Friday, 29 June 2007

Toady and some greens

On slug patrol last night I found this toad on the lawn by the large conifer. He didn't seem to be in much of a hurry to eat the slugs on the veg patch though. I found a frog siting in my lettuces one night last week as well!

I thought that some of my Little Gem lettuce might be ready by now but have decided it needs another few weeks. Following some instructions in my book, I loosley tied up the leaves with gardening string. Should keep them out of easy reach for the slugs.

I also planted two of the Purple Sprouting Broccoli seedlings out on the patch. I'm hoping that 4 will make it, although not many survived the whitefly, slugs by the backdoor and my over/under watering, so there's only 6 left now! The area I'm putting them in is already a bit crowded with stray lettuce thinnings, rocket and a renegade tomato plant from the compost. Will see how they cope.

Finally, I keep forgetting to mention, but a few weeks ago Mum got some Rhubarb off one of her friends at work who I gave some tomatoes to. Despite being stuck in a bucket for three days and looking pretty wilted at first, it has now made a full recovery and is looking healthy.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Day of little surprises

I got the train back from Rosie's today. She's still ill so I've been looking after her for the last few days while her parents are away. On the way back from the station I discovered a whole bunch of full sized rasberry bushes at the bottom of Leigh Hill. I never even knew they were there but will definately go back for more. When I got home I threaded the Fairy Ring mushrooms on string and hung them up to dry in the garage. Will use them in a Risotto when Rosie's better.

Another discovery was waiting for me in the back garden where my tomatoes have produced their first tiny little fruit! It was on one of the plants affected by the mosaic virus. Rosie's plants, which never got sick, already have a number of fruits on them.

Down on the patch, my courgette plants are really getting established. They're huge now. Henry says his have alreay got fruits a few inches long.

The final surprise of my day was being sked by my local Friends of the Earth group to take over as Campaigns Officer for the Big Ask Climate Change Bill campaign. Following all the havok being wrecked by flooding in Yorkshire this week, hopefully the UK government will take this problem seriously and bring in legislation to help reduce future chaos.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Mushrooms in the Rain

I went back to check on the mushrooms today. I picked some of the Fairy Ring's making sure that they were the right ones and not the Cream Clots or Cracked Caps that they could be confused with. The big white Horse buttons still haven't broken their veil yet.

I should probably say at this point that I spent about 3 years studing wild mushrooms with field guides and online resources before I ate any, and I still stick to those that are easy to identify and hard to confuse. If you ever plan on picking mushrooms, it is adviseable to learn all the posible poisinous look-a-likes and find examples of both them, and the ones you are lookin for, in different stages of development so that you can familiarise yourself with their different features. It is also worth taking spore samples and important to note the habitat in which you find them.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Rasberries in the rain

Its been another wet weekend. Went out mushroom hunting with Rosie on Kingsley Common yesterday morning. Found a few baby field mushroom buttons which we might go back for, and lots of Fairy Ring which we didn't bother picking, although they are supposed to be good for stews so maybe we should have! What really made the trip worthwhile though, was finding a wild rasberry bush. Only a few ripe fruits but they were a taste explosion in our mouths. Mmmmm...

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Flowering courgettes!

My first courgettes have flowered, both of the ones on the windowsill in the kitchen. I did a spot of late night gardening yesterday and put the rest of the tomatoes outside.

I've been on slug patrol every night this week with my scissors and the body count is mounting up. Trouble is, they seem to be attracted to their own dead friends. I may also have to reconsider my lentient policy on snails, there's hundreds of them out there and something munched my broccoli in pots last night despite the killing spree...

Monday, 18 June 2007

New Potatoes and the Snail Hotel

Spent all day on Sunday gardening today from about 10 till 8. Started off by chopping down this shrub under th kitchen window, which had become rotten with mould from a nearby rose bush. It turned out to be a chock full of snails. I've never seen so many in one place before! With veggies in mind I should probably have killed them all but I like snails and it's the other end of the garden.

There was another guest in the snail hotel as well!

Next job was to plant out another growbag of tomatoes with their respective scaffolding. Then I sowed rows of carrots, rocket, lettuce and spring onions.

Mum, Dad and Merlin were all out in the Garden for the day as well. Merlin, the terror, killed a baby Robin yesterday morning. One of it's parents kept us company for the day as well, sitting on tools and tugging up worms from where I was working. I couldn't help but feel sorry for him knowing that our little menace had slaughtered its offspring for the year, despite his cheerful song.

After lunch we made a family trip to the garden centre to get some new pots, grow bags and spray for the whitefly. I experimented on just the biggest sprout first as I'm not sure whether it's good for the seedlings or not. I also used some on our Japonica which is infested with blackfly.

It says in my book that new potatoes are ready to harvest once they have flowered and the tubers are the size of a hen's egg. I had an exploratory poke around a plant that flowered a few weeks ago and found a few which matched this discription, so Mum and I decided to pull it up. I was a bit dissapointed by the low yield (bottom picture) but was glad to find them all in good condition, bar one with superficial common scab.

I also picked a couple of radishes and was thining out my carrots when I found my first root - a micro carrot! Was a very tasty nibble. I think I'll leave thinning out till a bit later next time.

There's a lot of mini mushrooms growing around my courgettes (below). I need to get down the Leg'O'Mutton field early one morning to look for some edible ones.

The day's harvest (below) - not much but it's early days yet! As the day ended I sat on the bench by my patch, re-potted some broccoli and sowed some coriander, parsley and basil in seed trays. As I sat there, a song thrush perched on the conifer opposite and sand his heart out for about 15 mins. They've got such a random tune but very pleasing on the ear. It was a really peaceful end to a busy day!

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Beneficials vs. the Whitefly

Didn't get anything much done today as I was short on time, but did spend a bit of time out in the garden, which is buzzing with life (non-veggie flower above).
During the week I discovered that my Broccoli and Sprout seedlings in the bathrrom have been overrun by Cabbage Whitefly. Doesn't seem to have had too bad an effect so far, although I'm planning on getting an Organic spray to control them. In the meantime I was delighted to see this little fellow tucking into a feast of the pests this morning. Must be one of these beneficial bugs I keep getting told about!

The last of my spuds are now flowering (below). According to my book, they're ready to pull after they've flowered so I might have a look tomorrow....

Friday, 15 June 2007

Lucious lettuce and pro-active peas

Bit of a photo update this eve (taken yesterday). First of all, the patch overview. the first spuds should be ready in the not too distant future so this could all look a bit different soon.

My courgettes have been looking a bit dry, with some leaves really patchy white. I took them off and fed them with fertiliser and they seem to have recovered well.

My lettuce which survived the slug assualts have been doing well after the recent rain. Looking quite big and fresh. Not long now. I need to get some more planted in fact!

Some of my Runner Beans have taken a real battering from the slugs, but this one's doing well. Need to tie it to the cane tommorrow.

My peas get veg of the week I think, if only for their little feelers that they wrap round the frame to pull themselves up. They're incredibly strong tenticles that creep up before winding themselves tightly round the first thing they find. I had to help them find the net initially but now they're going great guns. (Click on the picture for a close up!)

And finally, despite their disease and subsequent de-leafing, some of my tomatoes outside are recovering and flowering at last! The ones inside are getting really big and also ready to flower so need to go out this weekend really.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Elderflower foraging

Went out foraging with Rosie on Sunday on Kingsley Common. Our main objective was Elderflowers which we picked in abundance. Also found what looked like some old Horse Mushrooms, although they could have been yellow stainers. they'd already been picked and were pretty old anyway so we left them. Should have been out mushrooming the other week after all that rain! I've started making some elderflower cordial with a recipie from the Food for Free book. (See below)

I got home today to find Mum had an accident with my two pot courgettes which now have lots of mangled leaves. I also found my best sprouts are infested with whitefly, and the ones outside are being eaten by caterpillars. I'll be impressed if anything survives....

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Permaculture, naked tomatoes, slug sections and a pup

Well I'm back from Sunrise and ready for new gardening challenges after attending a begginers workshop on Permaculture and chilling in the portable gardens on display (above). Permaculture is basically a design system approach to organic gardening with ethics at the core, although it can be applied to all aspects of life. I'll try and write about it a bit more when I've got time, or you could read about it here or here. It may be a while before I can really get into it, although some of it I do already and there's things I can build on.

I returned to find my Tomatoes still alive although further infested by the disease. Thanks to direction from She who digs though, I've managed to identify it as Mosaic Virus and have followed advice on a website that suggests removing all affected leaves and leaving the healthy ones. That meant just about all of them so now my poor plants are looking extremely bare. Apparently though, according to this secret its the best thing I could have done anyway. Lets just hope its not all some internet hoax! Many thanks for the help SWD.

I went out on slug patrol this evening and found this little blighter biting the beer bait. I also found another in a different trap... and one on the eggshells - which proves they don't work. Despite all my new found hippy permacultural intentions, I had a bit of a turn. I was holding a pair of scissors in my hand for cutting bits of loo roll to protect my lettuce. Chopping slugs in half is apparently the most humane way to get rid of them... so I tried it. At first I was horrified as slime pumped out both sides of the little fella's disected body. I actually like slugs when they're not eating my plants. But then I found another one and tried again. It must be a bit like serial killing because it got easier and I desenstised pretty soon. Before you know it I was chopping away like Floyd on a Saturday morning. Oh well... the way I look at it, it'll provide some food for the birdies tomorrow and its not like I'm even a proper veggie anyway. I'll stop once I've installed a pond with toads, honest...

Oh alright, just to make you feel better here's one of my friend Zoe's puppies. Well, not hers exactly but her dog Poppy's. Isn't he/she/it cute?