May-Hem

Being a gardener I welcome rain but it hasn’t stopped since my last blog post, it’s very soggy now with no sign of letting up and the forecast through to next week is more heavy downpours and gale force winds thrown in for good measure, slugs are just loving it and I can’t keep up with the weeding, especially at the allotment. I was a bit behind with seed sowing due to holding off because of the weather, but you know you’ve caught up when the squash and pumpkins are germinating. I’ve just finished sowing sweetcorn into pots in the conservatory where it’s warm and toasty, but I’ll hold off with beans for another week or so as I plan to sow them direct.

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In the vegetable garden there’s plenty of life and lush growth, it’s just a constant battle to keep it all safe from pests. The first sowing of peas are just beginning to flower now and the next batches are catching up in growth but I’ve had to be very creative with protecting them from pigeons who are determined to get them before we do, the usual twiggy deterrents just haven’t cut it this year.

protecting peas from pigeons

To prevent the lower leaves being stripped and clumps being pulled through the twigs, I’m using single sheets of fleece loosely wrapped around the pea sticks and tied with a knot, it all looks a bit of a faff but it seems to be working plus the fleece does help to accelerate growth. Next year I may have to use some sort of net frame and grow all the peas in one bed to keep them protected, I prefer to dot them around the garden on the ends of raised beds to save growing space but I may have to change the way we grow them.

 

protecting peas from pigeons

protecting peas from pigeons

Carrot and parsnip seedlings are up and still tucked up inside the tunnel cloches during the day to protect them from being smashed to bits by heavy downpours, at night we put panels on the ends of the cloches to keep slugs and snails out otherwise we’d lose the lot, the end panels are just off cuts of roofing sheets held in place with a short cane.

carrot seedlings

parsnip seedlings

Beets are growing but very slowly compared to other years, I wasn’t particularly happy with the first sowing of beets as I’ve said previously, they seemed very weak for some reason. The next batch are much better and hardening off ready to go outside but I’ll hold off until the weather settles down a bit. Onions were planted out last week, much later than last year, this will be the second year growing onions from seed and hopefully they’ll be just as good as last years crop.

potato leaves

Second early potatoes ‘Charlotte’ are looking strong and maincrop ‘King Edward’ are just poking through. Strawberries are looking fantastic this year, the growth is so lush. Clearly loving the extra water!

strawberry flowers

seedlings

The greenhouse is filling up but little bit behind in growth or I have sown later than I usually would, but hopefully it will all be ok and catch up. There’s little point putting too much out at the moment, it’s already a 5* restaurant out there for slugs!

Hopefully next month will be more settled. Fingers crossed.

Extending the Vegetable Garden

Our raised bed vegetable garden was created many years ago and started out, as most do, with digging up the lawn. At the time of starting our garden I’d heard about another method of creating a garden from scratch called ‘No Dig’. I was curious about it because let’s be honest, not many people really enjoy digging (some do, and that’s fine!), it’s hard back breaking work sometimes. Our vegetable garden was already mostly done the digging way, but I did add a couple of no dig beds to the mix just to compare. It worked brilliantly and much quicker than the dug beds and with fewer weeds. All the beds are now no dig and I have come to realise there is so much more to it than less weeding and the obvious no digging part (which has been a blessing for my back), the quality of the soil has vastly improved with very little effort and is alive with worms and other important organisms that help soil structure and make food available to plant roots.

This year we plan to extend the vegetable garden with a few more no dig raised beds, they will go over the far side of the garden. To accommodate the extra compost we’re going to need for our no dig garden we plan to make more compost bins from pallets.

compost

I’ve always enjoyed making our own compost and I find the whole process fascinating, lately I’ve taken an interest in how to make compost that little bit quicker, after all it’s key to managing a no dig garden and you do need to have a steady supply. Buying compost isn’t usually an option due to cost, but if we’re feeling flush we sometimes do although we prefer to make our own organic blend using garden and uncooked kitchen waste and chicken manure mixed with chopped straw bedding. This is broken down by soil life into wonderful compost that feeds our soil and in return our soil feeds us.  I find that chopping material up using a pair of hand shears really speeds the composting process up, particularly anything woody, I also try not to over fill the bins or keep adding to a pile which has already begun breaking down. We currently have 7 compost bins made using pallets and chicken wire, moisture is a good thing for making compost but I’ve covered the contents of each bin with empty chicken bedding bags and ton grab bags just to keep the bulk of the heavy rain and snow off and stop the contents getting sludgy.

compost bins

pallet compost bin
I started this bin in October, it’s breaking down really well already.

I can’t wait to get started on the new beds, we just need some brighter weather and for the ground to dry out a bit. It’s been snowing on and off for days with sleet and rain in between, yuk.

Wrap up warm and stay safe x