Monday, 30 June 2014

Moving into summer

With the rain behind us for a couple of weeks, the garden work has been mainly weeding and grass cutting to get back on top of things after the wet weather.  It is still early in the summer but my New Dawn rose is now at its best.

 The weight of the blooms has dropped it slightly over the door, but it is having an excellent year.
 In the vegetable garden, the peas have recovered from the attack of the wood pigeons and are now growing quickly.  I have re-used the apple tree prunings from the winter to provide support for the peas.  Because the pigeons are still around (though they have moved to a neighbouring plot for their meals) I have left a barrier of netting around the peas and beans which extends above pigeon head height so they cannot get at the plants.  Working well so far!  There is another sowing of peas behind this batch so plenty to come yet.
 The strawberries have started cropping and there is a lot of fruit.  The plants were put in new last spring (2013) and this is their first good cropping.  You generally get 4-5 good crops before replanting is required.  The dry weather means the slugs and snails get fewer strawberries than they would like, good for us...
 My peony has just two blooms this year, I will have to ensure I feed it a bit more, to get more flowers.  But they are lovely.
 Not sure whether I like the flowers more closed or open, with  splash of yellow.
 This is actually a wildflower, purple toadflax, which seeds itself.  Pretty and interesting at this time of year as it is quite tall.

A few days ago I went collecting elderflowers to make elderflower cordial.  Do it on a dry day, shake the insects off them, then put them in  large pan.  Pour over boiling water and let them steep for an hours.  Sieve the liquour off, then let it settle in a large, wide jug as some vegetative matter does get through the sieve.  Once that has dropped to the bottom, pour off the clear liquid at the top, put in a pan and heat with some sugar to taste, add a splash of lemon juice and hey presto elderflower cordial.  Keeps around a week or two.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Killer Pigeons and Other Disasters

 After some very poor weather I went up to the vegetable plot to check on my plants.  I discovered my runner beans were rather shorter than they had been last time I saw them.  My initial thought was slugs, but then I looked at the peas....
 Heads neatly snapped off, and a number missing.  Damned wood pigeons!  Last year was the first time we had any problem with wood pigeons using the plot as an all you can eat buffet, but it seems it was not a one-off.  Most of the runner beans have lost their upper sections.
Here are the peas, there were two unbroken lines either side of these twigs, you can see the gaps.  Further explorations revealed that they had also started snacking on the spinach and chard nearby.  Happily, it looked like a recent development of only two breakfasts so a lot of the plants have survived.  I was going to put the second sowing of peas in anyway so I took the opportunity to resow in the gaps of the earlier sowing, I will also fill in the gaps in the beans as I have lots of seeds left.  Resowing generally works before the end of June, which is the latest successful time at this latitude.

So I got out my very long roll of netting and wound it round all the plants, hopefully they will recover.  Another net has gone over the spinach and chard as the pigeons seem to like them too.
The most difficult thing about gardening here is the weather, combined with our clay soil it can make germination very difficult.  This year we had a relatively warm spring, but just as I started planting the weather turned cold and damp for a couple of weeks.  My cabbage sowing resulted in just two miserable specimens - believe it or not, this is the best one!  So I decided to cut my losses and buy a few plants.
At least we will have some cabbages later this year.  Other things have suffered with the rain too.  I lost one courgette to the damp, still time to resow that one.
 I thought I had lost all the parsnips, but on closer inspection I found a few clumps where the soil was clearly just warm enough for germination, with big gaps between the clumps.  The colder temperatures came at just the wrong time.
It's a similar story with the beetroot, although I got cloches on the soil temperature dropped a little too far.  I may need to transplant some beetroot and parsnip to fill in the gaps, though I may also get a little more seed and sow more next week as there is just time.
The wet weather has encouraged the slugs and snails - while my potatoes are as slug and blight resistant as they get, even they cannot withstand invasion level numbers.  A few stems have been toppled by the creatures gnawing away at the base.  Not too many, so a dose of slug pellets and some sunshine should fix the problem.
Happily it's not all doom and gloom, here are some broad beans which have now set, so that's something to look forward to.
And there looks to be a bumper crop of strawberries on the way, as long as the sun shines a bit more!