March in the Garden Smallholding

The glorious sunny weather over the past few days really helped to warm the soil, I took full advantage by sowing more radish and the first of the beets (boltardy) covering the rows with a tunnel cloche which will help to keep the soil warm. I’m trying a different variety of radish called ‘Bright Lights’ (colour mix) alongside the usual varieties that I like, it will be interesting to see the different colours produced. I have been busy building a few more raised beds for the vegetable garden and taken my first harvest of rhubarb.

 

So, what else has been happening in the garden smallholding this month? Well, I planted Charlotte potatoes, raspberry canes and strawbs raised from runners, I’ve also been sowing broad beans, peas, mange tout, red cabbage, brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli as well as annuals and perennials to add a splash of colour,  encouraging beneficial insects to the veg garden plots. Speaking of wildlife, a pair of  blue tits are currently setting up home in one of our bird boxes which is very exciting to watch, another pair have decided to use the eaves of our house.

The greenhouse that I have saved long and hard for is currently being installed, I can’t wait to get inside it later and start sowing. I feel like a big kid!

Spring Flowers. What’s Your Favourite?

Fans of the simple but very beautiful daffodil will agree with me that every garden should be home to at least a few daffodil bulbs. You can’t really go wrong with this tough old bulb, shove them in the ground during the most miserable months and pretty much forget about them. Then, as if by magic, you’re rewarded for your lack of effort with dashes of golden-butter yellow, cheery nodding heads and blade-like leaves swaying on the slightest breeze  – whispering the song of spring.

 

What’s your favourite spring flower?

Potato Planting Begins

Seed potatoes have been chitting in trays on my windowsill since January and now have lovely fat shoots on them, last weekend I took advantage of the lovely weather and planted the Charlotte salad potatoes. Charlotte are a yellow-skinned, oval-shaped new potato which are perfect for barbecues and adding to salads, they’re a second early potato and can be planted out from mid March through to April, depending on the weather for your area.

There are many different ways and methods of planting potatoes – deep trugs, potato bags, containers, digging trenches etc, I plant mine into a long raised bed. Before I plant my seed potatoes I place them on top of the soil (approx 12 -15 inches apart depending on variety) spacing them out evenly, then I dig a planting hole for each seed potato using a hand fork (approx 6 inches deep) and pop a seed potato in with the shoots pointing upwards. After planting, I mound soil over the rows straight away. As soon as the top growth (leaves) emerge through the top of the mounds of soil, I carry on earthing up (covering the potato leaves with soil) using excess soil between the rows for as long as possible. 

If a late frost is forecast I cover the rows of potatoes with large pieces of thick cardboard, removing the cardboard first thing in the morning. Main crop potatoes will go out sometime next month once I figure out where to put them. Which varieties are you growing this year?

Pulling Rhubarb

My Timperley Early rhubarb is ready for pulling, yay! As its name suggests it’s one of the earliest to crop and known to be great for forcing too. My crown is now three years old, huge and healthy. I left it well alone in its first year, no harvesting at all which can weaken a young crown, then only lightly harvesting for a few weeks in its second year. Now it’s big and strong I can harvest sticks as and when I need them – right up until early summer.

To harvest sticks of rhubarb, grab a nice thick stem at the base and give it a gentle tug whilst moving/rocking it from side to side, it should pull away from the base easily. If it doesn’t then it’s not ready yet.

I will be pulling my first sticks of rhubarb this weekend for making that first delicious crumble of the year. I highly recommend this variety for a super early crop.

Planting Summer and Autumn Fruiting Raspberry Canes

 

I planted Tulameen and Joan J raspberry canes at the weekend, 3 canes of each variety which will be plenty for my daughter and I, the only raspberry fans of the family. If you’ve never planted raspberry canes before it really is very easy. The following guide shows how I planted the summer fruiting (Tulameen) canes – hand model my very bored better half!

 

Bash a post into the soil (I used 8 ft long pieces of timber) against the centre edge, at each end of the bed. Using large-head screws or nails, place one at regular sections all the way up both posts, say about a foot apart and even on both posts. Don’t screw/hammer completely into the post, you need to leave a gap to attach wire.

Attach garden wire by wrapping around a screw head, stretch the wire across till it reaches the other post and wrap the wire to secure. Repeat this until you have enough wire secured all the way up the posts.

Plant the canes in the centre of the bed, just in front of the first wire. Space the canes about 60 cm apart, firm in and tie the canes onto the wire. Water them in well. A long narrow bed is ideal for planting raspberry canes, I planted just 3 canes into my 6 ft long x 3.5 ft wide raspberry bed, if you want to plant more canes use a longer bed.

The autumn canes are in another bed nearby, I’ve grown Joan J before and love the flavour. No special treatment needed for autumn canes, just pop them in a well prepared bed – supports aren’t generally needed because they don’t grow very tall. Cut down all growth on autumn varieties in February or March, they will fruit on the wood produced that year. Summer canes grow tall and need support, they fruit on the wood produced the previous year. New summer canes that are produced this year will bear next year’s fruits and should to be tied onto a wire support system. Cut down fruiting canes once you’ve finished harvesting, this should make pruning summer canes easier!

Allotment Plot

 

I applied for a plot at my village allotments yesterday, I’m really excited and nervous for some strange reason! My name has been placed on a very short waiting list so fingers crossed I’m offered a plot soon. The allotments are brand new, everyone in the village had an opportunity to get a plot but I held back not wanting to rush in because I felt guilty for the growing space that I have in my garden, instead I waited until everyone in the village had a chance.

Now that I’m on the waiting list for a plot I don’t feel so greedy and it feels fair to me. I really want to be part of the allotment community, make new friends and learn a thing or two. I’m slightly worried that I might be taking on more than I can handle but nothing ventured nothing gained.

Freebie Strawberries

Last September I replaced some of my old strawberry plants with runners (baby strawberry plants) that were produced throughout the summer. The old strawberries were coming to the end of their productive life, so into the compost bins they went. I transplanted the largest runners that had good root systems outside in a new strawberry bed, covering each row with long plastic tunnel cloches during the worst of winter. The smaller runners left over from the end of last summer were potted up and left to overwinter in the mini greenhouse, just to give them a bit more protection. If you haven’t tried propagating your strawberries from runners give it a go this summer, it really is very easy to do and will save you money too.

As you can see from the photo the mini greenhouse specimens have fared pretty well and will be planted out into the strawberry patch with the others. They’re all young plants in the new strawberry patch and will probably fruit lightly, I have a few older productive plants dotted about so I won’t go without my beloved strawbs this summer.

Blackcurrant Scent

Is it just me or am I the only one who finds the scent of blackcurrant foliage irresistible?

It’s an unusual smell and probably not to everyone’s liking but I just adore it. Now that my blackcurrant bush is bursting into life with fresh zesty leaf bud, I’m finding the urge to smell it difficult to resist. In fact, I spend so much time inhaling the lovely blackcurrant aroma that I’m sure a leaf bud will disappear up one of my nostrils very soon.

New Chicken Photos

It’s been a while since I put new photos of my other hens on the blog. You may remember how Dot, Ethel and Poppy looked when they first arrived in 2009, a very sorry sight. Just look at them now!

Hover over the photos to see who is who!

Becki crept into this photo (front right inspecting the grass for something wriggly) she has bonded well with this group after losing her pal Hope. These 4 girls were all challenged in their own way, some still are and because of this they do better in their own group rather than being mixed with the bigger and stronger Lily and Emily. It just works out better this way and everyone’s happy.

Jerusalem Artichokes

I received some Jerusalem artichoke tubers in the post from a very generous person recently. It was a lovely sunny day yesterday so Rich made a new raised bed using off-cuts of timber lying around, then we got digging, (with help from some feathery friends) prepared the ground for planting and popped the tubers in. I’ve no idea how they will all do but hopefully they will soar upwards and reward with a display of flowers, adding height and interest to the vegetable garden – probably my main reason for growing them.

I don’t think I’ve eaten Jerusalem artichokes before, after hearing how they make you pass wind frequently I’m not in a great hurry to either!

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