Thursday, 31 May 2012

Pond cleaning and snail saving (guest post)

Our Pond

There is something rather therapeutic about cleaning the pond, so on Saturday I retrieved the pond net and began my little task, operation pond gook.  I got really stuck into it, got a great rhythm going with the net and then even pulled out leaves and gunk where the net wouldn’t go.

Snails in pond gook
The pond is full of snails. I tried carefully not to pick any up but it was hard not to; today was all about saving the snails.  I rummaged through each slop pile returning any shell backed slimeys I’d scooped.  God only knows what they were thinking, me launching them 6 ft across the pond.  This is turning into operation snail save.    

The pond looking much cleaner
I then sat by the pond and a bright blue damson fly came by and perched right in front of me.  Unfortunately I had my camera on lock and by the time I’d realised it was too late. 

Wild flowers by the pond
Later on in the back garden I was left instructions to water the plants.  I thought I would wash myself off after cleaning the pond with the new hose but who knew, I was too stupid.  

I must have turned it on too quick as the connecting bit just flew right off.  So I sorted it out and did it slowly but nothing was happening so I turned it a bit more; now the whole thing is off the tap.  After my phone lesson in hosing it is now on and working.

The sun is on its way down now so I may go give his plants a water then settle with some vino after my day of snail saving and sunbathing. 


Thanks to my girlfriend for this post :) and for doing the pond :) and for watering the plants while I was out at Alabama 3:

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Potting out the Chillis

Yesterday I finally managed to get round to potting out the chillis.

My chillis are SUBSTANTIALLY smaller than Jon's at work and I was starting to develop an inferiority complex. A theory has developed that I have stunted them by keeping them in small pots for too long...

So, follows the photo-story of me potting them into much larger pots to hopefully encourage the growth spurt that they so desperately need.

First I gathered together large pots for the purpose. I have seven chilli plants remaining.

Then I put some plastic packing material in the bottom of each pot, to improve drainage and stop waterlogging.

The pot was then filled with compost and a hole dug centrally that was big enough to accept the root-system.

Each plant was carefully placed into the hole, ensuring that the roots were not disturbed, and the stem was below the surface of the soil up to the first baby leaves (a trick described in lessons learned from potting out my tomatoes).

The plant, placed as described above.

A very happy looking chilli plant, with the soil tamped down gently to secure the stem, and watered liberally to encourage bedding in.

I now have two chilli plants back in the window where the plant nursery is, one on my bedroom window, one in one of the greenhouses and three in pots actually outside; this means that the current change in weather (I'm now watching out for rain) is directly a result of my putting hot weather plants outside without protection!

Once this blog is done I will be going to stake out the plants which are outside, to ensure if the storm that is brewing does break, the plants are not blown over and killed.

I managed just now to complete a full weeding circuit of the main vegetable beds; the first time I have been over the Carrots and the Parnsips. This has taken me about an hour all told (20 mins yesterday and 40 today) and I am pretty confident there are no weeds left in any patch. This gives you an idea of how long it is taking me to keep up with all these plants. I may just do a study of the time I'm spending over a whole week and write a blog about that.

The only bed left to weed now is the Cabbages, and they are doing very well so this is going to be my task for tomorrow evening after work.

Finally, I have once again been mentioned on twitter on one of those online newspapers and I would like to say "thank you" to the people who put it together; it's great to be being read by people and if any of you come to this from one of those link sites then Welcome and please make yourself at home.

I'm actually on The Idaho Agriculture paper twice, with yesterdays blog post.

Edit - I have staked out the chilli plants:

Edit 2 - told you it'd rain:

Stinging Nettle Tea update, and progress

Well it's been quite a while since my last update, for me. Just life getting in the way.

I have been keeping on top of the gardening, but the time to write up and upload pictures onto the blog just hasn't been forthcoming.

This is one of those things as a Part Time Homesteader, as you have to prioritise your time and, obviously with the weather we've been having, getting round and watering all the plants is far more important while it is so hot.

Anyway, I have been taking photographs over the last few days and this is just a quick update about a few things I wanted to get out as they're starting to get very passe now.

First of all, I don't know if the Stinging Nettle Tea worked on not, but GOD DAMN it smelt FOUL so I had to get rid (it was effecting the use of the garden with the stench)

Mmmmm stinky water with stinky stinging nettles in it.

Oh well, you live and learn.

The Thyme is showing through nicely (this is a couple of days old so they're even better now).

The Basil is coming through even better.

I'm up to three tyres on the potatoes now. I've now run out so if anyone has any knackered tyres they're not using....?

The main bed potatoes are growing really well too, and I'm having to earth them up every couple of days. This is taking the most time of everything (including having to water all the tomatoes)

The Cabbage really is ready for "pricking out" now; thinning the seedlings so only the strongest remains, at a good separation for maximum growth per plant.

So that is my very quick update; I have another couple of blogs in the pipeline so I will update again later today probably.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Potting out the sweetcorn

The sweetcorn that I planted as seeds a few weeks ago has grown SO fast!

Below are a few "daily photographs" to demonstrate just how fast, once it showed, it has shot up...

 Day 1
 Day 2
 Day 3
 Day 4
 Day 5
 Day 6
 Day 7

I haven't taken any daily pics for the last few days, but they had grown so much they were above the white bar visible above them in the last picture.

So I decided that today (well yesterday, as I'm typing this) was the right time to plant these seedlings out into the prepared bed that I dug out and cleared and dug in some good compost over the previous few weeks.

The tray of sweetcorn seedlings next to the bed, before I raked and cleared it finally

Post raking - I've broken up the big lumps of soil and taken out some MORE glass

Digging a hole for the first seedlings

Splitting the root ball up; this was a bad idea in the end, and later I'll show a better method of doing this.

The two seedlings nicely bedded in and ready for watering.

A better method of splitting the root ball; spraying it with the hose to clear all the soil away and allow the water to untangle the roots leaving....

... a nice clean plant and root system which can be replanted without any breakages.

The final plant bed, hopefully these will continue to grow at the same rate and some BBQs will be in our future, with corn on the cob straight off the plant :)

I am thinking of starting some more sweetcorn seedlings straight away, in case some of these don't take, and also possibly to extend the bed to grow some more.

To add another chapter to the "Tomato Tolstoy" I have finally potted out every seedling into larger pots, I doubled up the hanging baskets so there are two plants in each now. Now to keep watering them EVERY day and seeing which grows best.

The rest of the garden is coming on very well too; I will need to be pricking out the lettuce, carrots and parsnips soon as they are looking far more established. No sign yet of Lettuces, but the Kitchen Window herb garden is looking good.

Today was so warm I have come inside to do this blog rather than be outside in the sun; think I'll go back out now though as it's baking out there and I do like the sun.

Final comment; the pond is much clearer now, and today I saw lots of fish in it and a large frog that stuck it's head out through some weed to cool down, then splashed off after a couple of minutes. There were also some Damsel Flies scooting around, but photographs of them just didn't come out.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Hanging Baskets with Tomatoes in

Today I managed to buy some hanging baskets to put some tomato plants in.  I've been planning to do this, as part of my "how do tomatoes grow best" experiment.

So I got my hammer drill, and other tools, out and put up the brackets.

Ready for the tomato plants to be transplanted into them.

I had one and a half trays of seedlings that I had yet to pot out, and gathered some more pots

The hanging baskets, with tomato plants in them, happy in the sun.

I then potted out the rest of the tomatoes from the tray into larger pots, and I used some little clips that I bought from Wilkinsons, to attach the stems to little sticks.

Of the herbs on the Window Sill Herb Garden, the Basil and the Thyme have both started sprouting already!

Still nothing from the mint.

This is a shorted blog post tonight; I've just got in from having dinner sat in the garden appreciating just how lovely it looks and how nice it is to eat things picked from the garden (we had chives picked 10 mins before we ate them; perfection)

I do have a little more advice I need; the planters that I have started the Lettuce off in have BOTH been colonised by ants; is this going to cause me a problem and if so, how the HELL do I get rid of the little bastards?

I think that the initial premise of this blog has pretty much been proved; I still have a job and a successful business and I'm already eating food grown in my back garden, and am not far off being able to provide almost an entire meal prepared with food grown by myself - a VERY satisfying feeling indeed.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Earthing potatoes, and lots of progress

So I was whinged at at work today because there was no blog last night so I'm here again with a super update for you.

Bear with me, this is VERY long update, but I hope you think it's worth it.

First of all, I have just finished properly earthing up my potatoes, both by filling in the ones in the tyre, and bringing in some earth from elsewhere in the garden and doing the main bed potatoes.

Me and my big belly doing the earthing up of the main bed potatoes

Both tyres are now full of earth, and I am going to add the third tyre in the next few days.

The potatoes are looking REALLY strong (particularly the ones in the tyre) so I'm really hopeful for a good crop.

I've no idea how to know when to start harvesting though (a theme that is going to go through this whole post).

I also cut the grass today and I've started an "open compost heap" as my contained heap is REALLY close to full.

I am covering it with the tarpaulin in the background, and turning it regularly.

I now have a large number of progress photographs for you lucky, lucky people.

There are some exciting things actually :)

Stuttgarter Giant Onions (any hints on when I'll know these are ready to harvest?)

Karmen Red Onions (as above, hints on harvesting tells would be very useful)

Red Sun Shallots (ditto for harvesting clues)

Casablanca Garlic (the leaves are starting to go brown; does this indicate anything?)

My housemate today took a little leaf from the garlic and onion and proclaimed the flavour "gorgeous" so that is very promising for the taste of the bulbs....

The cabbage coming on nicely underneath the bird-protection-netting.

Parnsips showing well; I have about 5 or 6 lines like this one :)

Carrots also coming through in clumps; I must not have sowed these very well ;)

A very bad photograph of an apple that is growing at the base of one of the flowers on the apple tree :) YAY!

Chives, with one fully open flower (and others on their way)

Corriander growing upwards; it is interesting cos our plant from last year grow outwards more...

Parsley. This week we cut enough off this to put into eight bags and gave them away to people at work :)

Some of my tomatoes that I am keeping outside at the moment, doing very well.

The tomatoes that I am keeping inside; again looking healthy. I have a LARGE number still to give away (I've given away 24 already, and have orders for another 13 so operation Give-Away-The-Tomato-Plant-Seedlings is going very well)

The peppers, coming on well with 6 different seedlings now obvious.

The chilli plants. And yes I am VERY jealous of Jon's which are apparently about a foot high now. gutted.

The sweetcorn; I reckon this will be good to go out this weekend! Outstanding!

Greek Basil, bought by my girlfriend and being kept in the Kitchen windowsill  herb garden

The Kitchen windowsill herb garden; nothing showing yet, but still I wanted a picture.

So the only two things at the moment which are not showing are the Mint and the Spring Onions.

I have been asked a LOT over the last couple of days (for obvious reasons) for my hints and tips for growing tomatoes so *drum roll* here they are (please do feel free to correct me, or suggest more for this section:

  • Water them regularly; they are thirsty
  • Do not put them where they will be subjected to direct sunlight for hour after hour; this will burn them. They like sunlight, but also like shade
  • If they do get burned (see earlier blog) then remove the effected leaves; this seems to help (I do not know why)
That is the sum total of my "what do I do with these tomato seedlings you just gave me?" responses :)

So, if anyone can advise me on more tomato care, or indeed on the "when do I harvest these onions/shallots/garlic", I would be most grateful.

Thanks for reading this stupendously long blog entry.