Saturday Morning Pyjama Gardening in the Rain.

What is it about us gardeners – we just have to pick, pluck and plant at all hours.

This Saturday I was up early as usual and went down to let the chickens down.  It was pouring with rain and being a practical girl I put on a fleece, let the girls out and came in for my morning cuppa.

I then had to go to the garage to get some more juice and saw a few snails on my last PSB plant.  I looked a little closer and there were slugs and snails all over the veg patch.  I had used some Nemaslug a few weeks ago and really hoped that this would help the plants get ahead.  Unfortunately looking at the Broad Beans I realised that whilst they had grown they were pretty miserable specimens.  They were about  a foot high, some with a good range of flowers but not many leaves whilst others were just eaten away.  It was time to take action.  Out came my daughter’s bucket and in the space of about 5 minutes I must have had  a good 3″ deep  of slugs and snails.  It’s ridiculous, I just don’t know how I’m going to get any veggies this year if I have to fight this hard to keep anything alive.  I’ve never know a large vigorous plant like PSB to get so decimated – if they’re going for that then any small seedlings just don’t stand a chance.  Interestingly the bulk of the creatures are large snails this year.  I’m used to the tiny slugs and snails getting past my barriers and causing decimation but this is a first for me.  It must have been the mild, wet winter and spring.  I’ve said it before but it’s obvious we just needed a cold spurt to clear out some of the creatures and give us gardeners a chance!

So I’m off to order a few more packets of Nemaslug and I’m going to leave you with a few pictures of my collection (but I’ll leave you to work out what I did with them!)

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Feeling bad…

It may only be 7.30 but I’ve already been out gardening (in my pyjamas!)

I’m not sure if it’s the husband or chicken influence or just because the weather is so lovely this week and I was stuck inside yesterday. Anyway as usual I was up at 6 to let the girls out.

I had a cup of tea with my husband and then as he left to do the weekly shop, I popped into the greenhouse to check growth and slugs. Well, you know how it is…one thing leads to another and so I checked the seedlings, watered the newly grow-bagged tomatoes, made sure I still had some Cosmos left (major snail fight that one!) and then decided to plant out more potatoes.

Off I went to the shed to get some more bags (I don’t have enough land to have potatoes in the ground). The bags were tucked away from last year and as usual I had to move aside various bits of chicken paraphernalia. I reached and tugged the bags and saw that one of them seemed to have some laundry fluff and straw in it. Unfortunately that wasn’t all it was. A little mouse scampered away rapidly and I realised I’d inadvertently broken up her nest. I couldn’t see any evidence of babies but I do feel bad!

I thought we had mice under the shed (the cats often sniff a round the bottom of the shed) and I knew that a new peck block I’d left in there for a week had mysteriously been chewed on but I didn’t realise the shed was actually a mouse residence! Amazing what you learn at 6:45am…guess I’d better go get showered and into proper gardening clothes!

Finally, spring has sprung…

but I’m sorry, I still want a slight freeze.  Right now we’ve had such a mild winter and a damp spring that I know I’m going to be fighting bugs all summer.  In fact I’ve already planted a load of my flower and veg seeds and have been waking daily to destroyed plants as slugs sneakilly invade the greenhouse.  I had a good germination of Cosmos and put them out in the greenhouse only to watch them disappear one by one.  Similarly, I started the peas out in the greenhouse and was just contemplating planting them out when chomp, chomp the 4 inch tops were severed from their bottoms and left scattered on the matting.  Grrrr.  This could be a tough summer…think I might go get some nematodes for the veg patch!

Having said all that, it is fantastic to see the earth warming and the flowers blooming.  Daffodils are one of my favourite flowers and they’ve been a joy to see after so long stuck indoors watching the rain come down.  The PSB has been delicious and I was even unknowingly clever enough to plant two varieties that succeeded each other perfectly.  The first was delicious as the rain came down and now the second variety is just coming through – now I just need to hold onto some for another week so I can take a pile to my father who lost all his early on.

I got the Broad Beans in the veg patch this weekend and hopefully they’ll be joined soon by some battered peas.  I’ll probably keep the rest of my seedlings in the greenhouse a little longer to get really strong before venturing out to the snail army (that is, if I can keep the slugs out of the greenhouse!)

The next job is the hard work in the garden – emptying a few compost bins to really give those veggies a boost.  Then I need to rebuild my pond which has sprung a very slow leak.  Welcome Spring, welcome the hard work.

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How the temperature changes!

I was amazed how the weather changed over the course of a week.  The first Monday in September I was enjoying the sun, sea and sand at the beach hut – it was gorgeous.  In fact, the whole week was great.  We spent most evenings down at the hut, even when my daughter was back at school we managed to fly down at 4 and enjoy the peace and tranquility of a quiet beach.  We swam in the sea, watched the sun go down and ate simple, one gas ring food.  It was wonderful!

However, the next week the weather had turned and whilst the sun would come out in the day, it was bitter in the mornings and evenings.  As my daughter would say, she’d need a coat and gloves to go to school but then summer uniform for the return!

Thankfully the weather of the first week of September gave my tomatoes the push we needed to get them ripe.  So, very very late we are getting both cherry and beefsteak tomatoes.  I really didn’t think the larger tomatoes would ripen so I was delighted to cut into them and find that they were delicious.  I don’t think the Gardener’s Delight are as sweet as normal but there is still nothing better than getting your lunch tomatoes straight from the bush.

The over-wintering veggies have also had a growth spurt and are looking much more settled so they’ve all been tied to canes to try and keep them heading upwards and not taking on a sharp angle which I can’t straighten out later on.  I’ve had this happen a few times and it makes staking the large plants really hard.  Given that they’ve got to survive winter winds and rain I need to make sure they’re secured.

All in all it’s not been as bad a summer season as I thought – we’ve not had the gluts I was expecting but we have managed to get a decent quantity of our firm favourites – thanks to the ministrations of my husband and his mother whilst I was away!

Back at home…

I’m so sorry I’ve been neglecting you – actually I’ve been neglecting everything to do with home.  I was working in London for the Olympics – how fantastic was that!  Amazing experiences and what a buzz around the place.  So one month later and I’m back on home turf and enjoying some catching up with my wonderful family and our creatures.
I’ll have a few catch up posts and then should get back to current news and stories as they happen.

 

My husband and daughter looked after the chickens and garden whilst I was away and they did a fantastic job.  I’m even worried that the chickens are now my husbands and not mine – he seems to have spoilt them rotten.  The main reason I think this is there are two worn paths on the lawn – both from where the chickens have paced constantly backwards and forwards waiting for the tantalising treats he’s been bringing out!

The garden looks much brighter than in July – there are more colours but it’s definitely not as lush as normal.  I certainly don’t think if this is due to the ministrations of my husband but rather the season.  Our sunflowers (and our neighbours, phew!) are only about 6 ft tall which is well under normal height for this time.  The tomatoes are only just reaching the top of the greenhouse and there aren’t that many fruit on them.  Lastly, our French beans haven’t made it to the top of the canes, although we are getting the odd handful of produce.  All in all, it’s not been a great season but I have a feeling it’s fairly universal in the UK so I just have to accept it and plan big for next year.

I have to say that the care of the garden has not just been down to my husband and daughter – my mother-in-law was also recruited to keep on top of the general upkeep.  As someone who lives in a flat, she’s thoroughly enjoyed looking after the garden and I do really appreciate her help and support.  I just haven’t found a way that she could do it when I’m here – is it just me or do we all get a little proprietorial about our gardens?

Lovely produce

In this super wierd season so many things are ridiculously late.  I’m usually eating my strawberries at the end of May and here I am in July making the first pickings.  What has happened to the British Summer?  I know we don’t normally get dry, hot weather for weeks on end but warm, dry for a few weeks would be lovely!

The plants are trying so hard to get their feet down and grow but they’re just not getting enough warmth.  My French Beans are struggling against the veg patch slugs and snails, the Broad Beans are growing but on the whole are still tiny.  The only things that really seem to be happy are the potatoes in the containers.  I’m not the best at watering plants regularly – I tend to be a bit Darwinian.  Survival of the fittest and all that!  Well, that and a tendancy to get distracted by other jobs!  As I don’t have a huge veg patch I grow some early potatoes in various containers every year.  It’s probably not cost effective but they’re so exquisite that I’ll keep going.  Actually writing this does make me wonder why I bother – I’m not good at watering them, they’re not cost effective and they do get a bit straggly and take over the patio or which ever patch of soil I put them on.  So other than the taste, why do I bother – it’s the sheer joy of turning over a bag and discovering these delicious golden nuggets hidden in the compost.  At least I get to re-use the compost as I spread it over the borders (and find new potato plants springing up all over the place!).

Finding good compost is always a struggle – I try to be organic and eco-friendly but so many of the peat free composts are just awful at retaining moisture that I can’t use them.  I tend to try to mix different composts together but maybe I should actually start to get a good formula together based on the leaf mould, my own fresh compost and peat-free from the garden centre. Any tips would be much appreciated!

So, what else is being harvested now?  One of the courgette plants is coming along well and we’ve already had a couple of good dark green courgettes.  I’ve grown a few different varieties and am waiting for the long yellow ones and small round green ones to get to a decent picking size.

The peas are struggling on and as usual I only have enough for tantilising lunchbox or pre-dinner treats.  As with the Strawberries and pototoes I know I’m not going to be inundated but I’ll keep going with a few plants just for those special moments that mark the seasons (usually!)