Sunday, 26 February 2017

More In Hope Than Expectation

It's that time of year when you are fed up waiting for spring.  On Thursday I looked out anything from my seed collection that could possibly be sown in February and filled twelve small pots - as many as I could fit in two seed trays which themselves fit snugly in my propagator. Just a sprinkling of seed in each - let's see what happens! Said propagator is tucked out of the way in the coal cellar which has a power supply and a grow light ready for when the first sprouts appear.

Don't forget those labels

That was Thursday, on Friday the view of the Pentland Hills (just south of Edinburgh) suggested that I might have got a bit carried away:

The Pentland Hills

 My impatience seems to be shared judging by other gardening blogs.

Like Starting Over

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Weird Science

It's a long time since I did a pH test on the soil at the plot so I ordered up some fresh tablets from the net. I took four soil samples from around the plot. The good news is that green is in evidence. I would say these readings correspond with the slight acid to neutral guide colours. Wouldn't you?

Guess what the pH kit came with 3 more test kits - for NPK    Nitrogen Phosphorous and Potassium the three main groups of nutrients required by plants.

Now here's the results for a soil sample taken from last years sweetcorn patch (this year's carrot patch) P looks OK, K a bit dodgy and N  "depleted".  The story was the same in the soft fruit area and the old allium patch (this years spuds). Boy I need some nitrogen and quick.

The good news were that these areas have had no supplements this year whereas the Brassica patch (last years "others") has been treated with fertiliser (calcified seaweed and Fish Blood and Bone) and came up trumps on the nitrogen front, (as well as the P and K)

Looking at these I can get away without lime this year but I'm going to need some high Nitrogen addition to my depleted soil.  Chicken Manure springs to mind.

Friday, 17 February 2017

To Bee Or Not To Bee

Spot the entrance holes?

Last year I started noticing bumble bees in our garden.  Then I picked up an identification pamphlet issued by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.  Next thing you know I was researching how to build a bumble bee hostel.   By this stage it was too late on in the year to be of any benefit, so I shelved my plans for the winter. Now has my enthusiasm waned?  Not at all. Currently I am reading "A Sting In The Tale" by Dave Goulson a hilarious and informative read I would recommend to anyone.  Recently I bought a willow tree with the primary purpose of encouraging bumble bees and today, taking advantage of the warmer weather,  I deployed two hostels under the hedge alongside the pond.

Key Elements:  Roof, Platform and Access Pipe

Nest building materials inside the pot

And here's a picture of the target of this exercise (taken last autumn)

From what I read it is touch and go whether either of these hostels will be adopted.  Let's wait and see!

Bee Bumble

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Spuds I Like

This year I have thrown caution to the wind and bought seed potatoes at the beginning of February. (Our local potato day is not until the end of February).  The reason for this early start is that in recent years all the varieties I have been keenest on have been sold out or didn't feature in the potato day. The varieties I am after:

Epicure: Strictly for the home gardener as the vegetable retailer shun them due to their shape (small irregular with deep eyes) and are unfashionably floury for a new potato. But early these are. They a reputedly the best variety for withstanding cold and even shrugging off a frosting. I found these in Edinburgh garden centres but they are in short supply and the first to be sold out. Home growers comeback to this variety year after year.

Ballydoon: We got some of the BOG's (Borders Organic Growers) potato day about 15 years ago and loved them. It's another floury early. Said to be an Ayreshire potato dating back to the 1930s and popular in Ireland as the best potato to make champ with. We saved our own seed but accidentally ate the last of them a good decade ago. I have never found a supplier since - until this year when a sufficiently early internet search and a willingness to pay postage and packing on top saw 20 seed potatoes arrive in the post. I'm looking forward to reaquainting myself with this variety.

Rooster: Come with the Albert Bartlett branding (is there copyright in potato genes?) They don't need any advertising from me, but I got the last bag at the third garden centre I visited. These are also high in dry matter and grow to the size you can use for baking. Red skinned they somehow seem to avoid damage from pests. How I do not know. I've grown them every year since experimenting with them.

Winston - I remembered these from someone else's blog (thanks Sue & Martyn) and bought them on impulse. They should be interesting to compare with Rooster as they are white wet and reputedly suffer from soil pests. We shall see.!

Above all my early start has meant I am growing the varieties I want to grow this year!