Strawberries out, currants in

Last autumn, I decided not to plant out two blackcurrant bushes, as I needed to get the shed in first. However, this time round the only thing to hold me back was the strawberries, which were growing in the spot I had earmarked for the currants.

Having experienced a bountiful crop for the last two years and seen how well this variety of strawberry plants reproduces, it wasn’t too much hardship putting the ones that came out in the compost, though. I did save one or two of the new plants but the older ones wouldn’t have been as productive as they had been for much longer, anyway.

The two bushes, as shown above, are very close for a reason. The stems they have grown from had been in the same pot, so their roots were entwined. So far, they have been happy enough with the arrangement and in the soil they will have plenty of room to spread out.

As long as they don’t get overwhelmed by the strawberries. Some of the runners have gone back in the forest garden, rather than the compost bin but I am going to keep an eye on them – if they start to swamp the currants, they will be out again.

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Determined to have parsnips

Yesterday, I shared with you the news that the roots of evening primrose may be like parsnips. And since parsnips are one of my favourite vegetables, it would be a shame to put the seeds I collected in the municipal gardening waste.

The tomatoes in pots were well past their sell-by date and the beetroot in another container had shown a remarkable lack of growth, so I cleared all these out. Then I spread the evening primrose seeds on the top of the compost in the pots and round about the soil in the herb garden.

The fact that the seeds need light to germinate and thus should be left uncovered, however, presented a challenge. How was I going to prevent them blowing away? Considering how blustery it gets in the back garden, a solution needed to be found.

The solution I’ve come up with is netting. Seems a bit weird to be getting out the netting now but it might act sufficiently well as a windbreak to keep the seeds where I want them. So, now it’s fingers crossed on two counts: seeds staying put and then germinating next spring…..,

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An alternative to parsnips?

Parsnips don’t grow in my garden. Perhaps I haven’t tried hard enough. But if something is that difficult I might as well grow something else.

Fortunately, evening primrose has none of the reticence exhibited by parsnips. It supposedly prefers full sun and grows a stem in the second year. However, the evening primrose above is in its first year and is on the north side of the house.

Now, I didn’t realise that evening primrose was biennial until I decided to do an internet search to find out how to extract the oil from the seeds. I came across this illuminating site,, on my travels, although not in the way I had been searching for. Instead, I discovered that the roots may be like parsnip, so I’m going to dig up a few of the plants and see what I find. Then maybe I won’t even think about oil extraction but just sow all the seeds for next year’s ‘parsnip’ crop.

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Fertilising the apple tree

Yesterday, as I was planting my newest apple tree, I reminisced about the other two and how they had much less goodness in their planting holes. I’m not sure this will have affected outcomes but the oldest of them, the Orleans Reinette, was suffering a couple of years ago.

Anyway, there were a few broadbeans left in the packet, so I decided to sow them round the Orleans Reinette. Of course, they aren’t going to add huge amounts of nitrogen to the soil but doesn’t every little help?

And whilst up that end of the garden, I had a go at removing some dandelions, crocosmia and wild brambles. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that in doing this the wild garlic wasn’t damaged. However, had I waited till the spring, it would certainly have been difficult to see the crocosmia instead!

One surprise was the size of a dandelion root. I’ve seen plenty of long ones but this one looks more like a parsnip. So, just what has it been feeding on.

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My Ribston Pippin

After a year of waiting, the Ribston Pippin arrived on Wednesday. I wasn’t in, so the delivery was handed to one of my neighbours for safekeeping. I bet she wondered what it was. It could be described as looking like a mummy, although I imagine a body would weigh considerably more than a maiden tree with a stake and straw inside the package.

Anyway, the tree is now planted. I had trouble digging a hole deep enough, due to the shallowness of the soil. Thus, there was a bit of pounding the clay subsoil in order to ensure the roots were at the necessary depth.

I had to balance the tree against a spade while I filled the hole but the wind was kind to me. I’d already taken the precaution of mixing feathers in the bokashi bin, so they wouldn’t have blown away, anyway. However, I also put straw and wood ash in the hole, so that the tree has plenty of fertiliser to get it off to a good start.

Then I put cardboard round the base to kill off any vegetation. As far as possible, I don’t want anything to compete with the tree, particularly while it is still immature. And finally I placed the plastic sheet the tree came in on top of the cardboard.

I’m a little concerned that the tree won’t get enough water, so I may water it from time to time. However, the plastic sheeting should eliminate a lot of potential completion, so hopefully I won’t need to remove it before the spring.

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Walking chives

Recent high winds blew the heads of the walking onions away, so it doesn’t look like they will be walking any time soon. On the other hand, the chives self-seeded, making a new row this summer.

While insects love the flowers as much as me, I felt that I already had enough of a good thing, so it was a question of deciding which row to take out…. And the row which came out this afternoon was the old one next to the fence. Other stuff, such as brambles, was growing in there, so digging would have needed to be done anyway.

And while I was digging, it made sense to build another hugel bed. I’ve lost count of how many there are in the garden – and at one point I was quite disillusioned over their worth. The wood had completely disappeared from one in the summer but as it turns out it must have been the type of wood, as most of the beds are in fact still full of firm branches.

Another observation in their favour is that they may be keeping the ground slightly warmer than the surrounding soil. I’ve noticed this phenomenon before: my neighbours’ lawns have frost on them but my garden doesn’t (or has much less). Considering it went below zero (Celsius) last night, it was a surprise to see my nasturtiums as perky as usual this afternoon.

Besides, I had wood piled up for hugelculture purposes and a bokashi bin which had been waiting some weeks to be emptied. So, out came the chives, which was an arduous task (never expected them to have such long roots!), and in went wood, bokashi solids, waste paper and homemade compost. Then broadbeans were sown in the new bed and I felt a good day’s work had been done.

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Slate (and coffee cups)

Last year, at Old Sleningford Farm, we cleaned the slate nameplates for the apple trees in the forest garden. From that moment, I wanted to have slate nameplates for my own trees.

Eighteen months later, I decided to put an advert on Freegle to see if anyone had a few pieces of slate they could gift to me. I hadn’t expected any replies but in the event I got two. So last night I became the proud owner of several pieces, which I now need to decorate with the names of my own apple trees.

I learned from my gifter that the rest of the slate was being taken by a person who wanted to smash it up to cover their soil, so both of us were pleased that some of it was not being reduced to that. On the other hand, at least decorating a garden is not putting in landfill, unlike millions of paper coffee cups used these days.

I’ve just signed a petition calling for a 5p levy on disposable coffee cups.  Will it work in the same way as the levy on plastic bags? Maybe, maybe not, but here is the link to the petition: 

Posted in Gardening, Good for the environment, Permaculture | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments