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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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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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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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Here Comes The Rain Again…

I was just looking in the DOFV book to see what l might have been able to do this week; Mr Middleton advises;

Break down and lime soil,
Plant Onion sets,
Sow Parsnips, Broad Beans, Carrots etc,
Sow Early Peas, Sprouts and Summer Cabbage,

But as the rain hammers off the window, blown in by a near Hurricane force wind, l don’t think l will be doing any of that! I have sown more seeds in the unheated greenhouse and the early spuds are actually beginning to chit….just! The onion sets are ready to plant out as are the shallots and a few left over garlic cloves.
My hens hate this weather but are still providing us with 3 to 4 eggs a day so we won’t starve! The forecasters are telling us we are in for hell of a storm over the weekend up here in Brittany. At least we haven’t got 18 inches of snow like Scotland. I think a cup of tea is in order.
What will you be planting over the weekend if the weather is kind?

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2010 in February, The garden

 

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Seed potatoes

Digging for Victory, February, About Potatoes.

I think we might usefully consider the potatoes for a few minutes today, because they are probably the most important of all our war-time vegetables. I don’t know how many vitamins potatoes contains, but l do know that they have often kept people, as well as pigs, alive during times of famine, and l know that our hens lay more and bigger eggs when they get a daily ration of boiled potatoes, and that’s enough to convince me that there must be plenty of food value in them….so if we all keep a good stock of them in the store and use them sensibly we shall never starve.

February

‘Potato Pete’ was a character introduced to encourage the population to eat home grown vegetables.

Popular rhymes were adapted to promote the campaign and even Betty Driver (known by many as Betty Williams from Coronation Street) sang a very successful song to help get the message across. Some of the rhymes included:

Here’s the man who ploughs the fields.

Here’s the girl who lifts up the yield.

Here’s the man who deals with the clamp, so that millions of jaws can chew and champ.

That’s the story and here’s the star,

Potato Pete

eat up, ta ta!

Seed Potatoes


Little Jack Horner

Sat in a corner

Eating potato pie.

He took a large bite,

And said with delight

Oh, what a strong boy am I.


Jack Spratt could eat no fat

His wife could eat no lean;

So they both ate potatoes

And scraped their platters clean.


There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.

She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.

She gave them potatoes instead of some bread,

And the children were happy and very well fed.

This was also a popular poem at the time:

Those who have the will to win,

Cook potatoes in their skin,

Knowing that the sight of peelings,

Deeply hurts Lord Woolton’s feelings.

Chitting spuds

I bought my seed potatoes about 2 weeks ago and placed them in trays with their ‘eyes’ up. Over the next few weeks these ‘eyes’ should start to sprout, what is called ‘chitting’. Some people say it helps to produce a better crop and, if you remove some of the sprouts from the potato prior to planting, they will produce less but bigger potatoes. This is only useful on maincrop potatoes not on early varieties as you want as many of those as possible. I checked them over yesterday in the greenhouse but no signs of chitting yet. I am only growing earlies and salad types as l don’t have the space yet on my plot for maincrop. I rotavated a spare patch last year in the field but they never came to much. I suppose had it been in wartime we would have starved!

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2010 in February, The garden

 

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