Supporting Act

May 18, 2018

It’s another iron law of gardening that peas will climb up anything or nothing, rather than make use of the nice supports you may have provided them -something I remembered only after I’d made some nice tripods (actually quadripeds I suppose) in time-honoured allotment fashion from things I found lying around in the shed.

pea supports

Naturally they preferred to cling to each other, like orphans in storm, which is touching but doesn’t help them get out of the way of the slugs.

peas clutching each other

You’re supposed to use old pairs of tights to tie them up, apparently, but I haven’t worn a pair of tights this millennium so I sacrificed an old base layer instead. Yup, you know you’ve gone full cyclist when even your gardening accessories are made out of merino…

merino pea ties

The third iron law of gardening is that when the weather’s nice and your seedlings are climbing out of their pots to be planted, you’ll have too much work to do to devote enough time to all but the bare minimum, but the raised bed project is inching along.

raised beds in may

I have thoughts on compost I’m sure you’re all impatient to share, but they will have to wait.

Meanwhile, speaking of iron laws, look what’s popped up in the propagator long after all hope was lost.

orange and lemon seedlings

Yes, I did colour code the pots, what of it?

Clementine seedlings on the left, lemon (finally!) on the right.

Advertisements

Bottling It

May 7, 2018

Planting out my peas the other day, I realised that my collection of old plastic bottles that I use as mini cloches has become somewhat diminished over the years. A combination of the house move, my disorganisation, and last year’s less-than-convincing gardening efforts means a fair few have gone missing, and others may have simply become too tatty to be used, although some of them must be almost a decade old and pretty much unchanged, which I suppose illustrates the problem with plastic in the first place

We don’t buy that many drinks in plastic bottles any more but that’s not a problem because empty ones apparently grow on trees – or at least in verges, ditches and parks. Anyone who’s cycled with me in recent days has had to put up with me slamming on the brakes and suddenly swerving to the side of the road or doubling back as I spot a particularly fine specimen to add to the pile on the back of my rack. Even being picky and sticking to the freshest-looking new arrivals, I usually run out of room before I run out of bottles.

bottles on bike rack

I feel a little bad only picking up some of the litter but I suppose each one salvaged and put to work for the next ten years in my garden is one more not clogging up the gullet of an albatross chick, so it’s better than nothing. Especially now that summer has arrived even in Bigtown (I actually heard someone say ‘taps aff’ this afternoon) and people are apparently feeling the need to keep themselves well hydrated and then helpfully leaving their bottles out for me to pick up, in some cases just yards from a bin …

summer in Bigtown

“Aye, it’ll no last, mind”

That is, if I’m allowed anywhere near the garden for the next few weeks, as the other half reported he couldn’t complete the strimming round the back because there was a tiny leveret hanging out in the long grass. Fortunately not so tiny that it didn’t have the sense to get out of the way – finding one baby hare in the garden is wonderful, finding half of one, not so much.


Pottering On

May 4, 2018

Obeying the iron law that seeds only germinate *after* the gardener has given up on them, my Himalayan poppies have finally popped up having been planted in March and largely given up for dead in April.

himalayan poppy seedlings

There’s no end to the disasters that may befall these tiny little scraps of green before they get a chance to turn into any sort of display of flowers but it feels like an achievement anyway. And besides, tending seedlings is really my favourite part of gardening – as I said in my last post, my gardening tends to be of the kill or cure variety but there’s something about these hopeful little green shoots emerging from the soil that makes me spend far too much time watering them, turning them, blowing gently on them to encourage stronger growth, and just generally hanging over them hoping they’ll be okay out there in the big bad world.

pea plants going out

But all good things must come to an end, and my pea plants were beginning to tangle their tendrils with each other so out they went today in the first real test of our new raised beds (the potatoes got there first, but potatoes will effectively grow in anything so they don’t really count).

pea plants under cloches

For now they’re still getting a little cossetting with bottle cloches and a precautionary slug trap, but soon they’ll have to fend for themselves.

Meanwhile, if anyone’s got any tips for germinating lemon seeds, I’d be grateful. Assuming that the iron law doesn’t apply in this case, and the batch I planted weeks ago doesn’t surprise me tomorrow …


And Now for Everything Else

May 2, 2018

After an exciting weekend …

… back to the real world.

Gardens, and spring (and work) wait for no cycle campaigners. I was pleased to get home and spot the first potato leaves peeking through in the raised beds – especially as it meant I could get them earthed up before the overnight frosts (hello May) had a chance to give them a nip.

potatoes peeking through

The trays of seedlings are waiting impatiently to go out. I’ve put the peas, kale and broccoli on a bench out of the reach of slugs and hares to harden off – the forecast was for milder weather but I hadn’t factored in that this meant rain, wind and, indeed, hail. My approach to gardening has always been along the lines of ‘what doesn’t kill them makes them stronger’, although I can’t strictly speaking recommend this as mostly it does just kill them.

seedlings waiting to go out

The raised-bed raising continues (I was going to write ‘apace’ but that would be a lie). So far I’m just about keeping ahead of the need to plant stuff out, but it’s going to be a close run thing.

raised bed progress

How does your garden grow?


Fill your Boots

April 22, 2018

Yesterday was the New Nearest Village church plant sale and – it being a rather glorious sunny one – I actually managed to lure the other half to join me on a cycle ride up there for my annual ‘how many plants can you fit in a Brompton basket‘ adventure.

After a very pleasant interlude sitting in the sun in the church hall car park eating barbecued sausage sandwiches and as many tray bakes as we could decently pile onto a plate, and talking cycling in Rwanda (as hilly as it looks, apparently), we pootled (me; it’s difficult to get up much speed when you’re conscious of your new plants’ leaves all blowing in the wind) and raced (the other half) back down again. The plants (random lupins of unknown provenance and a named primula species which I’ve managed to forget everything about apart from the fact that it apparently likes boggy conditions) are now awaiting such time as I can clear a space to plant them and set up slug defences, as the last lot of lupins I planted didn’t last a week. I should probably have thought of that before I bought them but hey ho, if I keep throwing lupins at the problem surely some of them will get through…

plant sale haul

In other plant cruelty news, I was wondering why our windowsill basil had started looking peaky even (especially) after I’d fed it. It was only when I took it out of its lovely white pot cover – which I’d bought earlier this year as part of a set and left on the windowsill of our entrance hall awaiting a plant pot to put in it – that I realised why. Handy pots left on windowsills in our household get random things put in them, it turns out. Like spent button batteries, for example. And it also turns out basil doesn’t thrive when sitting in a weak solution of battery acid. Who knew?

On the other hand, it might also do for the slugs …


Crooked Billet

April 18, 2018

For those of you wondering, the lack of posting on the raised bed front unfortunately reflects a lack of progress due to a combination of rain and the need to earn money to pay for the things. Today was suffering from both obstacles but after lunch, with my brain in sore need of a rest and the rain letting up, I thought I’d get the next two into position, if not filled.

raised bed corners

As an aside, I’m pretty pleased with these raised bed kits so far. Yes, we could have built raised beds out of wood from scratch for about half the cost, but if we’d opted for that we’d probably still be drawing up plans, whereas these just fit together very neatly and are pinned into place with a couple of pegs which even a feeble person like me can drive into position with a couple of whacks with a hammer.

They’re also pretty light so I can put them up single handed and manoeuvre them into position, which is handy when you have just started filling them and then walk past and look at them from another angle and think …

crooked raised beds

… ah no, that’s too crooked, even for me.

The problem is, the site isn’t particularly square, so they were always going to be a bit skew whiff both in relation to the other elements of the garden (themselves not square) and each other. I’m not someone who insists my pictures hang straight or things have to be particularly neat (as you might have worked out from the rest of the garden) but it turns out I have my limits.

A bit of digging and shoogling later, and it was all a bit less jarring to the eye and no doubt once everything gets growing, any remaining wonkiness should be disguised by the rampant vegetation.

less crooked

Which might be sooner than I like because with the warmth, spring is all ‘here I come, ready or not’ …

seedlings coming

Hopefully they’ll all have homes to go to before it’s too late.


Making Mountains (Well, Raised Beds) Out of Molehills

April 8, 2018

Apologies that this is becoming the ‘all raised beds, all the time’ blog but while I’m doing lots of other things (work, cycling, Pedal on Parliament, lying awake at night fretting about Pedal on Parliament, bending the other half’s ear about how I’m fretting about Pedal on Parliament, being gently reminded that it is always like this Every Single Time in the run up to Pedal on Parliament), none of them are particularly blogworthy, whereas with the raised beds I have a bit of a job on my hands …

… but crucially it’s an eminently doable one.

The plan is to fill the raised beds with cut turf at the bottom (turned upside down in the forlorn hope that this might at least slow the bloody grass down; I realise nothing will stop it from growing as that – like the rest of the countryside around here – is what this garden most wants to do), followed by my birthday bags of well rotted horse manure (towards the bottom because it’s full of grass seed, see previous parentheses), followed by garden compost (ditto), followed by topsoil.

Traditionally, you get your soil from molehills and this year – it’s as if they knew – we’ve got plenty of those.

molehills

Some bigger than others.

large pile of soil

If I’m honest, no small part of the raised bed project has been driven by the need to remove the soil we dug out to put in the greenhouse. In the process, several other piles have had to be created, not least more stones, but today we did manage to at least get five out of the eleven (eek!) raised beds filled, and put a dent in the big pile. I’ve also learned we need to raise our compost game, but that’s a blog post for another day.

five filled raised beds

Veg plot taking shape. And not one of your boring right-angled regular shapes, either … ahem. Right angles are so last century, right?

Now if anyone can think of something to do with several piles of stones, I would be grateful.

pile of stone