Moving Compost

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We’ve actually got around to ‘turning’ a compost heap over.

That is quite and achievement here. We often fill compost heaps so high that we can’t possibly turn them over without creating a collapse similar if Everest gave way.

But we did it, in two hours in the rain. We kind of had to do it because, well, I needed more space for the onions and garlic. I’ve planted somewhere around 250 onions… we were given quite a few but it was good seeing as the cats have already dug some up…

But yes – back to composting – why do we ‘turn’ compost over? Why do we compost in the first place? Why not chuck it in one of those bins?

For shame.

Right, compost: organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as fertiliser and soil amendment. Compost is the KEY ingredient to organic farming. Despite the slug pellets, that is what we aim to do.

Have you ever read The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stemple? Do, its great.

You make your compost out of basically anything in the garden – that can be cut grass, leaves, old plants, some people choose not to include their weeds but I do because I like dumping them somewhere and feeling like I am recycling. You can also put your food waste in it. This might attract rodents, of course, but what about your tea bags, banana peels, veg scrapings? Those are all really good to rot down and so not worth giving to the bin man. You can put cardboard and paper on too – covering the heap with cardboard is a good way of helping it to rot down.

But why should I compost?

  1. Saves money – do you know how expensive compost is?
  2. Saves resources and reduces negative impacts on the environment by avoiding chemical fertilisers.
  3. Improves soil – it feeds it with a diversity of nutrients, improves soil drainage and increases soil stability.

Compost takes time. It can look messy. But it is so worth it for a gardner. It is an investment.

So, if you don’t know already, ‘turning over’ the compost bed is aerating it. It gives it a flush of oxygen that encourages the bacteria breaking it down not to remain sluggish. It therefore speeds up the process, sometimes by weeks.

To aerate your compost, fork or shovel the compost into a newly set up enclosure next door to it. It is that simple. If your pile isn’t as big as a mountain.

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March – sowing and growing

There are too many plants that can be started off indoors/outdoors in March to name! But here are a few to get you started…

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Carrots – Carrots – sown one trench outside under fleece

Spinach – Salad – Spinach – planted out ‘Turaco’ spinach sown last autumn in a cold frame with fleece and started off indoors ‘Barbados’ and ‘Emelia’, onto ‘Samish’ soon…

Lettuce- Salad – Lettuce – planted out lettuce sown last winter in the cold frame with the spinach and sown some seeds indoors

Radishes – Salad – Radish – sown outdoors under fleece between other crops

Celery – Celery – batch sown indoors

Celeriac – Celeriac – ”

Courgettes – Courgettes – sown indoors

Squashes – have yet to plant ‘Honey Bear’ and ‘Sunburst’

Quinoa – Quinoa – batch sown indoors

Chickpeas – Sown indoors, first time trying them this year!

Broad beans – Broad Beans – ready to plant out under fleece

Peas – started off indoors but can be sown directly now – post hopefully coming soon…

Okra – Okra – couple damped off so planted some more indoors

Rocket – Salad – Rocket – sown indoors, not doing so well…

Watercress – sown indoors

Herbs – sown the parsley and coriander so far

Fenugreek – damped off, need to sow some more indoors

Cucumbers – Cucumbers – sown indoors, doing best at moment, please stay that way!

Tomatoes – germinated very well indoors

Potatoes – time to think about planting them outdoors under a lot of earth and some cover

Turnips – just sown some

Purple Sprouting Broccoli – just sown some (as well as some more Calabrese Broccoli) indoors AND just harvested first batch of last year’s crop the other night to have with some of the last dug up potatoes from last season with baked beans, cheese and frozen homegrown runner beans – yum!

Leeks – Leeks – indoors

Spring Onions – indoors

Beetroot – indoors, on my list

Cabbages – Cabbages – ‘Red Rodeo’, ‘Advantage’, ‘Caserta’ – sown indoors

Brussels Sprouts and Brukale – Brussels Sprouts – quickly sow before it gets too late

Kale – The last of the Kale

Sweet Corn – on my list but I know from experience that I can still get away with sowing it in May, indoors

Rhubarb – Rhubarb – time to feed and start forcing

Fruit Trees/Bushes – time to feed!

There are bound to be plenty more veggies to sow/plant out as we plough on through the first month of spring. Temperatures are finally warming up but hang onto some fleece – the fruit trees might be lured into a false spring, deadly for blossom and fruit production… Make sure anything you sow outside/ plant out is wrapped up under cover, nice and snuggly. It will be a shock to the system if they are exposed to Britain’s ‘spring time’ too early!

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FLOWERS TO SOW INDOORS:

French Marigolds

Cosmos

Viola

Lavender

Geraniums

Calendulas

Lupins

Sweet Peas – they are ready to plant out under cover

There are BILLIONS more… 

 

February Sowings

List of edibles you could start sowing indoors in February:

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Cucumbers: Passandra, Marketmore, Crystal Lemon.  For more information on planting cucumbers, visit my cucumber page: Cucumbers

Calabrese Broccoli – Ironman F1 – Calabrese Broccoli

Cauliflower – All Year Round

Spinach – Emilia and Barbados Salad – Spinach

Peppers – Californian Wonder

Aubergine – Black Beauty Aubergine

Rocket – Salad – Rocket

Onions – bulbs (outdoors under cover) and seeds

Shallots – seeds

Brussels Sprouts and Brukale – Maximus and Petite Posy Brussels Sprouts

Lettuce Salad – Lettuce

Tomatoes – Shirley, Gardner’s Delight, Sungold, Losetto…

Radishes – Salad – Radish

First early potatoes (outdoors under cover)- e.g. Swift, Red Duke of York, Epicure, Rocket The MIGHTY Potato

Garlic (outdoors) Garlic

Herbs indoors

Beetroot – Bolthardy

Spring Onions

Cabbages – Caserta

Oriental greens – e.g. komatsuna, pak choi, mizuna, mitzuna)

Okra

Cape Gooseberries

Rhubarb (forcing time) Rhubarb

Broadbeans – Masterpiece Green Long Pod, Aquadulce Broad Beans

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I’m bound to have missed lots – anyone got any ideas to share??

 

A January Growing List

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Here’s some inspiration of what to start sowing (indoors) in January:

Aubergines (I’ve sown some Black Beauty seeds)

Peppers (Sown California Wonder)

Calabrese Broccoli (Ironman)

Cauliflower (All Year Round)

Peas (Meteor)

Sprouting Seeds – think speedy cress, sunflower seeds, beansprouts, alfalfa etc.

Herbs – parsley, coriander, dill etc.

Rocket (Buzz, Trizona)

Baby Carrots (cold-frame outdoors under a lot of fleece)

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Have you got any suggestions? Please feel free to share! 

 

2016 in the garden

2016.

What did well this year in the lovely veg patch?

Potatoes – chitted out from leftovers from 2015’s crop. They did very well, particularly the ‘Picasso’, ‘Foremost’, ‘Charlottes’ and ‘Purple Danube’, ‘Sarpo Nero’ types. The ‘Sarpo Mira’, light pink ones, didn’t do too well. They grew to a fabulous size but were slug attacked/wormed too much to be useful and seemed to get effected by the blight more than the others.

Spanish Tree Cabbage – thriving still almost too well. The chickens love it though!

Savoy Cabbages – did surprisingly well, still harvesting. Delicious.

Kale – grew well, a little too good for caterpillars.

Brussels Sprouts – lots of good sized sprouts, not too big not too small. Strong tasting, yummy.

Brukale – really like the taste of these and they grew really well.

Cauliflowers – very poor, not much of a surprise! Only got a few mini heads this year.

Broccoli – did very well, delicious and beautiful, looked as perfect as something you would buy in a shop. Very impressed with ‘Ironman’ and can’t wait until next year’s batch.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli – so useful and yummy to have as an early crop while you are still waiting for your other crops to get going.

Swedes – they eventually germinated and grew well. A few too many, will limit it next year.

Turnips – eventually got some to germinate. Wish I had sown a couple more.

Tomatoes – didn’t do too well, not very prolific due to our neglect but they carried on producing into this month, good little babies. A crop to look after more next year.

Cucumbers – very prolific, too prolific! ‘Passandra’ and ‘Crystal Apples’ so delicious. Miss them!

Courgettes – wow, these were prolific! We were swimming with courgettes. ‘Defender’ was true to its word and they escaped powdery mildew. Too many for us to cope with but so tasty.

Pumpkins – only grew one pumpkin and it was enough. Perfect for our Halloween carving, beautiful.

Squashes – I think I might be taking a break from growing squashes next year. We have too many in the freezer to use up. Not particularly prolific, the ‘Sunburst’ and ‘Honey Bear’ in particular but we prefer courgettes anyway and are just not a squash family at the moment. I think we need a season’s break from them.

Aubergines – did very badly, not a good growing season for them. Will try again this year. Got enough to make a ratatouille and to grill a few but they were very chewy and not at all well-developed.

Peppers – got none again this year. Bad growing conditions. Will try again next year.

Sweetcorn – did very well but got neglected by us, picked a little too late. What did get eaten was delicious though. ‘Swift’ is recommended by me after growing it for 2 years.

Quinoa and Amaranth – grew very well, shame the harvested products are still sitting unloved in the kitchen… will be grown again and hopefully find time to use them next year!

Celery – did very badly, got a nasty blight that stopped it from ever really growing to a good size. Ate all the good bits though and they were tender and tasty. Grew just the right number, unlike last year when I grew way too many.

Celeriac – have not been brave enough to try one yet – I will let you know!

Leeks – did very well. Real Seeds Company: ‘Blue Lake’. Brilliant.

Onions – ‘Electric’ got neglected otherwise they would have done as well as the ‘Radar’ ones that were SUCH a success. All our neighbours were obsessed with them. Big, delicious and just beautiful! Only just started buying onions again from the shops and it made me cry.

Shallots – only got one. Onions better all the way.

Garlic – very good and big bulbs. Enough in the ground, won’t need to pant anymore next year.

Broad-beans – didn’t do well. Only got a few and not enough to even freeze. Try again this year, needed more feeding I think.

Spring onions – finally got some good sized ones, we are getting there!

Beetroot – YES. Success, finally got HUGE beetroots. Shame I don’t like them… will be sowing a lot less next year for the few in my family and friends that do.

Carrots – done so well. Still pulling some up. Big and delicious and in good condition.

Radishes – great.

Lettuces – very prolific. Very good. Perhaps too many but it didn’t matter, the poultry got to enjoy them too!

Spinach – pretty good, not as good as the year before, will be doing more next year.

Watercress – eventually did very well, has been a life saver this winter. So much more tastier than shop stuff.

Rocket – very good, love it. Very quick and easy to grow.

Herbs – parsley, coriander, dill did very well. Summer Savoury did not.

Cape gooseberries – surprising prolific. Few too many!

Okra – just enough ,very good, surprisingly!

Fruit: plums, apples, pears all did very well, just enough for us all to enjoy. Raspberries did SO well, freezer full of them for raspberry jam. Perfect amount of blueberries, did very well too. Just enough blackcurrants for jam. Lots of redcurrants, need to make more jelly… Strawberries did very well, first time, still obsessed with strawberry jam. Gooseberries and jostaberries, tayberries, wineberries – all the crosses did well. Rhubarb was amazing, just right. 5 little new cranberries to add to the xmas cranberry sauce which was fun. Quite a few morello cherries, delicious in cake.

Peas – did pretty well, much better than previous years. Could still have done with some more for freezing for the winter. Delicious.

Runner beans – very prolific, as always! Got so many in the freezer, thank you mum. We are enjoying them as our green over these winter months. Lovely to have them on Christmas day like last year.

I have hopefully covered everything…

Next year’s ideas?: Thinking of looking at some other pulses, like kidney beans or chickpeas. Mum is dreaming of growing grains, like oats… oh dear.

Happy New Year Everyone! See you in January for planting indoors the aubergines and peppers!

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The Green Prescription

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/wellbeing/health-advice/do-you-need-a-green-prescription/

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I hope the link above still works, it is rather old in the news of the world timeline now. I read it in my grandma’s paper she hands onto us for the chicken houses and I was very pleased to see that someone else had discovered the benefits of being 1) outdoors when you are unhappy/stressed/depressed/insomniac/anything horrid, and 2) how gardening can strangely benefit your mental health when you are feeling blue.

As someone who was introduced to gardening in a rather bleak part of her life, I really believe in this cure. Any problems I have, any doubts are (unfortunately not completely cured, it is still not the Disney magic we all need) washed away or quelled. I do not know what it is but gardening and being outside really can lift the spirits and make someone feel top of the world.

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I have read before about how the soil contains bacterium that boosts serotonin levels, the hormone responsible for regulating our mood. Humans have been aware of the healing values of gardening for a long time. Court physicians in ancient Egypt prescribed garden walks for the mentally unwell. Roman satirist Juvenal exhorted us to ‘live as a lover of the hoe and master of the vegetable patch’. Gardening was used as therapy for war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. As it is Mental Health Awareness Week, it is probably a good time to post this on my documenting/gardening blog. It might help someone.

So if you are very feeling low, try stepping outside and taking in a deep breath of fresh air. It really can clear your lungs and head. If you are ever feeling angry or stressed or like hitting someone or shouting and screaming, go and pick up a spade or fork and (do not attack someone) start digging in the dirt. If you are crying, weed a flower bed. If you don’t feel like eating, grow and tend your own nourishment and watch in fascination as it becomes a huge being from a tiny seed, all for you. If you can’t sleep, take a long walk or bike ride somewhere green or dig until your legs can’t hold you up anymore.

This is the green prescription and a way of life that we all probably need.

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