Time for biomass

It looks like inside the shed is damp. Not only did some of my produce go mouldy over the winter but the phacelia seeds I kept in there were soft rather than brittle when I took them out today.

I am, however, hopeful that they will still germinate, as I would like phacelia to cover bare patches of the garden. One of these areas is where the Jerusalem artichokes live. The other is the ground by the back door.

When I took the patio up last January/February to prepare the base for the shed at the back of the garden, I moved soil down to cover branches I’d lain on top of the sand, now exposed, by the back door. The branches have not yet started to decompose and the soil is rather thin here.

The strawberry plants that inadvertently moved with the soil are very poor producers (different stock from the Old Sleningford variety), so I don’t mind if they get smothered by the phacelia. Equally, I don’t use the side of the door which will be obstructed if it does germinate.

The important thing is that the phacelia holds the soil down and produces biomass for me. Basically, you can’t have too much compost in a garden and this should be a plentiful crop. It will also keep the bumblebees happy when it flowers.

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Work begets work

I haven’t managed any work in the garden today but that’s because I finally got down to work in the house which I’ve been sitting on for some considerable time.

The other day, some friends came round and I was embarrassed by the clutter in the living room. Perhaps it was my imagination but I felt from the expression on their faces that some kind of explanation was in order.

Anyway, the upshot is that I cleared out the cupboard under the stairs and in doing so found lots of interesting artefacts. One of these was some polystyrene used in packaging.

Being the hoarder that I am, I had kept it as I dislike putting stuff in landfill, feeling certain that there would be a use for it somehow. In fact, a colleague had suggested that one way of using such unrecyclable material was instead of pots to sow seeds.

So, that it is what I am going to do… after painting the cupboard and sorting out what to Freegle, take to charity etc, though, I think it’s time to put my feet up now!

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Return of the wild garlic

This morning, I received an email from a foraging organisation which showed its excitement at the emergence of this year’s wild garlic. I therefore thought I had better pop outside to see if mine was showing through.

Hurray – and phew! Last autumn, I had dug out some dandelions and a few other roots I didn’t want. In the process, I thought I might have disturbed the wild garlic, so it was particularly pleasing to see the green shoots this morning.

I’ve actually still got a fair amount of normal garlic to eat, as the crop was so prolific last year. It is, however, starting to sprout now, so dishes are getting an extra helping of allium sativum!

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Twisting and rocking

We’ve just had another battering of wind this weekend – and Saturday night I ended up outside after midnight, hunting round for the compost bin lid.

I also noticed that the net tunnel over one stretch of broad beans had twisted but decided not to tackle that until it was light again.

No wonder the beans have been struggling. Not only have they been getting a severe battering but then they’ve been exposed and an open gambit for the pigeons.

I’m not so bothered about the beans, however. The latest apple tree, which I planted last November, has been rocking badly. I tried to stabilise it with bricks round the stem but they don’t seem to be having the desired effect.

At this rate, the roots are going to suffer. So, I will have to get thinking about a strategy to improve the situation.

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Beans in the propagator

Due to the activities of wildlife visitors to the garden, some of the broad beans I direct sowed last autumn will probably not produce. Fortunately, there were a few seeds left in the packet, so they have been sown in pots and are in the propagator in the shed.

I guess the propagator is unnecessary – if they would germinate outside without one. However, like a kid with a new toy I am keen to use it. Then once the bean plants have gone in the ground I will sow my tomatoes.

Having pondered not growing any this year, after blight in 2017, I can’t resist. But, thinking forward, this year I will take the fruit from the plants even if they are all green in September.

It will be hard for me to carry through with my plan, I know already. So, I need to remember how horrible it is to lose half a crop. Especially as I would like to try green tomato marmelade again, following the success a few years ago (last time there was a decent crop).

Anyway, the beans and tomatoes are about the only annuals I’m growing this year, although I might try butternut squash again. And I would like French beans.

Mm, I’d better stop there before I think of all the other vegetables I’d like!

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The Angel Shades Caterpillar

Today, the last of the current batch of bokashi solids went in the ground. It has gone round the rhubarb crown, in the hope that the roots will grow into the compost.

Whilst outside, I saw a caterpillar in the bucket I use to collect run-off from the shed. This came as something of a surprise, considering the time of year and the continuing cold snap.

I was therefore intrigued to find out what kind of caterpillar it was and thus came across the website Wildlife Insight. The beauty of the site from my immediate point of view was that I could send in a photo of the caterpillar and they would give me an identification.

Even better, I got an almost immediate reply. And the answer is that the caterpillar will become an Angel Shades Moth. This appears to be benign in terms of damage to crops, so I am pleased to have at least one which has overwintered in my garden.

That said, having brought it inside to get a better picture, it has now wandered off. It does seem a resilient character, though. When I found it, it was in a pool of water and yet had not drowned. So, I think it will be fine, wherever it is.

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Impossible not to dig

When I first learned about the no-dig technique, I wasn’t ready to take it on board. Then I moved up a notch and with my hugel beds in situ, there is little chance of my being able to dig approximately half the garden now.

However, processing food waste with a bokashi bin does require that I do some digging in order to deposit the contents when they are ‘ready’. At least, at this time of year, I need to dig the Jerusalem artichokes up, so this is an ideal opportunity to off-load bokashi solids.

I am aware that a certain amount of digging is good physical exercise but I am concerned about the damage I do to the soil and creatures within it. On Monday, the Jerusalem artichoke patch seemed to be teeming with worms, but yesterday when I finished off the job I wondered if the numbers had dwindled. Of course, this may not be the case but I did unfortunately kill a few inadvertently with my spade and no doubt the blackbirds will have had a meal or two of them.

Perhaps the solution is a Green Johanna, which apparently composts food along with garden waste. I could then put the contents of the bokashi bin in there rather than digging a trench for them. Alternatively, I could do away with the bokashi system, although I do like to have the liquid fertiliser it produces.

Anyway, food for thought!

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