About my garden

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Small flies in compost and other highlights...

One of my black compost bins has hundreds of small flies in it which all fly up at you when you go near it. It is not very pleasant. I have tried leaving the lid off as that is supposed to solve the problem but it hasn't.
I understand this is can be caused by the mix being too wet. I forked it around a bit, amid a plague of flies, but it seemed very dry. We haven't had any rain here for several weeks and it is also under a tree. But I suppose that once the flies are breeding in there, if they were attracted when it was too wet, they'll carry on.
Several solutions are offered:
-wrap up wet food waste in newspaper. Flies are especially attracted to fruit- fruit flies!
-cover the bin with paper or carpet
-add more carbon/ dry waste. Paper, card or twiggyness.
As my bin seems to be quite dry, I think I'll try wrapping the waste and maybe be cover it all with paper and see if that helps. 

A few weeks ago I sowed some Snap Peas in short pieces of gutter pipe. 

I kept them on this table which stopped the mice getting to them but the next door cat did land in them as she jumped over the fence. Also I knocked one off which didn't do it any good. 
I sowed some straight into the ground but I usually find they get a better start like this. I planted them out on Sunday which, if you read the books, is simply a matter of 'sliding them into a shallow trench'. Of course nothing really works simply. I use a small fork or trowel and slide sections out. I watered first and they came out quite well. I have had occasions when they've all landed upside down. Getting a friend to help is useful. 

They make quite a respectable row and I'll put up a net when I am feeling strong. I think they get to about 4 or 5 feet. 

This is a Kiwi flower. I have never seen one on this plant before but they are very pretty, a creamy yellow colour. I am tempted to go out with a paintbrush and do some pollinating. 

One of our gorgeous annual poppies. Papaver somniferum. When we first moved here 18 years ago. these came up everywhere as we cultivated. Most of them are single in lovely shades of pink, purple and red but this is a fancy double. 

 The bees love them.

 Sometimes the simplest things are the most beautiful.

Sunday 22 June 2014

Salad leaves all year round

It's been a few years since I realised that you shouldn't ever have to buy a bag of salad - if you were organised! Of course that is the problem. I've tried in fits and starts since then but never managed to grow salad all year round. 

Last year I started well in January and sprouted seeds in the kitchen before moving on to the greenhouse and garden. 
For various reasons I find it best to grow the seedlings in module trays and then plant them out when they fill the module. I use trays with 9 or 12 holes.
These have got a little leggy.
That way you can grow in small quantities and keep up a continuous flow of leaves but not a whole row of 24 lettuces all ready on one day and going to seed the next. 
This year I grew some spinach, rocket, salad leaves and radish in the greenhouse border before I put out the tomatoes.
Early May
They were just about to go to seed here when I pulled them up.Please ignore the bind weed in the background.
It was very successful and I wish I had started earlier and grown more. I also wish I had a record of when I sowed these things but again - I am not that organised. Some years I start a list of sowing dates but this year I didn't  even bother, I know I won't keep it up. Also every year is different. This year has been mild but last spring was very cold so I started things off a lot later and planted out later.
I have managed 3 lots of Little Gem so far. My aim would be to start of a tray every two or three weeks so I always have another lot coming along. We could probably use a trayful in two weeks in summer and it allows for a few casualties or some to give away. 
I have another trayful of something which I think is lettuce. Always label your seeds!
Early May
The first ones you can see are the larger ones. When I put the second lot out I put a cloche over without the ends to give a little protection. It was only there for a week or so. Behind the cloche is some spinach which has now gone to seed but I picked it a few times. It is a cool season crop so I'll sow some more in late summer. 

Late May
A few weeks later.

And now, with a few gaps where I have picked. There isn't always much difference in size as crops sown later grow faster but there first sowing are just ahead. 
I also sowed some mixed salad leaves. The first ones in the green house were good but the ones outide were plagued by flea beetles. I pulled them up in the end. I don't mind a few holes but there was hardly any leaf left. Also affected were the radishes. I have just sown some more under the fleece you can see in the background. I am hoping that might keep the worst of them off and give the radishes a chance to grow.
If anyone has any ideas on how to tackle them, I am very interested.
 Now I have had my coffee break, I'm off to tackle a compost heap with a fly problem. I'll let you know how I get on.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Update on compost and cucumbers!

It keeps me entertained, having a blog. Today I wondered why I didn't have a reply button to answer comments. I looked up the solution and found I had all the right settings. Then by accident discovered that it was set to white and could only be seen when I hovered over it. I did laugh. Ho hum.
So back to the cucumbers:
 Look at this! I have this labelled as Garden Sweet but I think it must be Burpless Tasty Green. They have little spikes all over them. You can rub them off before eating. And for people who suffer when eat cucumbers, they really do give you less indigestion!

This is Garden Sweet, the skin is smooth. You harvest them at about twice this size so, at the rate they are growing now, not long. Thumbs up! I've never had such good cucumber plants before.
I had a look at the compost heap today. This is the wooden heap which I layered up in May:
You can see how much the compost has sunk down. 
It looks quite well rotted and is crawling with creatures. I won't have much time to turn it out for a month or so so it can sit there a bit longer and will be better for it. Most of the planting is done now so I don't need much for a while.

I am spending all my time watering just now. After the wettest winter ever (we were not flooded here where I live but it's not too far away that they were under water for NINE weeks), we are now in a dry spell. When the sun comes out it is hot so I am having to be vigilant with all the little things I have planted out. I have to admit to some casualties :( 
The water butts are mostly empty which means using hoses which I detest. They always make me cross. 
So to cheer us all up:
The first Sweet Pea. I hope you can smell it. Now in a vase with some Orlaya. A lovely flower related to carrots.

Sunday 15 June 2014

First harvest of broad beans...

I love broad beans and so am very happy to have harvested the first ones. I have been looking at them for a few days but finally managed to pick some.
 I started the first ones off in pots (in February, I think) , kept them in the greenhouse and then planted them outside when they filled the pots. I started a second lot straight into the ground.

 I made them in to a salad with a little garlic, oil and lemon juice plus seasoning. Yum.
Also a rather respectable Little Gem without too many slug holes.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Growing cucumbers

I grow cucumbers in the green house with my tomatoes in quite a similar way but with a few differences. The plants are slightly more fussy.
Cucumbers are more suscptible to disease and I have often had plants collapse in the past for no obvious reason. Apparently there are soil borne diseases which they contract and they also don't like to sit in wet compost.  Oh, but you musn't let them dry out either!
This is the reason I first started to grow them in pots with no bottoms. That way the drianage is better and hopfully they won't sit in water. I only water in the mornings anyway. I do this with  most of my plants as I hope it reduces slug damage.  If this is reduced, I hate to think what full scale would be like!
I only use bought in compost so I am not introducing any disease. For tomatoes I use a mix of garden compost and grow bag compost but used in pots.
These are the cucumbers when they first went into the green house. I try and grow things to a decent size before putting them out so they stand a better chance of beating the pests. 

This is a couple of weeks later. I am very pleased, the cucumber plants all look very healthy. I think I have six. Three Burpless Tasty Greeen and three Garden Sweet. I grew lots in case some died but none have yet! The garden sweet are mini cucumbers. I grew them last year and they were delicious. 
They send out these wonderful clingers and grab on to anything around. I love the details of plants. 
They now have tiny fruits forming. I can't wait. 

Monday 9 June 2014

Comfrey tower

There is a lot of talk of comfrey feed being good for plants and tomatoes in particular. It is rich in potassium which plants need for flower, seed and fruit production. So perfect for tomatoes. 
I have made comfrey feed in the way that is usually recommended. Soaking the leaves in a bucket of water for two weeks. Apart from the vile smell, which is not to be underestimated, it can also attract flies and fly larvae if you don't cover the bucket completely. The smell is so bad that you should really warn your neighbours before using. I have had it on my hands before and it doesn't wash off. I am not really that fussy about smells and so on but when I wash my hands I want them to smell of soap. 
So carry on an make this vile brew if you like but here is a better way that I have been using for years.
This is my comfrey patch:

It is a lovely plant and the bees love it so that is always a bonus. It is very vigorous, as you may have heard, and difficult to eradicate but the advantage of that is that you can keep cutting it and it keeps growing back. You can cut it right to the ground and add to the compost heap and it will bounce right back.

I grow it in a difficult patch next to and behind a water butt and it seems very happy there. 
This is my comfrey tower. 
You stuff the leaves in the top and a dark liquid starts to drip out the bottom in a few weeks. It doesn't smell of roses but it is not nearly as bad as the soaked brew. 
My tower is just inside the green house door. This has the advantage of being dry and the heat probably helps the leaves rot down more quickly. You can also fix them onto the side of a shed or wall or anywhere you are able to bang in a stake. This one is cable tied to a pole (rusty but that is not necessary).
It is made out of a 4" uPVC plumbing pipe. I took it down today to clean out the residue from last year. 

You can see here how it is made up. Also attached are an end sleeve and an end cap. These are available from plumber's merchants. 
The end cap has a hole made in it to allow the liquid to drip out. Some wire mesh is lodged just inside the pipe to stop the hole clogging with goo. 
If you only had a pipe you could wrap wire mesh around the bottom of the pipe which would allow the liquid to drip through but hold in the rotting leaves. 
You cut the leaves and stuff them in the top:
They are quite hairy so it is best to wear gloves. Any left over stems go in the compost heap.
Then you use a plastic drinks bottle full of water to weight down the leaves. Tie string round the cap so you can pull it up.
Under the pipe I have a funnel and a jug to catch the juice. You can also use a drinks bottle or milk bottle to make a funnel and container if you don't have a jug. Cut off about 15cm from the top of the bottle and invert into the base. I did that until I found this jug.
It is a thick black liquid which you can then use diluted 10-20 parts with water.  I aim to top up with leaves every couple of weeks and this ensures a constant supply of feed. 
You cans see that this has been in use for a while but apart from cleaning out the rotting leaves once a year, I don't have to do any maintenance. Just keep adding leaves. Easy!