Sunny gardening

Us Brits are well known for being weather obsessed, so you will forgive me for telling you that the past few days have been glorious. The weather has been lovely and so this weekend has been all about planting. I had intended to complete my sketchbook contribution this weekend, but the timing of the good weather made it ideal for planting some of this year’s crops. The forecast for next weekend (when there are two bank holidays) is poor, so crafting is much more likely then.

In the past few days I have (whist wearing my new apron) potted up tomatoes and sowed lots of seeds: squashes, courgettes, a variety of purple sprouting broccoli that sprouts in the summer, chives, parsnips, asparagus peas, various lettuces, mizuna and rocket. I’ve cleaned out pots, weeded and removed brambles. From the shed I retrieved a plastic bin with a lid and filled it with nettles and water to turn into nitrogen-rich liquid feed – it gets stinky, but it’s good stuff and it’s free. And I planted a whole raised bed with potatoes and netted these to prevent Max (who I think is some sort of potato hound) from digging them up and eating them.

I’ve also been admiring the growth of other plants in the limery – lettuces, melons, lemongrass seedlings and carnivores:

The sun has gone in now, hence finding the time to write, but I am feeling very satisfied with my activities. What have you been up to this weekend?

Sowing and growing

Life is flourishing in the limery. Seeds that were sown a few weeks ago are developing  nicely into young plants – lettuces, tomatoes, sweet peppers and melons:

I sowed more seeds over the past few days, including the first ones outside. The latter is a pea variety called “Carouby de Maussane”, a mange tout with red flowers that is going to grow up the pea obelisk that Mr Snail created (I think most people use them for sweet peas, but I prefer to grow edibles). A few days of sunshine has given me the chance to weed one of the raised beds and that’s where the peas are.

IMGP2140

only planted yesterday, so no germination yet

 

Unfortunately one of the things that is flourishing in the limery is the cluster-fly population. I really don’t want to use chemical pesticides, but the flies have arrived before the carnivorous plants are doing their stuff. However, the recent sunshine has encouraged pitcher growth and so I’m hoping that soon the Sarracenias will be munching their way through the flies. I grew some from seed last year, so I’m especially pleased to see one of the youngsters producing a vigorous pitcher already. The sundews are also showing signs of growth; in particular the Drosera dicotoma looks like it’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future (I think of it as living fly-paper). The Venus fly traps are growing too, but never really earn their keep apart from providing interest!

Amongst my favourite seeds to plant are the squashes, but I’m hanging on for a few more days so they don’t get too big before it’s warm enough to plant them out. And then there’s beans and borage and all sorts of herbs…

Three Things Thursday: 23 February 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday…

First, being safe and warm. We are currently experiencing Storm Doris – heavy rain yesterday and now really strong winds. It’s at times like this that I appreciate having a home. It’s also at times like this I think of all those refugees who, through no fault of their own, don’t have a place to feel safe and be sheltered from all that the world throws at them. And so I continue to make blankets to provide a little bit of warmth and a token to show that other people care; here’s the latest:

Another blanket for 60 Million Trebles

Another blanket for 60 Million Trebles

Second, new skills. I have been focusing on getting to grips with my overlocker this past week. Using it is not quite the same as using a normal sewing machine, but they say that as we get older it’s good for our brains to learn new things. I’m very happy to say that I’m finally getting more comfortable using it (the overlocker, not my brain) and that I can rethread it without too much trouble now.

It's all starting to make sense

It’s all starting to make sense

Third, seedlings again. I am being very restrained sowing seeds so far this year, but the peppers, chillies and tomatoes that I planted a couple of weeks ago are coming through and the tomatoes will need potting up from their tiny modules this weekend. I just love the promise of abundance.

All that potential

All that potential

So, those are three things making me smile this week – what about you?

Spring has been cancelled

Well, we seem to have transitioned directly from winter to summer in less than a week. I’m sure it won’t last but whilst the sun is shining I have been planting and sowing and potting up. The runner beans are in the soil, I have sown peas, potted up peppers and tomatoes and transplanted herbs… too busy to write much, but I have pictures…

I hope your weekend has been as productive as mine – oh, I did my accounts too!

Busy hands

Somehow, I haven’t managed to put fingers to keyboard for nearly three weeks. Although I haven’t been writing, I have been “doing”. So as a gentle return to blog posting, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been up to…

I’ve finished the hoodie – several times! First, I decided it was too short. So, I put a stripy border on it, but it looked like an afterthought (which, to be fair, it was). I unravelled that and worked a new border in the mixed yarn to match. All done and worn a couple of times before Sam decided to eat the wooden toggles off it when I left it on the bed. New glass toggles bought, and attached and I’m hoping that’s the last time I need to finish it! Of course, as soon as it was completed it for the final time the weather warmed up and it’s been in a cupboard since!

With the warmer weather and all the lovely space in the limery, I have been busy with seed sowing. The peppers, chillies and tomatoes planted earlier in the year are growing, but now there’s lots of pots and trays that we’re watching with avid interest for the first signs of green shoots. Amongst other things, I’ve planted melons, broad beans, coriander, oregano, parsley, courgettes, lettuces and mizuna. There are potatoes chitting and the perennials, including the passion fruit, are growing well. The sunny days have been accompanied by frosty nights, so only a little salad has been sown outside for the time being.

On the craft front, I’ve learned how to crochet star stitch and made a dishcloth to practise; I’m working on a pair of stripy socks; I’ve made another crochet snailvaark; I’ve made several mousevaarks from old socks and given several of them away as gifts; I’ve tested out a crochet pattern from my new friend, Danielle, at The Make It Shop; I’ve sourced jute for my crochet bird roosting pouch kits (on sale soon); and I continue to add a row here and there to the crochet sofa cover.

And then, I’ve also carried on with my letter writing – using real pen and paper. If you’d like a real letter from me, send me your postal address and I will write to you (can’t promise how soon though).

And then, I’ve been doing the laundry, because I’ve finally started sorting the vintage linen hankies and other bits and bobs I’ve been given. I’ve washed and ironed some of the handkerchiefs and I’m currently in the process of describing them and photographing them ready for listing on etsy. It’s very time-consuming, but I really want them to find homes where they will be treasured.

So what with all that and the swimming and working (yes, I still do that too!), the last few weeks have just slipped away…

However, more regular blogging will now resume!

Out of season

Look at any gardening book and it will tell you when you ‘should’ sow certain seeds. Search the Garden Organic website and it tells you that in August (at least here in the UK), you should be planting (amongst other things) amaranth, chicory, Chinese cabbage, kale, lambs lettuce, winter lettuce, oriental greens, rocket, spring cabbage and turnip.

However, Garden Organic were not awaiting their indoor growing space during the spring and early summer like I was. They don’t have all the facts, namely that (1) I bought a whole heap of seeds last winter, (2) Plans for the limery were hatched after purchase of said seeds and (3) I don’t believe everything I read!

So yesterday I sowed seeds… leeks, parsnips, basil and purple sprouting broccoli. Oh, and kale, which is on the list. All except the basil are in modules or little coir pots in the limery… where it’s warm and lovely. Maybe they will thrive and maybe they won’t. Maybe they will be so shocked when they are planted out (not the basil, that’s staying indoors) they will keel over, but maybe they will have had such a good start in life that they grow into be healthy plants and give us a stupendous crop.We will see.

Repotted courgette

Repotted courgette

A couple of weeks ago I planted three courgette seeds – only one germinated, but that has grown into a large plant in the limery, so yesterday that was potted up into a very large pot in the hope that, by keeping it indoors, we can have some completely out-of-season courgettes. Because of the poor germination, I also sowed a couple more seeds last week (a different variety) and both of those have germinated even though they were a year older than the first ones. The variety is large and probably totally unsuitable for indoor growing, but, again, we’ll see. I have really missed my glut of courgettes this year, so it would be lovely to have at least a little crop in order to re-live past harvesting glories.

Maybe I’m just over-optimistic, but there is such a joy associated with the transformation from seed to plant to crop to dinner on my plate that I simply couldn’t wait until the ‘right’ time!

Seedy Saturday

Some of today's work

Some of today’s work

Today I’ve been sowing… I love putting seeds into compost, knowing that such tiny things will transform into the huge variety of vegetables that we’ll be eating later on in the year. Today I planted squashes, pumpkins, courgettes, melons, tomatoes, ground cherry, runner beans and maize. Tomorrow I’ll be focusing on leafy things and starting off some mange tout. Already in the ground are garlic, shallots and some potatoes and there will be more of the latter going in soon. And, having fumigated the greenhouse earlier in the week, I’ve now transferred the peppers and chillis out there to carry on growing.

Beans in root trainers on the left and the propagator lid on for double insulation of the more sensitive seeds

Beans in root trainers on the left and the propagator lid on for double insulation of the more sensitive seeds (it’s not plugged in)

This year I’m trying to focus on using up resources that I already have. In the pictures you can see that most of my curcurbits are planted in coir pots… I bought loads of these years ago and I think that these are the last of the batch. I’ve also done some more planting in toilet roll middles and the beans are planted in some very old root trainers, which are just about holding together… I’m very reluctant to replace them as they are quiet expensive.

What a lovely time of the year… fingers crossed everything germinates.

 

Shopping (yes, me)

It’s now the time of year when I do a big shop. No. I’m not talking about stocking up for gluttony over the festive season, I’m talking about seeds.

Tea and seed-shopping - a lovely combination on a winter's evening

Tea and seed-shopping – a lovely combination on a winter’s evening

This time of dark evenings and rain (here in west Wales at least) is ideal for settling down and choosing what I’m going to grow next year. I used to use paper catalogues, but these days I sit down with my laptop and a mug of tea (or possibly a glass of wine) and browse some of my favourite seed suppliers… The Real Seed Catalogue, Chiltern Seeds, The Organic Gardening Catalogue…

I think about the successes and failures of the past year. What do I want to repeat? What worked well? What was a disaster? And I look to the future – always trying something new each year. I find the idea of a new growing season particularly uplifting. It’s not many weeks now, in fact, until I need to start planting chillies and peppers, which benefit from a very early start, even though we are still harvesting fresh chillies from both of this year’s varieties: Lemon Drop and Alberto’s Locoto (both of these are on the list to grow next year).

In 2014 I’m also definitely going to grow Yellow-podded Mangetout, Lipstick Pepper, Lady Godiva Pumpkins, Lady Godiva Sunflowers, Mira and Colleen Potatoes and Mizuna. What about you? Or if you are in the southern hemisphere, what’s doing well for you now?

The fruits of our labours

Here we are in September – according to Keats this is…

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
      Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
Potato variety Valor... blight-free and delicious

Potato variety Valor… blight-free and delicious

And, we do tend to think of harvest at this time of year. Certainly we have some swelling gourds in our garden… well, winder squashes actually. We are enjoying an abundance of runner beans and still more courgettes, plus the other day Mr Snail-of-happiness harvested nearly 9kg of potatoes from a plot measuring less than a square metre (we can recommend this particular variety heartily, it’s called Valor). A rather busy summer meant that these particular potatoes were never earthed-up, so the abundance is especially welcome.

Pearl's blankie

Pearl’s blankie

Other projects have their yields too. I was pleased to finish my latest blankie in time to be able to give it to my friend when I saw her last week. Fingers crossed that the babe will arrive happy and healthy and that my work will be used for  years to come. Many folks confine their knitting and crochet to the cooler months of the year, but I love to make things all through the summer too… mind you those often are cooler months!

Winter vegetable seedlings will help to fill the 'hungry gaps'

Winter vegetable seedlings will help to fill the ‘hungry gaps’

But autumn is not just a time to rest on our laurels and enjoy the fruits of our labours – it’s also important to think about what we will be able to harvest later in the year and at the beginning of next year, when there is often little fresh food in the garden. I will be allowing some of my runner beans to go to seed so that I can dry the large butter bean-like seeds for use in soups and stews over the winter (I grow the variety The Czar specifically because they are good for this) and, of course, the squashes will keep for months, but I also want fresh vegetables. I’m happy, therefore, that my seed-sowing from a couple of weeks ago is also showing a yield… not that we will be harvesting these for a while.

It’s really important to remember the cycle of growing and harvesting, so that we don’t get carried away with current successes and forget to plant for the future.


		

Jumping bean

Today I have a mystery…

I did not visit my greenhouse yesterday because I was away attending a tutorial (more about that in later posts), so when I got up to let the chickens out this morning I thought that I would just go and say hello to the seedlings. All is well with chillies, peppers, courgettes, squashes, leeks, tomatoes and melons, but what about the beans? There are some signs of life from the runner beans, a couple of green shoots appearing and the tops of some seeds emerging at the surface, pushed up by the roots that must be growing below.

And then there are the French pea beans (a gift from Mr Snail’s eldest brother), which are so full of energy they have started jumping out of the soil! They are planted in root trainers to give them a chance to develop lovely long roots before I plant them outside. So, why was one of the beans lying on the surface of the potting compost? Not only that, but on the top of a module three spaces away from where it was planted; I know this because there is a hole in the compost of the module from which it originated. It hadn’t germinated, so we can’t blame an extra-exuberant root. It was hydrated, but I don’t think swelling is likely to have happened so rapidly that it forced it out of the soil and into the air. I can only think to blame a mouse… but why didn’t it eat the bean? There is a slight bit of damage, which could be a tiny nibble. Do pea beans taste disgusting to mice? And if they do why didn’t it move on and sample the runner beans or graze on the tender leek shoots? Either I have very pernickerty mice or the seed packet is wrong and they are actually jumping beans. I will report on further developments…

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