Monday, 20 October 2014


This is just a brief update of what I've been up to since the last post.  Not a lot. I've just about finished the digging now and can leave the wind and weather to do its thing over the winter.  Some time this week I am going to give the asparagus bed a good mulching of compost/manure - just putting it round the plants to feed them and give them a bit of moisture retention.

The tomatoes in the greenhouse are now finished too. I've dug up the exhausted plants and put them on the compost heap, and I've fed the greenhouse soil bed with compost mixture from the heap.

Another job I have done is pick the pears from our young tree. I've not allowed it to set too much fruit this year because it's still a baby really, but we'll have a few juicy moments from what we do have. They are still a little bit hard, but if I had left them any longer, they would have been falling on the ground and bruising. I've just covered them in a dark place and I'll check them every couple of days to see how they are ripening, for buying fruit trees I can highly recommend this company.    They are ready to give good advice, and their products are excellent. We bought several fruit trees from them and they have all performed really well.

Picked and about to be stored in the dark until fully ripe.

Sunday, 5 October 2014


We grow enough peas to keep us going for about 9 months of the year.  Summer always sees a massive pea harvest throughout July with all the attendant work of picking, podding and freezing.  But there's nothing like the taste of homegrown vegetables, and you know where they've been! You can trace their life story from seed to stomach!

 Last year and this year, as soon as I've harvested the last pea, I have dug up the plants, thrown them on the compost heap and sown a fresh crop.  It's not half as prolific as that first sowing - I don't expect it to be because we're not getting the optimum hours of daylight and by September temperatures are starting to fall.  However, we still get a decent supplement and it's nice to have fresh peas straight out of the pod again in October.  The variety I grow is called Hurst Green Shaft and is widely available.  This second batch are just about ready for harvesting.

photo taken this morning with the early |October sun on the plants.

In other news the digging is coming on in leaps and bounds.  Here's where I'm up to now.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

DIGGING FOR VICTORY: And so it begins.

HAVING A COUPLE of days with not so much work on, I decided to start digging ready for next year.

I always make a start some time between the end of September to mid October and aim to be finished by Christmas. You don't have to do it all in a single day unless you happen to be a masochist!  I potter along steadily, doing 3 spits a day until I'm finished.

Because it gives a chance for the seasonal weather to do its work. I want the soil in spring to be friable and crumbly rather than in great big clods. Makes it easier to prepare for planting. If I dig in the autumn, then when the frosts arrive, the frozen moisture will expand inside the clods of soil and break it down for me. I might as well let nature lend a helping hand.

First I measure out the area I want to dig as a spit with some string or twine.  I have beds 3 foot wide
 for ease of weeding. If I am thinning carrots this means I can reach easily to do so without putting my foot in the bed. It's also utilising land to maximise the crop.  If I am planting Brussels sprouts or cauliflower, it's 2 foot between rows, so therefore in a 3 foot bed I can get two rows of cauliflowers or two rows of Brusselss sprouts. Most of it works out mathematically. It's 6 inches between rows of carrots and if you think of it mathematically you start off 3 inches from the edge of the bed, then go 6 inches, 6 inches 6 inches, 6 inches, 6 inches, you've filled the bed. That's more or less the 3 foot used up. Same as onions, you plant them 6 inches apart to give them room to grow, but also to leave room for the hoe to get between them. More on hoeing another time.

The next thing I do is take a wheelbarrow and fill it with some well rotted compost. If there is manure in it so much the better. We are fortunate in that we have  a farm and stables down the lane, so I have access to free horse manure. In the past I have bought trailer loads of pig and cow manure from farmers. If that has been unavailable then I have used tubs of chicken manure bought from old-fashioned gardening shops and centres where they still stock practical products as well as the frilly stuff!
I have a large compost heap I constructed myself from old slabs and pallets into which goes manure, straw, grass clippings, hedge clippings, potato peelings, egg shells, teabags, and any discards from cookery preparation of vegetables in the kitchen. Obviously no meat or cooked food because of attracting vermin. I also have two large ready-made plastic compost bins which contain the same sort of mixture. Here's my home made compost heap after a year. I found some mice nesting in it which made the dogs very interested indeed.  Jack caught and ate a mouse that had been nesting in the heap!                                                                        
off comes the front

You can see how the layers have rotted down.

mouse hunting!
forking compost into the barrow

Close up of a year's rotted down compost.

Digging the trench
The next thing I do is take a second empty wheelbarrow over to where I'm going to start digging my trench. Now I'm all set.
 I use my spade as a blade to mark out the first outline of the first cut in the trench. For me this is about a foot in length and a spade length deep. I put the soil from this first trench into the wheelbarrow and set it one side.
Once I have made the trench, I then fill it 2/3 full with the manure mixture out of wheelbarrow one. The next thing to do is dig another length of the spit i.e. the next foot long section behind the first one. The soil from that fills in the top of trench 1. I continue as before, putting in compost and manure to 2/3 the depth and topping with soil. When I get to the final trench length, that's when the spare wheelbarrow of soil gets used to top off the last bit.
Preparing to fork in the cmpost/manure

Compost in the trench
Same again. Plenty of straw in this helping

It will end up looking like a great long grave mound, but that's right. It can now be left for everything to settle and for the weather to do its work. Raking down and preparing to plant is a job for the spring. The next task now is to mark out another 3 foot width of trench and give it the same treatment. Repeat until  area is finished!
second trench dug and soil from it used to cover up and finish first trench. Jack supervises.
RIP until spring.

I wonder how hard it would be to do all this with a medieval spade. Here's one from the 12th century!

Sunday, 21 September 2014


Dear Visitor:

In a few weeks time I am going to start digging our garden. It's the end of the year and a beginning in  never ending cycle.  I'll begin blogging properly once I make a start with my spade, but for now, here's a  little bit about me.

I learned to garden from my father.  With five children money was tight and an allotment meant that we could grow our own produce cheaply and sell the surplus.  When my dad wasn't at work, he was usually to be found at the allotment being industrious with hoe and spade, string and net.
My dad, Bill, busy at work.
 As kids we went there with him and helped out at planting and harvesting time. It was near the canal and when we weren't helping out, we'd be off with our fishing nets and jam jars collecting frog spawn, or catching sticklebacks to put in the big old bathtub he kept on the allotment site.  I suspect many of the adventures we had would turn parents' hair white these days! The allotment was our adventure playground!
Me (centre smiling) with my four brothers and sisters, busy making our den at Dad's allotment

My older brother and I used to go door to door selling our surpluse produce among the closely packed houses of the old Meadows area in Nottingham.  Dad would take orders from regular customers and we were his delivery boys for which we were paid a couple of pennies each.

I learned the basics of gardening by watching and helping out.  When I married Elizabeth, again there wasn't much money at the outset, so the first thing we did when we bought our first house was turn the back garden over to growing fruit and vegetables. I put my name down for a local allotment and as soon as one came vacant, I took it on.
Planting seeds at our first allotment. This is me not long after we married.
It was a learning curve, but if ever I was unsure I had my dad to ask for guidance and it was something I not only enjoyed but loved doing. I've always enjoyed flowers and trees, but there is something even more satisfying about growing and eating your own produce. Not only is it more economical, but it tastes a million times better and you know what has gone into it.

potatoes growing earlier this year.  We're eating them now. The blog header
features me, my grand-daughter and Jack digging them up a few weeks ago.
 Several decades later we now have a different house and a garden that's large enough to accommodate what we need to grow. It's a practical garden for a practical purpose. We aim to be as close as possible to self sufficient with our basic fruit and veg.
One of the raised beds late spring with beetroot, onions and ca\rrots. Cabbages and cauliflowers
in the far bed and bordering the photo on the left, the blackberry bush.
This is what this blog will be about. My gardening year and my personal way of doing things.  It's a record for posterity, and readers are welcome to pick up hints and tips as I potter along on my way.

I still get a thrill digging potatoes and finding out what sort of crop is under the roots, and so does my grand-daughter as you can see from the main blog illustration. To engage with the soil and growing things is wonderful therapy.  I hope you'll join me in the weeks and months to come.
potatoes ready for use and winter storage.  These are Duke of York Red (good roasters and mashers
and Desiree which are graeat all round and stay fairly firm when boiled.