Veg seeds ordered and 30% off too!

I couldn’t help myself this morning, I spotted on Twitter that there was a one day 30% off promo code (TWITTER30) with (@SeedParade) so I figured I might as well give them a try this year. I’ve not used them before but they seem to have a fairly good selection (although no seed potatoes).

The deal was only valid for today (Fri 24 Jan 2014) but I had been contemplating the list of seeds to get for a few weeks so I was ready to place an order with someone.

Although the list looks fairly extensive when I read the email confirmation, the idea was to try a good variety of things that we would eat to get a better idea of what works here. I also don’t have to plant all the seeds from every packet I’ve bought so I could keep some for next year – I doubt that will happen though!

This years efforts should give a better guide for future years than my limited efforts during the last half of 2013 so that I don’t waste time on crops that simply don’t suit the site, environment or soil conditions.

The vegetable seeds ordered, in no particular order:

  • Dwarf French Bean Tendergreen
  • Beetroot Boltardy
  • Leek Giant Winter
  • Pea Purple Podded
  • Swede Marian
  • Sweetcorn Sweet Nugget F1
  • Carrot Nantes
  • Lettuce Cos Little Gem
  • Courgette Early Gem F1
  • Winter Squash – Waltham Butternut
  • Cabbage January King
  • Parsnip Countess F1
  • Cabbage Red Drumhead

Plus there were also a few herbs as well for variety:

  • Chamomile
  • Chives
  • French Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Greek Oregano

Hopefully with a bit of careful planning and a little succession sowing I can try out some of everything I’ve ordered this year. There might be a slight space problem (as usual) but with 4 new raised beds already and one more that could still be built I think everything might work out okay.

My next job is working out what will be planted where and when…



Planting trees – watch this space!

Single Oak
Single Oak

After a dull, rainy day on Saturday the better weather on Sunday afternoon meant a burst of activity was both necessary and unavoidable.

Finally the trees that had been collected the week before could be planted after spending a week in their bags in an outbuilding.

As bare root plants, I suppose they might have lasted one more week with a quick check and maybe some water on their roots but I’m much happier  now knowing that the job has been done.

This first batch was intended to provide some much needed diversity to the existing shelter belt by adding some more native broad-leaf trees. There are already quite a few very old beech and oak trees but far more larch/pine which are getting past their best.

For those with a more detailed interest in trees, this order consisted of the following:

4 x FAGUS SYLVATICA (Common Beech)
4 x QUERCUS ROBUR (English Oak)
5 x BETULA PENDULA (Silver Birch)
3 x BETULA PUBESCENS (Downy Birch)

From my point of view, one of the unexpected joys of planting trees for the first time was the slow realisation that all your work will take years to develop which is such a contrast to the more immediate gratification of planting vegetable seeds.

It has been suggested that some of our trees are well into their second century which puts day-to-day life into perspective a little!

Most of this new planting was to fill an existing gap where some older trees had obviously come down long ago but never been replaced.  A couple of the English Oak were planted elsewhere though to fill out some spots before any gaps develop.

Time will tell how successful my efforts have been (a great deal of time in fact) but by the end of the afternoon I was certainly glad the work was finished!

Filling an empty patch of woodland
Filling an empty patch of woodland
A gap waiting to be filled
A gap waiting to be filled


Raised bed progress

Despite having started constructing the raised veg beds back in October, further progress has been a little slow due to the high number of distractions in the intervening months. One thing is becoming very clear since we moved here, it’s all too easy to find yourself with many projects started but none fully completed!

With these new raised veg beds, the intention was always to come up with some covers to help extend the growing season but initially I had no particular approach in mind. Finally the delays got to me so I ordered some supplies from Premier Polytunnels  including a decent length of polythene to use as a cover.

At the same time, I took the opportunity to order a decent length of ground cover fabric to go in between the raised beds. It seems wise to get that in place sooner rather than later!

In an earlier post I showed the first stages of adding the water pipe hoops on one of the raised beds but with an hour or two to spare last weekend I finally completed the work on two of the four raised beds. This new area alone is more growing space than I had in the last house never mind the original vegetable bed here which is also expected to be fully utilised this year.

Polythene covers in place
Polythene covers in place

At least I can relax now if the chickens decide to invade the garden because the onions and garlic (on the left) and soft fruit bushes (at the back) are suitably protected. The onions in the nearest bed will just have to take their chances for the moment with a low fence around them – it seems that the chickens can’t be bothered to flap over that.

There is still some final work needed to properly tighten up the covers so that they can survive any bad weather but I’m still contemplating the best way of attaching the polythene to the raised veg beds. I’d like to make it completely removable if possible but perhaps it’s better to just attach it on one side so that it can be rolled back if needed.

Further ideas

There was always plans for another raised bed in this area but I’m inclined to hold back on that in case I take on more than can be properly managed in the coming year. Having said that, I usually buy far too many seeds each spring so I may hurriedly build something once I’ve filled up all other available space.

It will probably be best to completely fence off this new growing area – to prevent damage as a result of football in the garden, to stop any destruction by the chickens (and rabbits) and also from sheep being brought through to the fields at the back as well. That’s not a combination of problems I’ve had to consider in the past but I’m not complaining…

Endings and beginnings

As it turned out, the end of 2013 also coincided with the end for a couple of spare cockerels from the clutch of eggs that hatched during the summer. Perhaps not the most celebratory of starts to New Years Eve but the job needed to be done.

While still not a pleasant task, the steps are more clear now and once I work up the nerve the actual killing is done with minimal stress for both the birds and me!

Plucking is another story and for some strange reason I find myself unable to take that on. I can deal with the killing and the butchering later on so perhaps I just need that intervening time to deal with the change from live animal to carcass.

Dip, pluck, repeat...
Dip, pluck, repeat…

There are 2 or 3 more unwanted “gentlemen” still with the flock so it’s only a matter of time before they get dealt with too. For the moment, they don’t realise their lucky escape by not perching close to the door of the coop but the clock is ticking for them as well

New year, New start

The start of a new year is always a good time to think ahead to the growing season but as usual I’m way ahead of myself and thinking about the raised vegetable beds already!

The first task for New Years Day was to set up some sort of cover for the raised bed where the soft fruit bushes were planted a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t expected to lose a raised bed for these but given the state of the ground when I planted the fruit trees it seemed a wise idea to sacrifice it.

Soft fruit, raised bed
Soft fruit, raised bed

A handy coil of old water piping behind a barn was soon put to good use and I’m quite impressed with the results. There is even enough piping left over to deal with a couple more raised beds and even better, a little less rubbish left behind the barn!

I’m not sure where to get the plastic (or netting) to put over this but I’m sure that Google will be able to point me in the right direction. Once that is in place I can see whether there are any noticeable benefits and that might help me decide about getting a greenhouse and/or a polytunnel in future.

Rain stopped play

After the rain set on for the afternoon, the obvious plan was to head for the kitchen and get on with some other jobs.

There was a quick round of sausage making – pork and leek if you’re interested – as we had just about run out over the Christmas period. Due to a miscalculation with the length of sausage casings, I’m left with a supply of sausage meat which will probably be used to make Scotch Eggs or maybe try a “Scotch Egg Pie” recipe I’ve come across.

The moment of glory for this afternoons efforts was the loaf of bread though. In my humble opinion a quite spectacular loaf and proof enough for me that I have mastered my basic loaf recipe based on one I found on the New Zealand Kitchen Aid website.

Getting the hand of bread making
Getting the hand of bread making

All in all, an excellent, productive day and a good start to the new year!