Sunday, 9 May 2021

Serre volante

This greenhouse just isn't up to the Mayenne weather.   Today threatened thunderstorms, and although we never got a torrential downpour, we did get some strong winds.    These can cause to break or bend, the plastic joints holding the metal struts of the greenhouse together.   

I had been holding the cover down with big rocks but they weren't doing the job so I let the cover blow off and lie on the ground.   Better that than a knackered frame.   Meanwhile I dug over the rest of the soil in the greenhouse, getting the rocks out.  Frankly it was better to work in the open air than in the 38° heat inside.

No frosts expected tonight.  I'll finish the digging tomorrow and put the cover back on when the winds have died down.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Tomato hats

When I started gardening, I thought that overnight frosts would start when the air temperature goes down to 0°C or below.   It wasn't long before a few dead plants proved me wrong.   Given that water freezes at 0°, I don't know why we get frosts when the overnight low hits 3°, but we do.

Something else that I learnt was that tomato plants will survive in low temperatures until frost forms on the leaves, then they've had it.  Aubergines however will start to wilt if they get down to about 6 degrees - they really don't like the cold.

I tend to be a bit to eager to start planting in Spring, so I get to the stage where the plants want to go outside, having outgrown their pots, but it is still too cold.   Under this duress, I put out a few of the larger  tomatoes plants rather early, keeping the less advanced ones indoors.    I find that hiding the plants under paper hats made from folded newspaper will usually keep the frost off, whenever the forecast is for 3° or a bit lower overnight. 

In the morning, the hats are either damp with dew, or frosted, so they're not good for keeping and I put them on the compost heap.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

The season

We've had such a warm Springtime here that I feel like I'm way behind in the garden.   It's so warm that it seems like the plants should be more advanced, and that I should have done rather more than I have.   But in reality, we're not yet into May, and we haven't necessarily had the last frosts; these warm spells can give a false sense of security.

So we take pleasure in the early Iris that are out, and offer another exhibit in my bid for a job as BBC wildlife photographer; a hare in the garden this morning.

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Second hand

I needed a vat to hold water for the new veg area that I have been working on.  It would be difficult to buy one, since the nearest shop that has one in stock is at Le Mans, and we can't go there until the lockdown restrictions are lifted, planned for May 3rd.   I suppose I could wait.

Anita hit on the idea of looking for a more local, used one that we could get immediately.   And there it was, on Facebook marketplace, not 10Km from us, brand, new, unused, a bit over half price.   What's not to like?  We went to get it.

So I spent most of today preparing an area for a concrete base for it.  Tomorrow I'll buy the concrete, and I'll have the vat in place shortly.

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Soggy moggy

Cat came in this morning covered in cow manure.  How on earth did he manage that?  He's had a shower and is not happy, and he still smells of cow.

*Sings:*  Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are you swimming in?

Seed time

I've been busy in the garden.   Now is the time for planting veg seeds for the forthcoming season.  I'm trying out a few things for the first time, including getting sweet potatoes to grow.  We kept a shop-bought specimen in the fridge and last week I chopped it into chunks and planted them.  We shall see.

The tomatoes and sweet peppers are doing well, and I'll put them out once the last frosts are past.   At the moment, the forecast is for 3°C on Wednesday 28th, so if on that date the forecast for the next few weeks is still for nothing colder, I'll plant them out.

I've expanded the veg area somewhat.  Last year I cleared out the brambles from a new area, and I have been slowly pick-axeing the stones and rocks out of it.   I don't think it has ever been ploughed.   I take hope for the quality of the soil in the fact that it's got lots of nettles, a weed that is picky about soil nutrients.   So I have a new, useful area just in front of a low SW-facing dry stone wall, that I expect will retain the sun's heat.   I have put plastic netting in front of it for climbing plants, and put peas down this morning.   I also bought some black plastic water pipe so I can water the area.

The raised beds are more or less under control.  In the far one you can just about see the twisty tomato stakes in place ready to recieve the plants, the next one has the over-wintered broad beans.   This is the second year I have tried these and again I'm disappointed by the success rate.  Only about half of them germinated, and of those that did, only about 3/4 have survived.   I will get a (small) early crop however, and I'll plant the remaining beans that I have in the gaps, for a later crop.   Meanwhile I've planted carrots, beetroot, parsnips and spinach in the same bed alongside them.   

The next bed is ready for onions and other root crops, and is yielding the last of the brassicas from last year, in the form of purple sprouting broccolli.  In the next bed the bean stakes are ready for the Borlotti beans.   These have an excellent flavour and Anita uses them in a superb cassoulet that she makes, an activity that I like to encourage.

The gooseberry bed is a mess, so moving on, the nearest raised bed is for brassicas.  The sprouts are well-advanced but the rest seemed to take a dislike to the compost I used: they germinated, but then stopped growing, so I have planted new seeds directly into the soil.

Lastly I have put a tarpaulin down in the new area in front of the wall, for growing squash.  I have butternut seeds left from last year and new seeds of a red Uchiki Kuri squash. Next projects are for sweet corn, climbing French beans, and dwarf French beans.

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