Sunday, 30 May 2010

Nice drop of rain

Rained for most of the day yesterday. You could almost here the land breathing a sigh or relief; me too. Lots of planting out this weekend: runner beans, pea-beans, courgette, snapdragons and the ox-eye daisies. Now there's more room in the greenhouse I also planted the tomatoes in their growbags. And earthed up the potatoes properly. And sowed the maincrop carrots. Pleasantly knackered.

Planting out the daisies

The rain has softened up the ground nicely so I've planted out the ox-eye daisies in a drift in the orchard. I used a bulb planter to do this. You could just use a trowel of course but a bulb planter does the job really quickly: a 10cm planter makes just the right sized hole for plants in 9cm pots. I made holes an inch deeper than the pots, filled the bottom of the holes with an inch of clean top soil, watered the holes then bunged them in.

Setting out the plants:

Making hole with bulb planter:

Daisy planted:

Job done. Canes put in round the drift to stop me wandering all over the new planting:

Sunday, 23 May 2010


So the weathers gone totally mental. Thirty degrees and scorching sun. More like an Australian summers day than an English one. Still no rain of course; I'm having to water most things now. A bit more sowing and planting, otherwise I've just been wilting in the shade. It seems like the only response. And the trees don't seem to mind.


I planted the purple cherry when I first started here ten years ago. It was a poor little thing growing between the cracks in some paving which I took pity on and brought home. Likewise the rowan tree which is now in blossom; it was struggling in deep shade in somone's garden so I dug it up and replanted it by the shed there. The big ash trees at the back are my favourites though.

White lilac

Horse chestnut

Wildflower areas

The lack of rain hasn't helped the establishment of these one bit. The meadow mix is about two inches high:

The only thing growing in the other mix is the phacelia, which doesn't seem to have minded germinating no matter how dry the soil:

About the only plants growing well are my pot-grown flax and self-sown poppies:

Sweet peas

I'm going to try cordon training these this year. In theory this will give me better quality flowers. I pinched the tops out when they were planted out. Now the resulting side shoots are about 20cm long I've pruned them to leave the best one; this is now trained up the cane, any more side shoots will also be removed to leave a single stem and great flowers on long stems. In theory.

Before pruning:

After pruning:

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Doing the shuffle

It's that time of year again, shuffling plants from greenhouse to coldframes or outside and out into the ground. The weather's playing havoc with it of course, up into the high twenties today so everything except the tomatoes needed to come out of the greenhouse or risk being cooked.

The white campion, carnations and sweetcorn all got planted out today so that's a few less to shuffle.


I'm not all that keen on sweetcorn to be honest, all that faffing about chewing them off the cob isn't much my thing. And have you noticed how it seems to go right through you or is that just me? So anyway I thought I'd give these mini ones a try instead, bred to be eaten whole. Nothing ventured and all that.

In the yard today

Friday, 14 May 2010

Democracy my arse

Well they made a monkey out of me, I got caught up in the hype and went and voted. Now look what we've got. Never again.

So to shake off the feeling that I've just been mugged I spent a couple of hours today helping plant out a forest garden at Silverhill Primary School with Transition Derby. Not the kind of gardening I've seen before so very interesting and great to be part of a bunch of people working together creating something positive for the future. More useful than an election any day.

Back on the plot we're still desperate for rain; I've watered the cabbages as they were looking a bit pathetic but I'm letting everything else fend for itself. I'm a great believer in not cosseting my plants but encouraging them to put down deep roots - there is moisture down there at this early stage in the season.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Keep smiling

"The only product of New York is shit..." Not my words but Bill Mollison's, from his Global Gardener series. Well it gave me a chuckle. It's so cold and miserable out on the plot I'm stuck inside catching up on some videos.

It's been cold all week, that evil north wind hasn't let up and we've hardly had any more rain either. And things don't show any sign of improving. I have managed to sow the maincrop peas, pot on some more seedlings and prune the grapevine so all is not totally lost.

On top of everything else the resulting hiatus from our so-called election is just too daft to laugh at. Greece burns and markets nose-dive, not that I'll be losing any sleep over that last one. And thankfully I've still got Bill to keep inspiring me.

Pruning grapevine

My grapevine ("Boskoop Glory") is trained accross the top of my greenhouse. I cut all last years side shoots back to the main vine mid-winter. Now it's time for it's spring prune. Each group of side shoots should be roughly a foot apart, any that aren't I snap off where they join the vine. Then I choose the best two from each group of side shoots and snap of the other weaker ones. Then I cut back each side shoot at two leaf joints above the little developing bunch of grapes:

Before pruning:

After pruning:

This pic probably shows it better, you can see how the side shoots are cut back two joints above the little developing grape bunches:

Any new growth from the leader and side shoots of these side shoots needs to be pinched out and any new shoots trying to emerge from the main vine needs to be rubbed out too. The vine will try to produce lots of these so it needs to be done every week to ensure the energy of the vine goes into the developing grapes rather than superfluous growth.

Sunday, 2 May 2010


So the rain's finally arrived this week but with it today a return of winter temperatures.

Hey-ho. At least it's been wet enough for me to crack on with some sowing and planting outside: the cornfield mix, another wildflower mix, half a row of carrots, the first cabbage patch and some trefoil for green manure. More sowing under glass too including the tender crops like sweetcorn and courgettes.

The orchard's looking fresh and green with the added bonus this week of more blossom: the cherry, pear and the first of the apple.

In the orchard

Cherry blossom

Apple blossom

If dandelions were half-a-crown...

Mixing it up

The second of my wildflower areas was to have been the cornfield mix that I sowed in pots a few weeks ago. But I had second thoughts about that. The sub-title on the seed packet gave me a clue: farmers nightmare. So rather than planting them out on the main part of the plot I've put them down at the bottom amongst the horseradish and roses. If they do seed around and start making a nuisance of themselves it won't matter so much down there:

So I made up another mix of wild and not-so-wild seeds, some bought and some saved: sunflowers, love-in-a-mist, rose campion, jacob's ladder, shirley poppy, flax, white campion, field poppy and phacelia. Not surprisingly I've called this one Simon's Mix. Like the meadow mix I sowed last week I mixed up the seeds with soft sand before broadcasting it:


The first patch planted out:


I ate the very last of the brussels sprouts this week, remarkable to think they've been feeding me since December. But they were going to seed so out they came. Right on cue the broccoli's now ready for cropping, not very big plants after the cold winter but better than a poke in the eye:

Purple Sprouting

9-Star Perennial