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Archive for March, 2013

I declared in my post 5th March that spring had begun. In the end March didn’t come in like a lion or go out like a lamb as the saying goes, but has been more like  continuous tundra  conditions here – if you were a moose it would have been good.

Compared to a regular March I have done only about one fifth of the seed sowing outdoors I would have done normally. I always advise people not to start seed sowing outdoors until the ground is well warmed up – we need a long run of warm March days for the ground to be ready. Presently we have had freezing conditions night and day for almost two weeks. April will have to be the ‘new March’ this year.

I planted a few new potatoes earlier in the month but I fear they will have frozen to death.  Most of my potato seed is still chitting in trays. A piece of advice is to write the labels for your potatoes when you put them in trays to chit (sprout). On the label put whether it is early or main crop, the variety and when it is ready to lift. ( The ‘early’ and ‘second early’ terms refer to when you harvest the potatoes, not to when you plant them. )

2013-01-30 19.08.24

Seed  potatoes chitting

This is the ‘hungry gap’now. Not very much to eat from the veg plot – I have purple sprouting broccoli, kale, stir fry, salad from the greenhouse. Chard and lettuces coming on outside.

I have been busy sowing seeds in the greenhouse instead  of outdoors – it is fully crowded with stuff growing.

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My  greenhouse is full

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Broad beans germinating in newspaper pots

GUTTERS COME INTO THEIR OWN

Sowing seed in gutters is a great way to get ahead.  I use lengths of about 1metre and put a bit of gaffer tape across the ends to keep the compost in. When they are ready to plant out, the tape comes off one end and you slide the plants into a channel in the outdoor beds.

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Guttering lengths ready for seed sowing

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Mangetout peas in gutters ready to plant out soon

 

ONE WARM WEEKEND

The one warm weekend this month we planted 120 new wild trees and shrubs to a make a hedgerow along the bottom of our field. Arranged in a curved shape it will make a wave of green . (Why have straight lines when I can have a curvaceous hedgerow?)

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A new hedgerow

 

THE ROTTING LOG

Here is one of many logs left around after we felled trees here in 2011. It is lovely to see how beautiful it is now, with a covering of moss growing on it and fungi sticking out of the cut end. I leave them as there is huge shortage of dead wood lying around – the countryside is too tidy. Rotting logs are home to masses of micro-organisms, and bigger exciting things such as stag beetle larvae.

2013-03-28 11.53.20

The log

 

 

 

 

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2013-03-23 18.37.16

Brimstone butterfly in jam jar

I went into the sitting room tonight to eat my squash and chick pea curry, and found a butterfly sitting on the table. Butter yellow, it was clearly a Brimstone, the first I have seen this year.

Nigel brought in some logs today and it must have been pupating in the outhouse and come in with them.  In the warmth of our house it happily emerged. If the weather was clement,  I would have just popped it outside. However, it is snowing  here at present.

So the new Brimstone is now safely in a large jam  jar. I gave it twigs, a drop of water and smear of mango chutney to provide some sugar. My book says the Brimstone food plant is buckthorn and alder buckthorn – we have both of those, but spring is so late they are not in leaf or flower yet. I will have to look after it until it gets warmer.

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IN THE GREEN

Now is the time you can lift snowdrop clumps and divide them up – just after flowering has finished while they still have green foliage. The individual bulbs can be replanted and will form new groups when settled in a new location. It is a form of vegetative propagation, but is unusual because most bulbs are divided when they have died down.  Not so, the snowdrop, and hence the term division ‘in the green’.  Last year the badgers ate most of mine as snacks so I will try again now. (And I didn’t explain this very well in my last post).

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Snowdrop clump (left) and divided up (right) ‘in the green’.

 

STIRRING AND FRYING

I have been successful with growing stir fry greens outdoors under a protective horticultural fleece this winter. In spite of prolonged cold spells I am able to pick quantities of mustard, both red and green and mizuna. This makes the basis of a stir fry with added kale, onion, carrots, mushrooms, garlic and ginger etc.. So that proves I don’t need a polytunnel to get fresh greens now – fantastic!

 

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Home grown stir fry greens ready now

 

PROJECT PROGRESS

I am waiting for my navvy, Nigel to get on with the laying out of the new lower part of the food growing project.  It already has fruit trees and compost bins, and we need to build the steps and the terraced beds. The bath in the picture is moving soon to the outdoor bathroom. It will be modeled on the ‘Thrift Cottage’ set- up which Lydia has invented for outdoor bathing. More on that later.

(To be fair to my navvy he has just spent the weekend planting 120 trees in a wildlife hedge at the bottom of the field – great job done, thank you).

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New lower area of project – deluxe bath in foreground

COURSES

I have not run  classes for the last two years due to moving house and ill health.  However, I have now bounced back in action here at our new homestead.  This week we are learning to sow seeds outdoors. If you read seed packets they say things like ‘sow thinly in a prepared seed bed’. Well, beginners want to know ‘what is a seedbed?’ and ‘how do I prepare one?’.  Some seed packets mention sowing seed in lines, some use ‘drills’ and most are rather vague about how deep – so ‘what does shallow mean?’ All this is covered in my seed sowing workshops and participants go home confident that they can sow seeds and get good results.

 

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Friday group getting to grips with seedbed preparation

POSTER GIRL

It is war out there on the poster boards of Stroud – so many courses and workshops are on offer here that poster space is at a premium. My sensible food growing courses have to compete with the likes of ‘knit your own yoghurt’  workshops. I never leave home without a poster in my bag. If you are a workshop junkie, you should definitely move to Stroud.

 

 

 

 

 

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2013-01-21 10.45.51

              Seeds ready and organised

Tale of a naughty cat

Returning outside after lunch I observed something which perplexed me. I could not understand how the cat could have managed to shut herself up inside the green-house, closing the door.

She was sitting on my salad growing tubs on top of the horticultural fleece covering my lettuces and crushing them.  I must have shut her in – I hadn’t missed her and I don’t suppose she had missed me either.

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        Smug cat (Poppy) sitting on my salads

Willow harvest

We planted 20 varieties of willow for basket making last year. I have just harvested a handful of stems for my first crop. I am weaving a tiny willow support for tiny plants.

2013-02-17 13.54.29                            2013-02-17 14.09.01

                    The willow crop                                            My weaving takes shape

‘In the green’.

Last year I toiled away for hours planting snowdrops at the bottom of the field where our neigbours have a way across. Seventy five percent of them have been dug up and eaten by badgers, leaving just a few. I will persevere and plant more now just as soon as they finish flowering and clumps can be replanted ‘in the green’ – which is the best way.

2013-02-06 10.04.25

Snowdrop (top) and badger hole (bottom)

Asparagus bed planted

Asparagus planted – now I feel really grown up. Nigel and I have always dreamed of having asparagus of our  own, how exciting . Just have to wait 2 years. And yes  – I will be trying the Ruth Stout method of dumping hay on the bed. Have chosen 12 plants, four each of Mondeo, Pacific 2000 and Guelph Millennium. (Purchased from the Telegraph Gardening Shop – the Telegraph has its uses).

2013-03-05 08.09.22

      The Telegraph Gardening Shop enabled me to buy just a few plants of each asparagus variety

Primroses for picking and the start of spring

A reminder that it was always traditional for children to gather primroses from country lanes for Mother’s Day.  On time, my primroses are out perfectly, and I picked a posy today – so sweet smelling. I have just released my youngest child into the wild and am now an empty-nester, so I have to pick my own primroses!

Whilst pottering around the veg plot I heard a familiar sound, the buzz of a bumblebee, a welcome sound of spring. Then I spotted it as it tumbled  drowsily low across the sunny bank, looking for something -maybe snowdrop, aubretia, primroses, early daffodils perhaps.

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                 Primroses – so pretty

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