Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Digging trenches is hard work!

On Friday I made a red lentil dhal from the Modern Vegetarian recipe book by Maria Elia that my sister bought me for Christmas.  

This was accompanied by a bottle of Campo Viejo Rioja 2005 Reserva - reduced from £7.99 to a fiver, and very nice it was too.  Really smooth.  There was some dhal left for the day after, and the flavour improved and got spicier with keeping.

Finally, all the potatoes are in.  It was a lovely sunny day on Saturday so Chris was up at 7am and dug over the un-dug patch of land just below the top greenhouse - this hasn't been dug in years.  I went over it again to pull out any weeds he'd missed.  Len gave me some potato planting advice, dig a trench a spit deep and a spit wide, then place the chitted seed potatoes 12 inches apart with a little manure around each one and some slug pellets.  Digging trenches is very, very hard work if you're out of practice, I was wiped out in the evening.  Lifting the soil to form a trench works wonders for your shoulder muscles.  Better than a work out at the gym, and we'll have lots of lovely homegrown potatoes in a few months.

On Sunday, I was back at Brookside Nursery getting some compost as Aldi had sold out of organic multi-purpose compost and organic grow bags.  I was disappointed because Aldi’s were really cheap and I should have bought them earlier, but I'll know for next year. So instead I bought two Leverington grow bags (the traditional grow bag), and one New Horizon organic peat-free grow bag.  I got one large bag of New Horizon organic peat-free compost too.  I'm going to trial the New Horizon products to see if they're any good. Obviously, I would rather use peat-free and organic compost, but not having used it before I didn't want to risk an entire tomato crop failing.  Whilst I was there, I stocked up on some more cheap plug plants for hanging baskets, including a scented geranium for only 69p.  Yay!  It smells lemony and spicy.

Chris mulched the strawberries with some straw and they look a lot happier.  I hope we get loads of juicy strawberries in summer, and I might even be able to make some jam.  The gooseberry plants have lots of leaves on them now, as well as the blackcurrant bush at home, and both are starting to bud.  The blackthorn has some leaves on it too, and I spotted the first of the white flowers on 21st April.  I'll make some sloe gin (or brandy, seeing as gin is my kryptonite) in September.

I redug what I hoped was going to be the brassica patch.  It's the piece of land at the top of the plot where all the rubbish and weeds used to be dumped.  It's absolutely full of weed roots and twigs and despite digging it over twice it's still full of weed roots and twigs.  So I can't put the brassicas there, I need a plan B.  I think the squashes or more potatoes can go up there instead.  The brassicas will have to go where I intended to put the leeks and root vegetables, which means I'm stuck for somewhere for them to go now.  It's a complex jigsaw of crops.

I planted the small salad leaves and lettuce plants off Lynne in the central raised bed.  Chris planted carrots (Autumn King 2, St Valery, Nicky’s Nursery Carrot) and parsnip (Tender and True, White Gem) seeds in each of the small beds in between the raised beds.

The sweetcorn that I'd sown in tiny peat pots had started to grow out of the pots, so as a trial I planted all 7 of them in the bottom greenhouse.  It was either that or let them suffer and become pot bound.  I've got some more seedlings coming on in the larger size of peat pot, and I'll sow some more at weekend so that we've got a successional crop.

After all this digging, I'd worked up a bit of an appetite so I went to my Mum's for homemade fish pie for tea.  Mmmm.

I took the day off work on Monday and sowed the peas (Hurst Green Shaft) in the toilet roll tubes I'd saved.  I also sowed all the beans – runner (Prizewinner Stringless), broad (Imperial Green Long Pod), french (Blue Lake, Cherokee Trail of Tears, Cobra) and borlotto, more squash (mixed squash, Crown Prince) and the free BBC 'Dig In' Black Beauty courgettes.  I had to stop halfway through and go into town for some plant pots because I'd run out!

The runner bean seeds were my favourite:

Here are the seeds I've sown so far this year:

I repotted the tomatoes and cucumbers that had become cramped.  The nasturtiums are thriving and are pretty big now.  The variegated one is my favourite (Alaska), it has super cute stripy pinwheel style leaves.

The tomatoes are doing well, as well as the cucumbers.  Two of the melon Emir seeds popped up but have turned brown so I'm not sure if they've died.  This might be because I took them out of the propagator too early, or left them in too long.  I'll need to resow some more.  However, there are still two melon Emirs that are growing well and a watermelon too.  The melon Bastion haven't appeared yet.

The greenhouse at home and propagators are now full to the brim, unless I start putting things on the floor.  My next step is to plant out the sweet peas and make a few hanging baskets and hang them in the greenhouse.

As for the flower garden, the primula denticulatas' globes are now fully formed and they look amazing.

The forget me nots in the front garden are flourishing, and I picked myself and my Mum a tiny little vase each.

The sweet peas are still hardening off but I'm getting a little tired of bringing them inside every night and taking them out every morning.  Time for planting out asap, but I need to get some trellises first.  Roll on the last frost and then all the annuals can go out into the big bad world.  The seeds I sowed outside in the back yard are starting to come through including the large pot of wildflower window box mix.

Chris made a bird table for the back garden.  The first person to get a photo of a bird on it wins a prize!  He also made a garden caddy for his Mum's birthday to match the nest boxes he's already made.

We went to visit the pickle and chutney makers, Reedy's, on Wednesday after work.  We're hoping to stock their products in the shop, they do a really good range of stuff and I was dying to try the rhubarb chutney and the hot plum chutney.  They gave us 6 jars to take away and sample at Thursday night's wider shop group meeting.

Finally, did I ever mention my obsession with Paperchase's 'Food Friends' range?  I went a bit mad last year and bought loads!  I've also got an umbrella and a large tin (not pictured).

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