Feb 27, 2011

Juggling Act of Sowing Seeds

First, an apology. My last update seems to have been taken the wrong way by some. The divorce speech was of course in jest but some thought it may have been serious. None more so than my wife! (oops) Sorry babes :) Love you loads x x x

Now, keeping track of what I have growing is proving to be hard work. In my quest to conquer “Successional Sowing” whereby you spread out the timeline of growing the same crop so it lasts longer means I have seedlings in various places depending on their requirements for example, the warmest and lightest place is on the landing windowsill. Heat rises up the stairs so it’s usually the warmest place in the house and with two windows offering different light sources, light bounces off the bright yellow walls.

But the windowsills are small so I have to move everything around as seed turns to seedling turns to plant. I have a system going but it sure is testing me. As I stand I have my first batch of Broadbeans and Brown Onions now living in the greenhouse after hardening them off last week. My 2nd batch of Broadbeans and Brown Onions are in the kitchen along with the Leeks which have germinated after 10 days. Upstairs are my 3rd batch of Broadbeans and Brussels sprout’s in our bedroom and Alexander’s Spring Onions are still in his bedroom. The Landing is now home to the cherry tomatoes which were sown today.

Brussels Sprout's

Alexander's Spring Onions

Alexander's Spring Onions, Close Up

Tomatoes in home made Propagators

Tomatoes in home made Propagators

Today also saw me sow 37 Red Onions, a tray of Little Gem Lettuce, a tray of All Year Round Lettuce, 18 Cabbages, and the last 12 Brown Onions. The Onion sets will stay in the greenhouse whilst the Lettuce and Cabbage will go in the kitchen and upstairs in our bedroom. It’s not even the busy period yet!

The sowings

Both types of Onions

Both types of Lettuce

More Red Onions

The first batch of Onions Poking Through

During the warm spring day last Thursday (remember that one?) we did some digging in what will be the carrot and spring onion bed. Lifting off the weed suppressant membrane, I plan to let the remaining weeds grow. Am I crazy? Well no (I think). As I’m new to all this, I’m guessing I won’t be able to tell what a weed seedling is from a Carrot seedling. So by letting the weeds start to grow, I can hoe them off whilst the bed is still empty whilst at the same time learn what the weed seedlings (weedlings?) look like. I’m thinking of now doing the same for the lettuce and cabbage beds but am arguing with myself as it would mean making a lot of the weed suppressant membrane redundant. Any tips would be welcomed?
The Carrot and Spring Onion Bed

Runner Bean Support behind the Broadbean Support

Speaking of the carrot and spring onion bed. Many will know they are great “companion plants” The scent from the spring onions confuse the carrot fly thus why they make a great partnership. Whilst watching some gardeners world videos, they said you should plant the same number of spring onions as you are carrots otherwise they won’t be effective. To that end I brought a packet of spring onion seeds in our monthly food shop on Friday. Whilst Alexander has sowed his already, I will wait and sow them directly as a border to the carrots so they grow up together.

Finally this week’s weather is looking like much of the same. Highs of 6c/7c and lows of 1c/3c so still very cold as we head though the first week of March. Until next weekend, any ideas on how to deal with this in its 3rd year?

3rd year old Rhubarb growing in the grass

Feb 20, 2011

Grounds for Divorce

I don’t know if there has ever been a case whereby one half of a marriage has won a divorce disposition on the grounds of sowing seeds but the way things are going, I may become a victim of such a case. Not only have I filled the south facing kitchen worktop, our south facing bedroom windowsill, and our son’s south facing windowsill. I have now removed the family photos off the upstairs landing windowsill, both of them. This time, it’s to start off my onions to get their root system going.

I had thought of doing the same for my carrot seeds which would also have the advantage of reducing the problem of carrotfly attacking but having asked on the Grow Your Own Forums I now know they don’t liked being disturbed which would happen when transplanting them from module to soil.
So what’s left to sow indoors? I have some cherry tomato seeds that I want to start off and again under advice from the forums, I shall be moving the Broadbeans out in to the greenhouse during the day and bringing them back in again night with next weekend seeing them move in to the greenhouse permanently until they are ready to go in to the soil.

So that’s the bedroom windowsill free again which will be perfect to start off my cherry tomatoes on and with the next 7 days seeing daytime temperatures reaching above 10c it should be a great week to start them in. Looking further ahead though shows a frost may return. Watching the weather outlook has never been so meaningful.

Whilst waiting for a friend to join my on the PS3 to play some Call of Duty, I decided to check out the website for the BBC TV Show - Gardeners World. On there was many short video tutorials and in the vegetable section were over 50 videos so I went through the ones that were appropriate to me. I hope to incorporate some of what I learnt from them over the next few months.

  There were 2 polytunnels left in Aldi’s on Friday morning so snapped them up straight away. The lettuce should be well protected under them. I checked out the 35p packets of seeds and thought I should buy at least one pack to test this year and see how productive they are. I went for Runner beans as they will fit in by the side of my Broadbeans and have built a 6ft high ridge support for them. Other purchases this weekend were 1m x 10m fleece to go over my carrots to stop carrotfly attacking them. 1 x Bottle of tomato feed. 1 x Bottle of slug pellets. 1 ball of twine, and 1 bag of plastic labels.

Finally, we went to pick up the remainder of the slabs offered on Freecycle. Some of them were real heavy beast’s lol but are now all in place. Some are a bit wobbly so I’ll be resitting them next weekend. So that was my productive 4 days off work. Time to sit back and relax this week.

Feb 17, 2011

The Urge to Sow

 I've decided now is the time to start sowing the winter stuff. The Sprouts and Leeks won’t be ready until September and November so it can’t do no harm if I start them now rather than March. The way I'm seeing it is come March onwards, my list of jobs increase to such a level where by I don’t want to get overwhelmed. With that said I've sown the Leeks and Sprouts in trays rather than modules. Then in a few weeks’ time I can thin them out; if necessary, in to more trays rather than throw away the weaker ones just to make sure I get maximum yield. As our bedroom windowsill is full I've had to rearrange the kitchen somewhat to accommodate the new life. The Coffee machine now lives under the stairs and the toaster is next to the microwave. This hasn't gone down well.

I've also planted another 12 Broadbeans as I didn't want them to go to waste. I've also erected some cardboard with silver foil on it to help stem the problem of phototropism by offering the plants strong light from more than one angle. Time will tell how effective it is.

Alexander received some spring onion seeds from a family friend in the form of a grow-your-own pack. I let him sow them himself under supervision and he managed it perfectly. They now live on his bedroom windowsill. Windowsills are proving very handy at the mo.

When digging up the weeds the other day, it quickly became apparent the girls and even Alexander couldn’t understand there were rows that couldn’t be trodden on. When everything is in and leaves are in abundance, it should be more obvious but until then I had to do something to stop them from walking over the beds.
Off to homebase I went and came back with 30 bamboo canes. I had an idea of using proper posts but saw how cheap the canes were so went for them instead. Using green string I now have barriers around the beds which help visualise the veg patch. They’re not perfect but do the job sufficiently. No picture yet but will do over the weekend.

You may remember I collected some plant pots from the freecycle network. The family that gave them to me also had some spare slabs. I wanted them for under foot in between the rows so went to collect as many as my car could take. It turned out 17 was the limit for my suspension and upon placing them down filling one walkway I’ve managed to work out I need another 32 to complete the patch. I’ll be returning on Sunday to collect the rest (Thanks Lea).

Finally Aldi's have their weekly specials on and this week's are a lot to do with growing your own. I've spotted some cheap tunnels perfect for my cabbages and lettuce's. They also have packets of seeds for 35p. Whilst my plan is full this year, I've made a note on my wall calendar that the offer started this week so next years seeds can be purchased in 12 months time at a fraction of the cost. Thanks for reading, more updates to come.

Feb 14, 2011

First time at weeding

Finally the weather was settled on a day where I had the afternoon off. Time for some weeding. I had hoped there wouldn’t be many weeds under the “weed suppressant” membrane but it was clear some new growth was coming alive. 

Utilising the family I had my wife unpin the membrane, whilst our three year old son helped part the weeds from the dug up ground, and the twin girls who are nearly two, pushing the wheelbarrow together; they soon lost interest so the team quickly went 5 to 3 but we'll let them off this time. 

The soil to my surprise was very light and fluffy as I dug it up. This vegetable patch was well looked after. The weeds were coming apart really easily and I thought this is going to be a breeze. I then discovered the Dock leaf weed (at least I think that’s what it is). As you can see, I tried to get most of it out but felt a snap when it came out so alas it’s still down there, but please give me some credit as these beasts show how far down I had to dig. I don’t know; maybe this is the normal depth of a weed but it felt like I had won a fight with Tyson after pulling these out. Here Alexander is holding the 3 longest. Many more went straight in to the bin (don’t want to risk them on the compost until I’m more confident).

I also took on the challenge of building some support for my Broad beans. Hopefully this will withstand the need for six plants. I’ll have to do some more research to be sure though. I’ll get round to building another one at the weekend if it proves to be sufficient.

Speaking of those Broad beans, it’s now 16 days since I planted them and their roots were starting to poke through the drainage holes so I’ve repotted them in deeper compost, this time using John Innes Multi-Purpose Compost. When taking them out of there old homes, I can’t help but think how alien looking they are when their roots dangle down beneath them. Not two plants were the same and a couple had this enormous thick single root over 10cm long! Amazing. Anyway they now have double the depth of soil and I’m close to needing some more compost. Next Month is going to get hectic.

As you can see, I've now taken up both sides of the windowsill without increasing the number of plants. This has not gone down well with my wife. Happy Valentines Day Love x

Feb 8, 2011

A small taste of Spring

It felt like spring had arrived today! We spent the afternoon round my Wife’s Grandma’s for lunch so had a nice drive out in the sun. As mentioned in my last post I received the plant pots offered on Freecycle. A complete assortment of types and sizes now means I can cope with whatever requirement pops up. A big thank you goes to Lea for offering them to me.

I've only just found out of a condition known as phototropism My Broad Beans are already showing signs of this condition where by they grow towards the sun rather than vertically. A quick fix should sort it out though by some Blue Peter wizardry making a reflective screen (cardboard and tinfoil) to go on the back side of the pots. I'll turn the plants round when I place it so to help them out.


This Month’s edition of grow your own magazine has an offer for a growbag and some tubers. After drawing out my plan I realised I wouldn’t have enough room for potatoes. On the magazine’s forums a member suggested I could put them in where the leeks are pinned and just pull the potatoes out before the leeks go in on the proviso that the leeks would stay in a deep container first. This seemed a bit fiddly so left the potatoes out. With the growbag option though I can now add potatoes to my grow list and have them contained in the bag for themselves. The total cost for the growbag and tubers is just the P&P at £4.95 so couldn’t really turn it down. They should be here sometime in March.

I hope this nice weather lasts.

Feb 7, 2011

Strong Winds Lead To Name Change

The strong winds have scuppered plans to lift up the weed suppressant membrane today so instead I've decided to change my domain to a more user friendly one. You can still use the existing domain and it will redirect you to the new one but it would be great if you can start using the new one from the off :)

has now become

As for the BroadBeans, another day, another spurt of growth. I now have 9 protruding shoots with the soil distinctively drier. Might be down to daily watering as opposed to every other day.

Oh and the weeds won't be getting away that easily, I have them penned for removal on Thursday MUHAHAHAHA.

Feb 6, 2011

7 Days In...

And my Broad Bean seeds have germinated. After just 7 days shoots are starting to break free from the seed compost. The packet states 14-21 days, crazy stuff. Now I know why John Innes Seed Compost comes highly recommended.

If the weather isn't too bad, I'll be lifting the seed suppressant membrane and digging out the bigger roots of weeds that are still there. With the soil being so soft, most should lift straight out (so I've been told), so will be getting my hands dirty. Afterwards the membrane will be fastened back down for the soil to settle over the next 4 weeks.

Finally just a quick mention for Freecycle. It truly is amazing, especially for the grow your own gardener. Reusing old stuff from someone else is a key ethos of the GYO society and tomorrow I will be picking up some bits from around the corner. More on that later. Now, SuperBowl 45.

Feb 1, 2011

Back Breaking Times In The Compost Heap

2 pallets deep by 3 wide. That's the size of our compost heap. The only problem is, I never got round to dividing it in to sections for a working rotation (It was built when we first moved in and as such had zero knowledge of what it was for let alone how to set one up efficiently).

since then we have used it mainly for the grass cuttings but as of 6 months ago and a couple of loaned books from the library, I've learnt the magic that occurs in that pile of "rubbish". As it was a nice day today I thought now is the time to divide the heap with one working pile in half, and an empty space in the other ready for this year's scraps. The height of the heap had shrunk to only 2ft so I thought it would need 15 minutes of shovelling one side on to the other.

90 minutes later I am standing at the bottom of the heap looking at a mountain of compost as high as me (6ft). I hadn't realised how far down I had dug beyond the level of the ground. I was expecting to reach some sort of natural line where compost meets soil but it just kept on going. At least I now have my two halves, I know 3 is the optimum and some even have 4 but for us 2 will be enough for now. I've spread the working pile over the whole half area and thankfully its now below the top of the pallets but I've left the empty side even though its 1ft below ground level as the extra depth might come in handy as I now know the full extent of what can go in.

During my digging I disturbed one mouse living under the carpet and one small frog. Lots of insects though which was pleasing.