Earlier this year we planted our first blueberry bushes in lovely old bath tubs. I wasn’t expecting much from their first growing year to be honest, but was happily proved wrong.
Two blueberry bushes provided steady pickings throughout summer right through to autumn, enough to keep the blueberry fans of the family satisfied. It’s now November and we’re still picking berries.
I spotted this vintage mini trug recently from one of my favourite online garden shops, with berry picking in mind it’s perfect for the job.
The temperature has really dropped during the day and nights are chilly, the bushes are just starting to display their beautiful autumnal colour in patches. I’m so pleased we introduced blueberries to our kitchen garden, if you’re interested in growing them too take a look at our growing guide post https://thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/blueberries-in-tubs/ for helpful information to keep them happy.
We did a spot of autumn tidying in the veg garden this afternoon. The weather has been so lovely and mild for the time of year and the garden still looks so green and full of life.
I really struggle to pull things out before the first autumn frost has a chance to claim its victims. We did just enough tidying to make life easier for when colder weather does finally arrive but not too much tidying, frogs and toads are still active in the garden and they need areas of cover. I’m not ready to put the garden to bed just yet.
Beds that lay empty were weeded and topped with compost for planting garlic and sowing hardy broad beans next month, we covered them over for now with pieces of chicken wire (held down with bricks) to prevent cats from ‘using’ them. We picked yet more beans for drying and storing and Rich cut down tired runner bean vines to add to the compost bins. There’s always a hen or two around to help out.
The light started to fade very quickly due to clocks going back an hour, before long we were putting tools away in the shed and locking the chicken coops. Still, it was nice to be out in the autumn sunshine.
Although our garden is an absolute soggy mess, we’re the lucky ones, our home is dry and our animals are safe. We enjoyed Christmas without the worry of the weather outside our windows. Despite the many storms, temperatures are mild throwing nature into disarray. The wildlife ponds here are still heavily populated with frogs, usually they’re nowhere to be seen until February or March. I wonder if we’ll see some super early spawn? Daffodils are reportedly in flower across some counties which is crazy for December, butterflies are on the wing during dry days and bumblebees buzz angrily across the garden, looking just as confused as I am.
However, the vegetable garden offers the promise of food, which is always something to smile about. The first crops to make an appearance in our new vegetable garden are garlic and broad beans, constant mild temperatures ensured a successful germination ratio with the broad bean seed, just two seeds failed which is good going for me. I don’t hold a trophy for overwintering the humble broad bean.
If our broad beans make it through storm ‘Frank’ without drowning (he’s howling furiously and tipping HEAPS of rain down as I type this blog post) and the coming months too, after sowing another batch in spring we’ll be rich in beans. Rich I tell thee!
During a recent trip to a garden centre to buy a family birthday card (I know, odd choice but they do offer a great selection of cards and I couldn’t face the ‘sale crowds’ in the usual well-known card stores!) I spotted the net bags of early seed potatoes, the very thought of plunging the dear little things into our soggy garden made my top lip curl, so I passed on by, empty-handed.
I should mention the chickens seeing as the weather is so poor. They’re all doing well, even the oldies. Thankfully they’re tucked up warm and dry in their roofed enclosures although I think they’d prefer to be drinking from a muddy puddle, or pecking at the broad beans. On good days they roam, stormy days they’re in. I can’t risk them being blown over to the neighbours gardens. Just one hen going through a heavy moult at the moment, but she’s feathering up quickly rather than dragging it on, as some do. We’re collecting 4 or 5 eggs a day which is plenty for our needs, the pullets laying most days.
Well, I hope you had a great Christmas dear reader. The blog has been a bit quiet through most of this year I know, but the new vegetable garden is at last a real thing rather than a sketch on paper. I can’t wait to properly get my fingers in the soil and grow some lovely fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers for the pollinators.
Heartfelt sympathy to those dealing with flooding. Stay safe and Happy New Year xx
I’m sowing more tomatoes, so far I have 3 different varieties on the grow. Despite the unseasonably cold weather I’m remaining positive warmer weather will arrive soon. Well, you just have to really! I bought Black Krim tomato seed after seeing a very tempting photo of the fruits via Seed Parade on Facebook. The weakling that I am.
Somehow lots of other seed ended up in my order too. I’ve no idea how that happened. Oops!
I love the clear resealable seed bags, I often find seeds rolling around in the bottom of my seed tubs so this should avoid that problem. The seed is really easy to see too, I find it annoying when small seed gets caught in the fold of paper packets. I managed to get seed I wanted a lot cheaper by snapping up some of the sale prices via the Seed Parade website http://seedparade.co.uk
I just hope our gardening neighbour has plenty of room in his greenhouse, plenty of tomato seedlings coming his way soon!
Early this morning I woke to sun streaming through the window, squinting my eyes to adjust to the light the warmth on my face felt good. I stood at the window for a while, taking in energy from the sun as I viewed our garden from above.
I made a mug of tea and checked on the seed trays (as you do). Tomato seedlings are growing strong and I could just make out signs of life pushing through the soil in the chilli tray. I’m pleased to have tomatoes and chillies on the grow but I will wait a couple of weeks at least before sowing anything else, the weather is set to turn colder.
A sullen wintry sky returned by early afternoon, along with the promise of heavy rain, gales and sleet for the weekend.
I’ve been at it again, buying old bits and pieces, adding to my vintage gardening treasure trove. I bought this lovely old Sussex trug recently, using Christmas gift money given to me by my even lovelier Nan.
I’ve wanted an old Sussex trug, like, forever! I couldn’t think of anything better to spend the money on because every time I use it I will think of my beautiful Nan.
I don’t feel as if I’ve had a chance to really enjoy the spring bulb and fruit blossom display. Daffodils finished a while ago after flowering earlier than usual, the tulips put on a bit of a poor show this year (the few blooms we did have now spoilt by yesterdays heavy downpour and high wind). In the main, blustery and miserable weather ruined most of the pretty fruit blossom here, scattering pink and white petals everywhere against an angry slate grey sky. I feel a bit cheated.
However today is gorgeous, warm and sunny (hoorah!) and there’s still a splash of colour to be seen in the garden thanks to the Primula. Sheltered from the worst of the weather by the established shrubs their blooms were spared the onslaught of yesterday. Because of this, I’ve paid attention to these tiny little plants more than I usually do, appreciating their presence although they’re not really ‘my thing’. Our Primula were planted long before we moved here, call them old fashioned if you like I’d forgotten how pretty and robust they can be – our chickens scratch most of them to dust by early summer but they still come back every spring.
I’m actually looking forward to seeing them again next year.
I confess to not being a very patient person in many areas of my life, however, I’ve discovered that I am in fact a very patient gardener. For a whole year I’ve been waiting for Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli (PSB) to reward my efforts, I’m pleased to announce the wait is finally over. If you’re not a patient gardener, this crop is not for you. Sow from February, plant out from late spring and harvest the following spring. Now that’s a long old wait.
I will admit, wood pigeons set the harvest period back slightly, stripping the top florets just as they began to grow in February. I could have prevented that from happening by netting the plants, but, as regular readers to my blog will know, that’s not something I feel comfortable doing. The weather was awful in February, greenery and food were scarce for most wildlife (I do put out food for wild birds but the heavy snow kept covering it), with a heavy heart I turned a very blind eye to the destructive survival antics of the wood pigeons, remaining the ever patient gardener for just a bit longer than I would have liked.
At the moment, the pigeons no longer rely on my generosity to survive which means the PSB has had time to recover, right now it’s sending out side shoots of purple florets, just for me. I’m eagerly harvesting these florets, and jolly nice they are too. The more you pick the more you get, just don’t let those pretty purple buds flower, otherwise it’s game over. Would I grow it again? Probably. For the sheer fact that it’s a very tasty crop when little else is available in the vegetable garden. It’s rather expensive to buy in the supermarkets too, another good reason to grow it. Would I recommend PSB to other veg gardeners? Yes. If they have enough room….and plenty of patience.
I took part in a spot of garden retail therapy on Monday, rather than the other option of sitting at home scoffing my face, watching rubbish bank holiday TV. It really wasn’t a hard decision, I had Christmas gift money burning a hole in my pocket and I desperately needed new wellies. My current pair have seen better days and thanks to a hard stint at my new allotment plot last year they finally split around the sole, carrying out their dastardly threat.
Clutching a new pair of welly boots I browsed the rest of the shop at my own leisure, eventually making my way over to the seed racks. I felt like a kid in a sweet shop gazing at row upon row of brightly coloured seed packets. Admiring the selection of heritage seeds I made a purchase of ‘Selma Zebra’ climbing beans, they look really interesting plus I’ve never grown them before. Each year I like to grow at least one new crop or a few different varieties of favourites, I find it difficult to stop selecting seeds to buy because there are many choices (each one is justified of course) but I have to be realistic. Growing space limitations can lead to interesting arguments with myself, no doubt I amuse the other shoppers who stop to watch me reason with an invisible person in the seed aisle.
Other seeds I managed to convince myself to buy were Thompson & Morgan mangetout ‘Shiraz’ (being a red wine drinker this was an easy-peasy argument to win), also a type of woodland/alpine strawberry made it into the shopping basket because the tiny strawberries are carried high above the foliage on upright stalks, making picking a breeze. Then somehow during my seed selecting I decided I was going to beat the current 884lb Atlantic pumpkin record. I’m still puzzled at how I won that argument and I absolutely hope I don’t beat the record or get anywhere near it. What would I do with a monster pumpkin that size anyway? Oh and some pretty looking squash managed to win me over along with ‘Petit Pois’ peas, ‘Twinkle’ early peas and a variety of tomato that I’ve never tried before. Gosh that is rather a lot of new things to try.
It sure is cold and miserable out there but I have still managed to get a bit of gardening done. The last of the Leeks have been pulled (some were suffering from rust so were forgiven for looking a bit scruffy) and the plots given a good digging over and general tidy up with organic home compost forked in. I weighed down my collection of empty compost bags on top of the plots to help warm the soil for spring sowing, this should suppress the weeds for a while too. The sunflowers that were left for the birds to strip were mouldy and water-logged, no more seeds remained on the heads so these got the chop, bit of weeding and digging were needed to get the ground ready for spring. I just adore sunflowers and itching to get growing them again.
Already there are signs of life from the rhubarb patch, fat buds of Timperley Early are pushing through the soil just to tease me, I would love to force it but it needs at least another years growth with light harvest in order to make it a stronger plant. I shall resist the temptation. On the subject of forcing I have been hunting around lately for a terracotta forcing pot, they look so stylish nestled amongst the fat green rhubarb leaves don’t you think?
Seed potatoes are readily available now, just lay them out in a tray or egg boxes to chit with eyes uppermost in a cool frost-free place and by March /April they will be ready for planting out. I will probably get some Charlotte salad potatoes but I need to make my mind up on a main crop variety. I cut the autumn raspberry canes down and collected up what felt like a ton of leaves from the lawn for the compost bins and potted up autumn sowing broad beans – the bad weather claimed my outdoor sowing in December. With the constant wet weather I fear my new seeds will rot off in the ground, I don’t want to risk another disaster so germination in pots it shall have to be.
Daffodils are just starting to appear, lighter nights and a change in birdsong have me feeling all excited for the coming gardening year.
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.
The packing is now almost done, just the last few essentials remain. Its all very exciting and scary at the same time, but we are all looking forward to getting settled into our new home in time for Christmas.
Yesterday we spent some time in the garden generally cleaning and tidying around. A few pots of finished plants and veg needed tending to and the hens decided they would like to help ‘clean up’ the woodlice that ran out from under the plant pots, they mostly made a mess but they throughly enjoyed helping us out. After all their hardwork they were treated to a bowl of lettuce, dried mealworms, sweetcorn and grain.
This welcome sight for hungry bees and other beneficial insects is the flower of Fatsia Japonica, an evergreen shrub that’s as tough as old boots. After the flowers are finished tiny purple/black seed heads are food for small birds. We planted this shrub around 5 years ago and now it must be well over 10 ft high by 9 ft wide, every autumn it’s teeming with hungry bees when the creamy white flowers emerge. They are very similar to the flower spikes of ivy Hedera helix but are more than double the size. Flowering commences from the bottom of the spike which elongates as it matures, so it’s quite a spectacular plant when there are several spikes in flower.
Fatsia Japonica likes full shade or part shade, in full sun its deep glossy leaves will end up burnt and sickly looking but it will probably still cope!