Sunday, November 30, 2008

Down the garlic path

Garlic - the stinking rose - one of my desert island vegetables. I love it, and use it all the time in cooking. If a recipe calls for 1 clove, I add two, if it only says onion, well, it gets a chopped clove as well. Odd that I had never really eaten the stuff until I was about 17, when my mother began, somewhat daringly, to sprinkle a bit over the Sunday roast, prompting a more unenlightened boyfriend to ask if the meat was off. Anyway, I am so pleased to announce that these beautiful pink pearls have been planted in their freshly dug garlic bed. The variety is Music, a hardneck porcelain garlic, ordered from the Really Garlicky Company
As they grow this commercialy in the North East of Scotland, I am hopeful that in my wee bit off the M8 corridor, we will see more than a few bulbs. All in all about 90 cloves were planted, and they are now snug in bed with a light covering of bubble wrap, just to give them a start. I'll take this off in a few days, when this frost has lifted a bit; it is -6 here tonight and I am a bit clucky with my cloves.
You can see the bed before I started on it almost three weeks ago now. I am only getting a couple of hours at the weekend to work on the plot, so I am pretty pleased that I have something to show off. This was a bit of a nightmare. Couch grass and buttercups had been allowed to make merry here for at least 3 years, and they were enjoying their party. And nettles! How hard are they to dig out? Is every nettle in the world attached to each other, by some sort of nettle internet?
Still, with my own gloved hands I dug this out, removing as much of the white straggly roots as I could. I don't imagine I've got it all out, but hopefully enough to be able to keep it under some control later on. Fiona, the white hen, shows off her good side in this photo, and is not quite so modest in the next one. The surviving Broon Twin also checks out the newly dug garlic patch. They like to get involved when they can - especially if there are worms going. Actually that was one aspect of digging this out that did bother me- the huge amount of worms that die. I know there are loads of them, but they do such great work that I hate to see a single one harmed. Well, the sharp eyed reader may note the amount of digging that still has to be done, so I'll have to get over it. Once these beds are in place, I don't intend digging much, or at all, come to that. Mulching will be my keyword.

Anyway, there is enough space here to fit in another raised bed next to this one, which will be planted up with onions. There is enough room for shallots in the garlic bed, as 90 cloves at 6 inches apart only takes up half the bed. I am hoping to plant the escalote grise from Thompson and Morgan. It is an autumn planted variety, but I reckon it should be ok to start it off in February. Any more good weekends over the next two months will be spent digging out the onion bed, but I also want to give the blackcurrants a prune, move some roses and perennials round to the front garden, and build a herb spiral (see the spiral seed link) Oh - and a few other diversions to be organised in the next month. Better get perusing those seed catalogues and get my letter off to Santa.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The path ahead

Hmmm - don't think I will be able to keep this themed title thing up for long.

So - it begins.... What to do first?

It is obvious from the photos that things have gone way out of control, and I could easily find myself rushing around like a headless chicken doing - well - not very much, and achieving even less. Let's focus here! Thinking about it from a Feng Sui perspective - clearing the path seemed to be a good thing to do, maybe get some chi flowing. Yes - even the path was overgrown, and trips to the henhouse, compost bins and coal box were fraught with danger. (An imminent visit from the coal man with the first of the year's delivery (£12 a bag!!!!), with the accompanying anxiety of a lawsuit to follow if he slipped en route was also an incentive here.) The first hurdle to be overcome was a huge clump of Kniphofia which had spread out over the path, barring entry to the garden itself. Next, the unwary voyager must negotiate a carpet of mud, fallen leaves, rotten plums and hen droppings. Finally a huge cotoneaster which has already taken over part of the greenhouse lay in wait to trip up any who survived thus far. Under this, the long hidden paving slabs were covered in thick grass and weeds which had grown between the cracks. This sorry state of affairs continued the length of the path, down to the bottom of the garden, where it merged, like one of those infinity pools into the weed infested morass.
Two weeks ago, then (blogging is also interrupted here), I waved goodbye to my dear husband and younger son, as they set off for a walk along the cycle track. I should point out here that my DH began the path clearing some six weeks previously, but as the spade skimmed beneath the first sod, it hit against a slab which was sticking up, and he put his back out. He was signed off work for 3 weeks, and things are still a bit fragile in the lumbar region - hence my foray into the fray armed with spade, hoe, brush and spring-tined rake. Anyway, I looked neither left nor right, but dilligently focussed on the way ahead. Reader, I worked my little socks off and three hours later....
We have a path - yay! Well, only halfway down. A trip by husband and BJ to the Grandparents the following day allowed another couple of hours sustained effort to take us down to the bottom.

Not all the way - still round the corner bit to do, but small acorns and all that...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The path less travelled

I've started this blog really to inspire me to get to grips with this plot. We moved into our bungalow almost ten years ago now - the garden, greenhouse and outbuildings did it for us. The house itself was always a bit too small for our family of - then 4, occassionaly 5, but we reasoned that in a few years, the chicks would be starting to fly the nest. How wrong! One left, two have stayed and another one arrived.
The house sits on a plot of just under 1/3 of an acre, and the garden is mostly to the rear of the property (as estate agents would say). Nearest the house is a drying green with an ornamental border. In the central area there is a fruit garden, with blackcurrants, rasps, gooseberries, rhubarb, plums and apples. There is also a large greenhouse. The furthest away third is the veg garden. Initially this was a small bed off to the right of the path, and the rest was a huge lawn. In our new gardener euphoric state, we dug beds into this lawn, planted potatoes, onions, shallots, beans, sweetcorn, squashes - in fact -the entire Organic Gardening catalogue went in there somewhere, and for a few years we had great success. Wandering down the garden just before starting dinner and snipping a few choice bits here and there was fantastic. Then we got carried away. Ideas of polytunnels - all year round growing - self sufficiency - giving away surplus to the neighbourhood - stall at the farmer's market .... we dug up the whole back lawn!
It was a reasonable success the first year, but, full time working and part time gardening did not work for this particular dream (and this particular climate) - we let the weeds get out of hand - we left produce in the ground as we had no plans for storage - we lost heart. Then a miracle happened. I became pregnant at the age of 45! It was a difficult pregnancy, which meant I spent the spring and summer of 2006 cooped up indoors, being sick, lethargic, and unable to lift even a packet of seeds.
Baby James was born in the November, and so, with visions of self and babe strapped to my back, tilling away happily, I sent off my usual small fortune to the seed companies. Well, of course BJ had other ideas - "Tie me up in a sling, mother? Noooo way!" , and so another year, another seven years of weed seeds.

This year, BJ was toddling, but not safely enough in the now thistle and nettle infested plot, and I could not spend more than ten minutes at a time in the garden before he needed rescuing and diverting. We also by this time had a lovely VW Camper van, and so weekends were spent listening to the drum of rain on the canvas pop top in some west coast campsite, rather than on our conservatory roof.

Despite this, we did have a moderately passable harvest of peas, broad and runner beans, turnip and chard, but it is not good enough. In fact it is a dampt disgrace and I am going to do something about it now - this minute - oh no, the baby's awake. I have to go. But I'll be back.


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