Sunday, 26 April 2015

PSB and progress on the plot

The new vegetable garden in its infancy
April has been a glorious month for the garden here on the farm.  We’ve had sunshine in abundance giving me plenty of time to get out and crack on with developing the vegetable garden.  It appears we've landed on our feet in terms of our wonderful micro-climate and conditions couldn't be more different from my experiences of gardening in wet Wales.  I'm very much looking forward to what the coming season will bring.  

The no dig beds, created by adding a good thick mulch of homemade compost and rotted horse/chicken manure on top of the lawn, have had a top dressing of compost and are looking fantastic.  This peat-free mix of topsoil, compost and manure is much finer than my home made stuff enabling me to sow directly in to it and it really does help to make the garden look smart.  The beds are doing really well with very little weed growth coming through from the original turf below, which was quite a concern when deciding to opt for the no dig method.  I have used no dig previously with good success but the ground had already been cleared before hand.  After much research, largely via the wonderful Charles Dowding's website, I bit the bullet and went for it.  Three of the eight no dig beds have now been filled with Beans, Onions and Shallots and various root vegetable seeds sown today.  I’ll keep you up to date on my progress, as I’ll be doing quite a bit of experimentation throughout the year.
The first planting in the vegetable garden
Once again I’m growing plants using recycled toilet roll tubes.  By sowing directly you can easily grow plants on to a decent size without the need for repotting prior to planting in their final positions. This way of sowing seed has proved invaluable in the past and this year I’m using this for pretty much everything moving forward.  When planting out the Broad beans you could really see the value of doing this as the root growth was fantastic and on planting the roots are virtually undisturbed meaning that the plants barely know they’ve moved and they romp away.  

I started using toilet rolls when growing plants that have deep root runs and those that don’t like root disturbance, namely Sweet Corn and Sweet Peas.  I couldn’t justify buying root trainers and it seemed  to me that this was the most logical thing to do.  This year I’ve trialled this with onion sets too.  Cutting the rolls in to smaller sections I’ve planted one set per module and then these are grown on in the greenhouse prior to planting out. The extra root growth and weight of the compost also helps to keep the onions in place when the birds try to pull them out.  

One of my neighbours was very intrigued by what I was doing, both no dig and toilet roll growing, but after seeing things growing away in the greenhouse he has also been converted to the method.  After using a years worth of saved loo roll tubes a fabulous twitter friend (@dancoote) was kind enough to send me a massive box of these, which will see me through the growing season, as he works for a company who produces them - amazing!  A thank you parcel is en route as I type.
Purple Sprouting Broccoli and soft fruit blooms
In the old vegetable garden I'm harvesting Purple Sprouting Broccoli (PSB) like it’s going out of fashion.  If you've not grown this before I'd urge you to do so this year as it really is a fantastic vegetable to have in the Spring garden.  The fruit bushes (Currants, Gooseberries and Jostaberries) that I moved from the allotment when we made the journey from Wales to England have settled well and despite being kept in bags for nearly a year they are now all flowering profusely.  Here’s hoping this is a sign that  a bumper harvest is on the cards!

Next up is the overdue planting of the orchard, planting the rest of the potatoes, starting the ornamental garden and growing Sweet Potatoes.  

Monday, 6 April 2015

You say potato ...

This Bank Holiday weekend has turned out to be absolutely wonderful and we have been treated to some of the best weather so far this year meaning lots of time to garden with the sun on my back finally.  At one point today the thermometer registered a balmy 29.4°C (84.92°F).  It appears the new garden is somewhat of a suntrap!

Early this morning I set off with renewed vigour and set about moving a few old Rose bushes in to the new cutting garden as red, pink and yellow roses don’t really fit in with my plans for the new garden.  They should be great as cut flowers though and from experience last year the scent on two of them is divine.  This patch will be filled with lots of annual favourites and a few other bits and bobs to keep me in flowers all year long (more to come on this shortly).

Most of my morning however was spent planting potatoes with the help of two furry friends.  Tomos and Hermione, rescued farm cats from a nearby farm, are our smallholding pest control however they’re far too inquisitive for their own good and love to “help” in the garden whenever they can.

After attending a local potato day a few months back at Harper Adams University my first earlies were ready to meet our wonderfully fertile and free draining soil. After chitting away in one of the outhouses, four varieties were planted in the space where the chicken run sat last year.  The soil here is wonderfully fertile as you can imagine but there are a few nettles remaining and so I immediately thought that this was the spot for potatoes to rule and shade out the perennial weeds.  This year I’ve opted for spuds I’ve never grown before and I have a total of 10 varieties to plant.  Today saw me plant the following 1st early varieties:

  • Amandine – A lovely long oval potato with a waxy yellow flesh which is derived from ‘Charlotte’.
  • BF15 – Largely picked because it had a bit of mystery surrounding it.  This is a salad variety discovered as a seedling of ‘Belle de Fontenay’.
  • Epicure – A well known 1st early with white round tubers.
  • Leontine – Labelled as a new variety this salad potato is derived from ‘Nicola’ and has yellow skin and flesh.

I also finally set up the new hosepipe for the vegetable garden that’s been sitting in my house for the last month or so.  Really easy to set up, I simply attached it to the wood shed and we were ready to go.  I love the look of this hose compared to the usual garish green or yellow offerings from other brands.  Modern, slimmer and more masculine I’m hoping it will pass the test of time and serve me well in the vegetable garden, greenhouse and orchard.
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