Monday 30 March 2009

Spring into action

Saturday night's temperature was sub-zero in Edinburgh. Having made the investment in a Max-Min therometer for my shed I lowered my guard and missed the forecast. The temperature just touched zero in the shed. I have the evidence! A close shave. But I'm still itching to get going and the rhubarb tells me spring is on the way. So on Sunday I planted my first row of early potatoes (Yes the 'heritage' Ballydoon). They will be protected in their trench with some compost and by the time they emerge above soil level (I'm trusting) the frosts will have passed.

Here's the trench:

The blue bag contains the compost, transported from home and made from vegetable kitchen scraps over the last year.

And here they are with their dressing of compost getting tucked in.

You'll notice that the ground they are going in hasn't been weeded first, but is simply turned in on top of the spuds, grass and all. I don't believe making life hard for myself, so have concetrated my weeding efforts on other areas knowing that the area for potatoes is turned over as part of the planting process. By the time the weeds get going again they will be disrupted by the mounding process, and thereafter they'll get supressed by the canpy of potatoe plants - So no need for nasty chemical weedkillers.

I've only planted one row, considering the frost risk, but will work my way across the patch in the next few weekends.

Saturday 28 March 2009

Something Stirring

A few weeks ago I popped a bucket over one clumb of rhubarb.

The second picture shows a comparison with a neighbouring uncovered crown.

This is a real sign that temperatures are rising - although the wind has been blowing from the Northwest for the last week giving a Edinburgh a 'fresh' feel. I'm glad I haven't been too gung-ho with my sowing schedule. (Last weekend was a gardening washout due to family matters taking priority) I fear the the Ballydoon potatoes are in danger of 'over chitting'. Perhaps I'll hunt down the long range weather forcast. As soon as it warms up I'm going to to be ready for the spring rush! Back at home I have a mini greenhouse and will use this to bring on the brassicas in readiness for planting them out at the plot (like the leeks). But at the moment it's just too cold, and too windy to sow any seeds - Maybe tomorrow...

In the meantime here's another close-up.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Time for Action

I've got the growing bug and I can't wait any more. Saturday was too windy for anything, but today was warm (for the time of year) and calm. So to work.

The first things to sow are onion sets (Sturon), parsnip (Tender and True) and broad beans (The Sutton).

And here is where they are now. (The parsnips are in the background starting off the roots (alongside my new rhubarb patch) The broad beans are alongside the fireplace. The onions are mostly under my improvised bird protector, although some are outside (and should act as a control for my experiment!)

I also sowed a packet of leeks in two pots midweek at home. These are in the shed with the potatoes until they emerge.

Here's the broad beans going in. I sowed two double rows, 8 inches apart with 24 inches between the double rows. It's worth writing down the distances for sowing on a piece of paper or notebook, written large, before leaving for the plot so that it can be easily refered ro without the need for glasses if, as in my case, you need them for reading.

The parsnips have been sown in clumps of 3 at 6 inch intervals in rows a foot apart. This year as an experiment I have sprinkled a few rocket seeds along the drill so as to easily identify where the drills are while waiting for the parsnips appear. (They are notoriously slow). Will report on whether this works as anticipated!

I feel like a real vegetable grower now!

Sunday 8 March 2009

Huffing and Puffing

Photo taken Saturday 7th Match 2009.

We've had snow showers today, Sunday. The main achievement this weekend has been to erect a fence around the brassica patch.

Thursday 5 March 2009


Here's what the frost has done to the snowdrops! Just as well I unhooked the shelves of potatoes and brought them in the house last night.

I planned to start sowing indoors this week but don't feel like doing it with the frost at the door! So instead here's a revision of my plot plan. I've swapped over the 'Others' and 'Brassicas' because, in the course of reading up about Lime, I have decided to heed the warning that "Lime likes to be alone". Having manured the long strip I can't lime it for fear of the acidic manure reacting with the alkaline lime. (Also I haven't made it as far as manuring the other patch). Answer - Lime and grow brassicas on the square patch and grow 'others' on the long strip. In future years I will stick the always growing the brassicas on a freshly limed third of the plot.

Monday 2 March 2009

Why you should grow potatoes

I adapted our shed this weekend. Here's my potatoes 'chitting'! I'm convinced the word is derived from 'cheating', because you are persuading the tubors to sprout. But if you leave them in a dark room they produce long and spindly shoots, so the advice is to chit your spuds in a light airy room protected from frost. I'll be listening to the weather forcast religiously until they are planted - and that will be the Easter weekend. Good Friday has a long reputation as the day to start/finish/ get on with planting the spuds.

It's a crop that takes care of itself in return for two stints of effort (planting and mounding). It tolerates neglected soil and suppresses the weeds, yielding a bulk crop that can be stored easily and tastes delicious.

Brassicas are hungry and demand advance attention to the soil condition. If you don't net them the birds will eat them and they are liable to succumb to pests and diseases. Other crops may appear more attractive, but variously demand good soil
conditions, warmth, feeding, weeding and watering if they are to give a reasonable return. So the potato is the non fussy backstop that helps manage a third of the plot for you while you devote your precious time to its more fussy neighbours.