Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Everything is growing... quickly

2nd May
The broad beans are up and doing well, well enough indeed to take the netting off and finally be able to access all the weeds which have started to emerge amongst them. I planted out Poached Egg plants among them - this supposedly prevents them being attacked by blackfly and it seems to have worked for the past few years so I'll continue with it.
I got half of the onions weeded too before heavy rain in the afternoon drove me into the polytunnel.
No matter though, plenty of jobs to keep me busy in there. I sowed more carrot seeds. The first two packs of Early Nantes seeds I used have been discarded. I was beginning to think there was something very wrong with my soil but different varieties have since germinated well.
I planted more kohl rabi seedlings out into the beds - these are the last ones for the polytunnel. From now they'll be sown outside. The early turnips I sowed are doing well (after a similar disaster with the first batch of seeds) and needed thinning. Hopefully we'll get some young turnips before long and the plants can then come out to make room for the young pepper plants I've got coming along.
I sowed some peas for outdoors too, deciding not to risk planting them straight into the soil outside - it also brought me some time to construct a support for them.
3rd May
We were awoken at 6am by the dogs barking. They were quite persistent, so obviously thought there was something out there. I went outside but nothing seemed amiss. It was a lovely morning with a gentle and warm southerly breeze.
I decided to spray the last few creeping thistles which survived last year's regime of attack. I have learned that just a few pests and weeds need radical solutions, but I try to do this as efficiently and as carefully as I can so as to leave the wildlife hopefully minimally affected. I tried pulling the nettles and thistles but on the scale of our smallholding it was an impossible task. I still leave patches of nettles around the edge, but the creeping thistles really are too invasive to tolerate. It's a great shame as they are alive with bees and butterflies when in flower.
The day continued hot and the southerly air brought with it an arrival of Swallows along with the first Swift of the year and a brief Sand Martin. Up till now we only had 4 swallows back on the farm. I always know when new arrivals come in as there is much excited chattering and chasing.
The first orange-tip butterfly was fluttering around too and later the first small white (= cabbage white!!!) This prompted me to erect the netting over my main brassica patch. I've constructed a veritable fort which should protect my greens from caterpillar and pigeon attack.

One final job for the day was to move all the sheep down to the big field. The paddock up by the house needs a little time to recover before I move the lambs back up again without their mums.
All the ewes and lambs meet up for the first time.
There is much excitement.
And after the final job, there is usually another one. In weather like this, keeping everything watered in the polytunnel is crucial. Forget for one day or miss a tray and a whole batch of seedlings can be dead. I'm using the overhead irrigation more this year but a bit of targeted watering every evening is still necessary.
After I'd given the hanging strawberries a good soaking I decided to tuck some straw underneath the developing fruits, firstly to act as a mulch and keep in the moisture and secondly to prevent the strawberries from rotting where they touched the soil surface.




4th May
22 Centigrade today. A real scorcher!
I sowed my first beetroots direct outside, between the onions. They are supposedly good companions. I sowed my quinoa seeds too. Well, some of them. I bought a packet which contained several thousand seeds, to be sown direct a foot apart. I had enough for a field full! Unsure of how they would germinate, I sowed them much more thickly. I sowed some in modules in the polytunnel too, just to be sure.
Quinoa is a new crop for me. I like to try new things, but they don't always work. Generally there are reasons why some vegetables (and grains) have become more popular than others, but there is the occasional exception to the rule.
Lastly, Rameses is down to two feeds per day. This in in preparation for weaning him off his bottle milk. His afternoon feed will consist of being offered a tub of creep feed and beet pellets (pre-soaked). I'm sure there will be loud protestations!
Rameses comes out for his feed and has been making friends with the dogs.
5th May
Gosling's first trip into the garden proper.
Not much done on the smallholding today. I did get to the hardware store though so was able to fix the hinges on the duck houses.
40 Sweetcorn minipop seedlings appear to have gone missing! I don't suspect foul play, more an ever increasing propensity to put things down and completely forget about them!
6th May
A white duck egg! The first for some time. The white duck has been through a bit of a hard time. We had to separate her from the black Cayugas as the young male just would not leave her alone, eventually drawing blood on her head and wing. We separated her off for a while. Meanwhile the overly hormonal drake was 'disappeared', but not before he had exhausted another of the females. Sadly we lost her.
The good news is that the white duck has made friends with the lone white Muscovy drake - the larger drake has taken the two females for himself. She has even started going into the same house as him and the egg shows that she is healthy and happy again. Maybe she approved of her new door hinges too.





More exciting news was the first tail-raising display by Captain Peacock. It wasn't spectacular and appeared to be aimed at a duck, but it was still a significant moment.
Finally I undertook a big job today, restoring the asparagus bed. It was in a bit of a state. Keeping weeds out is very difficult and the ridges I grow it on were collapsing. Furthermore, cracks had appeared in the soil around this years emerging spears and last year's decomposing stems had made more perfect hidy holes for slugs, who seem partial to a nice bit of young asparagus.

Traditionally asparagus beds were treated with salt, which would kill off weeds (and I presume do a pretty good job on slugs). I decided that some old builders sand I had would do a similar job, as well as filling in the cracks and holes. Anyway it was pretty hard work but I was pleased with the finished results of my work. The asparagus will very soon begin growing at a phenomenal rate and we can harvest it until about the end of June when we leave it to grow and gather the sun's goodness to store in its roots.




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