Posts Tagged ‘Garden’

Our four-year crop-rotation fantasy plan

Getting to the end of our first year in the garden, we’ve been a bit chaotic. Digging beds just in time to plant chitted potatoes, or seedlings outgrowing their seed trays, and we’ve only managed to get three-and-a-half of the eight beds dug (each bed is 5ft x 20ft, and double-dug)

I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and plan it all out properly, ready for next year, and – several books later – I have got a full four-year crop-rotation plan mostly complete: Our Crop-Rotation plan (pdf)

Now I’ve just got to dig and manure the remaining beds, and buy a million-or-so seeds. It’ll be interesting to see if reality even slightly matches the plan . . .

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Planting our tomato seeds

We’ve been taking (false) hope from all these false springs and started our January plantings with tomatoes. Planted them in little seed trays in an unheated propagator on January 24th on a beautiful south-facing windowsill and here’s the result two weeks later:

They are Beefsteak tomatoes “Big Boy” and Sweet Olive cherry tomatoes, and have been going really well. They survived a week of us being on holiday and a couple of days ago were ready to be potted up. I really wanted them to go straight into the polytunnel, but that is still dropping to near freezing overnight, so now we have them lined up along the windowsill in the kitchen

Before potting up:

And all the beefsteak seedlings, now without propagator lids, on a slightly cooler windowsill:

We didn’t have space, or enough pots, for the sweet olive tomatoes – they’ll have to hang on for another week or so.

Feels great to be growing seedlings again!

Starting our “allotment”

Purple Sprouting BroccoliOK, don’t get too excited, we haven’t got to the top of the 15-year queue for allotments. What we are doing is starting to turn large amounts of turf into productive garden beds. In addition to the Aquaponics system we have in our polytunnel, we are going to have eight conventional allotment-style beds. Each will be 5’x20′ and we’re going to try the planting styles detailed in the excellent “How to Grow More Vegetables: And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops Than You Can Imagine“. This means we’re planting a lot closer together than the instructions on the packets, and we’re not planting in widely spaced rows.

According to the book, this should give us maximum yields with minimum weeding and we should be able to reach every plant in the 5-foot wide beds without walking on the beds at all. The downside? It’s all about the soil! So that means digging . . . lots of digging. And compost . . . lots of compost.

Luckily we seem to have really good, deep topsoil. From digging the holes for the sumps in our aquaponics system I know it goes down about three feet. Unluckily it has had turf on it for a long time and so it is incredibly solid – too compacted to consider planting into, and it’s causing real drainage problems. So, we dig, and dig, and dig. The book calls for double-digging which is hard work but at the end of it the difference is amazing. These big thick slices that we’re levering up break apart into a beautiful fine soil and with plenty of compost mixed through it is finally possible to think of this piece of ex-lawn as a possible vegetable garden.

The hardest bit is getting rid of the turf. Lifting and shifting it took far more time than doing the eventual digging so we’re going to have to work out a better way to do that. The result is a little underwhelming, but we’re happy with it:

Allotment bed

That’s half of one of the eight beds – it’s 10’x5′, fully double-dug with a couple of big bags of compost dug through for good measure. We’re now planting it up with over-wintering onions (red and white), garlic, and purple-sprouting broccoli. This is our first real go at growing our own food, so wish us luck! Hopefully the slugs haven’t eaten it all yet!

Organic Slug Control

Slugs When I went out last night to take some pics of the new Almond trees we’ve got I noticed that the wet weather seemed to have woken up a whole cohort of slugs. It was incredible – I collected this pot-load of slugs in about five minutes, just by strolling around the edges of the lawn, and having a look at their usual favourites. To have an up-front and gruesome look at them just click on the pic to get the full-size effect.

If I was being scientific about it I’d claim that this Hosta was planted as a Companion Plant to decoy the slugs from other things we wanted to protect. However the reality is that slugs and snails just love Hostas, and this is the result:
Slugs on the Hosta
I got three slugs off this one plant – you can even see two of them in the pic – the one in the bottom left was over six inches long!

Having collected them all, how was I going to get rid of them? I opted for the tried and tested method of chopping them into little bits with the trowel. It’s a lot more face-to-face than sprinkling them with salt or covering them with boiling water, but for the sake of my Karma, I thought a quick, clean death was best.

Not sure if I’ve made a great dent in the local slug population, but there certainly weren’t any more waiting for me when I strolled around later. I’ll have another look tomorrow and assess the scale of the invasion!

In doing a bit of research on this I found some great links, and now know far too much about this subject. Apparently the tool of choice is a needle on the end of a stick, and a head-torch so that you can go strolling around the garden at night. Apparently if you do this you can end up with hundreds! I think I might just try and encourage more frogs, toads, hedgehogs and beetles – and maybe add some nematodes too.

Resources

Planting Almond Trees

Almond Trees Just took delivery of the first trees for the forest section of our eco-house garden.  These have a dual purpose – they’re also the trees we’re planting for the littlie’s naming day we’re having on the weekend. These are Almond trees – Prunus Dulcis ‘Robijn’. And apparently we can expect them to fruit, even up here in chilly wet Manchester. OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, I think we will need to get some sun to get reliable fruit on them. This particular variety don’t flower until May so if they’re in a nice, south-facing sheltered area the flowers should avoid frost and therefore survive to fruit. And just in case I’m wondering what those Almonds would look like – there is one on each tree!

An Almond Another Almond

They’re pretty impressive trees – probably about 180 cm tall already, lots of nicely pruned branches. It’s been quite hard getting tham at this time of year (most of the trees we’ll get will go in bare-rooted in November time) but we found these potted trees at Flora Select and they have been really helpful all the way through the process and delivered them on the day they said they would. Here’s the info they have on these trees:

Prunus dulcis is a small bushy deciduous tree native to Asia and North Africa having pretty pink blossoms and highly prized edible nuts enclosed in a hard green hull.
Fruiting will start two to three years after planting. The flesh of the fruit can be eaten as Almonds are closley related to Peaches and Nectarines.

Plant in well drained fertile soil. Avoid heavy pruning as Almonds flower on second year wood.

  • Eventual Height: 4 mts
  • Eventual Spread: 4 mts
  • Full Sun
  • Deciduous
  • Fragrant
  • Flowering Time: April-May

Now I just have to dig the holes ready for the planting to happen at the Naming Day party on Sunday! That’ll be fun.

Our wartime Victory Garden

OurVictoryGarden

The bottom half of our garden was a victory garden during the war – and we’ve managed to get hold of a picture! It’ll be very interesting to compare the traditional row-and-path planting they’ve got here with the wide bed garden that we’re planning.

Many thanks go to the previous owners for leaving this picture for us!

A beautiful wartime Victory Garden

A Wartime Victory Garden
I saw this picture as a kid and it has stayed with me all this time, inspiring my concept of the beautiful, productive potager. I just found the book again – as we’re getting all our old books out of storage following our recent move, and decided to share it. I’m not sure I can even identify all the vegetables they have in that garden, but it is an amazing layout – although I’m sure it could be a little more productive, and I’m not sure they’ve got their companion planting right 🙂