Tag Archive | Warming the soil

Removing A Conifer And Planting Onions & Garlic

I thought I would start by mentioning that my usual monthly blog post which covers ‘What to do in the kitchen garden in April’ can be found here if anyone is interested.  It covers what weather to expect in a  typical April, which vegetables and salads to harvest, which seeds to sow and what to plant and also jobs that need to be carried out this month.

So it’s well worth a read to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

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October 2014

October 2014

Last weekend we began chopping down the conifer on the left hand side of the photograph above.  This was a small conifer I bought approximately 14 years ago when it was about 30cm high.  The label said it was a slow growing conifer that should grow no more than a meter high!

Obviously I wasn’t expecting it to grow as tall as it did and it was totally unsuitable for the place I had planted it in…. I had to tie the tree to our wall to stop it leaning over, as there wasn’t enough soil for the roots to keep it stable.

So we spent a happy morning chopping it down and poor Mr Thrift nearly wore himself out sawing the trunk across:

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But we eventually managed it and I rebuilt part of the dry stone wall that the previous owner of the house built and I replaced some of the compost.

I have decided this year to plant some sweetpeas to climb up the wall and I will be planting a few wild flower seeds underneath.

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It’s been a real wet and windy week here in the Midlands and all the rain reminded me that I still hadn’t set up my two water butts that I brought from my old allotments.

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I decided to catch the water from my house with the first water butt and so I bought a ‘Rain water diverter’ to fix onto my drainpipe.

I have got to admit I have never done anything like this before, but I thought I would have a go.  Thankfully it wasn’t too difficult and I managed it on my own.

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I tested it to make sure it worked by asking my daughter to pour water out of her bedroom window into the drainpipe (not very technical) and I am pleased to say it worked.

The rain water diverter should channel rain water into the waterbutt until it’s full and then it will go down the drain as normal.  The plan is that I will add another waterbutt at this stage though.

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It rained the following night and it did capture some of the rain and I was very proud until the morning when I noticed that the seal around the tap was now leaking….I must have caused some damage transporting the water butt from my allotment back home.

I had to empty the water butt again to repair the seal and it will now take a couple of days to dry so I am still unable to use the waterbutt.

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Next week I am hoping to set up my second water butt to capture the water from my greenhouse.

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This week I tried desparately to plant my onions and garlic which I started off at the beginning of March in my cold greenhouse (I was a bit late planting my garlic, but I thought I may as well give it a go).  Every time I started to plant them, it rained so I had to stop. Finally we had a lovely day yesterday and I managed to complete planting them.

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Both the onions and garlic had grown well in my newspaper pots and I had prepared the grown where I planted them a couple of weeks earlier by raking in some blood, fish and bone and covering the area with clear plastic to warm the soil up.

I decided to plant the onions 10cm apart and each of the rows just 10cm apart too (usually I plant each row 30cm apart).  If you plant onions closer together you will get smaller onions, but there is method behind my madness……as my kitchen garden is so small, I have decided to harvest the rows in between and eat the onions when they are ‘spring onion’ size in salads etc.

I have planted 66 onions altogether and I am hoping that this way I will have more to harvest over a longer period and the remaining onions can then grow to a good size (this is the plan…I hope it works).

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I also made two ridges using my draw hoe and planted the garlic into the ridges.  Garlic tends to rot in very wet soil and I was very conscious of how wet the soil in my garden was.

(I am keeping my fingers crossed that I have got away with planting my garlic so late):

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On the ground next to my garlic I have used some old grocery boxes (that I brought home from my allotment), to warm the soil ready to sow some beetroot seeds next week.  The boxes are great as it’s easy to rest glass on top of them and they have a small area just under the glass which lets the air circulate too:

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Dispite all the wind this week, my broadbeans seem to be doing well, though I do still need to provide some support for them, to stop them from falling over when they are bigger.

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At the moment they are still looking quite perfect and I am not used to this, as usually at this time of year on my old allotment, I would always see the tell tale sign of the ‘pea and bean weevil’….. maybe because I am away from the allotment I may not suffer so much?

  You can see in the photograph below, that my broadbeans last year had little notches in the edges of the leaves.  This is the work of the ‘Pea and Bean weevil’.

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The adults are beetles that are approximately 4-5mm long, but they are very hard to find as they drop to the ground when they are disturbed.  Their larvea eat the root nodules of the plant in the soil.

I have never yet lost any plants due to the Pea and bean weevil as most broad beans seem to tolerate the damage, but in theory a bad attack could kill your plants.  I make sure that when I overwinter my plants, they are healthy by giving them a feed in the Spring with a general purpose fertiliser (I use blood, fish and bone) and if the weather is dry then I water them.  This way I ensure my plants can cope with an attack without the need to use chemical sprays.

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Elsewhere in my kitchen garden my autumn raspberries are now starting to grow.  I am very relieved as the soil was very cold and wet when I brought them home from my allotment:

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My chives will soon be ready to pick if them keep growing at this speed:

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And the daffodills that I planted a few weeks ago are still producing a lovely display, together with a pot of bulbs that I planted two years ago:

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So all in all the new kitchen garden is starting to come to life.

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At home this week:

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This week I have been making my laundry liquid again.  I get a real buzz when I think about how much money I have saved by using it over the last few years and it is so quick to make.

You can find the recipe for laundry liquid here.

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I also made some more dishwasher liquid using soapnuts, as this also saves money and washes our pots and pans well.  Again it is quick and easy to make.

You can see how I make the dishwasher liquid here if you are interested.

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So all in all it’s been another busy week and I am looking forward to a rest over the Easter holiday….but I’m not very good at sitting still when there is so much to do.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today, I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great Easter and a good week!

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‘Romantic’ Seed Potatoes

I was very excited this week as I purchased my seed potatoes (little things make me happy).  I like to buy them early so I get the varieties that I particularly like to grow.  I have chosen:

‘Marfona’ which are second earlies,

‘Picasso’ which are an early main crop and

‘Desiree’ which are red potatoes.

I bought the potatoes from a nursery in Enderby, as I like to be able to pick the exact number of seed potatoes that I need for each row at my allotment.  It was fascinating to see the amount of different varieties of seed potatoes that they stock.  I must say they have an amazing choice.

However, the best price per kg for seed potatoes that I have found this year, is at Wilkinsons.  Unfortunately they don’t stock the varieties I wanted, but If I wasn’t fussy then I would definately buy them from there.  They are also selling some potatoes loose this year for the first time, so you can also just buy the exact number of potatoes you require, rather than buying a bag.

I have now put my seed potatoes in seed trays to ‘chit’ them.  You don’t really need to ‘chit’ main crop potatoes but there isn’t really anything else to do with them until April.

As per normal, I am the most romantic wife around and I have the potatoes ‘chitting’ in our bedroom, as it is the coolest room of the house.  It’s a good job Mr Thrift is a tolerant man:

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This week at the allotment I removed the environmesh over my overwintering onions and weeded.  A couple of years ago I lost most of my overwintering onions to the ‘allium leaf miner’ (you can read about it here).  When I harvested my onions last year, they were great after I covered them with the enviromesh, so I did the same thing again when I planted this crop.

After weeding I replaced the cover again.

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I also forked my green manure into a couple of beds.  I sowed ‘Phacelia’ in the beds in late summer and then chopped it down just before it flowered, but I find it never seems to die completely and keeps growing.  So now, I cover it with weed suppressant for a few months to make sure it dies back and then I fork it in.

I then covered the two beds with plastic to warm the soil ready for my onions in February or March:

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I also spread some manure around my rhubarb plants.  I have placed a bin over one of my plants to ‘force’ the rhubarb.  This way I will have lovely pink tender rhubarb a couple of weeks earlier than my other plants.

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  I inherited the rhubarb when I took on my plot number two, so unfortunately I don’t know what variety it is.  What I do know is it is a very early variety and it’s actually starting to grow already:

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Back at home I have started my seed sowing.  I used toilet rolls filled with compost to sow my broad beans in.  I sowed an overwintering variety called ‘Aquadulce’.  I will leave them in my greenhouse until they germinate.  You can plant these broad beans directly into the ground at the end of October but I find that mine always seem to get eaten by mice, so by planting them at home it ensures success.

I also sowed my leek seeds and I planted some garlic.  I am a bit late planting my garlic but it should still be ok:

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I am still harvesting things from my allotment and this week we have had some cabbages, carrots and a swede.

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One of the cabbages was huge and I have loads left in my fridge:

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One bit of bad news this week is we finished the last of my butternut squashes (which were also stored in my romantic bedroom with my pumpkins).  I made a butternut squash soup and it was lovely and thick.

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Finally, I picked my last red cabbage from my allotment and I decided to make some pickled red cabbage.  If you have never pickled red cabbage before, it is really easy to do:

All you do is wash the cabbage, shred it and then cover it with salt:

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Cover it and leave it overnight:

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Rince the salt off the cabbage and then put the cabbage into a sterilised jar and cover with pickling vinegar.

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Leave for a month before eating.

Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back again on Monday at my usual time.

The Start Of A New Gardening Year.

I thought I’d start today by saying a ‘Big Welcome’ to anyone that has recently started to follow my blog and a big ‘Thank you’ to the Somerset Waste Partnership, who have included a link to my blog on their website here,  I feel most honoured.

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This week there has definitely been a feel of spring in the air, as temperatures have been mild compared to the cold, winter weather that we have had lately.

I have noticed that bulbs are growing nicely, the tiny shoots of my autumn raspberries are forming and unfortunately the weeds are starting to germinate.  In fact, I saw my first dandelion ready to open its yellow flower this week.  This is a stark reminder that the soil is beginning to warm up and spring is on its way and it’s now time to finish winter jobs.

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Before I went on holiday last week, I laid plastic sheeting over the beds that I will soon be planting my onions and shallots in.  This will help to warm the soil nicely for them.

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 I also planted my shallots in newspaper pots and put them in my cold greenhouse, to give them a head start.  Next month when they have rooted, I will plant the shallots, still in their newspaper pots, as the pots will compost down in the soil.  This will also help to stop the birds pulling them up, thinking they are worms.

I will show you how I make the newspaper pots in my  blog post on Monday.

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Also before my holiday, I cut back my Michaelmas Daisys, ready for the year ahead.  They look so unattractive at this time of year and yet they look so beautiful in the autumn and attract many beneficial insects:

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The rhubarb is going nicely now.  I don’t know what variety I have, as I inherited it with the plot, but it is a very early variety.

Two weeks ago I covered some of the rhubarb with a bin to ‘force’ it.  This will give ‘sweet tasting pink stems’ in a few weeks.

The Rhubarb at my plot

The Rhubarb at my plot

This week, I cut back my autumn raspberries to ground level, which is a job I do every February.  Autumn raspberries are treated differently to summer raspberries, as autumn raspberries bear fruit on the new year’s growth, so they can be cut right down to ground level at this time of year.

I have had my autumn raspberries for quite some time and unfortunately they have quite a lot of couch grass and bindweed in amongst them, so I decided it was time to dig them up and start again in a different bed.

I split a few roots and replanted them in a new bed with plenty of compost worked into it and in the next few days I will feed the plants by scattering some sulphate of potash around the roots.  I was very careful not to transport the weeds too.

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Another job I completed this week, was to dig up all my Jerusalem artichokes.  My family love these roasted in olive oil and my daughters eat them like sweets.

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Jerusalem artichokes are one of the easiest vegetables that I know of to grow.  Each February, I dig up any that remain in the soil and replant the biggest ones, approximately 30cm apart and 30cm deep.  Every other year I dig manure into the bed before I replant them and in November, I cut down the old stems so they don’t suffer from the wind dislodging them from the soil.  You can dig them up all through the winter when you need them, as they store really well in the ground and they rarely suffer from any pests or diseases.

One thing to be noted though, is they are thugs and once you have them you will find it hard to get rid of them.  So make sure you plant them in an area away from the rest of your vegetables, or you will regret it.

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Remember the area between my summer raspberries, that I prepared the soil and sowed grass seed in the autumn?…I have now edged it with a plastic ‘Lawn Edge’ from Wilkinson’s and gave it a quick mow on a high setting (as it was so long) and I think it has really made a difference:

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This week I have also opened up my oldest compost heap.  It is now 3½ years old and it contained all types of perrenial weeds.  As you can see all the weeds have completely died off and a beautiful, sweet smelling compost is left.

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This proves that perrennial weeds can be composted, provided they are left long enough to fully decompose.  So many books I have read tell people to burn them, which really isn’t a very environmently friendly thing to do.  This way you are returning them to the ground and adding nutrients into the bargain.

One thing to be noted though, there may be weed seeds in the compost, which is why I quickly hoe off the seedlings as they germinate.

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I spread some of the compost in my polytunnel, after I gave it a quick weed and dug up the last of my turnips and celeriac.

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The winter salads are doing well in the polytunnel and are ready for eating and I planted some ‘leggy’ broadbeans that I couldn’t plant earlier due to the wet weather in January.

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For those who are new to my blog, my dad has a small area on my 4th, newest plot.  He had his own allotment for many years, but sadly age caught up with him and a full plot became far too much to manage.  Last Spring, he asked if he could possibly have a small part of my plot to look after and I thought this was a great idea, as I can make sure he doesn’t do too much.

  I love it with him there.

April 2012

April 2012

So finally this week, I bought our old garden chair from our back garden at home.  I put it in a small area next to my dads patch, so he can sit down when he is tired.  I made a little table out of bricks and an old piece of crazy paving, so he now has somewhere to put his flask of coffee when he sits down.

I finished it off with some left over woodchip and I think he will be pleased when he sees it.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at 6pm.