Tuesday, 25 January 2011

What a great evening!

Aint life brilliant!!!!
I'm sat here in front of the TV watching "The inbetweeners" :) while surfing gardening blogs on the net and looking at my seed spuds which turned up today, topped off by scribbling down garden jobs for the weekend in my pad (Yes, i'm an obsessive list writer :).


Also, I got home tonight to find my lemon grass had germinated already.... the packet said 21-40 days.... how on earth did it come up in 3?

Happy but confused :)

Lastly, had the best dinner cooked by the best girlfriend!! (obviously that's Sarah, just incase she thinks I meant someone else ;) We had roasted chicken thighs, chorizo and sweet potatoes, with a good dressing of olive oil, chilli's from the greenhouse (got a load frozen in the freezer) and cumin seeds. Some delicious buttered sweetcorn, and a few spears of broccoli on the side did their best to green it all up a bit aswell :)

I shall retire to the boudoir a happy man tonight!! :)

Monday, 24 January 2011

A busy weekend.

  I return to the blog a satisfied man!! I have just managed to get a whole weekend in the garden (give or take the odd little detour :) and as a result, a lot of jobs have progressed a bit further, one or two have even been finished  ( I did forget all about the tiling in the bathroom that I told Sarah I would finish though :(.... oooops.

 The weekend saw a bit more sowing in the greenhouse. I'm lucky enough to have a large Vitopod propagator, and a large fluorescent growlight over the top of it.  It's a good setup for the more delicate stuff, and also for generally getting a bit of growth early on, before the days lengthen enough to support good growth.  I am having a go at "Lemon grass" this year, so I managed to sow a few of those seeds and get them in the propagator, it says it can take up to forty days to germinate..... patience is not one of my best virtues, so I can see me impatiently checking them every day now to see if they have come through :)
 Some leek "Jaune de poitou" seeds went into modules, aswell as some cabbage  "Greyhound" in another module tray.  I put my first chilli seeds "Alberto's locoto" into a pot (excited to see if these grow as they are my own saved seed :)  Also put some spinach "Medania" and some red iceberg lettuce in too :)
I got some peas and broad beans into pots, "Meteor", "Aquadulce" and "Masterpiece green longpod". 

 Also on the list for the weekend was planting up some of my old terracotta pots, so a few of those got a good scrub up (after thawing the damn hose out) and then got filled with some compost. Firstly I wanted some nice early carrots, and decided to do a couple of pots of orange "Early nantes 2", and then a couple of pots of yellows "Jaune obtuse de doubs".... some nice early carrots are eagerly anticipated again this year!! :)
Another pot had some spring onions in it, a mixture of "White lisbon" and "Lilia", then the last pots for the weekend had parsnips in, as Sarah mentioned something about baby parsnips in the shop the other day, so those two pots have "White gem" in them, and i'm interested to see how long it takes to get a baby parsnip big enough to eat, from this early sowing in pots.

 At the top of my list for the weekend was clearing the plot for my polytunnel, it was however not a two minute job. Firstly some rotten old livestock fencing and the attached gate and post had to come down.... most of which is destined for the burner in the kitchen soon ;) then I must have had a good two tonnes of hardcore to move that had been dumped there some time ago, followed by digging, levelling, raking etc.  I did adjust the position of the tunnel slightly from my first plan while working (so I can squeeze another in next to it soon ;) but not so far as to effect any of my crop rotation plans. I still have a bit of digging to do to finish levelling the site, but other than that I am just about ready to drop the foundation tubes and anchor plates in, which will hopefully be this weekend coming if the weather is kind.

 I cruised the gardens with my camera and a mug of tea for a while on saturday morning.... that resulted in my other post "January photo's" which is hopefully the first of twelve this year, just showing a bit of what's happening in the lost gardens of Broadwelligan :)

 Now don't tell Sarah about this one, but while I was out and about on sunday, I had a quick look round the old horse/livestock trailer that is rotting away in the back field, and I have got a bit of an urge to drag it out and restore it (it's got to come out anyway and be repaired or scrapped), after all I do fancy some sheep to keep in the field this year (will save mowing so much grass, and provide free fertiliser :), and the trailer would be handy to take them to market later in the year (I have to try and justify it somehow ;) I just have to get it into the workshop without Sarah noticing now....... any ideas? :)

 To my surprise my Passion fruit seeds have come up already... I was expecting to have to wait a few weeks for them, but they have only been about ten days :) Exciting!!!!! :)  My cress and mustard pots are in full swing now, with pots of each being sown at seven day intervals... just enough to give me a pot of each to go in our salads each week.

 Lastly was some more of the mundane stuff.... weeding, digging, general tidying up here and there.  It takes time, doesn't really excite the senses, but when it's done, it does give me an immensely satisfied feeling! :)
 All in all this last weekend has been a great success!!! My wellies are covered in mud, my tools are dirty again and i'm thouroughly happy with progress!!  See you again soon :)

January photo's

After reading a post on Carrie's "Grow our own" blog last week....  Reality   (Thankyou very much for writing it Carrie :) I have been inspired to have a go at various things a bit more, and one of those things (take more photo's) gave me the idea to do this.  I have decided to do a post each month with a few photo's to show the progress, or anything particularly seasonal, or just anything of interest around the grounds at home. It gives me a good reason to wander round with the camera and a mug of tea or two for an hour,  and see if I can spot anything that makes me smile :)

The wood store..... very important during the non gardening months ;)

My truffle tree is ready for spring.

I'm popular with the birds :)

First signs of some growth.

Hmmm.... well rotted manure is running low.

Not long until these flowers are out now :)

Well, that will do me for january..... I can't wait to do february's pics now (patience Simon:), there will hopefully be a whole load of new growth, some flowers, and maybe some sunshine in that one :) Until then, I hope you enjoyed these photo's, and i'll be back soon.

Friday, 21 January 2011

The village show.

  This year I am planning (hoping more to the point) to take the village show by storm (kind of depends on how good my produce is to be honest though ;) Sarah and I tested the water last year, and came away with two red 1st place cards for our efforts :)

(non show related photo... just a veg box for friends :)

 On the morning of the show, Sarah decided on the spur of the moment that we should enter some produce from the garden. We raced down to the veg plot to see what we had that was up to the task, then ran over to the village green to enquire about entering. The people were really helpful actually, and told us a bit about presentation and what we had to do for each class (although I don't think they told us quite enough for us to be in with a chance of beating them :) Another frantic dash back to the garden (that reminds me.... I need to get fit :) and some produce was hurriedly snatched from it's home. It was then whisked up to the kitchen and given a bit of a clean (polishing vegetables does seem a bit weird when you do it for the first time:)  We didn't have enough time to clean and present everything we had picked from the garden, so I think we ended up with about eight entries. We just got back to the village green and the show marquee in time to throw our stuff on the tables before judging started. Some of the competition looked really good, I knew we wouldn't win some of the classes :( but it's the taking part that counts! :)
 We had to wait until 3pm to find out whether our home grown beauties were worthy of any recognition on the show bench or not.....  tense was an understatement!!!
 On our return at 3pm we were greeted by a 1st for our french beans and a 1st for our dessert apples..... a lot of "Woohoo's" and some big smiles later, and I was already thinking about doing it again this year :)

 I've just received my copy of the  "Horticultural show handbook" today, and i've got a copy of last years village show schedule to plan what classes to enter (all of them :), so i'm ready to win more this year if all goes well.

 Medwyn's of Anglesey have supplied some of the seeds, and i've a few of my own saved from last years prize winners, the garden is shaping up nicely, the new polytunnel will be up soon, and i'm hoping for some nice weather, so fingers crossed I should have some eligible fruit, veg, flowers and preserves for the show come september.
 I also need to try and beat the record I set at the show last year for the most expensive jar of chutney sold on the day..... my beetroot and orange preserve went for £5 in the auction at the end (it didn't win a card unfortunately) .... but it was delicious!! :)
 I shall keep you all posted on my progress..... and if we win the village show "challenge cup" you are all invited round to ours for a barbecue! :)

Chapter 4.... T.L.C.T.

  Tender Loving Care for Tools :)
Now I appreciate that some of you may find this post just a little bit tedious, as tool maintenance isn't exactly rip-roaring fun, but these jobs do have to be done every year nonetheless (but I hear you say, "just maybe not blogged about by some boring seedaholic".... so I shall endeavour to remember not to repeat it all for you next year ;)
 I decided that as I have a whole load of work clearing up the gardens ahead of me in the next few weeks, and the weather is currently more suited to indoor work in the evenings, now is the right time to clean up all my tools and show them how much I love them (and rather selfishly to make my life easier while using them :) after all... look after your tools, and they will look after you ;)

Stage 1. Cleaning
 Gather all your tools up and give them a good scrub off with a stiff brush, a damp cloth or some soapy water, but don't get any wooden handles too wet if you can help it.  Dry them thoroughly afterwards with an old towel (don't tell Sarah but I pinched a good one out of the house ;)

Stage 2. Repair
 Repair any damage or replace any worn parts on the tools next. I decided that the only bit I needed to replace this year was the blade on my secateurs as it was years old.... a quick trip to that magical mystery land "the internet" where you type what you want in the search box, a few passwords later and Bob's your uncle, one new Felco blade turns up on your doorstep..... sorted. Oh how i love online shopping!! :)  Other than that, the only other maintenence needed was a bit of rust removal on a few things..... but nothing that a bit of WD40 and some scotchbrite wouldn't fix.

Stage 3. Sharpening
 Out came the oil stone for this one, but a decent fine file or sharpening stone would do if you don't have an oil stone. Make sure all of your tools are sharp, they will work so much easier when you use them next.  I won't write anything about sharpening here, i'll tag on a link to a site at the end if you want to know how to do it. I prefere to disassemble my tools to sharpen them if i can, I just find it's easier to do a good job that way.

Stage 4. Oiling
 Once all your tools are clean and sharp, it's just a case of oiling the handles and rustproofing any bare metal.  Rub a good coat of Linseed oil into any wooden handles with a cloth (I love the smell of Linseed oil...... I might contact Calvin klein and see if they can add some to one of their after shaves :) then when the first coat has soaked in, stick another coat on to finish it off.  Then use an oily rag to wipe over any bare metal parts, or spray with some WD40, and that just stops any rust forming on the surface.  If you have stainless tools, you can omit the wipe with an oily rag if you like, as your stainless tools wont really rust anyway (I still oil mine however, but I think I have a touch of OCD :) For my spades and trowels etc I have an old bucket that I have filled with dry sand, then poured a load of clean oil into, and it makes a great tool for just pushing your trowels and forks into a few times, and it then cleans and oils them for you at the same time.

Stage 5. Sit back and admire your nicely maintained tools
 I have a feeling that I may be on my own here for stage 5.... who on earth sits back and admires a range of gardening implements for fun!?! ..... anyone??? ... just as I suspected.... only me :)

Here's a link to a pretty helpful site I just searched out for the sharpening info, which probably explains it all better than I could anyway....
Caring for your garden tools

 Well thats it people, my lecture is over for today. I'm all tooled up and ready to do some serious damage to the garden (well, that's if I can bear to see my tools dirty again :). Until the next time..... happy gardening :)

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Chapter 3..... A bit of forward planning.

  Welcome back for the third installment of my blog..... I hope i'm not boring any of you too much yet :)
 One of the first things on my agenda for 2011 was sorting out all of our seeds, and then trying to come up with a crop rotation plan for the plot. Sarah loves this part as it means I take over the entire living room and my side of the bedroom with seeds, books, catalogues and all manner of other gardening paraphernalia..... probably for about a fortnight or more :) I did just realise however, that while thinking about what to write here, I am actually a bit of a self confessed seed addict.  I can actually feel another urge coming on now!!!....... quick, where are my catalogues!?!  (my name is Simon, and i'm a seedaholic... apparently admitting it is the first step to beating it :)
 There must be around 130 packets of assorted seeds in and around the seed tray. I am a bit like a magpie when it comes to the nice shiny packets, or the lovely little pictures next to the blurb on the websites..... I just want to have them to try out :) (note to self.... try to remain calm when looking at new varieties this year)

 After sorting through them all, and remaining unusually composed, I only actually needed to get a few seeds for this years growing season (Sarah also decided she wanted some seeds after I had received my order, so I may have just sneaked another couple of packets in with her selection when ordering them.... mum's the word, ok? :)  Out came the seed catalogues, several evenings of studying with a drink in hand passed, and the selections were made... most of which came from The real seed company. I used them for some seeds last year and had great success with the health and vigour, and most importantly the taste of most of the plants, and I am also in great admiration of their approach to ethical gardening practices and encouraging others to do the same.  I have saved some of my own seed from last year as a result of their influence, so I am really looking forward to seeing the results when I get them growing this year. Oh, and I did have to get us a few seeds from Medwyn's of Anglesey at the last minute to try and grow some big show veg for the village show :)

 There were inevitably one or two selections from the other catalogues, including some rather exciting mushroom kits from Dobies which I may have a go at growing in the cellar, but I am definitely leaning towards the heirloom open pollinated varieties as much as possible, and then I can attempt to produce more of my own seeds each year to create my own strains of veg suited to my little micro climate at home.  As for garlic, onions and shallots, I already have some of those overwintering in the garden, but we did get a surprise delivery this week, I was like a little kid at Christmas tearing open that jiffy bag, but it turned out not to be the Congo potatoes I was hoping for, but more onion and shallot sets that I had completely forgotten I had ordered in the autumn.... I think we shall have enough onions and garlic now to feed the entire village! :)
 Potatoes have been ordered mainly from JBA seed potatoes who I have used before.  They provide a good service and top quality stock and they have a huge selection of seed to choose from. I shall have to start chitting them soon... Sarah equally loves that process just like the planning part, as I end up with trays of seed spuds in every windowsill in the house..... and 30kg's of seed spuds take up a lot of windows :)
 The crop rotation planning is coming along slowly (a friend of mine once thought crop rotation meant turning each plant periodically so that it got sunshine equally on all of its leaves :) I have so far designated areas for permanent plantings of Asparagus, Rhubarb, Artichokes, Strawberries etc, and then I have five areas loosely marked for anmy othernual plantings of all the other veg.  I still need to come up with some sort of plan for the new polytunnel which I hope to put up in the next few weeks, but I am in the process of reading a couple of books on that at the moment (I will probably still be none the wiser at the end)
 I am excited about trying Sweet potatoes, Passion fruit and Oca this year, aswell as one or two other new varieties which I have never tried to grow before.
 We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I shall enjoy every bit of it.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Chapter 2.... A quick recap on last year.

  Right then, down to the nitty gritty... Last year was our first year on the plot, and to be honest it was in a bit of a mess.  The vegetable garden and surrounding areas hadn't been planted or maintained properly for a few years, and as a result had reverted back to the way nature had intended it to be...... just minus any of the nice wild flowers or anything else asthetically pleasing!  The perennial weeds were revelling in the lack of attention however, and had grown to quite an astonishing size..... if only all my veg grew that tall and strong! 
The hedges around the plot were all well overgrown, and full of masses of brambles twisting through them. In several places the trees were beginning to overhang large areas and cast some dense shade for most of the day.  Some drastic action was needed, and out came the felco's. After about errr.... 3 minutes, I realised I was fighting a losing battle, and decided to take the easy option and get the chainsaw on the trees and hedges!!! Did someone say "short back and sides".
 Next I had to tackle the Ash tree saplings growing everywhere and get rid of as many of the weeds as possible to allow me to get a few plants in the ground come spring time.  I didn't want to spray it all with a herbicide and opted for the organic approach of trying to cut, dig and pull as much out as i could while digging it over...... hindsight is a wonderful thing :) I'm still fighting a never ending war against them all now, and boy oh boy do those young ash saplings have some serious roots!!!
 I must say that the feeling of uncovering that lovely dark soil for the first time (ok, it's sticky grey clay really) that was hiding beneath all of those weeds, knowing that before long you will be harvesting your own produce from it, is a wonderful thing. I'm sure Sarah got sick of me repeatedly saying "Look, i've dug a bit more" but she humoured me anyway and would often reply "brilliant" in a not even slightly sarcastic voice.

 Eventually, i got part of the plot looking nice, and the soil relatively clean, so i dug in some organic matter and put some nice neat rows of plants in.  Picking my first salad leaves from the garden after all the hard work was dare i say it, quite emotional for us (i'm a man, i don't cry..... alright!), but obviously they were the freshest, best looking and best tasting salad leaves (obviously my non biased opinion:) in the world. Crop rotation had to wait unfortunately, as the plants got thrown in anywhere i could get them in as soon as a space was clear, but i'm sure one year without any crop rotation won't hurt, as long as I get some kind of crop rotation plan into practice this year for definite (more on that soon enough :).

 When summer time came I was inundated with produce from the garden and the little old greenhouse, so much so that all my friends probably got fed up with boxes of veg being handed out willy nilly every time I saw them, but the excess kept us busy in the kitchen making preserves, pickles and other delightful jars of stored produce.  Gooseberry ice cream was one of the stars of the 2010 kitchen experiments..... it made your eyes water and your toes curl when you ate it, but I just couldn't put that spoon down!!

 September saw us winning two firsts at the village show with some hastily entered produce on the same morning that it was being staged (Sarah's idea), but two wins out of six or so entries was enough to make me want to win the Challenge cup this year!  The rest of the year then went downhill a little bit after that, as time became very short and things (mainly those darn weeds again) started to get on top of me as I didn't have anywhere near enough time around work commitments to get everything done. I am however still digging up various crops now, leeks, spuds, parsnips, carrots etc, and so on the whole I am absolutely over the moon with my first year on the plot, even if I have got a load of cleaning up to do again this year.
 I guess if I had to sum up 2010 on the plot, it would be 10 steps forward, 4 steps back, so i'm still 6 steps forward on the whole!! :)  Bring on 2011!!!!!

Chapter 1..... Getting the hang of "Blogging"

  Ok.... I have come to the conclusion that i'm better at gardening than Blogging (sounds terribly big headed i know).... but I have just spent nearly an hour trying to add a "Gadget" to my blog.... and I still haven't got it on here!!! Give me strength someone! I thought us 30 somethings were supposed to be IT literate and all that!!
 Well, i'm sure it will come to me eventually, but for now I just want to say hello and welcome to my blog about the 4 or 5 acres of gardens and grounds Sarah and I are trying to make a bit of an impression on this year.  The veg garden is the most important part for me, and growing anything for the kitchen, as both myself and Sarah love to cook, and then secondly trying to take the village flower show by storm later this year after getting a couple of firsts while testing the water last year. Aside from the veg plot, I shall also be having a go at all sorts of other things related to living the good life, if time (and Sarah) allow me.
 I shall apologise now just incase I start to ramble on a bit.. which people have said i do quite frequently to be honest.  I shall try and limit my waffle, and stay on topic as much as possible...... however, please forgive me if i do wander briefly :)  So without further ado.....  i now pronounce this blog "open"!!!