Thursday, July 30, 2009

So much rain

Yesterday it seemed to pause the heavy rain only in order to pour down torrential rain (it was raining on St Swithun's Day - 15th July - maybe they knew about jet streams back then after all). Walking through the village later, crossing the bridge, the river was a brown raging torrent.

So I still have an empty bed from removing onions, shallots and garlic and another from the early potatoes to attend to and get them ready for the next crops in the rotation (brassicas after the onions, so manure and compost needed there; and peas,beans, onions, leeks after the early potatoes). Actually just remembered that Mrs Soggy is already on the ball and has planted some leeks on the former potato bed.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Buddleia, Bees and Butterflies



There was some sun yesterday, if you are in the UK, hope you didn't blink and miss it. So I took the chance to take pictures of the buddleia as it attracted bees and butterflies. Somehow a picture of one of Mrs Soggy's fuchsia crept in as well.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Digging Day

Decided to finish off digging up the bed of early potatoes (the main crop bed is still full of flourishing plants), so there are now lovely groups of white potatoes dotted about the bed, getting a good rinse in the heavy rain which has just started. They are all looking good: Anya, Cosmos and Charlotte.

I have already dotted a few courgettes in spaces left by some of the earlies, but now thoughts turn to the larger remainder of the bed. It should really be plants of the onion family going in, but I may just do a quick green manure beforehand.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Big Lunch - indoor picnic


I mentioned that the village was planning to take part in The Big Lunch, we were doing it just as an informal picnic, from 12 until 2. Just before 12 a few of us were playing cricket on the village hall field, then the heavens opened, so we had the picnic indoors, some people even insisting on still using their picnic rugs!

Monday, July 20, 2009

A New Week and blue sky

It's a lovely clear sky and bright sunshine here today, quite a change from the weekend's rain. The rain did force the Big Lunch into the village hall, but we managed to play some games on the field between showers.

In the afternoon, before a really heavy downpour, I got out all the spent broccoli - not just centre florets but sides ones too now finished and transplanted various winter greens.

Some of the onions need lifting - the tops have gone over now. I'll lift the garlic with them - hopefully today if it stays dry; I have some wire frames I usually lay onions and garlic on, to help them dry cleanly.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Big Lunch

The Eden Project's project to get us all to have a picnic together - hopefully with stuff you've grown or locally sourced. It's this weekend, and guess what happens when you plan an outdoor event in Britain?? Have you seen the forecast for the weekend - oh dear!

Well, we have a Big Lunch planned for the village on Sunday, lets hope everyone remembers umbrellas as well as butties.

Soft Fruit and harder facts

Last night at Garden Club we had a really useful talk on Soft Fruit - usually Mrs Soggy's domain. As a result we are planning this autumn to take up our strawberries, which really are past it (3 years is about the limit for good sized fruits) and our raspberries - as we have totally lost the plot on what variety is what - which dopes rather complicate pruning. So ground will be dug and lots of manure added and new varieties planted. We are researching now for old-fashioned varieties of strawberries - before they started breeding for non-bruising transportable ones that look good in the supermarket, yet don't taste of much.

I saw Compostwoman's post about installing solar water heating which reminded me that I had meant to post here details of a book I am reading at the moment, which I imagine anyone who thinks about the environment - and I'm sure that includes us gardeners - would be interested in. It's "Sustainable Energy - without the hot air" by David JC Mackay. You can read it online - I have it on Inter-Library loan.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wet weather problems - blight and slugs

After the dry spell we've been having in England, summer now seems to be getting its revenge, maybe the weather knows we have family visiting all summer?

So, a warning - no, not about my family, they are lovely - but about wet weather. The two main things springing to mind are blight and slugs.

First late blight. Hopefully, if you garden organically, you already have the first step taken - by growing blight resistant varieties of tomatoes and potatoes. Also, keep greenhouses well ventilated, blight loves static, muggy air. Look out for brown patches appearing on tomato and potato leaves, but don't immediately assume it's blight (have a look at pictures online and compare, for example on the RHS site here).

If you have it on your tomatoes, no matter how upsetting you must dig them out and gather up all fallen material, leaves, rotten tomatoes and burn or bury. (It may be OK to take to the local recycling, but check with them first, I know in some cases their composting methods reach much higher temperatures than ours, and so can kill more pathogens).

Your potato tops may show signs, but if you have been earthing up well, then the tubers will be safe. Cut off the plants at soil level and leave the tubers in and don't dig until after a spell of warm and dry weather (hopefully we'll get some again one day).

Slugs. Well the toads help in my garden, but so also do the organic approved slug pellets I get from the Organic Gardening Catalogue, see here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Between the showers pickings


Just nipped out and gathered a few bits:
Tomatoes, radish, sugar snap and mange tout peas, broad beans and courgettes. Snapped next to some of Mrs Soggy's herbs.

Late sowing

I saw an offer in the Garden Organic magazine, and since it was about seeds I had to have a look, so here I am with a collection of seeds from the Organic Gardening Catalogue labelled: "Late Sowing Seed Collection."
If I am honest I probably have enough seeds to sink a battleship, but they are hard to resist aren't they?

The collection includes:
Broad Beans - Super Aquadulce: Definitely a late sowing - November
Spinach - Giant Winter: Hardy and can be sown July, August and September
Peas - Pilot: If I sow them in October, we should be eating them by June
Carrots - Nantes 2: Apparently can be sown as late as August, meant to be quick growing.
Parsley - Moss Curled: Mrs Soggy will have to sow for Spring use.
Onions - Bedfordsire Champion: Not sure about these, they were included, but I use sets
Rainbow Chard - Bright Lights: Great for a July sowing to give leaves and stems for stir fries
Sugar Pea - Norli: Pushing it a bit sowing in July, but worth a try, an old favourite with us.

I'll keep you posted on how these get on.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Talking of gardening ...

I came across a useful little forum, based in the UK, which seems, so far, to be a good place for swapping idea and tips (I've added it to my list of useful sites towards the bottom of the right hand column), but here it is to save you scrolling: vegetable-gardens

Friday, July 10, 2009

A trip to the Isle of Purbeck

A fancy title for meeting up with Daughter Soggy for lunch and posting a picture of Corfe Castle (lunch stop) and one of her allotment - living proof that you can get flourishing crops on clay soil on an allotment which had been neglected, if you put lots of work in which they certainly have. Just look at their sweetcorn and the fennel in the background!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Nature's Life Support Systems

Yesterday I transplanted two varieties of Leek (Varna and Oarsman), with a third (Atlanta) yet to go in, once the second lot of broad beans is cut down. There were some straggly leek seedlings which I ate with my salad lunch, every bit of which I gathered in my hands and took to the plate, as fresh as fresh could be.

Taking produce from the garden is something we, as gardeners, may not exactly take for granted, but we do expect, despite occasional failures, to reap a reward for our efforts don't we? In effect what we are doing is tapping into what Prince Charles last night described as "Nature's Life Support Systems."

The way I garden and produce vegetables has been affected over the years by a few key influences. The first was a lecturer (and sadly I cannot remember his name) teaching part of the geography course at the then Plymouth Polytechnic, who demonstrated on some simple graphs of consumption the exponential growth in the use of natural resources (and that was 40 years ago). Later I read "Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered" by E. F. Schumacher, which put people at the heart of the response to the challenge created by my lecturer. In the 1980s Mrs Soggy and I went on a course where we met Patrick and Shirley Rivers at their farm in the Wye Valley. Two of his books, prompted by their own experience, and also by their research into the effects of factory-scale fish farming off the coast of Africa, made me think harder about what we eat and how it is produced. There have been other and varied influences of course, and in each generation there will be voices speaking out, sometimes in the face of received wisdom, making us think about the way we live.

Last night I listened to another voice, I don't watch much television and certainly don't usually sit through the Richard Dimbleby Lecture, but my attention was well and truly held by a speech given by the Prince of Wales, in which were woven together many strands of the thinking reflected in the sources above, and relating them, as Schumacher, to a world view in which people matter. At the same time humanity was placed firmly in the speech as part of the greater natural order, not as exploiters of nature, rather as vulnerable members of Earth's fragile ecosystems.

As gardeners we are amonsgt the stewards of Nature's Life Support Systems, offering up not just tasty lunch time snacks, but also practical examples of sustainable methods, environmental awareness and harmonious living with nature.

I seem to have left the spade behind and fallen under the philosopher's spell today - normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

I'll just leave you with a quote from the Prince's lecture (of which more here in The Independent and here on The Prince of Wales website):

"But for all its achievements, our consumerist society comes at an enormous cost to the Earth and we must face up to the fact that the Earth cannot afford to support it. Just as our banking sector is struggling with its debts – and paradoxically also facing calls for a return to so-called 'old-fashioned', traditional banking – so Nature's life-support systems are failing to cope with the debts we have built up there too.

"If we don't face up to this, then Nature, the biggest bank of all, could go bust. And no amount of quantitative easing will revive it."

Monday, July 6, 2009

A quick view from both sides of the garden


A barrow-load of broad bean plants ready for pulling the pods off and the ground released for planting leeks into dibber holes; there are more bean plants still to be removed, but it's raining hard here today. I cut the bean plants off at ground level (the tops will go in the compost after removal of pods) so that the roots and the nitrogen rich nodules will remain in the ground. In front of the barrow are two varieties of beetroot (Boltardy and Cylindra), they both look good and I think I could be in for some pickled beetroot!

The other picture is a view through one of the flower borders, it just appealed to Mrs Soggy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Over half way through the Year!

Can you believe it? Time really does seem to be flying, and so are the horse flies; a friend of mine in the village had a nasty bite from one and it has gone septic, hope it clears up quickly for her.

So now it's July, you'll find topical advice column on the right has been updated. If you have any topical tips of your own which you'd like to share, please leave a comment. Happy summer gardening!