Sunday, 29 June 2014

Trial and error

Throughout the spring and early Summer I have been experimenting with different sites for different plants, seeing which ones grow best in what position.

As this is my first year in this garden, I'm still finding things out about it all the time. For example all of my vegetable beds seem to differ in soil quality and texture. In the main vegetable patch I have been lucky enough to inherit an rich, fertile soil and most of the plants there are thriving. The south facing bed next to the polytunnel, which I had high hopes for, does not seem to be as productive. The rhubarb failed miserably and a large gooseberry bush so far has only a handful of berries on it. Tomatoes plants also in this bed seem to have been scorched by the sun following a shower, testament to the ever changing weather we have up here.

I planted some courgette plants in the polytunnel back early May and some in the main vegetable patch at the same time. The difference is quite astonishing and has certainly extended my cropping season.

I have been harvesting courgettes from the polytunnel for the past few weeks. A welcome early harvest before a lot of things have really got going.

Once these have been exhausted the plants outside should take over, giving me some fantastic courgettes over a period of around four months.

This is also my first year using raised beds and something I didn't consider was how quickly they dry out compared to the ground around them. This has led to my Leeks bolting and my shallots look to be trying to flower early too. The flower stems won't go to waste though, they will be great in a stir fry or chopped finely in any number of dishes.

Meanwhile in the vegetable patch, as expected during the summer my brassicas have been under attack. Nightly slug patrols have really made difference to the amount of damage sustained but they still seem to be getting nibbled by something. Butterfly's haven't been as much as a problem as I had expected with just the odd caterpillar having to be picked off. This is perhaps due to how exposed we are up here. Worst effected have been the red cabbages, they have targeted the hearts which is annoying, if just the outer leaves had been eaten I wouldn't mind too much. I'll persevere with these though, the plants should now be big enough to grow on a develop a good heart despite the slugs.

On the other hand the kale planted alongside these cabbages are looking really strong. They haven't been bothered by any pests and should be ready for harvesting a few leaves from before too long.

I have already started planning for winter sowing broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts and swede in seed trays ready to plant out at some time in August. I'll do some more in another a couple of weeks to go out in early September.

Also in the raised beds where the radish has been harvested I've sown some spring onions directly in their place. Successional sowing and overlapping crops was the idea when we started the garden and now we can really see this coming to fruition.

Still on the subject of food, we have had the chickens for four weeks now and they have more than doubled in size and are looking very healthy and happy.

They do a great job of clearing a patch of weeds, at the moment a rough idea is to either overwinter some more in the polytunnel or on the veg patch, keeping it weed free and adding goodness to the soil at the same time.

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