yet but its certainly a pretty looking plant. Flea beetle have got the better of the turnips though.

In bed 2 the garlic and shallots are looking good and the asparagus is having a run away year, every couple of days there is a decent sized bunch, turn your back and its 2 feet high! The 4 new crowns I put in have yet to make an appearance though. At the other end of the bed are the roots. A row of parsnips, 2 rows of carrots and a row of fennel. This year I've tried a seed tape for one variety of carrots, I've heard mixed reviews but wanted to give it a try, hopefully it will save on the thinning. So far only the packet sown carrots have come up.

Bed 3 has the  spuds. Charlottes, Foremast and some King Edwards planted from last years leftovers. The brassica cage has been moved to the end that had the beans last year, hopefully a good source of nitrogen from last years roots which were just dug in. I've just planted out the first squashes, 2 marrow and a spaghetti squash. The pipes hold about 1 litre of water which slowly soaks in around the roots. Courteously of a bit of skip diving!

Bed 4 has the broads which have just started to produce the first small beans and are having their first black fly attacks. The climbing, runner and purple dwarf beans are up. The reverse wigwams are in use again this year. There are also 2 rows of peas planted a few weeks apart. The carpet bombing seed planting approach seems to have worked and with already have one very bushy, healthy looking row. The pigeons are sitting on the netting eating the tops off, but we may actually get some this year. Another project for this year may be a decent sized pigeon proof cage.

Bed 5 is still under cover. The strawberry bed at the end is looking productive, there are a lot of green berries and some red ones their already. The raspberries are also starting to flower.

You may have noticed the wooden frames round beds 2 and 3. I'm slowing putting these in, they will provide nice even sized beds once done and should give us a good 15-20 sq ft more growing space per bed once done. It's just taking a little time to complete as it involves moving some of the paths around.

The grass got very out of control. We have been having some strimmer issues this year which have now been solved by the purchase of a petrol generator which allows me to use my home electric strimmer down there. This  removes the short charge issue from the battery one and the weight/over powered issue from the petrol one. With a money off voucher from Machine Mart at £120 this is a bargain as I can run drills and saws down the farm if needed as well. The £20 off voucher was what finally sold it. It's also quieter and cheaper to run than the petrol strimmer.

Hopefully as the season picks up we'll get the plot under control again and find more time for writing., but for now............

Happy gardening folks!!