Saturday, 1 June 2013

Sunshine and showers

So now we are having a proper early summer. And with these perfect conditions everything is growing like mad..... Except for our seedlings. We tend to start as much as possible in pots because we live in the Wet Country, and we have armies of slugs who will decimate entire beds of crops in no time, so to prevent the heartache and wasted energy, we start under glass. As we are still making compost to fill our raised beds we have been using bought potting compost since we've been here. Generally seedlings don't need a very rich growing medium as much of their initial energy comes from the seed. Some compost manufacturers seem to have taken this premise a little too far and decided that selling bags of semi-rotted wood chips, bark and twigs (albeit organic) passes for a growing medium. What happens with this kind of 'compost' is that the plants germinate and get away well with the energy stored in the seed and the nutrients in the compost. But the nutrients quickly run out and the seedlings end up in stasis at about 3 inches tall, and gradually turn yellow. So, with all of the spare time Doug has (!) he repotted everything with some of our own precious compost, and they are now coming on nicely once more. This has stalled us a bit, so combined with the cold weather everything is running a bit late.

Stiil, we are now feeling brave enough to harden off the peas!

I am using my usual technique for growing coriander, which always bolts and only tolerates one cutting (in my experience). I broadcast it into a large tray and cut bunches when required. I then sow the next tray 2 weeks later to ensure a constant supply. I do love coriander, so we get through plenty of it, and its very easy to save seed from, so we just let the last few plants go to seed and save them for next year.

An advantage of the long winter seems to be a knock to the slug population, so I have boldly laid down some hay as a mulch in my herb bed (mulch can harbour slugs as it provides a nice living environment for them, so it can increase your population). With the sunshine and showers weeds are currently my biggest concern. The hay bales were left over from our wedding last year - we didn't feed to them our guests, but used the bales as seating in the kid's yurt! Hay is a good mulching material, but beware if using old animal bedding.....

The ammonia from animal urine can scorch the plants. Having said that, one must always leave space around the plants to avoid the mulch causing the base of the plant to rot.

Both kinds of artichokes are going strong! Jerusalem artichokes become very tall and can fall over, and when they flower is pays to cut off the flowers to get better always feels a bit mean, but essentially you must tie them up and cut off their heads!

Beetroot is looking good - what would we do without it? Slug proof and entirely edible!

The hostas are showing evidence of a dwindled slug population....last year they looked like lace!

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