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Sunday, 29 March 2009

The Clocks Have Gone Foward and The Sun Came Out To Play.

Yesterday I noticed there was signs of the ulluca growing with leaf buds seen in some of the pots. There was also germination of the brussel sprouts noted.

Today the clocks went forward so here comes the long sunny evenings (I hope). Woke up to light freezing of the vege ponds water, there is more forecasted for tonight so everything has been put to bed properly IE whats in the greenhouse has propagator lids over them and the potatoes which have sprouted their leaves already have had a double layer of newspaper placed on them.

The sun came out today which made being outside very pleasant, there was a cold breeze though that blew from time to time.

Today the girls and I sowed some seeds into our old leaky garden wellingtons; morning glory and nasturtium for the girls two pairs and a trailing nasturtiums for my pair.

I was also busy today with repotting house plants and the Greek basil plants that were successfully overwintered. A honeysuckle plant that I bought last year was also put into a bigger pot, I also pruned it back a bit as the growth was quite straggly and was getting damaged easily. Tomorrow I will create an in pot type trellis to tie it into, which I hope will keep it safe till I can put it into the ground.

I checked the sweetpea seeds that were sown in another pair of the girls old wellies and found signs of germination in one of them.

The frog spawn is disintegrating rapidly as the tadpoles grow there are signs of wriggling now, I tried o capture them on film maybe you will be able to see the wriggles.

Friday, 27 March 2009

I Got Everything Done!!

Everything I planned to do today in the garden got done, along with the washing, school runs and after school activities, woo hoo result!! Don't you just love when it all goes to plan.

Well today I planted the last of my potatoes in an old compost bag which I turned inside out. they were my maincrop potatoes variety Desiree. My first carrot seeds were also sown variety Nantes'2. I had planned to sow some cut and come again salad greens but will have to wait till Sunday when I will have more compost as I plan to sow them in a window box or a hanging basket.

The second bean trench was filled in and a third was dug and lined with shredded paper and is now ready for kitchen scraps.

Now I have been advised by the good members of A4A that overwintered garlic benefits from a dose of potash at this time of the year, so as you can see I liberally applied some of last year's bonfire ash (which is one way to get potash) to the garlic bed it will also add organic matter which will help improve the soils structure.

Last year I grew two scotch bonnet chili plants and attempted to overwinter them in the conservatory which remained unheated for most of the winter months. Around early January the both plants lost all their leaves and though the peppers which were on them didn't drop off nor did the stems become dry I kinda thought the plants were dieing, plus a two weeks or so before the lost their leaves they became infested with aphids and all watering of the plants were stopped from Christmas Eve. Well anyway about three weeks ago I noticed both plants were resprouting new healthy leaves, so today I pruned the plants back to six inches removed them from the pots and washed the pots inside and out with soapy water to get rid of any aphids, their eggs and sticky residue. the plant stems were also washed with the soapy water, all the leaf litter and loose surface soil was removed and the top of the soil and the clean plant stem was sprayed with my homemade rhubarb insecticide to kill off any lingering bugs the soapy water might have missed. I then mixed some spent compost with a slow releasing natural fertiliser Blood, Fish and Bone and used this mixture in repotting the plants. They were then watered with warm tap water and placed back in the conservatory to get on with growing some new branches. the picture shows what they looked like before and after.
Signs of germination in the mini wildlife meadow area have been observed, I think I can spot seedlings of cornflower but there are a few others that I am not yet able to identify, so it will be a wait and see project.

Today the self sown heartese plants were flowering their socks off and yesterday the garden was visited by a crow, although they patrol and nest in the oak trees to the back and the front of the property this is only the second time I have ever seen them come into the garden. so please enjoy these beautiful pictures.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Parsnip Challenge

Well parsnips are not the easiest vege to grow mainly because they can be difficult to get to germinate. There many different ways gardeners use to get a successful germination rate but really it simply depends on two main points;

  • fresh seed - parsnip seeds lose viability very quickly, so fresh seeds are key.
  • secondly is soil temp - 10 to 21 degrees Celsius being the best with early April onward being the most successful times for germination.

As I recieved my seeds via a swap and as such donot know how old the seeds are I have decided to try the chitting method which I will go into step by step. If in a couple of weeks there are no signs of germination I will try direct sowing to the soil by then it would be mid April and the soil temp should be consistently at optimum levels.

Chitting is a great way to check seeds for their viabilty and germination percentage. It is mainly done by putting some seeds on a damp paper towel or thin layer of soil and leaving in a warm place which should encourage quick germination. I have decided to go one further and make seed tapes with all the parsnip seeds placed at their sowing distances, so that once they have chitted I can simply plant out the seed tapes into the prepared soil and leave to grow on.

1. First I cut the paper towel to the length of my planting rows.

2. Then I folded it up to a manageable size.

3. I plan on having 3 rows, so I cut the towel into 6 pieces.

4. On a tray I laid out three strips and placed the seeds at the desired sowing widths

5. Then I wet each seed.

6. A matching strip of paper was then laid over an existing strip of seed, whetted further and covered with a layer of clingfilm.

7. One side of the tape sandwich was then folded back onto the clingfilm and more seeds were added.

Then step 5 was repeated.

8. The dry strip was then relaid onto the seeded strip. Then steps 4 to 6 was repeated till all the paper towel strips were used up.

9. When all the steps were completed the tray was covered with clingfilm to ensure the seeds remained moist.

10. The tray was then left in a warm area, for me it was under a table next to a radiator.

Edited on the 03/ 04/09 to update on progress....

11. The first chitted seed was noticed on Monday 30/03/09 this picture was taken of it on the 03/04/09 when there was many more chitted seeds.

12. The chitted seeds were planted out on the paper towel made tapes with the top layer removed, a thin layer of soil was used to cover them and they were then watered in. I provided a plastic cover to help ward off the the worst of the night time low temperatures which I hope will help the remaining seeds to germinate.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Weather Did Hold But Not For Long.

Well the weekend turned out to be fabulous and we all had a great time visiting with the extended members of our family. The gardening bug followed me to South London and I spent a few hours preparing a little herb patch for my aunt (sorry no piccies) in the area I planted up three plants I brought for from my garden a mint, oregano and bunch of chives. I also decide to sow some carrots and lettuce seeds in part of the area to prevent the bare ground becoming recolonized with.

Saturday morning had evidence of quite a hard frost even the vege ponds' surface was frozen but this did not last long with the warm spring sunshine that followed. Before we went up to South London I saw two comma butterflies dancing on the wind, they were too quick to get a picture though. There was also signs of the par-cel and agastache starting to germinate.

Even yesterday Monday was not to bad weather wise with a mixed day all round ending with rain I got lots of potting up of seedlings done mainly curcubits and some french marigolds.
I had my first sighting of a wasp for the season most likely a queen she was searching out nesting sites in the greenhouse, investigating every possible nook and cranny as you can see.

Today the bitter cold wind is definitely up but the sun is trying to break though and maybe it will, I'm off to the greenhouse now 10.00am will fill you in later to night after I get some stuff done, see you later.
Well I got more potting up of seedlings done, in particular tomatoes. I also sowed my yardlong beans, courgettes and summer squashes.

Well that's a wrap for now.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Really Great Weather

Well we are in for our first week of great weather with temperatures in double figures, lots of uninterrupted sunshine and light breezy and at times warm wind forecasted, so I supppose spring is definately here and there is no turning back.

I'll let this post cover the whole week, adding to it a little each night on each days events.


Saw my first wood anenome in the woods today when I was going to collect Nathifa from school and the sweet violas are also blooming beautifully although not yet in my garden :( and on the way home from dropping Thifa at brownies I saw my first dandelion, I will have less of these in my garden this year as there is less uncultivated land available for them to grow and when I finish laying my brick paving down there would be no where for them to grow, maybe I'll leave the odd corner for them to ocupy and just forget to weed it from time to time, the trick to stop them spreading all around the garden is to not let the flower heads set seed but that doesn't stop them coming over the fence on the wind >:(.

Why keep them you may wonder, well I am also into wild foods and they make a great tea, can be used in salads (blanching the leaves while growing with an upturned bucket helps to reduce their bitterness), the bees and other beneficial bugs such as hoverflies (whose larva eats the nasty plant sucking aphids which attacks my veges) enjoy the pollen and nectar from the flowers and we enjoy the flowers both in salads but mainly lightly fried in stir fries.

Anyway down to what I have been achieving thus far today:

I cleaned up the flower beds, removing spent seed heads which I leave as a source of food for the birds over winter, cleared the beds of all the autumn fallen leaves and any weeds that may have established themselves early autumn. This allowed me to remove numerous slugs & snails and caterpillars or other grubs that would eat my plants, giving the birds easy access to said pests as there was less hiding places for them. Any plants that did not survive the winter were also removed and everything was dumped into my compost bin which as you can see I have almost filled up, though with mainly dry brown waste but this will balance out later in the season when more green wet waste is added.

It was truly a whole day job what with stopping to feed the smallest offspring and having to also pick up the oldest from school I was unable to finish and so will have to leave the relaying of bark chipping to the paths for Tuesday when I would also be tiding up the herb bed.

Germination progress noted for today IE what has begun;

  • The tomatoes.
  • The onions.
  • The nasturtiums.
  • The spring onions.
  • The ochro seedlings are now four.

Here are some other photos taken today:


Oh! what a beautiful morning, oh! what a beautiful day :)

Well I got to sorting out the herb bed as you can see, cutting down last year flower stalks, pruning and cutting back small shrubs to encourage fresh growth to use when cooking and a general tiding up.

Everything appears to have survived the winter with all but the arnica already producing young shoots. Some are on escape missions namely the oregano, lemon balm and the mint (which in all truthfulness had escaped but I was able to curtail its plans). I introduced some lawn edging boundaries to make this job easier in the future, this will help too in finding plants in the following springs when their shoots have not yet emerged.

With the reigning in of the mint and the oregano I ended up with lots of rooted cuttings which I have planted up for a couple friends and family, with the majority going to my local area freecycle group, well its them or the burn heap which as you can see is more than ready to be reduced but I will do that at the end of the week when all the tidying is done.

The herb bed took much longer than I ever anticipated to so the flower paths still did not get relaid but as they say tomorrow is another day.

One of the joys of being outside at this time of the year is the wildlife just listen to what accompanied me during most of my time outside today, yep bird song, the one we are listening to is by the mistle thrush.

Today I saw my second flowering dandelion and was lucky to have my camera, so you can see it too.

Germination progress today is as follows;

  • The squash and pumpkins have started.
  • Along with the purple basil.
  • There was some signs of one cabbage sprouting so far.
  • And some germination of the dwarf scabosia.

Here are some other photos taken today:


I finally relaid the footpaths between the flower beds with more bark chipping and looks so good. Checkout the before and after photos of the flower beds area.

Some sowing of seeds were done, namely dun dun duhhhh!!!! BRUSSEL SPROUTS. None of really care for them but i would like to see if by being homegrown and freshly picked, if that would make a difference in the taste. So with every one's general dislike in mind I'm growing a red variety that remains red to see if the eye could help sway the brain in to enjoying them. if i am successful in reintroducing Brussel sprouts to the family's diet it will be added as another veg in the winter veg list.

Germination of the green basil was observed.

Today I made my first harvest of the early purple sprouting brocolli, it went down a treat.

Here are some other photos taken today:


Well what can I say about Thursday, it started of with some evidence of night time frost the bird bath surface was frozen as well but the sun was making an appearance as you can clearly see. The temperature was also mild with promises of more warmth.

But then at about 11.30am the sun disappeared and the air got really icy cold. I was outside when the change in the weather occurred, I was planting up my second early potatoes; five of Smile, five of Pixie and 3 of Nadine.

After that I pottered around removing the last overwintered weeds from the beds and some spent overwintered beetroot which didn't account to anything, they all ended up in the compost bin.

I was planning to get more done but none of the planned work was going to be heavy sweat producing work and it was getting too cold so came in for lunch and called it a day. Its funny, when its a warm day and I can feel myself getting hungry and I mentally tell my stomach to leave off and the hunger simply goes away and I blissfully continue gardening for hours on end (almost resenting any breaks I have to take) but a day like this and there is no way I'm able to ignore my hunger.

I noticed though that one of the containers with first early planted potatoes have the beginnings of potato plant foliage starting to peek through the soil surface.

Here are some other photos taken today;


Today the sun returned with all its brightness and warmth but I'm afraid my accomplishments were small. The day was filled with so many interrupting mundane tasks that in the end I felt like I was running around like a headless chicken.

I did though get to plant my Oca and Ulluca tubers and with all the rushing around I even forgot to take a photo of what they looked like chitted with the starting of their new growth. But they all went into individual pots and I'll show you them once they start to put on some foliage.

Two jobs I really wanted to get done today was the cleaning of the vege pond and the burning of my bonfire, the pond job simply eluded me all day and I completely forgot to start the fire this evening >:(.

Now to top it all off I haven't even taken one picture to mark today and it was a nice day.

Any hoo! that's it for this week's jobs, hope to get a couple things done tomorrow morning, we'll be off to visit and overnight by family till Sunday late and according to the weather forecast things are to go downhill from there so I'll see what next week brings in relation to jobs in the garden.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Best Laid Plans

Well with the great weather that was looming for this weekend just ended I planned to gets lots done in the garden, well eh! eh!

I went to bed Friday night with a slight sore throat which was niggling me all day and woke up Saturday feeling like someone had shoved a red hot poker down my throat. I got Nathifa off to drama classes went back to bed as I was feeling really sleepy at about 10.00am and didn't get back out of bed till 7.00pm when hunger and general aches and pains from lying so long drove me out into the living :).

So a quick update on what little I got done from Friday till today and any other updates.


  • Resowed my cabbage seeds today as after two Weeks there was no germination which is a bit odd for members of the brassicus family I sowed lots more than what i need with the hope I'll get exactly what I need.

The lentil sprouts were also ready to eat and we all enjoyed them in their raw state. crucnhy with a slady flavour.


  • Woke up and found in the fruit section pond frog spawn yippee!! I was so excited I almost forgot my sore throat. There was also lots of very little snails in the pond, not sure where they came from???
  • The kids freebie seeds from the BBC arrived.

Woke up feeling much better although a bit weak probably due to some dehydration from lack of fluids on Saturday's lay in.

  • Made a mixture of wildflower seeds along with the kids freebie seeds and some grass seeds thrown in with some compost and with their help we prepared the mini meadow area first by raking the surface to a fine tilth and the sifted the compost with the seed mixture onto the area. We then watered the area and netted it against the birds eating the seeds and cats using the area as a toilet.
  • The mangtoute peas I sowed a few days earlier have started to germinate and the beetroot and spinach beet seeds are almost all up now.
  • I then decide to potter around the garden and did some tidying of leaves from the autumn leaf drop from around the vege pond boggy area and at the back by the compost bins. The were all added to the green compost/ leaf litter bins. When they finally rot down I'll lots of great leaf mold to use in the garden as mulch and light plant feed.
  • The daddy of the frog spawn was also seen and heard calling to other females so may be we would get even more spawn.
  • We also saw our first peacock butterfly enjoying the warm sun rays.

I also spotted some scat/ animal droppings which I got help in identifying from me A4A forum as hedgehog droppings which is nice to know. It means they are still about and are waking up from there long winter's sleep :)


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