Yearly Archive 2013

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Looking back at my gardening year, 2013

So, what have I learnt from the past year? Well, as usual my gardening year hasn’t provided the sort of yield I wanted, or if gardening magazines are to be believed I should expect. I don’t know why I should expect my gardening abilities to be as great as Monty Don or Geoff Lawton, especially only being 5 years in, I am a beginner. I do of course hamper myself with ridiculous rules like not importing fertility, especially as I am practically guaranteed to have awesome crops if I dump half a ton of horse manure on the allotment. Read More

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Is it called sheet mulching cos it’s, like, sheet?

Sheet mulching2Mrs SVG wasn’t at all convinced that dumping half a ton of poorly composted vegetation, cardboard and mouldy pumpkins all over the garden was a good idea. It doesn’t look at all great, except in my minds eye where I see hidden worms turning it into humus and where I see the soil that this sort of soil building helps make. I have a love/hate relationship with mulching because there is no doubt that mulching recycles all the nutrients in the mulch into the soil, a trick that composting in a heap doesn’t do – much compost nutrients are washed away well before it is dug into the soil. But thick mulches are the perfect hiding place for slugs and snails and I will not tolerate their presence. I have learnt the hard way that clean soil is the best way to keep slugs away and so I don’t mulch during the spring, summer and most of autumn – I compost. Read More

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Overwintering African Blue Basil, Comparing Squashes and Testing Compost

My African Blue Basil cuttings which I took in October are romping away now in their tiny modules on my kitchen window sill. They were taken as an insurance policy against my basil bush dying. The African Blue is a perennial basil and a plant you can overwinter here indoors in the UK but I always find the lovely big bushes I buy always die in the autumn. I know it is easier to keep cuttings alive and this seems to be true in this case, they are doing well so far. Read More

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Leek baby bulbs (bulblets), Japanese Bunching Onions dividing and White Clover sending out runners

I just thought I would share with you some of the things I have learnt recently about some of the plants I grow. Because I grow in a perennial fashion (either the plants are perennial or I extend their lifespan in ways such as taking cuttings or preventing them from flowering) I get to see the plants full behaviour over a longer period. Many conventional vegetable gardeners grow annuals from seed and then eat them, freeing the land up often very quickly for a new crop. This succession of plants is intensive and grows a lot of food, but my style of vegetable gardening is less intensive, less hard work, slower and more forgiving to the environment. The slowness allows me to see such things as the full lifespan of such things as the biennial leek. Read More

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Mulching, composting and testing my soil for pH, nitrogen, phosphates and potassium

Today was a day spent pottering about the back garden dealing with the chores I have been putting off.  Much exposed soil looks as though it has been walked on (which it hasn’t) which I assume is the effect of the weather, compacting my soil. So I’ve been busy with my mature compost pile, rooting the good stuff out, sieving it (loosely, mind) and using it around my overwintering vegetables. The rough stuff (woody or just uncomposted matter) I am mulching the soil with to protect the soil from compaction. I am also putting it around those vegetables that aren’t closely spaced. The bulky, sticklike stuff is hard to space around my Japanese Bunching Onions but easy to do around the perennial brassicas. I also had a bit of straw left in a bag from last year which I bunged on top of the mulch. This is now, hand on heart, the last organic matter input for the back garden. My garden should now be self fertilising.

Should be. Read More

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Chop ‘n’ Drop

My quest to reduce – or stop entirely – inputs into my vegetable plots continues. As usual I look down at my compost heaps with dissapointment as the huge piles of organic matter I had accumalated vanish into thin air. Or leave thin layers of “black gold” topped with woody matter. I’m tugged both ways in the compost / sheet mulching debate. What I have learnt over the last year is that slugs and snails dissapear if they have nowhere to hide. So you would think that would mean mulches would be out then in my gardens. Indeed, on the allotment, nary a mollusc could be found – and that was down to a religious determination to tidy the place up. Grass paths trimmed, weeds weeded and rubbish put on the compost heap. I’m not one to follow advice (stubborn I’m told) but I wish I had, because the same story is always told – if you want to keep the gastropods away tidy up!. Read More

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Kew Gardens and Chelsea Physic Garden Visit

KewPopping up to London to see a friend I took the opportunity to visit two gardens that I can thoroughly recommend. I have been to both before, and returning I found both had changed and both felt fresh and interesting. It was, of course, autumn which put a little bit of a dampener on things but not much, both gardens had aged well through the seasons and besides most of the excitement goes on in my head anyway as I consider the possibilities offered for my own plots. Read More

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Overwintering Chilis, Aubergines and African Blue Basil

My ChilisThat’s it, it is too cold and time for my annual attempt to overwinter tender plants. I should of course give up such a mad endeavour and accept the british climate is what it is and tender plants are what they are. But hope springs eternal and the winter is not that long, is it? It has not all been total failure, two years ago I succeeded in overwintering three chili plants (thus proving it wasn’t a fluke) which cropped well again the next year but succumbed to the next winter. It was gutting.  Read More

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Winter mulch and slugs

 

Slug damaged leeks, egyptian onions to the leftMy autumn mulch has not gone to plan. The theory was that mulching, though very beneficial to soil, encouraged slugs and snails – the bane of gardeners everywhere. For this reason I don’t use mulches during spring and summer, but I figured if there wasn’t much in the allotment that slugs would like I could lay down a mulch over the winter to help suppress weeds but more importantly prevent the winter rains from washing all the nutrients out of the soil. As many a gardener will tell you slugs don’t really like alliums, like leeks and onions, and as my allotment at the moment contains Egyptian onions and leeks I felt that now would be the time to lay down a mulch. Read More

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Vegetative Propagation of Cabbages (Taking Cuttings) [updated]

IMAG0791 copyAs reported previously I have put a lot of effort into reproducing my plants without using seeds. Seeds are uncertain, tricky and prone to being wiped out by slugs and damping off. They also cost money and time. With such things as broccoli and kale I can simply pull off a sprout from the main stalk and bung it in some compost. Cabbages don’t have sprouts like this but will grow sprouts if you cut the main head off. This is well known as a technique to get a second harvest but not as a means of taking cuttings. Read More

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