What a difference the sun makes

Don’t think buying in tomato plants is in any way cheating. Earlier this year we sowed a few tomato seeds that failed miserably so we bought a couple of varieties from Shannon’s. The cherry ones (above) have done exceptionally well and they’re still going strong as we didn’t pinch out the tops. Big thanks to Shannon’s, we’ll be doing the same next year.

Monday afternoon was so nice we went out in the garden and tidied up one of the scrappy beds and then planted some garlic cloves to overwinter. It’s worth making the most of the weather at the moment as in a months or so’s time it may be dreadful. Here’s the before and after:

And finally a big shout to Steyvn Iron Feather Journal for letting us know about the latest Music’s not for everyone on NTS which features a ten inch vinyl special including One Deck & Popular’s Son of Stitt (Cafe del Bob’s mix) from many moons ago. Big thanks Mr Weatherall! #onedeckandpopular #sonofstitt

Hold tight all garlic crew…

GarlicaLast autumn I bought a small number of Garlic cloves from Shannon’s and stuck them in the ground over winter and last night I pulled a good few of them out to harvest. I’ll be leaving them against the kitchen wall to dry out a bit. Not a bad harvest for something you don’t have to bother too much with once they’ve been planted. There’s still even a couple of rows left in the ground too!

The train to Fishguard is coming…

Mike P CherriesA big shout to Mike and Aradhana of the great Ffynnonofi Farm near Fishguard, Pembrokeshire where we’ve stayed a couple of times in the past. It’s a top place, the sea’s on your doorstep and there’s plenty of countryside to take in as well as some great fruit and veg growing on the farm!

Mike’s sent us some snaps of his garden at the present moment and the plants are looking good! The sweet cherries (above) look brilliant and the plums (below) look like they’re coming on fine too.Mike P_PlumsThe morello cherries (below) are starting to turn red.Mike P_Sour Morello CherriesAnd look at the overwintered garlic below, they went in around november last year and are now well on their way!

One of the caretakers of Ffynnonofi Farm is Dai, (the son of the late John Seymour, author of “The new complete book of self-sufficiency” we reviewed on the blog here). His tip is that garlic should ideally go in on the shortest day (usually around the 21st December), and picked on the longest day (around the 21st June). Great advice!Mike P_GarlicCheers to Mike for sending in the pics and also thanks for passing on this fine classic from Peter Tosh.

They’re under starters orders

I’ve got a collection of leggy tomato plants waiting to go in the garden until after the risk of frost has gone, like I have every year. After starting them off on the kitchen windowsill a couple of months ago, I put them in the plastic mini-greenhouse outside with the front open during the day to harden them off. This weekend I stuck one of them under the terrarium outside and also sowed  a mixture of seeds beside it. There’s onions and garlic on their way in the bed behind and in the raised bed furthest away have seed potatoes under a good deal of earthed up soil. Seed bed of the weekThe bed at the bottom of the garden which I was going to keep veg-free this year has now a row of leek seedlings which I sowed indoors on xmas eve last year and a couple of courgette seeds which went in over the weekend under jam jars for extra protection. The rest is a mixture of flowers, a purple sprouting broccoli gone to flower, rocket and strawberries. It won’t be long now until “they’re off” and we can’t wait!back bed of the week

You raise me up (just like a runner bean cane)

Tarrium and garlicA big thanks to the weather for the weekend just gone and it looks like spring has finally sprung!  Things are certainly on their way, I’ve got some healthy looking leek seedlings, black poppies and garlic in the glass terrarium I found in the street a couple of years ago (above) and the bulbs are starting to come up in the found empty champagne case too (below).Garlic in bucketsEarly Sunday morning I popped into Shannon’s (ta to Paul, Araba and Alexi for the lift) and got myself three bags of multi-purpose compost to put into the new raised bed (below) made out of a couple of free scaffolding boards procured from Paul a couple of weeks earlier. So thanks to a cheap argos drill, some spare wood and a quarter of a tin of fence protector left over from last year, it’s now a home for beetroot, carrots and climbing french beans. And look at the runner bean cane wigwam, that’s been put in a bit early!Raised bed and bean canesAnd here’s a tune dedicated to all who put in a few hours over the weekend with their mowers, garden forks, spades, trowels and (new pair of) loppers while enjoying the good weather in their gardens and allotments! Roll on the spring!

Damian Marley – Hard Work (Dedicated to all Westminster City Council gardeners)

Eats, shoots and leaves

I heard two great gardening tips this week. The first was from Penny Golightly (of the great Golightly Gardens website) who mentioned the free tomato seed offer from Heinz. It’s only a limited thing but have a look at their Facebook page here and see if you’re lucky!

Also on last week’s Gardening with Tim & Joe show on BBC Radio Leeds, Joe Maiden mentioned rather than buying a pack of seeds especially for pea shoots from the major seed sellers (around £2.50), go to the supermarket and buy a packet of dried peas which are the same thing and a whole lot cheaper!Bulbs in the greenI had a day off Thursday and managed to do a little bit of gardening before the rain came and it was so nice to be back out there. I cleared the bed next to the pond (Pic above – fish courtesy of Lewisham pet shop, bought a few years ago and they’ve multiplied a bit since then. God knows how they survive in a rusty old water tank!)

The reason I was out there was I bought a load of bluebells a fortnight ago which were bought “in the green” (as I missed the proper bulb planting time in the autumn) so when the postlady delivered them on Thursday morning they were live (with roots and shoots and all) so they had to go in. Let’s hope the birds or the squirrels don’t pull them up!

onions under glassThings are on the move, the onion sets, garlic and parsley under the top half of the old kitchen door are starting to show signs of life and the tomato and pepper seeds I stuck in a few weeks ago indoors are on their way. It won’t be long now, roll on the warm weather!

Tray of seedlings

Proud to be twirly

It’s always happens come this time of year, I start to get a bit twitchy and “sow just a few seeds” and come March/April I’ve loads of leggy looking tomato plants sitting on my kitchen windowsill waiting to go out after the risk of frost has gone. Will I ever learn?

It certainly don’t look like I will, as just after the new year I went to Shannons and bought some seed compost, a set of seed trays and a plastic propagator. I even had a look at one of those heated propagators with a view to buying one but at £30, had second thoughts. It’s funny I got rid of one on ebay a few years ago as I thought I’d never need it again. Great eh?

I was also told a top tip though at Shannon’s, “never mind buying a heated propagator, just stick one of the normal ones next to a radiator.” Not too close though as it will dry out the compost and the seeds will possibly cook!propogatorMy seeds aren’t by a radiator but just tucked out of the draughts by the patio doors in the back room (image above with an patented added extra to keep the lid firmly on, 2 clothes pegs!) I sowed some tomatoes (moneymaker), peppers (sweet mini-mix), coriander and lettuce leaf basil which will give you leaves as big as your hand (if the picture on ebay is to be believed!) As they used to say at the post office, I think I have “a touch of the twirlies*”

compost bin 2015

Also over the christmas holidays while off work, I managed to tidy up some of the back garden that got a bit neglected last year. A couple of beds have now been weeded, forked over and now ready for the growing season, giving myself a bit of a head start come spring. I spread some of the great compost that is now starting to come out of the compost bins (albeit with eggshells still in it, I’m now breaking them down more before sticking them in the bin).

garden stardate jan 2015

Also there was a bag of seed onions (Troy) under the stairs that I should have sown in the autumn to be overwintered. Even though I thought I kept them cool and in the dark there’s a few green shoots developing so a few of those went in alongside some cloves of french elephant garlic.

They’ll more then likely rot but “what the eck” they’ve gone in under the old glass frame I found in the street years ago which now doubles as a cold frame once two broken peices of paving slabs go on the ends of it and there’s a few onions under the sawn off glass part of the old kitchen door we had replaced (image above).

I mean can you ever be “too early”? We’ll soon see come the spring, if they’ve either rotted or started sprouting! As I write this, the rain is lashing it down like nobodies business. “Twirly?” I do think so!

*Full explanation of the term “twirlies” here.