28 February 2012

Necessity is the Mother of Invention .........

For the last couple of weeks my mum has really been getting into planting her seeds. She has even started getting into the whole biodynamics thing, in fact she is now almost as much of a geek on the subject as I am which is saying something :-) and as a result, I'm now itching to plant something myself. A distinct lack of funds at the moment means I can't afford a greenhouse just yet and it's really not warm enough to plant things straight outside, so today it was time to put Plan B into action. When I made my raised beds a couple of weeks ago, I bought some pointy stake things that you hammer into the corners of the beds but unfortunately I bought the wrong length and no matter how hard I hit them with the hammer they just wouldn't go any deeper. Necessity being the mother of invention and all that I came up with a cunning plan to turn my raised beds into temporary mini polytunnels. I managed to get some nice thick plastic sheeting for the bargain price of 55p per metre and after adding a couple more stakes halfway down the beds and stapling the plastic down one of the long edges I pulled the plastic sheeting taught and weighing it down with bricks and .......Voila ...... instant polytunnel.

I would just like to say a quick thank you to my mum who knitted these amazing gloves for me and sent me these wonderful Aquilegia seeds which I will be scattering on my flower beds after I have finished weeding them :-)

26 February 2012

Compost Bin

Well, I am very happy to say that, rather than using the writing of this blog as an excuse not to go into the garden and do things, as I feared I might, it's actually spurring me on to go ahead and get things done, not least so I have something to actually blog about. For the last few weeks, I have been meaning to build myself a new compost bin because the plastic thing I have had for years and years, which sort of slots together at the corners, falls apart at the slightest gust of wind, scattering the compost all over the garden. Last year, I added upright fence planks to my front garden fencing, sort of like picket fencing, to make it look a bit more presentable than the post and rail fencing I had put up previously to keep the horrible neighbours out and to keep my lovely dogs in the garden safe and sound. I was going to paint them green so they kind of blended in with the surroundings and had already painted about 30 or so ready to put up around the part which is directly next to my neighbours property so I could get it done quickly one morning while they were out (trust me they are really the neighbours form hell!) Long story short ... I think I have changed my mind about the colour ......maybe .... I just can't decide! I'm now thinking pale blue or even cream, which has left me with the dilemma of what to do with the ones I have already painted. It's probably not possible to paint over the green wood stain, I'm too scrooge-like to throw them away and it seems a waste to burn them on my fire so on to plan B. The intention is to use some of the painted fence planks and some 2x2 to make a nice big solid compost bin so I don't have to waste all the grass clippings and kitchen compost. Today, as the weather has been lovely, I decided to give it a go. I spent a happy couple of hours hammering away using all the ready painted planks and basically making it up as I went along. The result ....... a roomy compost bin with a lift up front panel so I can just lift it out and tip the wheelbarrow in and I have to say ........ I am very proud of it :-) I did find a good couple of links on how to make a compost bin if you don't want to blunder about making it up as you go along.

18 February 2012

The Great Biodynamics Experiment Begins ........

Well, the time has finlly come to start my biodynamics experiment..... it's so exciting :-) For the record and before I start, I would just like to say that I'm not endorsing Jamie Oliver products, they were on special offer at my local garden center and I'm too much of a scrooge to pass up a bargain. I have also been collecting the wooden fruit crates for a few weeks now and had intended to use them as containers to grow things like salad leaves and strawberries, however, they turned out to be the perfect containers to try out these experiments. I realise that this might seem like an awful lot of trouble to got to just to grow some veg but I have been reading about biodynamics and there definitely seems to be something in it. Even the National Trust have started growing flowers and vegetables using biodynamic principles so if it's good enough for them it probably should be good enough for me and worth looking into further. The experiment part is purely selfish and having spent 4 years at uni studying environmental science and sustainable environmental management, the chance to do a little experiment satisfies my inner geek :-) . According to the calendar in my book "Gardening and Planting by the Moon 2012", today is apparently a fruit day and not a good day to be planting garlic, so today I will be planting some garlic. According to the calendar, tomorrow is a root day and ideal for planting garlic, so again, ....... I will be planting some garlic. The idea is that I will plant one lot of garlic today and one lot tomorrow to see which grows the best. I will be using compost from the same bag, garlic from the same batch and identical containers in the form of fruit crates from my local fruit and veg shop. I have intentionally opted for planting the non garlic day before the garlic day so any differences in growth can't be put down to the non-garlic day being after the garlic day and therefore having less time to grow (well it makes sense in my head even if it sounds nuts on paper) I will be doing this with various seeds throughout the year and I will be photographing the boxes each week and posting them here on my blog.
UPDATE: Yesterday I planted box number 2 of the garlic experiment. Yesterday was a root day so, in theory, it should mean that the garlic planted yesterday thrives better than the garlic I planted the day before, which was planted on a fruit day. I have been taking the boxes outside every morning so they get plenty of sunlight and rain and bringing them back inside in the evening so they aren't outside in the frost, so basically, watch this space ...........

15 February 2012

Garlic and Flowers

Well my garlic plants are doing nicely. I cheated with this lot because I got them from a very nice lady who had a stall outside my local village farmer's market last weekend. I haven't managed to get to any of the markets before and to be brutally honest, they scare me. I don't actually live in the village, I live about three miles outside and I really don't know many people there, despite having lived here for over eight years. I could feel all their eyes on me as soon as I walked into the village hall ...... a bit like "Deliverance" but without the banjos!! It didn't help that the hall was almost empty so I couldn't hide in the crowd which meant that I instantly felt obliged to buy something .... a sneaky ploy to get custom I suspect. I did however buy some lovely birthday cards and a very delicious homity pie, a recipe for which will be on the recipes page in the next day or so after I have tracked one down and tested it to make sure it's yummy.
In addition to this, whilst clearing out my hallway, I came across whole basket of bulbs and flowers and seeds to plant this spring. I can;t wait to get my garden looking fantastic and I have some awesome ideas ..... I just have to try and get on with doing them.

Raised Beds and Chain Saws

Well now that the ground has thawed out I have managed to turn the large pile of timber in my hallway into three raised beds. Having given up on the drilling and screwing of the beds after the disaster with the first one, I set too with a hammer and some really really long nails. I actually find it very satisfying whacking nails into large planks of wood with a massive hammer, it seems get rid of my tension. The result was three sturdy raised beds which are now waiting for weed membrane and compost to be added. I also bought some heavy duty clear plastic so I can turn the raised beds into mini greenhouses until the weather improves. it was a total bargain from my local discount shop Trago Mills and it's 2 metres wide. I bought 8 metres and it cost .......... £4.40 ...55p per metre which I think is a total bargain.

I also got around to sorting out a tree branch that had broken during the high winds a few weeks ago. As it's not considered sensible to let me loose with a chain saw, I spoke to a friend of mine who agreed to come along and take down the branch which was dangling at an alarming angle and was only just hanging on by a thin sliver of bark. Unfortunately, when we had a closer look at the tree, it was covered in ivy and was dead and rotting. This sadly meant that the tree had to come down. We also found that the tree next to it was dead and we decided that it had to come down too. I don't like chopping down trees but they were making an awful creaking noise when the wind blew down the valley and were dangerous and had to come down. I now have a huge pile of branches and some massive lumps of wood in the field and it's opened up that area of the field and has made things so much lighter. Definitely a job well done.

4 February 2012

Bad Weather Stops Play ..........

Well, the weather has been so awful this week that it totally scuppered my plans to make 3 raised beds for my veg. Having bought galactic quantities of excellent sturdy timber planks, cut into manageable lengths by the very helpful chap at my local wood yard, (they even had the pointy spikey things to hammer into the corners) I duly came home and set about making the first of the raised beds in my living room (it was cold outside lol). The first problem was that the wood was damp and 2 inches thick which made it really difficult to drill through it. After 20 minutes of swearing, drill bits coming loose, splinters and blood, sweat and tears, finally the holes were drilled. Not being a natural carpenter, although I do love power tools, I unfortunately used a bigger drill bit than I should have and although I used really really long screw to join the whole thing together, as I was carrying my pride and joy outside to it's position on the garden, the whole thing fell apart. After careful assessment of the situation, I did the only thing I could ........ I got some really really long nails and attacked it with a large hammer ........ problem solved :-)