April 1

Keeping busy …

Gosh, it’s a difficult time at the moment. I have been holed up in my house for about 15 days now and can see this going on for months and months – in fact, until we get a vaccine for Covid19. We are still able to walk around so I can get down to the allotment but have been thinking for some time about growing some vegetables in my garden. In the past, I have wanted to keep the flowers and vegetables separate but found myself wondering what would happen if we went into a ‘total lockdown’ like Spain or Italy and I couldn’t get to the allotment even though it is only 5 minutes away.

Over winter, I removed a hedge as I wanted to replace it with fruit trees and have started to plant some – a cherry bush Porthos and an apple, Christmas Pippin, which I am espaliering.  However, I have now decided to use the space to grow vegetables as well.  I have become more and more interested in saving my own seed and so have decided to grow only open pollinated seeds in the garden where they will not cross with F1 plants which I have on the allotment. I have started to create the beds and planted out my Ailsa Craig onions under fleece yesterday. I grew these from seed, sowing them mid February, and am hoping that they don’t bolt as easily as sets sometimes do.

The other thing that I have become much more interested in is Permaculture and its principles.  I had started to tidy  where the hedge had been but had three tree trunks that were quite old and starting to rot down and wasn’t sure what to do with them. I can’t take them to the tip now and one is too heavy to move. I thought about putting them behind another edge on the other side of the garden to rot down but really they would just get in the way there.  Then I read about Hugel beds.

These are made out of materials that are generally lying around the land but have a core of wood at the heart. The idea is that wood, leaves, twigs, compost soil and turf are layered on top of each other to create a mound which rots down slowly over time.  Vegetables and shrubs can be planted into them and are reputed to perform very well.

Being an impatient sort of person, I started straight away. I marked out an area where the bed was to go. The advice says to put it so that the prevailing winds hit it sideways on to provide some protection for what is behind. I have managed to do that and therefore protect the vegetable beds behind it.

You have to clear the grass and then dig down so that the trunk is buried a little bit. This helps it to act as a water soak and to be in contact with more soil which will help it to rot down.  As a no-dig gardener, this part is proving to be difficult. It just feels wrong to dig and because I don’t dig, I have managed to rub blisters in several different places on my hands just removing the turf.

Once the grass was cleared and I had dug down 1 fork’s depth, I rolled the trunk into the pit and then packed all around it with twigs, old grasses I had cut down and then weeds.  I trampled all over these until they had all squashed down and were quite compact.  Then I laid all the turf over it again but across to try and hold the ingredients in.

I watered it thoroughly and then started to put the soil I had dug out back on to of the turf. You can see both in this picture. I have to admit, it is starting to look a lot like a burial mound.  This is as far as I have got for now but intend to top it with home made compost and possibly pin some twigs the length of it down the sides to act as little shelves for the plants because I am worried that when it rains everything will just run down the sides.  Then I will plant into it.  The far side in this picture faces south-west so I will probably put lettuces this side and more sun-loving things the other side.  I am also presuming that it will be damper towards the bottom of each side and drier on the top so need to plant accordingly. More photos of this in the next post. I have to say that this has taken me days and in the meantime, I made two beds that are bigger than this my usual no-dig way in 2 hours this morning. Just cardboard and compost on top of the grass. And I didn’t get any blisters doing it!

What are you doing in the garden to keep busy?

March 5

A little bit of a harvest Monday 05/03/18

Oh we have had a cold time this last week. Snow and freezing rain and we are just not used to it. The whole country shut down and I had two snow days at home. Yes, it even reached us here on the south coast of the UK.

In 2010 we had a lot of snow and on Christmas day I went down to the allotment to harvest some veg for the meal of the year only to find that the weight on top of the polytunnel had meant that it had collapsed. I didn’t have crop bars going across for extra stability because who would have thought we would have that much snow down here! Anyway, I spent the next two or three years bent double in the polytunnel growing short vegetables whilst I saved up my pennies for a new one.  So, when it snowed, I went down and brushed it off the tunnel – several times a day! The best bit was the freezing rain as it coated the tunnel and made a wonderful sound when pushed off from inside. There’s a short video here of me doing that cracking ice-1ow8hpz.

I am still picking leeks and parsley and eating the squash we grew over the summer but do have one new vegetable that is just  coming in to its own and that is purple and white sprouting broccoli (no not stripey, two different plants). The white never seems as prolific as the purple and I do love sprouting broccoli. I have three plants of each but I am not sure that is enough.  The first harvest is always the best – I eat it like asparagus. Lightly steamed and dipped in mayonnaise. Yum.

I may not be harvesting much but the seed sowing has started. There are chillies and aubergines potted on in the propagator upstairs and tomatoes just sown in the propagator downstairs. I also have peas in the greenhouse but I am not sure whether the recent cold weather has seen them off or not. A week or two will tell.  I also sowed four types of beetroot: Boltardy, Bona, Boldor and Detroit 2. They too are in the unheated greenhouse but are quite hardy seeds.

How are your veg growing?