Signs of survival

After the dogwood I bought last summer being in a small pot during the drought, I had wondered if it would still thrive once it was put in the ground. Need I have worried?

Well, no. Beautiful golden buds have appeared on the dark stems, so it looks good to go.

The phacelia from seeds which I’d had in the airing cupboard for a long time and then sown in the border between the fence and the pond are also clearly doing fine. This border is going to be a little hard to access, so something of a more permanent nature needs to be planted in this spot. Not sure what that will be yet but at least it’s not just bare ground.

Just as pleasing is the sign of broad beans germinating in the propagator. So, hopefully, I’ll get a decent crop of them this year (in comparison with last).

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A reason to come home early

Normally, after I’ve visited my parents, I like to fit in a cultural visit somewhere en route home. Not today though, as I was on a mission to plant the new trees.

I’d underestimated how long it would take me to put them in ground, especially as I hadn’t finished preparing the ground on Friday. Thus, I needed to dig in green manure in one spot and move strawberries and the path in another. There was also the small matter of filling the planting holes with feathers to act as slow-acting fertiliser. Fortunately, it wasn’t too windy today, so they didn’t blow all over the garden!

Anyway, the diddy trees are now in,

although the yew is the only one which is particularly easy to spot at present. In an ideal world, they would each be two metres from any other trees but half that will perhaps stop them becoming too unruly.

I also remembered I had a fleece cloche, which is perfect for covering the raised bed. Whether or not this will help the broad beans germinate, it will certainly keep the pigeons off, should they do. Nothing has germinated in the propagator (either) yet but hopefully something will happen soon.

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Three little trees

I had my two hazel trees and the yew* sent to my parents’, not being sure how big they would be and therefore how inconvenient it might be for my neighbours to accept delivery.

In the event, I needn’t have worried because they are quite petite. Not that they will stay that way, as the leaflet which came with them reminds me. However, I was reassured that a half metre gap between trees as part of a hedge was sufficient. So, they will slot in nicely.

More as a by-the-by, here is a short video about Martin Crawford’s forest garden in Devon. It looks wonderful – and one day I hope to visit but, in the meantime, I shall rejoice in my own forest garden, albeit a much smaller one.

* Purchased from the Woodland Trust, whose aim is to plant 64 million trees by 2025. I’ve just learned that there are plans for a Northern Forest to stretch the length of the M62 (from Liverpool to Hull), so the hazels and yew are a small contribution to this scheme.

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All because of four beans

I’m doing a little experiment: four broad bean seeds have been planted straight into the raised bed.

Will they germinate? Who knows – but with a large packet of seeds, there is nothing to lose by finding out.

As it is pleasantly warm outside, I couldn’t resist staying out and ploughing ahead with my forest garden make-over. So first up was sorting out the mint. Honestly, I don’t use that much and it has been smothering the blueberry bush. Also, I don’t want to to do the same to the hazel tree which will be going in close by.

The mulch I made with last year’s mint stems is still in a fairly pristine state but will no doubt be home to many small organisms. I decided to put all the mint from my exploits today in the compost bin, though. I need as much compost as I can make to fill up the raised bed.

On a roll, the next job up was to dig out the last of the chard. It’s been a great cropper, ever since a mulch of compost had seeds in it a few years ago. I’ve reached the point now, however, where I could happily not eat this vegetable ever again.

The digging couldn’t be complete without removing various other vegetation which will be in the way of the second hazel and the yew. So, gone are a few crocosmia corns, self-seeded fennel and lemon balm (another compost ‘mistake’) and strawberry plants.

I felt a touch of sadness at removing so much that has been productive and soil-enhancing but needs must. What will grow again will grow but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do what needs to be done for the long term good.

On the other hand, I had no compunction about covering a patch of grass which had either grown from the original lawn or self-sown, and which I’d been meaning to do something about for literally years.

Offcuts from the black plastic sheeting I’d acquired for the pond will help the grass fertilise the soil there a little. More strawberries needed to come up for the liner to go down but one way or another I’m sure we won’t want for fruit this summer.

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Can’t believe my eyes

I could have done a Wordless Wednesday post with this photo

but for the sake of clarity, these daffodils are far too early. Or may be it’s me that’s got the wrong month.

I know that time goes faster as you get older but I’m sure daffodils used to be out quite a long time after Christmas, not in the middle of February. Oh well, looks like some could be getting home-grown daffs for Valentine’s tomorrow.

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Propagator out again

I had intended to sow some broad beans at the very beginning of February but you know how it is. Too cold outside for fiddling about with empty pots and compost.

However, it was beautiful today. I put the heating off before going for a swim (at the local leisure centre, not the nearest pond, lake or river) and I haven’t put it back on all day. So, when I realised I hadn’t fulfilled the promise to myself of sorting out the beans, I thought I had better get out there before dusk.

Only six pots will fit in the propagator at one time, so the plan is to do some successional planting. Once these six have germinated, they can move to another windowsill and then into the shed for hardening off before planting out. Taking it of course we don’t have any Beasts from the East this spring, thank you very much.

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Composting Champions

The weekend started with the shocking news that one of my colleagues had died on Wednesday evening. She was only young with a daughter my own daughter’s age, so there is a great deal of sorrow in my heart at the moment.

My own exploits of today were therefore grounding: being in touch with like-minded souls who want to spread the word about compost.

A group of us met at West Leeds Activity Centre to brainstorm ways in which we could get more of Leeds composting. We will need to have more meetings to develop our plans but we made a good start today, pooling ideas.

Then we were introduced to the massive food composters on the site.

The Ridan Food Composters are a bit stinky but I doubt very much a rat would get inside these containers. They also produce a lot of heat – when the lid was taken off one of them a fair amount of steam came out. So, many tonnes can be made in a short space of time, although once the contents come out the composter they are ‘cured’ with woodchip to rebalance them (eg for pH).

Anyway, three things I learned of particular note are:

  1. About fifty percent of the Ridan’s contents is bread which has been discarded. Yup, we collectively throw away a lot of bread.
  2. Good compost requires water as well as heat, fuel and oxygen. This enables the plant roots to more effectively access the nutrients in it.
  3. Coffee grinds are not acidic. The acid comes out once water is added. So they won’t therefore make your soil acidic either.

Another notable plus for me today was meeting two of the women behind Veg on the Edge, a project in Saltaire, where vegetables are grown around the village in spaces which would otherwise be unused, such as the side of the platforms at the railway station.

It’s great that we have these projects. Those of us who took part in the Future Learn course Grand Challenges: Food for Thought seemed to be quite disheartened by the way our world appears to be going (depletion of fish in our oceans, for examples), so solutions do provide some solace. Not that the Ridan Composter is going to directly help the fish.

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