Busy, busy, busy…

It’s April, and as happens every year, my kitchen has been turned into a giant greenhouse as I get as many seeds as possible started in this busy month.  I’ve been really good this year and have spent most of the Easter holidays so far working on the garden.  I wasn’t sure about doing more than just maintaining things as there is still a question mark over if I’ll need to sell or not, but in the end I figured I’d go for it and plant both vegetables and cut flowers and at least I can hand over a full garden to the new owners, should it come to that.

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 08.46.57 Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 08.46.20 Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 08.45.58I ordered some new flower seeds from Thompson & Morgan (as above) and these have all been started in a giant seed tray made from a plastic tray intended to put a large grow bag on, which I’ve filled with small seed cell trays.

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DSC_0137It was born out of necessity, after I ended up at a standard DIY store instead of my usual independent garden shop (which was closed) and there wasn’t a lot of choice, but it works really well.  Once the seedlings are established I’ll move the tray into the greenhouse so the plants get even light and don’t become too leggy.  I’ve also planted up lots of the seeds I collected from last year, mainly things like Nigella and Calendula.

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In the garden the spring bulbs have returned in all the borders, but with a little less enthusiasm, the exception being narcissi which come back year after year.

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My trough, that sits on the drive is looking promising, but sadly, the two small raised beds in the veg patch that were full of spring plants last year have produced nothing 😦 it would appear the various pests I suffer with in the garden have eaten all the dormant bulbs.

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On which note, I am determined to get on top of the rabbit situation and have spent quite a bit of time trying to block any remaining entry points, often by inventive means.  My methods are by no means perfect and not always pretty, but I’m determined to eventually keep the little furry critters out.  Sadly, this wasn’t done in time to stop them munching many of the nice new plant shoots that emerged early last month so a lot of the damage is already done.  Must get on with cleaning my decking as well, I have swept it a number of times over but it needs power hosing down to get it really clean.

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Indoors, I’ve jumped on the bandwagon of making mineral bone broths, you can google a zillion methods so I wont bore you with those, but basically it involves slow boiling your left over meat bones (often browned in the oven beforehand, especially if you’re using beef bones) with any vegetables, herbs etc that need using up, for hours and hours and hours.  You add a splash of vinegar to cold bones before cooking the broth to help bring the minerals out.  It’s pretty much the same process I’ve always done for making chicken stock, expect I now really do throw every vegetable peeling or limp carrot from the back of the fridge into the pot and I boil it a lot longer, until the bones start to break down.  I’ve mostly then been using the stock to then make batches of chicken soup for F as he loves it and in theory it ‘might’ help his broken arm heal quicker.

To add to my vegetable list from last month, I’ve added:

Sweetcorn ‘Conqueror’

Climbing BeanBlauhilde’

Indoors and in the greenhouse, in gutters:

Peas

Salad

Direct (under cloches) I’ve sown:

Spring Onions

Radish

Beetroot

Turnip ‘Snowball’

I hope to get broccoli, kale, and all the squash on the go in coming weeks.

Right, I’m off to give everything a water, it’s amazing how quickly things dry out in the greenhouse if they aren’t carefully monitored.

Still here…

Yet another blog break there, but if you read my other (sewing) blog you’ll know we had a bit of a family tragedy, which has been all-consuming and hasn’t left much time or energy, or, to be honest, interest in anything else.  Still, life does go on and I am determined to keep looking forward and so here I am, back blogging.

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Like most of the UK, our poor garden has been hiding under a blanket of snow (ok, so I wrote this a week or so ago and haven’t published it yet, there’s no snow right now), I didn’t cloche any of my remaining crops and the kale, chard, carrots, salad and over-wintering broad beans are not looking happy, that is the ones that haven’t turned to slime.  Still, my potatoes have arrived in record early time (Thompson & Morgan, in my experience, usually send them out late) so I have a very reserved 20 ‘Charlotte’ variety ‘chitting‘ in the kitchen.  I’ve opted for a lot less this year as we are now getting blight quite early and badly, I’m going to plant them in a completely different part of the garden and the tomatoes are going back into the green house, I do hope this helps.

The potatoes were delivered along with some shallots ‘Longor’, which will be planted when the ground has thawed slightly.  I had hoped to experiment with planting some of my own, from last year, but we’ve eaten most of them and the remaining ones aren’t looking very happy.

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I am most excited to see what comes up from my Autumn planting, in the side border (see this post for the list) but I couldn’t resist some extra flowers:

Ranunculus ‘Purple Heart’

Anemone coronaria ‘Bordeaux’

…yet more in purple/black!  They were both bought from the Crocus sale (whose images I have used above, which I know is naughty).  I might add these to the raised bed that, at the moment, has all my spring cutting flowers in, or maybe I’ll put them in a pot…I’m not sure yet.  I’ve killed every ranunculus that I’ve plated so far and some of the more tender anemone, so if I plant them in the raised beds they’ll be easier to cloche in cooler weather.  It’ll be interesting to see how they grow differently from Autumn planted bulbs of the same.

DSC_0056Finally, I hope to eat the last of the squash on coming weeks, I struggle after a while, to find new ways to cook them; I’m thinking baking is the way to go.  They are still in great condition, it always amazes me how long they last for once brought inside.

I hear we are in for another cool snap, I hope it doesn’t last as I’m keen to get outdoors and tidy up a little, I do love seeing all this little shoots emerge when you clear away the dead leaves.

 

April vegetable planting lists…

We’ve had a glorious start to the Easter Holidays and have spent most of the time so far in the garden.  The timing couldn’t have been better as F started with Chicken Pox last Thursday and being able to send him outside to play (when he has been well enough) has taken the strain out of housebound kids.

As C was in full health, I went to his end of term concert on the Friday and we took a bunch of Narcissi from the cutting patch along with a chocolate Lindt bunny for his Key Worker.  These Narcissi are among the first flowers to appear in the garden and as well as a line grown for cut flowers I have many scattered across the garden, both under the trees and in the beds; they are the ‘Geranium’ variety and I love them, they also smell fantastic!  I spent quite a lot of money on bulbs when we first moved here and I’m pleased I did, the tulips are opening at the moment to provide some colour and they will then be replaced with the Alliums.  Although I haven’t added any extra bulbs for a couple of years, I plan to put more in next September now I know exactly where the gaps in my planting are.

The greenhouse is starting to look busy and in addition to the already planted and germinating Tomatoes, Aubergines, Peppers and Chillies (which were moved out of the house once the nights warmed up) I have added:

Cucumbers ‘Burpless Tasty Green’ & ‘Diva’

3 of each in larger pots, although the Diva are showing no signs of germinating at the moment

Sweetcorn ‘Sweet Nugget’

16 altogether, again in decent sized pots so the roots wont be disturbed when transplanting them.  I’ve bravely only planted 1 kernel per pot, I’ll plant more if they don’t germinate as ideally I need a grid of at least 4 x 4 for the wind pollination that they need to ame sure we get cobs full of kernels.

Melons ‘Edonis

These were so good last year, I’ve planted 3 pots for hopefully 2 melons per plant.

Courgettes ‘Soliel’ & ‘Defender’

2 pots of each (2 seeds per pot so one can be thrown away of they both germinate)

Pak Choi ‘Joi Choi

1 pot with a few seeds for transplanting out later.

I have quite a few herbs to plant up but for now I’ve started with Lemon Grass I’ll get around the rest later…maybe.  I’ve also planted a gutter with Peas ‘Sugar Snap’ in a grid of three lines planted 5 cm apart in rows 5 cm apart.  These will go out as soon as they get going but after the mice are tempted to remove them!

Finally, I’ve planted up a large seed tray of mixed lettuce, Mizuna, Mustard and Rocket, these will be moved outside as seedlings in a few weeks and in order to stop them being munched immediately I’ve ordered the first batch of slug nematodes.  I’d rather get rid of the little critters before they even get going and then repeat every few weeks until we are out of this mild wet weather.

Early Spring Borders…

It’s been a late start to the flowers but at last the tulips have arrived.  I didn’t protect the borders from rabbits this year and oddly they haven’t touched them.  I’m not sure why as we still have a rabbit problem in the garden despite all my efforts to keep them out but I certainly wont grumble.

One of the surprise has been the Chocolate Vine/Akebia quinata which has never really survived above ground before but this year is giving a lovely early display along the back of the fence.

I am also quite taken with the delicate and pretty flowers on the Weeping Pear/Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’, which I have never noticed before.

Other than that it’s the usual suspects taking center stage and proving some much needed colour.  There are still quite a few tulips in the cutting patch to flower but I’ll save that for another day as two posts in one day is miracle enough and I need to go and do my final water!

Sowing Hardy Annuals…

A Hardy Annual pretty much lives up to it’s name, it can withstand cold weather, as opposed to a Half-Hardy Annual, which MAY survive the cold (some of mine do if I mulch them but more about that another time) and it grows, flowers and sets seed all in one year, unlike a Biennial which grows foliage one year and flowers the next or a Perennial which comes back year after year.

As Autumn has arrived, it’s time to sow hardy annuals (HA) so they can form a small plant before the weather gets too cold.  You can sow them in Spring but they will not flower as early, Autumn sowing gives them a head start and in my experience works well for my cutting patch, you can then sow replacements in Spring in the greenhouse that take over after the Autumn sown plants are past their best.  I used to start mine in small pots in the greenhouse but I mostly sow direct now, it saves a lot of energy and keeps the greenhouse free for other things.  You can just scatter your seeds in your chosen spot but it’s hard to tell what is a weed and what  is a plant as they sprout so it’s better to sow in lines/drills, the seed packets should have the ideal depth and distance for each final plant, you will probably have to thin them out a few times as they grow.  I wont go into too much detail, as to be honest there are so many good tutorials on the internet on how to grow HA and they are much better written then I could ever manage!

I find that I grow a lot of the same plants each year and most of my HA self seed, so I just transplant the seedlings to the desired spot once they are established.  My worst problem is not watering the seedlings enough, or thinning them too keenly too early and having the slugs take out the rest leaving me to begin again next Spring.  I am late planning my cutting beds but I know I will grow the following HA:

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  1. Bupleurum rotundifolium – Griffithii
  2. Salvia Viridis/Sage – Blue Clary
  3. Euphorbia Oblongata
  4. Centaurea Cyanus/Cornflower – Blue Boy
  5. Calendula Officinalis/Marigold – Indian Prince
  6. Nigella Hispanica/Love-in-the-mist
  7. Nigella Damascena – Deep Blue
  8. Helianthus Annus/Sunflower – Red Sun
  9. Cerinth Major Purpurascens/Honeywort
  10. Malope Trifida Vulcan
  11. Ammi Majus/Bishop’s Flower
  12. Scabiosa Atropurpurea

I sow the Helianthus/Sunflower in Spring in the greenhouse but everything else is started in September, I give a few seeds a helping hand by shaking the seed heads in the spot where I want my new plants, cover them lightly with fine soil, water and then leave them too it.  I still rather neglecting the garden, we have new school for Felix and builders working on part of the house so there is enough going on but I am worried about getting behind, I had better stop writing and get digging or I will regret it next Spring!

Tulips…

Are in full swing and considering that it’s their second year I am quite pleased.  I braved removing the rabbit proof  fence over the weekend that is made from a roll of small mesh wire, bent to approx 2 1/2 ft high (so I can easily climb over to weed) and held in place with old canes every few feet as below

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as you can see our fence doesn’t look all that glamorous but there are plenty of climbers that will hide it a little over time (honeysuckle, chocolate vine etc).  The tulips are providing the main colour, in the border we have:

‘Ballerina’ (bright orange), ‘China Pink’, ‘Jan Reus’ (deep red), ‘Burgandy’, ‘Jimmy’ (orange), ‘Uncle Tom’ (a double Jan Reus), ‘Attila’s Elite’ 

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and in my cutting patch I grow

‘Black Parrot’, ‘Green Wave’ (as pictured below), ‘Orange Favourite’ and ‘Recreado’.  

I grow these between my usual lines of cutting flowers.   I also grow Narcissi ‘Geranium’, Allium ‘ Caeruleum, and Coronaria ‘Mr Fokker’ and ‘Sylphine’ in the cutting patch.

I plant all my tulips very deep (about 10 inches) so that I can overplant them and also because I don’t lift them in the summer, I just leave them in the ground which so far has always worked for me.  

It has taken me so long to post this blog that I am a little sad to see the tulips starting to fade this week (they are being battered by the rain today) but the alliums are already beginning to open and take their place so all will be well.

New Linen Cat with Tulip 'Green Wave'

New Linen Cat with Tulip 'Green Wave'

Easter Bouquet and rhubarb bellini…

Yesterday I cut the first flowers from the garden to give as a gift for my sister.  Although I have been cutting narcissi and corona for the house, this is the first mixed bunch this spring.  The bouquet contains:

Euphorbia/Spurge ‘Martini’ (from the top bed – needs stems searing in boiling water)

Cerinthe Major/Honeywort (from the cutting patch – needs stems searing in boiling water)

Tulip ‘Ballerina’ (lovely bright orange and my favourite)

Tulip ‘Jan Reus’ (first of the dark crimson tulips)

Narcissi ‘Geranium’ (grown all over the garden and cutting patch as it lasts well in a vase)

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I also made syrup for bellinis from the rhubarb which is in it’s second year of growing.  I planted ‘Champagne’ and ‘Timberley Early’ and they have gone crazy this year so I feel happy to pick a few stems.  

The syrup was a HFW suggestion from ‘The River Cottage Year’, you simmer (for approx 15 mins) 500g of rhubarb with 4 tbls sugar and the juice of 2 oranges then drain off the syrup, let it cool and pop in a sealed jar in the fridge (it keeps for up to 1 month).  Mix 1:3 with fizzy wine.  It was quite nice actually and went down well, unlike a bottle of elderberry wine I made a couple of years back that I found in the back of the cupboard…that was a bit nasty.

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