Monthly Archives: June 2013

First trees planted in the orchard

The planting of the orchard, planned for the coming winter, all being well, had a headstart today with the addition of two new trees at the far end of the plot: a walnut and a chestnut. It is not the ideal time for planting, but these trees were bought during the winter and heeled in in one of the vegetable borders. They should have been planted out several months ago and had to be moved now because the recently planted winter squash plants will soon taken over that bed. Continue reading

Blackfly on the broad beans

Blackfly on broad beans

Blackfly has arrived on the outdoor broad beans. In typical fashion, there was no sign of them until, seemingly overnight, the hoards moved in and covered the top six inches or more of stem. Their arrival should not, however, cause a rush to spray with any nasty stuff as they are readily dealt with using simple organic methods. Continue reading

The flighty queen has flown

Today’s hive inspection was generally encouraging, with three large colonies in excellent health. All hives sported frames with large areas of clean white brood, and good amounts of stores are being laid down. The gold bees in the long deep hive show no signs of swarming, despite becoming a very large colony with an astonishing amount of young brood. They currently have roughly the same space as two national brood boxes but could benefit from a few more frames. The newly merged colony has also become rather large, with a lot of young brood, but still with some space on new frames. We will be adding a second super soon, perhaps next week. Continue reading

The work party has arrived

Riitta weeding the asparagus bed

Mother-in-law, Riitta, arrived today for a couple of weeks of hard labour – or, holiday, as she calls it. CT has also taken two weeks off work, so, weather depending, we can get the garden into reasonable order. It did not take long before the asparagus bed was weeded. This was long overdue and needs to be done with great care, so as not to harm the shallow roots of the asparagus crowns. Fingers, gloved for the particularly nasty specimens if need be, are the best tools. Trowels really are not a good idea.  Continue reading

Hive inspection finds an unusually flighty queen

Busy bee hive

Today was time to go through all of the bee hives, a job that needs doing ideally once per week at this time of year. We currently have four colonies: one long deep hive which we started with a virgin Italian gold queen, who was likely mated with the Buckfast bees that we kept at the time; one national hive with an Italian queen, one with our last Carniolan queen, and one that lost its queen earlier in the year. The latter was requeened a few weeks ago. However, although the queen was initially accepted, she did not appear to lay well and, on a recent inspection, was nowhere to be found. They had made supercedure cells and we decided to leave them to make a replacement for now, and worry about requeening the hive later. Today we found the queen cell vacated but the hive queenless once again, with no sign of eggs. Now there are few bees left, and those are getting old. We decided to leave that hive alone and start a new colony.

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Replanting cucurbits and some general maintenance

A little light work was carried out today in the glasshouses and polytunnel. A few remaining winter squash plants were potted on, as the outdoor bed is still choked with weeds and will not be ready for a couple of weeks yet. This is running late, but Sweet Dumpling is a smaller bushier variety and hopefully it will still have plenty of time to develop when we finally get around to planting out. Continue reading

Enjoying the harvest

The harvest is underway

After a slow start to the year, and with so much effort focussed on infrastructure rather than cultivation, it is good to see the harvest coming along nicely now. We have been enjoying beautiful creamy new potatoes, Sharpe’s Express and Red Duke of York, from the potato pots for some weeks. We steam these for best results, which prevents them from breaking up. The first of the outdoor potato beds is looking good now, and will be ready to supply new potatoes as soon as the pots are gone. The autumn sown onion sets are also developing nicely, with many of a good size already, and great used fresh. The outdoor sowings will provide the main crop for storage later in the year. Continue reading

Oca and the wonderful Album Vilmorin

I had not expected to write anything new today, as we are far away from the garden, wandering around the streets of Antwerp. However, I am drawn like a magnet to book shops – even if the books on display are in languages I do not read, as attested by the recent purchase of two books from a garden centre in Finland. Browsing through the second bookshop I stumbled upon today, I came across a wonderful book: a collection of prints of the 46 colour plates that together form the Album Vilmorin – Les Plantes Potagères, along with interesting historical notes and information on the plants, in English. I had seen these before, but not in such a volume. Vilmorin, a renowned French seed company issued one plate per year, in the years 1850 to 1895, each comprising beautiful botanical illustrations of a collection of fruits and vegetables from their catalogue. Continue reading

A day for the brassicas

The swede sown earlier in modules have been ready for planting out for a few weeks now, but like everything else in the garden, planting out is behind – this time without the excuse of bad weather. June is, however, a good time to be planting out these small, but sturdy, young plants. They all had a decent root ball, although another week or two in the modules and they would have been quite potbound. Swede are often sown direct in May or June, as, in common with root crops such as carrots, beetroot, and parsnip, they do not like to have their roots disturbed. However, I have had better results sowing these first in modules. Thirty six were planted out in one of the main beds reserved for brassicas in this rotation, 4 per row, spaced at about 25cm each way. A handful of spares will be kept for a couple of weeks, just in case any of those planted out today fail for some reason. Continue reading

A day of weeding and planting potatoes

The ‘Speedhoe’ makes light work of small weeds

CT and I spent a long hot afternoon in the garden – this time with help from our good friend Tuula. Beds were weeded, tomatoes were pinched out and tied in to supports in the polytunnel, essential watering was done, and another bed was planted with potatoes. Generally, I have little interest in gadgets in either the kitchen or the garden, preferring the good old tools of the trade that have served well enough for centuries. However, I was recently given a Haxnicks ‘Speedhoe’, which I have found to be quite excellent. It has a smallish head, but is thin and sharp, working on both the push and the pull stroke. The long handle makes it comfortable in use, and it can rapidly rip through the leaves. I like it so much that I immediately bought the smaller ‘Precision’ version of the product for close work. Today was ideal for getting the hoe going; although it will help whatever the weather, on hot sunny days, the roots of the weeds soon dry out and die before they have a chance to root once again. Continue reading