Free Range Weather!

The weather has been glorious for nearly 2 weeks which means the hens have been enjoying lots more free time in the garden. I like to be outside with the hens while they free range, to keep an eye out for foxes. We are surrounded by farmland and I just won’t take the risk. The hens are all looking good after their late winter / early spring moult and egg laying has started to increase. We have 13 ex battery hens at the moment which is quite enough to be getting on with, we certainly have a constant egg supply! I cannot remember the last time we had to buy eggs.

It suddenly dawned on me last night that during my short absence from the blog I missed out an important date – Chrissie and Auntie Marge celebrated a year of freedom on 22nd February this year! From the photo above Chrissie is second on the left and Auntie Marge is first on the right, as you can see they look amazing for ex battery hens. Chrissie has health issues but she is doing OK.

The other 2 hens in the photo are Becki and Hope, they are also doing very well. Hopefully they will celebrate a year of freedom next month too, fingers tightly crossed.

Fruit Garden

A Weekend of Planting Fruit Trees

This weekend we added 2 new trees to our mini orchard. We now have 3 different varieties of apple – Scrumptious, Bramley’s Seedling and Cox Orange Pippin, a Marjorie’s Seedling plum and a Williams’ Bon Chretien pear. Our Scrumptious and Cox produced good-sized fruit last season but the plum skipped fruiting altogether. However, it is now smothered in blossom so fingers crossed for plums this year.
All our trees are on a semi vigorous rootstock because we have the space, so I have been learning how to prune fruit trees paying attention to the way in which each of our chosen trees produce their fruit. For example, the Bramley’s Seedling is partial tip bearer, which means that most of the fruit is borne on the ends of the branches. For this reason it is wise not to throw caution to the wind while pruning, otherwise you may end up with no fruit for quite some time.
Kitchen Garden

Sow and Grow Courgette

Last year was my first experience of growing courgette, I raised just a few plants and got a decent yield from them. This year I intend to grow more, dedicating one of my large vegetable beds just for courgette. They do need quite a bit of room, cramming them in too close will make it difficult to harvest them.

When sowing large seed vegetables such as courgette, squash or pumpkin it is best to sow the seed on its side (as above) to prevent the seed from rotting off, sowing the seed this way increases the chance of germination. I have just starting sowing mine in small individual pots and have placed them on a warm sunny window. Once the risk of frost has passed I will plant the seedlings out into their final position.

I might try squash this year seeing as I received a freebie packet of seeds!

Kitchen Garden

Beans, Peas and Poles

Now is a good time to start putting your choice of climbing support in place for your peas and beans before planting your seedlings out or sowing directly into the ground. Last year my attempt at supporting my rather rampant mangetout was quite frankly pathetic. The whole shoddy structure of poles, sticks, chicken wire and string ended up leaning right over due to the weight of the plants and threatened to collapse at any given moment. Luckily it just about stayed put.

This year I decided to make a similar but more sturdy structure for my peas using chicken wire and 10 foot bamboo poles. I weaved the chicken wire through 4 bamboo poles, tying any overlapping edges in with wire, then I pushed the poles into the ground going down at least a foot. You can use any height chicken wire it’s entirely up to you, I guess it also depends on which variety of peas you wish to grow. I’m pleased with my effort,  it does appear to be much stronger than last years sorry attempt so we shall see how it compares.

Mangetout tendrils really cling to the chicken wire which is why I like using it. I suppose I could have used pea sticks seeing as I grow the taller varieties but because I keep chickens I usually have lots of spare chicken wire lying around -it seemed like such a waste not to try to use it. Personally I don’t like using any type of plastic netting which is lighter in weight for the overall structure than chicken wire, I worry about wild birds getting tangled in it so for me its a no-no. For my runner beans I shall be constructing a ridge frame support rather than doing the usual pole wigwam, I found harvesting the beans growing in the centre of the wigwam rather difficult last season.

Which method(s) do you prefer using for supporting your beans / peas?

Chickens · Kitchen Garden

Change of Heart and Birthday Hens

Psssst. Can I come back? 

The weekend was wonderful. I spent so much of my time  in the vegetable garden sowing, weeding, planting and constructing support frames for peas & beans. Heaven. I started to think back over the past year – about how much the garden had changed and all the hard graft we put in. I’m starting to feel a lot better about everything, being out in the warm sun helped heaps.

I bought some leek seedlings at the weekend, never grown them before so I started to read up about them in my vegetable growing bible. I am quite fascinated by the way in which they are grown, it seems a very odd way of growing vegetables to me but I’m looking forward to giving them a go all the same. Whilst being geeky reading up on growing leeks, I remembered one of my old blog posts about growing courgettes. It reminded me exactly why I enjoy writing my blog – recording in photos and words what I achieve in the hope that it helps and encourages other novice vegetable growers to give it go. I’m finding year 3 of growing vegetables a little less daunting and much more relaxing – just as it should be. Mind you, we had a pig of a plot to tame, thank goodness that is done and dusted.

I threw a blogging wobbly about a week ago and nearly walked away from the blog, but I have since stopped flapping like a chicken and had a change of heart. If I were to abandon my blog I would miss it and also the readers that do take the time to leave me a small comment of encouragement. Perhaps if I stick to blogging every so often when the mood takes me, rather than trying to keep up with it everyday would suit me better. We shall see.

Today my original 6 ex battery hens celebrate 2 whole years of freedom, 2 have started laying again. They are approximately 4 years old now – fairly old for ex batts but I do know of even older ones. All my other hens are doing OK too, Chrissie is still here and scratching around with the best of them despite being quite poorly. Her prognosis 6 months ago was bleak, but she has remained under the watchful eye of  my avian vet so for now we are happy to let her continue being a cleaning glove thief! She has the most amazing character this little hen and I shall really miss her when her time sadly comes.