March’s veg plot and seed plan

It feels like it’s time for an update on what’s happening in the veg plot and growing areas, with all the talk of The Food Challenge and the general ventures we are working on…so before it’s too late, we best get on and grow some for when we’re up and running!

I do love March, Spring is on it’s way.  It kind of just pounces on your unexpectedly, even though you may have spent much of February feeling like it would never arrive.  There’s so much more daylight and time to get out and get things done.  


Personally, my time starts to transition from spending lots of time in the house cooking and preparing to being outside, preparing and growing.  It’s still a reasonably quiet time of year for gardeners (not so much smallholders as chicks and lambs start arriving!).  I start to notice that a coat, hat and scarf are too much when working outside, you can feel the sun on your clothes through the glass in the greenhouse, and if you are really lucky, when walking outside feeding the animals.


Yes there’s still frosts and sometimes even snow, but both are very pretty and give you a (very!) fresh start for the day. 


Gone by mid morning, these mornings give way to blue skies and the need for sunglasses to drive safely on the reflective roads!  Come 6pm, there’s still a short amount of daylight to be snatched before giving in to the evening. 


Before you know it, it’s 8:30pm and you’re thinking about the bed time routine before you get up and do it all again.  I love to see the shift in seasons and it’s clear we are bang smack in the middle of the Winter to Spring shift right now.

In March, the temperatures can vary dramatically, so don’t get caught out thinking there won’t be a frost, which we have done before.  In fact, only last year were the fruit trees killed off when a very late May frost killed the blossom.  I really hope that doesn’t happen this year.  With that in mind, I still am still sowing seeds with a view to keeping them protected in various forms until they can move on to their final spot.  I’m not just sowing the hardier seeds either, at the end of the day if we lose some, then we will have more to sow.  It’s all trial and error every year.

At the moment we have stagger-sown the following since 14th February:

Red and white spring onions 
Leeks
Broad beans
Peas
Kale – different varieties
Beetroot
Salad leaves
Tomatoes (a couple of testers)
Cauliflower
Red and Green cabbage
Aubergine
Different beans
Courgettes
Turnips
Sprouts
Potatoes (currently chitting)

We are seeing these seeds come through nicely.

Radish, multi sown
 Salad leaves, tomatoes
Swiss chard, beetroot, salad leaves
Turnip, radish, sunflower, Swiss chard, beetroot, salad leaves
I will continue to stagger the seeds I am sowing to have plants at different ages, to hopefully mature at different stages.  They do sometimes tend to catch up which is nature for you and can be frustrating when you get a glut despite planning not to. This year we are hoping to not only supply ourselves with ALL of our own vegetable needs, but also to do a couple of veg boxes to sell with the eggs we are selling weekly.  Another exciting challenge!
Nothing should go to waste to be fair, even if the veg boxes don’t take off, we will preserve and the chickens and pigs will have what goes over as inevitably things do.

So the seeds are in and being kept warm as needed.  The veg plot is manured/mulched and covered up to warm the soil ready for planting out.  We had the shock of our lives the other day when one of the horses managed to get through the garden gate and made her way in to the veg plot.  We fixed up the damage she did but only time will tell as to whether she has killed anything off!

In the veg garden, which is different to the veg plot, we have our polytunnel that’s 4 years old now.  Highly recommended if you’re looking for a cheaper one, this is 6x3m.  Over the last few weeks it has taken a bashing from the various storms and is starting to need some TLC so we have made some adjustments to it.  Where the zip is starting to come apart we have zipped it closed and adjusted the clips to be longer so we don’t have to keep undoing it beyond the zip.  As you can tell, that was a Ste idea!  Saved us time and money on costly repairs.  Bonus.

The polytunnel will soon be planted up with a couple of kale, radish and salad leaves to get the crops moving on quickly.  I’ll grab some photos when I do that.

Sowings over the next week or so will include tomatoes and peppers, more salad and turnips and second sowings of what’s already in.  We are getting pigs in 3 months which we also are going to grow as much food for as we can, so marrows, turnips, swede, leafy greens and so on.  It’s going to be a very busy growing season, so outside we go!! More pics to follow 🙂

Some of what’s growing and a suspicion

It’s funny as when I started sowing the seeds early in 2017, I couldn’t imagine them germinating.  Then when they germinated I couldn’t imagine them being decent size seedlings and then when I moved them to their final resting place I couldn’t imagine them filling the planting distance!  Well they grew, and filled it plus more….I did try, but I’ve planted some things too close again!
 
In the polytunnel we have a beef tomato plant to compare to growth with one in the greenhouse.  There was no noticeable difference.  There’s swiss chard, spinach and tomatillos in the below picture, all which I would recommend growing the polytunnel again.

 
The cucumbers don’t seem to be thriving in there.  The watermelon has done very well in the pot it has been in the greenhouse, so now there is a space, I’ve planted it in the polytunnel.

 
The last of the kale which did marvellously in here.  I’ve taken the rest out as the outside kale plants have caught up now.  Again, kale to get an early harvest is worth doing in the polytunnel.
I’ve put a couple of pepper plants that were later than the others in where to kale was and marigolds are blooming on the edges now.

 
My goodness the courgette and patty pans are leafing up quickly.

 
Oh der, I don’t even like cabbage as much as this would suggest I do!  Truth be told, I labelled them up wrong and thought these were caulis…..go on, have a laugh at my expense, I am!  Looks like a freeing session and coleslaw making is on the cards this weekend.  They’ve grown without any fuss though.  Durham early variety – I like no fuss plants!
 
 
A little idea I had for some of the many pumpkin seeds I had was to grow the smaller fruiting ones in containers and grow up instead of across.  These guys are coming on great due to the rain we’ve had no doubt, so this weekend they’ll be getting tied up so they don’t snap under their own weight.
 
 
 
The runner beans are also no fuss.  These are scarlet emperor variety and so pretty!  I’ve some preserving recipes waiting for these guys!  The nasturtiums are doing their job as they are covered in black flies.

Another bush that is coming on by the day is this cape gooseberry – literally growing by the day.  It might even need to go in the ground this year and not next like I was planning.

 
Another plant I couldn’t imagine taking up much room when I planted them as tiny green, flimsy leaves were the sweetcorn.  Well they sure like this soil as once they took hold, they shot up!
 
They’re in with some pumpkins which are just thugs.  They at sprawling wherever they want without a care in the world.  I love it!

Controversially I am growing tomatoes and potatoes in the same bed.  Now this goes against some recommendations but on a website I use for a lot of research, it said to grow them together for a number of reasons, so I am trying it outside.  I’ve taken up the second early potatoes which I am really pleased with and will definitely use next year (British Queen) and I’ve planted tomatoes (and peppers) in their place. 

There is still one row of spuds to come up and the back section is sunflowers and more tomatoes with catch crop of spinach in there.

 
The sunflowers are reaching amazing heights – I’m in for sizing guide – I’m 5’6 (and a half 😉 )

 
Considering how many tomato plants I have, I’m not getting anywhere near the amount in the greenhouse that I thought I would.  Disappointing results here so far.  I’ve had a couple of kilos but I have loads of plants!  Still the best thing you will taste though.
 
 
 
Now something that isn’t doing too well.  My broad beans have done dreadfully this year.  At first I thought it was just one of those things and maybe the new beds with rotted muck in were too rich for them.  Then I noticed other beds doing it but again, they’d had muck added at some point.  I’ve made this picture larger so you can look above the nasturtiums and see the curl on the leaf.  The beans are all knarled and shrivelled too.  I asked about and the consensus was weed killer which I said it can’t be as we don’t use it.
 
The my sunflowers, which were reaching for the skies with bright yellow blooms, started to die.  One down right died overnight.  Weird I thought, definitely something wrong with the soil.  I was gutted.  Steven not so much as after last years broad bean harvest he didn’t want to see another one again :D.

 
The leaves have done the same as the broad beans, shrivelled and died after being 100% healthy.
Hmm….I walked round my plots and started to wonder.  Is it possible that we’ve had drift from the farmer’s pesticide?  Last year I got caught out when they sprayed and it knocked me so ill that I needed to go to bed.  Are my sunflowers and beans suffering the same fate?  Does anyone know what else it could be?
Black fly for the beans, would they make the leaves curl?
 
The peas that I have sown in the same soil are sprouting up and the farmer won’t be spraying now I don’t think (harvest),so hopefully we will have some late peas too.
 
I’ve lots more to share, but I’ll do that another day.  Happy Friday!

Polytunnel update

I’ve had a lady contact me via the contact form asking for details about my polytunnel.  Firstly I must apologise to her as I didn’t even know there was an email waiting.
We wanted a polytunnel to help with this year’s growing.  I decided to go for a budget tunnel and make it last as long as possible.  We measured the space we had available and bought a 6m by 3m. 
Here’s my original post on it.  Ste did a great job of fixing it down so that the framework is going nowhere when the winds blow.  
As I said at the time, even if the cover rips, the frame will be used as a fruit cage and will be meshed, so it will continue in one form or another.
I bought it from here.  I see it’s out of stock and gone up in price, most likely due to the time of year!
I paid £99.99 delivered, which was fast and efficient.  So far, it’s been great.  The cover seems fairly robust compared to what I was expecting.  The zips aren’t great but if you treat them with care, they may hold out. No complaints there either so far.
So if you’re after a budget polytunnel, the green type with windows and doors at both ends, come highly recommended from me. 
One day I hope to upgrade to a bigger, polythene type, but for now, this suits me very well.
I’ve planted peas (our first ones are shown here in the pics) and broadbeans directly into the beds inside, along with early potatoes, beetroot and radish all directly sown. I’ve planted strawberries, swiss chard, kale, lettuce, courgette, pea and bean plugs too.  Marigold line the edges and are doing a sterling job of offering themselves to any nasty insects in a valiant attempt to save our veg.

I’ve got some French beans too and that pretty much takes up all of the space until we start harvesting and then I will replace the harvested items with more. This weekend we harvested our first peas!! It is the twinkle variety and is delicious!

First whole weekend outdoors

What a beautiful weekend we had here in North East England.  It was glorious for a Winter’s day in February.  It’s due to turn cold by the end of the week again, so I’ll be sure not to get caught out.
After the usual daily/weekend jobs I started as I meant to go on and got the peas moved to the poltyunnel as they are looking nice and strong and rather big in their modules.  I know we risk losing them, but I am sowing every couple of weeks so that I can mark off which sowing date was best for me. 
I moved the strawberries that were in little pots, taken from runners, to the polytunnel too, for an extra early lot.
I also got a bin of carrots sown.  I have another bin I will put some more in but I want to add sand to that one to compare.  On the below photo, I put the bubble wrap over the top to help germination.
Strawberries planted from 2016 finished plant runners
 Once I’d finished with the polytunnel, I took a stroll into the veg plot.  The garlic is growing very well, but something has had the first few cloves away.  This line went all the way down to the bottom of the bed before.
 
I then dug a bean trench and filled it with the compost bin’s contents.  I intend to dig another bean trench to the right of this one, leaving a gap, and filling that one with rotted muck.  That one will be for French climbing beans.  I’m using muck as I’ve no more compost from the veg peeling composter.
It was a day of pondering as I worked.  I have the area where the rescue hens lived in 2016 before the lockdown.  I think I would like to bring this area back to life as a flower garden/mini orchard.  There’s already lots of things in there at the back of the grassed area.  Last year, I was adamant that anything that didn’t provide food was to go.  However I’ve since learnt the importance of flowers, bees and pollination plus beneficial insects (not to mention the decline of the bee population).

 This is the area I was thinking about putting a few fruit trees, maybe an apple off Kev, a pear (already got) and almond?  I need to find out more about the fruit trees.  The space is quite big so I was thinking maybe I could make a bed for my berries and bushes that like ericaceous soil if I don’t put fruit trees in.  We do have 3 apple trees already, would 4 be too many?  Should I get another pear (the one I have is conference, self pollinating).  Decisions….

Whilst pondering this, I remembered I needed to cover another area of the plot that was all weeds last year with membrane, to hopefully eradicate them.  This is it:
Looking up and over the fence, I then started pondering something else…so I walked out to the front of the house and took a photo of what’s there.  I could tidy up around the bridle path sign and plant some wild hedging here, like Tricia suggested.
I have a wall that runs along the front of the house which is very long and south facing.  Now I don’t want anything high, as it’d stop the view from the rooms, but maybe I could grow peas, mini sunflowers or such like along the wall?

Whilst I was pondering, Ste was actually working.  He made a new feeder for the growers.  Their normal feeder is insider this bucket and they have to put their heads in the holes to get to it.  It stops them wasting it all as this bunch are terrible for that.  These guys will be back out soon hopefully.  The ban for my postcode is being lifted shortly.

He also lined the last bed with membrane and we set about filling it with muck, so that’s now done.  I just need topsoil for them all now, which I am ordering at the end of the month.
I saw my first dandelion emerging on Sunday which is telling me things are starting to grow and I need to start the weekly weed if I have any chance of survival this year.

 There wasn’t just me having fun in the veg plot.  Grace knows how to dig up the leeks.

Jack helped out too with the last of the sprouts.

 Steven did the man thing and had a fire!  Incidentally the weed bed I mentioned is behind this fire bin, pre cover up.

As I left the plot for the afternoon, I couldn’t help but look back and get that giddy feeling that all gardeners so as the season starts. 
As always, comments, questions and advice are welcome.  We’re very much learning as we go, jumping in both feet first.

Polytunnel success

This weekend we were very busy with family joining us on Saturday evening and friends on Sunday.  We had to fit in all of the usual jobs plus put the polytunnel up too.  So Saturday we set to work.  I did the usual horses and house jobs then joined Ste with the polytunnel.  He started putting the frame together in the barn.  The weather wasn’t very kind on Saturday but he soldiered on.  I was asked to hold this, lift that and straighten the other.  In no time at all we had the frame up.

 
 

Buddy helped out where he could making sure he checked the bucket’s didn’t have anything worth eating in them and having the odd drink or 2.

Ryan supervised the whole situation.

Day 2 saw the cover go on.  This is where it started to get tricky.  It was very tight and I can see the zips ripping in no time.  We managed it though and as it has a 12 month guarantee I’ll be sure to keep that in case I need to get a new one.

Then being amazing, Ste knocked up a couple of raised beds and attached them to the frame that’s there (this is how we put the PT up, this is not what’s in the manual).  The weight of that wood will not let that frame go anywhere.  We also dug a trench around the polytunnel and buried the cover in it. 

He then laid the slabs we had stored and they dictated the width of the path.  Lots of rotted muck went in and it was finished. 

All in all I am really pleased.  I think it looks great and it’s ready to provide us some food in the coming year.

In between holding and lifting, I sowed some seeds, clipped off some of the strawberries that I’d taken from runners and forgotten about and gave some of the veg plot a tidy up, giving the chickens their treats too.

I also finally got my potatoes chitting.