I so love growing strawberries, but I don’t like it when the birds get them. My number one solution is to ‘jam jar’ them. I wait until the flowers have been pollinated and the fruit has set, and then I place a jam jar over each truss of fruits. The jars rest on the hay I have put down, and I tilt them slightly downwards so they don’t fill up with rain. This makes a marvellous individual greenhouse over the fruit, helping them to ripen while warding off the birds. Keeping the strawberries dry, out of the rain also reduces the occurrence of fungal diseases. It really works! (I do take the jars in for winter as they tend to get water in them and crack if left lying around).
I don’t trust the weather here, but I do want to get my courgettes out now whilst there is still a risk of frost. Here is an example of what I am doing – a courgette planted in a water tank (full of soil not water). It’s under a plastic propagator top and surrounded with grass clippings. The grass clippings in the depths of their desire to decompose are giving out a little heat to keep the courgette cosy, until the summer comes (ha-ha!).
A friend gave me some ‘lost label’, second hand plants a couple of years ago saying they ’might be woad’. (I am of course a repository for all manner of such plants that no-one else wants). And so it came to pass, that after a patient wait I see that they are indeed woad – Isatis tinctoria, a plant beloved (allegedly) of the Ancient Britons for its blue dye. The tall frothy stems of really bright yellow are shouting loudly in the middle of my herb bed. It used to be cultivated in Gloucestershire, and is locally naturalized here in places. Methinks I shall save the seeds and release it into my semi-wild border, where it will give me much satisfaction and fodder for the flower vase.
Woad – the tall yellow flowers.
My prediction in mid March of ‘new potatoes frozen to death’ was completely wrong. In spite of the cold, here they are, happily growing through their mulch of hay at last!
The new raised box bed (see post April 1st) is full of salad. It measures 120cm square and shows how much grub will grow in a teeny space. The seeds were sown on 8th April. I had a first picking last week taking the thinnings out for a very yummy mixed salad.
I like my salad plants thinned so that I can weed between them, to a minimum spacing of 7cms apart. This allows weeding between crop plants with hands or a tiny hoe, to keep the salad weed free and very easy to pick.
From left to right there is a row each of –
Spinach- Bordeaux – red stems and veins
Polycress – Garden Cress, a cool weather salad with a tangy flavor
Spinach Medania – fleshy, circular leaves
Beetroot – Boltardy, for richly flavoured red leaves
Such a cold spring has led to a slow start here. But finally the veg plot has started to perk up.
A kind person in our Stroud Permaculture group gave me some plants last year of Nine-star perennial broccoli. It is a relative of our wild cabbages and is a short lived perennial growing up to approx. 1m tall.
Nine Star Perennial Broccoli plants
In the garden it is not a thing of beauty and it has to be protected from the voracious pigeons. I was doubtful about it last year, but now I have enjoyed the crop I think it is well worth giving Nine-star perennial broccoli time and space in the garden.
Other than weeding around the base and a new mulch of hay there is nothing to do now.
Ready for steaming on the hob
Tastes like a mild cauliflower with a hint of broccoli – very delicious.
Would I recommend it ? Yes – I’d give it 9 stars!
Newly planted strawberries with hay mulch
Last year I noted that at the height of the English strawberry season, organic ones worked out at 21 pence each in the supermarket. I adore fresh strawberries, picked in the sun and eaten while still warm. As we have had none of our own for two years as a result of moving house, I can’t wait to get a crop from this newly planted strawberry bed.
A thick mulch of hay laid last year smothers weed and grass growth at the edge of veg plots(left hand side of kale).
I noticed where I laid the mulch thinner the grasses have germinated and rooted, but it is easy to roll the hay off and sweep away the growth. Under the mulches the ground is moist, and there is a lovely sticky browny interface where soil and mulch meet and decomposition is underway. And of course the soil has been protected over the cold winter from erosion, snuggled under the 13tog hay layer.
I have a large pile of hay left for mulching potatoes. Otherwise it is amazing how 2 tonnes of hay have disappeared here, melting into the underworld of my composting system.
Sweet peas planted out
I always start off sweet pea structures with a mulch of card, newspaper and straw/hay between the sticks. This creates a weed free foothold for them and a cool rootrun. How happy they will be!
Cat assumes hay mulch is there just for her to snooze on.