Monday, April 28, 2008

Late Again

I've got lots of photo's this time. I actually took them about 10 days ago and was going to post them last week, but last week turned into a disaster and I didn't have time. It all went wrong on Tuesday, when the mainshaft on the gearbox on the Landrover decided that it'd like to view the world. Only the self sacrifice of the clutch meant it didn't get a good view of the engine as well.
Having waited for the recovery truck, I nearly got a complete rear-end repair as hiw which cable snapped with the car 3/4 the way up the tilted back. Only my long arms and quick reactions averted that calamity - thank the designers for having thought of lside steps.
Anyway my enforced day off meant I got a chance to spend time sorting the veg patch in the garden out, planting the onions that were getting too big for their modules, the French beans which were crying out to go out, and the Mange Tout; which subsequently have been got at by something.
Anyway back to the pictures. From top to bottom we have my lilies - they've been out of the greenhouse 2 weeks now, my tubs of spuds, with in the background the Blanche a Collet Vert Hors Terre that I overwintered in the greenhouse. Next are the Asparagus I planted in February and pricked out at the beginning of the month. Then there are various seedlings from the brassicas, through the assorted squashes, and finally the onion seedlings and French beans and Mange Tout as they were in the cold frame.

The next picture is my propagating setup in the greenhouse, with the electric propagator in the middle of the lower shelf. Last but one are the Fushia's I saved from my mother-in-laws clear out. I took a load of cuttings, none of which survived, cut the stems right back, shoved them in pots and left them in the greenhouse over winter. The last one is another mystery plant. I can't even remember where it came from but I think its quite attractive. Any body care to enlighten me as to what it is?.

On the allotment front things are progressing. On the Bracknell plot, I've got
my left over Pink Fir Apple in, but something has had all my strawberies and some of the raspberries, which have died as a result. It could be rabbits, but I've seen no droppings so it most likely the deer back. I've moved on of the cages. If it's rabbits then it won't help as they can get underneath, but if it's deer then it'll keep them off.

On the Sunningdale plot, and at home the potatoes I planted 3 weeks ago are starting to stick their heads through. I've now finished digging all the existing raised beds, have installed part of the level divider, and put a 5m bean trench in 18" wide and 9" deep, filled 6" with manure then covered with 3" of soil. I've another 4m section to go in when I can get around to digging the last 6ft of the bed. This does rely on it drying out sufficiently for me to do so. I've also started on the digging for the next row of raised beds. Having dug a strip 6ft wide and 4 spits deep, and given the level of infestation of couch grass along the edge I decided to complete the strip all they way across to the center of the plot, about another 3 feet, although by the time I got there it was only 2 spits deep due to the way the edge of the plot is angled.

The next job is to get the bean supports up, both on the plot at home so I can get the beans, which are straining to get out of the rootrainers into the ground. I may even manage a few more photos at that point. Till then...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

No Rest!

It's been a long weekend. At the close of play last weekend this one was going to be busy, but it got worse on Monday. I'd ordered the early brassica collection from Marshals, with a supposed delivery of late March, but late March came and went and no brassicas. They had to turn up sometime but why Monday, since they were supposed to go in immediately it was about the worst possible day for them to arrive. All I could manage was to stuff them into a pot, give them some water, and leave them in the greenhouse all week.
There was, I suppose an upside, I put in some extra time at work early in the week and was able to leave early on Friday, making it to the Bracknell plot just before six. I raked out enough of bed 1, the potato bed from last year, to sow the bulk of the onions. I think I managed 3 rows of 13, a mixture of Red Baron and Sturon. In between these I put in two rows of carrots, one Early Nantes and the other Autumn King.
I then raked out the two beds supposedly for my kids use, but they're only taking a superficial interest, and re-established the wire grids that divide them up. I then put in the onions according to plan, and broadcast Early Nantes in the appropriate grid square before watering it in. By the time I made it home it was nearly quarter to eight.
Saturday started with me doing a few things I'd neglected the previous week, like watering all my house plants, which were definitely in need of a drink. It was then off to load the trailer with manure, whilst playing dodge the hail shower, a game that lasted most of the weekend.
After lunch it was down the Sunningdale plot, and after unhitching the trailer, the first order of the day was to get the brassicas in. I'm pushing the spacing a little putting 4 rows in a 4ft x 10ft bed,but won't have room for everything otherwise. The Excel (cabbage) went in 6" from the edge with 12" between plants, with the calabrese (Marathon) at 12" from the cabbage, giving 12" between the two rows, again with 12" between plants. I've actually got enough space for another row of 4 on the end - may put the greyhound in there when it's a little bigger.
The whole bed is covered with a cloche made from water pipe, and a 2m wide 10mm square net, under which I've put the fleece. Unfortunately the fleece is only 1.5m wide so doesn't cover the last row of cabbage. I have arranged it so that the windward side is protected and hope we don't get any severe frosts.
All I'm now waiting for is the cauliflower, although I've changed my mind as to which bed it's going in to. Marshals are also out of stock of the original variety offered, Baldo, but should be sending Aviron as a replacement in a couple of weeks - probably arrive on a Monday again though.
Brassicas planted I changed location to my father-in-laws plot to unload the trailer. When he arrived and offered to help me unload, I found it difficult to refuse the offer, and the two of us made short work of it, although we did have to stop twice whilst rain stopped play. I then set about finishing digging the potato bed, a task which was hampered by another rain interlude. By half five I'd had enough and packed up with 4 rows left to dig.
Refreshed with coffee and bakewell tart, I made my way home, to spend another hour and a half in the greenhouse, discovering that the ****** mouse had taken the tops off all the salsify seedlings, and eaten yet another batch of lettuce seedlings.
Faced with having to resow the lettuce I took the opportunity to clear what hadn't germinated from the propagator and resow. So in went what was left of the Defender and Tosca seed, the remainder of the Turks Turban and Buttercup, and the remainder of the Telegraph and Marketmore. In another tray I sowed Worldbeater (pepper) and De Cayenne (Chille). I was going to sow my Gartenperle along with the Moneymaker in the last tray, until I opened the sealed foil packet to discover no seed. I await Thompson & Morgans response to my email with interest - especially as I've had two packets of White Gem parsnip seed bought from them last May chitting in the boiler cupboard for 18 days now with not one sign of anything wanting to germinate. I wasn't a happy bunny as you can imagine.
Things looked up this morning though, even if though the weather didn't look that promising. I opened the greenhouse to find Mr Mouse caught under the pint glass we'd left invitingly for him - he's now residing either in a tree somewhere a long way from my greenhouse or more hopefully an OWL.
Inspired by the turn of events, I decide to fit the net to the mini-greenhouse frame I picked up last weekend, in order to put the Greyhound I'd potted on last night outside - its been in the cold frame for the last couple of weeks so there shouldn't be any problems. I also took the decision to move everything out of the greenhouse, lillies, carrots (the Blanche a Collet Vert Hors Terre), and all of the potatoes ,except the Mayan Gold which aren't through yet. I suspect I'm going to have to cover these with fleece during the week as there are a few cold nights forecast.
It was then off to the plot to finish the digging and get the maincrop spuds in. I'd got as far as raking 3/4 of the bed level and finishing the digging before the prolonged shower, hail included, arrived. By the time it stopped and hour later I was the only one left on site, although I had been the first to retreat to my car. I'd watched that storm roll up and wasn't going to sit sopping wet whilst it finished deluging.
Rain over, I finished the raking, the soil somewhat heavier now, and then set to planting. I'd discussed the options yesterday evening, and had decided to push the spacing, putting them in at 12" apart rather than 15", and 24" between rows (to get 4 in), rather than 30". As it was the presence of the fruit bushes meant the 4th row was short by 3 spuds, I'll have to find somewhere else for these. I suspect I'll have to build the wrong half of the last raised bed at Bracknell first, so I can get the Pink Fir Apple left from last years crop in, and these will probably go in with those.
I finished my time at the plot by starting on the last of the existing raised beds on the plot. It's been covered with carpet since November, and had previously been used to grow parsnips and carrots, all of which had been left in the ground. Whilst the parsnips were intact, if not usable, the carrots were serving as a reservoir for millipedes. With this in mind I'll put the cauliflower in here, as putting any sort of root crop in this bed for a couple of years is asking for trouble. All I've got to do now is finish digging it.
The final job of the day, other than writing this, was to get the remainder of my Vales Emerald and a chunk of the remaining Charlottes into the dustbins, now that the weather is, hopefully, warming up. I normally only put 5 potatoes per bin, but I had 6 Vales Emerald left so put the lot in and 6 Charlottes to match. It'll be a useful comparison.
Perhaps I'll have a chance to take some pictures in a couple of weeks, assuming I have time, by which time there may be something to see. Until then...

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Late Snow

I was up early this morning for a change, a side effect of the persistent cough I seem to be suffering with at the moment. In between coffee and a few forum posts I watch the white stuff cascade down. By 9.00 we had about 2", and by midday the sun was trying to break through, and by 15:00 it had virtually all gone and I was digging on the lotte for a change :-);
I got about two hours in before I ran out of manure, and about 2/3 the way down what will be the bed for my main crop potatoes. I'm hoping the weather is going to be ok for next weekend so I can fit getting another load in, in between planting out my onions, sowing the first carrots, finishing the bed for the main crop spuds, and planting them out.
I did manage to pick up a few things on freecycle whilst the snow was preventing me doing anything else, an old 4 shelf plastic mini-greenhouse minus cover, which I'll put a net over and use for bringing on my cabbages after potting on, 4 more pallets including one of the 8' long ones, and some terracota plant pots. The three standard pallets will go to make the second compost bay at the Sunningdale plot, and the long one I've already dismantled for use in making raised beds.
Yesterday, was almost a busy but I did manage a lie-in, even though I've had to sleep sitting up most nights to stop coughing. Not the most practical or comfortable way to sleep and it does my back no good.
Having set to I dug out the escaping raspberry runners, some of which had made it 3 feet into what we call the lawn. Loading these and the strawberry runners I'd potted up back in February I escaped to the Bracknell plot. Given the sunshine I'd have expected to see a hive of activity but yet again I was the only one present, although it does look like the council have decided to reclaim the two jungle plots that according to them, at least the last time I asked about them, didn't exist.
Strawberries and Raspberries planted in what was the Jerusalem artichoke bed last year, I then set about breaking up the clods of couch I'd dug out last time I was there. Most were workable but one or two were still saturated and a few were baked rock hard - at least on the surface. The plot, other than the raised beds is still to saturated to work, but I did dig out another two rows of sods. If we get a reasonably dry week then may be I'll be able to deal with them next weekend, after the onion and carrot planting is done.
I must also get to and sow the first batch or runner beans and the sweetcorn. I've still not had any success with chitting parsnips, but the scorzonera is growing away quite happily in its tubes. I've even got sprouts from some of the sets, I sowed in modules last weekend, although the mouse tried to carry one off, and has snapped off one of the Convers Colossal. It also ate all my lettuce seedlings, forcing me to resow. In addition I've sown the second batch of greyhound, a batch of primo, a second batch of the late brussel bedford fillbasket, and another brassica although which currently escapes me.
I must sort out the tomatoes, the Black Russian haven't germinated, so these need to be resown. I also need to sow Moneymaker, Brandywine, and the tumbler. I've had the same problem with the marketmore so I'll need to resow these as well.
Now if I had some cloches I could get the first batch of greyhound out. They've come on well in the cold frame, but I don't think they're quite up to the open ground of the plot. If the weather is better tomorrow I may pot them on and put them on my new shelves. I think I'll move the onions onto them as well, then I can move the sweet peas and mangetout to the mini-greenhouse, and the onion seedling from the greenhouse to cold frame. If I've got room I'll move the calabrese in there too.