Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Rhubarb rhubarb

The Rhubarb patch

Well this is the Rhubarb patch this morning, after Sharron took another bag into work today and I made about 3kg of Rhubarb and Ginger jam yesterday, it still doesn't look as if we have touched it. We actually inherited the patch when we moved here, it was the only thing in the veg patch worth saving the whole thing was ovrgrown. I am going to save the leaves this year to make organic pesticide which should be interesting.

In my post yesterday I mentioned my compost. Well this year I am trying an experiment I have heard of people making tempory compost heaps out of large cardboard boxes, well I am taking this a stage further.

I am using a large box to line the compost bin. The bin is already half full of this year grass cuttings so I am hoping that the box will as it fills compress the material beneath it and will add fibre to the compost as in breaks down. Of course it might all go horribly wrong, I will keep you all posted. The other thing that I add to the compost is the cat litter, we (I mean the cats) use the wood based cat litter, if you remove the solids and add the remaining material to the heap it adds nitrates, nitrites and ammonium compounds that the bacteria require to aid decomposition, this is what compost accelerators you buy provide, the wood pulp also adds cellulose to the heap.


Monday, 30 March 2009

Thank you

Rose 'Bobby James' against potting shed window.

Firstly I would like to thank everyone for their kind comments about my eye problems they are appreciated. Justas a quick update, there has been very litle change but I have instigated a stress management policy, with the agreement of my boss I am taking longer breaks during he day. I have also created my own quiet space where I can go and chill out (the potting shed). Nice long dog walks also help.

I spent yesterday doing things in the garden. I planted out some Beetroot I had raised in modules having first redug and composted the beds. I am really pleased with my compost this year it is lovely and rich and really friable.

I also managed to get all my penstemons planted out as well as 3 dahilia's that I got in the market in St Ives. It's possibly a bit early for them but you have to take the odd risk don't you.
I am really looking forward to seeing my result in the garden this year as I have been having a compleate change in the beds this year. having used a lot of annuals over the last couple of years I am now trying to establish a more permanent planting scheme.

My Rhubarb is growing like mad, I made a lovely crumble last night and Sharron took a bundle into work today to give away to the poor under nourished city dwellers she works with! Unfortunatly we only have a small freezer and that still has some of last years in it.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Confused tulips and hardy planting

Tulip 'Praestans fusilier'

Ok this year is getting silly already, I have window boxes full of tulips in flower before most of my daffs have opened, bang goes my plan for a nice succession of colour.

In my last post I said i would tell you about the hardy plants I have been putting in my beds, well here's the list:
  • Condonopsis tangshen
  • Polygonatum striatum
  • Helenium sahins
  • Ratibida pinnata
  • Euphorbia nematocybha
  • Paeonia 'Buckeye blue'
I also still have 11 Penstemons to plant out.

In addition to this lot the seeds in the greenhouse all seem to be coming on well but it will be a few weeks before anything is ready to plant out.

I have also spent a bit of time recutting the edges to the various beds. It is amazing what a difference it makes simply defining the edges.

The picture below was taken from my office window yesterday whilst I was on yet another conference call (yawn!!). The light and the colour of the sky where both fantastic. If you study the picture carefully you will notice a blue carrier bag caught in the branches of our walnut tree. Has anyone got any suggestions as to how to get it down without me killing myself?

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Time to de-stress

Well according to the hospital the most likely cause of my eye problems is stress. It is as I thought a macular oedema or as it is now known CSR which is commonly caused by stress. It is present in both eyes and there is no treatment except time, even then it will leave some permanent damage. So my aim now is to try and de stress. The problem is that my job requires me to sit in front of a computer screen all day and when half that screen is out of focus it doesn't make for a stress free environment!!

Anyway the best way I know of reducing stress is to garden ( discounting slugs, ground elder, cabbage white butterfly, root fly etc etc) and the weather over the last week has meant I have been able to get lots done.

The first thing I want to so you is my Garlic, these were grown from bulbs brought back form the garlic farm on the Isle of Wright by Sharron's parents.

LinkThe lawn has now had 2 cuts yhis year and will need another one by this weekend unheard of for March normally it would still be to wet to walk on. The flower bed is about 10m wide and about 6m deep to give you an idea of scale.

A lot of the work I have been doing has been preparing the veg patch As you can see I still have a few leeks to harvest. I have now got all my early potatoes in. I have also sown peas, parsnips, shallots, salad leaves , lettuce, radish. In the greenhouse I have got Celeriac, leeks, kale, and beetroot all starting in modules. I am growing carrots in pots again this as this works really well,

I have also been planting out a lot of perenials but I will tell you about them another time.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Tee shirt weather.

What a lovely weekend, thy had predicted rain on Saturday but no sign of it and Sunday was even better, I spent the whole day working in the garden in a tee shirt, I do realised that we have now had summer but at least I didn't miss it!!

The lawn had it's first haircut of the year which means my Sunday mornings are now booked for the next 8 months, might see if I can borrow some sheep.

Work has started on the new flowerbed I created to provide turf for my green roof.

The bed is an extension of my existing nursery bed, hence the broccoli. The windmill is there to keep the pigeons off! I have been spliting various existing clumps and transplanting them. To give a bit of structure at the back I have planted some fennel and cardoons.

The penstemons I ordered from Allwoods arrived on Friday, I have planted them up in pots in order to bulk them up a bit before I plant them out in the beds.

I tend to do this as our soil is a very heavy clay and I am still trying to work in as much organic matter as possible, so if I can get the roots breaking out of their root ball into some potting compost it must give them a better chance.

One plant that is very well established is our rhubarb, in the last few weeks it has gone from this

to this

To this

I forgot to take a picture of the rhubarb and ginger tart that I made from it, but I can assure you that it was delicious.

Finally thanks for all the kind comments about the eye problem, still no improvement but have more tests later this week.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Seed planting and village in bloom update

It's been a really frustrating week with this eye problem. I have real problems reading screens for any length of time so of course everyone has been sending me spreadsheets..grrr!!

Anyway it hasn't stopped me doing some work in the garden. I have been busy planting the first seeds of the year

and have been filling up the greenhouse with seed trays. I like to get started early although in an effort to being green I do not heat the greenhouse so I do have to be selective as to when I sow. I have sown beetroot, kale and celeriac for the veg patch and various flowers for the garden.

Some of the cuttings I took last year are showing signs of life such as these dogwoods.

The greenhouse has also been keeping us supplied with fresh lettuce for the last few weeks.

Last Night we had a meeting of the Village in Bloom committee. We have lots of events coming up in the next few months. The first being tomorrow when I am helping clear one of the ponds in the village, this may be a mistake as we have a pub night tonight! Some of the other things we are doing include an amphibian watching evening, dawn chorus birdwatch, sunflower and marrow growing competitions, a garden fete, along with lots of planting and communal gardening events.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Back to work day

I have had a couple of days off, I spent Friday morning in the emergency eye clinic at our local hospital having various tests. They confirmed what I thought that I have the re-occurrence of the macular odema I had a few years ago. Basically this is a build up of fluid between the layers of the retina in the area of the eye used for close focus. The result is I am having real problems even reading what I am typing. The good news is that my distance vision is ok (ish), the bad news is there's not a lot they can do. The big problem is that my job is Documentation management which means I am in front of a screen all day, oh well.

I was alone for most of the weekend as Sharron was officiating at the Davis Cup tennis in Scotland. She flew back yesterday and we spent the afternomm at Welney watching the wildfowl.

The flooded grasslands provide a winter haven for migrating birds and now the trust has bought addition farmland adjacent to the main reserve it means the birds have even more space to graze.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Roofs, Beer and Opthalmology

Miscanthus sinensis Ferne Osten

Well the potting shed is still standing after a night of heavy rain and strong winds and the soil is still on the roof and not next door. What I need now are a couple of good hard frosts to break the soil up a bit.

Last night we had the first meeting of the village hall committee this year. We spent the evening planning this years events and working out how to co-ordinate with the other groups in the village. The first event is a pub night on the 13th of March, always a good way to start the year, so if you happen to be near Woodhurst you would be very welcome. If you do get there early as the locals normally finish off the real ale in an hour or so!

We are actually looking to rebuild the hall and replace it with an eco friendly building, it would be a great focus for the community. We have got some ideas but if anyone out there has done anything like this I would love to here about your experiences, good or bad.

I am off to the Doctors later this morning, I think I have got a relapse of an eye problem I had a few years ago, I hope not but I have a bad feeling. I will let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

The new kitchen.

As some of you will know from previous postings we have been installing a new kitchen since Christmas, well apart from a couple of minor tweaks it's finished.

This is what we started with when we moved in:

And this is how it looks now:

A definite improvement I think you will agree. We are really pleased with it, I still have a couple of jobs to do, such as some skirting board to replace and a window pane to change, why would someone replace a pane of glass with a bit of yellow faded plastic??? Oh well no accounting for taste I suppose.

Monday, 2 March 2009

I am back.

Hi everyone,sorry I haven't been writing much in the last couple of weeks, several reasons. We have been working hard finishing the kitchen (photo's to follow later in the week), and work has been really getting to me over the last couple of weeks. one of the problems of being a homeworker is it is actually quite hard to walk away from it and for the last couple of weeks I have been suffering from a bit of stress and winter blues. Anyway enough of that, I have been working in the garden. Regular readers of my blog will remember my list of tasks for the year, well I have almost finished task number 1, putting a green roof on my potting shed.

This is the potting shed, it was used as a small pony stable and is very strongly built (I hope!!), the roof area is about 90 sq feet. In order to make the roof I needed to create a new flowerbed (what a shame!) as I wanted to use the turfs to cover the roof.

I placed the turfs on the roof upside down, I did this for a couple of reasons, firstly it will allow the wild flower seeds I am sowing a head start on the grass and secondly the grass on the underside of the turfs will form a mat helping to stabilise the soil preventing it from washing off the roof.

The roof does slope slightly to the back so if I have got this wrong the whole lot could end up in Ron's garden next door!

As my border fork shows the soil is not what you might describe as light! if anyone knows where I can get a decent, strong fork please let me know, this is the third one in 2 years!

I did also manage to dig over some of the veg patch as well, just in time as they are predicting rain and frosts this week which will break up the lumps a bit.

I have the day off today so I am going to get started on planting some seeds, after all I have a new flowerbed to fill this year.