Saturday, 2 April 2011

Mad in March ... and now it's April!

The apple blossom is out
Well, despite the best efforts of our 10-week-old baby, there has been quite a lot of activity in the garden over the last month, but I can't believe it's somehow slipped from being March into April without me really noticing!

Still, progress has been made on a number of large and small projects.

The old greenhouse was a bespoke job done by the previous owner and was starting to fall to bits, quite literally, which didn't seem too safe even before we had a baby. We did have a period last year where we replaced panes as they fell out, but it got to the stage where it seemed more sensible just to get rid of the whole thing and buy a new one. WH had a great weekend knocking it down (it still put up a bit of a fight!) and the frame for our new greenhouse is now up and anchored, just waiting for some glazing (we're using polycarbonate in an aluminium frame to replace the shattered-glass-in-rotten-wood-frame we had before).

The new greenhouse frame

Brick-built raised beds
Strawberries and roses
The large L-shaped bed was finally cleared out in the autumn of the last remaining woody shrubs that had been swamping it. We've separated it into two beds with some of the remaining logs we had when the ash trees were chopped down last year. The thinner part has been planted up with four roses: 2 each of Rosa gallica officianlis and Rosa Alba Maxima and 20 strawberry plants: 10 each of Strawberry Royal Sovereign and Strawberry Albion. The roses went in in January and the strawberries just a couple of weeks ago, but thanks to the mild weather we've been having they are all already putting on new growth.
The larger area of the bed is going to be our main herb bed - still in planning so watch this space!
Fencing and the fruit tree fence plan
We had a new neighbour move in to number 25 (left-hand side) in October and she's put in a huge amount of work to tame the wilderness of her back garden over the last six months. As part of this work, she's completely redone the fencing: there's now a panel fence topped with trellis to the mid-way point, which reaches to about five feet tall, which has changed the aspect of our gravel area around the pergola somewhat - we'll have to see what impact it has on the plants there, although fingers crossed it won't affect the grapes as they're still in full sun. Our panel fencing on the right-hand side of the garden was already rickety and a couple of windy periods over the winter really finished it off, so we've now got a lovely new panel fence on the right-hand side too! Our neighbour also covered in the lower-level fencing in the bottom-half of the garden with rolls of bamboo - we like this so much we're going to emulate it on the other side of our garden, which should make it a bit trickier for the cats and foxes to stroll about - even if it doesn't keep them out completely - and will also act as a bit of a windbreak for the vegetable beds. Our plan on the right-hand side is to sink some posts at regular intervals along the bamboo fence, behind the veg beds, to plant some additional fruit trees to grow as cordons, espaliers or fan-trained trees.

Vegetable sowing and growing is also underway, if a little late due to the lack of a greenhouse for starting plants off. However, I have invested in a heated windowsill propagator, which is already proving it's worth. I started off some seedlings on the 29th March, and some have already germinated - I'd estimate that's a good two/three times faster than they germinated in the greenhouse last year.

It's a Garland Super 7 propagator, currently nurturing 3 tomato varieties, some basil and a sweet and a chilli pepper.
Here you can see the basil is already germinating after only a few days.
The garlic was planted up in the autumn and has really taken off in the last few weeks. I underplanted our fruit trees again, but have also put garlic in the onions bed this year, for a larger crop.

Garlic under the morello cherry, which has been pruned back hard this spring to try to encourage it to grow as a fan-shape.

Six different types of potato (Rocket, Kestrel, Charlotte, Rooster, Arran Pilot and Pink Fir Apple) have been chitted in egg boxes on the kitchen windowsill and then planted out. Once again, we've got the potatoes in two places: a potato sack for each variety and then in some of the raised beds. As we had so many types this year, they've spilled out from the potato bed and into the middle of the legume bed! We made much more of an effort with the pots in the beds this year, actually digging proper trenches to put them into - fingers crossed we'll get a bumper crop!

WH created a fantastic trench for our broad beans in the legume bed, using the stalks and left-over foliage from the brussels. However, I'm a bit behind on my peas and beans this year so there's nothing in there as yet.
I might try and start off some crops indoors, but we're a bit pushed for space on windowsills now!

Finally, the spring flowers are really underway and we need to start thinking about flowers/flowering plants for our hazel pyramid and containers!