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Category Archives: May

Small Beginnings

I have decided to add a few bits and pieces to the patio in the shape of containers with herbs and salads. I don’t know about you but l find the small pots of herbs sold in most supermarkets are great value especially if you nurture them on a bit and then plant them up outside.

You have treat them carefully, after all, they have been living a cosy life indoors all their short lives but hopefully they will pick up and continue to produce some lovely herbs over the coming weeks.

I am going to sow some salad crops soon in small boxes, probably the cut-and-come-again varieties.

But what is stopping me from becoming Mr Container Man is the possibility that our landlord might, just might sell us this house! I have no wish to tempt fate but we should know for sure in the coming weeks. It would be too late for me to get on with much in the vegetable garden but l could make great progress in the Autumn preparing the plot ready for next year. I hardly even think too much about it!

Chelsea is with us again but as each one passes l become less and less attracted by the pomp and snobbery attached to the show gardens. It all looks so showroom and a million miles from what the vast majority of us could ever afford even if we wanted such a thing. No, l will be aiming at recreating a 1940’s garden hopefully complete with my own take on an Anderson’s Shelter and with some lawn to keep Mrs Hunt happy, of course! I just have to be patient……….

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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in May, The garden

 

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Allotment Waiting Lists

How are you all getting on out there with all this rain? Depending on where you live l suppose it makes for some excellent growing conditions. After all, the season started really well and there was no reason not to have the ground prepared for sowing. Or was there?

I have just been to my local Council Offices and registered my interest in renting an allotment. ‘Which one would you like?’ asked the Receptionist. My heart leapt at the thought l was going to be offered one there and then. ‘I don’t mind’ l said ‘Anything you have got. I’m not after a full plot. Just half or even a quarter plot would do’. ‘No’ came the reply ‘Which allotment site are you interested in?’ ‘Oh, er whichever has the shortest waiting list’ l said hopefully. ‘They are all the same. Four years on average. But l will put your name down with them all’. In an act of mental desperation l mentioned my blog that l write and how it is one of the gardening blogs listed with The Guardian on their gardening blog website. But she was having none of it. And l only had 65p in my pocket so l couldn’t even offer a bribe!

And so l am on the waiting list. The four year waiting list! But l have a cunning plan. Me thinks that if l pay a visit to these allotment sites and take a look around at the scruffy ones, then maybe, just maybe they might be happy to go halves with me because it is all too much for them and one of them would be happy to share some of their plot? It’s worth a try. Nothing ventured and all that. I will keep you posted.

One Day!

 This extract l have taken from Mr Middleton’s book ‘Mr Middleton Talks About Gardening’ was actually first published in 1935 so makes no reference to the war ahead.The month is May.

The vegetable marrow bed should be prepared now, and seed may be sown in the south. In the north the end of the month will be soon enough.If you want a few really nice marrows for the show, a good idea is to train them over a sloping framework of some kind. An old gate, sloping from the ground near the plants, to a wall or fence or some other support, four or five feet high, does quite well. Tie the shoots here and there, and then let the young marrows hang under the gate. By this method you get them perfectly straight and evenly marked, and free from slugs or soil blemishes, and they will grow to quite a good size without breaking the stems.

Of course we don’t all happen to have a spare gate, but l’ve no doubt you can fix up a contrivance of some kind which will answer just as well. But whatever you do, especially if you try this on an allotment, let it be something neat and inconspicuous. I should be very sorry to suggest anything which might encourage the use of old bedsteads and other worn out domestic appliances on the allotments. I should like to take this opportunity of appealing to allotment holders generally to be a little more considerate of the public point of view and try to keep the allotments a little tidier than they usually are. I have seen allotment fields recently which, from a distance, look like vast rubbish dumps rather than productive gardens. Surely this is hardly necessary? A little ingenuity and a coat of green paint can often cover up a multitude of eyesores.

Well, Mr Middleton, if l am lucky in my quest, l promise to keep it spick and span and certainly no rusting old bedsteads!

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Allotments, May

 

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Our little Chelsea Flower Show

About 6 miles away from us on the road to Pontrieux is a château on the banks of the River Treiux called La Roche-Jagu. Built back in the 15th century, it is the only surviving fortress out of fifteen that once lined the valley.

Today, La Roche-Jagu hosts special exhibitions, concerts, has some fantastic gardens open to the public and every year in May hosts what we call, a small Chelsea Flower Show; La Fete des Jardins.

La Roche-Jagu

Although there are no show gardens here it is more than made up by the numerous stall holders selling their plants, flowers and vegetables covering the whole spectrum. It is never crowded making it a pleasure to stroll round and take in everything that is there. The plants are good value and of good quality too. Oh, and it is free to enter. Even the car park is free. I am going to miss all this free parking when we return to Blighty!

Over the years we have walked, or rather, staggered away with countless plants that have helped us to build up our garden here.

Nearly all of the exhibitors are local making it easy to visit their nurseries at a later date to stock up on even more of their plants. Too tempting for me especially when l am on a strict budget!

So, to the real Chelsea Flower Show. Come on now, be really honest, what did you think of this years show? I will be honest with you;  I am rather disappointed really and l can’t put my finger on it. I have always had mixed feelings about Chelsea; the way most of the plants have either been held back or brought on makes for a totally false planting scheme. Or the fact that, particularly this year, plants like the specimen trees are way off the price scale running into thousands of pounds resulting in gardens that we can only look on and admire for their design and artistic qualities. Is that what Chelsea is all about? But we can all take something from the design can’t we? Look at the trends over the past years ranging from introducing the colour blue into the garden to decking and lighting. Surprisingly this year looks like it is the use of water which, again, shows how off the scale the big gardens are. But this year l have found it hard to find anything that has inspired me. Sure, l love those specimen trees but not at that price!

So what is it? I have watched a lot of the coverage on TV and, as usual, find myself pulled towards the artisan gardens. The Show Gardens have left me cold apart from Bunny Guinness. She should have got a gold.  Perhaps, if l was a lottery winner, l would commission Cleve West to design me a garden, but an intimate one with lots of natural planting, trees, maybe even a suitable water feature oh, and a walled vegetable garden. I would love to own or even work in a walled kitchen garden. It is a long held wish of mine that l hope to achieve one day.

For what it is worth my No 1 garden is……drum roll………A Child’s Garden in Wales. I really like this garden and l suppose in some ways reminds me of my very first memories of being in a garden when l was probably no more than 4 years old when we lived in Surrey with my hands in the soil, playing about more than anything, of course. It was an old Victorian house with a typical small back garden with a yard, shed and some trees and even today l sometimes get taken back to that garden when a certain soily smell appears when l am digging. Strange how smells bring back such strong memories.

Well roll on Hampton Court and Tatton Park. Now these are two shows l would definitely like to visit.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Gardens, May

 

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May-4th Week

Mr Middleton says: Never allow a weed to flower in the garden.

I could do with this lot helping out in my garden!

May-4th WEEK

1. Plant Mid-Season Leeks.- Leeks for use up to Christmas may now be planted. Do not plant many as there is so much other produce available at the time.Their greatest value is from Christmas to May. For ordinary purposes the best method of planting is to make holes with a pole or blunt dibber some 6-in. deep. The distance apart should be 12 in. between the rows and 9 in. between the holes. Use only good plants, the roots trimmed a little and the leaves cut back, and drop them in the holes.A little soil can be pushed in to cover the roots, and this should be followed by watering to settle them into position. The holes should not be filled with soil, but left to give room for the leek stems to swell.

2. Kohl Rabi Instead of Turnips.- Kohl Rabi should now be sown. A fairly rich soil suits it best, and it should not be allowed to grow too large and coarse. Use when of tennis-ball size.

3. Sow for Various Successions.- Successional sowings of radish, short-horn carrots, six-week turnips, lettuce etc., should be made according to family requirements, and the capacity of the garden.

4. Outdoor Tomatoes, Marrows and Cucumbers.- In sheltered gardens of the south outdoor tomatoes can be planted. Elsewhere it is better to wait a week. There are many places where they will thrive in the open garden, but the position should not be windswept. In more difficult areas they should be grown against a wall or fence facing south. Vegetable marrows, too, can be planted out of doors when frost is passed. Cucumbers can be planted in a cold frame or in a cold house.

5. Look to Grapes.- Bunches of grapes, which will be developing rapidly, should be thinned out before the fruits become crowded. Use long, thin scissors and hold up the fruits with a stick. Do not use the fingers.

6. General Work.- Autumn-fruiting raspberries cut down earlier will have produced growths long enough to need tying to the wire supports. Clean sea-kale beds, and dress with agricultural salt. Mulch peas and other crops on light soil. Earth-up potatoes.

I planted my early leeks a couple of weeks ago. The method Mr Middleton describes for planting leeks is the same today. Some people say it is not necessary to trim the roots and the tops of each plant but l find, by doing so, they are easier to put in the holes and they are not top heavy helping them to stay snug in the soil. They never seem worse off for it.

Although l don’t have many raspberry canes in my garden those l do are laden with fruits. Along with most other cane fruit it really pays to have a few plants in the garden especially out here where soft fruit is incredibly expensive.

I have been hardening off the tomatoes over the past few weeks and have transplanted them into large pots situated by the side of the greenhouse where it is reasonably sheltered. Just as well as we have had really strong winds blowing in overnight accompanied by a few showers.

There is still so much to do out there and the weeds still keep appearing. Don’t turn your back for a second!

Sorry, my original post was published before it was completed. I can’t get the staff!

 

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How Is Your Plan Working?

Mr Middleton says: Thin out surplus seedlings early,before the roots get tangled, or you may injure those left behind.


MAY-3rd WEEK

1. Thinning and Planting.- There will be much thinning and planting out of seedlings in May from sowings made in April. This operation is most important and should be done before the young plants get too crowded with their roots tangled together, and by their competition with each other weaken those which are left. Plant out crops from the seed bed and frames as necessary.

2. How is Your Plan Working?-  The garden should be getting nice and full, but there should still be room for some later crops. To speak of the necessity for planting and sowing at different times is to emphasise the need for a plan.

3. Plant Out Lettuce.- Cos lettuce raised under glass may now be planted out. Allow 12 in. from plant to plant. A few seeds can be sown out of doors also to provide a succession to the others. Never allow lettuce seedlings to become crowded, as they grow soft and decay early.

4. Sow Maincrop Carrots and Beet.- An intermediate or long variety of carrot is usually sown for the maincrop and storage, while small sowings of stump-rooted forms are sown at intervals until July to provide a regular supply of tender young roots.

5. More Sowing of Spinach.- Further sowings of ordinary spinach can be made and New Zealand spinach can now be sown out of doors.

6. Fertilize and Hoe.- A light sprinkling of  general fertilizer may be given to crops now well established, particularly the early onions. Hoe frequently amongst the crops to work in the fertilizer and to keep down weeds which begin to grow apace at this time of the year.

7. Sow Peas.- The final sowing of tall peas should be made now to get full benefit from them.

8. Attend to Fruit.- In the fruit garden suckers may be showing at the base of fruit trees. They should be cut out immediately, as they rob the tree of food. If the season is dry many of the trees and bushes may need watering particularly on light soils.

How is my plan working? Sorry Mr Middleton l don’t have a plan this year. It is really just a case of filling in the spaces mostly with salad, potatoes, peas, beans and squash.

Happy to say l have kept up to date with the sowing and planting of salad crops.

Lettuce transplants

I have been busy fitting the irrigation system on some of my beds to ease the chore of watering. It certainly works when it is fitted to a timer. Just make sure you have the water turned on!

Pumpkins

My hopes have been raised now l have seen the first of the tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. I have to admit l have not been that successful in the past with peppers and aubergines but this hot spring should help along with a hot summer? Today it is blowing a gale. Just hope those tall flowers and grasses don’t get battered!

Young tomatoes

First of the Aubergines

A Peeking Pepper

 
 

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Time for Tea

I can’t believe the weekend is upon us again already! It makes me realise how important it is for us to stop, take a breather and have a look around with a nice cup of tea. Better still, get out that sun lounger and take a few well earned minutes to listen to the radio…with a nice cup of tea , of course! Whatever you’re doing, have a great weekend and enjoy this sunshine.

Time for Tea

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2011 in May, The garden

 

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May – 2nd Week

Mr Middleton says: Little and often is the golden rule with fertilizers: a little less rather than a little more.

1. Plant Out Celery and Celeriac.- Celery is normally planted in trenches in single or double rows. Set the plants out 9 in. apart. Water with liquid manure. Dust with old soot often, to keep the celery fly away. Celeriac, which is grown for its turnip-like root, requires a rich soil and much feeding to get really good roots. It is a fine vegetable for soup, and is excellent boiled.

2. Thin Out Seedlings.- Many rows of seedlings will need thinning out from time to time. This can be done at one stage, though normal practice is to do it twice. \the first time the rows are reduced and specimens left about twice as thick as is necessary. This leaves plenty to cover failures. The alternate plants are removed at the final thinning. With carrots the disturbance of the roots of the row loosens the soil and permits the carrot fly to lay its eggs near the roots of the plants, and the pungent smell attracts the pest. Where the fly has proved a nuisance in the past it is better to sow the seeds sparingly and to leave the rows unthinned.

3. Onions and Their Enemies.- The same sort of thing applies to onions which, when sown out of doors and thinned, attract the onion fly where fly is prevalent. It is better to leave them unthinned and take a crop of smaller onions.


4. Plant Cucumbers.-
Cucumbers can now be planted in frames.

5. Sow Swedes and Turnips.- swede and turnips should be sown now in the north if they are to achieve full development.

6. Sow and Plant.- Sow maincrop beet and haricot beans. Plant out late cauliflowers and New Zealand spinach. Apply mulches to any fruit trees that need it. Protect beans outside if weather is unseasonable.

Unfortunately, a lot of this weeks advice is not relevant to me as l am not planting up winter veg due to our house being for sale and l foresee a move back to Blighty before the year is out. However, l will heed his advice regarding the thinning of seedlings and will not be thinning my carrots just yet. I like to grow them on until they are of edible size and then have a few meals of baby carrots. I will be putting a frame over them with a fleece to keep the carrot fly at bay.

Like every gardener/cook, l love onions and garlic but my garden here won’t allow me to grow them. They suffer first with rust, and worst of all, onion white rot. There is no cure for this disease and can stay in the soil for up to 8 years. So rather than live in hope l use the space to grow other crops.

Roger, my friend & assistant!

I sowed spinach and Swiss Chard a couple of weeks ago and both are doing well. I like to make curries and use the leaves to do a mean Spinach and Potato Curry or, later on, a Green Curry that is one of the best l have ever tasted. I will share the recipe nearer the time.

I have planted out my cucumber plants in the open and training them up a willow wigwam. They seem to be doing okay at the moment. Fingers crossed there will not be a late frost!

 

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