And lay the seed tape on the ground

We received a part of a seed order we forgotten about from Thompson & Morgan this morning. It was a favourite vegetable of ours beetroot and what was good about it was they’re of the seed tape variety. There’s no fiddling about with trying to sow the seeds thinly, spacing them out evenly or trying to keep them in a straight line, the tape does all that for you. We are getting used to this seed tape idea even though it’s been around for a while!

And the seed potatoes we planted straight outside rather than under the cold frames are starting to show through the black membrane that was used for putting under the decking. All we done is cut an X in it and plonked in the seed potato. The membrane will keep the weeds off and hopefully keep warmth in the ground. We covered the tips of the buds this evening with a bit of soil just in case a frost comes out of nowhere!

Talking of potatoes we’re in the process of tidying up the front garden that isn’t really doing that much. We may copy an idea of a neighbour of ours who the other year sowed some potatoes in his newly designed front garden as they are supposedly good for breaking up compacted soil we were once told at the council. It may be a while before Shannon’s is open again where we can pick up some shrubs so we might as well make use of the ground and grab some potatoes into the bargain!

Do we still have to put our bins out during lockdown?

The last couple of days have been cold but a few quick trips down the garden have been in order for a nice bit of sanity from a self-isolating worldview. A big shout to our good friend Nancy B who a short while back, suggested we get a Clematis Montana for the back fence. It’s now woken up and is starting to show a few flowers. The plant will be getting some of that comfrey feed when it’s ready!

Thanks to Thompson & Morgan (and Shannon’s and all the other plant and seed sellers of the world who are working flat out keeping gardeners supplied!) for sending us an order which included some Peas (Jumbo) and Lettuce (Little Gem) that have gone in one of our “Blue Peter” style, cut-price budget cold frames.

Earlier this year we mentioned we were going the “rest” the back bed and fill it with some wild flower mix. That idea’s gone out of the window now as we stuck in a row of peas behind the spuds we put in the other week. Best laid plans and all that!

But the question on everyone’s lips here is something we heard a passer-by the other day say into his mobile whilst on his daily exercise regime “Do we still have to put our bins out during lockdown?”

Where will three spuds get you?

It all started the other Saturday afternoon, we were in a shop in Forest Hill at the end of queue of people scrambling to buy some fresh fruit and veg. The woman in front of us was knocked back as she was trying to buy more than the regulation “Three potatoes per person” as stated on the hastily written felt-tipped sign on the wall. A thought came into our heads, what’s it going to be like in the next few months when it comes to buying fruit & veg? Will there be enough to go around and if so will they be affordable?

Apart from some onions and garlic which are overwintering, some packs of seeds left over from last year plus some from a recent ebay purchase we decided to see what else we could get, so another trip to Shannon’s was in order. We want to give a big shout to everyone there for their help, they’ve been great! When we were there they were well busy with everyone having the same idea as us to get seeds and plants in before the lockdown. They still had a good bit of stock left, so we bought a couple of big bags of compost, a large bag of seed spuds and a couple of packets of cut and come again lettuce. We know it’s early in the season and yes we’re taking a chance with the frost but the weeks will fly by and it’ll be summer before you know it, so we’ve started sowing now.

We’re working from home at the moment so we can now spend an extra hour daily (1-2pm) in the garden. As you can’t go out to get anything (and most places where you could are closed anyway) we’re utilising what we have stored away like the palettes we were given years ago now in use as raised beds and plastic cloches, window frames and the upside down terrarium thrown out for the binmen as frost protection. The latest thing is a roll of black material that was bought to put down before our decking was laid. It’s now in use as some sort of weed suppressant, frost protector come soil warmer for the early seed spuds that we put in. All we did was weigh it down with stones on top of the soil and cut an X in the material with an old bread knife and popped the spuds in. We put some soil on top of the hole that the spud will eventually grow through as extra protection. It’s a case of whatever we got, we’re going to use!

And it’s only been a month that we sowed those cut and come again lettuces we got free with the Kitchen Garden Magazine (post here) on the back windowsill and they’re well on the way to start eating! The tomatoes and pepper seedlings are growing too. The sooner you sow the sooner they’ll be ready to eat but remember to protect against those frosts!

It’s that time again, or is it?

We’re working from home for the foreseeable future and on Thursday lunchtime we went for a walk (in a social distancing style of course) to clear the mind. There were queues outside the doctors, pre-corona paranoia, not a soul on the streets nor a sausage in the shop. We popped into Shannon’s where it was well busy! We purchased a big bag of compost and some seed potatoes (below) whilst other people were getting herbs, tomato plants and all sort of good gear that’ll come in handy in the months to come.

God knows what’s going to happen when it comes to getting fresh veg in the near future so we may as well make a start now! We’re already overwintering some onions and garlic and now warming up the raised beds where we may stick the odd seed potato in this week and take a chance. We using all the stuff we’ve found in the street or in skips like the terrarium, the window frame, the odd jar and some plastic small cloches to do the job. We’ve got a few rows of seeds in already and we’re going to do more. Why not? You never know what the weather’s going to be like.

And this thing (below) covered with a jar is a courgette seed, talk about starting early! Keep safe and when loneliness hits you during the day working from home, don’t go down the local shops as you’ll be disappointed, walk out to the back garden and tip around with a hoe for half an hour. It works wonders!

A potato finale plus animal nightlife

And here are the last of the spuds we dug up yesterday as we don’t want them going rotten with all the wet weather we probably get in the forthcoming months. These were originally from seed spuds we bought from Shannon’s and it’s taken us years to work out if you leave the potatoes in for longer they will grow larger. Sometimes it takes a while for the penny to drop. But when it does…

Also the other week we noticed a small tin of opened sweet corn and an opened bread packet down by the pond and thought nothing of it. Then we found that something had severed the lead from the little solar panel that powers the battery of the pond pump. Now yesterday we found they’ve all been severed. We have a couple of cats and they usually keep the vermin away and we’ve never had anything like this before. Any ideas?

Could the above be anything to do with it? We have a big pile of broken slabs piled up at the back of the pond (that we took from the area that has now been seeded) do you reckon there’s something that has made their home in there who likes gnawing through wires? Rodents perhaps? Suggestions please. We are putting an ad on Gumtree today for anyone who wants a load of 70’s slabs for free as hardcore for an old shed or something. That should do the trick to clear the area. Trouble is we still have to buy another pond pump next year. That’ll be the third in as many years, damn!

Those lovable spiky tops

The dahlias in the back garden are still going strong, here they are this morning before the rain fell. We’ve had a few vases worth of them this year and there’s still no sign of frosts yet. These spikey orange/red ones were originally bought as one tuber from Shannon’s. Apart from once when they were left in the ground, they were mainly dug up after the first frosts, cleaned up and put under the stairs most winters until this spring where they were divided up and put back into various areas in the garden.

A big thanks to our good mate Andy for his top gardening tips including telling us about the excellent Adam The Gardener series years ago whose top tip for dahlias is shown above. Divide your tubers and get more for your money!

And whilst looking through our old blog posts about the ‘umble dahlia we found this brilliant Earl Gateshead Big Youth podcast. Tune in and turn on!

When one door closes, another opens

Things are coming to an end in the garden, here’s the last of the cherry tomatoes grown from seed and the potatoes where we’ve been very patient when it comes to digging them up. Look at the size of that big one, that’s a large colander by the way! Ta to Shannon’s for pointing us in the direction of the tomato seeds and the seed potatoes.

And finally the garlic we put in to overwinter. Those didn’t take long to get off to a good start. We’ll be soon saying goodbye the 2019 vegetable gardening season but it’s never too early to start planning for next year!