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Aaaah, still loving our life!

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Here Comes The Sun!

The weather the last couple of days, as in most places, has been glorious, absolutely gorgeous. My boys' had a school football tournament yesterday so were pleased with the weather and I put out some washing to dry and got into the garden. Today my youngest is taking part in a cross country event in Aberaeron so he has gone with a hat and strict instructions to stay in the shade where possible. 

I'm just going to share a few photos; this is so I can see where things are progressing and to let you see how things are coming along.

In the fruit patch the blackcurrants and raspberries are leafing up really well. as are my baby blueberry bushes. A couple of the fruit trees are starting to blossom especially this one.





I've been sowing turnip and beetroot - a cylindrical variety - in the cold frame bed. In the lettuce sink I've added American Cress; I like that this one could be ready in as little as five weeks - saw Monty sowing it this week and happened to have some so spurred me on.

I was going to plant the three Charlotte tubers I have but only put in two, using the growing bags provided, as one hadn't chitted as much as I'd like; I'll leave it a little while yet.


Talking of spuds, I've the beginnings of my first earlies peeping through already!



The onions are progressing nicely but the garlic is doing really well.



Since moving the strawberry plants to the conservatory they are thriving, but no flowers yet.


The first lot of climbing peas I sowed 10 days ago are already sprouting; have moved them from the propagator into the conservatory to make room for other things getting a head start.



I sowed another lot yesterday; I hoped to get the frame for these put in place as I thought I had enough tall bamboo canes... and I did! Woop woop! A before and after of course.




Need netting at the weekend but chuffed with it, even though a little wonky at the top but very pleased with myself. Its one of those things I always dreamt of having when I thought about ever having a proper veg plot.

Today, before I put up the frame, I skimmed off the remainder of the chicken poo I laid on top of the patch before covering over for winter. Although the poo had, the straw/hay had not rotted down completely and I didn't want to leave it all on the patch. 

I came up with a great idea, I think. I'm definitely leaving the fruit area to go a bit wild, it does IN the wild so why not, but I thought to keep the weeds down from around the blackcurrants and raspberries I would take up a few of them then mulch with what came off the main plot. 

Very happy with the result but I didn't let it touch directly to the bushes as not sure that it a good thing to do - whatever!

Right, I've eaten my lunch whilst doing this in between the work outside, making bread, checking on the lambs (we are not bottle feeding anymore but just keeping an eye on now and then) and putting the washing out. Need to go move the last of the bought compost out of my car boot then I'll see what else I can do.

Looking forward to seeing what everybody is getting up to in the good weather and how your sowing and growing is coming on.

Bye for now.

Lou.xx







Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Improving Weather Means Jobs Get Done.

The weather is definitely improving!

Good afternoon.

I've been doing my best to get outside when the weather has allowed recently and I really feel I am getting a few things done. The massive tyres I have are not quite need for planting yet but I've done some more preparation. On Monday I decided to check out my compost bins and ended up emptying the whole of one into this tyre, after covering the base with some thick paper; I was really pleased I could almost complete this job without buying any compost. I intend to top it up with some top soil. )Since doing this I have covered over the compost until I get planting started.)


I borrowed my neighbours' strimmer and did a little light work, as the thing was sooo heavy, on the fruit patch. I've now decided to leave it a bit wild and wooly. The patch backs onto a hedge so I hope between that and my area there will be some wildlife visiting. I'm now not going to cover it with membrane and wood chips as originally planned but I did get rid of a few large weeds and then raked it over. The three blueberry plants I have are looking healthy although I don't expect to harvest any fruit this year and put a ring of rocks around them until they are bigger and more obviously there!



I've finally got round to plating out this...


the rhubarb crown kindly given to me by my neighbour! It took a bit of digging as there are some tree stumps close my and therefore some roots but....


but I was happy to get in a place. I DO intend to put a ring of stones around it, as I did with the blueberries, so that Jon does not strim it to oblivion later in the year when cutting the grass!

I have sown some seeds, too. There is now compost in my shallow sink and I have sown All Round Lettuces. I've added more sweet peas to the ones already germinating in the conservatory; varieties include Bijou, which I grew last year, as these are lovely to keep at the front door in a small planter as they need no support. These are in the propagator in the Poly House; when I put them in I could see the climbing peas are ALREADY germinating so that is a fab result from my new, homemade toy.

I am still holding back to sow some things but it IS great to get started on some things. Today I bought Dwarf Green curled Kale seeds to grow as well as the crinkly Nero di Toscana that I have already sown plus some Black Beauty aubergine.

Ok, have to crack on with a few jobs indoors.

Bye for now.

Lou.xx









Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Go The Rocketeers! Post No.2

Hi! 

Here I am with the second post about the time spent with Kim at Green Rocket Courses.

In the afternoon, after our delicious lunch, we did a few practical things which I'll talk about but will also cover other things we had talked about in the morning and the afternoon.


A really good reason for growing in a poly tunnel (PT) is that you can extend your growing season but you can also grow things which will not necessarily grow in a greenhouse. Along with this a big part of Kim's philosophy is mixed-planting in the PT; she is a great advocate of mixing things up when it comes to planting; there are a number of reasons behind this way of doing things this way so here we go.


Why put all your hungry plants together when this means they will need loads of watering and also take all the goodness out of the soil/compost? Crop rotation is also not something you need to practice if you go down this route.


Plant your sprouting broccoli with your peas which are nitrogen fixers as we did here!




Nitrogen fixing plants contain symbiotic bacteria called Rhizobia within nodules in their root systems, producing nitrogen compounds that help the plant to grow and compete with other plants. When the plant dies, the fixed nitrogen is released, making it available to other plants and this helps fertilize the soil. Its always a good idea to leave what is left of your peas at the end of the harvest to rot down into the soil.

Why not mix up your herbs and salad leaves with your tomatoes, or plant your basil with your tomatoes when they go together so well in cooking why not when they are growing. This means you can go foraging in your patch for everything you need for a summer dish! You will also be able to grow a range of mediterranean herbs in your PT.



Here you can see a variety of plants all growing quite happily together - leek, strawberry, carrot and coriander.




Another fun part of mixed-planting is that if plants self-seed then you get a nice surprise for no work really!

Now there is no reason at all why you shouldn't try some of the hints and tips here even if you don't have a PT so why not give some of these things a go outside on your plot or in your green house?


Now part of the day we talked about something which Kim is very keen on and that is the no-dig approach to gardening,; this can be practised either in your PT or on your plot outside. I have written about this recently but the idea is that you cover over your soil, or a new area to make a growing patch, with cardboard as this will degrade. Then you cover that with your compost and you don't ever dig over the earth; if you do you disturb the earth then it is more likely to recover after being dug by producing weed growth. By continuing to mulch over the surface you will prevent the vast majority of any weeds from returning. 

If you take this approach it means there is a lot less work. If you are no-dig gardening outside then there may be some weeks or plants such as brambles or docks and woody plants which will need removing before you start.

(Just a tip, if you are using cardboard from large boxes it is worth is taking a bit of time to take off any sellotape or remove any staples.)



If you want to buy compost in bulk when setting out your PT it is wise to look online as the more you buy of anything will always be a bit cheaper; this goes for gravel, too, if you chose that for your pathways.

Ok this part of my post is some random things we talked about.

Should you use old seeds?
Try not to waste anything so older seeds will probably be slower to germinate but may still grow. Sprinkle the seeds in between other plants but put a marker to remind you they are older seeds so you know how they perform.

Carrot fly
Carrot fly are attracted to the actual smell of the carrot so it's a great idea to plant something with a strong or distinctive aroma close to it like garlic close to it or you could just try squashing something to deter it and leave it close by.

Slugs
One way to help cut down on the number of slugs getting in among your plants is to lay a piece of wood on the soil/compost. Slugs will always gravitate to underneath something so when you lift up the wood and find them you can just dispose of them as you wish away from the plants.

Cheat growing
It is more than acceptable to buy some things from the supermarket to grow in your PT. A great example is herb pots. If you buy a lovely, healthy looking basil plant how long does it last - not long. The reason being that if you take a look at the roots it is pot-bound so it can hardly breath let alone thrive. So, you can divide the plant into 3 or four parts and plant out and they will do much better. Basil does tend to do better in doors but if you have more than one you can keep one in the kitchen and the others elsewhere. 

- A great herb for over-wintering is parlsey and it self-seeds easily, too, so happy days!

Well, I do hope you have enjoyed my overview of Kim's Poly Tunnel course, but nothing compares to the real thing so son't forget to check out her website where you can find dates for up-coming courses this year. I had a fantastic time and I thoroughly recommend attending any of Kim's courses.

Go Rocketeers!!

Bye for now.

Lou.xx

(Apologies for the inconsistencies with typing - Blogger not playing ball I'm afraid but hope you still enjoy.)





Sunday, 8 April 2018

Just Time For A Few Jobs.


It has been a busy weekend. Yesterday, as you may know I had a great time on my Poly Tunnel course, see previous post, but I did manage to get outside today, briefly.

Today, so that Jon could carry on with his jobs, I opted to take Alfie to his football tournament. Not my idea of a fun time to be honest but the mums of some of the boys are nice to talk to so we always have a chat. As it turned out his team didn't do that well so after setting off at 8.40am we were home by about 1.30pm, after a quick emergency stop at Screw Fix as Jon was slightly short on a piece of soil pipe!

After gathering myself and taking Jon, and a pal who'd dropped by, a brew I headed to the Poly House. It is a bit like sowing al fresco due to parts of the wall and roof missing but whatever....


I wanted to sow some more tomatoes as I'd bought a lovely looking variety called Golden Sunrise; I sowed two seeds in four pots. Then I thought I'd start my climbing peas off and instead of using the accepted drainpipe method, went rogue and it felt gooood, I just opted for putting two seeds in 12 pots. Finally I put compost in the drainpipe which is attached to the side of the Poly House and sowed some Rocket.

Now I did mention the other day that I was trying to think of how to make use of the top part of the old cold frame. Well, being inspired by Kim I placed one part on the staging and put the seeds on the base... 


then put the top on like the lid of a propagator; really hope it works, even if the Poly House is a little open to the elements as you can see in the photos!


I then borrowed our neighbours' strimmer for the fruit patch; it was a lot heavier than ours which needs a little attention, when Jon has time, but I did my best to get rid of a few weeds and grasses. Again I've been inspired by Kim to leave that end of the garden to go a little wild. Even though there is a veg patch there it will not be affected as long as I strim any weeds first then I think I''l put stones I've been collecting around the wooden edges as a barrier. (Just thought of that!)

Great to get outside and do stuff, even if just small jobs just now.

Ok I think that is it for me.

Bye for now.

Lou.xx

Go The Rocketeers! Post No.1

Hello!

A slightly grey sky here in mid-Wales today but at least it isn't raining.

Yesterday it was raining as I made my way to what turned out to be a really wonderful day with fellow Rocketeers. Five of us were attending a Poly Tunnel Growing course with Kim of Green Rocket Courses; I have mentioned her on my blog recently.

Kim swapped the Lanes of Brighton for the hills of Wales and now runs courses on her wonderful smallholding where she is sharing her knowledge, experience, hints and tips with enthusiastic gardeners, be they novices or seasoned. I learnt so much, being a novice, and have lots of share so will be writing more than one post about the day. I may not manage to cover everything but do hope you find it both informative and interesting.

We stepped through this lovely gateway leading to Kim's garden.


The course was aimed at those looking to purchase a poly tunnel (PT) and how to get the most out of it. Kim has two including a brand spanking new one from First Tunnels which is 30 feet in length. We talked about everything from how large a tunnel you might need, planning inside and out and lots more.

The day began with tea, coffee and homemade muffins and we got started. We began talking about the actual siting of your PT and if you need any form of planning permission. In general if you are going to put it in an existing garden most people don't have to go through that process. You are best to take into account how close it is to the road and any neighbours and it shouldn't be more than 3 meters high if it is not for commercial use.Ideally it would be placed at the top of any incline for the benefit of drainage. Siting it north-south on the long side would give the best chance for sun exposure but you should also take into account exposure to wind if you are on a hill. Any company erecting your PT would be able to give you advice.

LAYOUT
When it comes to the layout this is entirely up to you. Raised beds can be made as high as you want, you would need a potting bench/staging and you might want seating; 


a PT can be a social area and being surrounded by your plants whilst planning your ideas with a brew is a lovely idea, I think.

You want to think about how you will get between the beds; gravel or slate on top of membrane where you are creating paths is a great option as this keeps weeds down and is a fairly cheap option for a relatively large space.


- Gravel laid outside of the PT is a great idea, too, as this prevents moss creeping up the sides of the structure and keeps the muddiness down outside so not bringing in too much.

You many also plan in space for a small pond. You can put an old container into a corner, add a few plants and stone etc and the water will encourage wildlife visitors to your PT whilst acting as a heat sink. Talking of heat, it is entirely up to you whether you decide to heat your PT at certain times of the year, try it and see if you think it makes a difference to the propagation or growing of your plants.

WATERING. 
Keeping your plants watered can be done by various means. Good old watering cans always work but if you have a large space to cover this will take some time. You could attach a hose to your water but and spray the plants but you could consider investing in a sprinkler system which is the most effective way as you can water for longer but less frequently whilst getting down to the roots.


VENTILATION
You will at times need to open the doors and/or vents of the PT. This is beneficial for reasons such a letting air circulate through and this can help with reducing blight if there is air flow. It might just be too hot! If you have the doors open you may want to ensure any free-ranging chickens, rabbits etc are not going to sneak in for a snack you may want to  think about some sort of barrier against the door way. It is an option to put netting over open windows but if you want the bees and other insects to fly through then just let them.

CLEANING
Now cleaning your PT is something you probably only need to do once a year; it is a bit of a faff so you might want to enlist the help of friends! A good way to clean it is to use an old duvet cover and with a to and fro motion this will clean the roof quite well then water and a sponge would work for the rest of the cover.

After a very interesting morning we stopped for a wonderful lunch of delicious homemade quiche, potato salad and lots of salad leaves and purple sprouting broccoli.


In my next post I'll talk about some practical things we learnt about in the afternoon.

Bye for now.

Lou.xx

Friday, 6 April 2018

Bits and Bobs Into The Weekend.

Yesterday the May issue of Grow Your Own magazine arrived through my door. I am so pleased I decided to subscribe to it as it's helped me a great deal since my journey of sowing and growing began. I love that you get help, tips, advice, offers and free stuff, like peas and beans this month!


Now, a good while ago GYO were asking for readers to submit gardening tips so I duly sent in mine and look what happened!


It's me having one of my letters published, again, so I will be very happily receiving £40 worth of vouchers by the end of the month to spend with Thompson and Morgan. I am ridiculously excited and it couldn't be a better time to buy things for the garden; I think first on the list will be my sweet potato slips but not sure what else just yet. Wish I could get paid to write stuff, that would be just fab.

Another exciting thing happening is that tomorrow I am going on a one-day poly tunnel course. Now I know I don't have a poly tunnel but it will still be a beneficial experience. Even more fab is that it is one of the courses run by the lovely Kim Stoddart at Green Rocket Courses here in beautiful Ceredigion whom I wrote about recently. I shall be setting off bright and early whilst Jon takes care of the boys for the day. I already have parental guilt piling up as I always feel I am skiving off my family duties when I get to do something on my own, but I'm getting round to the idea,  butI am on duty for Alfie's football tournament on Sunday morning.

In other news, yesterday was absolutely glorious here so once the Airbnb guests had gone, washing up done, washing on the line and a quick tidy up I put the boys to work on the leftovers from a fire we had recently; it needed shoveling to fill in a gap where Jon had been doing some building near the tractor shed. 

I then got round to tidying out the shallow sink where I grow lettuce and spring onions, sowing Kale seeds in the old cold frame, Basil seeds for the kitchen window and coriander and flat leaf parsley in the herb loo and sink! I also took out some poorly performing onions from one of the tyres; it was a waste of space for so few and I'm going to possibly put Marketmore cucumbers in there instead - I've never grown them outside so we'll see how we get on.

I had a quick look at the fruit patch; bushes, canes and trees are mostly looking really healthy with lots of shoots so chuffed about that. 

Ok, I think I better get going as probably going food shopping in an hour or so and need to tidy up the breakfast things.

Hope everybody has a lovely weekend and can't wait to report back after my exciting day tomorrow.

Bye for now.

Lou.xx

Monday, 2 April 2018

Spud Campaign Commences!

Good morning, just, from a slightly miserable mid-Wales. We had such lovely weather yesterday I just had to get outside and do something in the garden.

I am chuffed to bits I have now planted my first early potatoes! Almost two rows of 10 tubers over a space of roughly 3 x 6ft, variety Arran Pilot; I grew these last year and they did us quite proud. 


I just grew my Charlotte's in open ground last year but have decided to grow both my first and second earlies this way this year instead of as previously in the tyres; I look forward to how much of a difference this makes, if any. What results do people find they get from open ground and container growing with spuds?

At the bottom of our garden we have an abundance of snowdrops, I mean a veritable carpet of them and there seems to be more each year which I love! I've tried to take a photo of them so many times but I just can't seem to do them justice! I watched Monty on Gardeners' World this week and he showed how to split and replant your snowdrops. I moved some clumps up to near the chicken enclosure so they grow alongside the daffs net year. 

I decided to give it a go and HERE you can see this handy video of how to do it; I thought somebody may be interested.

So, having got something in the ground at last I really feel that the season is under way, even though the weather is still a little changeable. Shoots are coming up everywhere and there is that lovely feeling of newness in the air.

As always, look forward to seeing what everybody is sowing and growing.

Bye for now.

Lou.xx