Category Archives: jobs

at the back of the north wind…

Oh my, the air temperature has dropped dramatically since the beginning of the week though, hopefully, we have seen the last of the ground frosts.   Of course, being aware of the oncoming weather is to be forewarned.  I have brought all plants in pots undercover and have been draping the tender new plantings with fleece….

which is somewhat ancient and because it has been stored in the piggery over the last year, rather tattered courtesy of the mice.   It reminds me of Miss Havisham’s wedding dress.  Still it does a good job of protecting the plants on chilly nights.

Last week, the lovely OH cut the orchard and the grass of the vegetable plot, leaving the areas where we have spring bulbs. Everything is looking spruce, which reminds of the sage advice on making a garden look good if you have limited time i.e. ‘cut the grass and edge’.

The plums, damsons and gages have finished blossoming so hopefully had good pollination.  The apples are coming into bloom now; I hope the cold weather won’t affect the pollination too much.

Whilst the cold weather has set back germination a little, I have, amongst others, recent sowings of peas, lettuce ‘Little Gem’ and Basil ‘Aristotle’ coming through at the moment.  The latter makes lovely green mounds and is an excellent choice for pots.  No sign of Basil ‘Genovese’ yet; I have bought another packet of seed just in case the lack of sprouting is due to old age.

More tulips are in bloom…

and the artichokes are producing flower heads.  I’ll pick some of these to steam and serve with a mustard vinagrette for a light lunch tomorrow…

Bon appetit!



cabbage is king…

I’m a big convert to cabbage, particularly Cavolo nero, (black kale).

It’s a very versatile vegetable.  We use the young leaves in salads and the longer crinkly ones in, well just about anything, from soup, stews, as a side dish and, the other day, in a kale and pancetta flan served with a good handful of our juicy rocket leaves.

I have plenty of seedlings ready to be planted out – lucky then that the lovely OH has finished weeding the brassica tunnel as well as spending time on pollarding some of the goat willow and weaving a retaining wall.  The wall will support the soil until the hornbeam hedge has established enough to knit the slope.

In between sowing and planting out….

I’m still trying to identify the perennials in the wildflower verge…

and I’m completely enthralled by the tulips ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Comet’.  I can’t wait for ‘Ballerina’ to complete the trio, (all have a lovely scent as well).

see how our garden grows…

The lovely OH and Ron starting on the groundworks a few days ago.

DSC_0009They had to move a bit of earth to even out the slope and undulations…

DSC_0001Then it rained. So Ron went home and we put down scaffolding planks cum duckboards.   Work will start up again once the deluge stops.

DSC_0002Following on from the excavation and levelling we’ll start on the structural hardworks (horizontal and vertical), come autumn the structural planting will go in, (bare root is always miles cheaper).  So you’d think I would have a while before I need to finalise the infill planting – all the pretty stuff.  Except I don’t, as the spring bulb catalogues are with us, and I haven’t quite sorted out the colour palette. The house and piggery, topping and tailing the garden, are made from a soft orange brick so I’ll be looking at harmonising with that.  I find Sarah Raven to be very sound when it comes to colour, and whilst I love strong baroque colours, I too am falling for the softer pastel palette such as this.  I’ll be dipping into her website over the next few weeks…


round and around…

We have 6 compost bays.  3 are at the end of the long vegetable patch and 3 close by the polytunnel.  Because of the heap size the compost making approach is a passive one – the heap is built up, covered over and then left to breakdown.

compost heapIt’s a lot of work to turn the large volume of material, so we don’t do it, (though strictly speaking it would be the lovely OH who would be out there with a fork).  Our heaps take about a year to convert to usable compost, hence the 3 bays – one with usable compost, one full bay breaking down and one being added to.  All our green waste; paper; cardboard plus some hay and the occasional feather pillow gets put into the mix.  In spite of this we don’t produce anywhere near enough to put back onto the soil.   Last year the council delivered over 10 tonnes of compost from their recycling centre.  Ideally we would like to add a good 2-3 inches to the soft fruit and vegetable growing areas at the start of each new growing year.    So we need all the extra help we can get.

A couple of weeks back we sowed winter tares, (Vicia sativa), on the section where the onions; garlic and shallots had been.

winter taresWinter tares are legumes and so are good at fixing nitrogen in the soil as well as adding bulky organic material. We haven’t had much luck with green manure germination in the past and so this time we did sow more thickly with more success. The intention is to leave the tares over winter and then rotovate them into the soil a month before the ground is needed.   We shall sow more green manure through September as areas are cleared of crops.

Another approach I’m keen to try is a hay mulch.  We have a number of bales which are several years old languishing in the dutch barn.

old hay balesOnce the squash area has been harvested we shall spread the hay over the remains of the squash plants and then cover with mypex.

squash patchIn the spring we can plant directly into the hay or spread a layer of compost and sow.

Ready to go again.