Archive for May, 2017

Onwards and Upwards

Monday, May 29th, 2017

I’ve grown some courgettes and squash from seed. It’s exactly a month since I did so and now they’re big enough to go into their forever homes. I realised that, despite my best intentions, I’ve, yet again, grown too much in too little space so I’ve decided to be smart and grow vertical. There’s a dark and dingy area stepping out from the back door, where the back gate, bins and nothing much else belongs. I used to think it would be nice to put some trellised planters there so i could look at them while I was washing up. Or the girls could look at them while they are washing up, see how I think of others? So it made sense to buy some of those planters and use them in the temporary site for the veg garden and when everything’s in the right place fill them with prettiness and put them in front of the kitchen window.  I’ve put the squash and courgette in and some nastursiums to add colour. I think i’m going to have to be vigilant and tie in the fast growing shoots and i may have to sling the squash as they grow but that’s the fun of trying something new.

The runner beans I’ve grown from seed are now in their beds and look much healthier than the garden centre offerings, so that’s a definite for next year, no shop bought runner beans, squash or courgette. Only one of my five pumpkin seeds has germinated so i think i’ve been unlucky with the packet. The purple french beans are really healthy and the dwarf french beans are now planted in their beds. We’ve had our first salad leaves for dinner tonight, happy days, tasty summer munchies start here! Broad beans are thriving, as are the peas, radish, beet leaves, beetroot and soya beans. Cabbages are super healthy looking and we’ve had some kale leaves already despite the earlieness. I’m a bit annoyed that about a third of the shop bought plants have bolted already. I’m feeling quite disenchanted with the whole business of buying. I’m very hopeful that my permanent greenhouse will be in before next winter and i can start things off in the safety and warm and enjoy even better results that I’m doing this year.

This is my half term week off work. I’ve been trying to fill in inheritance tax forms which are a nightmare, mainly because people who don’t expect to die young don’t necessarily get their affairs in order. Let’s face it, even people who do know what’s occuring are hardly likely to waste a second of their time on paperwork. I wish we’d got a solicitor to do the probaate.  We’re also getting the other house’s huge garden tidied up with the help of two professional gardeners. I’m hoping to take a few more plants from it before it goes on the market I tried to take some cuttings of magnolia and red quince last year to absolutely no success, not even one took so I may have another go at those. We’re also travelling to wales for the day to see my mum and dad, have some lunch in the fresh air. I’m a bit worried that my week is too busy already but desperately want to spend some more time in my own garden. Tomorrow is the day. Forecast: Well it’s currently teaming down with storminess on the way but i’m reliably informed by the bbc (who NEVER lie *cough*) that if i lay in till 9am I will be able to enjoy a dry day with the added bonus of a well watered garden which willl mean relatively loose soil. It could be the day to try out the new rotovator!

Gardener’s Progress

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

I’ve always loved gardens and I’ve always loved food. We moved to this house 9 years ago and our garden has been completely neglected for much of that due to beardieboy not being a natural anything that doesn’t involve a guitar and me being progressively more ill as the years have past. I wanted to take control because we have a great location and space and because gardening is very therapeutic, both mentally and physically, it is also a good opportunity to get some vitamin d and teach the youngest about the value of the food that is on the plate. It’s narrow and very long and gets a lot of sun or would have done if the trees weren’t out of hand, so this is where we started.

This was the garden before we got started.

 

As you look down you can see thick hedges either side. The right side is our responsibility and that hedge was between 6ft and 9ft wide in parts, the hedge on the left is in far better condition and very compact beyond the new growth.  We had some tree surgeons and fencers in.

The hedge filled the entire garden next door as it was being cut down

three trees down, one polarded., fence up.

You can clearly see how ridiculously overgrown the garden was and what a difference taking that leggy messy hedge out and removing the trees has made. The hedge on the left got cut shortly after this making the garden seem even bigger. This was the winter of 2015. I started getting a veg plot together on a temporary site by March 2016.

I have mobility issues. Two bad hips, back problems, grip issues, shoulder injury and an energy limiting chronic condition so I needed to think smart. We couldn’t put the veg plot in its permanent home because the ground needed preparing but we bought a VegTrug to get me started. A vegtrug is a waist high planter that enables a person to manage the crop without having to bend down. They’re also very good for accessibility if  you are a wheelchair user as you can get close to the bed. They’re sturdy but also can be moved. I filled one and quickly went for another. I got two large ones, a herb planter and some vegetable grow bags. I researched growing potatoes and a lot of new thinking is around tubers in individual bags to get the best crop.  I bought a plastic greenhouse to bring the toms along and got started. I mainly used nursery raised baby plants to get started but had a mixed result growing from seed. I pretty quickly felt quite overwhelmed. I’d done a rookie error of putting too much in all at once, no progressive sewing or planting. Pretty quickly I’d gone from an empty garden, see above, to feeling like it was all a bit much, see below. The result of this was loads of veg, yes, but a huge flare up of the chronic condition meant my summer ended in the garden way too early.

Plans to get the garden layout done ready for this year flew out of the window shortly after my summer of gardening came to an early end. Beardieboy’s brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and nothing really mattered after that. I may talk about it another day but for now I’ll just say we lost him on valentine’s day and it’s only been in the last few weeks  that I’ve really got going again. I’ve got a second temporary larger greenhouse, a small vegtrug with a cold frame over the top and a couple of metre square raised beds as well. I’ve avoided spuds this year. Mainly cause even in the bags they were the most back breaking and difficult crop mobility wise. Instead I’ve added a number of different kinds of beans and peas into my plan. I’ve got broad, soya, runner, french beans, all grown from seed and a handful of nursery plants of runners that are looking pretty rubbish at the moment so I may well give them up and replace them with the seedlings instead of using them as a progressive crop. Last years’s seed planting had pretty poor results all round and that I think is down to the variability of my condition. I couldn’t always get out to water things when they needed it. This year my youngest has promised to help and is so far being a star. When the beds are in their permanent position they’ll be set up with a drip irrigation system. Hopefully that will put an end to mildew and other reasons for less than perfect results.

What am i growing this year?

All ready in the beds are carrots, onions, leeks, lettuce, courgettes, cabbage, cauliflower, strawberry, kale, runner beans, peas, broad beans. In the greenhouses I have tomatoes, peppers, chillies. I decided to work on my propagating and have a number of flower seeds in trays in the greenhouse. I also have soya beans, runner beans, purple french beans, lettuce, pumpkin, courgette, squash, rocket, all of which are coming on very well and benefiting from vigilance in the slug department and regular gentle watering. Not germinating yet are cucumber seeds but there’s still time.

In the raised square beds I’ve sewn drills of beet leaves, radish, beetroot and parsnip. The radish are having a field day and will be ready to thin this week, beet leaves and beetroot are coming on well and the parsnips are still a week or so short of germination.

Half the carrots will be ready early next month, they will make room for courgette and squash. I’m trying to think carefully, diarising my decisions so i can review them next year and make changes if required. I’ve got apple trees growing along the fence line and very shortly will be planting the cane fruit and bramble. I find myself praying for a lull in pain and an increase in energy to coincide with a day of good weather. I think that having that to look forward to and hope for is a very good thing for someone with a progressive illness.

Meanwhile we’re getting on with readying the permanent home of the veg plot, ready to move the raised beds in autumn and may even get round to laying a water supply and a lawn before then too.

I’m Back, Did You Even Notice I was Gone?

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

It’s been a while. Lots of things have taken place, which I will expand upon another time, as if I told you all of it now you would weep for me. I will summarise, however, because I feel I need to justify my particularly long absence. We have had cleft-palate ops, experimental diabetes treatment, break ups, new relationships, three graduations, a serious motorway accident, aspergers, dyslexia and dyspraxia, deaths, illness forcing change of work pattens and tests for auto immune disorders. I wish I was joking. not that one jokes about much of that. It’s been a tough couple of years and we’re starting to slowly have longer and longer spells between shouting ‘FUCK YOU GOD’ very loudly. Yes, there’s at least a day between curses now.

My favourite gardening supervisor – one of far too many losses for us this last couple of years.

I remember back in 2014 making menus for the week and cooking almost everything in one day because i had so little energy by wednesday but even that was utterly miserable and unsustainable. I’m now working part time, I get chance to rest more and have spent some very important time focussing on trying to be active in a measured way. I took up gardening after years away from the soil. My lovely beardie bought me some raised beds to grow veg in and it’s like riding a bike (although I’m guessing that because I haven’t riden a bike since I was 12 and I don’t think exercise bikes count). I’ll be doing some fairly regular gardening posts as a result. I’m waiting patiently for a large greenhouse and potting shed. I’m told it’ll be between this growing season and the next so we’re busy digging out the ground to extend the shed base. When I say, busy digging,  it’s more like poking at the ground with a spade, grimacing with back pain, saying ‘FUCK YOU GOD’ and pushing all my grief into the soil. I pointed out that the next growing season will start earlier IF i get a greenhouse. That’s its job. If anyone has any new and interesting varieties of veggie seeds that they’d like field tested, feel free to get in touch. I’m not a novice more of an enthusiastic grower with something new to learn every day. I was taught a suprising amount of stuff that I remember now by my grandmother, late father in law and my dad, who now grows his own on a small scale after being an apprentice gardener many moons ago. There’s always the more experienced growers willing to share their knowledge. It’s like being a green geek.