Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Six Weeks Behind this Year!

The Growing Season is Higgledy Piggledy!

What more can I say about this year's growing season?

It's now 12th June and we are only a fortnight into the planting/sowing season here if you are relying entirely on growing outdoors with no artificial heating of any description. Between power cuts and the heaviest snowfall here in 60 years, it has taken much longer for the ground to thaw and warm up enough to plant or sow anything, so it is good to see a few signs of life about the place, at long last!

Hawthorn is normally what I judge the weather by, relying on its other name for guidance - May - the month it flowers and the month that you ne'er cast a clout until it's oot, for us Scots. This year, however, the 'May' is just blooming now - almost six weeks later than 'normal'. So, without further ado, we had to start sowing and planting at the end of May and beginning of June, then we get hit by a fortnight of exceptional weather with temperatures reaching into the high 20s!

Rainfall was minimal, if any, during the past fortnight but it eventually clouded over and we had showers all of yesterday and early hours of this morning. There's another very light shower now, but not serious enough to have curtailed outdoor plans.

Yesterday's wash-out meant time in the kitchen, stewing the rhubarb that got picked and turning it into eight crumbles - six have gone in the freezer - while baking biscuits and a couple of cakes to use up surplus duck eggs. This afternoon, a bulk cooking session with mince and leftover veggies has netted me six double portion lasagnes, five of which will go into the freezer once cooled. It worked out at less than 75p per lasagne and each will feed two of us a main meal. The crumbles were probably less than half of that. Still having problems with the oven, though, as it is not distributing the heat properly, resulting in burning on one side and undercooking on the other! It will need to last until the kitchen eventually gets done properly and only then will it be updated.

Salad leaves grow just fine in tubs, so this photo shows the first produce of the year from here in Frugaldom. Salad leaves just keep on coming and do exactly as stated on the seed packets - you cut them or pick them and they soon grow again - a definite grazing box if ever I saw one, even in our wonky weather and growing them outdoors. Salad leaves mean I no longer even attempt to grow lettuces in any quantity. Perhaps I'll sow a few seeds and grow half a dozen.

The herb beds are doing amazingly well here, especially the herb spiral that was built as part of the permaculture plans. This one has barely needed weeding, as it is now chocablock full of herbs and strawberry plants. What doesn't get used gets left to go to seed, so the purple flowers from the chives add a splash of colour. The massive clump of sage at the top has completely engulfed the rosemary so that will need thinning out soon, but cuttings were taken last year and they did survive the winter to be planted out earlier this month.

 I now have two circular beds and two spirals, as we like them so much. The latest spiral was built from the stonework that was removed from the old fireplace; it saved having to pay to have all the rubble and stone removed for disposal. The circular bed is beginning to take on a life of its own now that last year's cuttings and thinning are all beginning to grow and spread. I love herb beds - they are so easy to maintain, quick to grow and encourage all sorts of experimentation in the kitchen. The parsley grew right through winter and even survived being buried under more than a foot of snow! I now have a bird feeding station set in the centre of this bed, so I'll need to keep an eye out for stray sunflowers.

If anyone is wondering about planting or sowing seeds at this time of year, mine are way behind many I have seen elsewhere, but they are growing with the season. It's the only frugal way without incurring the costs of extra heating in a greenhouse. Plastic is all mine have been under and the seeds only got planted a fortnight ago with more being sown last week.

The photo on the left shows the rate at which the courgettes are growing. I sowed two seeds into each of the six sections and it looks like I already have 10 healthy plants with the other two seeds just beginning to germinate. I can't explain why they are growing at different rates as they are all in the same compost, all get watered together and the tray gets turned every few days.

The photo on the right shows a tray of cucumber seeds that were sown the same day as the courgettes. Again, there's a marked difference in the rate these seeds are growing. They are also much slower than the courgettes. You can just make out the beginnings of the 'true' leaves forming on the first of the seedlings. The healthiest of these will be transplanted onto the floor of the plastic greenhouse with the others being passed on to friends or else planted outdoors in the hope that we get some lengthy summer sunshine.

In the main garden, potatoes were planted after adding a good layer of the homemade compost. These have just begun to grow now, with quite a few shoots appearing just over the past couple of days. We have two small beds of potatoes, sown from surplus Navan and Maris Pipers that began to sprout. I haven't bought any seed potatoes at all, as I simply cannot warrant the costs when making do with a temporary patch in the garden. Hopefully, we'll eventually get a proper potato patch one day in the future, but we're still at the 'make do and mend' stages of gardening, despite having been here for 2 years.

Last year's metre square raised beds have been used for spring onions, Utah giant onions, all year
round cauliflowers, carrots, cabbage and broccoli. The Biochar experiment was a failure for me, bur it has been left in the 'test bed' for this year, so we'll see if there are any improvements. Again, my seeds were only sown this month, so they are just beginning to emerge. the first of the spring onions were transplanted from a tub I had in the greenhouse. These all need to be kept under wire mesh to prevent the cats from using the boxes as litter trays!

This time last year we were picking strawberries on an almost daily basis. This year, however, the plants are just flowering and the first little green strawberries are beginning to form! I'm not sure if there'll be any ready in time for the tennis. Last year, they were almost all eaten by then. I did get excited when I thought I spotted ripe fruit earlier today but it wasn't to be...

... it was nothing more than a red leaf on one of the plants!

Finally, I have to mention the fruit garden and the micro orchard. The rhubarb has done rather well. despite the late snow, and the blackcurrant bushes look absolutely laden. The young fruit trees haven't produced much bloom this year but I can see a few little cherries forming on the tree closest to the duck pond. There may not be much fruit growing on the old Victoria plum tree at the bottom of the garden, but there's a family of blue tits cheeping and tweeting in the nest box attached to the trunk and bird corner is beginning to look good. Beyond this, the garden is still a bit of a wilderness but the hens are managing to keep it clear of weeds.

So, that's the general round-up from Frugaldom - not much growing in the garden yet but plenty of eggs being laid and the permaculture side of things seems to be heading in the right direction. Plus, there's still time to plant more seeds if I can clear space. The wormery survived the winter and is now producing lovely 'worm juice' plant food, the tomato and pepper seeds have finally germinated and, sadly, the sawfly invasion has, once again, picked on my gooseberry bush. I wonder if rhubarb leaves would help alleviate the problem? I'll let you know as soon as I try it. Raspberry bushes look wild - must learn how to cultivate them more productively.

Until next time,

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  1. Well, if it is any consolation, we are about the same, maybe slightly less, here in France. Our cherries are still not ready to pick, and it's usually done by mid-May. The acacia flowers have only just started blooming (delicious dipped in batter & fried, dusted with sugar) and my potatoes, again from left-over spuds, are only about 4 inches tall.

    However, I'm told our village mayor has just been told by French government to lay on emergency plans for a heat-wave, forecast for August - as bad as the one in 2003.

    1. Interesting regarding the heat wave, Carol, and something that wouldn't surprise me in the least after the extreme rain that flooded us here during autumn and the extreme snow that completely shut us off from the outside world during winter. I treat this as spring, with summer running from late June to September, in time for harvesting in October. Let's hope we get a good crop of something (anything) that can help feed us through the year in some way, shape or form without having to rely solely on electricity to store it.

  2. Behind here in Canada also. Only just got my veggies planted out and as the weather is so up and down didn't do many this year at all.

    It does look as though the fruit trees will produce well this year, as we didn't get a warm spell then a cold spell like last year in the spring that killed all the fruit tree blossoms off.

    1. Let's hope we get something that grows well. My fruit trees were all under a foot of water during the flooding but it doesn't seem to have done them much harm. They are taking a long time to grow, though, or perhaps I am just too impatient. :) Veggie wise, courgettes seem to do really well here but I am still trying to learn how to love them. Good luck with your crops this year, Gill. :)


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