Chickens, Garden Birds, Garden design, Grow Your Own, Nature & Wildlife, Secret Garden, Vegetables

Catching up…

Well it seems it’s been a busy couple of weeks since I last wrote a post.  Thankfully, part of the reason for that has been some lovely weather – when the sun’s shining I’m not inclined to stay in the house and stare at a computer screen, I want to get outside and garden!

Some updates on what’s happening out there:

Sad news first – the blackbird nest which was in the ivy on the back wall has failed.  I went out one morning about a week ago to discover it was on the ground.  I don’t know what happened, perhaps it simply collapsed, or perhaps a fox or bigger bird came along and attacked.  I investigated briefly using a stick (it was hard to reach!) and couldn’t see any eggs but it was surprisingly solid to try to turn over.  Here’s a photo of Mrs Blackbird which I took literally the day before the nest came down…

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I felt quite sad for the pair – they spent so long building the nest and she’d been sitting in it for a few days before it failed.  However, it seems that this is common with blackbirds as their nests are so open and therefore vulnerable to predators and the elements.  The good news is that I think they are now building another nest inside a large conifer nearby.  Will it be third time lucky?  We’ll have to wait and see.

I have been watering like mad over the past few days.  The sunny and warm weather means the veg beds have been looking parched and the seedlings (cosmos, marigolds and zinnia) which are now outside in the growhouse need a drink almost twice a day!  They’re getting quite large now and I’m hoping to start planting them out in the next few days.

The raised beds are looking good – every one now has a little row or sprig of green appearing, with the peas/carrots/lettuce bed looking the most healthy of all.  I have high hopes for the peas, especially after they did so poorly last year.  The potatoes are now all sprouting, after my worry that they were nowhere to be seen, and even the little leeks are popping up…

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…I noticed these yesterday morning and could have sworn they were about a centimetre bigger by the evening after a day of sunshine and a liberal hosing!

I’m also making a fairly sizeable change in the front garden; I’ve removed a large ceonothus and another unidentified shrub which have been taking over a large section close to the driveway.  I plan to extend the rose bed and perhaps also use the space for bedding and dahlias.  It was a bit of a gamble as they took up quite a lot of room, but the space looks nice and clear now and is another corner to play with, so I’m happy.  Sorry no before/after photos because I forgot to take them!

Lastly, a chicken update: we are now getting three eggs a day, as Iona has joined her two friends and begun laying – hurrah!  She’s also developing her comb and her voice and likes a good cluck when you go into the run or if she thinks something’s amiss.  Perhaps the quietest hen will turn out to be the noisiest?!

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New layer Iona gets extra cuddles from Biggest Daughter 

 

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flowers, Grow Your Own, Plants, Secret Garden, Vegetables

Mr Smith

As promised in my previous post, just a few hours ago, I grabbed the opportunity to get out into the garden and I’m pleased to say it was a productive afternoon and evening.

I had to dodge a few showers but I managed to plant out pea seedlings, as well as sowing new pea seeds.  I also sowed early carrots, lettuce and rocket under a fleece mini-tunnel (the only one of two which survived the recent high winds).  In the same bed there was one square space remaining so I constructed a makeshift obelisk from some branches foraged from the woods just behind us (fallen, not cut!) and sowed a few remaining sweet pea seeds beneath it, with the help of my smallest daughter, who loves to pick the flowers.

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Pea seedlings

AND just before the light fell, I also filled in some space at the top of the potato bed with a few broccoli seeds – a bit of an experiment as I haven’t grown it before and, to be honest, we don’t eat much broccoli.  I reckon whether it’s successful or not, the chickens will benefit from these plants the most!

Phew – I got quite a lot done with the bit of time I had and am feeling quite satisfied that I’ve got a few seeds and seedlings into the earth today.

A word about my companion when I am sowing or growing vegetables – Mr Smith.  After we moved in here and I acquired the raised beds in the Secret Garden, my Dad bestowed upon me his copy of ‘Mr Smith’s Vegetable Garden’.

My Dad has been using this book since he began growing his own vegetables many years ago and swears by it as a very simple, straightforward guide to how to grow most veggies in your garden or allotment.  For each vegetable, Mr Smith lists the basic guidelines for How to Grow, possible Pests and Diseases and Storage and Kitchen Hints, plus a few simple line drawings for a bit of illustration.  I have just checked the front cover and the book was first published in 1976 (as well as a reprint in 1977 – the year I was born!) and the advice and guidance in it is as relevant now as it was then.  The book looks old-fashioned, but then I have a weak spot for ‘vintage’ gardening books – something I will definitely share in a future post…

Clearly Dad thought I could find the book as useful as he did as a reference point – and I do. Every year at this time I know I will bring out the book to check guidance for sowing my veg.  I don’t know who Mr Smith was – the Monty Don of his day perhaps – but he’s an excellent guide and adviser when it comes to growing your own vegetables.

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Secret Garden, Vegetables

What a load of crap…

Literally.

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I have recently acquired a fairly large quantity of horse manure, via the Head Gardener (aka Dad) whose village, apparently, has a Dung Day, when local farmers will pitch up with bags of fertilizer which you can buy at a very reasonable price.  Et voila – horse manure for my raised beds!

It’s a little bit of last-minute enrichment for the soil here, which I think could do with some help.  Last year’s crops were mostly poor and while the weather probably had some part to play, I think the beds have probably been dormant for a while prior to us moving in and the soil may be lacking in nutrients.  So I’m hopeful that chucking in a sizeable amount of poo – both horse and chicken – will help them on their way to becoming fertile containers of lush vegetables, fruit and flowers.

As well as digging some of the manure into a currently vacant bed, I also planted my potatoes – ten earlies (Duke of York) have gone into the top bed.  These beds are really big (I didn’t make them, I’m just the lucky soul who’s managed to inherit them from the previous owners!) so there’s still a bit of room in it for something else – I think I’ll probably also add some peas or sweet peas in the space that’s left.

So – currently in the beds at the moment:

Bed 1 – potatoes (10 Duke of York)

Bed 2 – empty (+ cloche to warm soil)

Bed 3 – empty (+ cloche to warm soil)

Bed 4 – 2 x raspberry canes planted last year (Autumn Bliss)

Bed 5 – 2 x rhubarb (inherited and moved from a different part of the garden); 4 x young strawberry plants grown from the runners of a large old plant; 6 x raspberry canes (Tulameen and Glen Something) and the re-sprouting Tayberry plant which I thought I had previously removed

Bed 6 – empty (+ generous amount of horse dung)

The Easter holidays are imminent – I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for some good weather to warm the soil so I can start sowing a few more seeds and filling all those empty spaces.

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The rhubarb is coming along – it’s already looking a bit healthier since its move to the bed.

 

 

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Garden design, Secret Garden, Vegetables

10 minutes digging

Sometimes spending just 10 minutes in the garden can be just as satisfying as a whole day.

This afternoon I grabbed the opportunity to do some digging – I’m anxious to prepare the raised beds for the new growing season and had a few spare minutes, so grabbed a spade and fork and got to work in the late afternoon sun.

10 minutes was enough to dig over one raised bed, incorporating a trug-ful of homemade compost.  It’s the bed I’m using for fruit and rhubarb.  There are two crowns already pushing up a number of vivid pink stalks , four small strawberry plants I grew from the runners of a very old one which has since been composted, plus the resurrected shoots of a tayberry which I (mistakenly) pulled out last year. There are now six raspberry canes soaking in a bucket overnight, ready to join this bed as soon as I get the chance to plant them tomorrow.

Look how good this soil looks – ready to grow lots of great stuff!

strawberry plant in the foreground – rhubarb at the back!

And here’s a reminder of just what my raised beds look like at the beginning of the year…


A bit bare at the moment, but I have big plans for this area – lots of fruit, veg and flowers in the short-term and hopefully a potting shed, maybe a greenhouse in the future.  I call it the Secret Garden, because it’s hidden behind a door to the side of the main garden, and there’s so much potential in it, both for growing things and for creating a very special private allotment.  Watch this space.

 

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