The veg plot in November – jobs, sowing and harvests.

Early in November, where I live in the UK, you can still expect to see average temperatures up to 11°C. However from mid November the tables start to turn and you will see the temperatures on the lower side more consistently. For many, the fruit and vegetable garden are slowly going to sleep for the Winter. We may have seen our first frost of the year, Old Man Winter is nipping at our heels if he isn’t already here.

Did you know that in the UK grass will stop growing when the air and soil temperature are consistently below 5°C? Cold weather along can stall grass growth, so you can put the lawnmower away.

November used to be a month where we would see more rain fall, though I do feel that we are seeing changes in the weather patterns. The day light is less due to the clocks going back an hour on the last Sunday in October. Cosy, dark nights by the fire with a bowl of warming stew becomes the order of the day.

We don’t like our garden to go to bed in its entirety. During November, we continue to sow and grow in the vegetable garden. If you don’t try you will never know, so if you are curious, I would give it a go anyway.

Leeks, kale, swede, swiss chard, sprouts, cabbages (red and white), spinach, parsnips (which are actually at their best after a first frost if you have a variety that harvests well at that time), winter salads, radish and some cauliflowers are all plants that you can plan on harvesting through November with a little care and attention.

As well as vegetables, we still get some Autumn fruiting raspberries before it’s time to cut them back.

There are still so many seeds you can sow in Autumn. The weather can obviously fluctuate a fair bit here in the UK, so all my seeds are started undercover in some form. Be it the polytunnel, greenhouse or indoors on a windowsill.

It also stops mice stealing your seeds, leaving you scratching your head as to why they haven’t germinated.

This year I have just sown the following in the first few days of November. Don’t be limited to what I have sown, there are many options which I have not yet tried.

  • Black radish
  • Winter lettuce mix
  • Lettuce cos Vaila
  • Giant winter spinach
  • Spinach rubino
  • Radix mix
  • Broccoli Stromboli F1
  • Sweet peas (Mammoth)
  • Broad Beans Aquadulce Claudia
  • Meteor Peas

Everything germinated on or before 10 days. The sweet peas went in a little earlier and took a while longer but that’s ok too.

As well as sowing seeds you can plant a few things too, before the ground becomes less workable.

  • Garlic
  • Onion sets
  • Bare rooted fruit trees
  • Consider splitting rhubarb now it is dormant

As well as continued sowing, planting and harvesting, there are always jobs to do here, some of which are best done whilst you still have some warmth in the sun.

Clear your beds that are empty, mulch with rotted manure or leaf mould etc and cover. If nothing else, the cover will help the ground to warm up earlier next year, however it also supresses weed growth if you have that problem (we do!) and to stop the rain from leaching the nutrients from your soil.

Crops that will succumb to frost that you may still have outside can be covered with protection, Chinese cabbage, oriental leaves etc.

Weed any remaining areas that need it, clearing around the bottom of your fruit trees too. You can now prune dormant fruit trees except cherry and plum.

Did you know stoned fruit trees such as cherry and plum should not be pruned in winter as it makes them susceptible to disease? They should be lightly pruned in Spring or regularly pruned in early summer.

The debris from your plot can go in to your compost bin unless too big an bulky. We have bins for horse muck which we use when rotted as mulch plus a kitchen waste bin that we add leaves, cardboard, garden waste and other compostable materials too.

You can make leaf mould by collecting leaves, which my lovely friend Louise does.

Catch up with any other outstanding jobs, fixing leaky taps, covering the hole in the shed to stop the mice getting in, fixing broken gates, putting out solar pathway lights so you can see in the dark, prepare your bird feed areas for when the ground freezes. There’s plenty 😉

Check over any plants you have out, removing yellowing leaves and look for signs of disease and net if bird’s start to munch on them as their food source becomes harder to find. Make sure you offer them am alternative though!

Most importantly, plan next year’s vegetable plot. What will you need, what one thing would you like to be self sufficient in? What have you never grown before that you are going to try? Please let me know in the comments below, I love to hear other people’s ideas.

Slowing time down!

Well my weekly updates have turned in to a bit more monthly!  Had a few issues with uploads of photos and the fact that January has gone by in the blink of an eye!  Hence the title!
Another week, another month is upon us and another plan is forming. We’re trying to fit as much in to each day as we can as they just fly by! I’ve not been very well for the last few weeks, now I’m not telling you this for sympathy at all, but to highlight how vulnerable we are to our reliance on sooo many things. If we don’t have our health, our homes, our heat sources, supermarkets, electronics and so on, where does that leave us. I must admit it has propelled my thoughts around speeding up the process of being reliant on ourselves as much as possible.
With that in mind, these last few weekends have seen lots of work outdoors.  Sowing seeds of plants that we use regularly and that can be sown at this time of year. Kale (purple and green), tomatoes, leeks, lettuce and radish. I’ve also potted on some lavender that looks like it’s seen better days. Not sure it’ll make it.  If it does, it can be used for handmade gifts and smellies. We’ve worked on the raised beds, more on that shortly and generally started cracking on in earnest.
Above is the area in the greenhouse we are (since the photo) using as a seed bed. After this photo was taken, we filled the rest of it with home made compost (feeling quite smug about that). The wires you can see here are heated wires to give a bit of base heat to the seeds.  I like getting an early start with seeds.  That reminds me, I need to order the Alderman peas, we love those and I’d like to have a few different areas with them this year.
It’s been a bit hit and miss weather wise, we’ve not really had a winter yet but it’s been very wet, which has meant we’ve been able to get a lot of work done in the house. The little bedroom which we hadn’t touched since moving in 4 years ago is now done and I am so pleased with it! We managed to come under budget and all in all it cost us around £200! That’s for doing the walls and replacing the carpet with a beautiful wooden floor. It’s used as a dressing room for Grace and I to dry our hair in, so hard floor is easier to manage with people with long hair rather than breaking the hoover again (sorry Ste 🙂 )

We have now started the main bedroom which is a combination of the bedroom and bathroom (en suite).  As with all old houses, as soon as we started it, we knew it was going to be a big task.  We took out the fitted wardrobes as we want to make use of our own furniture that we love and have had for many years.  It’s old, classic items, we aren’t in to replacing things frequently and especially when not needed!


Once the wardrobes were removed, it pretty quickly showed the issue with the ceiling!  You may or may not be able to tell from the photos, but there is a big bevel in it!  Turns out it needed a bit of TLC and re-patching to get it level (ish) and safe again.  Ste and my Dad got to work on it really quickly and in no time at all, the repair was done and we are ready to move on.  Now for the mammoth task of stripping the wallpaper from the ceiling which is a killer on your arms.  Not looking forward to that one.
Back outside once the weather allowed and dear me, another case of where do you start initially.  With a plan, that’s where.  We are done with January’s goal of the veg plot planning of what’s going where but in order to be able to grow these things, we need a nice soil structure to work with and ease of access to the beds.
So we’ve cut a hole in the fence to make a new gate for access to another part of the veg plot.  This is ‘before’ on the top left and Ste working on it and getting the copious amounts of barrowed muck down on the top right.  We’re going for as much no dig as we can from now on, we simply don’t have the time and life is FAR TOO SHORT to keep weeding and losing every year.

 
It looked great when it was finished and a membrane finish below, to keep those pesky weeds reaching for the light.

I also wanted to share with you some life and doggy updates as I feel it’s been a while.  We have some big changes coming at the end of Feb, start of March which I will share with you then.  For now, our 3 lovely dogs are still enjoying life on the smallholding.  Annie will be having a litter of puppies all being well, later this year.  Here she is giving Buster a cuddle.
 
 And watching me do anything and everything!

Rodney spotted something in the rafters in the barn, which frustrated the life out of him!  He had to just sit and watch instead.  Before going to stand on the picnic table and feel king of his castle.
 
 The kids have loved being able to get out more. 
 
 
 
 
We’re so lucky to have all of this literally on our own land and from our own doorstep.
 
 
Above is the view from the kitchen window on one of the light frosty mornings we have had.  I will never ever tire of this view.
Another thing I have taken great pride in lately is how well Grace is coming on with her cooking and household skills.  Jack will follow suit but as he’s 3 years younger, he is at a different skillset right now.  Still, they both are involved in the household discussions, budget reviews (boring but essential), cooking and meal planning etc.  Grace helped me make croutons for the freezer when the breadbuns were too stale.
 

I also made, well, tried to make a jelly from gooseberries and cherries.  It didn’t set, so we now have a kind of cordial, come syrup!  It won’t get wasted, but we will need to be inventive I think!



Finally for today, we have a big birthday rapidly approaching on Friday – Grace will be 13!!! So there’s a cake to make and good times to be had!  Which ties in nicely with my post title, how the hell do we slow time down!!  All thoughts welcome 🙂 

I hope your January was a happy one.  We had a great time and feel in a great place to be starting February.  If it wasn’t, I wish you a happier February.  Take care bloggers.

Spring bank holiday

What beautiful weather we’ve been having, perfect growing conditions with long sunny days and dare I say it, a long wet day on Sunday! The rest of the week is looking fine so I’m hoping to see some growth on my brassicas. They’ve been shredded to skeletal remains by something! The first batch do seem to be recovering but their growth is definitely stunted and therefore I don’t think brassicas are doing as well as last year. June will be the the deciding month. I think it’s been colder this year earlier on too.

I’ve spent some great hours in the veg plot, greenhouse and polytunnel, though there’s many more hours needed in them. The weather I spoke of is great for the weeds too!

The tomatoes and peas are looking good though again, I don’t think we’ve as many peas as last year. Still time to sow some more of course and I have discovered just the spot for those.

Bush Tomatoes
Polytunnel peas
A while back I sowed some Purple Top Milan turnips in the polytunnel and they all went to seed, so I am guessing it’s too warm for them.  The pigs had them for their supper last night.

 In order to net off the fruit bushes growing alongside the rhubarb, we needed to harvest some more rhubarb which was fine as it’s had a rest since the last harvest.  Here’s Grace stood with some of the harvest and the leaves which were almost as big as her.

 I tried to thin the carrots out a bit more and when I pulled this one out I nearly died of shock.  I’ve never been able to grow carrots before! 

On Sunday we all went for a lovely, long, family walk out.

 The dogs could smell something but we couldn’t see anything.  Maybe a rabbit was just here.

We also netted the strawberries as they have shot up out of nowhere.

 As have the currants and gooseberries

Inspired, I then decided to have a wander round the veg plot taking snaps of how we’re doing.
Rhubarb and currant area

Onions with catch crops in between

The start of direct sowings coming through with quick crops interspersed.  Chamomile is closest here, to make tea with.

 I started planting up the bean bed.  This bed had the trenches dug in it a few month ago, which were filled with veg peelings.  I need to do that at the end of this year so they rot down better next year, but they will still retain the moisture in the bed which is needed.  here we have runner beans with sweet peas in the middle, and nasturtiums at the front.  This bed isn’t finished yet but only so many hours in the day.

 This is my pea and broad bean bed which I’m just not overly happy with.  I’ve put some borlotti’s in the edge too to create an archway if they grow high enough, linked to the next bed.  I’m going to sow more peas, but this bed is the most disappointing this year so far.

 Here’s the main crop potato bed which also has comfrey along the long side as I needed somewhere to put it.  Once it’s in, it’s in, so no going back now.

Comfrey

 This bed has the early potatoes at the top and the tomatoes I’ve just planted out in the bottom.  There’s a lot of conflicting information about these 2 being planted together.  I’ve gone with the risky view as I’ve tonnes more tomatoes elsewhere, so if I lose them, I need to take it on the chin.  The early potatoes are due to come up any time now but they’re a little behind due to the cold weather start again.

 Here we have my version of The Three Sisters which you can read about online.  It’s a method for planting your squash, sweetcorn and beans/peas etc together.  I’ve got sunflowers in instead with my squash and sweetcorn.  We’ll use the sunflowers for food for us and the chickens and also to sow as seeds again next year.

 A happy nasturtium flower which are also edible!  I’ve not tried one yet.

All in all we had a lovely family weekend together.  The kids are off for half term now and they are also off next week for 5 PD days as our school clumps them all together.  Ste and I have taken this week off too, so I hope to get lots sown, grown, harvested and made during this time off.


Seed sowing, promotion, poorly kids, angry sheep and fighting cockerels!

The week started off promising as I found out I’ve been given a promotion at work which is great as at one stage I wondered if I would be laid off. 
Then my son was off school with a terrible cold which doesn’t sound too bad, but sleepless nights and snotty noses take their toll on him and me!
Yesterday saw my 2 Vorwek cockerels were told off by the sheep.  They were arguing and the sheep decided they didn’t like it and hilariously started chasing the cockerel who was “winning” around after headbutting him 2 foot into the air.  After videoing (It won’t let me upload) said chase I set about my jobs but they continued and it got nasty so I broke it up and put some septicleanse on the wound (too strong of a word) and received some good advise off my facebook friends (thank you bloggers who are on there and responded – it’s given me some good ideas for what to have in my first aid bag moving forward). 
They are stunning, however 1 is now up for sale.  They’re both coming into their own and do their jobs well, but they will hurt each other if they stay together.  I think I will keep the stronger of the 2 as he will do a better job at keeping the fox away hopefully.

Did someone order March?  I’ve gone from feeling it will never arrive to hardly believing it is here!  I’ve been keeping on top of the sowing of seeds as I am trying to do some successionally to ensure we have crops of things throughout the year.  The heat bench is a blessing and it is on permanently now.  This is what the greenhouse looked like at the weekend.

Tomatoes and some flowers, also PSB on this one
Corn salad in old strawberry box – reusing is very important
Carrots, 1 aubergine and all season kale at the back
Leeks, cauli and cabbage and more flowers I think
Sweet peas, peas in drainpipe, blueberry plants and fig tree (stick!)
3 “free” blueberry plants from GYO mag (paid postage) and some currant cuttings I took myself
My comfrey is coming through, yey!

I have taken delivery of 4.5 tonnes of screened topsoil.  This will go on the veg beds which have been filled with muck.  John Seymour grew carrots in muck and said his were fine, so I am going to try it.  I don’t mind forked carrots, I just want food!

 The wagon was huge but it did make me appreciate the late February blue sky.  The driver also bough 3 1/2 dozen eggs off us, so a good day all round.

 My lovely parents bought us a conference pear tree just because they wanted to, so I promptly soaked it, dug a hole and put a bucket of rotted muck in and firmed the tree down.  I love that we’re planting trees for future generations to benefit from, as well as us of course.
I got my first/second earlies in, some outside and some in the polytunnel to experiment and know what to do next year.
I’ve planted Swift (FE), Athlete (SE) and British Queen (SE)
We have been getting goose eggs regularly for a couple of weeks now and I have found they make the best frittata I’ve tasted.  We had a massive one which turned out to be a double yoker.  I’ll be using the rest to make some cakes for the freezer that I will pre slice and pack ready to use in packed lunches.
 
 
 I can’t recall if I posted this already, but these are some bulbs which the chickens must have scratched out last summer and have self rooted in silly places.  I rescued them and look forward to seeing what they are.
 
 We are expecting new additions Saturday!!! Stay tuned!
 

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.