Gardening in the Slow Lane

A day in the garden

July 20th

Lots of growth: chard , spinach ,broad beans being picked and first carrots and courgette. Mistakes: all squash seeds ordered turned out to be courgette!

July 19th Perfect combination

Sunday July 5th in the garden

It was fantastic to see this Scarlet tiger moth today. Commonly, it is found only in the South of the country on sand dunes and heathland. vipers buglos is a British native plant of coastal sand dunes. We collected seed down at Slapton Sands some years ago and it thrives on gravel and light sandy soil as a biannual. It is vital to create diversity in the garden to attract different pollinators; their varied mouth parts reach different shaped flowers.

This week in the Garden:

Stormy and wet, but great for the strawberries as rain came at the right time. More peas have gone out and others sown. Mice or wood pigeon have still got to seed even in when planted in guttering. So in all peas have been very slow off the mark.

Deadheading has been the other job this week.

A lot of rain has encouraged growth in the vegetable garden and weeds too . Plenty of weeding done Thinned out carrots which are under the net – decided to do this on a still day to minimise risk of carrot fly. Brassica plants are slowly establishing. We used our own elderflower and made a batch of cordial. The rest of time is spent dead- heading roses, pinks and scabious.

The garden in June is all about the vegetable plot and the roses.

Putting the bean canes in always signals the last of the planting out and completion of the veg layout ( not the work involved). Tying with snake and square lashing reminds me of Girl Guides. How thankful I am that I learnt how to tie knots correctly.

The week was in two halves. The first was scorching and everything put into the vegetable plot needed a drenching of water and plenty of good compost to stand a chance. Out went the purple sprouting, Kale ( cavelo nero) and sweetcorn. Repeat sowings of radish and lettuce were made and we planted out sugar snap peas as well as ordinary peas. Watering was the order of the day especially the strawberries (which are starting to fruit) and the pots. We filled quite a few pots with annuals bought on our first visit to the garden centre. The lawn looked like straw.

Then came the rain and a sudden temperature drop. The runner beans went out and are growing away. The strawberries are a good size but are ripening slowly . We have netted them as we spotted blackbirds and a squirrel helping themselves. Snails are trying hard to get through the netting. I am always amazed at how quickly the lawn greens up with rainwater. No amount of hosing can do what nature can in a couple of days.

The roses were at their best but with the rain comes blackspot ( you can’t have it all )! We have had a good show nevertheless.

The garden in May signals potential.

Starting early is key to getting as much done before the strength of the sun. Watering the cold frame is a must and all the pots. Yesterday, broad beans had yellowed and I thought over night what to do. I had dug compost in over winter, used general purpose fertiliser before planting. Broad bean- normally easiest by far- rarely require any attention until pinching out on arrival of black fly . What could be the problem ? Water or being eaten from the base or mineral deficiency.

Best solution with what I have to hand: spread some wood ash ( have no potash feed ) add some fish blood and bone, water in and mulch with rich compost from the heap. Hey presto – three hours on they are green.

This week in the garden:

Gardening dawn to dusk has been the order of the days this week of Half Term. The weather has both been glorious and challenging for the garden. Whilst some established plants love the weather and the hardened tomatoes cope being transplanted, other hardened vegetable plants have had to endure harsh sun and have needed a lot of watering. The roses have been the stars of the show and every bit as exciting as last week’s Gardeners’ World rose special. The other great thing to say is that we have managed to resist spending £100 for a compost delivery to fill the raised beds, mulch and pot up. Rigorously turning the four compost heaps from the first cut of grass has yielded enough seven weeks on. Also, using the hot bed system on the raised beds has been quick fix: paper/card, manure, grass clippings , compost.

Gardening dawn to dusk has been the order of the days this week of Half Term. The weather has both been glorious and challenging for the garden. Whilst some established plants love the weather and the hardened tomatoes cope being transplanted, other hardened vegetable plants have had to endure harsh sun and have needed a lot of watering. The roses have been the stars of the show and every bit as exciting as last week’s Gardeners’ World rose special. The other great thing to say is that we have managed to resist spending £100 for a compost delivery to fill the raised beds, mulch and pot up. Rigorously turning the four compost heaps from the first cut of grass has yielded enough seven weeks on. Also, using the hot bed system on the raised beds has been quick fix: paper/card, manure, grass clippings , compost.

The Garden and Hens

A bit of a love hate relationship exists – we love to let the chickens out and let them free- range but we have to accept that they choose what to eat and trample in .Newly edged borders resemble quarries in a matter of minutes once a new area becomes a dust bath. They are noisy- although to us they have become white noise. And so they are situated at the furthest lest profitable end of the garden, under the trees so that their plumage doesn’t bleach.

If have kept chickens for over twenty years, always pure breeds, from Marins, Cotswold Cream Legbars, Sussex, Scots Dumpy , Pekins and Orpingtons. Over the years the fox has had a fair share, so we now have a ten foot enclosure for our flock of Orpingtons. I have always had Orpingtons and they are by far the easiest in temperament. The cockerels ( and we have two) are docile with me and with each other; the birds through size are not flighty. However the Orpingtons ( favoured by the Queen Mother) are very loosely feathered making them look bigger than they really are and they feathers are easily dislodged by the cockerel and so take on an oven-ready appearance if not watched. I do use poultry saddles when necessary.

We have Buff Orpingtons and blue running with a cockerel of each. One hen is Splash bred from blues; Blue Orpingtons do not breed true. The splash hen is particularly photogenic although in winter she does go a rather reddish colour on account of being stained by mud.

The seeds are all in – the garden room resembles a greenhouse – maybe one day we will get a new one …..dreaming of a Hartley Botanic ! The cold frame is constantly full. Made last autumn, it’s weathered the winter storms. The glass from an ancient conservatory was used for it so I have to be very careful opening and shutting.

The Westerly wind has tested the garden to its limit- cardoons -growing by the day- are worst affected. The monkshood is tall and about to flower and the Acers in pots absolutely hate the wind.

Trying tomatoes – Costoluto Fiorentino – this year.So far only ones that are totally shielded are happy . I decided re-pot and leave a some out in the sun for the day . A westerly wind arriving at lunchtime ( although just a breeze ) showed how delicate they are. A few have been left in the in hut which is unheated and they seem to be hardening though growth is compromised. Tried these a few summers ago and the taste was superb. Haven’t managed to get any smaller varieties- if we get loads we will love tomato and mozzarella and pizza . I can always set up a stall! Getting a bit ahead of myself- track record with tomatoes is not great- must keep watching Monty. @TheMontyDon @bbcgwlive

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