Monday, 23 February 2009

Spring and Garden Chores.

We have been busy over the last few weeks, completing gardening jobs. One of the new projects has now been completed. I wanted to build some more raised beds, but had to redesign the garden to fit them in. So its "Goodbye" to the two compost darleks as the space they took up has now been reallocated to two raised beds.We managed to build three in total. These beds will be used to grow a variety of veggies this year.

As I don't want to stop composting, I have ordered a wormery.

The website that I ordered from have 15% off, so got a big one as I want to produce as much compost as I can from kitchen scraps. The model pictured is not cheap but you can pick up wormery's for about £30 to £50 pounds depending on what your requirements are.

I will continue to compost but will do it via a different method. Our local authority collects garden waste that you put into green bags for collection. During the gardening year they come every fortnight, so I will use this method to compost garden waste as they have huge compost heaps to break garden waste down. The compost that they make is sold back to householders at £1 per bag.

This is a picture of our newly planted apple trees. I had been waiting to get these in as the weather had been bad.

I am training them as cordons. I have planted at a 45 degree angle, tied trees to canes. I have also set up the wire framework, three wires approx 18 inches apart which have been pulled tight to help keep the trees in place.
The varieties we have chosen are Cox's Orange Pippin and Golden Delicious. Both are in the same pollination group, so hopefully we may get some apples at a later stage.

Another job that I have managed to get done this weekend in the glorious sunshine, was to lift my strawberry plants. I have had these plants for a few years and have been propagating the runners as new plants. I have put them in a two tier flower stand. I hope this will stop the the slugs.

I have planted out the garlic that was put in modules earlier in the year, I now have lots of green shoots and the shop brought clove has also made an appearance.

I have continued to sow seeds in the greenhouse. I have sown cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, sorrel and thyme. The carrots sown into a trough are doing well, peas are up and the lavender and Chinese lanterns have all been picked put.

I am continuing to pot on tomatoes and chili's. I have sown far too many for our requirements so I will be sharing them out with family and friends.

Spring is definitely on the way, we have daffodils coming into flower along with crocus and snowdrops. Looking around the garden, plants are starting to come into bud, with a few green leaves coming along. Our Chaenomeles (ornamental quince) has lots of leaves forming.

This week I am going to sow some flower seeds for use around the veggie patch. I want to do some companion planting to protect crops and also encourage wildlife into the garden. Speaking of wildlife today we saw the first bee of the season. I think it was probably a queen as it was about the size of a fifty pence piece and was buzzing all over the place. I have also sown some teasel seeds (thank you seasprout). I love the structure of these plants in the winter and want to grow them to help feed the birds. They look particularly decorative in the winter when covered in frost. I have also been lucky enough to receive some lemon balm seeds and cuttings (thank you seasprout and Mrs C) which I am going to grow to produce some pot pourri. The plant has a beautiful lemon scent and can also be used in tea. I am going to try the tea so will report back at a later date.

So far, I have a good feeling about this year's growing season. Let's hope I am right!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Heritage Seeds.

Recently I have joined the Heritage Seed Library, this organisation aims to conserve and make available vegetable varieties that are not widely available. Some of the varieties that gardeners have grown in years gone by, have become extinct as they are no longer listed on the National List. This is a great shame as some of these varieties are heirloom or heritage varieties which are open pollinated and preserve diversity.

F1 hybrids are becoming the norm in lots of our seed catalogues, these seeds have been bred to withstand pests and diseases and produce uniform vegetables that appeal to many gardeners. One of the disadvantages to F1 Hybrids is the price of the seeds they produce.

The work that the HSL do is really important and I am happy to support this. They do not sell seed so you have to join. It costs £20 a year and they send you 6 varieties of seeds of your choosing plus one lucky dip from the catalogue which contains 200 varieties.

For many years I have saved flower seed but never before have I considered saving the seed of vegetables. So this year I will be saving seed of all my peas and beans. There are a number of reasons to do this, firstly I can used the seed for next year, secondly I am helping in conserving our heritage varieties and last but not least it will enable me to share the collected seed with others for them to try in their own gardens or plots.

I have also been able to secure some varieties that I am going to grow out and review. Many Thanks to Dave - American Gardener. My ultimate aim with these varieties is to grow them out and then dish them out! I have made a start on these varieties today, all have been sown into root trainers and are sitting in the utility room. Won't risk putting them in the greenhouse as the mice actually dig up my pea and bean seeds. I have photographed the different seeds, some are smooth, some are wrinkled, they are different colours and sizes. Some are really pretty, speckled, and variegated. Just by looking and playing with the seed you can see the range of diversity in the palm of your hand. I am also looking forward to tasting these varieties.

These are the varieties I am growing:
Glory of Devon
The Marquis
Duke of Albany
Early Bird
Blue Prussian
Early Blue
Big Ben
Royal Salute
Blue Bird
Prince Albert
British Lion
Purple Podded (Thanks to SarzWix)
Gladstone (Thanks to SarzWix)
Clarkes Beltony Blue - HSL
Ne Plus Ultra - HSL

I am also growing a few beans: Coco Nano, Limelight, Black Prince, Kew Blue and Early Warwick.
Most of the varieties listed, I have only five seeds of each, so they will be guarded like treasure.

Can't wait to see how they turn out.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Poor Man's Fertiliser.

Swindon, like most other places has been under a blanket of snow since the beginning of the week. By Thursday we had about 7 to 10 inches of the white stuff.
Roads and School's have remained closed due to treacherous conditions. We have not had any post for three days, recycling and refuse collections have been cancelled until our next collection date. It has snowed, then the temperature has dropped which has led to sheet ice, then it has snowed again.

The Council's gritting teams have done a marvelous job in such dreadful conditions. Although there is a national shortage of salt, all of the A Roads have been gritted. The kids have had a great time building snowmen and playing in the snow, even the dog has finally got used to it after holding his bladder for ages!

Yesterday, I spent about an hour and half clearing the paths and front drive of snow and sheet ice. It was quite satisfying to be able to see the path again but today I am paying the price. When I got up this morning, I have found muscles that I didn't know I had.

The snow is now starting to thaw, although the temperature overnight was -5. Today the sun is out and we have rain expected. The weather forecast for Monday looks dreadful with blizzard conditions, snow, rain and freezing temperatures. Although I don't usually mind the snow, you can get fed up with it!

I have decided to grow potatoes again this year in big containers. This year I am going to try some new varieties which I haven't tried before. I have seed potatoes chitting and have gone for the following varieties Pentland Javelin (Traditional Early Favourite), Charlotte (Second Early), and Pink Fir Apple (Main crop).

The seed potatoes have been placed in egg boxes and are stored in a cool, frost free place in good light.

Chili Peppers.

For some time now I had been thinking about expanding my collection of chili seeds. I love the varieties which are made up of different colours, they are so pretty. A fellow grape has started a special thread for chili growers on the grapevine so thought I would sign up and learn from their experiences of growing chili plants. I have also managed to swap some seeds for some new varieties of chili seed (Thanks to Small Blue Planet). I have also ordered some seed, but plan on saving seed this year for future sowing and to pass on to others.

Last Week I have sown a few seeds of the following:
Purple Jal
Chinese Five Colour
Arizona Toothpick
Peppa Orangina F1
Garda Hocus Pocus
Scotch Bonnet Red
Black Pearl

I have ordered a few more varieties which I want to try and I am waiting for these to arrive.
So far I have x2 Cveta, x2 Purple Jal, x2 Chinese Five Colour that have germinated. I also plan on taking lots of chili plants into work for colleagues who will swap them for something else.

Update On Garlic, and earlier sowings.

The garlic that I planted some weeks ago into modules has started to put on growth.
My banana shallots have been moved to the greenhouse and are covered over with a single layer of fleece. The trough of carrots have also been moved to the greenhouse, they have germinated and its one of the best rates of germination I have seen for carrot. I usually do direct sowing with carrots and haven't been to successful so may do the container growing method again.

Early Tomatoes.
This is a picture of my early tomatoes. I have planted them into white drinking cups as they bounce the light back on to the plants.

I am really pleased with them. If they get a bit leggy then I can still add more compost up to the first set of leaves and they won't require potting on for a while.

I am surprised that they have made it this far considering how early they were sown and the weather conditions outside. My main sowings of tomatoes are usually done at the end of February, beginning of March so this is a bonus.

The Chinese Lanterns have germinated and are currently living in propagator. The Lavender, I managed to kill off. So I did another sowing which has germinated and has been moved to the window sill. I think it died as I left in the propagator for too long and may be it was too warm.

I have also sown the following:
Peas (v.Meteor)

Sweet Pea -Heirloom Mixed

This variety is a mixture of the smaller flowering Heirloom grandiflora types, it dates back to the 16th century. It has a wide range of highly scented colours. I have grown this variety before, last year the flowers just kept on coming and continued for a three months. The perfume that they give off is beautiful and intense. We had non stop sweet peas in the house throughout last summer. I saved last years seed and will do another sowing in a few weeks time.

Now to plan next weeks sowings by the phases of the moon.

Spring Onions are definitely on the list.