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Thursday, 30 April 2009

Late April Showers

Well we have had more or less a wet week, with a return to rainy weather. The garden will look all the better for it as it hasn't had a good continuous soak for a while. This year I'm trying out the theory of not watering plants to often once they are established. The theory is once the plants have set their roots into the soil if you keep watering they grow their roots shallow near the surface moisture which drys out quicker due to evaporation and thus they suffer more from wilting, etc but if you don't water after they have established themselves then the grow their roots deep into the soil seeking moisture where it's level remains more or less constant.

So far it appears to be working except for one watering session after my return over the Easter break I haven't watered any further and the young plants are not worse off at all if anything they are growing very well, even though the weather has been very hot and dry.

Check out the progress of some of the young plants I planted out over the 3rd and 4th of April in the next set of pictures:

Mangetout Peas.

Lettuces.

Turnips, and there is even one forming (not sure if this is early or normal as I have never grown turnips before).

Mizuna and Pak Choi.

Perpetual Spinach.

Saturday no gardening done today had other commitments but I had to take stock of my melon plants properly and soon realised that the damaged leaves on one of the plants which i initially assumed was sun scorching is not. It appears that it maybe a fungal infection of some sort. I posted a question on the forum I belong too Allotment 4 All but with no real outcome on which infection it is and how to deal with the plants. Here is the link to the question where I posted photos and descriptions of the symptoms: http://www.allotments4all.co.uk/smf/index.php/topic,51095.0.html

The chard have begun to germinate and the early purple sprouting broccoli began germinating on Friday.

Sunday I finally got round to pricking out the amaranth, romenesco, kale and cauliflower seedlings. I also potted up two of the cucumber seedlings and the basil seedlings that are in the conservatory. It was very hot work in the greenhouse as the sun was beating down, the only way I was able to stay out and get it done was by draping an old tea cloth on the glass roof over the area I was standing. I will definitely get myself some old white chiffon type curtains to drape over the greenhouse this summer to create a little light shade which will help to stop the plants that will be grown in there from becoming sun scorched.

I noticed that the loosethrift which were sown way back early March have finally started to germinate. They were sown on the surface of the compost in a pot which was left to stand in water like was advised in my main herbal book and many times this month I was tempted to throw the lot out but decided to simply keep topping up the water and wait. As they say patience is a virtue.

Monday while the rain was coming down I sprinkled some lawn seed in the weeded bare patches and with all the continued wet weather there should be a good germination rate.

I have decide since its too wet to do outside gardening I'm going to tackle my sick melon plant problem (there appear to be two infected melon plants and I think my lovely looking luffa (torsha) plant may be infected as well. Some research on the net mentioned that seaweed folia sprays not only feeds the plants helping them to fight infections but is also a mild fungicide. So I first removed all the diseased plant material and with the most infected plant the top inch of soil was also removed and discarded and fresh amount was added (after each use of the knife I cleaned the blade with methylated spirits to prevent transfer of any infection from one plant to the next and if touched any of the infected tissue I also disinfected my gloves which I had on).The cut leaf stalks were also sealed immediately with wax after cutting to reduce the risk of fungal spores getting easy access to living tissue.

After all the prep work was done I then sprayed both infected plants and non affected plants with the seaweed folia spray. These were the melons, torsha and cucumber seedlings.

Cutting and discarding of infected tissue and soil.

Sealing stems with wax.

Spraying the plants with seaweed folia spray.

Here is the end result of the most infected plant after my attempt of treatment, its a wait and see now on if it recovers.

The khol rabi has begun to germinate.

Tuesday started off warmer with a sunny morning but ended with a wet afternoon. Didn't get round to any gardening as such but did go skip dipping and got a large half a barrel and some flower pots from someones rubbish they had out front ( and yes I did ask first). Later in the evening when I visited the A4A forum some members alerted the group to low temperature forecasts, so I checked the Met for my weather and found that the night time temp was to drop to approx 4 degrees so I went out with a torch and fleeced the tomatoes and curcubit plants as they don't like temps below 5 degrees. I also covered the outdoor container grown potatoes with sheets of plastic just in case there was any frost (the pictures were taken the following morning when I went to take them off).

Germination of the coriander has begun and the sunflowers that was sown by the girls.

Wednesday had much nicer weather with lots of warm sunshine. everything in the garden looks much better with last few days of rain and there is more forcasted for tomorrow.

I got round to sowing some beans today in root trainers (runner beans, purple podded french climbing beans and borlotti beans). At the moment they are in the conservatory but will be moved to the greenhouse as soon as they germinate, I soaked the seeds about fours hours prior to sowing so germination should be quicker.

I have noticed since the begining of the week that some of the leaves on some of the tomato and curcubit plants in the greenhouse have begun to turn yellow, so I watered them with an organic soluble fertiliser today and will do so weekly till they are planted into the ground.

There is also an update on the robin family. My neighbour noticed yesterday that there was no activity by the robins and today was equally quiet with also no sightings of the pair whatsoever, so he decided to take a peek in the nest (yes he knows this is normally advised against during the birds breeding season, especially if the nest was being used). Well he found two cold beautiful eggs and a lovely nest. the chicks appeared to have fledged when we weren't looking (the cheeky monkeys :) I really had hoped to see them fledge from the nest). We both suppose they are keeping themselves well hidden in my neighbours hedge/ shrubbery and most likely their parents are with them. Maybe in a few days we'll see them when they begin to explore their parents territory.

The peacock butterfly was seen again today along with a large cabbage white who I disturbed while it was feeding on the strawberry flowers (note to self: time to start constructing a netted cover for the brassicus bed which already has my pak choi and mizuna in it).

Thursday today, well the weather is not sure what it wants to do, one minute its cloudy and drizzly next its sunny and bright, there is some wind as well, so we'll see how the day pans out.

Well you'd never guess the collard doves are back at it again. Since their egg's sad demise last Thursday there was no sign of them in the garden or in the surrounding trees at all. That is till this morning when they were back picking up the fallen twigs from their first attempt at nest building, they were taking the twigs into the apple tree to repair or should that be reinforce the 'mess of twigs' aka nest?? Maybe they will be more successful this time but in all honesty I won't be holding my breath.

Since we are on the topic of birds I thought I would share with you the bird song I heard today on my walk home through the woods after I dropped my older daughter to school. This morning they sounded almost tropical, made me feel like I was back in Trinidad :(
video

The day's weather stayed fine with no more showers occurring so I got the chance to finish filling the last bean trench with kitchen waste and the soil was replaced on top. After raking it level I erected the runner beans support and one wigwam for french beans.

I didn't plan to grow any dwarf french beans this year but theses seeds of the yin yang bean are so pretty I couldn't resist buying the packet, so I sowed some today, to plant out with the tomato plants . These won't be harvested till the pods are dry to store the beans for winter use.

Though I have been harvesting crops all spring from 2008 plants, today I had my first harvest from a 2009 sowing, radishes. I am also still harvesting my 2008 perpetual spinach though this won't last much longer as the plants have started to go to seed, the leaves are still lovely and tender though especially with this weeks rain. In the picture are the fresh cuttings of the oregano, chives and last years sown parsley.

On the gemination front, the nasturtiums and sweet peas the girls sowed a couple of weeks ago have finally started to grow. The yukon is also finally pushing its shoots out of the soil.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Feeling Hot! Hot! Hot!

Well the sun has been beating down on us here in the south of England as though its the height of summer not that I'm complaining, I just hope the weather doesn't burn itself out and give us another wet cold summer like it did the last two summers.

Sunday I finally got round to tidying the strawberry tower by removing all the dead vegetation from last year. I only lost one plant and I gave the rest a spray of rhubarb insecticide as there was some aphid infestation observed.
The lawn had its second mowing of the season and it has fulled out really well in comparison to last year, so the resowing of grass seed last autumn and the application of fertiliser three weeks ago seems to have had a good result thus far. There is one area though that looks really sad, mossy and full of perennial weeds, I'll have to sort that out before it becomes a bare patch.

The compost bin which holds the rabbit droppings and bedding material from last year was investigated. I removed a sack full of the stuff at the bottom and added some of the fresh grass clippings to it, to help break it down further as I want to use it in the bottom of the pots I plan to grow the ochroes in this year.

Just before cutting the lawn I noticed a plant in the weedy patch, it had some very pretty flowers and my wildflowers book identified it as a forget-me-not, I think it may be the water variety. I do like these plants but they can be a bit invasive. I believe it came from two doors down, I observed this year that she has a large patch of these plants in her back garden and although I have some miss giving about letting the plant stay in my garden I have decided to give it a spot in my bog garden and aim to keep the spread under control.

Fledgling birds are starting to appear and today I saw a family of mistle thrushes, two fledglings and one adult. The adult flew off as soon as I approached but I was able to get fairly close to the fledglings and so got this picture.

Monday found me weeding and scraping that weedy, mossy patch of lawn and although I may have to go over it again I got most out this time. Once I'm done I'll reseed and fertilise before the next forecasted rain which is for next Sunday according to the Met.

Got some sowing done as well, seeds of khol rabi, chinese cabbage, 2nd batch of lettuce, calabrese and early purple sprouting brocolli. Also finally got round to pricking out the lemon grass seedlings and generally shuffled things around the greenhouse to make more space.

Tuesday I didn't really do much besides lots of watering of plants to keep them alive, I also potted on the largest cabbage plant and weeded under the larger of the two apple trees. While I was weeding I found numerous oregano seedlings which I potted up and a what I believe is a wild dog rose seedling, so I potted that on as well. Under the freshly weeded apple tree I planted out two more sunflower plants.

While I was weeding I observed there were lots of twigs on the lawn under the apple tree, now earlier in the morning I did notice a collard dove taking one of the twigs and flying away with it and just assumed it had dropped them earlier but since there was much more there than in the morning I decided to look up and blow! the darn things are trying to construct a nest in the apple tree. Now collard doves are easily spooked so why would they think about constructing a nest in a tree where we pass daily many times a day is beyond me.

On another note, I saw quite a lot of a blackbird fledgling and was lucky enough to get a really close photo.

The cucumber and salsify seeds have started to germinate.

Wednesday was very hot, too hot to stand in the greenhouse and do any pricking out of seedlings, so I opted to working outside and got some weeding done on part of the unpaved footpaths. I was also busy with watering everything due to the hot weather.
The chinese cabbage seeds have started to germinate.

The collard doves have been busy adding more sticks to their mess of twigs, describing it as a nest is a bit of a stretch. Well either they thought it was finished or maybe the female couldn't wait any longer because there is now one small egg perched precariously on top the mess of twigs aka nest. I can't see it surviving as the nest is so badly constructed (not surprising as this family of birds are notorious for badly constructed nests) and as the birds keep panicking and darting of the nest every time some one goes into the garden, I expect it will get knocked off or through the mess of twigs fairly soon.

Here is one of the parents and I have to say, though they can't build a decent nest they know how to pick a beautiful location.

Thursday I attempted to make a dent in planting out some of my flowering plants into the flower beds. I also got some weeding done again in between the vege beds footpaths.

The greenhouse is still way to hot to work in, those seedlings that need pricking out are glaring at me every time I go in there. Lots of watering continues to keep everything alive.

The inevitable has happened and the collard dove's egg has fallen. I think it might have happened when one of the birds attempted to add more twigs to the structure, I did see it flying to the apple tree with quite an awkward looking twig and wondered how it was planning to incorporate it into the nest aka mess of twigs. Maybe now they may get the idea its not such a good place to build a nest or they may be slow to learn and try again.
The robin family on the other hand are much better off and yesterday I was able to hear for the first time the chicks cheeping when the parents approach with food.
The Flowers in the garden were looking really beautiful in the sunshine and were very well visited by the bees. Not much longer till the spring flowers are all spent and the summer ones burst into bloom. Trees in the area are all of a sudden becoming
bright green with most now in new leaf.
The kids second pot of daffodils are finally in bloom and are perfectly beautiful in its own miniature way.
Friday not much done today, I have noticed that the early purple sprouting broccoli, lettuces have begun to germinate along with the lime basil.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

The Sun is Back, Yah!!!

Well after a couple of wet days the sun is back out this weekend so I'm back on track. The kids sowed some more sunflowers, sweet pea and nasturtium flowers to be planted along the new picket fence later in the season. I sowed some lime basil, parsley, coriander and some Violetta globe artichoke that was sent to me by an A4A member.

I finally got round to adding more soil to the potato planters all were earthed up except the main crop potatoes as the only broke through the soil surface late last week.

Another job I was procrastinating over was the potting up of the bodi plants. They have been potted up into a large pot with their supports and will be moved from the conservatory to the greenhouse mid May or when the nighttime temps remain consistently at 15 degrees plus.
I've noticed the red orache has begun germinating already, that's only four days since sowing.

With the arrival of the sun the wildlife was abundant. I saw quite a few butterflies, but only was able to identify and photograph two types. On the left we have an orange tip, I saw both male and females, only the males have the orange tip to their wings. And on the right we have a speckled wood, I can't remember ever seeing this one before so its a first for me.

The robin I introduced yesterday has now been joined by Mrs robin in gathering food, they were both observed flying to and fro with food to the nest box, so I believe its safe to assume the eggs have hatched. They are sure being kept busy, but so far there is no chick noises coming from the nest box as yet.

The cowslips I planted out last year are really doing well I am so happy to have them in my garden.







Friday, 17 April 2009

Busy Week

First off sorry for not updating sooner but I was getting to the PC quite late at night and didn't quite feel like typing much. Today is Friday an its been a wet start so thought along with my weekly washing I might as well dedicate some time to my blog.

I'll start from when I stopped before.
Last Saturday turned out to be a lovely day after all but just relaxed. The pace was picked back up on Sunday, when I finally got round to transplanting the young celeriac plants into their final growing positions under cloches (again because I didn't harden them off first). Mum and a friend cleared the back area where I plan to grow the majority of my squash and pumpkin plants this year. It wasn't to heavy to do as it was done last summer so it was just some autumnal regrowth to be cleared and then the area was covered with numerous sheets of cardboard to slow down anymore weeds from claiming the area again. When it is time to plant out the plants I will simply cut a hole dig down about a spades depth add some composted rabbit bedding replace the soil and plant away.

Sunday there were two firsts to report, the first was my first orange tip butterfly, no pic cause it didn't land, there were two more sightings of these during the duration of the week. The second first was the bluebells beginning to bloom.

I am afraid I also had to evict some wildlife from my greenhouse as well, it was a wasp she has been trying since last month to set up in my greenhouse but I was always disturbing her but my week away obviously gave her the peace and quiet she needed to set up shop. So when on my return I heard buzzing and saw her disappear into a cardboard box I new I had to act fast or the greenhouse would become unusable for a season. After chasing her out I got the box out which was full of my biodegradable pots. Now her nest was so perfect and delicate I felt really bad for having to remove it. She later returned and was getting really agitated when I tried to shoo her away again so I killed her. Two more showed up the day after but didn't hang around. it looks like this year my greenhouse is prime wasp real estate.


Monday I finally got round to moving the tomato, squash and pumpkin plants into the greenhouse, nighttime temps have generally hovered around 8 to 10 degrees Celsius. If the temps drop under these I would fleece them for extra protection but so far they have settled in well.

I have observed the globe artichokes have begun to germinate. The last melon plant has finally reached a size for it to be potted up into its final pot for this year. It will remain in the conservatory with the other more tender plants such as the torsha, bodi, ochro, basil, melongene and the hot and sweet peppers till mid May at the least.

Tuesday the weather is still very sunny and warm. I sowed a new one for me, it a grain called amaranth. I know another plant in this family we call it bhaji in the Trinidad and use it like spinach. the plant back at home grows wild and is also considered a weed, it is normally picked before it goes to seed while the plants stems and leaves are young and tender. The variety I am planning to grow this year gets to about 3ft in height and is multicoloured, the grain is quite small and easy to thresh or so its claimed, we'll see when I have to do it later this year.

Other jobs that got done was the planting out some donated plants from members of A4A into the herb patch, namely buckler leaf sorrel, chamomile and summer savory. The last bean trench was dug out and lined with shredded paper ready for more kitchen food waste. I also moved some of the snails and tadpoles out of the fruit mini pond into the recently cleaned veg mini pond.

Wednesday I sowed some cucumber, red orache a leaf veg used like spinach and salsify a root veg. The cucumber are in the conservatory, the orache is in the greenhouse and the salsify has been sown directly in to the veg bed, what a palaver that turned out to be. Now being a root veg I knew the soil had to be as light and friable as possible with not too many stones of which I normally have a lot. The salsify can grow as deep as 12" so I decided to dig down that much and remove any larger stones IE a child's fist size and larger. I also planned to sift the soil back in because the salsify can remain in situ till its needed and is used mainly as a winter veg, I thought if the soil is really light harvesting should be easier in the winter preventing the root snapping off when it is being pulled up, but I may also fleece the ground come autumn to prevent the soil from freezing.

So I began digging, well I think I must have hit an ancient beach because 6" down and I hit not only stones and bits of brick (old greenhouse structure used to be there) but I also hit pebbles and tons of seashells (basically the daughter of the previous residents of our home used to collect seashells and pebbles for polishing) and it looks like she dumped a lot of her spoils in this area. So that job took a while and i gained a bucket of gravel for my toils and will bag it to put to some use in the future. The only thing is the same thing will have to be repeated in about two weeks time when I prepare another area which is adjacent to this area for another similar root veg called scorzonera.

The romenesco, brussel sprouts, kale and cauliflower have started to germinate. My first ladybug of the season was seen, a harliquen which is not a native to the UK. Other wildlife I spotted was the peacock butterfly, a robin foraging and a bee fly which I have been seeing a lot of since early March but I thought it was a type of hoverfly only found out a couple days ago that it isn't.

The robin I believe is a male who is currently feeding a female while she sits on a nest of eggs which she built in an erected nest box under my neighbour's rose arch. As soon as I get a picture of the chicks I'll share with you.

Lastly on Wednesday I harvested my first rhubarb of the season and made rhubarb and ginger jam, its yum but a bit sweet, the next time I'll use less sugar. It will probably be next year as my rhubarb is quite young and I really should not have taken any stalks from it this year to allow the crown to grow really strong but it was looking so healthy I thought I would take a chance and harvest from it at least once this year. The leaves which are poisonous was not just composted but was turned into a homemade insecticide to spray the young plants in the conservatory which have the beginnings of aphid attack and we can't be having that.

Thursday I went visiting with the girls to an old friend of my sisters, it was a lovely day out and it was nice seeing a face from the past who has done really well for herself and family. She also has a brand new baby just three months old who is the cutest little boy I have seen for a long time.
My garden inspection revealed that all four asparagus plants have shoots now, so I won't have to replace any :).

Well that's it for this week so far, haven't got up to much today as the weather hasn't been conducive to gardening outside, not that there aren't jobs to be done, my 1st and 2nd early potatoes need more soil to be added to their containers, hopefully I will get this done tomorrow when the weather is expected to be better. Did notice though that the amaranth sowed earlier this week have started to germinate.

Here are a few more pictures taken this week:

The apple tree is full of buds so hopefully lots apples in the autumn.

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