Sunday, 1 March 2015

And ‘sow’ it begins

In truth ‘it’ began on Friday when I sowed a couple of short rows of carrots and the same of parsnip but today was the first session in the greenhouse with seed packets.  Happy day :-}

I've redone the vegetable bed planting plan and suspect that latent OCD has finally broken through to the surface! Should I be worried that I'm so pleased to see pretty coloured labels all neatly laid out?  In reality this plan might not survive, Mother Nature and the plants themselves are sure to have other ideas.

In 2011 and 2012 I tried hard to plant and transplant according to the Maria Thun Biodynamic Calendar.  I did not keep accurate records or grow plants in a non-biodynamic way as a control, but I KNOW just by looking, feeling and experience that the plants raised this way were stronger and better. This year I am going to try much harder to stick to the calendar.  In truth, following this regime can be a pain if, for example, the calendar says sow root veg on Tuesday next week but you want to do it this Saturday . . . but with electric in the greenhouse this year I can always toddle out there in the evenings if there isn't time during the day.  I think it's worth it and surely if sowing at the "right time" gives better plants and tastier crops for no extra money or effort, then why wouldn't you?  A few years ago I visited the Garden Organic grounds at Ryton.  The one section which stuck in my mind more than anywhere else was the Biodynamic Garden.  This area had an energy that was different from anywhere else on the site, it was an experience that's difficult to describe but I can recommend a visit.

There was a long and messy evening with seed packets and sheets of coloured labels all over the sitting room floor which has led to everything being categorised either Fruit, Flower, Root or Leaf.

So I've got one plan showing me WHERE and another set of guidelines telling me WHAT and WHEN.  And I can think of at least one person who I know reads the blog but never comments who will be thinking "she's finally admitted in public that she is absolutely bonkers" but I don't really care, (ya, boo, sucks and all that).

Today was a Flower day, so half a dozen trays of seeds, plus 20 Gladioli bulbs.  I like to start bulbs in pots and plant them out once I know they're growing strongly.  I reckon they have a better chance against the mice this way.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Governed by the weather

Our two very different visits to Crummock Water recently showed that the weather is a changeable beast.  If I was asked to describe just one thing which characterises our live in Cumbria it would be “weather”.  The elements govern our lives and I generally think that is no bad thing, it’s how people have lived for thousands of years.  The development of modern urban living where people can do whatever they want regardless of conditions is a relatively new phenomena and I think as a society we are worse for it.  But up here, I might plan to go for a walk with Daisy, or to work in the garden, but if the weather has other plans then it’s not me who gets their own way.

Frankly, it was something of a small miracle that LP and I got the final vegetable bed built on Tuesday, achieving this much outside in February is a huge bonus and helps get me set up for the forthcoming growing season. Wednesday threatened to turn nasty all day but the continuing miracle allowed us (well, allowed LP!) to use the timber cut yesterday and create a mahoooosive cold frame in the nursery area.  Never in the history of Bag End has something happened so quickly!

(the mess up the front of the cold frame - the result of a night's torrential rain on very muddy ground, the bark chip badly needs replacing)

Thursday night and Friday morning were horrible - probably the best part of an inch of rain and it was far too wet first thing to be anywhere near the ground.

LP worked under cover and split all the logs remaining from moving part of the log pile at the beginning of the month.  It's unusual to have the log store almost full at this time of year but I'm not complaining :}

After lunch we lined the new veg bed with DPC but the ground is too wet to try and dig up any soil to go in it.  Instead, I took advantage of LP's van and went shopping.  I'm now stocked up on potting compost and didn't have to move any of the bags myself.  Lucky girl :-}

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

What we did today

Well, it’s more of what LP did today but I made the odd contribution :}

We dodged every kind of weather imaginable: rain, hail, sleet, snow and thunder, although when we weren't having five different seasons thrown of us it was bright and sunny, and we tried to avoid the mud (that's the fifth season which lasts from the end of summer until Christmas, and then hangs around until Easter).

Daisy and I managed an hour down by the river in between two snow storms and she paid the lambs no attention whatsoever, in fact, she was so busy sniffing around I don't think she even noticed she was on a long lead either :}

The third raised bed has been extended.  Not so much because we “need” more raised beds for veggies but because there was a chunk of unused space and this seemed like the best thing to do with it.

Management has clearly been pondering on the nursery area and at the weekend made a blindingly brilliant suggestion.  With much of the garden now stocked I don't need to raise "quite" so many plants in future.  He suggested that we take down the staging and replace it with cold frames.  I didn't need to even think about that, promptly ordered more timber and moved the few pots which remained.

Getting uncharacteristically ahead of ourselves, most of the timber we plan to use tomorrow (weather permitting!) is already cut to length.

Monday, 23 February 2015

A very different Crummock Water

Friday: a bit of sun and blue sky, no wind, long walk.
Monday:  no sun, grey sky, bitterly cold wind, much shorter walk!

It has to be really cold for me to wear mittens :-}

39mph and a wind chill of minus 3 - we didn't hang around for long.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents . . .

I have a track record of not being organised and failing to grow veggies successfully, so it was a tad unsettling to find myself as organised as I was last week.

After much consideration I’d pared the seed order down to just what we really liked to eat, and figured that any spare ground in the raised beds would be used for extra lettuces, or flowers.  In an exercise of extreme restraint, I bought seed potatoes from the local garden centre rather than ‘risking’ the annual Potato Day at Caldbeck where I knew the amount of choice and variety would confuse me completely and any plans or shopping list I’d arrived with would go straight to hell in a handcart.

Germination might be patchy, but the old collection of lettuce seed either needs using this year or replacing.

There was even a planting plan with pretty colours to assist the memory crop rotation in future years, and the potatoes are going to be grown in containers because digging them out of the raised beds is a right pain :}   Pretty planting plans and colour co-ordinated Post-Its might be a little OCD but I've tried 'back of an old envelope' or just keeping it all in my head and neither work. 

Saturday was the brightest, nicest day we’ve had for ages and I spent nearly all of it in the greenhouse.  Many hours later the glass was washed, raised beds ready to take trays of seedlings and the potting bench all neat and tidy with a new shelf. I abandoned the idea of making propagators from sheets of polystyrene and decided to go back to the original Bag End idea of using ‘mini greenhouses’ with tea lights to keep the temperature up.  It’s simple, effective, and has worked very well in the past. 


It was during a quick flit to the supermarket on Sunday morning that things went completely off the rails.  I had a rush of blood sugar to the brain and treated myself to a bag full of magazines (not all gardening, but the majority were) and spent a pleasant afternoon in front of the wood burner flicking through them whilst listening to gale force winds and watching the garden become increasingly submerged.  None of that was the problem - the problem is that between the 3 gardening magazines I acquired 14 packets of ‘free seeds’ only one of which was a duplication.  I guess that marks the point where my "restrained and organised" approach to vegetables in 2015 went completely off piste.

So much for all my restrained planning … back to the drawing board and the pretty coloured Post-Its!

Friday, 20 February 2015

An accidental five miles

Yeah, I know, how can anyone walk five miles by accident?  In truth, very easily . . .   After a pretty rough week in the weather department Friday was dry and the wind had dropped.  Daisy and I needed to get out for a decent leg stretch but the unhappy muscles in my back are still not ready for walking uphill.  Crummock is always a good option for an easy, pleasant and near-to-home outing.  After all the recent rain I knew the west side of the lake would be wet underfoot, but I didn't expect a fairly new pair of Karrimor shoes with Goretex lining to fail, there may be a conversation with their Customer Services people in the future . . .  However, once I'd resigned myself to the fact my feet were going to be wet it didn't matter, with no wind it wasn't too cold.  The 'accidental' bit is that Daisy and I set off without a plan and just wandered along until we got to Low Ling Crag, then decided to go back.  I could have extended the walk by another mile and visited Scale Force but I couldn't be bothered :}

Approaching the lake it looks like it is getting brighter.

Someone is being silly and walking along the wall.

The view opens up as we head south; Rannerdale Knotts, Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks are the most well-known of the fells we're looking at.

At Low Ling Crag we both had something to eat and a look around.  Madam seemed to enjoy exploring :}

The light kept changing, sometimes cloudy, sometimes bright, but it was lovely in the sun :-}

Masses of frogspawn near the pitched path.

In places the path was not so much wet, as completely submerged.  Wet path = wet feet today :-{

A final close-up of Haystacks before we head home, looks like we got the best of today's weather.