This old category was for anything planted in the original patch north of the cottage. It was meant to stay as a salad patch, convenient for frequent visits to gather last-minute table food. However, the offer of one greenhouse gratis, and another for a joyful song, the old patch will now be the home of two 6′ x 8′ greenhouses – one for tomatoes, peppers, chillies etc, and the other for cucumbers (and gherkins hopefully).

2016 Patch Plan

As mentioned, there have been a few changes this year – most noticeably the shrinking of the vegetable patch, which now has multiple 10ft x 10ft beds. In truth, some of the produce we grew in the 10’x30′ beds was too much – most noticeably the onions. We never get through them! Some we do use – the squash patch in particular. So with more beds, we can give some totally over to one type of plant. I still haven’t thought it entirely through, but I imagine it will be something like this:

Plot A – Potatoes

Plot B – Aliums (shallots, white onions, red onions, leeks, garlic)

Plot C – Root veg (parsnips, beetroot, swede, kohl rabi, turnip etc) and corgettes – carrots will go on clean ground as they always suffer from carrot fly on this patch.

Plot D – Summer (butternut) and winter squash

Plot E – Pumpkins & Sweetcorn

Plot F – Brassica (brussel sprouts, summer cauliflower, winter/spring cauliflowers, spring cabbage, winter (savoy) cabbage, summer/autumn round cabbage, red cabbage, broccolli)

Plot G – Legumes (peas and beans)

Carrots will go in the raised bed again, they do well raised that 2′ off the ground to deter the carrot fly, and also in the old fruit cage, next to the currant bushes as that soil is new to carrots. I may even add extra garlic in there to help deter new flies discovering our carroty goodness!

We’ll also plant the sunflowers in that area, we need sunflowers as they’re so gorgeous and the birds love them!

You may also notice that the wild flower border we had last year, running south of the Old Oak, is no longer there. In reality, it is, but our de-teaseling last year *seems* to have done the trick as I can’t see any young teasels starting off – but we’re doing nothing with it yet until I’m sure it doesn’t need rotovating again to kill any new growth off, so some wild flowers will push through and, as long as they’re not a teasel, they’re more than welcome!

We’ve also added three new trees to the orchard – a replant of a Beeley Pippin after the last one didn’t take well, It’s in the north-east corner of the little  orchard and, judging by the buttercups there, I think it may be that the ground is slightly wetter than the rest of the orchard. Other trees don’t seem to mind it, so it may be the Beeley Pippin is a bit reluctant as a variety. We’ve also added a Vilberie – an old Normandy cider tree – to the little orchard, and the same variety on larger rootstock to the big orchard. I’m quite excited about these, and they’re one variety that has gone in after much thought.

 

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Replacement Beans

The slugs have managed to decimate the French climbing beans and runner beans – only five out of forty stations surviving their onslaught! Luckily we have backup at the cottage. Chatting to a friend today, he mentioned he drinks half a can of cheap bitter (they prefer bitter to lager apparently, being British slugs I guess), lie the can on its side and they’ll climb up and in through the hole. So much easier than filling sunken pint pots, and you can add the slugs and old beer to the compost, and recycle the can. Nice, I’m off to drink several half cans of cheap bitter!

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First Tomatoes, Geese and Panoramic

 

Just a quick visual update. The first tomatoes are finally ready – what a slow year of growth! The geese are happily settled in and enjoying their new home, and we do have green stuff growing – including the line of spuds I’d not managed to get totally out of the ground – you can see the weeds we’ve had to leave around them in a line next to the compost bins!

Planting Strawberries

Today was the day to set the newly arrived strawberry plants. First job was to make the wooden frame to border the plants, Smiler helped me with the sawing, and Jay helped set the straw around the plants to help check weed growth, put of slugs and snails, and help keep moisture in. Next year we’ll hopefully take the runners and have more from them.

As usual, the weeds are in full growth, as is the grass. Ian from next door is helping keep the grass down by topping it for us once the sheep have eaten it down, whilst Suz and Jay hoe – hard life!

Rabbits and Raspberries

I’ve mentioned we’ve turned half of the old veggie patch into a seed bed and somewhere for salad veg, but I’d neglected to mention that the other half is going to be a new home for a couple of pet rabbits. So the Easter weekend’s first job was to build a new partition fence, leaving enough space for a gate I’m reusing from the chicken run once  they move to the paddock. We’ve also found a good supplier of chicken wire and weld mesh locally, at Pukka Pens, in Stanton by Bridge. The only thing left to do is to buy the turf and lay it. The cabbages in the foreground were casualties, the rest will follow soon…<sniff>

Last spring I planted 5 autumn fruiting raspberry canes in the border to the side of the now-rabbit-run, and 10 summer fruiting canes. I’d also tried to construct a wire support structure using locally scavenged crack willow, but as I’ve now found out, crack willow cracks and snaps. Didn’t really need to be a genius to figure that out I guess. So having been faced with droopy raspberries every time we come home (do you know how disturbing  that is?), I made it my second job this weekend to do something better for my soft fruit. The result is 3 x 8 foot posts dug 2 foot into the ground, with support posts and wire tensioned between. I also have enough materials to build another 30′ stretch in the new vegetable patch once I get the fruit netting in place. Is it possible to get sick of raspberries?

For those who don’t know, autumn fruiting raspberries fruit on the current year’s growth – so after they fruited the previous autumn you should have cut them right back, and the new growth the following spring will bear fruit. Summer fruiting raspberries differ in that they fruit on last year’s growth – so you don’t cut back the new growth of the previous year as that’s where the fruit will be the following year, but you *do* cut back any growth that has already bourne fruit. Simples. The shot to the right shows summer-fruiting rasberry canes that grew last year. You’ll likely get too many canes popping  up so cut out all but the strongest 2-4 and tie them to the wires. The wires need to be spaced at 2, 4 and 6 feet from the ground. We’ve also pinched out the tips of these raspberries to encourage side growth.

A general weekend update

With some time to poddle in the garden this weekend, I went to check the grass growth in the acre field and it’s looking good! You can make out the brown rectangular patch just above the orange netting, where our new veggie patch will be. Come spring this should turn rampant, and we’ve decided to not plant any orchard this year seeing as though it’s getting a bit late and I’m loath to spend money on a slightly risky planting session.

Instead, we’ll blow the budget on getting all the fencing in place that we will need to split the field into the four quarters we want – the vegetable growing quarter, the hay/grazing quarter, the small tree orchard quarter and the larger tree orchard quarter. This year we’ll try and get 4 or 5 sheep in after April to tread the ground down and to eat the grass tops, both encouraging new growth and replacing the need to mechanically roll the ground. They’ll also add useful  fertiliser! We’ll also be able to add chickens as well, so I’ll build a coop or two, and we’ll also be able to plant the hedgerow whips so they can get a good start. This lack of planting of orchard trees will allow us to concentrate on the vegetable patch so we’ll have plenty to do! We’ve changed our minds about half standard and standard trees, and have decided to take things down a peg and use MM106 rootstock for apples, St Julien A for plums, Colt for cherries and Quince A for the pears. This will allow us to grow fruit ‘bushes’ in the smaller fruit tree orchard, to grow to about 9-12ft high and mostly pickable by hand and stepladder. The larger tree orchard will grow to half standard size, so lower branches will be around 1.2m from the ground – hopefully just about high enough to prevent sheep from grazing the fruit when they’re fully grown.

There was also time to dig over our existing veggie patch to let the night frost attack it – the chickens happily came onto the patch to help munch exposed bugs and worms whilst I dug, and added some welcome manure without me having to lift a finger! I lifted the remainder of the large leeks and cabbages, leaving some smaller leeks in to see what happens.