Friday, 17 March 2017

Monday, 13 March 2017



Each year when the frogs are spawning I like to take a photo with as many frogs in as possible to gauge roughly how many frogs are in the pond. Last year I took a photo with 85 frogs in the one shot, the year before 50.

This year so far my best photo has 96 frogs in the one shot.

Unfortunately the frogs were all moving too much which made focusing a bit of an issue as well as choosing the best moment to take the photo. This photo has 96 frogs in and it only covers 1/3 of the pond.

The rest of the pond only had the odd few in that could be seen. 

I know there are loads more frogs under the water, swimming and hiding so I'm hopeful tonight I may get to snap a better photo with even more in the one shot.

Click to enlarge photos.

The spawning has only just begun and I expect that whole area to be covered in spawn by the time they finish.

The best shot is normally the night shot when all the eyes are lit up by the flash and you get an spooky picture with hundreds of eyes poking out of the water.

The noise of the frogs croaking is very loud at times and I estimate that there will be a good 150 frogs in the pond at any one time as a minimum.

I can see by the size of the frogs that these are not last years young, they are much smaller, and I keep finding them all over the garden. I don't know how many of the young frogs from last year survived but judging by the number seen pottering around the garden there must be a couple of hundred. If I had to guess at the number of frogs, young and older, that live in and around the garden I think it must be 3 or 4 hundred because these ones in the pond are all too big to be last years or the years before. I only see a dozen or so of these larger ones in the garden on any week and only come across masses of smaller frogs so if you add up the 150 ish in the pond with the smaller ones in the garden I think there'll easily be 300 plus frogs.

This doesn't include the toads that appear a little later, in much smaller numbers, and we have a load of newts. The newts also bred last year in the pond but I haven't seen toad spawn yet.

All these amphibians are supported by the one 18 ft long  by 6 ft wide pond in our garden.

Next to us, a couple of hundred metres away there is a 1/3 or an acre pond which must have a load more frogs, toads and newts. In another 2 directions we have ditches or dykes within 100 metres with water in plus to the south of us at about 600 metres away there is a pond / fishing lake of an acre in size which must also have frogs etc.

Within our immediate vicinity there must be thousands of frogs, toads and newts!

The previous posts about frogs are here

Sunday, 12 March 2017

First Blossom and Frog Spawn

First Blossom and Frog Spawn

Each year there are a few things that I look out for. Crocuses popping up, Daffs appearing then leaves on Willow, first blossom and then Frogs in the pond spawning.

This year the Almond tree has got it's blossom today and the frogs have started spawning on the same day. The Peach tree is only a day or 2 behind.


The frogs spawned around the 29th of March in 2016 and on the 21st March in 2015 so this year with it being the 12th of March they are far earlier. I haven't taken a photo yet as I don't want to disturb them too much. 

The wild garlic planted in the garden and in pots has also put in an appearance today. The Willow leaves have started showing a few days ago.

Friday, 10 March 2017

This year is a bit different

This year is a bit different

The greenhouse is full, the poly tunnel is also fully planted. I started sowing seeds 2 months ago under heat and artificial light and it's worked well.

The lettuce is almost at the stage where we can start eating it as baby leaves and the tomatoes are looking excellent. They are not leggy but are compact, bushy and healthy looking under the grow lamp.

My biggest headache now is potting up plants to larger pots to give them growing space but also to bring them on a little more so that they can be sold on the market stall.

Sweet Millions and Money Maker tomatoes are in the foreground with Aubergines and Basket of Fire peppers at the back and to the left.
Chard and Spinach with Lettuce and Wong Bok. I've already potted up these lettuces (Oak Leaf and Lollo Rossa) and although these aren't in the hottest or lightest part of the green house they are doing well. I'm hoping these pots of lettuce can be sold for people to put on their kitchen window sill next week as cut and come again lettuce for salads.

Broad Beans, Kale and Sugar Snap Peas and Leeks with a couple of Rosemary cuttings. Most of the broad beans and peas have already been planted out. These Beans are Aquadulce and they have all started out looking leggy and odd but the others looked perfect and normal within a week of planting out. 

More Lettuce waiting to be placed in pots. Multiple plants in each module cell but as they will be cut and come again the crowding doesn't seem to matter.

I've also got 2nd sowings on the go of most things.

Even more on another shelf.

Other pots and containers are at the back of the poly tunnel, more lettuce, Wong Bok and young Cauliflower.

...and a cat that I have just spotted under the bench.

A few Bland and Red Currant cuttings forgotten about and left in the corner, these need to go outside as I need that space.

This is half of one side of the poly tunnel, old spinach that was left in modules too long at the back end of last year put in with the hope they would grow, they are, slowly but will be replace by new spinach in another week. Behind them is Mizuna and behind them are broad beans.

Half of the poly tunnel, has Picardy Garlic since they did so well here last year. 

Some red Russian Kale. Planted close together as we get through a lot of leaves.

Most of the Sugar snap peas are outside but I also have some in the poly tunnel, with Wong Bok at the back of this photo.

Aquadulce broad beans. Tightly packed in a corner. They didn't mind being packed in last year and produced 2 weeks earlier than outside.

I've forgotten to take a photo of the back middle of the poly tunnel but there are 2 Elephant Garlic, some Centurion Onions and Spring onions there. Also the front left where there is chard and lettuce.

The general idea of the poly tunnel plantings is to have a variety but also the things that sell well on the Market stall. I will be making notes of exactly what comes out of the poly tunnel this year so that I can see the weight and the amount I earn from it. I need to make sure that it pays it's way because being very cheap (£140 odd) it needs it's cover replaced regularly (£63). This cover is 12 months old and I know it will last until the Autumn but strong winds next winter will kill it off. The plastic gets holes in it because of the cats climbing over it and then the wind, frost and rain has something to attack. The tunnel leaks like crazy in the rain and the design of the big front and back doors means the wind can flap it which tares at the zip seams.  

Moving Outdoors.

I keep reading that young Kale shouldn't be planted out until all threat of frost has gone. Kale when it is bigger has survived all year and these young ones have had a few mild frosts so far with no problem, but this is an experiment as to whether it can handle the cold - so far so good. Red Russian.

Red Barron Onions on the right with Hungry Gap Kale in the middle (hoping these can withstand frost) with a row of Sugar Snap Peas recently sown. The peas from last year were self seeding and germinated in Early to mid February so I'm hoping these will do OK.

The Asparagus bed has only been half successful. 5 of the 10 plants were doing fine so I decided to take over the other half of the bed and have sown Red Chesnok Garlic here. They are all starting to appear.

Another Garlic Bed. Solent White, all coming along nicely.

Half of the main bed. Centurion Onions, slow to start but are poking their heads above ground now with some dwarf beans and the taller things in the back ground are Elephant Garlic. These were planted at the same time as the 2 in the poly tunnel but are a month behind. Behind them are more Solent White Garlic.

Last year I sowed some saved Kale seed. No real idea of the type apart from it sells well and is tasty. 6 to 8 plants have gone through the winter and are now growing strongly again.

I've started a nursery bed for fruit bushes. 12 Red Currant, 12 Black Currant, 6 Red Gooseberry and 6 Green Gooseberry. No idea about the success but it's a test.

Selling plants turned out to be a big winner on the Market last year so this year I have scaled up a bit. 30 pots of Raspberry (all of which were escapees from the fruit garden which popped up in the adjacent veg bed. I've already started selling these Autumn Bliss pots. Behind them are Currants, Hazel Nuts, Walnuts, Sweet Chestnuts and anything else I find to put in a pot...2 Wild Rocket also as well as some Mint.

Yet more pots. Currants, Gooseberry and a few Wild Garlic. I bought a load of wild garlic bulbs, most are planted outside but thought I'd try to sell a few plants but nothing is showing yet.

There is also a tray of Corn Cockle wild flowers and broad beans, left over from Market day and taken back out of the van and I've forgotten to put them away.

It's only March and already I'm well in to the season but this year I need to double up on Market takings. Since June 2016 when we started the market we have sold 1062 items, from packs of cakes to plants and bags of leaves and crafts. It has become clear that the veg and plants sell well, the crafts are going to make room for more plants because people are too used to seeing and buying cheap mass produced bags and crafty things and simple won't pay for someones time to make them in small quantities on our market.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Fly Tippers

Fly Tippers

The route that I walk most days takes me along a few quiet country lanes. We don't have too much of a problem with commercial fly tippers, obviously we get the odd car chucking a few bits out of the window to slowly fill up the ditches and after Christmas there's always the odd bin bag full of rubbish tipped but in general it isn't too bad, although when they cut the verges and clean out the ditches it can be an eye opener as to just how much rubbish is hidden away in brambles and long grass.

But, the other day I saw the most rubbish on a country lane that I had seen for years.

click on photos to enlarge.

Obviously this was commercial rubbish from a local garage.

There were 4 piles of tyres and rubbish along a couple of hundred metres of lane.

All in all I think that there were about 70 tyres.

The last pile is by the telegraph pole in the distance.

Then 1/2 a mile further up some household rubbish that must have appeared on the same night probably from the same person.

I guess that there isn't a lot that can be done about it if no one sees them do it and there are no cameras around for miles.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Growing Sweet Potatoes

Growing Sweet Potatoes

Something that I had not thought about before was the Sweet Potato. I had no idea what you needed to do in order to grow them until I read Mary's Veggie Garden post about the subject. Her post said:

 "I placed this potato into the glass jar 3/1/2008.  A week later I spotted its first root and by 3/17 it had several 1/4″ roots. Around 4/12 the first slip slowed as a tiny bump near the top."

It looked like it would be a process that needed months and I started mid January, pleased with myself that I had started on  time. Of course I miss read the date, the month is first, and so I've started at least 2 months early!

The process looked straight forward, firstly put a Sweet Potato, up the right way, in a glass of water. After a few weeks when you have roots, place it into a pot of compost so that it doesn't rot, then wait for the shoots, called slips, to start growing.

Secondly, when the slips are big enough cut them off and place them in a glass of water, when they start rooting, pot them up. 

Lastly, after the chance of frost has gone plant out.
1st Step
2nd step

It all looked easy but the first step of putting the potato in a glass up the right way caused a bit of a problem. Which end is the top? My potato was rather pointed at both ends. The end where the stem had been removed looked identical to the end where the end of the root had been cut.

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe sorted it out. 

No problems so far, until the roots started. A few days after the roots came the first slip. In fact loads of roots and loads of slips started, all at the bottom! There were about 10 slips starting right at the very bottom and one at the top.

You'll notice that the 1st step photo shows the potato up the other way compared to the 2nd step photo. This is because I forgot to take photos when I started and I have started a 2nd potato off. (Actually I also started a 3rd).
3rd step
I wasn't sure that all the little slips at the bottom (which was really the top) would grow and survive as they were about to be under the compost for the 2nd stage but I did have one slip at the top so I continued just expecting 1 slip to work.

A few weeks later that one slip had grown to 8 or 10 inches so I placed it into a glass of water (step 3) and am waiting for roots to start. The slip grew very fast.

After removing the slip I left the potato in its pot hoping another slip or several slips would now grow.

We went away for a few days and when I returned was surprised to see that not only a few other slips had started but most of the slips that started at the bottom had now grown through the compost.

Rather then the odd one or 2 slips that I had expected, (because it was upside down), and Mary's post explained that depending on how she grew them she got between 3 and 9 slips, I have so far got 21 slips showing and I don't think that all of the ones that started at the bottom have broken through the compost yet.

This photo doesn't do it justice and it's hard to see all the slips but there are 20 slips left on this potato.

So far I've learnt that it doesn't seem to matter about being up the correct way (although being up the right way may be better) but the bigger problem is going to be keeping them warm enough until the end of the frosts considering how quick they are growing and it's only mid February. These slips are going to be my experiment but I have a feeling that I may have to start again mid March although I'm sure that 1 or 2 can go into the Poly Tunnel and maybe another 2 can go into large pots in the green house but there just won't be room for the others to be nurtured for another 3 months.

If you are thinking about growing Sweet Potato I would suggest you don't start until Mid March and give Mary's post using the link above a good read.

For now I will let the slips get to about 8 inches, remove them, and then see just how many slips can be started from one potato.

Update 2nd March
In no time at all the slips have grown massively. 5 taken off already, with 2 of them having roots of their own (in the glass). There will be at least 20 slips coming from this one potato!

The 2nd potato also now has a few slips starting although these are only from the top. I'm beginning to think the potato should be started upside down as the one in the pot. The one in the glass is the so called right way up.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Seeds are germinating

Seeds are germinating

Throughout January I have been sowing seeds in the heated greenhouse, which is my earliest start to the year. Unlike most years I'm a lot more organised and have written down not only the sowing date but also the germination date and the month that they should be harvested. I'm rather hoping it will enable me to do concessional sowing, which has been a failure every year I've tried because we forget or simply don't get around to it on time.

This year has the added incentive of being able to sell the plants, which I did last year, but none were ready before June and I didn't have nearly enough when they were ready.

Bringing things on so early has meant not only a heated green house was needed (the daytime temp has been upto 22 deg C, nighttime well above freezing) but it became apparent that the plants would need more light. 

I bought a 45 watt (225 LED) lamp which has been on for 16 hours a day. The lamp unit produces mainly read and blue light which is said to produce stronger plants and helps them (in the case of tomatoes) produce more flowers. Whether it helps that much as far as better stronger plants is concerned isn't really here nor there really as the difference is likely to be small. What is of concern is whether one lamp is enough to get the plants to March. By March there is enough light because that's when I normally start and things grow well enough.

The lamp helps about a dozen seed trays and as things germinate I have been moving the trays under the light.

The light has made a big difference. Not with the plants, but with the night time look of the garden and I'm waiting for someone to come and check I'm not growing anything I shouldn't be :)

225 Led's
The light is very directional, really only illuminates directly beneath the unit but it does give the green house an odd glow!  

Today was a very foggy misty day when I checked the light levels using an app on the phone. The accuracy doesn't matter too much as I was comparing the outside light levels to that of the Poly Tunnel and Green House (which has it's light blocked by the bubble wrap).

Outside in the fog, light levels were reading around 4,000 Lux, The Poly Tunnel read 2,500 and the  Greenhouse under bubble wrap was about 1,700. The plants under the light read 4,000 so the light unit has doubled the available light. Indoors on a West facing window sill where some other seeds are germinating read 1,200 Lux. Since the light unit is about 18 inches above the seed trays the plants will get much more light as they grow toward the light.
Led unit at night

I think there is enough light produced by the unit to help the Tomatoes, but I think I'll need another one for the Aubergines and Peppers.

Lettuces, Kale, Broad Beans, Mustard, Mizuna, Peas etc can all go without extra light as they will go into the Poly tunnel once big enough. 

I'll be keeping a tray of tomatoes, Peppers and Aubergines out of this extra light just to see what the difference is, but there's only another 6 weeks to go before natural light levels increase massively anyway.

The seeds that have germinated so far are:
  • Dwarf and broad beans
  • Cauliflower All Year Round
  • Sweet Millions Tomato
  • Mizuna
  • Red and Black Kale
  • Wong Bok
  • Mustard
  • Money Maker Tomato
  • Lollo Rossa, Oak Leaf and Iceberg Lettuce
  • About 10 others that haven't germinated yet
4 Trays of bean germinated last week and so another 2 trays have been sown today and just in case things fail I'll be resowing some more of everything next week, and the week after. Once we get into March I'll then do everything again as I normally do.

Including fruit bush cuttings, Onions, Garlic, Leeks and all the difference seeds as well as last years nut trees in pots, Rhubarb in pots I've already got 35 different plants to sell on the market as well as for ourselves.

I'm hoping that I can turn the market stall into an "any plant that is edible" and "fruit and veg" stall. I've even managed to repot most of last years, and the year before's, nut trees so I'm very pleased with how organised I've been. You never know, this year we may actually earn some money :)