Spring in the Garden

Spring in the Garden

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Planting Garlic and Broad Beans in November

We had a lovely day out on Sunday so didn't get any gardening done, but Monday was still fine and dry and I didn't have to go to work, so I went out into the garden and planted the last of the bulbs I'd bought, so for once I shan't have wasted my money on bulbs that didn't get planted.

Even better, I then planted my garlic and sowed the broad beans. November is the best time to do both these things so long as you don't have heavy clay which is likely to get waterlogged over Winter, in which case the cloves and seeds are likely to rot.

Planting garlic in November gives it a the chance of a long growing period.
This year I picked up a packet of 3 Thermidore cloves, supplied by Taylors, from the local garden centre. This is said to be a full flavoured French Garlic. Thermidore should be planted in the Autumn. Other varieties are better for planting in the Spring.

At the end of the row, up the top of the picture below, you'll notice a clove of garlic that is substantially bigger than the others. This is a clove of elephant garlic, which is a British grown garlic, sweet and mild in flavour. There were only 2 cloves in the packet and I put one in each end of the row as an experiment.

For late Autumn/Winter sowing Aquadulce Claudia is an old favourite broad bean. My local garden centre were selling Duchy Originals organic broad bean seeds, so that's what I bought.  I've sown the seed a bit closer than recommended because I often find a few don't come up and it's always possible the squirrels will help themselves to one or two. If they are too crowded in the Spring I can thin them out then.

Sowing broad beans in November gives them a better chance of escaping the black fly.

While I was enjoying the garden I was joined by a robin who seemed friendly, but his cheery song might have been meant to warn me away from the juicy worms.

I've got my beady eye on you

I'm still watching that worm

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Garden Makeover

I'm pleased to say that my recent lack of blogs is mostly due to being too busy than too tired. Once the iron tablets started working I had more energy than I can remember having for a long while. Hubby and I have spent most weekends for the last 2 months giving the back garden a bit of a makeover, although there's not much to show at present as many perennials are dying back for Winter and the bulbs won't be visible until spring.

Hubby has dug out several shrubs that had become overgrown and were never really in the right place, including a couple that were already in the garden when we moved in more than 16 years ago.

Here's how things were looking just a couple of weeks ago.The frost has reduced the beauty of the flowers.

Above, to the right of the path. The patch in the foreground still needs clearing of lilies of the valley and a bramble and I plan to move one or two plants.

 This is to the left of the path.

I'm hoping this will be beautiful in the Spring as there are a lot of bulbs lurking under the soil.

We've also tackled the big bed in the middle of the garden again. The right hand side has a tendency to get overgrown very easily. We've pulled out a lot of day lilies and some montbresia and have replanted that side with yellow flowered plants.

The idea is that it will run from reds on the right through orange in the middle to yellow on the left. Again I have planted bulbs to come up in the Spring.

Gardening involves imagination and a great deal of hope. We certainly hope all these plants survive the Winter. Autumn is meant to be a better time to plant hardy perennials than Spring as they have longer to establish themselves before warmer, and potentially drier weather sets in.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Autumn update

Well, Autumn is upon us and the leaves on our sumac tree have to changed rich shades of yellow, red and orange, but most other trees are still looking green. The blueberries are also showing autumnal hues. Now we have bees I'm pleased that we have sources of nectar and pollen in the garden at this time of year. The bees were all over the sedum earlier and last weekend they were still covering the ivy.

As far as we can tell the bees are doing well. The first hive is very strong and well provided for. We acquired the second hive later in the season so this is not as big, but has still multiplied well and has a reasonable amount of stores.

The tomatoes are slowly ripening, especially the cherry variety. This is the first year I've not had any signs of blight, but they are in pots on the front doorstep, which is sheltered and catches the sun when it is present.

Our runner beans are over now. We have quite a few small potatoes left as well as some garlic and I'm working my way through a Sainsbury's tub full of apples from our apple tree. We've had some pies and crumbles and I've stewed some up for the freezer. I also took my mum a bag full when I visited her last week.

On a less positive note, we lost Amber yesterday, but she must have been about 4 years old as we have had her since February 2009. She was getting a bit stiff in the last few weeks and we wondered if she was succumbing to Marek's disease like the other two who arrived with her, but she didn't seem to have any of the other symptoms.

Smokie is giving us an egg most days as is Fudge, but Fudge's eggs usually have very thin shells, in spite of adding extra oyster shell to their feed and giving them copious dried meal worms. In the last week Amber hasn't been at Fudge's eggs before we could get to them, so we've cracked them straight away and put them in a pot in the fridge for omelets. 

Monday, 13 August 2012

While We Turned Our Backs

A few days after my last post for 'Notes on a Garden' we went on holiday to the Ionian island of Kefalonia (Kefallinia).

They had luscious grapes growing everywhere.

Courgettes, aubergines and tomatoes were also growing well in many gardens.

Unfortunately when we got home we found our own garden was not doing so well.

The cabbages weren't doing too badly, although the slugs and snails were obviously attacking some of them.

The new strawberry plants are looking good, if somewhat overgrown. A good session of weeding will put that right, when I've got some energy. Mind you, we want to leave some flowers for the bees.

Our first hive of bees seem to be doing well, although we acquired them too late in the season to expect any honey this year. Due to the bad weather most of the summer we are feeding them sugar solution.

Thursday before last we acquired a second, smaller colony known as a nuc(leus).

Our legumes, however, are not thriving. The peas are past it, between the slugs and the warm, dry weather back home during the second week of our holiday.

The French beans were clinging on to life, but the slugs and snails have removed all their leaves now in spite of another application of slug pellets.

We still have a few runner bean plants left, which are producing beans, 3 of at least 7.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Mystery Bee

I took the above photo on 26th April and have been trying to find out what it is. I've finally had it identified, thanks to Twitter, by Ian Beavis, Natural History specialist Entomologist ‏from Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery, a follower of Brigit Strawbridge, who is pretty passionate about bees.

I am told that it is a female Anthophora plumipes, which wikipedia tells me is the Hairy-Footed Flower Bee. You'll see from the picture to the right of the article that the males have quite different colouring.

The internet certainly can be very useful at times.

Monday, 2 July 2012

First Bee Inspection

As we'd had our bees a week it was time to inspect them on Saturday.  You can wait nine days, but this isn't convenient for most people.

We waited until early evening so most of the bees were home and less active. There wasn't much activity around the crown board.

There were plenty of bees on top of the bottom brood box.

It seemed a good idea to give one or two puffs of smoke so we didn't squash any bees or get stung if one got in our way.

The smoke soon did the trick.

The bees seems to have a fair amount of stores (nectar/honey and pollen)

We think they also had a fair amount of capped brood.  This is the area where the queen was last week. However, the sun was in my eyes and we were neither of us entirely sure what we were looking at. 

The queen has now moved into the upper brood box, which was only added last week. Unfortunately she is very shy and was scurrying down, so we didn't want to keep the frame she was on out longer than necessary.  Maybe next week I'll be quicker at taking her photo, but I hadn't really expected her to be in that box and assumed we'd missed her in the lower one.

These bees are quieter than the ones we work with on the course, so I felt happier about taking photos so close up.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

An Extra Egg

Amber has always been the one who lays the biggest eggs, so we felt we couldn't complain if she had gone off lay. She stopped laying late last year but started again when we had the Light Sussex pullets.  However she stopped after a few weeks.  We wondered if she would start laying again with the arrival of our current pullets, but she didn't. Then last week she started laying, albeit thin shelled eggs, which broke easily.  The first two were too broken to use.

On Monday or Tuesday hubby collected a whole egg laid by Amber, although the shell was still pretty thin.  Wednesday I was pleased to find three good eggs in the nest box, something we had not experienced since before Easter until last week.

It's easy to see who laid what as Amber's are very big and Fudge's eggs are long and thin and fairly small, no bigger than a medium.  Smokie's are growing bigger.  We have had 2 more eggs from Amber since.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Queen is in Residence

We finally managed to acquire some bees this weekend. Our original source has said his 'nucs' won't be ready for another month, but then hubby spoke to someone he knows and found they had an extra colony. It's just a small one at present, which split from the bees they bought in the Spring. We have seen the queen and it looks like the colony is doing well.  We'll inspect it more closely at the weekend. There certainly looked like a good amount of bees going in and out of the hive late this afternoon.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Lucious Legumes

We live in hope!

So far the broad beans look promising, in spite of early slug damage and being buffeted by the recent strong winds.  On Saturday I finally got round to tying most of them to the bean poles we bought at the South Downs Green Fair in May, which are made from coppiced hazel. I can't find the string or the ties I bought recently. Ho hum.  Perhaps when we have the new shed it will be easier to find things.

You might just be able to see that I've planted a few French marigolds around the beans to deter blackfly, although it may be too late as blackfly is already present. I've also planted a couple of poached egg plants to encourage hoverflies, which eat aphids, but they won't flower for a while.

Behind the broad beans you may just make out the peas, which are starting to flower.  Unfortunately the first planting was eaten by slugs, we think, as they were well covered to keep off the pigeons.

This weekend we planted the dwarf French beans between the peas and the runner beans.  Hubby planted them for me while I weeded a bed for the cabbages as we were due to visit the neighbours after lunch, to celebrate a birthday. I'd bought them at the Green Fair, too, so they were in need of planting.

Last, but not least are the runner beans, some of which also needed replacing due to slugs and snails, but seem to have survived the latest wet spell.  One had its top broken off by the recent strong winds, though.  I've planted some French marigolds near them, too. You'll see we are trying to protect the beans from slugs and snails with copper rings as well as a few pellets.

From Drought to Deluge

Since I wrote about gardening with drought in mind my water butts arrived, just as the rainy period ended and we went into a couple of weeks of warm, dry weather, but the forecast drought did not materialise and we then went into a couple of weeks of pretty wet weather, with deluges at times. The slugs have been loving the wet weather.  Copper rings and occasional scatterings of slug pellets have not stopped them from doing damage in places.  As I haven't put any pellets on the flower bed near the chickens for a while, I collected a lot from there the other day when I was weeding and fed them to the chickens, who loved them.

Unfortunately hubby hasn't got round to connecting the water butt by the garage to the down pipe yet, so we might miss the current period of wet weather.  We did save the water from my shower one morning, by putting the plug in and then carrying buckets of it downstairs to fill up the butt. I can do that again if the weather turns dry again.

P.S. Hubby has connected the butt to the down pipe today, Saturday (16th June).

Monday, 11 June 2012

Fudge, Smokie (and Amber) Week 8

It has been fairly busy recently with one thing and another, but I thought it was time I gave you an update on our chickens, thanks for asking, Karen

Fudge and Smokie have settled in well and seem to be in fine fettle.  Amber is not so obviously dominant now, and in fact wasn't looking too well a week or so ago, but she looks much better now, although we haven't had an egg from her in over a month.

Here's a picture of the three of them enjoying the sunshine on Saturday.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Gardening With a Drought in Mind

Mediterranean plants might not be the answer to the recent British weather
The wonderful British climate is proving a tad challenging for gardeners at present.  Some spells of hot, dry weather in recent years have seen traditional British garden plants suffer and even whither and die, so when there is talk of drought we are told to choose Mediterranean plants for our gardens, but Mediterranean plants grow best on light, Mediterranean soils and can find cold, wet Winters on poorly drained clay soils fatal. They also need plenty of sunshine, so don't tend to do well in shadier parts of the garden.

It may not seem like it at the moment as you shiver and watch the rain through your window or get drenched when you go outside, but now is a good time to prepare your garden for the possibility of hotter, drier times this Summer, while not ruling out more wet weather. The key to success in (nearly) all weathers is soil preparation. Good soil preparation is fundamental for healthy plants.

If we use Mediterranean plants we need to ensure that good drainage materials such as horticultural grit and pea shingle, as well as plenty of moisture retaining compost is incorporated into the surrounding soil or at least a generous sized planting hole. Some Mediterranean plants require lime to be added to neutral and acid soils and few, if any, need high levels of nutrients.  Calcified seaweed can be a good dressing for these plants.

Gypsum is useful to lighten heavy clay soils and carrots and garlic may benefit from some sand being mixed into the soil before planting.  On the other hand,  root vegetables won't thank you for adding nitrogen rich substances such as manure. A good  book about growing vegetables or flowers should tell you what sort of soil any plant needs to thrive, so you can attempt to provide the ideal conditions or decide that plant isn't going to work in your garden.

Most plants benefit from a good layer of mulch from the end of April, or sooner if a dry spell is forecast. Applying mulch just before heavy rain is forecast can result in it being washed away.  I've started using Strulch, which seems like a pretty good mulch, but a layer of well-rotted home-made compost or leaf mould will be a cheaper option if you have sufficient. Some plants may do better with a layer of grit as a mulch. Bark chippings may not be suitable for delicate plants as they can harbour a variety of fungi.

Even having done all that, some of your plants will probably need watering at some point if there is any prolonged dry weather especially thirsty vegetables such as beans and peas and members of the cabbage family, as well as any new plants, which have not had time to develop a good root structure. Too many bedding plants can be very demanding during hot, dry weather.

A water butt, or several in larger gardens, can therefore be an excellent investment. If positioned strategically they can mean you won't have to carry your watering cans so far, which will make watering much less demanding.  Using rainwater is better for your plants, too, and it isn't really such a good idea to pour water that has been made fit to drink at some expense straight onto our garden soil.

I've just ordered a couple of water butts, one for the front and one for the back garden and we shall see how we get on with them as they will have to be free standing to begin with. I also hope they come before it stops raining, while not wanting the rain to go on forever.

Plants in pots and tubs will pose additional problems as they need watering more often than plants in the soil, but there are substances available to greatly improve water retention, which even organic gardeners can use.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A Very Soggy Drought

We've had rain pretty much every day since they brought in the hosepipe ban because of the drought. If you live in the UK it's probably been the same for you. The upside is that I haven't had to lug lots of cans of water up the hill, which is our garden, and that's just as well at the moment as I continue to be in the grip of this virus.

It's not so good for the chickens, which are in a bit of a mud bath, although I did top up their straw yesterday, but it's all a bit soggy and mucky now.

I took the opportunity to go out and give them some meal worms and check for eggs when the rain eased off a bit.

No eggs so far today, but yesterday it was later in the afternoon when they decided to lay.

Things seem to continue well in the veg patch, although I didn't inspect everything too closely.

I was glad to see that this and one or two other onions have sprouted.

I think the carrots have started to come through, too, the ones with the narrow leaves. I clearly need to do some weeding as soon as I'm well enough and the weather allows.

 Hubby covered the potatoes up on Saturday, but they're pushing through again.

 The rhubarb is doing so well I thought it was high time I picked some.

P.S. Hubby enjoyed stewed rhubarb and ice-cream for pudding last night.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Fudge and Smokie (Plus Amber) One Week On


Fudge submitting to Amber who had just pecked her head
Smokie and Fudge enjoying Amber's food - she chased them a bit, but they were unharmed
Smokie having a look round - she'd spent a while laying an egg
Amber enjoying Smokie and Fudge's food . . .
. . . a lot