Monday, 28 May 2012

Three Sisters

Monday 28th May 2012
A misty start to the day

A long, hot day today. So I pottered, taking the chance to do a little weeding here and there and peruse the garden. When we moved in we inherited a strawberry patch, which pretty much gets on with things by itself. Plenty of flowers this year, so I'm looking forward to a bumper crop of strawberries.

Cuckoo, Cuckoo
A cuckoo hung around the farm all day, affording excellent views, first singing from one of the old ash trees, then perching on a fencepost alongside the orchard.I don't know whether it's the same cuckoo that visits every year. I heard the other day that the five satellite-tagged birds which survived the winter in Africa have not fared so well on their return journey, with three perishing before they could get back here to breed. Anyway, back to 'our' cuckoo. I wonder which species it parasitises. Every morning I am serenaded by a reed warbler by the pig pen and a sedge warbler in a bush across Don's field. I think they compete with each other for the title of most persistent songster. Of the two, I prefer the reed warbler's song. Not so scratchy. As for the cuckoo, apparently they're evolved to choose one particular species.

Thriving herbs
The herb garden is really thriving too. Plants I've struggled with in the past have developed into healthy, strong specimens. The patch next to the stables is very stony, the remnants of old buildings I think, and the herbs absolutely love the poor soil and good drainage. 
Thyme, Oregano, Mace, Angelica,
Mace, Rosemary, Sage and Mint.
A splash of chive flowers. I am growing more of these from seed to spread around the potager.
A towering angelica plant.
A biennial which self-seeds easily.
Destructive chickens
Meanwhile, the chickens have been busy demolishing the mulch of grass cuttings that I had so carefully placed around the young willow cuttings and the edible hedgerow. I think they can stay confined to their luxurious pen for a while now. Besides, they need to keep the grass down in there.

The Globe Artichoke bed.
The globe artichoke bed should be a lot more impressive in a month or so.
As the air cooled in the evening, I set myself to planting out the six globe artichoke seedlings which I have so lovingly raised in the greenhouse. They have been in the coldframe for a couple of weeks waiting for warm soil and gentle weather.
I've already planted a mixture of allium bulbs around the bed, and I will add chives when the seedlings come on. In the main part of the bed, as an understorey, I've sown Nigella (Love-In-A-Mist) Moody Blues, as well as four carefully placed giant sunflowers, a variety which towers and produces multiple blooms over a long period. The globe artichokes are protected in their milk carton greenhouses, but they'll need to be kept well watered, especially in this period of fierce sunshine.  

Three Sisters
The young sweetcorn plants had a brilliant germination rate this year and are now outgrowing their paper pots and modules. Sweetcorn is usually planted in blocks, as it is wind pollinated, usually 15 to 18 inches apart.
But this year I'm trying a different system, Three Sisters, which I've alluded to previously. It is certainly gardening chic, but has received mixed reviews. The central principle is one of three vegetables (corn, beans and squashes) sharing space and benefiting each other. But get it wrong and one gets outcompeted or the whole thing becomes a mess. So I searched widely on the internet and decided to follow this system...

My sweetcorn is a supersweet variety, Sweetcorn Lark, from Four plants in a tight square, with climbing Pea Bean (for dried beans) sown alongside. I collected seeds of this bean last year, so I've sown generously as germination was patchy last year. I can always thin out if I achieve surprising success.

In between these groups of plants, I've transplanted seedlings of a variety of squashes and courgettes, protected with SlugKill (clay granules, no nasty poisons) and milk carton cloches.

Potentially a very exciting bed, I'll let you know how things go.

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