Browsed by
Tag: sowing seeds

Marching on

Marching on

The nicest thing about March is that it’s the month with the biggest difference in terms of moving on from winter. There’ll be some cold weather ahead, the cloudless days still give us mild frosts, but there’s a real change in the air. Although much of the blossom in the garden has gone the new leaves and greenness are more than welcome. The plane tree in the courtyard has begun to sprout and the garden is alive with noisy birds, emptying the feeder every day and building their nests. The sun has been really warm so lunch outside has been the norm.

The constant sunshine has also meant we’ve been able to get on top of lots of outside jobs. Some of these have not been planned. The dozen ‘roasties’ were happily enjoying the spring and so far no sighting of the sparrowhawk:

Until Foxy came along and dug a hole under their hut (the old pig pen) in the middle of the night and then there were nine.

So we’ve had to have an emergency plan until there’s time for Richard to rebuild that shed. A layer of chicken wire has been placed flat around the edges and held in place with heavy breeze blocks. We’ve caught it on our night camera having a good sniff around a few times since but so far this set up has worked as it hasn’t been able to dig again. A new shed is a bit more of a priority now, not just because the fox can dig under it, but because the wood is completely rotten and termite infested, one good shove and it’ll collapse.

Meanwhile Richard is getting on with building the Pallet Palace. At the moment we have two chicken coops and these too, along with the pig pen, are past it really. So a single, bigger one is in the making, one that I can walk into. Up until recently Skittle was in his coop and Hattie and Rocky in theirs, and he was allowed to ‘play’ with them in the afternoon. We always knew that if we kept Skittle he’d need a few more hens and if we had more hens we’d need another coop.

So Skittle was put in with Hattie and Rocky and then we got Cagney and Lacey!

These are a cross between a Brahma (like Skittle) and Wyandotte hens, and beautiful they are too. They were given to us by friends, and we’re delighted with them.

They stayed a few days in their own coop and field until they felt it was home, and then we let all the chooks get together. Hattie is sometimes a bit pecky (she is the top of the pecking order after all) but in fact we think they are so pleased that Skittle is sharing his amorous advances they are actually quite relieved. We’ll get two more and so in the end Skittle will have six ladies. What we’ll do with all the eggs is another matter…

As the name suggests the new coop is made of pallets mainly, Richard can add more about this in the next post. It’s already been painted front and back and the door added. Then he’s going to add a caged area, again tall enough to walk into, and this will all be covered. You can just see Hattie and Rocky giving their advice.

Otherwise it’s been seed sowing season for me. I’m always trying different techniques. This year I decided to avoid the seed tray / pricking out stage.  The tomato seeds were all from last year, I’d chosen the seeds from some nice fruit, cleaned and then dried them on kitchen paper. Then I simply cut out the paper with seeds on and put them straight into paper pots with a thin layer of soil on top. I did these on the 19 March:

Here’s what they looked like on 25, less than a week later:

Each paper pot was then plonked in a bigger pot and all but the strongest seedling cut, leaving a single one to grow. It was so much easier and quicker than pricking out individual seedlings and transplanting them. Alongside the toms there are now pots of gherkins, various types of squash, broccoli, sweetcorn and goodness knows what else. There is only one slight problem: I have no idea where these will all go as the raised beds are already filling up and the original beds are still abandoned.

March has not only seen changes in the garden but the village too but these again (some more sad news unfortunately, along with the latest on the roadworks) will be for another post. I’ll leave you with yet another video of the javali who, we hope, we have managed to keep out of the garden at long last. Here is one enjoying a good scratch in the field next door. I love their wagging tails!

Gone to seed

Gone to seed

We are getting to the nicest time of the year. A tad later this year than normal but getting there. Jussi is less keen on the warmer months. She’s smiling in this photo because, yet again, black clouds are on the horizon and if she’s lucky there’ll be some puddles on her walk tomorrow.

Walking around the garden admiring the colours has reminded me I have been meaning to do a blog post about where many of our plants have come from. We have, of course, bought plenty over the years but there are also a significant number that we’ve got free, one way or another. Most have been cuttings but this post is about those grown from seed. First up the poppies. The Oriental poppy seeds were (I have to admit) stolen from a botanical garden, I snapped off a dried head and before I knew it had popped it into my handbag… The Californian poppy seeds were taken from a campsite we stayed in.

The Antirrhinum, or snapdragon, seeds were taken from the field next door. They’re mostly a pinky colour but there was one a few summers ago which was a striking purple. I earmarked the plant and collected the seeds later in the autumn. The photo makes it look more pink than it is.  And then, on a holiday in the south, I came across this tall plant in a patch of wasteland by the motorway service station. It looked like it had had orange flowers. Sowing the seeds the following spring I realised it was in fact an Evening primrose, the flowers come out every evening (you can watch them opening) and come the next day have died and turned orange. Plants that seem to survive in the wild without watering are perfect for the garden.

Next up some flowers seeds given to me some time ago by friends which have self seeded. The white Honesty has come up around the pond and looks charming, the blue Nigella is just stunning (although fewer this year it has to be said as Richard is rather cavalier with the strimmer which is why there are no pics of the Chamomile daisies…)

At the end of the summer we get two that seem happier in the shade:  the deep pink Mirabilis jalapa grow in the village (although some seeds from a yellow flowered variety I took from Spain never germinated) and come up behind the potting shed when I have forgotten all about them. A neighbour has these delicate Impatiens balfourii growing outside her house. The seed heads pop open when touched scattering their contents all down the street. I tried them in the courtyard but it’s too hot so I’ll have another go round the back of the house this year.

Another time you’ll find out what I come back with when I disappear into the fields with the wheelbarrow and spade…  🙂

Four seasons in one month

Four seasons in one month

Spring is here, hurrah! I decided to sow most of the seeds for the veg patch at the start of the month and this year, instead of putting them in either the potting shed or polytunnel, chose to keep them on the window sill. The temperatures, especially in the polytunnel, can fluctuate widely and I thought I would try, as many books suggest, a sunny south facing spot inside. Well, it worked a treat with everything coming through very quickly, and a load of old seeds I almost threw away too. I think the sun and the even temperature really did the trick.

So with spring in the air and in my step I planted a whole load of sprouts, cauliflowers and broccoli. And some beans. Beans which, for the last two years, have always been killed off by the frost as I have been too eager to plant them out. Then it got hotter and hotter, summer barbecue weather arrived, and everything needed to be watered. Then autumn mists greeted us in the mornings. Then it got colder and colder, winter glove wearing weather arrived, and yep, the beans all got killed off by the frost. Ah well, I did have some spares and they are now thriving that the spring has sprung back.

Despite the set back all is well in the veg patch really. Remember this?

Well, both the broad beans and peas survived the freezing temperatures and are well on their way:

We are eating the asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli:

And the onions are monsters (Betty guards the seedlings):

I should add that the seedlings, those that haven’t yet been planted out, are brought in every night and we share the kitchen table with them when we eat. There are 6 different kinds of tomatoes, gherkins, 2 kinds of cucumbers, aubergines, peppers of various types and all sorts of squash. Oh, and some sweetcorn. So looking forward to some April showers, sunny spells and proper spring weather all month.


The green, green grass of home

The green, green grass of home

Thursday morning, 11 April, it thundered down with rain; great sheets of it squashing the irises. Come the afternoon sunny intervals and since then not a drop. It’s got sunnier and warmer each day, as I glance up now there’s not a cloud in the sky and it still feels strange after such a wet, wet spring. But of course every cloud has a silver lining and we now seem to be living in the Emerald City, the grass is sooo gorgeously green!


And it’s also meant that all systems are go in the garden and veg patch. There are now a million and one tasks that need to be done (including strimming and weeding of course) and prioritising them can be difficult. Loads of seedlings have been potted on, and I’m especially pleased that the leeks have done their trick. Having saved a few flower heads from plants last year, and kept them in the potting shed, there were plenty of tiny black seeds to sow. These have all germinated and there are now 50 leeklings (?) which is wonderful, no need to buy leek seeds from now on (I hope).


We  have also been able to enjoy one of our favourite past times, ie the lunchtime barbie! Purple sprouting broccoli is up but I’m most excited about the abundant crop of asparagus.


Loads more to tell but back to the jobs and the evening sunshine now…

S is for September…

S is for September…

…and at last s is for the summer too. Hot, sunny days without a cloud in the sky so of course s is also for swimming. We have returned recently to one of our favourite spots and, because it’s September, we had the place mostly to ourselves. We took our friend Ana-Louisa with us plus a picnic. The water was bitterly cold at the start but this didn’t bother the dog who thought she had gone to heaven.

S is also for seedlings. There’s plenty to be done in the veg patch as the second round of crops are sown; so far cabbage, calabrese, cauliflower, chard, sweet peas and broad beans have all germinated. I need to get rid of the pesky mouse that’s making holes in the beds before I plant them though.

Meanwhile the courgettes are just about still going, the tomatoes too, and we have peppers and aubergines ready. Yesterday we had the last of our potatoes though (how I hate having to buy them now!) but the first of our leeks which made up for that, they’re great this year.

Finally, S is for Spain as we plan another camping trip this time a couple of days in Salamanca. Super!

Marching on…

Marching on…

Both January and February, despite being winter months, weren’t too bad and we were able to eat outside in the courtyard for lunch quite a few times (although a roaring fire was going come the evening). They both had, however, a week or so of almost non-stop rain. Now the weather forecast says the same is going to happen for March, our mantra is always it’s good for the garden! For the chickens it’s water off a duck’s back…

Two weeks ago the first lot of seedlings planted back in February were showing but already it’s time for the sprouts to go in the garden. I’ve already put in a few broad bean plants (although why I have no idea, I wrote in my gardening diary not to do them again at this time because of the aphids but I forgot to get them going in the autumn).

So seeds sown in the polytunnel recently: sweet corn, peas, french beans, courgette, buttercup squash and yet more toms. Seedlings already up are the sprouts (above, two weeks ago and today), cauliflower, watercress, leeks, melon, bell peppers, cauliflower, calabrese, runner beans, cucumber, artichoke, loads of different toms and a range of herbs. Seeds sown directly into the beds outside: parsnips, fennel, beetroot, different kinds of carrots and rainbow chard. Plus three kinds of potatoes have been planted too. I hate seeing the empty beds (next year I’ll do more autumn planting) but am really pleased so much is on the go now. The companion plants, marigolds and nasturtiums, are also doing well.

The last of the leeks were eaten last week, and we are on the cabbage now. Apart from some onions, parsley and celery there’s nothing to eat. We should be eating the purple sprouting broccoli but, although it’s almost my height, there’s nothing apart from leaves (below right). I know it can take a long time (started a year ago now) but we are getting very impatient, no wonder it’s expensive in the shops. It will be our first time to try it, hope it’s worth the wait.

And talking of waiting, many of the produce needs our patience. The asparagus is shooting up but we have to wait for the third year’s crop (luckily that’s next year), a year on the artichokes are at last showing signs of producing something (above left) but I’m not sure if we still have to wait before we eat those, and we can only take a little of the rhubarb too – fingers crossed on that one as there doesn’t seem to be any signs yet…

Meanwhile all the fruit trees are doing well and as soon as the rain stops there are three big projects for us, watch this space!

Adeus, inverno

Adeus, inverno

There was a horrid blip towards the end of February when it rained everyday. The mornings were misty, and the spiders were busy. No more frosty mornings, just grey clouds.

Goodbye to the frost, and hello the wet

It meant doing lots of work inside the house (still more painting!), and plenty of baking to use up the eggs and oranges. And then, hey presto, out comes the sun and on come the wellies – back to the garden!

Plenty of seeds have been sown, and amazingly, I have already been transplanting the germinated seedlings into little plugs; the polytunnel definitely makes a huge difference. So there are sprouts and cauliflowers and broccoli and herbs and loads of different tomatoes all in little rows:

I’m particularly pleased as many of the seed packets were over a year old, and some a few years. I have only bought a few new packets this year so that’s been a great investment, especially as I hadn’t always been careful about keeping them in a suitable place. But perhaps most incredible is that already, in February, some of the asparagus has shot up! The sprouts were finished so I cut off their tops which meant their stems have come alive with new growth, enough for some sprout soup methinks…

March starts tomorrow, along with a few new interesting projects. It’s going to be a busy month!