Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Back to school

So, with my satchel packed and new school shoes buffed to a shine, I headed off to college to start my horticulture course. I figure that as knowledge is there to be shared, I will post one little tidbit, factoid or tip on my blog from each class.
So, is everyone sitting comfortably? Be quiet at the back! No, you'll have to go to the toilet at breaktime! Today's gardening knowledge is the distinction between monocotyledons and dicotyledons. A cotyledon is the name for a seed leaf, so the former have one seed leaf, the latter 2. In simple terms, veg such as onion, shallots and leeks are monocotyledons and veg such as parsnips, cabbage and celeriac are dicotyledons. Obviously, you do need to see a plant at emergence stage to determine its type using this method.
So there you go - 2 long scientific words that you can throw into conversation with your non-gardening buddies - they'll be most impressed!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pottering on the patio...

Tidying and clearing were the keywords on the suburban veg plot this weekend. Sweeping out the greenhouse, folding up sheets of weed suppressant fabric, organising the plant pots and soft drink bottle cloches in a tidy fashion in the shed. You see, winter has now gone and I want everything to look nice on the plot. Well, that and I'm fed up of falling over things.

Even the patio got a bit of a makeover with the moving of the newly painted ladder allotment into its summer position. As you can see, I'm trying a first attempt at strawberry growing. We have wild strawberries growing in some of the flower beds but for the grow bags I purchased Cambridge Favourite plants, from which I hope to get a harvest from this year. My next job is to affix some netting to the very top of the ladder and drape it over the plants once fruiting. With any luck, that will keep the greedy birds away!

Elsewhere in the suburban veg plot, most things are growing well. The parsnips that were all painstakingly started out indoors in loo roll tubes are all growing well in their dedicated bed.

After suffering an onslaught of slug terror in late March, my purple podded peas have made a spirited recovery and are heading up the trellis. I did sow a couple of back-up peas so it looks like we'll have another glut of these this year. I do need to save more of these this year so perhaps I'll focus on doing that earlier rather than later in the summer to avoid pea moth problems.

The dwarf peas (Half Pint) have taken to the pot very well after the initial rotting problems. Here's hoping for a harvest soon!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An occasional mention of fruit

Now, eagle-eyed blog readers will notice that I have used the word fruit here - despite the blog being called the Suburban VEG Plot. Well, I will admit to having a few fruit trees/plants/bushes dotted around the place, however most of them survive despite the lack of attention they are shown.
But I decided to survey the current stock of fruit and report my findings and pictures here.

Firstly, the fruit trees that came with the garden when we bought our house: 2 pear trees - one is a mere shadow of itself due to experiencing a severe pruning the year I sited more raised beds and realised I needed to get in between them (exactly where the tree stands). The other is already showing some buds:

Secondly apple trees. There were 2 but the smaller one bought the farm in year one (It was smack bang in the middle of the veg plot raised beds and I kept turning round sharply into it quite frequently. Thus it was me or the tree.) But the remaining one is a nice size and despite giving us no apples last year, we are hopeful of some kind of crop in 2010 as the new growth is developing nicely.

Next is a blackcurrant bush. This I obtained on one of those 'free with £2.95 postage' gardening magazine offers. Planted it, it took well but it soon became obvious it was overshadowed when the rhubarb got going. Thus I moved it at the beginning of 2010 into a border by the patio - a week before I discovered I'd managed to kill off said rhubarb anyway...

And lastly, a tayberry plant. Obtained with a similar gardening magazine offer, this one arrived in March 09 and went into the greenhouse in his little pot until I found the time to plant him out. I managed to find that time in March 2010!! I was quite prepared for the plant to be dead as a courgette in December, but amazingly the odd watering it received in the greenhouse somehow kept it going and having planted it out along the same border as the blackcurrant, I can already see signs of new growth! The plan is to use the fence behind them to rig up some kind of netting over them both.

So there you go - fruit corner lives on in the Suburban Veg Plot.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Compost aplenty

In order to improve the structure and texture of the soil in the
suburban veg plot, the contents of the compost heap have been spread
liberally on the still vacant beds. The suburban veg plot compost heap
is housed in a self-built structure of 3 wooden pallets with a sliding
panel front. It is also divided down the centre to form 2 separate
The compost heap is fed liberally with our vegetable waste, flower and plant material, lawn mowings in the summer, cardboard (especially egg boxes) and copious amounts of shredded paper (taking advantage of the fact that bank details will be pretty illegible by the time they've passed through a worm or two).
We fill only one side of the heap at a time to give the other side
time to really rot down, stirring it occasionally. Then every 12
months or so, the rotted side is emptied out over the raised beds or
added to the potato sacks and the other side is forked over the
partition and left alone. This leaves us with an empty side to start
filling again. Brilliantly simple!

Monday, April 5, 2010

On the garden (war) path - grrrrr

Honestly, you turn your back for 5 minutes (well, 8 days) to fit in a bit of late season skiing action and when you come back all hell has broken loose in the suburban veg plot. My lovely healthy purple podded pea plants have been set upon by my most hated of garden nasties - slugs. I have no actual documented evidence - I could be blaming them entirely in the place of a slimy snail or two - but it's slugs I like the least so I'll stick with them. Of only 5 plants I planted out (they're a heavy cropper and we were overcome by the harvest last spring) 1 of them is a definite goner, with 2 possibly hanging on in there on life support. The last 2 put on a growth spurt and managed to shrug off the worst offending nibblers. Looks like I'll have to soak a couple of spare pea seeds as back up.

Secondly, I think the weather is to blame for my pea rotting problems this year. Despite my creative sowing in the guttering lengths, only 3 Feltham First peas look like they're sprouting - and they were planted back in January! I sowed the remainder (I had only a few from a seed swap) and a couple of those have rotted also!
I recently sowed Half Pint peas in a pot for the patio - 7 of approx 15 plants came up at the end of March, but on forensic investigation (furtling beneath the soil) I discovered the remainder had gone all squishy. So I've resowed some of those in the pot now and hopefully they will 1) not rot, and 2) catch up with the first few - shown here in the photo