Thursday, April 26, 2007

34 days and counting ...

Without rain, that is! I can't believe it. The newspaper headlines today were full of how it's not quite a drought. In a place where it usually rains every day I think this qualifies as a drought!

I'm especially concerned because I'm on vacation this week. I've asked some of the other gardeners to look after my plot and water my plants, but there's always the fear of returning to find everything dead and dying.

Yesterday I planted out loads of squash plants, more sweet pea seedlings and transplanted lettuces. Cross fingers they are still alive when I return.

Oh, and the pea plants and strawberry plants are flowering!!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Making Newspaper Pots

Newspaper Pots

Just a quick note here to say that I found a wonderful resource for making newspaper pots! I've made a few to hold my courgette seedlings (when they come up) and I'll definitely be using these for beans and peas in the future.

I also ask my local florist to keep all their 10 cm plastic pots for me. They buy plants in bulk and re-pot them and usually just throw away the pots.

This way I get them for free and in return I bake something nice for the florist as a gift. It works pretty well as an exchange :)

How to Make Newspaper Pots

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Saturday in the garden

Everything is growing so beautifully, but it hasn't rained. That means lots of watering.

Today I quickly visited the allotment after the kids' football to water everything and harvest my first bit of rhubarb for a cake.

Had the camera with us from football so took some pictures.

The apple tree in blossom:

Apple blossom

The chives are blossoming:

Chives in Bloom

The shallot bed, with carrots and marigolds:

Shallots, Carrots, Tagetes

The onion bed, look how much they grew since last time:

Onion bed

Berry blossom, I think this is a white currant:

Berries - this is an Aalbes

A red salad bowl lettuce. These are sown in rows of alternating red and green. When they're fully grown they should look fab! Unless we eat them before then:

Salad Bowl Lettuce - Red

Have a look here for other photos, including some fantastic Dutch Irises on someone else's plot.

I'm disappointed in my spinach. It's come up all patchy so I'm going to transplant it to even the rows out a bit.

I sowed it a bit heavy handed in places, now I know for next time to drop pinches of the seed instead of just throwing it randomly down a drill! I far prefer planting in egg trays than planting in the open ground - I seem to get much better results that way.

At home my tomatoes are growing fantastically well. They have been outdoors on the balcony for the last week and even though our temperatures have dropped to 3 or 4C the last few nights they seem ok. The squash are also outside on the balcony and seem to be doing alright. I don't mind if their growth gets a bit retarded as they are a bit ahead of themselves. Next year I will know to sow my seeds closer to the middle of May.

I planted basil plants, grown from seed, out into the windowboxes and repotted the parsley and oregano that were in there. A bit of fresh soil should make all the difference.

In the propagator I have a few more types of tomatoes that have all germinated and need potting on, a couple of different kinds of basil, broccoli, chives and cauliflowers. I also planted two courgettes - Eight Ball and Astia. There are winter leeks on the windowsill waiting to be planted outside.

Rain is forecast for this week which will hopefully give the potatoes something to make them grow!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Ok, so who turned the sun on?

It's flipping hot! I could even say 'it's FRIKKIN' hot!' I got so sunburnt today. First window washing, then car washing, then the whole afternoon in the allotment.

We spent most of yesterday morning there, before rushing back to catch the Grand Prix qualifying - husband is a fan.

Today I was there from 1 - 5 pm. The kids sat in their tent and read books, dug a bit in the dirt, fed grass to the chickens, got in the chicken run with the chickens ... in short... all those things kids get to do outside that they can't do in an apartment block. I love it!

Yesterday most of the time was taken up with chatting, having coffee with some other gardeners, getting some spare seedlings - spitskool, kohlrabi and kropsla. I planted them out yesterday but my visit today showed that the kropsla were very offended by the heat and today they were very wilted. I think one or two might die.

No such luck with the kohlrabi.

I'll let you in on a secret. I really don't like kohlrabi, but the lady who gave them to me was so nice, and I want to see what they look like when they grow and I had a spot to put them in so I took them. Ok, so the real reason I have them is because I just can't say no!

I planted out 12 Ostara strawberry plants yesterday and today I planted more sweet peas v. Old Spice - they finally came through after about four weeks! I now have Old Spice and Bijou on either side of a fence constructed of canes and chicken wire.

More sweet peas came out of their layers of damp kitchen paper today and went into trays. This variant is Candyman and it is a bright pink. I'll erect another screen for those in a different place. The sweet peas are for cutting. They don't seem that popular in the allotments here. I wonder why?

Other seed sowing happened today. The sweetcorn I had growing in pots was planted out and I also sowed seeds directly into the ground. I am making two windbreaks of corn, and my runner beans (Armstrong) will be left to clamber in the corn.

The runner beans and dwarf beans that I have here at home are becoming rather leggy but I'll keep them here a while longer. I'm still nervous that there might be a late frost.

I planted out two trays of Salad Bowl lettuce and I'm really pleased with the patterns I've made. I alternated rows of red and green lettuce - very pretty! The other three plants that were over went into the strawberry bed. They should be cut before the strawberries spread to fill the bed.

I also planted two more rows of carrots. I'm getting into this 'potager' look and sowing rows of plants in pretty patterns. The carrots form two sides of a square and the sweetcorn the other two. Hopefully the corn will shade the middle of the square so that I can plant things that are not that tolerant of heat in the middle.

My makeshift cover from chicken wire for the cauliflowers has worked really well, no more ducks eating them, but the peas are still being eaten by a mystery beast. It just nibbles the edges of the leaves? Bit like a caterpillar chomping, but I can't see any?

Spinach is through, need transplanting, carrots are through and need thinning, lettuces are through and ready to transplant. The apple tree is blossoming!

At home I planted chives; lemon basil; basil minette; gardener's delight, tigerella and costaluto florentino tomatoes (heirloom beef steak tomato) in trays.

I think I need to stop with the tomatoes now as each of those trays will give me 6 plants and I already have 18 cherry tomato plants already potted up.

Tomato addiction, anyone?

Oh, I want a courgette plant, but this year I will be lazy and buy one (and some aubergines) from the garden centre rather than starting my own from seed.

The flowers I planted in trays last weekend are through and I have to transplant them to modules.

I think it was a pretty successful weekend's gardening but I just wish it would rain! It hasn't rained for weeks now. The gardeners at the allotment allayed my fears of the canal running out of water. Apparently it has never happened before, except one year when there was a fault further up, so my plants won't die from lack of water.

It was so hot that the ponies were in the sloot (canal)!

I wanted to join them.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Overwhelmed in the allotment

We just finished watching some episodes of Beyond River Cottage where Hugh leaves his smallholding of 3 - 4 acres to take over a proper farm of about 40 acres. It's a wonderful series, just like River Cottage was, and the kids even sat still and watched for a couple of hours with us.

Sebastian was engrossed in the part where the cows were having their gynae exams to see if they were in calf or not, and Joe was particularly interested in the mortality of various of the beasts which were slaughtered and then eaten.

We have big mortality issues with him at the moment, ever since we visited the old age home for Palmpasen. He's been waking up at night crying and has become extremely concerned that we might age and die overnight. Poor baby. There's no real remedy except to be matter-of-fact and wait for him to come to terms with it.

I guess part of the reason it was such a shock for him is that he has never really seen a very elderly or elderly and infirm person up close. One of the disadvantages to having no family locally.

Moving on swiftly from imaginary scenes of alzheimers, dementia and invalidity ...

In the series that we're watching now Hugh says that when he moved from River Cottage to the new farm the idea of having so much extra space and responsibility was daunting. I can understand.

We recently got the allotment next to ours so we have a full sized, 110 m2 garden now instead of the 50 m2 we had before. I had everything planned out perfectly for the first half and we had laid out our beds and pathways and planned what we intended to grow.

Now that the second half is added in, I feel all at sea. I have all this space and nothing to plant in it. If I had known I had it I would have started more vegetables for longer term growth, like broccoli, a lot earlier. As it is, I concentrated on short, quick growing crops that would utilise the space that I had to the maximum. Suddenly there is so much more potential.

Here's a very rough plan (not to scale) of the allotment. Some of the plants are already in situ, others are waiting patiently on the windowsill until after Ijsheiligen. In the meantime they get shifted outdoors in the daytime and back inside at night.

Garden Plan

Some of these crops will be in the ground through winter, like the parsnips.

Areas that currently house peas, lettuce, onions and garlic wll be planted with winter crops like broccoli, winter spinach, carrots and chinese greens.

Amazing when you look at the plan and realise that the parsnips will only be eaten in nine months time!

The sweetcorn (maize) and sweet peas will hopefully provide some kind of windbreak for the beans, which seem to be very tender to strong winds. Being on the polder we get a lot of those and they blow in both directions across our allotment.

The raised bed system that we're trying to use requires a lot of investment at first in the form of the wood that we need to use for the borders. As a result we're doing it gradually. I'd prefer to spend money on plants rather than on wooden borders, but the system has so many advantages, not least the lack of muddy feet! I didn't realise quite how comfortable the pathways were until I had to kneel in the dirt to plant the cauliflowers and leeks as our bedding system hasn't been implemented on that side yet.

The pathways between the beds are currently woodchips, because that was what we had at the allotment when we were laying out the paths. I'm going to search out some straw to use for the remainder. The advantage of both woodchips and straw is that it can just be cultivated into the ground or swept up and added to the compost heap when it's time for a refresh.

Our table and chairs are at the site now, and we've discovered that the paving stones are far from level! A plan will have to be made with sand and a spirit level to try and get them flat. Otherwise all those meals we intend to eat there will have to be eaten with one hand holding the table steady!

So, who's coming to our first bbq at the allotment? We can pick our salad fresh from the garden!

Plum Blossom & Easter Bunnies

Easter Hunt

Plum blossom

Yesterday we visited the garden and found that the Easter bunny had been!

I planted the leeks out into the trenches I'd prepared the day before. I intend to plant rocket or to plant out my lettuce seedlings between the leeks. The lettuces have come up in droves so as soon as they develop a second set of leaves I'll transplant some of them to other spots.

There definitely seem to be some kind of carrot-like thing growing. Just waiting for the next leaves so I can be certain. My spinach is also through.

Onions and garlic are about 2 inches high now and the strawberry crowns are developing beautifully.

At home I transplanted peppers and tomatoes into 10 cm pots. I also started some leeks, maize and sunflower seeds on the windowsill. The leeks are in a discarded biscuit container and the maize and sunflower seeds are in paper cups.

I'm disappointed with the germination rate of my sweet peas. Despite soaking them between sheets of kitchen towel until they sprouted and then planting them, I only have about 11 plants from two packs of seed.

The varieties I used were Old Spice and Bijou (a low growing variety). Now I'm trying again with a variety called Candyman which yields pink blossom and the remainder of the Bijou seed.

The paper cups tip for bigger seeds was one I picked up from a book and I'm so glad I did as paper/plastic cups are *much* cheaper than buying black plastic pots.

An even better tip - if you have a florist you visit frequently ask them to keep the black plastic pots from the plants that they buy to re-pot - saves a fortune!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Cauliflowers, Leeks and Lettuces

Yesterday I bought some cauliflower, leek and lettuce plants from the garden centre.

Mine are not far along enough yet to plant out. The other half of our garden (the new part) has been cultivated. The cauliflowers went in there, the leeks are going alongside them in a separate bed.

The Husband did a lot of work today lifting paving stones and we've laid them out like stepping stones. I plan to plant low growing plants like felicia and verbena between the stones through perforated film.

He also made the sitting area at the back of the garden a bit bigger - perfect for summer barbecues!

The new half garden will be home to parsnips, leeks, carrots, cauliflower, pumpkins and potatoes.

The back of the garden houses an apple tree, another aalbes and a new plant, a Josta bes which our voorzitter gave me. The front of the new garden has blackberry, aalbessen and a rose bush.

Yesterday I planted marigolds (tagetes), alyssum, and tricolour daisies in trays. Hopefully they'll germinate quickly and give us lots of little plants to put amongst the vegetables.

In the garden itself the onions and garlic are almost all up. The spinach seems to have germinated, but I'm not sure - I have to wait for them to grow a bit before I can be certain. This is why I like growing things in trays indoors - then I know exactly what comes up!

There are baby lettuces coming up. It seems like every seed I sowed germinated! I'll thin them and plant the thinnings into trays to plant elsewhere when they're a bit bigger.

Still no carrots, or anything identifiable as a carrot. Patience is a virtue, I believe.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Volkstuin 1 April

I got the garden to the left of mine (pictured above). I just have to wait for it to be cultivated and then I can have it. Planned for that side are potatoes, leeks, and parsnips.

The pea plants are climbing their netting. The carrots are coming up, as are the onions and garlic.

At home I transplanted 6 each of Gem Squash (Rolet) and Butternut F1 to their own little containers. These were sown on 11 March and finally germinated late last week.

I've also transplanted the cherry tomatoes that were sown on 3 March and 11 March into their own pots. The whole living room windowsill is full of little plant pots. I hope no-one thinks I have a hash plantation!

Outside I have lettuce ready to go directly into the beds, and peas germinating slowly.

Last week Wednesday, the 28th, I planted more carrots, peas, and lettuce directly in the beds. In the bed next to them I planted alternate rows of spinach and garlic.

One of the raspberry plants I bought appears to be dead. I've trimmed down the stem and will wait a bit to see if anything comes up from the bottom. Hopefully it will.

The blackberries are sprouting furiously. The plum tree is in blossom and the herbs under the plum tree have been joined by a bay plant, two more rosemarys and a lavender bush.

The rosemary bushes that I took from home to be planted at the garden are looking a bit sad - one lost all it's needles and I've cut it down to see if it will resprout. The other seems ok, but it's yellowing. No idea what is wrong with them as they've been standing around here on the balcony for three years. Maybe it was too much of a shock for them to be transplanted..

The rhubarb is growing rapidly and the strawberries are sprouting. The last week we've had very warm dry weather so I have had to visit every day to water the garden.

Alas, there are only a very few of the bean plants still standing. I think the wind and the doves between them put an end to the beans. Never mind, I can always plant some more.

Yesterday while I was there I made a compost heap with chicken wire and bamboo. It looks pretty good for something made by someone with absolutely no idea! Photo coming soon.