Sunday, March 30, 2008

Taking the plunge.

It's certainly been a strange 4 days. Thursday was loverly but after the heavy rain of Wednesday night I decided to leave the plot to dry out and do a few other jobs that needed doing, like pruning the apple tree and the shrubby bush thing next to it.
I also pricked out another load of germinated salsify and ditched the parsnips which point blankly refused to show any signs of doing anything. Having put another load of seed in their place and a second batch on Friday afternoon so far 1 have show any sign of germinating. Given that both packets I got from T&M last September and they have an expiry of Aug 2008 this is pretty appalling. I can only wait and hope.
Friday was better but not brilliant and I managed about 3 hours of digging. The soil was much drier than I expected so I made the decision to plant my spuds. Saturday dawned sunny but by the time I made it to the plot around half eleven it was beginning to cloud up. Any way I managed to get three rows planted by the time the rain forced me home for lunch at 1:30. The Estima went much further than I expected and I had enough for 2 30' rows. Having measured up the plot on Friday and laid it out on visio , not a right angled corner in sight, I knew I would only be able to get 4 rows in if I wanted to plant anything else. This meant that I could only put one row of Charlotte's in although I still have enough left for 3/4 of a row.
Lunch over and with no sign of the rain abating I sat down in front of the computer, made a few posts on various fora, and then checked our freecycle mail. Low and behold, a nice lady who I've corresponded with a couple of times, and who is local to me was offering Calabrise seedlings, she'd sown the whole packet, which were a little out of date, expecting a few to germinate but the whole lot had. Any way a quick exchange of emails, and I was off to fetch some, in exchange for a few of my excess Musselburgh leeks. In the way of things I came away with a few more seeds, had an interesting tour of her setup - envious of her polytunnel, and promised to return later with some Globe artichoke roots. I've also promised her some seed from my Blanche a Collet Vert Hors Terre (long name for White Carrot), assuming I get some.
Then it was into the greenhouse to prick them out - I've done 32 not sure what I'm going to do with the other 50 odd.
Today was a much better day again, digging in tee-shirt weather this afternoon. I turned over the section of the veg patch in the garden where the Maris Bard were going and planted them, stopped for lunch, then set off down the plot to get the row of International Kidney in that the rain scuppered me over yesterday. Why is it you always have 1 potato left over?
I then pushed on with digging the rest of the plot, until the squelch of the sod as I extracted it determined I should stop. Another 5 feet and that strip'll be completed and I'll have dug 8/19ths of the plot - considerably more if you take into account the area where the compost bins sit, 5 of the six raised beds and their surrounding paths. Tomorrow weather permitting I shall move onto the strip of my father-in-laws plot where I had the cabbages last year, and where my maincrop potatoes are going this year. Until I get a weeks fine weather my original plot is going to remain too wet to work and I don't really want to wait until the middle of May to get the maincrop spuds in.
The other job which is also now looming is to pot on all the onion seedlings, and also all the brassicas which I sowed two weeks ago. Anyone fancy pricking out 100 assorted brassicas?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

Well here we are at the end of the most dismal Easter I can remember. Unlike those further East and North we escaped the snow, although we did manage a few horizontal hail storms.
The bulk of my plot has been to wet to dig so I've resorted to doing other jobs. I've moved 3 trailer loads, approx 400kg and 1.5 cubic meters per load from my manure source to the Sunningdale plot. This stuff is virtually fresh having been laid out in the last 3 weeks. The stuff I had earlier was well rotten but she'd spread this out across the paddock so collecting it would have been a real pain. I've got a couple of weeks before I need to use it so I've put it in two piles to compost down a bit more.
I've also managed to get another of the raised beds on the Sunningdale plot dug through. That just leaves 1 more bed and three sections of path. If we don't get a dry spell through the week, this'll be next weekends job, along with the garden veg patch. I can then get the Maris bard in.
Having discovered the first shoots of the December tub sown Estima poking through at last on Saturday morning I also took the decision to plant up the five easily movable tubs. The five tubs sown are Anya(4), Maris Bard(4), Vales Emerald(4), Anya(2)+stray, Mayan Gold(3), the number in brackets indicating the number of tubers sown. I also remembered to label them this year so I know which is which. I'll wait for the weather to warm a little before sowing the outside dustbins. One will take the bulk of the remaining Vales Emerald, and the other either Maris Bard or International Kidney or Charlottes - I suspect this decision will wait until I what's left after sowing the Maris Bard in the veg patch.
I've also taken the plunge and tried chitting the scorzonera and parsnip seed. So far after 48 hours in the boiler cupboard I've got shoots from a few of the scorzonera but nothing from any of the parsnips. If the parsnips are still a no show by tomorrow evening then I'll try a fresh packet. One they've sprouted they're going into newspaper tubes. I think I've made about a hundred so far but I suspect I'll need about another 50 or so. We'll see if this give me a decent crop this year - it'll certainly be the first time I've managed to get any of the scorzonera to germinate.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

And sow it begins...

Well almost. As I sat here a week ago contemplating the up coming season, I realized that in 3 weeks, 2 weeks as I write this, it would be the middle of April and time to plant out my onions.
The problem was that I wanted to treat the bed against white rot with Armatillox, and needed to leave 3 weeks between treatment and planting. The additional problems were that heavy rain was forecast for the weekend and I needed to complete a whole bunch of repairs on the car before I could put it in for its MOT.
Anyway, it didn't rain anywhere nearly as bad a forecast and the repair works, replacing the exhaust, both rear slave cylinders, and the rear brake shoes all magically went without a hitch, leaving me free to toddle down the plot Sunday afternoon and turn and treat the relevant beds. This now means in two weeks I shall be able to plant the onions which are now in a varying state between just sprouted and 8" tall. I can also think about sowing the remaining sets to get a second later crop.
Having got the car through its MOT this morning, and with the duly forecast rain arriving I decided to investigate the state of play of things in the greenhouse and cold frame.
The onions are doing nicely, even the seedlings which I think I'm probably going to have to prick out over the weekend if I can find space. The leeks on the other hand had defiantly reached the point where they needed pricking out. This meant moving the trays of onions to the mini-greenhouse to clear space in the cold-frame. Now I've sowed 3 tubs of leeks, 2 Musselburgh and 1 Atlanta. Taking the larger of the two tubs I started pricking out. After 126 the cold frame was full, and I still had another 30 left in the tub. Not sure what I'm going to do about the other tub yet as I suspect there's another 150 in there, at least there's only about 40 of the Atlanta to worry about.
The asparagus had also reached the point where it to needed pricking out. I'd mentally reserved the space for this in the greenhouse, so it wasn't going to compete for space with the leeks. After another hour, I'd duly pricked out 45 Martha Washington and 36 Convers Colossal. If I get all of these to maturity, this time next year, I may end up with a dozen of so of each available for sale.
Things had also started germinating in the propagator, so I pricked out as necessary to stop them going leggy. So far this amounts to 1 Telegraph, 1 Cobnut squash, 1 Tosca bush courgette, 1 Turks Turban, 3 Super Roma tomatoes, and half a dozen Alicante.
I'm still debating whether to plant any of my spuds this weekend. The soil's still cold, even in my light loamy garden, and the forecast is none to good. I can't even make up my mine whether to plant any in bins in the greenhouse.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Keeping Records

Some people religiously record what they plant and when, what the temperature was, and how long it takes to germinate, and what the germination rates were. I'm not one of those people and the only records I keep are here, assuming that I've got the time to write something and that I remember to do so.
Having been kept off the plot by a combination of weather and an attempt to get my car ready for its forthcoming MOT, all I have managed to do is get some sowing done.
Having kept an eye on the weather forecast all week, and expecting the weekend to be rained off I snuck in half a days leave on Wednesday and finished digging the strip I started last weekend. I also removed the asparagus from the propagator, freeing it up, and put 6 trays of compost to warm for a couple of days.
This meant that this afternoon I was able to sow into warmed compost. Where I've been planting large and easily handleable seeds I've been sowing 6 seeds per half tray, whilst with the tomatoes I just sowed a pinch. As always I ran out of room so haven't been able to plant several of the tomato varieties I wanted, most notably the outdoor ones - Money Maker & Gartenperle.
So for the record by tray
1) Squash - Turks Turban(loly) and Buttercup(loly)
2) Squash - Cob Nut(loly) and Cucumber Marketmore
3) Cucumber - Telegraph and Tasty King(loly)
4) Melon - Sweetheart (loly) and Early Sweet (loly)
5)Courgette - Defender and Tosca
6) Tomato - Black Russian and Suer Roma
7) Tomato - Alicante and Pepper - Worldbeater (loly)
loly = left over from last year- Basically the seeds left after I planted what I needed last year.
I also sowed half a rootrainer with each of Purple Tepee and another french bean I brought last year, and another margarine tub of leeks - Pandora this time.
The carrots I sowed a few weeks ago, haven't done very well at all, despite being in the greenhouse and under glass. I guess only about 30% germinated and their very slow. For this reason I've held off sowing any more and also planting any tub potatoes. If things start to warm up a little during the week I'll consider planting next weekend.
Last Wednesday I also moved both the onions, those grown from seed and the sets in cell trays, and the leek seedlings into the cold frame generating a little more space in the greenhouse. They don't seem to have suffered at all as a result of the move, but the cold frame is now full. Until I've got the plots for the potatoes done I'm not even thinking about moving any of them to the plot. I also want the leeks to put on a little more growth before I attempt to prick them out. If all goes to plan I'll be planting them out in mid May.
The problem is that as time creeps forward so the volume of seeds that need sowing increases. My wife is already muttering about sowing flower seeds and I haven't even got the bulk of the veg sown yet.
I'm now off to consult my sowing plan so until next time, happy sowing.