Tuesday, 13 November 2018

November? - The Salad Bar Is Open

Today, at the school garden, I lifted the fleece on the salad bed:

This is where the peas and beans grew this year,  but then we planted out plug plants at the beginning of September.  The fleece was deployed in the middle of October just before the first frost arrived.

In the foreground the Mizuna is looking nice and frilly. At the other end the Land Cress or American Cress is thriving :

Land Cress
This provides a peppery aftertaste.  When the children were sampling the salads last week I warned them off this, and didn't provide any tasting samples for them.  The result was that it became the highlight of the session with, I think, every child trying it just to prove me wrong, or to prove they weren't wimps!

There were four sorts of lettuce, with the Marveille de Quatre Saisons stealing the show with its rouged leaves.

 The most prolific salad has been Winter Purslane (Claytonia, Miners' Lettuce).  Still mild despite starting to flower.
Winter Purslane
 I've tucked them all up again under the fleece and it is going to be interesting to see how they do when winter bites.  I will leave them to see if we get a new flush come spring.  As this is going to be the brassica bed next year there is no rush to clear the ground.

Just while I am on the subject of summer crops I can't resist showing of the solitary chilli from last year.  It was an unsuccessful experiment for me spanning some four varieties.  I did learn that they really do need to be treated as indoor plants in Scotland.  The unheated greenhouse was ok for tomatoes and cucumber but the chillis just refused to grow.  Add to this my over enthusiastic watering (in a vain attempt to encourage growth) and you can understand why they protested.  It was only when I brought them back indoors that this one fruit eventually ripened.

As you see the leaves are protesting about the cold nights.  Despite all this I will try again  next year, in a limited indoor windowsill way,  to grow chillies.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Weed Suppressant Fabric - Cure or Curse

This picture, for me,  encapsulates the case for Weed Suppressant Fabric.  The net overhead and the collars around the plants give away that this was my brassica patch (in 2017).  The strip to the left: no WSF.  The rest to the right WSF applied in early spring. Which would you rather be faced with come the month of June?   No contest.  This trial evolved as a result of my wish to leave a strip in which to sow later brassicas that will not tolerate transplanting (Swedes, Pak Choi, Mooli) and was not staged to prove a point. None the less as I crouched on hands and knees under the net I thought it was worth taking this picture for the record, ready for that Autumn day when I would be warm indoors mulling over the lessons learned.  16 months later that day has arrived. 

I do still have reservations.  The fabric is made of woven plastic and is not biodegradable (although it lasts for years and is reused).  It allows water through the weave but there are concerns for the effect it has on the soil/air interface.  Do insects and worms like or abhor it and how does that affect the soil food web? I see the Garden Organic guidelines approve of it only on a limited basis for clearing weed patches although it is acknowledged as a longstanding tool for growing organic strawberries.  A web search has plenty of rants against "landscaping fabric" in vegetable patches which surprises me some as I have not experienced the problems they describe.  (Usually someone is renovating a recently acquired garden where the previous occupant has laid down a layer below soil level and weeds have grown on top. ) My piece follows (or rather precedes) the brassicas around the plot and has the bonus of already having the holes spaced out at just the right distance for planting. 

For now, I will continue to use it on my brassica patch in order to reap the benefits, but I am now wary of leaving it down in one place for more than one season.  I have just recently decided to carry out a worm survey of comparable patches with and without WSF to see if there is any discernible drop in numbers.  If you can save me the trouble by pointing to any research on this topic - do please let me know.  I don't know about you but I just find weeding a chore.

Monday, 29 October 2018

First Frost

As October's song ends our first ground frost (-2.5C) arrived last night

Frozen Birdbath

Lambs Ears - Even more fluffy



D D D Dahlia

Nasturtium leaf structure revealed

Frost variagation?

It's always flowering season for some plant - Sedum 

Friday, 26 October 2018

Green Manures

I have been making an effort to use green manures this year. It is so easy to miss the boat, and I will admit I have been a bit late in sowing.  

Where the alliums were (and you can still see the winter leeks) I have sown Winter Tares:

Winter Tares
And where I lifted the potatoes Grazing Rye is recently germinated:

Grazing Rye
Where the peas were I sowed red clover a few weeks ago.  As they were slow to germinate the weeds grew up and I have done my best to remove the groundsel, chickweed and speedwell to give it a chance.  (The flowers in the foreground were planted out after the broad beans.)

Clover - plus weeds and flowers!
 One reason for my renewed efforts with green manures is my concern that weed suppressant fabric, while wonderful for suppressing weeds, is bad for worms and soil health if used for more than the short term.  I will continue to use it for the brassica patch from planting out time to harvest, and short term ground preparation elsewhere, but lift it at the end of the season.  Step in green manure!

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Spooky Perthshire

 Driving through the highlands this sight can't fail to impress:

Zooming in,  the subject of this celestial spotlight is the village of Killin at the end of Loch Tay:

The abandoned railway is now a rather spooky walkway

But it is a singular tree in  nearby Fortingall that really impresses (and sends a shiver down my spine).  It is reputed to be  "the oldest living thing in Europe and possibly the World"

Which is why it is fenced off. In the past it has been vandalised and abused.  What you see above ground are the remnants of a much bigger trunk (52ft around in 1769) that after natural hollowing out was hacked back for trophies and burnt to the point that wedding parties could process through the middle of it.  It is the root system connecting the various remnants that has been dated as over 3,000 years old and possibly as many as 9,000.

The Fortingall Yew Fenced in

Another remnant that caught my eye was this lichen covered gate.

I don't think anything has been through this gateway for a while.  Halloween is approaching, just as well I don't believe in alien abduction...

Friday, 19 October 2018

By A Waterfall

The Falls of Dochart

Been taking a break at one of Scotland's most iconic landmarks

Inspiration for the Saltire?

The village of Killin stretches from the Falls to the end of Loch Tay 

The reverse view is pretty dramatic too!

The Ptarmigan Ridge beyond the bridge
Enough to inspire you to song:

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

That's The Borlotti

It's that time of year again.  The beans are mature but not properly dried out.  I use a couple of string shopping bags and suspend them from the clothes airer/pulley in the kitchen.  Everyone bumps their heads as they pass by and curses them, but at least in doing so they are ensuring good air circulation...
Borlotti Lingua di Fuoco

...until the beans start falling out of the dried pods and they are ready to be hulled.

Tongues of Fire - also known as Cranberry Beans

The ones on the left are the earlier drier pods.

That's the whole crop - one wigwam's worth.  After drying they will store indefinitely (well nearly) and I will be able to use the same system to dry the Canadian Wonder beans.