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I barely managed to visit the Very Smallholding for a couple of weeks, so now I’ve got a jobs list that is taking over several pages of an exercise book. Having dealt with some of the more urgent items, I decided it was time to clear the path to the wilderness at the bottom of the garden.
After some minutes hacking with a scythe, I found something a bit bigger than a bramble.
That wasn’t there before.
A couple of weeks ago a big storm passed over and clearly it was too much for the large pear tree that had been growing in the bottom of the garden. The tree was probably almost twenty metres tall. I can’t get over the idea that we have a ‘garden’ big enough that we can drop a twenty metre tree and not notice it for two weeks.
So now I’ve got a lot of firewood sitting in the bottom of the garden like a whale in a goldfish bowl and I’ve got to work out what to do with it, and how.
Of course, I’m planning all the awesome things I can do now there’s more sun in this part of the garden, and how I could use the wood in my carpentry course or for interesting artwork, conveniently glossing over the fact that the thing must weigh a couple of tonnes and I’ve got to somehow get it up a slippery hill, after cutting it.
This is the bottom end of the Very Smallholding, after I attacked it with a scythe. If you look very, very carefully (or click on the picture for a bigger version) you can see the effects of the scything to the left hand side. When my arms can lift the scythe again I’ll try and hack a way to the base of those trees up the hill: letting all that fruit go to rot is just silly.
Because of all the trees this part of the garden is far more pleasant than the terrace on hot days, so this year I’d like to cover the cleared area so the brambles don’t get out again, so the space down here remains open and usable as a picnic area or something.
It would be even better if we could clear just a few of those brambles off the hill, and make raked seating and a small performance space, using the area I’ve already cleared as a stage.
Of course for that to happen I really need to put steps on the hill, unless I want guests to slide down it, and I should probably get myself into gear making a decent on-site privvy.
Still, it’s a nice idea.
On the top of the hill, the vegetable garden is growing : the early potatoes have taken over the middle bed and the main crop has broken through the leaf mulch.
(see previous post to compare this to last month)
The pumpkins are beginning to grow. Slowly. Perhaps they need some coffee. Slug trap in the background.
On the main bed the seeds are growing well, if anonymously. (When labelling plants, use a waterproof pen). Notice highly artistic arangements of seed rows.
That’s definitely a bramble which I’m pretty sure wasn’t here yesterday. At least it’s the weekend, so I’ve lots of time to hoe the beds and work through the never ending jobs list.
Or maybe sit in the shade dreaming of Amphitheatres.
Trying to defy physics a couple of weeks ago by making support for the french beans that won’t collapse as soon as the wind blows, despite not having anything like enough poles to support it.
The supports are still standing and the garden has moved on a lot since. I really need to take some photographs.
It’s the slug hunting season, which means that I’m cycling over to the Very Smallholding every evening. This is fine when the sun is shining and the birds are singing but I’m less enthusiastic about it when the rain is coming down at a rate that would have put Noah off, as it was last week.
Last year the slugs found our tiny veg patch and demolished the only three Kohl-Rabi which managed to survive my ham-fisted gardening. On the first night of this season we lost three pumpkins in the Cow Poo beds (I offer no prizes for guessing why they are thus named). We tried putting cylinders of plastic around the plants but these were Special Ops slugs: they bypassed our defences by going under mulch and following the stems up above ground.
We fed the slug remains to the slow worms in the garden and for a couple of weeks an uneasy peace reigned with a couple of slugs a night falling into the traps, only one courgette getting chomped and a yeasty smell pervading the garden, but last night I discovered a skeletal potato plant far from the original incursions, and three very fat slugs, still on the leaves. These were quickly ejected and emergency extra slug traps laid. I’m taking salt tonight…
Any other ideas for repelling slugs?
I was wondering if the natural order of the universe had changed this weekend. I’d decided to build a temporary cold frame from three windows we’d found in the Very Smallholding. No allotment is complete without at least one ramshackle cold frame made from old windows, and it would give the more delicate seedlings a chance to get acclimatised before being thrown out into the great outdoors.
The first shock was that I found all the tools, which I think deserves to be recorded for posterity. I weeded the small veggie bed we (ie: ‘Grandma’) had dug last year, and decided to make it a bit wider to fit the foundations in, foundations sounding much better than three old bits of paving slab and a plank. More surprises: the spade -found within three minutes- went in with little trouble, and the old paving slabs were where I’d left them, along with a solid piece of wood that fitted in the gap with minimal grunting and kicking at the edges, and even turned out to be just the right size to support the half-sized pallets I wanted to use for the back supports.
By now I could do anything: even find a sharp saw and cut another pallet to make the supports for the front. I refitted the anti-slug fence with help from the boys who know a good chance to dig stuff up when they see one, laid the windows over the construction and was feeling pretty pleased with myself that nothing had been broken yet, when I decided the front needed to be a few centimetres higher to for the seed trays under. No problem I thought. I got some wood blocks, lifted the first window, and the whole construction toppled sedately downhill.
Local lore has it that the fifteenth of May is the last, absolutely final day when we will have frost until November. Strangely enough it seems to work, of you don’t count hail, so This week it’s time to move the seedlings to the garden.
So far, we seem to he having a reasonable amount of success with the seedlings: most actually appear to be growing -which they ought to be: they’ve had four star treatment for a couple of months in our living room, except when they were moved out onto the balcony to get extra sun.
For the record, we currently have: comfrey, spinach, Onions, courgettes, pumpkins, French beans (planted in soil) carrot, courgette, leek, kohlrabi, more leek, broccoli (Which I loathe but I’m assured is actually quite edible when home grown, we shall see) different courgettes, cucumber, French beans started in a tray with tissue paper instead of soil (don’t ask me I just follow instructions) lettuce, carrots, different onions, more spinach, some tomatoes, an apple tree seeding which the boys planted, and the Aubergine seed I put into a pot on impulse and which may well be impersonating a rock for all the growth we’ve seen.
As soon as it’s finished raining we’ll start moving things to the balcony and the garden, some for the cold frame Of which more anon), and others for the beds. Not before time: we’ve forgotten what the living room floor looks like.
It’s our second growing season with a real garden, and this year we’ve actually prepared and thought up a vague plan. Last year we learned that many plants don’t grow so well if they’re just planted out in the garden with little preparation. This year we’re going to the other extreme and unwary visitors are falling over seed trays throughout the apartment: all the plants are being pampered indoors overnight and only taken outside when it’s warm enough not to damage their delicate fresh growth*. Once they’re a bit bigger the more cold tolerant of the plants will be taken out to the ‘cold frame’ in the garden (Three old windows we found in the garden privvy, balanced on some old wood) to grow some more before we put them out in the wilds and hopefully we’ll soon have a production line up and running.
Now I know you are all excited to know exactly what we’re growing: so far the great planting session has included a mass of spinach, on the basis we can eat it and also use it as a green manure, and lots of onions, one of which is sporting the natty headwear pictured**; these and the leeks -if they grow- will also form a final line of defence against the slugs: I’ll use them amongst the leafier plants in the hope of confusing slugs. We also have tomatoes, courgettes, two batches of french beans (one in soil, and the other on damp paper to see which sprouts first, updates to follow), some pumpkins, a few
leuttice lettuce even though I still can’t spell it, some Kohlrabi, another batch of courgettes for some reason, and a distinct lack of carrots, so I think last years seeds have probably had it. At some point we seem to have gained two cucumber plants, a tomato plant and another mystery plant which we’re keeping in the kitchen to see what happens. If posts here suddenly stop, it was a triffid. Oh, and an avocado seed, on the basis we’d had an avocado and it seemed a shame to throw the seed away.
That’s it so far, except that the farm shop in the next village called a couple of days ago to say that the potatoes have arrived, so if I can grab a few minutes between form filling and applications (again) I’ll go and pick them up.
I can tell you’re gripped by all this, so I’ll keep you posted…
* Or as Beautiful Wife keeps saying: “I’ve brought your babies back inside”
** It was that or pictures of unidentifiable green shoots.
I knew I’d forgotten something. Nature doesn’t seem to have slowed down because I had to look for work, and I still haven’t managed to “Dig out the vegetable beds”, partly because of the weather but also because the process of cutting back brambles to get at the ground, then digging out some impressively ugly roots in waterlogged soil while wielding a spade that seems to have about four kilos of damp clay glued to it has sapped my energy and I’ve been doing about two square metres at a time and then giving up and wandering off in search of lighter jobs.
One of these was to put leaf mulch on the beds: I have had loads of leaf mulch donated by neighbours with a huge suburban lawn and some trees, who couldn’t believe their good fortune when they discovered I’d take as many dry leaves as they could leave by my gate, so I’ve re-mulched all but one of the beds with more cardboard and and a layer of leaves deep enough to hide a small rhinoceros. Where there are less bramble incursions I’m using a ‘No-dig’ system where I put a mulch down on top of the grass and allow it all to rot down. This avoids messing up the ground too much and disturbing the layer of humus on top which apparently is very important. It also sounds much better than admitting I couldn’t face digging any more.
This week I was able to actually get the spade into the ground for the first time since December, so today I finally got myself into gear and ordered some seeds, and now the cycle lanes are clear I’l pootle off to Farmers Shop in the next town and get a load of potatoes.
If I’m really careful, we may even end up getting more than the slugs…
There’s been some movement on the apprenticeship front as well. More to come…