As I start writing this update March is still with us for a couple more days; and what a topsy turvy month it has been. By now I am certainly bored of hearing about the ‘Beast from the East’ which although doesn’t seem to have killed any plants, did put a major brake on them. It seemed out of place given that before there were days where you didn’t even need a thick jumper to be out in the garden.
The kind weather in January and early February allowed me to set up the new raised beds from scratch. I started with a fairly untidy veg patch, that last year I couldn’t dedicate the time to, leaving it looking almost abandoned. Before the beast landed I had gone over the entire space with my Mantis tiller, levelled the site, constructed the beds, dug them all over, added manure and laid weed suppressant matting topped with bark chips on the pathways. All in all not a bad start to the year and it has left me in a fairly good place to start the veg growing. The only thing in hind sight would have been to leave a bed not manured for some of the root crops – but hind sight is a wonderful thing.
Being brave (or as I now think foolhardy) I started some seed quite early in February. This gave very mixed results indeed and I think in future I will be waiting until late March before I get sowing. The only exception might be Chillis and Peppers, as these early sowings have done ok and the extra growing time won’t do any harm. The first sowing of Aubergine failed – fairly sure this was largely down to ‘damping off’ as they were watered from above in a hurry when sown. The first sowing of Tomato seeds didn’t turn out well either – being extremely leggy. These were started using a grow light which I have not tried before (and given the poor results don’t think I will use again soon). Just last weekend (25/03) I put a second sowing of 8 out of my 9 varieties of tomato – the variety that did grow ok was Cherokee Purple. As I am growing 9 varieties I am limiting myself to 3 of each plant and hoping I can fit those in my 8×15 foot polytunnel. It is possible one variety will be grown outside for both space and to see how they do – luckily so far I haven’t suffered blight much at all so might get away with it.
The first crop planted in the new raised beds was Garlic – this was a spring planting collection from Mr Fothergills that comprised of Solent Wight, Carcassonne Wight and Elephant Garlic. So far both of the Wight varieties have put up some nice growth but the Elephant is taking more time to rise from the soil. It would have been nice to get one batch of winter planting garlic but that will have to wait until the end of this year instead. The Leeks – Jolant and Lancaster are both doing nicely – pricked out and in individual pots I should have plenty of each of these this year.
A new crop this year are Broad beans – Bunyards Exhibition, primarily growing these as my o/h likes them, so figured its time to try. Of 12 planted all germinated and just last weekend they got planted out as the second occupants of the raised beds. They are protected from pests like pigeons and Muntjac deer with netting, but I need to make up a framework with bamboo and string to give them a little support still. My Onions and Shallot have been in seed cells for some time now and are finally starting to show signs of life now the weather is warming slightly. Previously they have just been planted as new sets direct but having seen others giving them a start inside I have given it a try this year. Incidently I am still using a few onions from last years crop so they have stored very well over winter.
The rest of the veg is waiting patiently at the moment – it may well be over the easter weekend that a few more things get sown. If the frost stays away I might direct sow some Beetroot and Parsnip as well as get some of the Potatoes in the ground. If time permits I’ll have a go at knocking up a clotch or two to help these seeds out a bit, but with a long job list and other non gardening to do we shall see.
My first preparation for growing a giant Pumpkin got underway this week; taking advantage of the lighter evenings. A Pumpkin pit was dug – getting close to a 3 foot cubed hole that was back filled with 4 barrow loads of home compost/manure. The hole at just about a spades depth gave light to the true sandy nature of the soil here – it did make the digging very easy. Hopefully the work will give combined benefits of rich soil and water retention to give the Pumpkin a solid start and reserves into the season. More to come on this subject when I sow the first of the two seeds.
The last update for this one is a simple enough one – I have started giving the base of the fruit trees a good sort out. This wasn’t done last year and has allowed grass and weeds a bit of a hold. As my soil isn’t rich, this is worth the time (to remove at least some competition and allows me to mulch and feed the trees as well). Not sure what results I will get again this year – some of the trees needed a bit of harder pruning. This is largely down to falling into a common enough trap of buying the trees then waiting a couple of years before learning about pruning. It left me with slightly whippy trees that I am getting back in shape to avoid branches breaking when the fruit develops. With luck, next year I will only need to do more basic pruning and hopefully get some nice apples.
There are other things going on with flowers and shrubs that if time allows I will do a separate and briefer update on soon. For now though I am going to give my fingers (and your eyes!) a break. It seems a little too easy to end up typing out a couple of pages of text; which is the most I want to put on any individual post. Plenty still to come from the veg growing this year which I will share with you as I go. Not only the successes but the failures and tribulations as they arise to give a true picture of my life in my garden.