Monday, 22 March 2010

It's time to get sowing (a posting from Maria in Sales Admin and her husband Phil)

Has spring finally arrived? The woodpeckers in our nearby woods are active - their drumming clearly audible over the sound of the neighbours labouring lawnmowers! The daffodils are late and the tits are still hunting for a suitable nest site. Despite all this seasonal confusion gardening must go on and the seeds must be planted (under glass of course!) so I was out in the garden at last, with my husband Phil.

Now in the past, Phil, a creative sort of chap, has utilised a small off-cut of chipboard to level and firm the compost in the trays ready for a neat sowing -this simple action ensures the seeds get the best possible start. But the aforesaid piece of old chipboard has now been consigned to the compost heap (yes chipboard is compostable) as our Burgon & Ball Square Seed Tray Tamper now takes pride of place. It's actually a rather satisfying job and it's convenient wooden handle makes the job so much easier - wonder if its any good for flattening pastry?!
A note from Phil - whichever word you choose - tight, careful or penny wise - I don't believe in spending money frivolously so in the past I always pinched one of my wife's old flour sieves to dust newly planted seed trays with the thinnest covering of soil, mind you it's got such fine holes that the compost often clogged and if it was at all damp then forget it!
And then I discovered the benefit of using the proper tools - Maria sourced a Burgon & Ball Potting Riddle for me and now my compost is always fine, free of those strange lumps (what are they?!) and it never clogs. Oh happy days when you find out that, as an old dog, you can indeed learn new tricks!

The Hawley Tool Collection at Kelham Island

The variety of tools in production in the earlier parts of the last century was extra-ordinary. Burgon & Ball alone produced over 90 different patterns of hoe head - pretty much one for every county, vegetable and colonial country. Here's a little selection!

The great Yorkshireman Ken Hawley has amassed an incredible collection of over 100,000 tools and tool ephemera over the last 50 or so years and now we can all see (at least some of) it! Last Tuesday I went along to the opening of the Hawley Collection at the brilliant and award winning, Kelham Island Museum in Sheffield. If you're ever in Sheffield, go, because there are some truely jaw dropping pieces of industrial kit, in working order, plus lots of engaging pastiche's from the bygone times of tool and cutlery production in Sheffield.

On my way out I way drawn by the most beautiful sweet sound, some kind of musical instrument I've never heard before. Transfixed, I followed my ears until I found the source - the Yorkshire Saw Player.  The sound (especially played in the echo-ey interior of this old industrial building) was haunting and ethereal - and made by drawing a bow along a saw. Another one to snap up the chance to experience if you possibly can.

Cutting back and Composting

Just when it seemed that nothing was ever going to start growing we get a few days of a little more warmth and there's action all round. Poor sedum pushing it's way through all that old dead growth.....

Time to cut off last seasons growth in the herbaceous border and get some compost down.
My compost heap is the favoured place for ivy runners from the boundary of our garden - consequently extracting the compost needs some careful work to ensure the little pink roots don't make it into the wheelbarrow and off for a holiday to the flower beds to start a new family. This year I determine to be more vigilant about controlling the ivy........ha ha!

When I first started making compost I was dismayed that it didnt come out of the heap looking the same as the compost that comes out of a sack - all uniformly dark brown with no big bits. Action is certainly faster since I started adding bacterial Compost Accelerator but I also now know that the job of making your own compost doesn't stop with spading it out of the heap - it takes lots of rubbing between your fingers and quite a bit of judicious sending back to the heap of the odd stick. But the smell - wow - earthy, musty, just like a walk in the woods in the autumn - probably something only gardeners would love, hmm maybe a new range of gardeners scented candles and room sprays ....Compost No. 5'?

Friday, 12 March 2010

A Blank Canvas for a new Garden – (a posting from Nicola in the design department)

We moved into our flat in October, and until now, have not done anything in the garden, but with the weather being bright and sunny last weekend we felt that it was time to get outside and make a start.

On Saturday our garden had four things living in it:

1. A Leylandii Tree
2. A Plum Tree
3. A Shrub (yet to be identified)
4. Alfie (our cat)

By Sunday it only had three...

I have never been keen on leylandii trees and hedges. Our garden is fairly small and this particular one was taking up a lot of space. In fact it was so wide that it was almost completely concealing the plum tree, so I made the decision that it had to go.

This is the first tree I have cut down so, pruning saw in hand, I decided that it would be best to start by cutting the foliage back to the main trunk. I started with the low down branches and worked my way up. This seemed to work well and was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

When I had cut back all of the branches I could reach, I used a ladder to get to the higher branches. When I couldn't reach any more branches from the top of the ladder it was time to saw through the main trunk (with assistance from the boyfriend).

Twenty bags of foliage down the recycling centre later, and the job was done. The plum tree now has much more space to grow so I am hoping for a bumper crop later in the year.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Getting busy in the Tomato house

I find it almost impossible to throw a living plant away - even if it is a teeny weeny seedling, it's got potential. And if it hasn't got much potential then it's worse because it's a challenge. So as a consequence I soldier on with far too many and often feeble, seedlings in pots. Plus I don't thin out enough.
So this year I'm cutting right back on the number of seeds of each variety being sown.

Last weekend I sowed in (what was supposed to be) rows of 10 which however on second counting turned out to be rows of 11, the following:
Aubergine - Black Beauty
Sweet Pepper - California Wonder
Tomato - Gardeners Delight (2 rows)
Tomato - Sungold (1 row was in fact the entire pack of seeds)

All tamped down and labelled up - waiting to be finely riddled with John Innes Seedling compost to barely cover and into the Propagator they'll go.

Then had a bit of fun with our Eco-Pot Maker making some individual pots out of Saturdays paper - I was getting about about 8 large pots out of a single sheet so reckon I could make about 1400 large pots from a single paper - not bad value for money and they will all compost themselves into the ground! I planted up 11 (well I can't break the pattern now) Asparagus Pea seeds, making a neat and measurable little hole with the Dibblet. I've never grown this veg before but supposed to taste like a cross between, guess what - asparagus and peas.

Finally - I couldn't sign off without sharing a pic of our beautiful snowdrops - what an unexpected delight for us down south in March!

Oh - and another pic of a delicious side salad of picked leaves -just look at the variety and all over-wintering uncovered (except on the worst jack frosty nights). Just in case you were wondering - the leaf top centre is torn - not nibbled....