Sunday, April 23, 2006

Foiled by the weather - Almost

It's certainly been a busy weekend, although when I got up this moring things were looking rather bleak in respect of completing the tasks I'd set myself this weekend. Saturday started with me killing time waiting for a phone call to arrange a pickup of the galvanised water tank that had been offered on freecycle ( I used the time to earth up the potatoe bins in the greenhouse as they're now growing out the top (see photo below right).
Then it was off to collect the tank and do a little shopping. I needed some nylon string to build the bean frame. A quick run round the cheapshops, market and Woolworths, yielded a suitable candidate, although not what I actually wanted. It also yielded another 4 packets of flower seeds (Cloeus, Lavender, Penstamens, and Sweetpeas) and two packs of Lilies, and a planter to put them in. Woolworths have all their seeds/bulbs/plants on buy 1 get 1 free at the moment.
Back home I set about the bean frame, as you can see frome the photo (left), and planting the runnerbeans out - they're all 12-16" tall so I couldn't keep them inside any longer. My mother-in-law has given me 10m of fleece so I can cover them if it looks like we'll get a frost.
After lunch I mixed up some more compost, I add 1 shovel of washed sharp sand to a barrow of peat free compost when sowing or potting on as it improves the drainage. This enabled me to get on with sowing the Frnechbeans, Lettuce, Chinease Cabbage, and Broccoli. Since I only sowed 16 french beans I sowed half the Sweet peas in the other half of the rootrainer tray.
My wife then joined me to prick out her Mesmeranthiums, Nicotiana, Cornflowers, and Lupins, as well as to sow the Lavender, Coleus, Penstamens, and Holyhocks. We also gave the kids a seed tray each in which to sow French Marigolds, from seed we collected last year.
All this activity in the greenhouse meant we ran out of space, so I was forced to adjourn to the workshop to try and put together a second set of staging. I haven't forgotten that I was going to put some plans together of how to make one - I just haven't had time to do it yet.
By this time the sun was fast disappering, and the temperature was dropping rapidly. Having not checked the weather forecast I feared a frost and duely got the fleece out :-(
So dawned Sunday morning, with my wife racing off to the cancelled car boot - yup it was raining saturating the fleece if nothing else. It also looked like my well laid plans would be well and truely sunk. With nothing else for it I proceeded to the workshop to complete the staging - digging through my store for suitable material.
Staging completed we reorganized the greenhouse, finding room for at least another 3 seed trays, before adjoruning for lunch. By this time the weather was showing signs of significant improvement.
Duely fed and with overcast skies but no rain I proceeded to the allotment determined to get the potatoes in.
If you remember I'm working part of my parents-in-law allotment. I've been given the bed in the left half of what used to be the fruit cage - which I shall fill with Brassicas of various descriptions, and the short bed on the otherside between the Asparagus and the path (see photo below right). The gent gamely digging away in the background is my father-in-law who's trying to catch up after spending the last 4 months building his garage and shed/workshop. He's currently digging the area where his Broard beans, Beetroot, French beans, and carrots will go.
Having managed to get down to the allotment on Friday evening I only had about 5 feet of the potatoe bed to dig, which I achieved in just over an hour. My father-in-law had managed about 7 feet of the bed he was working, but then that bed has been worked for the last 5 years and had potatoes in last year - the bit I was digging hadn't.
Digging completed I got out the rake and levelled it off, whilst my father-in-law got out, line and measure to set the rows out for me. At 7'6" wide the bed in only just large enough for 3 rows, and I managed to shoe horn my remaining stock of pototoes, which had got muddled up when I dropped the box I was carrying them in, into the 17' of usable bed. You'll note the scoflding plank depressions I use to avoid walking on the bed.
Potatoes planted I retired home to sort out a couple of those odd jobs that needed doing, amongst them digging up the rasperry runners from where they escape the bed into the grass patch - one day it may become a lawn- and moving some of them into spaces in the bed itself.
In the fading light of eveing I then set about sorting out the tank I'd collected. One of the taps had been bent down, enlarging its mounting hole and creasing the tank, and the galvanised header tank was also still attached. A few taps with the sledge hammer sorted the tap out, so I could remove it cleanly with the angle grinder, and 10 minutes of careful work, again with the angle grinder saw the removal of the header tank. 20 minutes of work with a large ball pein hammer and a suitable timber block has repaired the creased area of the tank, so now all I need to do is find two suitable blanking fillets, and the tank will hold water again.
So that's it for this week. In parting for this week I thought I'd show you what the veg patch currently looks like. Not much to see really, although there are definate signs of peas coming through in the pea cage. So until next time, Waes Hael.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Its the weekend after Easter

With a fair wind this will be the first of a double update this weekend - hopefully the second will be mostly pictures so you can see what I've been upto.
No update last week because I was away on my other project - if you're curious.
Anyway things are now progressing. The potatoes I planted in Feb in the bins are now growing out the top - that's nearly 18" of growth in 2 weeks. I'm now desperately trying to get them earthed up. I moved the runnerbeans outside to harden off on Tuesday and since they're now nearly 12" tall I need to get them in the ground this weekend. I'll keep an eye on the weather and cover them with a fleece if it looks like we'll get a frost.
From the other plantings, all the sweetcorn is up with about 85% germination, I've had 90% on the sunflower seeds, and 80% on the rye. The second batch of lettuce and brussels are growing nicely, and the strawberry's that went in in early March are at last showing signs of doing something. I've still not got any peppers, and the second batch of Alicante are doing as badly as the first - although I've had three more from the first batch come up. I'll get a couple of Roma, a plum tomato, from the garden center in a couple of weeks.
The beetroot sown in the window boxes is putting on good growth, but why when you sow in neat rows do they come up all over the shop - I'm going to have to re-organize them over the weekend. I've also got good growth from the rocket, but the American Salad is refusing to do anything.
Outdoors, the onions are growing although a little slow compared to others at my mother-in-laws allotment. The first batch of peas are also starting to show through although its a little early to tell how good a germination I've got. As to the other outdoor sowings - still no sign of anything.
On the allotment front I'm 2/3 of the way through the potatoe bed. I need to get that finished this weekend so that I can get the rest of the potatoes in. It's going to be a bit of a squash but I need to get three rows in, so I may end up trenching them rather than digging holes and dropping them in.
Apart from that I want to get some more sowing done. I'm going to sow Purple Teepee (French Beans) in the rootrainers released by planting the runner beans, and split a seed tray, sowing One Kilo (Chinease Cabbage), Purple Sprouting, and Webbs Wonderful, each to a third of the tray. If I can find room I'd like to get in another couple of rows of carrots, and of course I've still to sow the old wheel barrow that worked so well last year.
I think thats about it - if all goes to plan I'll see you Sunday for another update.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Winter's Back and Seed Muncher's Revenge

Yes its been an 0dd week. 88 in the greenhouse yesterday and a short snow shower today - lasted all of two minutes. Forecast is for frost tonight but as it's still raining I'm not putting the fleece out; just hope the onions survive.
No sign of much else outside although there may be a hint that the peas'll be through in the week - hopefully later rather than early with the cold snap projected.
What ever is getting into the greenhouse, god only knows how, is really beginning to bug me. It's had over 40 runner beans, the same quantity of sweetcorn and sweet peas, and to cap it all it chopped off one of the cucumbers, after I'd potted them on, at soil level last night and then ate the leaves off every one of the pepper seedlings. I really can't afford to keep having to resow, especally the cucumber.
Anyway, my potates in their bins go from strength to strength. I've had to add 8" of soil to one bin as the potatoes in it reached nerly 14". Those in the second bin are an inch or so behind so I can get away with leaving those till mid week. It has however been a potatoe planting weekend. The trial Red Duke of York, first early, I planted both in another bin and in a row outside. I've also put in two rows of Maris Bard (remember my rows are only 8' long - the width of the veg patch), and two rows of garlic - my first attempt so we shall see what we get.
In the green house, apart from sealing every hole I could find, it's been pricking out time. I've done the chinease cabbage (primarily for the tortoise), lettuce (both Little Gem and Rusty), Cabbage (Greyhound), and the first batch of Brussels - I only had 9 germinate and three of those are rather weak. I want 16 so I can try the "block" planting technique which seems to be favoured at the allotments where my parents-in-law's allotment is - of which I'm working about a third this year. The wisdom seems to be, throw out the book and plant them 12" apart with a 24" wooden fence about them and a net over the top to keep the pigeons off. We'll see if it works. I've also repotted the courgettes, very carefully, into 6" pots - they'll go directly into the ground once the temperatures rise sufficiently.
With the day time highs, most of what was sown last weekend has germinated. I'm leaving the covers on though until I determine if I've cured the seed/seedling muncher problem.
Down on the allotment I've finished digging over what will be the Brassica bed, and raked two thirds of in into a fine tilth. It'll now have 3-4 weeks to settle before I need to plant anything. My next priority is going to be the potatoe bed. I'm away over Easter so nothing further will get done until the weekend after - I shall try and do what I did this week, get down on the Friday night after work for an hour or so and then, with no birthday party to interupt the weekend, I stand a chance of getting it dug over by Sunday evening - weather, wife, and kids permitting of course.
I almost forgot, as I'm using this as a diary I need to record this weeks sowings. So apart from the replacement cucumber (Prima), Runner Beans (Prizewinner), and Peppers (World Beater), there was also a second batch of Brussels, Little Gem, and Rusty, and 4 of the outdoor bush cucumber Marketmore.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Spring is Sprung

Hasn't the weather been good, intermitant showers and bright sunshine during the day and much needed heavier rain at night.
Apart from the weather other things are moving on. The onion sets put in two weeks ago are starting to sprout although there's no sign of carrot seedlings yet - put in at the same time.
I've now added another three rows of seeds, 1 row parsnips, 1 half row spring onions, 1 half row Scorzonera (Salsify), 1 half row perpetual spinach, and one half row swiss chard.
I'm still waiting for the potatoes to chit but what ever happens most will go in next weekend - I'm not waiting much longer.
Things are progressing in the greenhouse now I've fixed the broken lower panes to keep Albert (the mouse who ate the sweet pea and sweetcorn seeds) out. It means I've had to resow both. I've also sown Beetroot, Rocket, American Salad into the window boxes I had spare - these are sitting on top of the wall round the raised bed in the greenhouse.
As far as previous sowings go, the first batch of runner beans (sown early Feb) are now aout 3" tall with 4 goodsize leaves. One tray of the second batch are through, with about 80% germination - the second tray with a different variety are just starting to show signs of coming through.
My 4 cucumbers have germinated, but I've nothing yet from the peppers, tomatoes (Alicante and Tumbler), Strawberies, or Celery. The Brussel sprouts have had a poor showing so I've sown another batch. The Chinease cabbage, Greyhound, Lettuce (Little Gem and Rusty), and Onions (Brunswick) are all through so I'll be pricking out next week (I suspect). The Courgets only went in last week so I won't expect anything from them till next week.
Oh the other things that went in this week were Melons (first try this year), Sunflowers (mainly for the birds), Rye (again for the birds), French Marigolds (from last years seed), and Sovoys.
I've also made a start on the beds I'm taking over on my Father-in-Law's plot. With a bit of luck I'll finish the first bed (8'x18') next Sunday, Saturday's out - a "must attend" birthday party. This bed's actually for the Brassica's. Then I need to push on and dig the other bed which is for the potatoe overflow from home - probably the Maris Peer main crop.
Think that's about it for now - see you all next week.