Thursday, 29 July 2010

Planning Ahead

It has been a while since our last blog entry, we've been otherwise occupied, and the garden has been quietly ticking over all by itself. Apart from watering and feeding we've not done much lately. I've been cropping herbs and courgettes, and the occasional lettuce leaf or two, but not much is happening.

The apple tree is continuing to drop fruit, but there is still a ton on the tree, so we'll have a good harvest. I'll dry some in the dehydrator, and pulp and freeze some, and it'll keep us going for months. They are all eating apples, 2 varieties on the one root stock, but cook well and taste great in pies and porridge and on ice cream! I'll try the Apple Master from Lakeland, as I'll have a lot of fruit to prepare, so will post if it's any good.

The pear trees haven't fruited this year but we expected that, with them being so overshadowed. Next year should be better for them.

The tomatoes by the house are beginning to change colour, and the tumblers have lots of tiny green toms but no redness as yet. The Freecycle tomatoes are larger, but still green. The Freecycle peppers have not flowered, but the Freecycle chilli's are flowering and fruiting like mad!

The strawberries have been sending out runners like nobody's business, we now have at least 14 extra plants for next year, however we're not sure if the plants creating runners is to the detriment of this year's crop... I'm going to try stopping all the runners from now on, to give the big plants a chance to catch up and take a breath, so to speak.

The cucumbers have produced some teeny weeny tiny baby cucumbers, so I've started feeding them with tomato feed. I'll need to rearrange the greenhouse so they have room to grow, there's not a lot of space in there.

We have decided to spend my annual bonus on a proper greenhouse, so we'll need to prepare the ground where we want to put it as it is very uneven at the moment. A lot of hard work but it'll be so worth it, it'll extend our growing season.

We've also spent a bit of time tidying up the front garden as it had been neglected while we concentrated on the back, and had become overgrown. I cut back and squared off the hornbeam bush right at the front of the garden, and took out a dead shrub too, with more clearing to do - there is a rosemary that is a huge bush but only growing at the tips, with lots of dead wood in the middle, so I'll take some cuttings and grow them on ready to replant. While I was doing that I discovered that our neighbour had chopped back some of our shrubs and cut down some roses without permission, so I was not pleased about that. I understand why he'd done it, the shrubs were overgrown and he wanted easier access to his car, but he should have spoken to us first. I know it's only shrubs but it really got my goat. I like our wild and wooly front garden! Luckily the roses are sprouting back again, yay roses! Hope they get nice and prickly!!

I think I'd like to grow some large structural flowering plants in the front garden, like hollyhocks or buddleia, and I would love some poppies and nigella there too. Flowers in the front veg in the back :-) We have some rose bay willow herb growing, I know it's a weed but it is pretty so it stays, at least until we've managed to replace it with a cultivar. We have a small potentilla plant in the back garden, discovered when I cut back the lemon balm, and it's leggy and thin but surviving, so I'll move that to the front garden next season, to give us more veg growing space in the back.

Things to avoid next year:-
1) Don't sow all the seeds out of a packet. I did this with the courgettes and tumbler tomatoes and basil, and ended up with too many plants.
2) Chard - we tried this this year and we didn't really like it very much. No point in growing something we're not keen on eating.
3) Give courgette plants more room, and more footing, no more than 2 plants per growbag. We've got 8 courgette plants in three growbags, and I think they are suffering from being overcrowded, and it makes watering them a bit of a struggle cos the leaves are all in the way.
4) Peas need light. we've got some pea plants in a growbag along the fence, but they are drowned out by the runner bean plants and the courgettes, and aren't producing very much.
5) Plant in the soil where possible. All our veg is in containers of one sort or another, and require much watering. Soil planted veg will be able to access the water table.
6) Tomatoes in growbags - too shallow and dry out too quickly - they'd be better in deep pots, like my Dad used to grow them, and in the greenhouse, if we manage to get one sorted.

Things to do again next year:-
1) Feed all the beds with blood fish and bone again, that worked a treat.
2) Spinach, lovely stuff.
3) Garlic, plant more and earlier.
4) Tomatoes! wonderful things
5) Courgettes, onions, basil, coriander, cabbages
6) Get baby veg plants from local nursery - nothing wrong with diy chain store plants, but nursery veg proved to be nicer tasting.
7) Herbs! Basil and coriander, and parsley and chives, and any others we can get hold of, just wonderful.

Things to try next year:-
1) Blueberries, or honeyberry, or similar unusual fruit
2) Plum tomatoes
3) Aubergines - already got the seeds
4) Sweetcorn maybe?
5) Colourful carrots, stripey toms, varieties not usually available in the supermarkets.

Plan for the winter:-
1) Cut down and take out as many of the hornbeam hedge trees as possible - we could pay someone to do it for us but we're not tight we're careful.
2) Prune back the apple, but carefully, don't kill the tree by being too aggressive. Do it in two or more stages if necessary - first take back some length, then create some air in the middle of the tree. It leans to one side somewhat, so concentrate on that side and take out as much of the overhang as possible.
3) Take out the cherry tree stump, it's in the bloomin' way!
4) Rake over the grass area and try and get rid of all the twigs and detritus that have deposited themselves under there. Eventually this will be turned into paths and beds, but in the meantime we need to try and break it up a bit, cos it's like concrete at the moment.

Lots of work to do, lots of plans, but I am delighted with the progress we have made this year, the gardens are tidier, and productive, and are just better all round.

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