This week saw a mixture of sowing and planting out. First, we prepared our second outdoor potato bed and planted a favourite late main crop Pink Fir Apple, along with more of second early Wilja and a few left over early Sharpe’s Express. The Wilja and Pink Fir Apple will go into the store once harvested, whilst this third sowing of Sharpe’s Express should keep us in new potatoes for some time. Continue reading
With April just around the corner, it was time to sow some of the tender crops, to be planted outdoors in early to mid May or in the polytunnel or glasshouses as soon as large enough. First were the French beans, Meraviglia di Venezia, a yellow climbing bean, and Beurre de Rocquencourt, also yellow, but a dwarf sort. It is a little early to sow beans for outdoors, but these are destined for the polytunnel, where they should be fine planted out in a few weeks’ time. The dwarf beans should crop first, with the climbing beans to follow. Continue reading
The blog has been rather slow lately, with nearly one month since my last post. Partly, at least, one must blame this lazy blogger. In my defence, we have been busy with various other things, and the garden has reached that maintenance phase where the mad rush of propagating and planting out slows down to a more modest workload. Most of the beds are now full, with crops for summer and autumn use as well as many to go through the winter or put into storage. It has also been hot lately, and the partly walled vegetable plot can become unbearably hot to work in the summer, not to mention the glasshouses and polytunnel, so we tend to reduce our activities at this time of year. Continue reading
Regular sowing is necessary for regular cropping without gluts. We try to sow a few things every week or two throughout the growing season. This week we started with the cucurbits: summer and winter squash, melons, and cucumbers. I used a mixture of a free draining soil based seed compost with some organic peat free multipurpose, relieved of any large bits of woody material. Cucurbits are rather sensitive to excess moisture; the seeds will readily decay and the young plants collapse under damp conditions, which encourage rots and fungal problems. Whilst some moisture is obviously needed, the compost must be free draining and the pots should not sit in water. The seeds of squash, melons, and cucumbers, are somewhat flattened, and it is common practice to sow the seeds on their edge, supposedly so that moisture sheds from the seed more readily. Whether this really makes much difference or not I have not bothered to find out, but one might as well continue the tradition. The larger seeded squash are planted a good ¾” deep and the melons and cucumbers perhaps ½”. Continue reading
The fifth article in the series looking at our sowing plans for the coming season covers the cucurbits – cucumbers, melons, summer and winter squash. Whilst melons are a somewhat marginal proposition, we have a great harvest of cucumbers and summer squash, both of which are prolific. We also reserve one of our large borders for winter squash, which, if they store well, can provide many winter meals. Continue reading
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
Whilst doing my morning rounds – opening the glasshouses and polytunnel, feeding and watering the chickens, checking on seedlings, etc. – the menace that has all but wiped out my cucumbers and glasshouse melons was spotted, if but briefly. It was small; definitely not a mouse, and I think not a shrew either, but most probably a vole – but it was still too sprightly for me. More bait blocks have been put down to see if we can get rid of this pest – how many there are, I have no idea. I do not want to plant out the replacements until I can be fairly sure that they will not be scoffed straight away.
The melons, which looked as though they might survive, are looking even worse now – a couple of them have signs of regrowth, but others look like they might fail to recover. I may have to resort to buying some Sweetheart F1 to replace them – I’m sure one of the local garden centres will still have some in stock when I finally get around to it.
From 19 plants, only two have survived unscathed. The rest have been decimated by some unknown, yet particularly hungry, pest. Bait blocks and slug pellets remain untouched, yet more cucurbits have been reduced to mere stalks. Once again, with a lack of slime trails, slugs or snails are looking increasingly unlikely suspects. The damage has all the hallmarks of a larger toothed menace. Two mouse traps baited with peanut butter have been added alongside the surviving melons, to see if some furry fiend is responsible. The strange thing is, the other side of the greenhouse has some nice ripe strawberries that I would imagine being the first thing to disappear. Continue reading
After a weekend of heavy weeding, the smaller of the ‘wedge’ beds was cleared of the worst of the explosion of spring growth. A nasty assortment of annual and perennial weeds had taken over, including thistles, nettles, couch grass and the ever present creeping buttercup and some as yet unidentified but not quite so invasive sort. We should have covered the bed with weed fabric over winter until ready, as we did with most of the other beds – next winter we plan to cover all bare soil as crops are cleared. It makes life so much easier when planting comes around once again. As much as possible of the perennial roots were dug out, but no doubt some remain. What small growth was left was hoed off and the soil raked over ready for planting. The soil appeared rich enough from previous applications of manure so nothing more was done. Continue reading