Friday, 30 April 2021

2021 Week 16 - Spring Unsprung!

The Growing Year Stalls
An extended period of high pressure has resulted in a gloriously sky blue ceiling under which to work almost every day and starry, starry nights. But the high has mostly been positioned so as to drag in a chill airflow from northerly climes.

For the garden it's been a bit of a worry. With the end of April fast approaching, it's been anything but April showers, with just 18% of expected rainfall countrywide and virtually zero here. We did however get a few quite heavy snow flurries earlier in the month. At least we no longer have flooded paddocks and muddy chicken pens! On the flip side we have cracks in the ground, the water butts are empty and all growth is on hold, as is all outdoor sowing.

Frost patterns on the car rooves have been a regular feature this April

We've had a ridiculous number of frosty nights too which is resulting in a traffic jam of young plants building up. The conservatory is filling up. Come mid May there'll be a mad spell of moving plants along the chain and into the veg plot. 

No-Dig Benefits
I am growing a considerable number of perennial flowers and shrubs from seed this year. It's been an experiment in stratification, the process whereby seeds need to go through a period of cold (either naturally outside through winter, or simulated in the fridge). Now that I have pretty much stopped using the rotavator (we had some good times though), I can revert to my original vision of a veg plot filled with flowers and herbs. No-dig makes it far easier to leave plants in situ and work around them. The other benefit of no-dig which I am discovering is how the soil retains its structure and moisture, even during this extended period of dry weather we are experiencing.

Now that lockdown is easing, I've shown several visitors round the veg plot and they've been astonished at the quality of what is essentially a clay soil. No longer the choice between wet and sticky or dry and crusty, turning concrete. We used to have short periods in between these two states when the soil was delightful to work. Now, beneath the surface mulch of compost, straw or even selective weed growth, the soil is like that all the time. It's full of life too as the army of minibeast workers has returned to aerate the soil and turn debris into plant nourishment.

Magic Honey
It's been a busy few weeks with the bees too. Sue has become very knowledgeable, though she wouldn't admit it, and I have started to get more involved and have become her apprentice. When the weather was hot (a distant memory), we seized the opportunity to inspect all the hives. About half are dong really well indeed. One is exceptional, though so full that we need to try and deter them from swarming. The others are building up, but two are very lazy and always have been.

So we decided to amalgamate these two. It is better to have fewer strong hives than more weak ones. We managed to find and mark four queens too which should make life a little easier for future inspections.

All we need now is some warm weather again and a little rain to get things going and the honey will start flowing.

Meanwhile Sue has been selling off all last year's honey cheaply. With lockdown it has been very difficult to sell and there is no point having loads of it sitting around, even if it does last forever. We have also started producing magic honey which tops itself up and sometimes even overflows its jar. This is the creamed honey and what's happened is that the extra aeration has increased the overall moisture levels, allowing the honey to start fermenting. It still tastes absolutely fine but you need to be a bit more careful selling it.

It's also been a perfect excuse for Sue to have a go at making mead. The first batch is ready and has proved very drinkable indeed!

I'm a Fungi Guy

Mushroom dowels

A new experiment this year is dipping my toe into the world of mushroom growing. I'm starting with an easy one which should grow in the veg beds and forest garden quite easily, just needing straw and woodchip to get going, both of which are easily sourced in the countryside. At the moment they are just impregnated wooden dowels sitting in the fridge until the last frost has passed. More on this as it happens.


Amazing Nature

As usual, nature carries on its patterns. The first swallows are back in the stables, a big moment in the year. They were late this year, held up b the switch to northerly winds. Bee flies are very much in evidence again this spring. I love the way they hover with their proboscis poking out in front of them.

Best of all though is a long-tailed tit nest just outside our living room window.  Incredibly they construct it using moss, lichen, feathers and spider cocoons. Without question it's got to be the best nest of any British bird. It's only the second I've ever seen and the first was when I was much younger and one of thee experiences that first led me to being so enthralled by birds.

A Reorganisation
Finally, I have moved the old greenhouse frame from in front of the polytunnel. It's beyond rescue in terms of replacing the polycarbonate panels, but it could certainly be netted.

I am looking to put it to good use and am on the hunt for a new project (as if I haven;t got enough already!)

The space it vacated is to become my tree nursery area. Whenever I find a self-seeded sapling growing where I don't particularly want it, if I can I repot it. I am considering a bit of guerilla planting at some point!


Looking Back - Featured post

ONE THOUSAND BLOG POSTS IN PICTURES

Ten years and a thousand blog posts! Enjoy. Pictures in no particular order.  

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