Sunday, 30 April 2017

April round-up

Typical April harvest
April has been a super busy month. It started with another major sowing session indoors (cucumbers, tomatillos, asparagus, quinoa, amaranth, broccoli, basil, coriander, celeriac, cantaloupe melons), followed by sowing the maincrop potatoes (Setanta, Sarpo Axona and Blue Danube) outside in a new bed that required major stone removal - in fact, it now has a little stone wall running alongside it. We also planted out the peas sown in pieces of guttering, a method that worked extremely well.

One of the three black chicks
Unfortunately, we had an egg-eating incident - chicken caught in flagrante, pulling an egg from underneath another hen and chomping into it - so we had to soup our favourite hen. This prompted us to get the incubator on. Last round of incubating our own eggs. Next time we'll get some hatching eggs in from a local farm, probably Welsummers and Copper Marans, to mix up our gene pool again. Out of 10 eggs we got seven chicks, hatched on 25 and 26 April. Unfortunately, one chick died in the first night and another one had straddle legs, which we taped in place with a sticking plaster tether, but the little one did in the second night. At least the other five are doing very well.

Tomatoes in the polytunnel
Then it was warm enough to plant out the tomatoes into the polytunnel and greenhouse. Since our area is bad for potato blight (which also unfortunately affects their tomato cousins), we grow our tomatoes in containers and mainly inside: 16 in the polytunnel, 8 in the greenhouse and 6 in the conservatory. We'll try a couple of the Magic Mountain variety outside since it's been billed as very blight-resistant. We put a little bit of manure in the bottom of every tomato pot (and, later, we'll do the same for chillies, peppers, cucumbers and melons).

Brassica set-up

We also set up a brassica fortress outside. Each of our dozen kale, romanesco, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and red/Savoy cabbage seedlings has been planted inside a bottomless pot that has a ring of copper tape running around it. The pot to protect against the occasionally fierce winds here and the copper tape to keep slugs and snails at bay. Then the whole lot is netted over to protect the seedlings from birds and cabbage white butterflies. There will still be some losses, but at least this gives them a better chance.

The herbal tea plants are all up and we've even had some first flush green tea from our Camellia sinensis bushes. Though mainly we drink pots of lemon balm tea, various mint teas (apple, Swiss, Moroccan, Eau de Cologne and mixtures thereof) and sage.

The big new bed
The second large new bed in the bottom paddock has turned out to be too boggy to be used as a straight-up bed so we've decided to turn it into a H├╝gelkultur bed. This means that Jim will dig a trench which we'll fill with all kinds of organic materials and then make a little mound over it afterwards. Not too high though because of the wind! We're definitely horizontal gardeners here, anything that sticks out over the hedge will be scorched.

Overwintering pea in the greenhouse
The edible and medicinal flower bed has been dug at last and sown with edible poppies, two types of calendula, two types of cornflower, coriander, dill, cumin, chives, camomile and salad burnet. Just the amaranth and sunflowers to add next month. The old ash pit next to our front door has been sown with a profusion of wild flower seeds (plus some 5 for £1 Lidl flower seeds). And Jim has mowed the entire garden for the first time this season! All the fruit trees, some fruit bushes and some hedges have been mulched with the grass clippings.

Femspot cucumber in the conservatory
This year we're trying an all-female cucumber variety for the first time. Very impressed so far with the vigour of these Femspot cucumbers. They've already demanded potting up. We'll have to keep them separate from our other cucumber variety, Crystal Lemon, so the Femspots will be in the conservatory and greenhouse and the Crystal Lemons in the polytunnel. It'll be nice not to have to help along with pollination on the Femspot plants! On the Crystal Lemon cucumbers and the cantaloupe melons, I will be using cotton buds to hand-pollinate the female flowers from the male flowers.

First radish of the season
We've also started some direct sowing outside: carrots, scorzonera, lettuce, chard, New Zealand spinach, turnips, radishes, beetroot. Most of the direct sowing will be happening in May though. I've also continued experimenting with crops in the polytunnel. Already the first carrot seedlings are up and the beetroots are way ahead of the outdoor ones. I've also popped in one courgette, for extra early courgettes, and some pak choi. The tunnel's filling up fast!

Homemade pasta, on the homemade drying rack
On the food preparation and preservation side, we've made a batch of purple-sprouting broccoli & Daubenton's kale kimchi, some rhubarb ice cream and our first ever pasta - from home-milled flour with our own eggs. Definitely will be making our own pasta from now on!


1 comment:

  1. It's all looking very splendid, you have been so busy! Great to see the plants coming along well, we have the same blight issues here so I'm watching your Magic Mountain with great interest. With all those fresh eggs it would be a crime not to make your own ice cream and pasta! We tend to stick to lasagne sheets now rather than tagliatelle after having several ridiculously silly sessions with pasta machine and drying rack - looks like you've got it completely cracked though. Happy gardening (and eating)!

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