The harvest is coming to an end. The sweetcorn has been eaten - yummy, and the runner beans are coming to an end - just a few more and that'll be it. Good thing too since some of the poles snapped in the recent winds and the whole lot have collapsed against the fence!
Just a few beetroot ans the winter squash to be fetched in. And last will be the parsnips but they need to wait until we've had a good hard frost!
It’s raining - absolutely horrible out there. The ground is sodden and claggy and all I can hear is rain rain rain, lashing against the windows.
There’s not a lot I can do outside.
So I decide to clean the daughter’s bedroom instead. I put on my gas mask, radiation suit and rubber gloves and, clutching a large bottle of disinfectant, I venture into the hovel.
It’s not as bad as I feared. And so I decide to tackle under the bed.
Well I pull out the usual assortment of knickers and socks, mouldy apple cores, crisp packets and sweet wrappers.
Then I pull out two small Tupperware boxes. I wondered where those had gone. I’m not too sure about that brown semi-liquid stuff that’s slopping about inside them though. Good job they’re sealed. I put them to one side to deal with later.
And then I spot the box.
The lid is askew and I can see some shrivelled up leaves and a few twigs in it. As I pull it towards me I notice… the airholes.
I'm very fond of butterflies. I love watching them fluttering across the lawn or studding the flowers on my buddleia bush. Every so often one flutters into my greenhouse and bangs against the glass a few times before finding its way back out.
Unfortunately I think one of these butterflies has left me a little present.
Over the past few weeks I've been noticing holes in the leaves of my peppers and tomato plants. The holes have been getting bigger. One day I spotted a hole in one of my unripe tomatoes. I pulled it off, but the hole was empty.
Today I spotted the droppings. Unmistakable caterpillar droppings - and not small ones either!
I tried turning over the leaves but I couldn't see anything. Wherever these caterpillars are hiding they're too clever for me!
I looked in my book under common pests and diseases, but there's no mention of caterpillars eating tomato plants.
They're munching their way through my greenhouse!!
I've come home from work early - a trip to the vets needed to remove a tick from the guinea pig's ear. So while the kids are loading him into a box I stroll down to check on my patch of dirt.
"Strange," I think as I approach it. "Someone's watering it."
Then it dawns on me. The kids are behind me in the guinea- pig run. That's the hosepipe! Someone has left it on and the hose has split with the heat and the pressure and there's water spraying everywhere!
A mad sprint up the garden to turn off the tap and I return to survey the damage. The ground is soaking. Fortunately most of the water has gone onto my veg and my squash and sweetcorn are looking very happy.
But that's not the point.
We're on a water meter.
And I'm not looking forward to getting my next water bill.
The guinea pig's fine though and here he is, back in his run, minus tick :-)
My first row of peas are almost finished. I've had a good crop and the few my daughter let me eat were really sweet and juicy.
So I'm inspecting my second row of peas to see how they're coming along.
"They're a different variety," says my friend who has called round to check out what I'm growing.
"Yes they are," I say. "Well I bought the first lot already started off from the local hardware store and I grew the second lot from seed."
In fact I bought these seeds loose in the same place I got my pick and mix early potatoes (which makes things quite interesting because I never know exactly what I'm going to find when I dig up a plant).
"Are you sure they're not mangetout?" she says.
I look again.
The pods are very flat. In fact they don't seem to be fattening up at all. Actually she has a point. They do look an awful lot like mange-tout. I break one off and take a bite.
Mmm. I think they are mange tout.
Maybe I should have looked at bit closer at what I was buying. Not that I'm complaining. I like mangetout.
But somehow I'm going to have to break this to the sprog who's expecting a second row of peas!
The first harvests are coming in. I've been eating new potatoes and broad beans, and the youngest daughter has almost finished munching her way through the first row of peas.
I hurry home from work and dig up another one of my potato plants. These are quite large and look really yummy. Just enough time to put them on to boil before I settle down with a beer to watch the footy.
One of them has a bit of a hole in it which seems to be full of earth. No problem. I take it over to the chopping board and slice off the end with the hole in it.
It's an enormous slug - one of those horrible brown ones with the orange round the edges.
And I've just sliced it in half.
Suddenly my potatoes don't seem quite so yummy.
BTW, I never knew slugs ate potatoes. Is this usual? And anyone know how I can stop any more of my spuds from being slug chomped?
My first infestation – and I’d been doing so well!
They’re attacking my broadbeans – all the tender young shoots covered in a mass of black aphids, and they’re starting to creep over onto the runner beans too.
They’re being farmed by ants and I have to admit it’s rather fascinating watching them running up the stems of the plants tending to their herd, while a couple of large ladybird lavae lurk on a leaf nearby, waiting their chance to move in on unattended stragglers – it’s all drama in my patch of dirt.
But, interesting though it is, it’s not doing my plants a lot of good.
I attacked them last night with a spray of water and liquid detergent but it doesn’t seem to have done much good. Perhaps it’s too dilute. I’ll give them another dose this evening with a stronger mix – maybe that’ll be more effective.
Anyone got any good tips for getting rid of blackfly?
I arrive home from a weeks holiday and the first thing I do is run down the garden to check on my patch of dirt.
Wow – hasn’t everything grown!!
The runner beans are halfway up the poles – the broad beans pods are a good six inches long (so hubby tells me) and the peas and potatoes are flourishing.
The nettles are doing really well too. Dandelions and hogweed have sprouted from nowhere – How on earth does hogweed get to be so big in only a week? It certainly wasn’t there when I went on holiday! And there’s loads of it!
And that looks suspiciously like bindweed chasing the runner beans up their poles.
Some things are doing really well in my patch of dirt - as you can see from these pictures - I've even added one from a different angle this month for you to see my main successes so far - my legumes and potatoes coming on a treat! With a bit of luck I'll be eating peas and broadbeans and maybe some new potatoes in only a matter of weeks!
My parsnips and sweet corn are also doing allright, even though they are still quite small.
But I have also had a couple of resounding failures. My carrots are a disaster! They germinated but now I only have a couple of plants! I've no idea why. Did something eat them? And I have only one cauliflower plant. I put them outside the greenhouse to harden off and the slugs munched them!!! Death to slugs!!! And as for my courgettes and squash - it was really sunny here on Monday and they were sat in the greenhouse while I was at work and when I got home they were all scorched and brown. Anyway, I've planted them out so we'll see what happens.
So to try to fill the gaps I've popped in a row of beetroot and some onions. I'll let you know what happens to them :-)
I need some more potting compost - and some growbags - everything is going wild in the greenhouse and starting to look a bit root bound.
So off I head to the garden centre.
Boy these bags are heavy! I buy one of compost and then one growbag because that's all I can lift. Mind you a rather fit bloke helps me to get them into my car.
Sadly he's not there when I get home so I'm going to have to do this on my own. Somehow I've got to get them down to the greenhouse at the bottom of the garden.
Easy solution - I'll use the wheelbarrow....
... or not :-(
The wheelbarrow is full of broken panes of greenhouse glass. I know a couple got broken when we assembled the greenhouse and hubby had to nip out to the glazier to pick up some more - but I thought he'd got rid of them ages ago.
There are also some bits of rusty metal, some decomposing weeds, and the whole thing is half full of stagnant water.
There's nothing else for it - and I'm certainly not waiting for hubby to get home and help - so I half carry, half drag the bags down the garden.
Excellent - done it.
Except now I'm too knackered to do any gardening - I need a cup of tea!
Here's what my patch of dirt looks like this month.
On the left you can see my legumes - broad beans, peas and runner beans, all coming on nicely. Behind them the potatoes are breaking the surface. You can't really see them but trust me - the carrots and parsnips are germinating, as are the onions. The sweet corn and squash will soon be ready to go in and in the greenhouse I'll be growing melons, peppers and plum tomatoes.
My loyal slave calls round and I show him the progress I’ve been making with my veggie plot. I’ve been busy planting.
“Here are the potatoes,” I say. “And here are the broad beans and peas that I’ve just planted out.”
He nods approvingly.
I continue, “I’m using a four year rotation, so I’ve divided it into quadrants. I’ve just planted a row of carrots and a row of parsnips in that quarter and there’s enough room for a row of something else and I’m going to put sweet corn and squash in the last.”
“You mustn’t plant things in the same place two years running,” he says.
“Yes, that’s why I’m using a four year rotation.”
“It’s very important that you move things around. If you plant your carrots in the same place next year they won’t do well at all.”
“Isn’t that the point of a rotation,” I say.
“I think you should use a four year rotation here,” he informs me. “Next year you should plant your potatoes over there and your legumes over here.”
"So what would you like me to grow?" I ask the younger child.
"Peas." She smiles at me.
Peas. This is a good start. I love fresh picked peas - straight from the pod - tender and sweet. It reminds me of my own childhood, sitting with my Gran in the June sunshine podding peas - one for the pot and one for me. The kids love peas too, although whenever I give them peas to shell I come back to find nothing but satisfied children and a pile of empty pods.
"Good I'll grow a row of peas," I say. "What else."
There seems to be a bit of a theme here. It's fine though - I've already got some peas going in the greenhouse - I picked up a tray of them at the local hardware store a couple of days ago.
"Okay, two rows of peas then," I say.
"No, three rows."
Hmm, could be tricky. I don't just want to grow peas. Some other things would be nice. I decide not to press the issue.
A bit later I pop down to my greenhouse and I find that someone has been busy. There are lots of little pots rowed up inside that weren't there earlier, all filled with soil and each bearing a neat little plant label.
I look closer to see what she's been planting. Yes, you've guessed it.
Looks like I'm going to be growing lots of peas this year.
So how set in stone are these sow by dates on packets of seeds? They always seem to contain far more seeds than I actually need, and I do so hate waste - but with only a small patch like mine I'm hardy going to be growing 300+ parsnips, am I.
Anyway, I have several packets of different varieties of winter squash left over from various failed attempts to grow these in previous years, so I thought I might as well give them a go.
So, now that I have glass in my greenhouse I've been planting:
Pumpkin (no idea how old these seeds are) Trombone squash, (last year's seed) ordinary courgette (last year's seed) Italian round courgette (new seed) Another sort of squash but I can't remember what it's called. (last year's seed) Some very old spaghetti squash seeds (don't hold out much hope for these) And melon (new seed)
I've also started off some cauliflowers and brussel sprouts (Why on earth did I plant the devil's vegetable? Everyone in the family hates them. Oh well.)
And finally - runner beans. Oh, but I've had a right muddle with these. You see I bought a load of loose seeds, in a brown paper bag. When I got home I found that mice had been at one of my old packets of runner bean seeds from last year and they had spilled all over the place. So I picked them up and put them in another brown paper bag.
Yes, you've guessed it - when I went to plant the runner beans I had no idea which were last year's seeds and which were this year's seeds. Great! Well I suppose if nothing grows then I'll know I planted the wrong ones!
"Have you chitted your potatoes yet?" says Parsnip Paul as we wait for the kettle to boil. (I still can't get over how big they are!)
My head is buzzing - what on earth is chitting? Better look it up in my trusty book - wouldn't want to appear foolish.
Okay, so I need to get my seed potatoes and put them, rose end up, (that's the end with most eyes) in an old eggbox in a cool light place so that they can get started. Okay. I can cope with that. Better head down to the garden centre and buy some seed potatoes.
So there I am, staring at the labels. Earlies, second earlies, maincrop? What's all that about?
I grab a pack of maincrop (cos they're a nice colour) and head home to get chitting.
A bit later on one of my loyal slaves calls round.
"I'm chitting," I tell him.
"You need to chit your earlies and your second earlies," he says. "It's not worth chitting maincrop. In fact, it's really probably not worth you growing maincrop at all. Just grow earlies and second earlies."
Yes, I’m afraid so. You see, if I don’t put some decent poo on my vegetable plot I’m afraid I’m going to have a pretty rubbish crop. My soil is really rather poor. It’s sandy and well drained - maybe too well drained. And the sycamores we removed have taken rather too much out of it.
So what it needs is a decent input of manure.
But what kind of poo?
Well I already have a pretty good supply from the two small furry rodents my children keep, and I’ve been composting their bedding for some time now, so that has already gone on to my patch of dirt and been dug in.
But I need more. I need something stronger, more potent, more ripe. I need either cow or horse.
Now getting hold of poo couldn’t be easier. All around people who keep horses have bagged up their poo and are selling it at the ends of their drives.
But I’m a cheapskate. I was born in Scotland and true to form I don’t like paying for anything I can’t get for free.
And I particularly don’t want to pay for a pile of poo :-)
Well this blog has been going for barely a month and the wonderful Old Kitty has gone and tagged me with this wonderful award - thankyou.
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I’ve been watching the birds on the bird feeders. I’ve put out seeds and fat balls. The apple tree is full of tits and finches.
But they’re not eating anything. They can’t. Instead they’re watching the rooks.
In fact another 20 or so have just flapped into the garden like black, ragged witches and they’re sitting on the branches and the walls and on the garage roof. It’s like a scene from The Birds. There’s something quite sinister about the way they’re eyeing those fat balls.
And then they move in for the kill.
One of them has a go at the seed feeder, but he’s too big to perch, so he flies at it and head buts it and a load of seeds scatter over the grass. His friends flap down to feast.
Then one starts on the fat balls. These are easy. He clings onto the wire with his feet stabbing with his beak. More food falls to the ground and more rooks descend on my garden.
I’m going to do something about this. I pop down to my local RSPB shop and buy a nice new fat ball feeder that comes with an outer wire cage that the small birds can get through but the big beastie’s can’t
I hang it up and head inside to watch.
The rooks arrive, first one, then two. Then about fifty arrive at once.
“Ha,” I think, “Thwarted you.”
One of the rooks is clinging to the cage upside down flapping his wings and stabbing with his beak. He can just about reach and bits of fat ball scatter around him.
Then his friend lands on the branch above and starts to unpick the knot with his beak.
If I’m going to do this veg plot thing properly I’m going to need somewhere to bring on my seedlings, and that means I need a greenhouse – the kitchen windowsill just isn’t going to be big enough!
So off I trek to B&Q, The forecast says something about snow, but it looks okay, so I’ll ignore that.
And there they are, lots of lovely greenhouses to chose from. They don’t have any glass in stock, but hey, who needs glass!! The frame will do to be getting on with. So, with my new purchases I head back into the car park. It’s starting to snow now, but it won’t stick – will it?
No. I’ve got a far bigger problem to worry about. I drive a fiesta and…err… the greenhouse doesn’t fit!! Rats and bother!! Maybe I should have measured up before buying.
So I try to fit it in at all sorts of different angles. Nothing doing. People are beginning to stare at me and the snow is coming down heavier. I’m starting to feel like a right bimbo – I should be wearing high heels and a short skirt – then I’d look the part too!!
Then the phone rings. “Mum, they’ve shut the school. Come and get me.”
Whaat!!! Oh yes. The snow’s starting to lie quite thick now. I’m stuck in a car park trying to fit a too large object into a too small car and my fingers and toes are starting to freeze.
There’s nothing for it. I have to phone the hubby, drag him out from work to rescue me, and suffer the ritual humiliation of his teasing for the next few months.
Last year the bottom of my garden was a jungle of feral weeds - an unruly sycamore hedge and a pile of rubble the buidler of our house left behind.
Now that has all changed. We ripped away the dying trees, cleared the rubble and the weeds, and built a fence to keep the sheep and deer at bay.
At last, I have a patch of earth that I am going to turn into a vegtable plot.
So I thought I would start this blog as I muddle my way through this new project. Will it succeed? Will I be feeding my family on fresh veg later this year - or will the wildlife take control as it has in the rest of the garden?