Saturday, 31 March 2012

Tapping it

I decided that the tap was going to leak again sooner or later and that water is too precious to lose, so I installed the outside tap inside the greenhouse for now. It is much harder to leave on by mistake. We put a little water into the tanks to check the leak isn't somewhere else and then turned the unrotted stuff from one compost bin onto the newly emptied one.

We saw our neighbours from across the street who are helping out with a plot that someone else can't manage for the moment. I hope they get as much from their plot as we do from ours.

Water leak

We collect water from the shed and greenhouse roof and store it in tanks. We use this to water the plants in the greenhouse because that means we don't have to fetch the fairly small amount as and when we need it. Later on when there is nothing in the greenhouse if there is any water in the tanks we can use it to water the rest of the plot. Today the tanks were empty because the tap in the greenhouse had been left slightly open and over the last two days the tanks had drained with the water running away in the barren floor of the greenhouse. The tap was not really intended to be used regularly and is difficult to turn off properly. The real tap is not connected because I didn't want to expose it to frost outside, so we have been using the shut-off tap and now we have paid the price by losing all of our water. In a drought, with little prospect of rain and needing days of rain to fill the tanks, it is a nuisance.

On the positive side we took our first asparagus. It looked good and tasted better. Sometimes the very first asparagus stems have grown slowly so they can be stringy or hard, but this was succulent and melt-in-the-mouth. Being picked only an hour before we ate it certainly helps. I watered the asparagus crowns and the sprouting garlic. The rest of the plot looks parched, so another watering session looks inevitable.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Carrots and compost

I laid out the site for the carrot bed. It will be surrounded with frames to hold the fleece up. The fleece will keep out  the carrot fly. The bed size is defined by the size of the frames and although the frames will not be up for a while, the size is useful to know in advance. I raked the bed carefully and removed a few stones then soaked the ground with water before sowing two rows of carrot seeds which I covered carefully and gently watered in.

Jean finished emptying the compost bin and we spread the lovely stuff around the fruit bushes, which we then watered with can after can to soak the ground well. We'll see how long that lasts.

The asparagus is sending up new spears almost daily. The first are almost ready for cutting. There are only three crowns sprouting, but it is early yet. In a few weeks the spears will shoot up more quickly and we will be ready for them.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012


East Yorkshire is now officially in drought. It's certainly not a surprise to me, there has been low rainfall for about two years. The only surprise to me is that it took so long for the authorities to realise. We have no hosepipe ban announced yet, largely thanks to the work Yorkshire Water did in the mid nineties to connect the drier east to the wetter west with pipelines.

On the plus side the warm, bright start to the spring has helped things power on, but only if they get water. Our broad beans look great, the parsnips and onions are in the ground and sucking up as much water as we can give them. The asparagus is producing spears, in a few days we might be able to take our first ones. The gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes are bursting into leaf and the flowers are out on the gooseberries which are attracting bees to pollinate them. The much damaged raspberry canes are beginning to produce new growth. I fear we won't see much in the way of fruit this year because the canes were eaten by the local rabbits and the canes that should produce fruit this year are badly damaged or completely gone. We will see how the canes respond.

I have dug out some of the compost from the oldest bin and it is lovely stuff. We will use it as a mulch for the fruit bushes to suppress weeds, retain moisture and nourish the bushes. There is still more to come out then I'll turn the other bin into the empty one and make room for this year's stuff to rot down. In digging out the bin I found a couple of pieces of rhubarb that we dug out over a year ago. They were both sprouting, so we gave them away to our newest plot holder. 

The site is generally looking with most plots getting started for the new season.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

One year on

This time last year we planted broad beans out, today we did again. Last year we had just planted out the onion sets, they are still in their bag today. The first asparagus spears had just appeared a year ago and we were watering them and the strawberries. Today I flooded the strawberries and asparagus and two spears were showing. A year ago we had spinach, leeks and parsnips in the greenhouse and we have today too.

I opened the water stop tap on for the site so the water tanks would fill. Once the tanks were full I checked the meter and it was till turning over, even though the tank valves seemed closed. I did some quick arithmetic and I think that at the rate of flow I saw would actually use about 430 litres every day, which if it is a leak is going to cost the parish council a lot each year in wasted water.

I turned the stop tap off again.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Gentle progress

The parsnip chits have all been tubed (potted in a cardboard tube) and most have sprouted leaves. We've taken them to the allotment greenhouse to harden off. The broad beans have been there about a week. It's been cool and overcast this week. The beans look great, not lanky, very upright because the light comes mostly from above and they are forming more leaves. I expect the beans will get planted out shortly, if they are not too tall they grow steadily without much risk, but if they are lanky they break in the wind and would need supports. The stems will need support when they are bigger, but that is easier then.

The sweet peas are still struggling, but there are four shoots now.

There are a few regular jobs that need doing like turning the compost bins and clearing out the shed. One of the compost bins has had squatters of the rabbit kind, so I'm not sure what we will find when we turn it over.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Chits away

Parsnip chits have erupted. The first 41 have been planted into compost in cardboard tubes. We bought a potting tray - I was going to make one, but the tray was less than the wood and paint I would have needed and is easier to clean and store. It is great for these compost jobs, keeping the mess in one place. The sweet peas are showing now too. I still don't know where we will plant them yet, but they will certainly find a home. All but one broad bean germinated.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Come on garlic

We planted the spring garlic today. I expect that that is all that is needed for the existing garlic to spring into action and grow vigorously.

At home almost of the broad beans have sprouted and look good. Leeks have started to sprout, but our parsnips chits have yet to sprout.

The rabbits have not re-emerged, but I'll keep checking.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

GW catch up

It looks like my method for starting off parsnips is becoming popular. It is mentioned in the BBC magazine Gardeners' World, but not mentioning me of course. I did come up with the idea, but so would other people too. It seems common for different people to come up with the same or similar answers to problems independently.

Parsnips are slow to germinate and unpredictable, some say unreliable. I have heard people have said things like 'I have sown hundreds of seeds and only a couple of plants came up'. To avoid the uncertainty we chit the seeds on damp paper, that is spread them on a damp surface and when they sprout a root, transfer them to seed compost in a cardboard tube. As soon as the first leaves appear think about planting them out so you don't disturb the root. We use a bulb planter to bury the tube to the right depth. The cardboard tube rots away leaving the plants to grow nicely.

The germination rate is around 50%, amazing for parsnips, and because you plant out plants, not sow seeds, there's no thinning needed.

Gardeners' World don't plant into cardboard tubes, rather plant straight into the ground. We find the tubes useful, indeed I recommend it.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

We're ready

The plot has been dug over. The remaining spring cabbages are under a couple of frames to keep the pigeons off them. Most of the soil has had blood fish and bone scattered over it. Substantial rain is forecast for tomorrow which should wash it into the ground. I deliberately left the parts of the plot where parsnips and carrots are due to be planted as they don't want extra nutrients. I didn't have enough blood fish and bone to cover the whole area at the level I wanted so I left out the area for leeks as it will be a long time before they are ready to go out. I cleaned out the greenhouse which was mostly removing the papers from drying onions there. There were some canes and stakes stored there too for the winter and the water tap which I left disconnected to protect it from frost. I'll probably reconnect that in late spring which things start to go out and need water.

The garlic is not doing well. Other people's plots have large, healthy-looking rows of garlic we have just one, quite small garlic plant. This has happened before and I suspect we are about to fall into the same trap, but hey-ho. Today we bought some more garlic, as well as some more blood fish and bone which I'll spread that sometime soon, preferably just before rain. The existing garlic may yet grow (it did before), so I need to find a spare corner to plant the new batch without disturbing it.

The ground is looking good at the moment. The digging went well with the dryness helping turn the crumbly soil nicely. Our local nuisances the rabbits have dug out another hole in our compost bin, which I have refilled with stones and capped with bricks. If it is uncomfortable I hope they will leave.

The good news is that the first ten of our broad beans have sprouted, so growing is really under way.