Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Sweet Potatoes - again

Sweet Potatoes - again

More of an update to remind me what to do and not to do for next year.

Several sweet potato slips have been planted out into large tubs. The original potato is still producing slips and they are growing quick. Because I haven't been cutting them off regularly several are now pushing 2 feet tall and so could be halved easily. 27 Slips taken so far from the one potato. It looks like I'll end up with over 50 slips by the time I've halved a few. The ones I've already cut up have all rooted. 

The second potato is behaving totally different. Still in water and hasn't produced many roots, but lots of small slips. 

All slips cut off have been placed in water with 100% of them rooting.

Sweet Potato slips 28th March 2017
The second potato was placed the "other way up" which I think is the top at the top, the first upside down. Two possibilities as to the difference which is one way up is far better (and it would appear upside down) or that the 2 are different varieties. Both from the same place, both called the same "American" sweet potato. The 2nd one also hasn't rotted from being in water.

The 3rd potato bought at the same time as the second and was planted in compost in the cold part of the greenhouse rotted, it was kept moist but never showed signs of growing. Simply too cold (although not actually cold), and just needed more heat.

I have placed a large tub in the green house and planted one slip a couple of weeks ago - it isn't dead but isn't growing much as I think the colder temp has slowed it down but it may be putting on a lot of root growth and I haven't looked.

I have placed 2 other very large tubs outside with a cloche over the top. One tub has 1 slip in and the other has 2 slips to see if there is a difference with crowding within a tub. One tub is a traditional plastic dustbin (not a wheelie bin but old style bin that used to have a lid. It took 2 wheel barrows of well rotted manure to fill it to 80%. The other tub is shorted but a good bit wide and took 1 and a half wheel barrows of manure.

27th March 2017
I've placed these 2 together so they get watered the same. All 3 tubs so far have the same aged manure in them.










Potted around 14th March 2017 (date to be found)

The greenhouse tub took about 1 wheel barrow load of manure. I'll measure it at some stage but I feel it maybe a tad small but I simply don't have the space for it.










I will also do another large tub in the Poly Tunnel when the seedlings that live in there go outside but this 4th tub will be full of acidic compost (when I've bought some)

The rest of the slips will be spread around the garden as and when space turns up. Some will be in wetter areas, windy areas and drier areas. Some will be in clay type soil and others good soil and some in pure manure in a dry area and I also have a wet purely manure area to try. One of the good soil areas I will add a load of acid compost as yet another difference.

I'm gonna put in a lot of effort with these this year and if they all fail....never again. Hopefully one or all will work, either way it will satisfy my curiosity as to whether I can or can't and whether it will be worth it. Then if I grow some I'll see whether they are worth selling on the market stall.

I'll keep planting them each week (ish) from now until the frosts are gone (mid may) - even then I'll have slips left over

One thing that is for sure is that the slips really want to grow and root well given warmth and at least some light. The window sill they live on is west facing and not exactly a bright place but it is over a radiator.


Monday, 27 March 2017

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

It's normally mid May before I get the tomatoes into the final pots but this year not only have I potted them up from a module pack to pots but also from the pots to large pots and it isn't even April yet.

It seems like only 5 minutes ago I was taking the seedlings out of the modules and potting up to 3 and 4 inch pots but yesterday I took a Tomato out of it's pot to check on the roots only to find they were almost root bound. The roots were swirling around the bottom of the pots.

March 8th 2017
The seedlings have gone from this...













March 25th 2017
To this ....












26th March 2017













To this, in little over 3 weeks. What a difference extra light and a small heater along with mild weather make!

The larger, odd shaped pots are ones I'm keeping with the rest hoping to be sold on the market from next week for people with greenhouses.

The grow lamp claimed to make tomatoes stronger, with bigger main stems and bushier not only with the extra light but with the combination or more red and blue light and I must agree. 

4 tomatoes went into the Poly Tunnel, 7 will stay in the greenhouse and I will sell 8.  

I also potted up a load of Aubergines, sown at the same time (January) but they haven't grown as quick in comparison.
The small plants on the left are the Aubergines potted in the same pots the tomatoes came out of. They are tiny in comparison. One or 2 of the tomatoes are pushing 1ft in height with the Aubergines around 2 to 3 inches. All under the same conditions.




Friday, 17 March 2017

Monday, 13 March 2017

Frogs

Frogs

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.