Mar 30, 2011

Big Love For BST…

I love British Summer Time at the best of times but since starting to grow my own vegetables, I now have a new found love for the clocks going forward. After getting in from work on Sunday night at 6:40pm, there was still a good hour of light left so whereas the day before, I would have slouched on the sofa to chill out, I was upstairs changing in to my garden gear and out on to the veg patch. I had wanted to make a start on sowing my carrots and spring onions direct and by 8pm the whole bed was done. I even had time to lay down the fleece to keep them warm, a good job as a sharp frost came through the night unexpectedly.

Having read and reread how it’s imperative to sow carrots thinly, I found a tip where if you mixed the seed with some sand, it effectively diluted the dose. Add this to the other tip I had found where to know which was seed and which was weed, place sand over the tops of the sown seed so anything growing outside of the sand line would there for be weed, I was playing in the sand like I was back on Skeggy beach.

You can just about see the sand lines through the fleece in the picture below. The fleece also doubles up as a barrier against carrot fly so for £1 it’s a true bargain. The only problem/mistake was I didn’t measure the carrot bed and a 5m fleece comes up short with 75cm left. A quick cut of another fleece to cover this gap meant I was quite pleased with myself until I realised I now have a gap for the carrot fly to get in through. How clever are they?

Carrot Bed

Now that my broadbeans are in the ground, they have come under attack from something, the remains look very much like the leaves out of my son’s very hungry caterpillar book lol so if one has been munching away, then I’m unsure how to deal with them :/ I’m also unsure how much damage they have caused, ie; will the plants now struggle to grow or come under infection?
nom nom nom

nom nom nom nom

Am I a butterfly yet?

 My tomatoes are doing well. It’s easy to see why they are so popular to grow as their growth rate is phenomenal and very pleasing to see. Out of the 30 seeds sown (20 Gardeners Delight, 10 Nectar F1), I have a success rate of 28 out of 30. A very acceptable level as I have read some packets can be around 60%. Not only did all 10 Nectar F1 seeds germinate, but the extra 2 also came up. I’ve no idea if another good reason for using F1 seeds is their success rate or not but I’m really happy with the result. Now I just need to find a home for all of them as I doubt they will all fit in my greenhouse.

From right to left then is 9+6+2 of the Gardener’s Delight, 2 germinated peppers, and 5+6 Nectar F1’s.

Cherry Tomatoes Galore

My overwintering onions have been growing now for around 6 months where as my summer ones have only had a couple of weeks in the ground, yet they seem to be catching up their cousins at an alarming rate. I will have to see how both fair and decide whether to grow just overwintering ones from later this year or wait and plant out the summer ones in just under a year as I can’t see much benefit in growing both if they are to come up at nearly the same time so again time will tell.

Overwintering Senshyu Yellow

Summer Stuttgarter

The greenhouse is warming up considerably now and when I pop in there around 9am it’s already touching 20c. When it was 14c outside last week I was sweating inside as it topped 29c. No wonder you need to open the top window in the height of summer. The high heat seems to be popular with spiders though so I hope they repay me for leaving them alone by eating all the bugs that enter.

It's getting hot in here...

The higher temperature of the greenhouse means sowing seed in there is great fun. I’ve started off some Sunflowers which I want to plant as a border between the veg patch and the house and I’ll have to get them in the ground not before long otherwise they’ll grow out of control in there but then I got thinking. I wonder if anyone has ever grown a sunflower in a greenhouse before. I know they can grow taller than the greenhouse but there is that window at the top that opens up J I won’t be trying it this year though as with all them tomato plants I’ll struggle to move in there during the height of summer.

Finally whilst taking my pictures, our kids think it’s funny emulating me. I’m there composing the shot and out of the corner of my eye I see two giggling girls. 2 years old and they’re taking the micky out of me, oh dear.

Funny girls

Mar 20, 2011

Super-Moons and Trench Warfare

So the super moon has been and past. The closest point was between 7pm and 8pm GMT which is why it looked bigger when rising than when it was higher up as moonrise was a little later. I managed to go and take some pictures of it at its closest point to earth but because it wasn’t fully lit, struggled with the light on offer. Thankfully the shots I took leading up to the super moon during the week haven’t disappointed. (Shot’s taken at 250mm and 300mm at 1/320 seconds, F5.6, cropped to 500px).
Take on 13/03/2011
Taken 18/03/2011

Super Moon Taken 19/03/2011 at 19:11 GMT

The art of warfare is being covered by the news channels 24/7 right now with the focus on Libya. As the allies group up and aim strategic offensive attacks against the Libyan forces, I’m starting to see parallels in my garden. I’m serious; I have to protect my crops from a relentless enemy that will decimate certain crops I plan to grow unless I act accordingly. The Cabbages will come under attack from slugs, snails, and the cabbage root fly. To deter this attack I have to stick collars on the stems of the cabbage when I transplant them in to the ground. I then need to cover the crop in a fine mesh. My Carrot bed will see thousands of carrot fly descending on it to lay its eggs, again to deter this I’m planting an army of Spring Onions around the bed and covering the lot in horticultural fleece. I’ve yet to discover what my other crops common enemies are but will try my hardest to stop them in their tracks. Ok so it’s nothing compared to real life warfare but this growing your own business needs a steady head.

I’ve got the need, the need to seed! Not quite the same as the great one liner from TopGun but I’m enjoying sowing my seeds. Unfortunately I experienced my first accident last week. Upon arriving home after work at night, I noticed the car thermometer was showing 1c. A quick check on my phone and a ground frost was coming so armed with my phone as a flashlight, I went down to the greenhouse to bring indoors the not so hardy seedlings to protect them. As I was stacking the seedlings on crates so to do the journey once, my phone was slipping from under my chin (only place I could put it to focus the light). As it slipped, the light beam moved away from the crate of seedlings I was holding. I then went to catch my phone and knocked one side of the crate I was still holding which flipped the whole lot upside down. I was gutted. With the one free hand I managed to get 80% of the seedlings back in to their pots with a little soil and yesterday morning went out to fix them up properly. They now sit indoors for a couple of days looking battered and bruised. Time will tell if they make it.

As for everything else, still ticking over nicely. The Gardeners Delight seedlings are doing well with the true leaves taking over. As I had 5 seeds to a pot I have thinned 3 pots down to one each and put the remainder in their own pots. The Nectar F1’s germinated in the airing cupboard so are now next to the Gardeners Delight in our bedroom. I’ve got two days off work now so plan to carry on in the garden and see what I manage to get done.

Mar 16, 2011

Apparently I'm in a lull right now!

Today  saw another afternoon finish from work which meant another 3 hours in the garden. First job was to rearrange my Greenhouse as it was quickly becoming overrun with only one side logically set up. I removed the summer table as it will need to be out soon anyway and have moved the left side table on to the back wall that is shaded. This has now freed up the left side on which my tomato growbags will sit alongside the Potato grow bag. I hope that makes sense, anyway here’s a picture that should help.

As you can see, the green potato growbag is quite small. I wasn’t expecting that but it was free along with the 5 seed potatoes (charlotte variety) and 5 packets of Vegetable & Salad seeds. Just had to pay the P&P so thought it was a good deal to get some potatoes in on my plan. I’m also going to grow some Peppers as I was offered some packets of seeds from a work colleague. He also had some sunflower seeds so I took them aswell although they are purely for decoration and wildlife.

My other seedlings are still coming along nicely with the exception of the Little Gem Lettuces sown on February 27th. I’ve sown another 12 pots of them today with 3 seeds in each so if the first batch fail, these should hopefully germinate.

My 2nd batch of Tomatoes in the airing cupboard have started to germinate right now so will have them out tomorrow morning as only one seed has come through tonight and if they are anything like the Gardeners Delight ones then another 12 hours will see them all shoot up. Speaking of the Gardeners Delight, they are looking like they are ready for thinning down to one per pot and the next size up whilst I'm there. That will be a job for Thursday afternoon.

Finally, cats, how can I deter them from littering in my soil? Seeing their facieses touching my onion tops isn’t very appealing so what method seems to be most effective? Oh and apparently I was in a lull right now J Thanks for reading. 

Mar 14, 2011

The Good and the Bad Characteristics of Nature

Firstly, Hi to my new followers J you’re very welcome here and i hope you carry on enjoying my blog.

Secondly, I’d just like to spare a thought for everyone affected by the devastation caused by the Japan Earthquake. I read today it could take 10 years to clean up the trail of destruction L Very sad times. It’s heartening to know 46 countries have offered help and aid for the people of Japan. We all look on with our fingers crossed that no more should come from this force of nature.

Like a 15 year old teenager being dragged in to town by his parents (that would be me 15 years ago then), spring is slowly making its presence known. The shorter nights are distinctly noticeable for me with an early shift starting at 5am or a late shift finishing at 7pm so whilst Scotland has had some wicked snow this week, the UK overall is warming up. Nothing new to report on the sowing of seeds, I’m in a bit of a lull right now so have only been busy pricking out yet more Brussels Sprouts and Leeks.

I did decide to plant the rest of my Onions in the ground and they have welcomed the extra space and are showing a lot of new top growth. I also set up the two polytunnels for the Lettuces and whilst they currently sit there empty, the veg patch is looking somewhat professional this weekend.

The next 10 days or so will see me sowing my next batch of lettuce and cabbages for the successional growing plan although I’m a little dubious it will work because as the temperature increases, the rate of germination and growth increases. Simple maths would therefore state the last sown cabbages in real time would be 6 weeks behind the first, but in growth time, only 2-3. I wait to be proved wrong though J

I’ve also got my wife to keep hold of the toilet rolls for me so I can start off my Parsnips in them. I have to be ultra-careful though to make sure I don’t let their roots hit the bottom otherwise they deform as they grow in the ground.

Finally our little girl’s birthday party went a treat the other day and on their Birthday yesterday it felt like Christmas again with the amount of presents they had waiting to be opened downstairs. Tiring stuff but well worth it. Thanks for reading and I hope you have a good week.

Mar 10, 2011

T-Minus 17 days

That’s the countdown until British Summer Time starts and I cannot wait. It’s still too cold for my liking though but my hardier plants seem to be putting up a strong defence through it all. Two days ago I planted my first 12 Broadbean plants in to the ground. They have been warm and cosy since January 29th and now they are outside braving the elements after growing to 20cm in height. Their first two days in the open has seen them go up against a strong Westerly wind and thankfully they are still standing proud. I now only have space for a further 8 so from the remaining plants I shall pick the strongest. It’s going to feel weird to say no to the weaker ones but I guess that’s all part of the growing your own starting from seed.

I also put in the first batch of onions that I sowed back on February 20th The picture below shows the depth at which I planted them. Their top growth wasn’t much whilst in the modules but their rootballs were nice and plentiful. I checked on them yesterday and after only 18 hours outside, their top growth went up by 1cm. Unreal. It’s as if they know where they are.

My Tomatoes finally germinated and are now growing strongly upstairs. From the 20 seeds sown, I have had 16 germinate. It’s apparently acceptable for some seeds not to germinate so not sure if this is down to that or my sowing technique. I have another packet to sow so will wait until the first week of April before doing them, and shall see how I fare.

Finally the greenhouse is welcoming the extra space left by the Broadbeans and Onions but was quickly filled in with my Leeks and Son’s Spring Onions hardening off. I won’t get in to the veg patch until Sunday as it’s our Girls 2nd year Birthday party this weekend but I plan to prick out the tray of cabbages that our in the kitchen as they seem to be crowding for space now. One tip I learnt this week to stop the roots poking through the bottom of the pots is to line them with a used teabag, genius! 

Thanks for reading :)

Mar 6, 2011

All Systems Go.

No pictures today, just an update:

23 Broadbeans Growing, CHECK
61 Onions Growing, CHECK
A Tray of Brussels Growing, CHECK
A Tray of Leeks Growing, CHECK
18 Cabbages Germinated, CHECK
A Tray of Lettuce Germinated, CHECK
Tomatoes Germinated, Not Yet so moved in to the airing cupboard!

21 days until British Summer Time begins. You couldn’t tell its only 3 weeks away if you looked outside over the past week but it is. I know many have yet to even start germinating their seeds, and maybe I’m too eager due to my lack of knowledge, but I just cannot see how fitting all what I have done so far in to such a short space of time come March 27th is even manageable for someone with as little time as I do. Maybe then I am planning to grow more than what I should but now I have a plan I want to stick to it and see how I cope.

Yesterday’s early finish at work meant I had the afternoon free so on the way home I went to Homebase to buy more bamboo canes, a garden sieve, and some more Multi-Purpose Compost. The sieve was to remove stones from the Carrot Bed as they don’t like to hit anything as they grow down. I managed to remove quite a few but there are still some remaining. I’ve no idea if the bed needs to be completely stone free but may top the bed up with my homemade compost from last year to act as a sort of topsoil. The bed will be bordered by Spring Onions so can slope the bed down to ground level at the Spring Onions. This would give the middle of the bed an extra couple of inches. It might work, it might not.

My Son’s Spring Onions were starting to sprout their roots through the drainage holes of the small pots they were in. The grow kit contained the pots so thought they would be fine but clearly they are not.
I’ve also thinned them out in to 7 pots instead of the supplied 4 so they’ll hopefully take to their new home. Today also saw me gain a home made Dibber for planting the leeks and a home made straight line guide. Cheers for the handywork Vince.

Tomorrow (later today if you go by the date this post was made) See’s grow bags on sale for £1.29 in Aldi’s. I’ll be buying two and placing them one on top of the other with the bag cut away at the top and the bottom of them so I can plant the tomatoes in the top bag whilst their roots can grow down in to the bottom bag. That won’t be for at least a month but the sale only lasts one day and I can’t see grow bags going that cheap elsewhere.

Finally I went out to plant the broadbean plants in to the ground today but it was freezing so came back in. A few more days won’t do they any harm :/ Roll on Summer.

Mar 2, 2011

Pricking Out

Another afternoon finish from work, another hour spent in the greenhouse. It really is quite calming in there.
My Brussels are starting to get crowded so killed two birds with one stone by thinning out the seedlings and potted on 24 of them in individual pots known as pricking out. I thought pricking and pinching were two of the same so glad I didn’t get confused :/

As you can see, my placement of the seedlings has much to be desired but I’ve read it doesn’t really matter if they are not central as they’ll sort it out as they grow. The most important thing is the roots get good depth to grow in. I read they can be potted right up to their seed leaves so their 5cm long stems are now under soil. I’ll see how they get on before I prick out any more though.

The first batch of Broadbeans are really coming on strong now. Their vertical climb seems to have taken a back seat whilst the leaves and stems gain strength. I may start to think about putting them in the ground in 7 day’s time. Any sign of a frost though and I’ll hold off. As for the rest, only my Onions and Leeks have shown any growth and they are now 13 and 16 days old.

So still plenty to do on the sowing seed front. Thanks for reading.