14 Mar 2012

Tilth, we meet again

Having had an unintentionally extended break from the blog, I confess that it's been hard to put aside time to get back into the rhythm of writing. Weeks slip by with very little to report and no time to spare to research into meatier topics.  Although I haven't physically been active in the garden in February, mentally I've been visualising how it will be in the summer and trying to plan where I can fit everything in whilst also making the garden a visual treat. I've been reading Joy Larkcom's Grow your Veg, an excellent book to inspire and inform the laziest of gardeners and, as we head towards the spring equinox, I'm prompted into action.

Tozer sprout
Tozer sprouts from Victoriana Nursery:  a beautiful sight in the spring garden.
Last week my tiny balcony had a major tidy up, herbs repotted, seed beds prepared, pots cleaned and floors swept of winter leaves and spider webs. I have big plans for this space this year. Pigeons have found a tiny hole in my defences so a new net will have to be made and hung before prized seedlings are put out.  One big mistake was to site a bird feeder next to my aged (but still fleshy) mesembryanthemum. As the starlings and pigeons took command of the bird feeder, the tits and sparrows made do with eating the nearby plant and it's now just bare twiggy branches. I'm hoping for a Lazarus like come back in late spring and have moved the bird feeder.

Hellooo Ladybird!
Seven Spot Ladybird enjoying the warm rim of a glazed pot
And so onto the veg patch.  I was up early anyway on Sunday to collect a car load of Freecycled London stock bricks from a no parking area of Camden. Stacking them up in a corner of the garden afterwards, it seemed the perfect day to put aside chores and paperwork and have a little potter around, pulling up weeds.  Nine hours later, as dusk fell, I was still out there, having had the best of days. A whole day working in the garden without interruption, all beds were weeded and hoed to a fine tilth, straggling plants had been evicted, cat poo removed, tilting cauliflowers re-staked and anti-cat/fox netting put in place around one of the beds. I could see what was worth keeping (some little cabbages, psb and kale plus, of course, cauliflowers, sprouts, garlic) and what had to go (the last of last year's calendula, a few struggling sprouts and strawberries).

Strawberry
Looks promising - but has to go anyway, perhaps may be saved.

Strawberry runners from last summer have taken well; pity I need the space for this year's sweet corn, so digging them up is my next job. Some will be relocated elsewhere in the garden; most will be potted up for the Transition Town seed/plant swop or donated to the school gardening club.

My garlic is doing well at nearly 12 inches tall. Cloves were planted well before Christmas and netted against the birds; I'm hopeful that this year I'll get some good results. The perennial caulis are doing interesting things:  I think I can see shoots forming in the axis of the leaf branches - could this be the long awaited mini-cauli heads?  I can hardly wait.  

I pruned the raspberry canes a couple of weeks ago; the canes left at 50cm are showing buds or leaves, new canes are pushing up through the soil.  Some raspberry leaves were appearing quite a distance from the mother plant - is this usual?  I seem to have raspberry "runners" all over the place (or did, they've now been tidied as well).  

fruit buds
Morello cherry tree buds. Should be blossom very soon.

Fruit trees are all beginning to bud nicely so please pretty please let the pear and plum trees fruit this year. And I'm pleased to see that the 3 year old cherry tree which we dug up and moved before Christmas is covered in buds, ready to blossom.  

Now all I have to do is decide how best to use the space available.  This year, instead of random planting, I'm going to factor in growing times, companion planting, rotating the crops, the amount of sunlight and the direction that it comes from - and that's just for the veg.  I'm also hoping for wildflowers and a cut flower patch. No wonder I have no spare time! (But I'll try not to be away for so long next time!)

12 comments:

  1. So glad to see you back writing, I wondered what had happened to you. You've been really busy from the sounds of it. It's a great time of year being able to get outdoors and do things after being cooped up inside over winter. It can feel overwhelming though with so much to do. I keep coming up with new ideas for little projects as if I haven't got enough to do but it's the enthusiasm that Spring brings which I love. I just wish there were more hours in the day. Can't wait to see how everything progresses for you over the summer.

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    1. Thanks Welly, it feels good to be back, writing about what's happening in the garden. Luckily I don't have to be cooped up in the winter as I have the Heath and various parks nearby, and I've been out with our local Transition Town initiative setting up gardening groups and growing spaces. I do agree that a few more dry and light hours in the day would be good - looking forward to the clocks going forward soon!

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  2. You have certainly been busy, putting me to shame! Must get on with sowing my veggie seeds, I spend too much time on my flowers and then find I've missed the window! So much to do at this time of year, I just wish it would all stop for a few weeks and allow me to catch up!! Good to have you back!

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    1. Pauline I'm sure there's plenty of time. Even though the weather's mild, I have to remind myself we're still in mid March. I got caught out in previous years and regretted being too late to sow some veg or hoping that late sown veg would still prosper. This year I've tried to be much more organised and am ready with my Feb/March seeds. Now if only I had a greenhouse .... !

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  3. It sounds like you've been busy. There's always so much to do at this time of year, it's good to have some decent weather so that we can make a start.

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    1. Jo, I quite agree - the recent dry spell has meant that I can hoe off any weeds and dig in the seaweed mulch that I put on the beds last Autumn. Even so, there's still a lot to do and it's sometimes nice when it rains to be able to sit down and take stock of where we're at (over a large cup of tea!).

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  4. Great to see you back Caro - was about to launch a search party! February is a dire month and serious reading fits the bill to perfection. I'm about to send off for a second copy of Joy Larkcom's book - my original has got rather soil thumbed so it is going to take up permanent residence in my allotment shed. It sounds though as if your va va voom has returned and your Sunday sounds like the most perfect day to me. Looking forward to hearing/seeing how your plans unfold as the year progresses :)
    PS Off to investigate that sprout - such glorious leaves.

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    1. Ah, your comment made me smile Anna! Such lovely friendships forged through blogging ...
      Am absolutely loving Joy Larkcom's book, so much information packed between the covers and my new "go to" reference bible. It may well have been you that introduced me to this book in the first place!! In which case, many thanks! Do check out the sprouts from Victoriana, Stephen ships them out until mid-summer. Mine was planted out late in early July and didn't quite give me Christmas sprouts but it's making up for it now and I love a good splash of colour in the garden.

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  5. I read this post the other day and then forgot to comment! I think that just as we can't usually garden during February we also don't feel like blogging. Never mind spring is well and truly here, and it's good to see you doing both again! Flighty xx

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    1. Flighty I get distracted all the time when reading other blogs! Thank you for popping back to comment, I always look forward to seeing your words. I think your exactly right with your assessment of the link between gardening and blogging. Gardening is such a passion for me that it inspires the blog so without one there is no other. Lovely to hear from you! xx

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  6. They do say it's all in the planning Caro! A nine hour day on the veg patch certainly sounds like you've got your gardening mojo back.

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  7. SVG, yes and yes! I'm totally embracing planning this year - the seed box is sorted, spreadsheets have been drawn up of planting or sowing times. I'm now working on a drawing of what to plant where (which is taking much longer than it should!) so that when we get a spot of dry weather, I can go straight out to plant. Amazing that there's always more to learn in the garden!

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Caro x

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