Charlotte, Gardening, Guest Posts

Stormy Weather

After weeks of glorious sunshine, my garden was blooming and the vegetables I had started from seed were all progressing better than anticipated. So much so that I had bravely put many of them outside to harden off before being transplanted. What a mistake! One night last week the weather took a turn for the worse and my once beautiful garden has suffered dearly.

Charlotte Working on the TrellisHeavy rain and gusting winds rattled the windows as I tried to sleep. ‘Tried’ being the operative word since little sleep was achieved as I imagined the havoc being created outside. I awoke early and ventured outdoors to assess the damage. Roses had been ripped from their trellises, colourful borders flattened and the stunning hollyhocks which had formerly towered over me, now stood limply at right angles.

Charlotte's husband helping with the branches I hastily got to work tidying up and repairing what I could. I carefully teased the roses back onto their trellis; trying not to damage the plentiful flowers and buds. Supports were provided for the hollyhocks and stakes added to the young fruit trees which looked at risk of snapping. I enlisted the help of my husband for this task. Being almost a foot taller than me he comes in rather useful for such vertically challenging chores.

Most upsetting was the destruction endured by my precious vegetable seedlings. Those placed in the open air to harden off, had been tossed around the garden by the unforgiving winds. Even those which I thought were protected inside a growing frame were not spared. The entire frame had been blown over, leaving young tomatoes, peppers and sweet peas upturned.

I re-potted what I could; scooping up the spilled compost and carefully replacing the young plants. It was then I noticed the sweetcorn. It’s the first time I’ve grown this and the quick and steady growth had impressed me. However they now stood sadly, many with broken leaves and stems. It felt as though the months of hard work and love I had poured into the garden had been destroyed overnight.
Charlotte's Plants
Having fixed what I could I retreated indoors for a cuppa whilst surveying my seed collection. Thankfully, I had reserved a few of each seed type when initially planting. Undeterred I spent the afternoon planting second batches as a backup for those which may have been lost. It’s rather late in the season to be starting many of them off. However, living in the south-east, I’m hoping the warmer and longer summer we (usually!) encounter will allow me to see a harvest from most crops. That is, if the rain and wind ever make way for more sun.

I haven’t given up on the sweetcorn though. The injured specimens have been brought indoors for some TLC. Perhaps they will find the strength to recover and produce new shoots. Any advice on how I can aid this would be gratefully received. I was so looking forward to serving my family delicious home grown corn on the cob, dripping with butter. I can almost taste it now… fingers crossed they pull through and make it to the table.

– Charlotte

Charlotte, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts

Planting out Potatoes and Beans

Plants in potsHaving returned from a week away, I was delighted and yet shocked to see how my beans and potatoes had progressed.
Beans growing on the trellis
The bean seeds had been planted just a few weeks ago and placed in my newly constructed growing rack. Thanks to a week of extraordinarily hot weather, they had not only germinated, but grown a good 6 inches! They were looking pretty leggy so I promptly planted them out in troughs. It was a hasty decision and I’m sure they would be better planted directly into the ground. However, they were desperate for support and the troughs allow me to position them against some wall mounted trellis.

Admittedly, the freshly transplanted beans look rather limp and pathetic, but having settled in they already have some healthy new growth.
Charlotte's chitting potatoes
The other matter requiring urgent attention was the potatoes which have been chitting on the spare room windowsill for some considerable time. After a slow start (I think due to the cold environment I originally had them in), they’d formed lovely purple sprouts and were ready to go outside. I’m aware that many people follow the tradition of planting potatoes on St Patrick’s Day; meaning I’m falling well behind schedule this year. But having moved house in the spring, I hope I can be forgiven for my slow progress in this area.
Repurposed potato barrelPotato barrel
Not wanting to use up too much ground space I chose to plant the potatoes in an unused compost bin. I already have 2 full ones; how much compost does one girl need? I’m not sure how suitable a vessel this large black container will be. I have in the past found potato peelings sprouting in my compost bin so it should provide a reasonably appropriate environment. The plastic monstrosity is not something I wish to have on display so I’ve hidden it behind some dense shrubs at the back of the flowerbed. It’s a sunny spot so I don’t think it will suffer too much from lack of light. To inhibit weed growth I lined the base with some old cardboard and then covered it with a layer of compost. The seed potatoes went on top and were covered with another layer of soil.
Seed potatoes in barrel
After a good watering I crossed my fingers and left them to it. Hopefully in a few months I’ll be harvesting bin loads of potatoes to feed my sons; who are themselves sprouting up!

– Charlotte

Allotment, Craig, Gardening, Guest Posts

Planting Out

The dreary rain-filled days of April seem to be a lifetime ago after the recent mini-heatwave and certainly in terms of growing there have been some big changes. Our small seeds have taken every ray of sunshine and seem to have gone from sorry-looking water washed items to sprouting shoots of growth.

Craig's allotment beds

Plants in the Allotment
We share the allotment with another family – the dream for this year being that we will have sufficient fruit and vegetables from June onwards. Last year’s expansion meant that we started seeding late – but with the procurement of a large homemade greenhouse we have been able to sow directly from seeds. In simple terms it means we can expect more for less. Or at least, that is the plan.

We are actively trying to involve our son in the experience. He is three and already enjoys playing alongside us; he has his own spade and gloves and like most young boys he enjoys filling buckets with dirt. But equally he is learning. He is keen to know what things are called and loves to help pick (and eat) the fruits of our labour. So when he is maybe too heavy handed with the delicate seedlings, we explain he needs to be careful and put it down to experience. He has even got his own small pots full of all kinds of interesting things growing.

Our local council refuge site has been selling soil enhancer for a very reasonable £2.50 per 50 litre bag – so we took full advantage of this and still have three bags left from the original ten we bought. If you couple that with a load of bargain seeds then our total investment for this year has been a paltry £40 – which has been split between the 2 families. So what are we expecting for our hard-earned money?Craig's salad

Last week we took the step of planting out our dear young growers, hoping that we have seen the last of any frost until at least October. We got stung last year by planting too early and even the “hardy” potatoes fell foul of a particularly firm frost. A team effort took place and we managed to get the following transplanted – courgettes, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions (spring, red and white), garlic, peas, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, runner beans and dwarf beans.

The swathes of fresh turned soil which had look like we would never fill them, quickly took to life with the odd splashes of green fresh growth. Our runner beans and peas are being trained to grow around lengths of recycled pipe and we have used a collection of old pieces of wood to create planting beds. The ever ingenious gardener’s motto seems to be, “don’t throw that away – I can use that on my allotment!” I constantly marvel at how mundane items become used in ways never dreamt of.

Craig's Plants
So after the months of preparing we now enter the growing stage. Judging by what I have seen so far we could well be in for a good one. The tomato plants stand no more than 4 inches tall but already have many trusses on and as we have failed in the last two summers are taking that to be a very good omen. Only time will tell…

Craig

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