Spring in the Garden

Spring in the Garden

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Winter Quarters

This afternoon hubby and I moved the chickens to their Winter quarters, which means off the grass and down onto the patio, nearer the house.  This means the chickens won't be in such a mud bath, and we won't have so far to go in inclement weather in order to see to them.  We found out last year that putting straw down helped to keep the mud and muck under control as well as making it easier to clean them out.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Fruits of our Labours

I'm afraid I've been busy lately, but I thought it  was time I reported some of the things that are going on in our garden.

I was pleased when the flower on my sunflower opened up a couple of weeks ago.  Last year I planted 3 sunflowers and the slugs and snails ate them all before they could flower, so this year I planted it in a pot and put it somewhere we don't get many slugs and snails.

The green peppers are doing much better this year, too.  I only planted three in the tub, whereas I think I put 5 last year, because they were called 'mini bell peppers'.  In fact the one that is doing best is one I bought at the Hampshire Green Fair earlier this year.

I was pleased to see at least one decent sized pepper on the plants a couple of weeks ago and now I have several more, so I'll not be needing to buy for a few weeks.

I've also been pleased with my cherry tomatoes this year as I've managed to harvest several punnets of ripe ones already. I've grown them in a 'grow house' and kept them zipped up most of the time, whereas in previous years I've thought it was only necessary to close them up when the weather was cold. I'm still waiting for the uncovered Ailsa Craig's to ripen.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Every Cloud

I was looking forward to eating our cabbages when we came back from holiday in the middle of July.  We'd had a good crop last year and I thought I'd grown these in exactly the same way.  However, last year the cabbages had good hearts before they got too big for the cloche I'd grown them in to protect them from cabbage white butterflies and their ravenous offspring.

The one thing we did do differently was to plant the cabbages several weeks later due to the prolonged cold start to the year. We also went on holiday a couple of weeks earlier.

For whatever reason, this year's cabbages were a big disappointment as their hearts had been eaten away by the cabbage white caterpillars, so instead of us eating them we have fed them to the chickens, who have very much enjoyed them as you will see from the clip below when I threw them our very  last cabbage.  That was until I tried to get close to them.

When we put them back in the hen-house we threw the cabbage in with them and it's now not much more than a skeleton.

We still have the Brussels sprouts, though.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

A Day in the Garden Planting Pansies and Lettuces

I've had a busy day in the garden today, weeding and planting.  I put in a globe artichoke, which I bought a few months ago, but had put in a bigger pot until I could get round to planting it.  This is to keep my other globe artichoke company, one I grew myself last year, which is to the left of the picture.   Maybe they will both flower next year.  I can but hope.

I've also put some pansies in the bed I tidied up a few weeks ago, as it was looking a bit bare apart from weed seedlings.  Something has to go in to keep the soil from washing away and I'd rather have pansies than weeds.

A couple of weeks ago I put in the chrysanthemums, fuchsia and black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), the latter to benefit the bees and butterflies.
I'd noticed one of those was growing in the bee-friendly garden at Ryton Organic Garden when we visited it last month, so I thought that would add a splash of colour as well as feeding the bees as Autumn approaches.  When I looked today it was surrounded by a cluster of hover flies.

Next Spring I expect I'll put in some perennials once the bedding plants have finished flowering, but there's not a lot of choice at the moment.  Bedding plants have their uses, but it's less work if your flower beds have mostly perennials.

I also bought some lollo rosso lettuces when I was in the garden centre, which I was pleased about as I haven't started any new lettuce plants myself.  I like Geoff Hamilton's idea of an Ornamental Kitchen Garden with vegetables planted among the flowers, and as lollo rosso are attractive lettuces, I've put some in a flower bed by the back garden along with some more pansies.  I'm hoping my husband will like it as he's not so sure about the concept.

There were a dozen in the pack so I've planted the rest in tubs.

This meant a lot more digging and weeding as this bed was also fairly overgrown.  I noticed the soil was quite dry, so I added some compost from our third compost bin, which is the oldest and fairly well rotted down.

I've put copper rings around the lettuces to protect them from slugs.  I've found these to be quite effective so long as the leaves don't droop over the edge of the ring.  I've had them a few years now and they don't show signs of deterioration, just discolouration, which happens very quickly with copper.

I've also put some grit down to deter slugs and snails, but probably should add some more.  It was a long day in the garden and in the end I was very tired.  I also sprinkled a few Growing Success slug pellets around.  These are available from the organic gardening catalogue as well as garden centres.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Home Grown Dinner

Tonight we shall have omelets made with eggs from our chickens accompanied by home-grown potatoes and runner beans. A very low-carbon and low-cost meal, and healthy, too.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

A Bounty of Beans

I've picked 7 oz of runner beans and 12 oz of French beans today, we're eating them at least every other day at present.

I need to go and prepare the runner beans for dinner now. 

We also had three eggs, which is still quite usual, although once or twice a week we only get two and it seems to be Amber who doesn't lay most of the time we are one short.  She lays the biggest eggs the rest of the time.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

My Little 'Helpers'

The weekend before last I decided to weed part of a flower bed that was looking seriously neglected and after that I took some compost from our compost bins and spread it over the flower bed.  Then I decided I'd put the chickens on the bed to have a good scratch around as they love doing nothing better and they would help remove slugs and bugs, although possibly a few worms and other 'good guys', too.

I kept a close eye on them all the while and decided to put them back in their pen when they started to move further afield.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Our Garden at the End of July

We went on holiday for the first two weeks of July and left our garden and the chickens in our daughter's hands.  The chickens seem to have been looked after well, showing no signs of having missed us.  The garden on the other hand was clearly in need of water as it had rained very little in our absence and watering plants was clearly not too high on our daughter's list of priorities.  Most plants did survive though.  The main victim seems to have been the peas as they had been flowering profusely when we left but there was only a handful of small pods to be found on them.

Now we've watered them the runner beans and French beans are starting to produce a good crop and we've had one meal with a good helping of beans already.

The onions are looking a decent size, we have yet to investigate the potatoes, but I was very disappointed to see that something has been digging up my carrots, most of which are still tiny.

My courgette plant, which I'm growing in a grow bag this year as I was short of space in the veg garden, looked very unhappy with some brown leaves and fruits that were not doing very well, but after some tlc, particularly water, it is looking much better and we have four courgettes for tonight's dinner, with a few more still growing on the plant.

The tomatoes seem to be doing quite well this year, so far. I have two Ailsa Craig plants in an open container on the left and some cherry tomatoes in a grow bag inside a 'grow house'.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Quick up-date

So far this year I've harvested a few strawberries and hubby and I had a handful each for breakfast this morning, and I cut myself a lettuce for my lunch from a tub growing on the patio.

We've both been fairly busy in the garden this weekend.  Unfortunately I'm quite busy at present, but I'm hoping I'll have some time to put some photos up at the end of the week.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Sex and Violence in the Garden

We didn't really do anything in the garden until a couple of weekends ago, more of which later hopefully.  However, I did participate in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch at the end of January.  We do get a fair number of birds in our garden for various reasons.  We live near a small strip of woodland as well as farm land, the garden has hedges and bushes as well a variety of naturally occurring food for birds and, when I remember, food in bird-feeders. We also have a small pond, which quite a few birds visit for a drink, and some may have eaten some of the frog spawn and tadpoles, which arrived this Spring.  Watching the birds can be a very peaceful and soothing past-time but nature is not entirely quiet and idyllic.

During the Winter months we noticed aggressive wood pigeons going chest to chest with any bird they thought was infringing on their territory and feisty blackbirds chasing other birds including chunky wood pigeons away from precious food sources.  Already in February we had male wood pigeons pestering the poor females who did their best to remove themselves from their amorous attentions.  The females were obviously more aware that the weather wasn't yet suitable to rear little chicks, while the males had only one thing on their mind.

More recently I looked out of the window after hearing a lot of chattering to see a sparrow hawk sitting under our hedge with some poor creature still squirming under its claws.  A few minutes earlier a mistle thrush had bumped into our bedroom window and I'd seen it looking a bit dazed with, it seemed, a few feathers coming out of its neck, so I suspect that the sparrow hawk had chased it once unsuccessfully and then returned for the kill, which is a shame as we don't get many thrushes here.

On a more positive note, this morning I saw some greenfinches on the niger seed feeder for the first time I put it up over a month ago.  We also have a robin who comes up very close when we are outside digging and weeding.

I've still got my results for the big garden bird watch somewhere, so I will try to look them out and add them later.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Chickens up close

Apologies for the wobbly camera, I was using it to shepherd the hens back inside as they looked like they were considering the idea of coming out to play in the snow. However, that has meant some very close up shots of their faces. I'd just brought them some spinach and a couple of outer lettuce leaves, which is what they are playing with down below.

My reward

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Frozen chickens

Well, not quite, thankfully. Whatever you think about battery hens, breeds such as Warrens are hardy, which is good considering the weather we are having. They have been confined to quarters due to the bad weather: hubby disconnected their run as it was full of snow, so they would have had trouble walking to the end of it to
drink their water.

We've had eight or nine inches of snow fall here since yesterday evening. The cold weather we've had since before Christmas means hubby has had to thaw out the chickens drinking water every morning for some while now and in fact he has started to bring it in at night to save time in the morning, although they need fresh water every other day anyway. The chickens now have straw on the ground, which hopefully gives them a degree of warmth. I've used wooden seed trays to give them some protection from the weather and especially to protect their drinking and feeding areas.

Btw, here's a glimpse of Betsy, who has not yet completed her moult. (click on the photo for a better view.) She hasn't grown her flight feathers back yet so her wings look rather small when she stretches them. The purple patches are where she was a bit raw before Christmas, so we sprayed on some gentian violet in case she was being pecked or was pecking herself. She laid a few eggs for us before Christmas, but has gone off lay again. Apparently it is quite usual for hens to stop laying for a couple of months while they moult. She seems OK otherwise as far as we can tell. Robin and Amber are both laying daily at present.

I have been a bit remiss feeding the birds lately, although they have been able to access the seeds, berries and insects in our garden while we have remained snow free and the frost thawed out during the day.

However, I have corrected that today by hanging up a few fat balls and putting a good helping of bird seed on the bird table this afternoon, although I slipped and fell on my way back down the garden, which proves you have to be careful even on the shortest journeys. Luckily the snow provided a soft landing and no damage was done.

The vegetable garden is covered, of course.

The apple tree had a lot of snow on it, which could damage the branches, so I cleared most of that off while I was out in the garden.

Last but not least, may I wish you a healthy and happy year in 2010 as well as a green and generous one.