Cardboard time

Is your garden winter ready?

Yesterday, I laid cardboard over a bare patch in the herb garden. The idea is to stop weeds seeding there over winter.

Last year, I put compost over cardboard in another area and ended up with a mini field of chard, which was great as a one-off. I’m not keen on the herb garden transforming into a chard garden, no doubt peppered with rocket, next year, so I will forego the temptation to mulch this time round. Unless it is with something guaranteed weed-free, like coffee grounds.

Now, that actually might be a good idea. The cardboard-covered hugel bed does need a nitrogen boost, considering that the wood, which I hope is decomposing, might still be drawing nitrogen from the soil. For the time being, though, I think I will continue to use the grounds on the garlic hugel bed instead.

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A house full of willow

Christmas seems to have started, even though it barely feels like December. We were outside pollarding willow at Old Sleningford Farm today, followed by an alternative Christmas lunch.

Lasagne with venison, then panettone for desert – with good company, of course – seems a fitting end to a year which started with willow and finished with more.

The willow I brought back with me in March is still aging, shall we say, on the wood pile in the garden. I’m not sure when I will feel it is appropriate for it to go in a hugel bed.

As for the willow today, some of it will be used for wreath-making, so I’ll have to squeeze it back into the car on Wednesday evening. But surely we don’t need all of it, so the question is what to do with the rest…..

While I ponder on that, I will start on the jam that the crackers were stuffed with. Now, isn’t that a great present?

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First day of the month update 

Well, it’s December and I have done virtually nothing in the garden for at least a month. That’s not to say that nothing has been happening.

For one thing, the frost has melted the nasturtiums. Or that’s the nearest approximation I can find to describe the effect. I’m leaving them in situ, at least for the moment, though, so that they protect the soil and shed their seeds in the hope that there are more plants next year.

Both the crab apple and apple tree have all but lost their leaves. One minute the leaves were green and then they were falling. They did turn yellow but unlike many of the other trees round and about, there seems to have been a very short period between green and falling yellow.

Anyway, the garlic is still not through. Perhaps it is my imagination that this is taking longer than usual, but I also wonder if it is the effect of the hugel bed, so newly made, which is starving them of nitrogen. So coffee grounds are being sprinkled on the top of it to try and mitigating any loss.

The garden certainly looked much fuller at the start of November in comparison with a month later. This is mostly due to chard and rocket being removed or cut down and not growing back.

Encroaching winter has also had its effect on the herb garden, with the borage and pumpkin looking decidedly limp now. On the other hand, I’m surprised that the phacelia is not only robust but seemingly still growing!

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A donation of wood ash

Yesterday, we took a friend to Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where there was an exhibition of work by the daughter of one of her friends. We lamented the fact that you need a car to get there (on a Sunday) but we didn’t lament the day out.

In any case, my friend has a wood burner and I was offered a bag of the ash from it. The ash can’t really be considered carbon off-setting but at least the fertiliser wasn’t flown in.

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Sunflower seeds

When I worked in Greece, the classroom floor was perpetually covered in sunflower seed casings that the children had discarded after eating the salted seeds within. I never did quite get the hang of cracking the casings with my teeth but I do love sunflowers seeds.

This year, I had been curious to see if I could grow my own sunflower seeds. And indeed that black mark on the kitchen table next to a dried sunflower head is a seed. I think it is the only one, though.

Not sure what happened there – i.e. if the birds have eaten them, they’ve already found a home in the herb garden for next year or something else. In any case, the dried heads are so pretty in themselves, they might be added to the Christmas garland we make this year.

Have you any flowers you are drying?

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The soil reveals

Whilst making up an order with a seed company for next year’s garden delights, I remembered that I had meant to sow some more broad beans before it’s too late. Well, it might not be too late, anyway, because they can grow next spring but I would rather see shoots than soil overwinter.

On that note, I’ve been wondering about the garlic bulbils. Would they do anything? Fortunately, a bit of subsidence on their hugel bed meant that one of them was in full view and looking healthy, perhaps a little bigger than when it went in, too. So, hopefully it and its siblings will start sprouting soon.

The soil on the bulbil is from my covering it up before I realised the photo opportunity.

The soil where I sowed the broad beans today also had its revelation. This time it was the root of a fungus – I’m inclined to call it a mushroom because it did look very much like one. And it is not the first fungus to appear on this hugel bed.

Photo taken on 2 October 2016

I would never eat any of these fungi with my current inability to distinguish poisonous from safe. However, it would be great to have edible mushrooms from my own back garden. Failing that, a name for the volunteers would be interesting. Next year, I might seek out a mushroom identification course then.

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Bedraggled be gone!

The other day the pepper plants looked like they might still be functioning. Today they looked like this:

So, to the compost bin they went. I’m happy about this as it means I can now move on. Or rather the garden can be readied for next year’s food. Namely, there is a space for some more broadbeans.

The beans which are already through are doing extremely well so far, going on the fresh green shoots poking through the ground. The borage and nasturtiums have also been holding up well, as has the lettuce. So, we’ll no doubt be having some salad this weekend.

I have one kale leaf to add to this mix. Kitty has not lost interest in the garden since the compost bin was moved on Monday. S/he has therefore been knocking plants about in pursuit of the elusive mouse. 

I think the cat must have been quite puzzled after the compost move, as I can see paw prints all over the spot where it used to be. I hope that means the mouse is safe in the wood pile.

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