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Monthly Archives: March 2010

Rain, sun, hail and very, very strong winds!

Yes, we had the lot today! Not as bad as Scotland with their blizzards but bad enough. So, unable to do anything in the garden, l took refuge in the greenhouse.

Greenhouse

I am rapidly running out of staging with all the trays of seedlings and pots of sweet peas, tomatoes and herbs. It soon becomes one big balancing act so l think l will have to make a cold frame soon. The whole greenhouse visibly shook in some of the gusts we had in the afternoon. Beth, the cat, never flinched while sleeping amongst the plants.

In between the showers l had a quick check on everything in the garden. I noticed the rhubarb is really romping away. By Easter l will be picking the first stalks. Rhubarb and custard, simple and lovely!

Spring rhubarb

Bursting bud

This bud looks like the head of an alien! I find it incredible to think that within 10 days or so this bud will have unfurled into a red stem of  delicious rhubarb with a huge green leaf soaking up the warm spring sunshine….l hope. Nature’s great.

When the sky went black and l thought l might be re-enacting The Wizard of Oz and be whisked up into the skies in my greenhouse l retreated to the kitchen. I had seen a recipe for Lemon Curd in this months The English Garden so decided to have a go. Eggs from the girls provided the colour and it tastes amazing. I was well chuffed for a first attempt.

Lemon curd

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2010 in March, The garden

 

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Hold on……

March-5th Week

Maintain succession of potatoes, Sow Lettuce and Sweet Corn, Sow Root Crops Outside etc

The weather forecast is not looking too good for this coming week with heavy rain, snow and freezing night time temperatures for most of us. I’m glad l covered some of my beds so l might, at least, be able to ‘sow root crops outside’ if nothing else. I suppose we have to remind ourselves that we are still in March and have the whole month of April before us but it still seems unfair to be subjected to this sort of weather just when we are all hoping to be out there sowing and transplanting our spring veg, especially when we had 18c here the other week! Back to the greenhouse for me then! At least with the clocks going forward one hour it’s not dark here until nearly 9.00pm.

I wonder how Mr Middleton’s followers felt, when, back in 1940 they were just getting through the worst winter for 50 odd years and growing food wasn’t just a bit of a passing fad or novelty factor, it was going to make the difference between having a full plate or a half and a stomach to match.

Here are some extracts from the March edition of the government’s Garden and Allotment Guide. I think they should bring these back!

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2010 in March, The garden

 

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Allotments: A Growth Industry

I love stories like this. Power to the people!

Allotments: A Growth Industry

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2010 in March

 

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Beans in flower

March-4th Week

Mr Middleton says : If you are not successful with onions, grow shallots. They are an excellent substitute, and much easier to grow’.

1. Last chance for good digging.- Those who did not succeed in digging most of the garden before Christmas, and have since been held up by the bad weather, should press on without delay. Land dug early breaks down easily when forked and produces a good sowing tilth. It is much more difficult on land just turned over.

We haven’t had any significant rain now for some weeks with temperatures reaching 18c and the ground remains perfect for sowing seeds, transplanting lettuce and planting onions and potatoes. Of course, there is never enough time to do all of these things and the forecast for tomorrow is for heavy rain. I have covered a bed that l am using as my seed bed so that should remain in good condition. The other beds just need forking over and the dreaded weeds removing before they set seed.

The broad beans l sowed last Autumn are now in flower! They have proved just how hardy these plants can be with all the snow, frost and bitterly cold Northly winds we have had. Hopefully it won’t be long before l am picking the first of the new broad beans.

In the unheated greenhouse my peas are romping away and will need transplanting next week, along with more lettuce. Leeks are a bit slow but are now emerging. What with the clocks going forward this weekend the growing season is well and truly with us. How are you doing in your garden?

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2010 in March, The garden

 

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Trials and Troubles

I was reading through Mr Middleton’s book ‘Digging for Victory’ the other evening and came across this article. I feel l should share it with you as l feel we can all associate with some of what he says when we are gardening!

The crocuses will soon be out, the birds are singing, and this is the time when the gardening fever spreads. Already l notice seed packets are blowing about the allotments instead of into the salvage bin, and take it all round, the garden is full of interest just now. It’s nice to think that each little seed we sow is going to grow into a fine carrot or onion as the case may be. But is it? There are a good many snags and obstacles to be got over before we reach that happy state, and it’s just as well to be prepared for them and act accordingly. It doesn’t seem to matter what we try to grow, there is always an enemy of some kind waiting to pounce on it and spoil the good work; what with the invading army of birds, cats, moles, insects, and diseases of various kinds, it’s a wonder we are able to grow anything at all. But there is one thing we should all remember: nearly all these gardening troubles can be prevented, but many of them are extremely difficult to deal with once they are allowed to get going…..Never was the old saying ‘Prevention is better than cure’, more true than it is in the garden. So we must be forewarned this year, and take timely measures to keep the crops clean. We can’t afford to share them with insects in wartime.

He goes on to talk about slugs, wireworms, onion fly, carrot fly (l used a mixture of sand and soot when l sowed my carrot seeds when l had my first allotment at the age of 11years and it worked a treat against the fly), flea beetle, black fly, club root and birds. He goes on to say:

I don’t like hurting birds. I’m afraid l’m not so squeamish about other people’s cats and dogs; they can be, and often are, a perfect nuisance on allotments in industrial areas. Cats are difficult, but a lot can be done with a well-aimed lump of dirt. Dogs are inexcusable, and their owners might at least keep them off allotments, even if they themselves are not interested in growing food. Children, too, are sometimes very troublesome, but it’s no use blaming them, but those responsible for them might surely exercise a little more control over them where allotments are concerned, for these allotments are a vital source of food supply. Our allotments have recently been visited by a herd of cows. I don’t quite know what we can do about them, l know what l felt like doing, but perhaps the less said about that the better, except that l should like to appeal to everybody who owns animals of any kind to do their best to keep them under control, and respect the efforts of those who are trying to increase the food supply.

Well, maybe the cows are a bit extreme but dogs and cats are always a threat, even my own! Worst of all are my hens that manage to find a way into my veg plot and wreak havoc. I am slowly building up defences and they are slowly getting the message. My experience is just keep an eye out when you are gardening and try and nip any problems in the bud before they get out of control and always opt for the organic method first.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2010 in March, The garden

 

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Planting Early Potatoes

March-3rd Week

2. Plant Early Potatoes.- Begin planting early potatoes wherever possible. In the south and parts of the midlands doubtless some can be got in now. They should be well sprouted and have the number of sprouts reduced to two, unless you prefer a larger number of small potatoes. Unhealthy tubers should be destroyed. Do not plant any that are suffering from dry rot, as they merely decay in the soil. By planting now, new potatoes can be obtained really early.



With the soil being so warm and dry l decided to plant out some early potatoes under cover. Rain was forecast today but never arrived, however, tomorrow looks awful and l couldn’t waste this opportunity.

I started by adding a good load of leaf mould and a sprinkling of organic fertilizer into the soil.

I then covered the whole bed with black plastic and, through slots cut in the plastic, l planted Belle de Fontenay and Nicola varieties.

The whole bed was then covered with perforated clear plastic pegged and strung down. I have used this method many times in the past and it is fool proof! By May we will be digging up the first new spuds. I know Mr Middleton didn’t have access to these methods but he would probably have brought a few on under glass cloches. Same idea just different materials.

Does anyone have any other ideas for bringing on some early potatoes?

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2010 in March, The garden, Uncategorized

 

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So much to do.

March-2nd Week

1. Fork dry soil. Press on with forking soil when it is dry enough. This forking may not be possible until April.

2. Get ahead with Parsnips. Many sowings should be made out of doors as the soil is brought into a fine condition. Parsnips need a long season to become fully developed and, if not already sown, this should be done without delay. Sow in drills 15 or 18 in. apart, and put a pinch of seeds at intervals of 9 in. rather than sprinkle some all along the drill. As parsnips are slow in germination, it is good to make a thin sowing of radish or lettuce in the drill. These mark its position and permit hoeing to be done before the parsnips appear. They will also mature and can be used.

The weather has been beautiful here for the past few days and the soil has dried out and is perfect for working on. I feel the clock is ticking as the forecasters are saying we have rain coming in on Thursday so its action stations! I planted my shallots and onions after forking in some old leaf mould.

I have prepared a bed ready to sow parsnips. Mr Middleton advises to sow a quick crop of radish with the seeds but l have never done this, not with the parsnip seeds. I always think there would be too much root disturbance when it came to pulling the radish out so l just sow seeds in batches and thin them out when large enough. Okay, l’ll try it with one row and see how l get on!

I couldn’t resist having a quick look at the rhubarb l covered up the other week and was amazed at how quickly it had come on. I covered it back up as it looked so snug in its bed of straw and we are having some frosts here first thing in the morning so best not to be too hasty yet.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2010 in March, The garden

 

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March..ing On!

March- 1st Week. Mr Middleton says: Soil is the basis of life. Take care of it.

1. Clear land. Land still occupied by crops should be gradually cleared as they are used. To accelerate the clearing, leeks and celery can be lifted and heeled in together, either in a frame or sheltered corner.


I used the last of my leeks this weekend to make a Chicken and Leek casserole which is not good planning on my part as we  are now ‘leekless’ for some time to come. This year l am planting four different varieties to cover the whole season. The old leek bed is now cleared and l will add some leaf mould to it ready for planting up my squash later in the year.

3. Prepare trenches for Peas and Beans. It is a good idea to take out the trenches for tall peas and runner beans, to throw the soil at the side and leave for some weeks to weather. The trench should be 18-in. deep if manure is available to put in the bottom, 10-12 in. if none is available.

I have dug out my trench and filled it with old chicken bedding that has been rotting down in a corner. This should be great for the beans which are very hungry feeders and it will also retain moisture as they like to have their roots in a moist soil. I will also be growing some of my sweet peas in this trench contrary to all the advice that was given as really there was no room given over to flowers. It was good old veggies and nothing else!  I just hope l can keep my hens away from scratching it all out in search for grubs.

In the greenhouse l have sowed some peas, Kelvedon Marvel, in pots ready to plant out once they have become established. We are having some beautiful sunny weather at the moment but with it is a very strong E to NE wind which is bitterly cold. Winter hasn’t released its grip on us yet. What are you doing in your gardens right now?

Bean bed

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2010 in March, The garden

 

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Allotments for all!

This is fantastic news.

Farmgarden

Acres of privately owned land is to be turned into allotments, to boost the number of people growing their own fruit and veg. A Government scheme announced today proposes handing over unused building sites and derelict land to keen gardeners, just like the Dig for Victory campaign of the 1940’s. I am looking forward to seeing how this develops and actually seeing allotments appear in inner cities. Great news for those 100,000 plus people on the waiting list for a piece of land.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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At last its March!

March-1st Week

Mr Middleton says: Soil is the basis of life. Take care of it.

Now that the season of sowing and planting is with us, and we are putting the final touches to the ground, we shall naturally be thinking of fertilizers, and these are going to prove something of a problem this year, owing to a shortage of some of the essential plant foods, so we shall have to be careful that we don’t get a badly balanced diet, or we may do more harm than good.

Mr Middleton goes on to talk about the benefits of using manure and compost in your garden rather than just chemical fertilizers. ‘ To use nothing but fertilizers in the garden year after year is rather like trying to live on tonics and tablets, which, although excellent in themselves, cannot take the place of solid food, or not for long at any rate.’ We have come a long way since the 1940’s with what we can use in the garden to feed our plants. Blood, fish and bone, Chicken pellets and many different organic substitutes can be used but Mr Middleton is quite correct, the soil needs bulky material which decays slowly and releases these foods gradually as they are needed.

So l have three compost bins that all need emptying and spreading on the beds along with a few bags of leaf mould. That’s a start. Then l will dig trenches out and start to fill them with kitchen scraps and the old straw bedding from the hens ready for the beans to go in but at the moment the soil is still far too wet and cold to do much. I had another quick look in the greenhouse and the lettuces l sowed last month are coming along quite well. I am up to my eyes in tiles, plaster, wood cladding, showers parts etc as l refit our bathroom downstairs. It seems to be taking forever and l can see, as usual, that it is going to be one huge rush to get everything done inside and, more importantly l feel, outside!

Early lettuce

Garlic

Autumn sown Broad Beans

Cerinthe & Beth

Big Bad Bertha (The Eggless Hen)

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2010 in March, The garden

 

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