Friday, November 23, 2007

Planting bulbs and beans

Before I start telling you about bulbs and beans I must just say that the heating engineer has been with us this week and has performed miracles! Our house, which is large and Victorian with the usual lovely high ceilings and original sash windows, has always been difficult to heat in the winter. Since the old boiler died it has been pretty grim and we'd dug out a selection of unflattering woollies to wear as we huddled around the cat to keep warm in the evenings. With our new high efficiency rated condensing boiler the cat cuddling has returned to previous levels (the cat is, of course, bewildered by the sudden change) The heating engineer was reassuring that the insulation we use will keep the heat in, so we don't intend to overheat the place. It's just so wonderful to be warm! He says the new boiler is 91% efficient compared to probably less than 50% for the 30 year old one we replaced. After the initial play around with the controls we'll probably stick to a modest 17 or 18 degrees in the evenings. Not tropical anyway.

Anyway, with the advent of some more cold, dry weather I've been messing about under the old apple tree. When we first took over the allotment it was a fine, low branched, (huge) tree of unknown variety that the boys used to climb. Because it was so useful as a climbing tree we though of the apples as a bonus, they came early and didn't keep but the flavour was very good. Over the years, the boys got too big to climb the tree and it managed to acquire all sorts of pests and diseases so after several attempts at pruning and even more poor fruiting years we gave up. We chopped it down as far as we could and I was going to try to take it down even further, put a plank on top and make it into a bench. But, I could never find the right tool to saw through the thick trunk and while we deliberated, it sneakily threw out more and more branches until last year, we realised, it really, really wanted to be tree again. So...I've done some more pruning and today, I've planted bulbs around the base. Welcome back tree. I only chopped you down because I thought you were pretty dead! I'd mulched the grass in a sort of circle around the base so it was easier to dig into it and make holes for the bulbs and I was going to clear the grass away but I was overwhelmed with indecision (it happens a lot, I'm afraid) and I think I'm now going to let the grass grow back. It'll look more natural.

Before I went home I put in another row of broad bean seeds and sat on the hut step admiring the autumn colours. Because we're on a hill you can see down over the city and at the moment every little bit that used to be green is tinged with lovely russets and browns. The sky was clear too, winter clear, which is quite different from a clear sky in summer. Lovely. Maybe I'll make a small stained glass sculpture to hang in the tree. I'm making garden sculptures at the moment, mostly to "plant" in the ground or in a pot, but I could do some hanging ones too. As long as they're wired onto a branch they should stay on ok in the wind. Hmm. I need to go and do some designing.
Happy gardening

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wow - frost

The first thing I do most mornings is fumble for my glasses and read the temperature on the inside/outside sensor on the wall next to my bed. I'm ever so slightly obsessed with the temperature so there's another one in the kitchen too! At this time of year it starts to get quite interesting, 2 degrees this morning and there was quite a frost on the roofs and the cars outside.

It felt like quite a few degrees of frost in the house as well, we've got no heating until the (dead) boiler is replaced. Not long to wait now however, the man says he's coming next week and we're all looking forward to his arrival even though I'm sure we'll have a week's worth of builder type upheaval. Ed (older son) has taken to saying things like "ooh, only another 14 days" as though the heating engineer is Father Christmas or something!

It was so beautiful this morning with the sunlight streaming down and highlighting the glittering frost, so I wrapped up like a roly poly woman and went up the road to take some pictures. The standing stone is sheltered from the early morning sun by a bramble hedge so there was enough frost left there to photograph but the sun is obviously still pretty strong and it melted fast.

My total haul of vegetables was a sad little butternut, the last one on the plant and unfortunately partly frozen. We'll have to eat it very soon. There's not much left to pick at the moment.

In my dreams, we would move away from the city and create a haven of self-sufficiency a la John Seymour and only ever need to shop for tea, coffee and bananas, but in my heart of hearts I know that we'd probably starve. I wish I was more organised and then at least we'd have successive plantings and a more reliable source of our own food throughout the year. Project - must do better.
Happy winter gardening

Saturday, November 10, 2007

seed order

I spent part of yesterday morning poring over the catalogue and trying not to go too mad choosing seeds for next year. I think I've made some good choices, I've gone for the same parsnips and runner beans as this year because they were really good (Tender and True for the parsnips and Scarlet Emperor beans) but when J came home from work he did his own bit of poring and made some novel suggestions about what we shouldn't plant this time. He reckons we should give the potatoes a miss this year along with the sweetcorn and concentrate on squashes.

It took me a few moments to come to terms with the idea but actually, we didn't get any cobs off the corn because the badgers (wildebeeste) had them all and potatoes are cheap to buy locally so, yeah! I think it's a good idea. In 2008 we will not be growing potatoes or corn!

We're planning on growing carrots, parsnips, turnips and maybe a few beetroot, runner beans, french beans and sugar snaps, lots of interesting squashes, lettuces and other salad bits and pieces. The onions, garlic and leeks are already in the ground for next year as are the winter cabbages and purple broccoli and actually you know, we haven't really got much more room on our plot. There are some unused patches at the moment, but come spring, I expect I'll have the usual problem of finding somewhere to plant out seedlings grown at home.

We had a quick visit to the allotment today (Saturday) but didn't get much done. J made a new brick path across the top patch while I popped a row of broad beans in where the courgettes had come out. It was nice and sunny and there were quite a few people there. We met some new neighbours and admired what they've done so far. I also had a chat with some not quite so new neighbours who have just planted some new trees, including a Marjorie's Seedling plum, like ours. They'd been impressed by the amount of fruit on it this summer so I hope theirs is as productive.

Now we've made our choices, we've got to do the actual ordering. I believe we can do it online these days so I'll do it tonight when I get back from the pub...on second thoughts...

Happy gardening (and planning ahead)