Archives for posts with tag: veg beds

In the middle of planting our trees, we’re trying to keep up with the veg. patch. The non-salad seedlings are doing well and we’ve got some very healthy looking peas in toilet-roll tubes. We hardened them off this week and planted them out today. Salad seedlings are not going to well this year. Last year we had quite a few cut-and-come again on the go. We’ve not managed much so far this year.

P1030379 (Large)The picture shows Laura’s willow plant support she made at Taliesin community woods on Easter Sunday. She’s very pleased with it (quite right, it’s a fine piece of work). The other sticks are pea-sticks cut from the copse today. They’re much better than last year’s, which we scavenged from dead branches in the field.

I finished by picking some spring greens from the remains of the cabbage stalks that we cut and left to sprout again.

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A busy week of work on the garden and house. Despite rubbish weather, our WWOOFing family got stuck in to the outdoor jobs. As a result we have now cleared the old compost pile and created all of our 16 vegetable beds with most of them planted up. We also have on completely full wood shed and the other one well on its way. Serge was a whizz with the chainsaw so got through a huge amount of the wood in the field. We also potted up our tomato plants with the girls. We have 19 plants in total, all now in their final pots and ready to grow in the sun room. Hoping for a bumper tomato crop later in the year.

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We’ve also made some more progress indoors. Matt has painted the floor in the playroom and made this very cute dressing up rack from salvaged timber. We’ve also got hold of the first pallet we need for making a potting bench and I made an art display board from more salvaged wood, chalkboard paint and bulldog clips. We’re hoping to get the playroom finished and full of the kid’s toys by the end of the weekend. Woo – another room down.

Check out the rubble-free wall and new flower bed.

Check out the rubble-free wall and new flower bed.

After a very hectic few weeks it’s high time I updated the blog with our progress. When you’re in the midst of work it can seem that nothing is being achieved, so it’s good to sit back and gather my thoughts about all the changes. I am typing this sat in my almost-decorated kitchen while our second WWOOFER enjoys a quiet evening off after an afternoon of constructing supports for the bird nets on our new veg beds. We signed up as WWOOF hosts last month and, with the help of two volunteers, since then we have:

  • Removed the eyesore rubble that has been sat outside the house since we excavated the inglenook
  • Created 5 new vegetable beds and one flower bed
  • Moved 6 barrow loads of snowdrops from our compost area to a new location on the north lawn so they can be admired from the kitchen window
  • Painted the bare plaster in the kitchen white
  • Carried out a survey of the land and made a topographical map of the terrain
  • Cleared most of the shrubs in the centre of the lawn
  • Hung folding chairs on the wall in the sun room
  • Gleaned and chopped enough firewood for us to not have ordered logs for nearly a month.

In other words – got cracking on a to-do list that would otherwise have taken us months. Here’s a picture of Vincent, our current WWOOFER, digging a bed in the sunshine on Saturday – spot the photographer.

Vincent digging

While all this has been happening we’ve been battered by wet and windy weather. Not much fun for us or our volunteers but the strong winds have provided free firewood from some of the trees and we have cut off some precarious dead limbs as a precaution.

On Friday we have a site visit from the Woodland Trust to discuss planting a woodland in the field, now that Jo and Phil’s Hebridean lambs have returned to their mums before going to market.

The other big change has been a personal one for me as, for the first time in more than 21 years, I am no longer in formal paid employment. I decided the financial cost of childcare and travel, and the emotional cost of being away from the family for days every week, was too great and have decided not to return to working as a subtitler after my maternity leave ends next month. This was a really hard decision as I did love my job and we do need a second income. So, until we win the lottery, I’m doing freelance writing work – mainly creating blog posts for companies overseas, which explains in part why I have not been updating my own blog! I’m working for a good friend, have completely flexible hours and the extra money has made a big difference to the family finances.

The final change in the last month has been upgrading the sash windows in the playroom, the south windows in the lounge and the kitchen. These were all rotting and the new windows are a big improvement – reducing draughts and greatly improving the outward appearance of the house. We’re hoping to overhaul some of the other windows ourselves and get more done by Ventrolla when we can afford to.

Finally, I have to wax lyrical about all the signs of spring bursting up around the house. We have more snowdrops than we know what to do with and, in the new bed by the kitchen door, we’ve planted some of the snowdrops, daffodils, cowslips (kindly donated by Janet) and the campanula Fiona brought us. I really can’t wait to get cracking on the garden and have been spending a ridiculous amount of time collecting ideas on Pinterest.

New flower bed

New flower bed

Before the weather forced us indoors yesterday we spent a while in the field – Matt cutting back some of the bracken and brambles and Arthur and I gleaning waste wood for the fires. We amassed a decent pile of kindling and discovered the bracken is fairly easy to rake off. Underneath this year’s dead growth, previous years’ growth has turned itself into a fine compost, so we’re hoping to use that on more veg beds and are toying with the idea of adding the bracken to our new leaf mould container. Mind you, said container is already half full and there’s still a few leaves left on the trees! This week’s impending cold snap should see to that…

The weather has been kind, enabling us to take the opportunity of a full weekend at home to get to work in the garden.

Having dug up a lot of plants from our allotment in the rain last week, our main focus was getting them in the ground at Plunton. During the week, Matt had planted and staked the quince tree on the south west side of the lawn in line with the established apple trees. So we began on Saturday to prepare supports for our cordon apple trees and planted those first of all.
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Once they were sunk and staked we decided to plant our rhubarb crowns in front of them, making the most of a deep existing bed in the corner of our protected veg patch. We made quick progress, not least because this area had been actively cultivated relatively recently so the soil was less stony. Finally we mulched everything with a good pile of the great compost we inherited with the house.

There was one impediment to our progress – a self-seeded blackthorn bush close the fence. We have been planning to construct a windbreak to protect our herb garden on the west side of the house, so I took long cuttings of the blackthorn before we dug up the remainder. After trimming each stick of thorns and leaves, I planted them and the main plant in a row about a foot apart on the top of the slope in front of the herb bed, creating a 20ft hedge for nothing.
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A pretty good day was ended with a bit of bramble cutting in the field. Jo and Phil came by to help us tackle the worst patches for snaring their lambs and with about an hour’s cutting and gathering we had cleared the worst patches and discovered some wood piles and got to know our neighbours better in the process.
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Sunday has been a glorious Autumn day without a cloud in the sky. We planted strawberries at the front of the rhubarb and apple bed and finally planted the spring bulbs Valla had bought as a house warming. Most of the bulbs were planted in the dell nearest the house with some planted on the bank in the front garden. I also planted tulip bulbs in the front border, in the pots and a row of tulips and aliums either side of the path leading to the veg patch gate. Planting in the dells meant an outing for Matt’s new strimmer, once we had assembled it and filled it with fuel.

The final job of the day was to build a frame and net another brassica bed. The kids had great fun playing all weekend and even got their bikes out today but the most fun was had playing on the swing!
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It has been really satisfying getting so much done, especially as indoors I feel increasingly like everywhere my eyes land is another item for the to-do list. We also heard on Friday that the person we had booked to start the floor sanding this week is very I’ll and so can no longer do it. We had been waiting for the floors to be done before moving the last of our belongings into the house. We are now considering painting the floors ourselves…

On a final very happy note we had our first showers in the new shower this morning – bliss!

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The end of the garden is now rabbit-proof, we hope, so we have started to create raised beds for our annual vegetables. One down, 16 to go…if we can bear it!

Each bed is 4m x 1m and we have built the frame from scrap wood and pallets. Our soil is well draining but acidic and stony. There is about 20cm of decent top soil under the grass but beneath that is a layer of stone – not quite a pan but hard work to dig out.

The process for the herb garden involved removing sods, digging in compost and planting. In the veg garden, rather than removing the turfs, we are turning each sod over in situ and then covering with a layer of compost. We inherited a compost heap with the house. The top 30cm is nettles and roots but beneath that is some really great compost – albeit with some odd ingredients hidden in amongst, like plastic cups and bins! The final stage for each bed is creating a frame for the anti-bird netting. As you have probably guessed, this all takes quite a while. We are planning on forest gardening as much as possible!

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Plunton on Sunday afternoon from the veg patch gate.

The Indian Summer weather slightly caught us by surprise this weekend but as we had lots of plans was most welcome. On Saturday we went up to Lanark for the Smallholders and Growers Festival. It’s a small one-day agricultural show aimed specifically at what most farmers would describe as hobbyists – that would be us! There were really useful stalls covering everything from bee-keeping (Solway Bees are based just down the road at Twynholm and said we could pop by any time) to pigs and cattle and renewable energy. We picked up leaflets on several sheep varieties, poultry (including, ex-battery hens) rare breeds, pigs and even Dexter cattle. We’re unlikely to invest in livestock of any sort until the Spring but it was nice to ask stupid questions without feeling a fool! Perhaps most useful was the forestry talk Matt and Iris attended. The Woodland Trust will come out and do a free survey to help us plan our wood and will provide ongoing help and grants of up to 60%. We’ve asked their local rep to give us a call to see what we can do as we’d like to get trees groing this autumn if we can.

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The revamped planters (and Iris getting her sandals on)

Saturday evening and Sunday were given over to landscaping. We inherited two old Belfast sink planters with the house which were languishing by the rotten back door on the north side of the house, where they were getting very little sun and had consequently failed. I’d emptied them of their contents last week so on Saturday we moved them to the front of the house and raised them up on bricks removed from the old kitchen inglenook – they fit perfectly either side of the kids’ bench against the front of the sun room. We cleared out the clogged up plugs, filled them with crocks for drainage and topped up with compost. I’d picked up some plants at the Festival so I then planted in some spring bulbs and a mix of lavender, nepeta, a crawling sedum to drip over the front and cover the damaged rims and a small spiky grass. I’m pretty pleased with the final effect and hopefully they will do well in the sunshine and not suffer too much from the exposure. We’ll be gathering more shells from the beach to top dress them to cut down on weeds. If this weather holds out that might be today’s outing with Arthur and Kester.

Sunday saw more graft in the form of preparing a rabbit-proofed area for our veg patch. We have decided to site it at the end of the front garden against the existing boulder walls. It’s a south-facing slope and we’d already sunk the gateposts and a couple of fence posts through the week. By lunchtime we’d sunk the rest (and located a drainage pipe) and strung galvanised wire across the top. In the afternoon we fixed on the chicken wire. We have left a flap of about 30cm on the ground which we will hide under the turf to stop rabbits burrowing underneath and we folded over a similar amount at the top to reinforce it. It’s not the most attractive structure but it should work to protect our crops from rabbits and, if necessary with a bit of reinforcing, deer and the odd escaped sheep from the field. Matt is finishing off the gate as I type, using bits of scrap wood from projects in the house. The kids, meanwhile, had a ball playing in the garden in the unseasonably warm weather!

The finished fence...well, almost.

The finished fence…well, almost.

This week’s tasks – well, Matt is off to London for the day on Tuesday so there’s a logistical nightmare to sort out as he needs to drive to Dumfries for the train. I’m hoping to do more jam-making, looking into soap-making, there’s a parents’ meeting on Friday morning and a Harvest Service in the afternoon which Iris will be taking part in, which also means looking out tins and jars for donating to the local food bank and then we have a weekend off as we head to Kerry’s wedding in Alnwick on Friday afternoon and meet up with lots of old friends. Phew!

Sitting down with pencil and paper tonight to sketch out our new veg garden. We have ordered plug plants of winter brassicas which should arrive next week but first we need to fence off an area to rabbit-proof it and create raised beds to grow them in.

We’re planning to site it at the southern end of the garden, utilising the protection of the existing dry stone wall and encompassing the compost heap (which needs rebuilding) and the tool shed. The space should be sheltered and sunny but also this not-so-attractive bit of garden will eventually be shielded from view by more ornamental beds up the slope towards the house.

We’ll get the fencing at a local agricultural supplier and install it ourselves – this could be challenging as the ground is very stony. We measured out the space tonight and it’s roughly 20m by 10m, so slightly larger than our allotment.

Lots of planning on the agenda for tomorrow and maybe an indoor DIY job like wallpaper stripping as we are awaiting the first autumn storm with rain and strong winds. Fingers crossed our rickety roof and chimney stacks hang on in there!