Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lost for a title

Lots more photos - well at least all the ones off the phone from the weekend before last. Been a bit of a polaver to get them downloaded mine and I had to borrow the mother-in-laws vista laptop to download them.

I'll start with the series covering the planting of the asparagus. So from top down we have, the view of the last 5 feet of the bed prior to addition of manure and replacement of a couple of inches of topsoil prior to the creation of the planting ridges, seen in the second photo.
Ridges created the next step is to actually plant the Asparagus. Picture 3 is one of the plants in its pots, and picture 4 is the same plant knocked out. Whilst not brilliant it does demonstrate how healthy and pot bound the plants are.

Next on the list is the crown after it's had it's root teased out, in planting position on the ridge, followed by the bed ready for covering. By this point it had started sleeting so I'd put the phone away somewhere dry, so the picture of the filled in bed is actually the second photo I took that afternoon, and shows the bed as I'd left it the previous week.

This photo also shows the edge of the new improved supports for the bean and pea frame, which is better seen in the next photo. Having now done this to one of the frames I've decided I'm going to have to do the same to the other one, as I nearly managed to knock it over when completing the remainder of the asparagus bed at the weekend. It's amazing how time just seems to vanish, and the 4 hours I spent at the plot just vanished, and all I managed was to dig out the last 3 feet of the bed, constuct the bed end, level the soil to the base of the sides, add the manure, add a couple of inches of soil, create the planting ridges, plant 6 asparagus, and top the bed off. Still it's one job complete, next on the list is this years potatoes.
The last picture in the series is a shot of half the plot, taken from the same position as the ones last year. If you want to see the changes then the original post showing the pictures is here. The covered bed closest to the foreground is the half dug bed refered to in the post a few weeks ago, and the covered bed on the far left is the one where the brussels are going this year. The one of the right of this one is the bed with this year crop of onions and garlic in, and the middle bed in the foreground is the one with the winter onions in.

Actually looking back at the photo's now reminds me I actually managed to get something else done that day, as the remnants of last years brussel crop are now gone, and the pigeons have destroyed the head of one of the two plants I left in as it was running to seed. I was going to pull it but it has a second stem much lower down which is untouched so hopefully this will produce seed, assuming it's not been destroyed by this weeks frosts.

Okay, I don't know about you but I've lost the thread, so I'll just have to pick up on Sunday's activities. Having fixed a few remaining things on the car, I'd managed to replace both brake front brake calipers on Friday without too much trauma, I trolled down to the Bracknell plot with the aim of not doing alot, well specifically with the aim of treating bed 3 with Armillatox ready for the onions which are doing their best to out grow the modules they're sown in.

Having treated the bed, and spent a certain amount of time conversing with some of my neighbours on the site, I decided I might as well get on and do a little digging. All prepared to start on that last 6 feet of bed 2 I realised that one of the mats I'd put down last year to suppress the couch was covered with several inches of soil. Actually it was considerably more as I found out as I started working my way through it removing couch root and the odd bit of bind weed. With the soil pile rising I shifted a load of it one bed 1 which has settled more than a little since last year, and is a little low in places. So is the top end of bed 2 but I'll correct that when I pull the remaining spring greens out for the potatoes to go in in a couple of weeks.

Having excavated the matting I set about digging, but managed only a couple of rows as the soil under the matting was just that bit too wet and heavy to crumble nicely off the fork.
With time not yet pressing I turned my attention to bed 1 which is in severe need of weeding in places. Why is it that they grow considerably better than the spring cabbages you carefully nurture, which have done nothing except fail and die over the winter.
I'd made a start on the weeding a couple of weeks ago, and managed to complete another 4 feet. It's still a bit of a mess in sections, but so is the half of bed 3 that has the over-wintering onions in. I really must find time to get down there and weed it.
With the arm of the clock now passing half past four I headed home. There were a couple of other jobs I wanted to get done. The first of these was to replace the window openers in the greenhouse. However, like the door wheels, the standard replacements available don't fit. This means, that in addition to the new sliding door rail I need, I'm also going to have to get 4 pieces of aluminium angle and make mounting brackets to fit the new openers too before I can have automatic ventilation in the greenhouse again.
Abandoning this task I set about getting the first of this years potatoes in the ground and getting the next batches sown in tubs. In all I've now sown 1 9ft row of Mayan Gold, 2 9ft rows of Maris Bard, 1 dustbin and 1 potatoe bucket of Mayan Gold, and 1 dustbin of Maris Bard. Since both dustbins are sown with identical soil mixes it will be a useful comparison, to see if last years results hold true.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pictures - Not at an Exhibition

Okay, so I've managed to take a few pictures of the Bracknell plot. I've also managed to take a number of the Sunningdale plot, but having forgotten the camera yesterday I had to use my phone. Now all I've got to do is work out how to get them from the phone on to the computer - no Bluetooth, no Infrared, and no Tariff to send them.
So we'll start with one from the top corner of the plot, much the same perspective as the one in the February 2007 post. In the immediate foreground are my impressive (Not) array of spring cabbages which have done nothing over winter except die, and appear to be continuing in the same vein. Just behind these on the right hand side, standing on its edge are one of my cages - a freecycle give-away from a couple of years ago. I moved it later onto bed three, behind the one in the foreground in the next picture.

In all three of these pictures you can see my "drying" bin at the far end of bed 2. I ended the day by moving it to just left of the foreground of picture 2, at the top left corner of the plot. This clears the last 6' of bed 2, which should mean that I can get it dug in time to get this years potatoes in.

Picture 3 is the reverse angle of picture 1. In both pictures 2 and 3 you should be able to see bed 2 just before I finished installing the new 12' side sections and leveling it to just before the drying bin was.
Due to a blown head gasket on the car, and having to have the head skimmed as a result, I'd dug the last 3 feet on Thursday, which enabled me to get the sides installed to day. I also used the time to re-attach the lid on the drying bin, after the winter wind snapped it from its plastic fixings. The bin is supposed to dry out everything in it since it's divided halfway up by a heavy steel wire mesh, which means it should get really hot inside with the sun on it. This means that I should then be able to compost the crispy fried couch roots that are currently filling it.
My enforced time off from work also meant I was able to get into the greenhouse on Friday and prick out my tomato, cucumber, and courgette seedlings. As usually I have far too many tomatoes, especially the Alicante and Supa Roma. In the end I pricked out 24 Alicante, 20 Supa Roma, and all 16 of the Black Russian.
Pricking these out meant I was able to sow a few more batches of seeds, more Defender - I only had 3 of the first batch germinate, some squash, Telegraph for in the greenhouse, melons, early sprouts, more greyhound, and some more cauliflower- again because I only had a few germinate the first time. All this means more pricking out in a few weeks, but I'll need to do both the sweet and chilli peppers next weekend, assuming I can get the brakes on the car done without any hitches.
I also sowed a few bathes of peas, both sweet and edible. Given last years record with the edibles and the age of the seed, I'm not overly hopeful of much germinating, even having sown 4 peas per cell. I shall leave sowing my heritage peas and beans for a few weeks yet.
Well, that covers everything, except the Sunningdale plot, which was Saturday afternoons work. I've now all bar completed the asparagus bed, and once I can get the photo's off the phone I'll post them so you can see how I've done it and the state of the crowns in their pots. I now need to dig the last 30 inches before I can complete the bed and put the last 6 crowns in. This leaves me with 20 crowns which I'm selling off at £0.50 per crown or 5 for £2.00. Unfortunately as they're pot grown and sprouting they need to go in really quick and are only available for local collection. Click the link if you're local and interested - Asparagus Sales
Apart from almost finishing the asparagus bed I also installed the last but one retaining plank, that divides the high side of the plot from the low side. I've just got one more short section to do, before needing to make a few more decisions about "levels" across various sections of the plot.
As part of the installation process I also weeded to top end of the pea/bean trench and have come to the conclusion I need to install retaining vertical scaffold poles on that section of the frame as well. Thankfully I do have 2 more, although they're not in brilliant condition. Hopefully they'll suffice.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Cold and Wet

And I'm not refering to the weather, I'm refering to the state I found myself in at two thirty this afternoon, having spent three quarters of an hour getting the asparagus planting finished. It's one thing to have a waterproof coat with integral hood, but unless you've waterproof trousers as well, the water just pours off the jacket onto your jeans and into your boots.
Having watched the BBC weather forecast online before I'd left for the plot this lunchtime I'd hoped we were going to escape, and allow me to plant the first 13 feet of the bed, and if possible prepare and plant the last 5 feet. The turn of the weather with 5 feet left to plant put paid to the last, and I planted those 5 feet in a contineous combination of light and heavy sleet showers.
The upside, if there is one, is that I'd fprgotten to take the camera with me, so it didn't get drenched. I had wanted to photograph the bed before I started planting it, and to photograph some of the crowns as I knocked them out of their pots, teased their roots out, and laid them on their ridges, before carefully covering with soil. In some cases it was very carefully as some of the crowns already had 8" spears, and virtually all had several spears of at least 1" in length. I must try and remember when I next get down there to prepare and plant the remaining 5 feet of edged bed. I still can't make up my mind wether to make the bed the full 21 feet in length I'd originally planned.
Now today's planting was made possible by yesterday's leg work, installing the sides of the bed, moving 12 feet worth of soil to the last 5 feet of the bed and the small clear area beyond, raking out the manure down the 13 feet length of the bed exposed, putting back 2" of the soil, and creating the three ridges on which to plant the asparagus down the length of the bed. If that wasn't enough I decided to start on digging over the last but one of the raised beds, the last one still having sprouts growing in it. I managed to dig and manure half the bed, before failing light, falling temperatures, and depleting energy reserves caused me to call it a rapidly aproaching night.
Anyway back to today. Having dried out, put on dry clothes, and fed my face, I trundled out to the greenhouse to continue with the seasons planting. One of the primary reasons for wanting to get the asparagus in, apart from the obvious that it was sprouting left, right, and centre, was to clear some space in the cold frame in order to harden off the onions which are also doing likewise.
In fact it seems everything is doing it's best to get the better of me. I've had to take the peppers and tomatoes out of the propagators to stop them getting to leggy, which of course means I'm left with space. In turn moving the onions means I've space in the greenhouse. So into the propagator has gone more tomatoes, momenymaker and gartenperle this time, marketmore (outdoor cucumber), and defender (courgette). Into the second propagator, that's the one my mother-in-law gave me which works perfectly, went greyhound, primo, and bedfordshire fillbasket (brussel sprouts).
Seeds sown, it was then time to prickout the broccoli (olympia) and the first batch of greyhound, which as a consequence revealed how few of the All-Year-Round cauliflower have actually germinated. I'm going to have to find some time to sow some more.
Well that's it for this week. I'll try harder and see if I can get some pictures, most likely not next week though as I've an appointment with a copse that needs the attention of the 2-stroke deathwatch beetle.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Overdoing it

It's been another busy weekend of digging, and I'm now feeling more than slightly the worse for wear. Progress has been good though, even if the Bracknell plot hadn't dried out as much as I hoped.
I managed a couple of hours on Saturday, breaking up the clods I'd dug out and left last weekend. I also managed to dig another 3 feet, although with it deing soggy on one edge I've left another dozen large clods to dry out.
Sunday afternoon saw me back on the Sunningdale plot, where finishing the remaining 8 feet for the Asparagus bed seems to have been about 3 feet too far. At least now I'm in a position to install the timbers. Once done I can move the soil to the top end, level and manure the bottom of the bed, then start planting. Maybe next week then.
In addition to finishing the digging I also managed to install the second scaffold pole which will hopefully prevent a repeat of last years collapse, should we get another windy August.
It was then a case of returning home to plant more of this years crops. This week it was the turn of the tomatoes, with Black Russian, Allicante, and Supa Roma, finding their way into the propagator. I've also acquired a second propagator from my mother-in-law. The problem is I don't know wether it works or not. It's been lying around for some time so may be well past its use buy date. I've got it on test at the moment so I'll know if it works in a couple of days.
Apart from the digging I've managed to get a few other jobs done around the garden. The first was to denail the remaineder of the joists I bought last summer, primarily as I need two for the asparagus bed and two for bed 2 on the Bracknell plot. Next on the list was to wash the super 7 propagator trays. Having made up the jeyes solution I also took the opportunity to commence washing a number of the flower pots that have spent the last year lurking about the garden.
The other major job was cutting the Autumn raspberries down to the ground in preporation for this season. I'd cut them down to 3 feet in late November, mainly to give the birds some cover during the winter without having the rasperries blown over. Having finished the rasperries, and since I had the secataurs to hand I decided to prune the roses. At least now I won't have to find time to do it later.