growing

Wood Chippings, the ‘no dig’ Gold

I’ve been bugging a few local tree surgeons for wood chippings for a while in order to continue on my ‘no dig’ journey. Today was my lucky day; two seperate people called me and said they had a truck load of chippings! 

I received cherry, sycamore, some Holly and a bit of ‘random shrub’. All of which I believe can be mulch material for most perennials. I asked if there was any conifer type material as I would have seperated this out to make ericacious compost for the acid loving plants like Holly and Blueberries. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent barrowing the haul on next year’s edible shrub and hop bed which has the following layers:

1) 3 Trenches dug through turning over topsoil (we had a man and digger hired in for another job so he managed this pretty quickly)

2) Twigs, sticks and any other woody material I could find at the time placed at the bottom of the trench.

3) Topsoil shovelled back on top but upside down.

4) 6 month old (fresh) manure (about 8 inches)

5) Man made banner (plastic sheeting)

The bed has been like this for about 6 months.

I dug the trenches initially so I could add the wood material (hugelkultur style). However, it will be no-dig from now on as are all of my other beds. This is how the bed looked half covered (it was dark when I finished)

All of this area will eventually be  mulched with organic material for both growing fruit, veg, herbs and hops and pathways. I’m killing the grass off over the winter using man made materials and layering the beds up with whatever organic material I can get my hands on. Most recently are unwanted leaves (why do people discard their leaves? Oh well, I’ll have them!) And seaweed.

Seaweed is controversial to me now as I found a needle in the last lot and I feel bad for taking it from mother Earth. What I do make sure I do whenever I go to the beach is to pick up as much plastic as possible so I at least feel that I am giving back.

You can kind of see from the last picture the bed on the right is topped with a layer of mouldy hay with seaweed on top. The bottom layer is 18 month old manure. This bed will be ready in 2 years’ time for annuals, maybe sooner for bushes or shrubs.

This year (well, 2017) I haven’t dug over any of my beds in an effort to establish if no-dig is possible. Mulch and mulch and mulch with anything you can get your hands on is the current method I am adopting; whilst carefully making sure that there are layers of different mulches when trying to create ‘soil’ in new beds. From my recent reading, soil should never be bare. It needs it’s protection blanket (mulch) to protect from weathering and weeds and to keep nutrients and water in too.

What do you guys think? Have you tried no-dig? What are your favourite mulches?

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Winter sowing! 

I’ve decided that it’s time to start sowing seeds. January has almost passed and although there is still a bit of morning snow on the ground, my trusty books and seed packets advise me that you can show seeds under cover in these winter months. 

I decided to plant some cauliflower in small pots, cabbage in modules, broad beans in a large piece of guttering and peas in the small piece of guttering. The guttering (with drainage holes) allows easy transplanting with minimum root damage and will be kept in the greenhouse. The cauliflower and cabbage are resting nicely on a south facing window sill as I doubt they will germinate otherwise!

Where possible, I get my seeds from Chase Organics, The Organic Gardening Catalogue. You pay a few pennies more per packet, but it is worth it for me to support non GMO and non chemical growing practices. I had great success from last years’ seeds, so fingers crossed this year!! 

Harvesting the Overwintering Onions and Leeks

I absolutely love onions and leeks so decided to try my luck and plant some in November in my 2014 root bed (as it won’t need manuring) in hope that they will be ready in March. It is May now and they are big enough to harvest! (Phewf!).

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I’ve decided to harvest them now before they go to seed and/or rot in the ground. We have had a spell of heavy rain which has swollen them but also could encourage rotting.

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They taste delicious!  🙂

Transparent Shoebox Planter

My partner wants to start growing veg, herbs and flowers but doesn’t have a greenhouse or many windowsills. We found these transparent shoeboxes for 89p in a home discount store and used the biodegradable pots as vessels for the seedlings. (Actually using the inside of loo rolls would be perfect for these boxes).

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They are indoors now to warm the soil up but when the seedlings appear, the boxes can go outside until each plant is strong enough to be open to the elements! We are growing herbs, beans, peas and some mixes bedding flowers so they should be ok! Fingers crossed!

Seaweed and Potatoes!

My family are from Anglesey so when I went back at Christmas, decided to rent a van and bring back as much seaweed as possible for the allotment!

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I rinsed the diesel transporting what must have been half a tonne of seaweed back to Leicester and managed to mulch one of my beds. There are many benefits of using seaweed on your plot…mulch to prevent weeds from growing and a nice warm start to the ground, nitrogen, yummy carbohydrates to give veg nutrients, slightly salty to prevent slugs. Perfect! All the other allotmenteers thought I was nuts to have so much seaweed on one bed but the effort has paid off!

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Although I had to break up some bits of dry seaweed; the rain, worms and elements had made sure the seaweed rotted down nicely into the bed. Suprisingly, the earth was full of worms and really workable!

I decided to put my earlies in this bed (rocket and some supermarket sprouting pots) so will let you know how they get on!

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Seeds, seeds seeds!

Today was a beautiful sunny day in March and the first day I have spent in my new home’s garden! I have been very lucky as the house has little homemade extras, including a tall lean-to greenhouse; south facing and big enough to germinate most of my seeds.

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Today I intended to use up last years’ unused packeted seeds. Tomato (moneymaker), chilli (cayenne), and sweet pepper. Some of them might not take so I sowed them in bulk in the fruit punnets seen above. I read an interesting blog earlier actually about sterilzing soil for seedlings through heating compost on a bbq – was too much effort today for me but i might try it soon – see if there is any difference in success rates! When they become seedlings I will transplant stronger ones into pots and grow on as usual. My friends have started gardening so if I have too many will swap and share with them.

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As you can see I have a bank of bought and saved seeds. Every time I sow, I label up the variety and date and note it down in my allotment planner so I can compare successes and failures year on year. The weather is so unpredictable these days that I’ve stopped sticking so rigidly to planting times! “Get ’em in” is my motto!

I’m still finding little extras with my new house; today I found some capsicum so planted a whole tray of them. Onions, peppers, garlic and chilli are all core foods in my diet and I love to have a selection of flavours!

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The capsicum found in my outhouse!  Fingers crossed that they germinate! 🙂

The first seeds of spring! :)

The sun is shining and spring is here! Time to start planting some seeds. It is still a bit cold out there at night and in the mornings so I started my lettuce and rocket seedlings off under a polythene bag indoors on the kitchen windowsill!

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I like to re-use anything I can to be environmentally friendly. As you can see I’m using fruit punnets as pots and cut up yoghurt pots as seedling labels.