Sunday, May 20, 2007

Into the Nettle Patch

Its been a busy fortnight, although not much of it has been spent gardening. We're now coming up to show season so I'm having to cram in work on the allotment, potting on, pricking out, and sowing, in between these, car maintenance, child sitting, and decorating.
Friday I managed to sneak down to the plot for an hour and earth up the potatoes. The Maris Piper could have done with being earthed up last week whilst the Pink fir apple were 4-5 days away depending upon the weather. Still they're done now so I shall pretty much forget about them until harvest time in 8 weeks or so.
Today I managed another couple of hours of digging. The soil is just right now, not soggy and clingy as in March or dry and solid as per two weeks ago. I can now dig up a thick clod of couch grass and shake the soil off - leaving me a nice knitted mat of roots. As you may guess from the title I've now made it sufficiently far down the second bed so as to hit the nettle patch - thats gives me three out of the five nasties. Thankfully there's no sign of either Mares Tails or Ground Elder. Of course nettles do have their uses, as plant feed, as an insecticide, and as a haven for beneficial insects - its just in their current position, sla bang in the middle of the plot, they're in the way. Provided the weather holds I shall get the second raised bed built next Friday. I have the day off and refuse to do decorating on my birthday.
On other fronts things are moving along. My father-in-law has done a stirling job this year and dug 70% of his plot on his own, including moving and erecting the cabbage cage - sort of a fruit cage but protects cabbages from pidgeons and some butterflies/Moths - single handed. This meant is was a quick trip down there on Saturday morning to plant the 17 Greyhound which were about to out-grow their 1.5L 6" pots. This in turn freed the pots for replanting with Ormskirk(Savoy) and Advantage(spring/summer cabbage) which were about to outgrow their vending cups, and in turn freed the vending cups for refilling with Celtic(Winter Cabbage). Thankfully I'd been saving cups again for the last couple of weeks, as had a couple of other people, which meant we just about had enough to prick out the 1 kilo(Chinese Cabbage), turnips, and swedes. I now need to find some more to prick out the next batch of Greyhound.
After a poor start and after sowing the whole of the remainder of the packet - that's about 14 seeds in total I now have enough Defender(Courgette) to plant out. The problem is that they're a good 6 weeks behind the Orelia(Yellow Courgette) which is typical since its the Defender I prefer. I still haven't managed to get my squashes to germinate. I'm considering resowing, but its really annoying especially as the Black Forest are £2.25 for 6 seeds.
Things have moved on in the greenhouse, although the space I managed to clear so I could plant the Early Sweet melons was userped by my wife for the pricked out turnips. I have managed to clear enough space to get the sweet heart in, which are now doing fine, the cucumbers - I had to resow with Tasty King as I couldn't get Bella at short notice, and two of the peppers. I'm now waiting for the early carrots so I can get the rest of the tomatoes in, which are now rapidly outgrowing their pots.
My other tubs of carrots have now all gone outside, actually they went out about 3 weeks ago, and are going from strength to strength. I'm hoping to be able to harvest some of these in a week or so. The first batch of potatoes have also come into flower which means they're nearly ready as well.
These are the two crops I seem to have got right this year, and have actully managed to have a successful successional sowing. If all goes to plan I'll have fresh carrots from now until christmas. The milk carton sown ones are now all coming up, along with a percentage of the parsnips - they've germinate in 3 of the cartons but not in the fourth. The carrot barrow looks like its also going to be successful again this year.
I'm hoping that by the time the tubs are harvested I'll be able to resow with the new Nantes type Autumn sown carrot that Thompson and Morgan are selling this year. If they live upto expectations I'll have fresh carrots on Christmas day as well.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Rain, Rain, Where art thou Rain?

I was expecting rain last week and it didn't happen. I was expecting a prolonged spell of light rain overnight and it didn't happen. It stayed dry all morning until we went out to a car boot, at which point it started drizzling, before giving us an hour of heavy rain - enough to refill my water butts to 3/4 full and give all the weeds a new lease of life next week but not really enough to give the veg a much needed soaking. Unless we get some more in the week I shall have to go back to watering by the weekend.
On the bright side the prolonged dry spell has meant I've been able to push on with digging the second bed on the allotment. Pippa, having finished her raised beds found she had timber spare and being the generous soul she is donated them to a good cause - me. The four planks will enable me to get just over a third of the remaining two beds done, provided I can get them dug.
The current plan is to get to half way on the second bed, construct it then use it to plant up my sweetcorn and leeks. Having done this, I'll clear the couch and bind weed pile I created at the top of the plot, and dig the top half of the third bed for my winter and spring cabbages.
Things are also moving on, on the home plot. With the sweetcorn and climbing beans coming on I've been forced to plant them out into what will be the 3-sisters bed - all I need now is the squashes to germinate - they're being remarkably stubborn at present.
I've also been trying to clear space in the greenhouse so I can get the tomatoes, melons, and cucumbers into their grow bags. So far I've got as far as putting the the wire supports for the melons, and a set of supporting canes to go with these for two of them. With this station ready I put two Early Sweetheart - now all I have to do is work out what to do next.
I've also managed to find space and get 3 of the Alicante in. Sowing the other three is currently blocked by the first carrot crop which is 2-3 weeks away from being ready. The fact that I've got trays of marigolds and cabbage in various states of growth isn't helping at the moment either.
I can't see the space situation improving for a while. I've had to resow my brussels, second batch of greyhound, and lettuce after a complete failure in germination - probably due to using up last years seed. Having brought a new packet of White Gem I now have parsnip seedlings both in gutting and outside.
The runner beans, planted last week, are doing ok. One succumbed to sun scorch and one appears to have been moused - having had its lower hard outer coating stripped which means it keep s falling off the pole. I've now planted out the second batch, mainly because they were about to outgrow the rootrainers, and were staring to wilt after a long day in the sun. In some instances these were bigger than the first batch despite being sown 3 weeks later.
The next task will be to sow the next succession of carrots, most likely Autumn King, when the next root day occurs on the calendar, which according to The Gardeners Calendar is Wednesday.
All I need then is the right amount of rain and sun and I'll have prize winning carrots, maybe.