The Joy of Geraniums
Perennial geraniums are a fabulous plant. I mentioned ‘perennial’ because the misnomer that pelagoniums are geraniums continues, led by garden centres and nurseries around the country. In fact, both of these plants are perennial. Pelagoniums, though not frost hardy, will quite happily develop into a…
A 'Blooming' Good Reason for Growing Houseleeks
Succulents have, by and large, passed me by for most of my green-fingered life. It was only when I began planning my wedding and looking at more masculine table settings and bouquets, that I began to realise just how wonderful Sempervivum (houseleeks) are. Until then I knew them only for nostalgic r…
Making a Case for Violas
There’s no love lost between Pansies and I. I’m not really a big fan of gaudy flowers, and I’m afraid I normally put pansies in this category. Add the fact there’s a vast amount of deadheading to do throughout the season, not to mention these plants tend to be short-lived and get very straggly, and …
Plant Pick - Growing Hollyhocks
I’m the first to admit I’m not a fan of short-lived plants. I like to plop a plant in and leave it, allowing its perennial nature to keep it growing year after year. All this annual and biennial sowing nonsense; no, I can’t be doing with that. Aside from a few plants, however. And one of these is th…
Plant Pick - Growing Dahlias
‘Tis very much the season for dahlias. I’m a huge fan of these blooms, though I admit, I have a slight love/hate relationship. There are a vast array of varieties in the dahlia collection, from sinewy, single-petalled bloomers to small, clump forming plants with huge, gaudy flowers. It’s the latter …
Plant Pick - Growing Tulips
If you hadn’t heard, it’s September already. That means it’s time to plant bulbs for a spring show in 2015. And, if you’re stocking up, then it’s definitely time to be thinking about tulips.
I often think that tulips are one of the more overlooked bulbs. We all fill our gardens with daffs, crocus…
Plant Pick - Growing Osteospermum (Cape Daisy)
I always feel as if some plants are vastly overlooked for tropical looking species and varieties that are new on the scene. Osteospermum (African Daisy), for example, seems to have a new colour shade coming out every years. However, I still have an extremely strong affection for Osteospermum jucundu…
Plant Pick - Growing Sedum (Herbsfreude)
Okay, hear me out; Yes, Sedum Herbstfreude is an extremely common plant that may seem rather dull to you. BUT, I feel this plant is often overlooked. It has a huge number of positives; it’s wildlife friendly, it’s easy to grow, it has fantastic cover during late summer/early autumn AND it provides s…
Plant Pick - Growing Skimmia
Okay, I know it’s still summer, but winter will be here before you know it. I’m honestly hoping for a cold snap this year – the wet, grey winter of 2013 was horrendous; I don’t think we had even one frost in London. That’s BAD for plants – they need dormancy. And it’s BAD for gardeners – we need a r…
Plant Pick - Growing Thrift (Armeria)
I think I must’ve first come across Thrift (Armeria) when I was a lad holidaying in Scotland. Our family didn’t head abroad, but jumped in the car and journeyed to the stunning landscapes of the Lake District, Scotland and Northumberland. I distinctly remember great swathes of thrift clinging to the…
One thing I’m really bad at when it comes to gardening is forward planning. And, yes – this is rather an issue when you’re trying to establish a Market Farm Garden. When it comes to vegetables the most important date for your calendar is the harvesting date. You can then work backwards from this, taking into account the seasonal, usual weather fluctuations etc to work out when you should sow. So much of running a kitchen garden puts the focus on all those early spring sowings when, in fact, you can sow various crops throughout the year.
July is a great time to think about sowing some new veggies. The earth is warm and the days are long, so not only will seeds germinate faster but you’ll have extra time to get out into the garden to weed, water and watch those babies grow. It’s also a time when you might’ve already harvested some crops and, as a result, have some free space. For example, my broad beans are dug up, half of my carrots have been harvested, and my onions and garlic are beginning to go over so I’ll pull them up and put them out to dry this weekend. Suddenly there’s all this space in your veggie patch for new goodies, so it’s important not to waste it.
Grow for THIS year
Luckily, there are still many delicious vegetables that have a quick enough growing time that you’ll be harvesting this year. For example, I’m still sowing carrots and radishes every few weeks. Though most carrots should be sown by August at the latest, it’s worth shoving a few extra seeds in if you have space because a) if you get a mild autumn they’ll keep growing and b) tiny carrots are delicious too.
This is also a great time to put in lettuces and spinach. If I put mine in too early in the year I find they bolt quickly. That’s what hot, dry long summer days do; encourage these plants to flower. You can keep the crops as well watered as possible but I always find they bolt quickly. However, by sowing now you’ll have crops growing as the weather begins to cool and it’s easier to stop them from going to seed. In the case of spinach, you may be able to get yummy leaves all through the winter if you give enough protection in bitter temperatures. Chards, salads and even beets if you’re growing for the leaves, are also ideal.
Grow for NEXT year
Now, this is the part I’m not so good at, and it means that when March and April arrive, there’s hardly anything to harvest. To ensure there is, I’m starting off some cabbages, broccoli and pak choi. It’s worth noting that spinach, too, can survive the winter and can be thought of as a crop for the following season.
So, with these long summer days, I have PLENTY to keep me going, what with harvesting and then re-sowing into the same bed. By using raised beds with lots of great compost, I’m simply germinated direct into the same soil that crops have already been growing in. But, if that’s something you can’t do, re-enrich the area with some good multipurpose compost and looking forward to autumn, winter and spring crops ahead.
Heeeeeeeaaaatwave. Cor blimey, gov’ner, bit hot ain’t it.
Once again, this is why us Brits are notorious for our weather ramblings; it’s because it’s so changeable. Last week it was monsoons, storms and lashing rain. Now, I’m sat in next-to-nothing with a fan (though, it’s actually pointed at the dogs) and trying to survive the sweltering heat. I do like it in the evenings though; perfect for watering your garden…and catching a few Pokemon whilst you’re at it. 😉
The Ornamental Garden
It has to be said that this year, more than last, I’m noticing the poor soil quality. When I first moved in I got by on a wing-and-a-prayer, but any nutrients in the soil were taken by last year’s season and there’s been lacklustre growth in 2016. However, I have several wheelie bins FULL of chicken dung. This will be nicely rotting down as we speak and then, come November-ish time when I hack back all the herbaceous perennials, I’ll cover the garden in a thick layer of the stuff. Hopefully we’ll have a nice cold spell to break it down further and let all the goodness seep into the soil.
It’s not doom and gloom though, and a lot of plants are growing marvellously. We’ve had a lot of slugs and snails this year, so I’m glad I’ve kept my dahlias in pots. I normally start them off in the greenhouse and plant them out at a later stage. I placed the pots into the borders when I got some decent growth, and then promptly forgot to actually take them out of their plastic pots and dig them in. HOWEVER, this seems to have worked in my favour; the snails haven’t been able to nibble as much, they’re easier to water, there’s added height so the flowers seem to dance above the other plants AND the root system has grown through the pots bases and into the soil. With any other perennial you would not want to do this but as I did my dahlia tubers up each year, this isn’t an issue.
Elsewhere, though I lost my lavenders due to a certain young lady peeing on them (I’ll quickly add, that’s a canine young lady, not a human), the verbena bampton is just wonderful. I’ve taken some cuttings and will do more over the coming weeks. Salvia ‘Kate Glenn’ is also putting on quite the show.
The Poultry Yard
The poultry yard has been getting a little crowded, so I thinned the roosters down again last Friday. This time it was the beautiful Polski cockerels who met their end. It’s quite disconcerting when they’re plucked – they’re a strange sheen of lavender…I expect due to the Silkie gene. Once again I did a wet pluck; that is, dipping the bodies into near-scolding water so the feathers come out easily. It’s SO much quicker this way. It’s all well and good saying I’ll put the feathers to good use, but the last box from the dry pluck is still in the garage…and that took me HOURS. This way, I was able to kill, pluck and dress three roosters in about two hours.
I also moved the young quail into the aviary. They’ve grown to almost adult size in six weeks. I LOVE the colours, so I’ll probably keep all of these and then think about butchery for the next batch. On a non-poultry note, I’m also deliberating bunnies; as in rabbits for nice little bunny burgers. Quick to breed, easy to keep, great grass eaters and you can kill them at home without the need of going to an abattoir. I’m looking into it but am not quite decided – I’d love another source of meat, but killing bunnies…that might be too much for me.
The Vegetable Patch
Have I mentioned how much I love raised beds?! Well I do. They’re fabulous! The onions are almost ready to harvest, the broad beans are done, carrots, radishes and spring onions continue to be sown, pricked out and thrive. The kale is just – WOW; I probably planted too much to handle. I’m going to see if I can sell some along with the eggs, but I’m not sure how many people want to buy kale!
With it now being mid-July, when space allows I’ll also start thinking about sowing lettuces and spinach again. I found they’re very quick to bolt when the weather’s hot but if I sow them now they should thrive in the warm soil and be mature towards the end of August.
Finally – thank you so much for everyone who’s subscribed to the YouTube channel. I’ve got 40 wonderful viewers now! If you want more from The Guide but in video format, click the ‘subscribe’ link at the top of the page on the right-hand side.
How’s your garden growing? Highs? Lows? Tell me about it in the comments!
You know, there’s a reason us Brits are renowned for talking about the weather; it’s because it’s so bloody changeable! June was soooooo wet with a few rogue days of sun. This past weekend gave the hope of a summery spell in July and then, today….raaaaaaain again. It’s not good for my mood, my bank balance or my livestock.
The Kitchen Garden
In the vegetable patch there’s been highs and lows. As you’ve noted, my first ever carrots were harvested, as were the last broad beans. The extremely leggy beets seem to have straightened up a little, though you can see their roots are far from the nice little round harvests. Onions are swelling, nasturtiums are flowering, and the latest round of seeds are sprouting. On that; I’ve had some dismal attempts with seedlings this year. My aubergines and peppers didn’t germinate the first two times, my cucumbers got slugged and my beans looked promising…until I planted them out and they too were decimated by snails (this is the problem with continued wet weather because slugs and snails can munch around the clock). I HAVE started all of these again. Though I’m hopeful for a few beans, cucumbers, marrows and gourds later in the season, it may have been too late to try again with the peppers and aubergines; we’ll see.
My cordon fruit trees have also suffered from the turbulent weather, and have put on little growth. And my newly planted chard was decimated when I had an escapee rooster. Bad, BAD rooster (looks at the cooking pot).
It’s also been a mixed bag for the ornamentals. I love when the dahlias start to come out. This year I haven’t even planted all of them out, deciding instead to nestle the plastic pots amongst the borders. Yes, I need to water but I don’t have to worry so much about slug damage. Hemerocallis is about to burst into life, as are the daisies, echinacea and crocosmia. I haven’t had so much luck with some others though. For instance, I wanted to swathe my ugly but much-needed trellis with Spanish flag (Ipomoea lobata). Though the seedlings started off really well, they have NOT liked being planted out. And so, I continue to live with the bare, rickety, horrible fencing. The same could be said for the jasmine which has lacklustre growth. Meanwhile I wondered what awful thing had attacked by beautiful patch of lavenders amongst the grasses…until I saw Bo peeing there. Dog pee, especially bitch pee, is potent stuff. It’ll kill off pretty much anything, especially if its dumped in huge quantities in the same place repeatedly.
The Poultry Yard
Down in the poultry yard I’m happy to say we’ve had an upswing in luck. Tylan put pay to my hens’ respiratory illness and egg count is up – I’m getting 8/9 per day now which is great! I finally have eggs to fulfill demand.
I’ve hemmed and hawed for many months about getting ducks for a number of reasons. A) I love them, b) duck meat and eggs are yummy and c) unlike hens, you can let them out into the garden because they won’t scratch about, they’ll just snap up the slugs and snails. The problem is, we’re running out of space. I really want Muscovy’s, both for nostalgic reasons and the fact they’re pretty much silent. However, when I went to the poultry auction this weekend I realised my childhood memories were askew and they’re bigger than I remember; in fact, they’re like small geese. Also, the ducklings for sale looked less than healthy, so I decided against a purchase….this time.
The number of roosters continues to climb too, and now I’ve got the hand of sexing Pilkies/Polskis (Silkie x Poland) I’ve realised there are more roosters than I believed. AND, I’ve just shoved another load of eggs into the incubator. I’m excited as these will be first ayam cemani’s and barbu d’anvers from my own birds.
Finally, though I didn’t buy any ducks at the auction I did buy a pair of budgies. I know – not strictly smallholding birds. BUT, you could also consider that running a homestead involves creating new revenue streams with livestock. I may not be eating budgies, but I sure can breed them in the future. For now, though, I’ll enjoy Luna and Pluto’s sweet chirping.
Though I may have been growing veggies for many years, I’ve never harvested a carrot crop. A few of these tasty veg were sown on the allotment but as soon as the summer season arrived, I always got busy, the crops got weedy and nothing ever came of the carrots. This year I set about growing three different varieties in my no-dig raised beds and, upon pulling some up today, am amazed!
The three varieties were Amsterdam F1, Purplehaze and Yellowstone. I found poor germination of the Amsterdam, despite thinking they’d probably be the best. In fact, whilst I had to thin out the purple and yellow carrots a lot, I was actually plugging gaps with Amsterdam.
A few things I’ve learned:
- I left Yellowstone in the ground for too long. Despite being sown at the same time as the others, it grew more vigorously and, as a result, the larger ones are a little woody. In fact, one had sent up a flowering stalk. Oops. Must pay more attention to harvesting.
- My soil was probably too rich in manure. I filled the beds with chicken manure and I think this has attributed to the fibrous roots and some of the splits seen. I won’t add so much poop next year.
- Yellowstone, when small, is extremely sweet. Yummy!
- Also…carrots are EASY to grow. I’ve hardly done anything with these. They were direct sown next to onions in a bid to keep the carrot fly away <- this has also been helped by using a raised bed with a lip (carrot flies aren’t very good at flying, actually, so can’t zip up and over things).
The season for sowing carrots is FAR from over, and if you read the back of packets, you’ll note you can sow through till mid-July. I’m going to sow some in August too just as an experiment; we get warm autumns here in the UK and small carrots are delicious so I may as well try for another crop.
Now…to investigate how to store these lovely crops to make the harvests last longer.
A MASSIVE thank you to everyone who helped raise the funds for the owl nesting boxes. I started the campaign on Indiegogo to buy four more boxes to add to the one Saad and I installed at Brimwood Farm earlier this year. I’m thrilled that everyone pulled together and gave however much they could afford; and we made it, not only to £500, but over!!
Indiegogo also offers an In-Demand feature which basically means that as long as you reach your funding total, you can continue to take donations indefinitely. It was really important for me to get to this point because there are 40 acres of Brimwood Farm, and that I can install more than five owl boxes. So now the funding continues on a slightly more relaxed basis. Once I’ve put up the maximum number of boxes (two for every 7 acres), I can continue using the donations for bat boxes, bird boxes and other greatly needed nesting habitats.
Thank you again! Along with the wildflower meadow, the bluebell grove and the other planned projects at the farm, this latest success helps to grow Brimwood Farm into the conservation area of my dreams. 😀
Sowing, germinating and growing on has been problematic this year. I started 2016 with a plan. I had a list of vegetables I wanted to grow. I planned when to sow, how long they’d take to germinate, the dates to plant out and times to successionally sow. Has that worked? No!
The problem I’ve had – I don’t know about you – is that though all the seedlings started off well, cold, wet weather stopped them in their tracks. So they languished, ungrowing, awaiting a warm spell. And this meant trouble, because all that rain has encouraged slugs and snails ready to bite. So, I lost my first crop of cucumbers and squashes and beans. My peppers didn’t germinate, and then when they did a rogue chicken got them. My aubergines are growing….slowly.
With the garden centre having a 50% off sale today, I’ve decided to have a last ditch attempt. After all, the sowing periods on seed packets are a guide based on optimal conditions. We haven’t had those conditions. SO, though the gherkin, cucumber and courgette seeds say last plant May/June, today I’ve sown them. The same goes for a new batch of beans. I’ve also done another successional sowing of carrots. Last year I was still getting ripe tomatoes from the greenhouse in November, and we often have an Indian Summer in October now. Of course, now I’m doing this little test it’ll probably get cold early – sod’s law.
There have been some positives though. I picked a glut of broad beans and kale today to go with one of the chooks I killed on Saturday. The onions are also beginning to swell nicely, whilst the nasturtiums are doing their job and attracting aphids away from the vegetables.
I am happy to see some progress in the ornamental garden too. I’ve been taking A TONNE of cuttings, both to use for my own purposes and to sell. I’ve discovered the area of Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR); a whole intricate area of legislation referring to the propagation of plants. I can completely understand that if you bring a new hybrid to market, you want to get some royalty for that plant to pay for the years of work. However, there seems to be an extremely inadequate system for governing this process. So, for now, I’m not getting involved, and propagating older varieties that are not included in the more modern PBR laws. I took a little video of some box cuttings.
The dahlias are also coming into life, though once again, the slugs seem to have got the first few buds. However, a few nightly stomps and their numbers are down so I’m finally getting some blooms!
All in all it’s proving to be a funny year, with some plants romping away and others being extremely lacklustre. Now we’re into July, I really hope we get some proper sunshine though – this is Britain – the torrential rain will probably continue.