With glorious weather finally foisted upon us, there was no time to lose! It’s been a rather weird start to the year – first it was perfect, nice and warm early on. Then through May it gradually became colder again, with the winds picking up so much that anything put in the ground that is mildly nesh (prefers a warmer temperature), just sat there and refused to grow! The sweetcorn were like stubborn little whisps of wafty green, perfectly happy to remain about 3″ from ground level.
So today was the turn of the leeks. All the books say ‘wait until they’re the thickness of pencils’ before transplanting to their “final positions. Well – these were the thickness of the lead in a pencil, but it was time to move them out. I blame the compost we used to start everything off indoors – nothing really burst into life – tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, leeks. You name it, they all look quite small – I think the mix was too coarse for the roots.
Leeks are so easy to plop in the ground. First I used the Wolf Garten Soil Miller to rotovate the ground to about 4″ along the 30′ line the leeks were destined to occupy.
I then used my trusty stick to poke holes about 4-6″ deep, spaced at 6″ apart. Dropped a baby leek into each, puddled the hole with water from a watering can and that was that. They do look quite pathetic, but we’ll see how they go on – I’ve spare left in case they’re not hardy enough but memory tells me they’ll do okay.
About my stick – it’s probably THE most useful item I have. I crudely fashioned it from a relatively straight piece of holly tree around 5 years ago. As it dried out it developed cracks in a spiral fashion, but they’ve never grown any bigger than the day they stopped growing. I’ve marked out one foot sections along its length, with a smaller 2″ section at the end, which makes it ideal for measuring out planting spaces and distances in a rough manner. I do like things spaced correctly, and this gives me enough peace of mind without resorting to the tape measure (I kid you not). Plus it’s handy for carrying several bags of veg over the shoulder with, warding off angry geese, rounding up chickens, and leaning on when my two existing legs have had enough 🙂 It’s just over 4′ long – which is a bit too short. My dad talks of being the last scout troop in Birmingham to wear the floppy hats, and they also carried proper 6′ staves in case they stumbled across an injured person in need and had to use them to make stretchers from their scarves and staves. I’m reasonably sure that crisis never arose in Kings Heath, but if it did, you could bet the local scouts were prepared! I digress. What it does mean is that I would like a 6′ stave – it would be a much more useful length, I could use it to vault small ditches and I’d be two foot safer from the geese on a bad day.
Then it was on to the last line empty in the onion patch. I’d left it free for celery seed, celeriac transplants and swede – another nice and easy job for the soil miller, which as you can probably tell is fast becoming my favourite tool, after my stick and my old rake.
Next to the onions, a bit of time was spent reordering the squash – two custard corgettes (the UFO shaped thingummys) had failed to populate their station, whereas the two at the neighbouring station had both germinated. Sensible thing was to pull one out and transplant – they seemed happy enough about it.
Finally on to the peas and beans. Agh! I do suspect a mix of mice, slugs, pigeons and a cold start are contriving to upset me. The runner beans I’d started off under the cut-in-half plastic milk cartons had done well. They had obviously been nobbled slightly by slugs, despite having placed a couple of slug pellets into each carton. Some had no plants, most had one, some had two. As it turned out we had enough for all but one pole, so 19 out of 20 – meaning we need to plant another one, and something had nobbled 21 of the beans.
It could have been any of the four above culprits, as 38 of the 40 climbing French beans had been nobbled, as all were not under the cover of plastic, but laid bare to the elements. I don’t think it was mice as there was no evidence of digging. I do know that some of the broadbeans had been pulled out, pigeon work if ever there was, so they are my main culprit. But judging my general slug damage, I wouldn’t put it past them too, although there wasn’t really any sign of stumps, which slugs tend to leave. Perhaps the colder weather just prevented them from starting, and that’s why there’sno evidence. Whatever the reason, we now have 24 potted beans waiting to germinate near the house, under wire mesh. The broadbeans had met a similar fate – one row looked quite sparce until you brushed away the top cover of soil, revealing the bowed heads of a shoot about to push through. However, the other two rows had over half missing, many had been nibbled off at the top. I suspect mice in this case – pigeons tend to pull them out and disgard them in disgust. I’ve no idea how to combat mice as they can nibble through netting (there’s also a hole in the scaffold netting to the side of the beans, which is also suspicious. Anyway, I planted more beans, I’ll sprinkle more slug pellets, and I may even invest in more netting. Perhaps I should just camp out 24/7 in the bean and pea patch!