There are times when I really feel like giving it all up and just let the garden do its own thing! It’s not the weeds, but the rabbits, the slugs & snails, and the WEATHER!
It was almost the last straw this morning when I went out to find that the strong blustery winds yesterday and last night had snapped off my lovely Amelanchier grandiflora ‘Ballerina’ that I planted last autumn. Yes, it was supported, but I’d only used soft garden string so the stem wouldn’t get damaged. With all that rocking, the string had broken and there it was this morning, lying flat. Sorry – no pictures – I didn’t have the heart. What I have done is to carefully pick it up (it was still attached low down) and tie it back in with stronger twine. I don’t know whether it will recover or not. Perhaps it will shoot up from the bottom. We’ll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, checking on the rest of the garden, I have discovered that something has had a go at my nice new Rosa ‘Seagull’. Just a few leaves remain. I suspect Peter Rabbit – but how he’s managed to sneak in through the wire netting, I just don’t know… That too is now swathed in additional netting.
On to the strawberries – which were doing nicely yesterday, thank you, and all tucked in under their netting. So was it you, Mrs Blackbird, who managed to find another way in? Or perhaps it was the magpies – there are a family of four cheeky siblings bouncing about. Whoever it was didn’t think much of my luscious fruit as it was spat out – both ripe and green.
Nearby are my containers of ‘Salad Bowl’ lettuce. They too are looking under the weather. Slugs? Or perhaps the pigeons? The wood pigeons waddle about, how they get off the ground I just don’t know – they are so fat at the moment. Perhaps it’s time for pigeon pie to go back onto the menu.
So, come on woman, cheer up… there’s a nice piece of bacon doing very well in the slow cooker and the new potatoes are ready to pick. I bought one of those tiered potato containers this year and started them off in the greenhouse. They might not be as early as some, but those in it are a good few weeks ahead of the ones in the ground.
While I’m happy growing all sorts of flowers and shrubs, I’ve never really gotten into growing vegetables, until this year – apart from tomatoes that is.
What triggered me off was my new greenhouse. OK, I just got that for tomatoes (I must be psychic as I’ve a feeling outdoor toms will be struggling a bit this year), but there was a £50 voucher with the greenhouse kit and having spent some on a water butt, there was a bit left over for a plastic 3-tier potato planter.
I ordered seed potatoes from my favourite supplier and, following the instructions, planted 5 into the bottom tier. It was early and frosts were still hovering around the Kent countryside, so we started in the greenhouse. In next to no time leaves were peeping out. So, time for the next tier and more compost. Once the leaves were above the final tier, it was mid May and the planter was moved outside.
The potatoes did splendidly, although a few wayward shoots forced themselves in between the tiers – I think I’d better cut these off next time. Last week, I harvested the crop as the flowers were over and the haulms were flopping every which way. Harvesting was easy: I chopped the stalks off, removed the top tier and scraped the compost into one bucket and the potatoes into another, taking just enough for our supper. I went back over the next few days, garnering the crop as I needed it.
The potatoes were small and quite delicious, but I think if/when I do it again, I’ll make sure I use some fertiliser. I’m planning to get a crop in for Christmas. I might try a couple of the more unusual varieties – which means I’ll have to get another planter. The Victorian Potato Barrel looks interesting.
But, of course, I’d purchased more than 5 seed potatoes – there were another 15, beautifully chitted and wanting attention. These went into the ground – I’d created a new vegetable bed near the greenhouse on almost pure clay at the start of winter. We’d had a weeping willow pollarded a couple of years ago and the resultant bark had been rotting down. Some of this I dug into the new bed together with soot from the chimney. The bed had wintered well and took the remaining potatoes in May in two, fairly close rows – just wide enough to weed and earth up (at least in the early stages). I also gave them a good covering with some of last year’s compost heap and are good, healthy looking plants.
This morning I lifted one plant – and they are fine, large, potatoes about 1kg in total. A better crop than from the potato planter, but I’d not used any fertiliser in the planter. (Note to self: add Growmore to the compost in the planter next time.)
But it’s not just potatoes that I’m growing – there are runner beans, courgettes, garlic, and peppers – but that’s another story…
My garden seems to belong to two eras: before and after the hurricane. Before the hurricane, I had a wonderful greenhouse. Twenty or so feet long and 15 feet wide (I sorry, but I belong to the pre-decimal era). It had a two foot, L-shaped raised bed, an inside water tank, electric light, and staging and it was made out of wood. The hurricane took the wood and glass off somewhere… What with children, parish council, and other commitments it never got replaced – until last year that is.
After two years of growing outdoor tomatoes and more half-hardy fuchsias than I could accommodate indoors, it was time to reassess the situation. I’d saved a bit of money, so spent a few weeks drinking tea with friends who had greenhouses and inspecting theirs. Choosing the right greenhouse can be tricky: Aluminium or wood, and what size?
Surfing online for greenhouse providers, it soon became clear that what I needed was a wooden one. Price for price there wasn’t much in it, but the bonus of the wooden frame was that two very nice men came and erected it. Wood is easier to knock in nails or cup hooks too. Yes, these are important so that there’s something to fix tomato canes to, especially if grow bags are used.
All I had to do is convince my husband to build a good solid base, just a bit bigger than the greenhouse. The one I chose was 6 foot by 10 foot – mainly because I couldn’t afford a larger one.
We sited it with the door facing west – just because that was the way I would be approaching it – on a good clear patch of the old orchard. I would have preferred to have the water butt at the front, but apparently the design meant that the guttering fell towards the back. The water butt is 125L – a larger one would have been much better.
The greenhouse was in place by mid-September and, just before the frosts, it was not only packed to capacity with my fuchsias, but I also bought a couple of rolls of bubble wrap and fixed that to the inside with drawing pins – easy when it’s a wooden frame.
But what has happened to the base of the old greenhouse? It’s still there. The raised bed has been dug out and lined. It is now filled with water and forms the top part of a waterfall acting as a filter for all the silt that gathers in the main pond. It has worked well, especially as I found an old quern stone as an outflow for the pumped water.
A raised bed sits in front to hide the rather ugly breeze blocks and there are a couple of water lilies gracing the water. Behind sits the oil tank, disguised by a reed screen up which grow clematis and roses. The water tumbles down over a waterfall into a larger pond inhabited by the few koi that have escaped the heron. It’s a fairly large pond of around 22,000 gallons and 4 foot deep with a ledge around part. The plan was to grow marginals – silly idea if one has koi, as they ate them!