seaweed, cosmos, asparagus et al

At last it seems the asparagus bed may be taking off. Another large top dressing of seaweed from West Wittering seems to have really helped and new shoots are arriving almost every day now. Perhaps next year there may be enough to safely harvest…

The cosmos has been wonderful, even a bit over-exuberant. Sweet peas & zinnias too.

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amazing what a bit of warmth can do

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ah, now I remember what it’s all for!

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poppy

How poignant that on the 100 year anniversary of the calamitous inception of the Battle of the Somme, this reprieved self-seeded poppy should finally reveal its sanguineous colour.

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sunday best

The allotment judges will be doing their rounds soon so I assuaged my post-referendum bleakness with a weekend of tidying. It’s not so much a desire to ‘win’ – more a sense of wanting my beloved huerto to be looking her best.

Above we have: lettuces ( Flashy Butter Oak Bicolour Oakleaf Lettuce & Red Iceberg, both from the Real Seed Company), courgettes (Romanesco, Bianca, Soleil), Mara des Bois strawberries along with cheery french marigolds and tomatoes (Crimson Crush & Sweet Aperitif), broad beans (crimson flowered & Red Epicure) and asparagus.

The peas and beans are finally taking off and I trimmed the box hedging so it looks nice again, despite what I had feared was blight but now appears to be regrowing. And the flowers are also starting to smile bravely, in between showers (sometimes hail).

The standard gooseberry seems well recovered from the trauma of an overloaded branch breaking, while the quince tree needed a severe pruning to stop it taking too much space – only a few fruit on it this year, due I think to the flowers being badly frosted.

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early summer promise

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If you click on an image you can see the detail better. Particularly pleased with the gooseberries this year. And the red sweetcorn is starting to grow…

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pigeons, peas and red sweetcorn

After such a good start and me feeling all pleased with the peas and pretty birch structures, Nature has struck back in the form of pigeons who have pretty well demolished all the healthy young plants. Windmills are clearly not enough to deter them. So I have put temporary netting over the whole lot and hope this will keep the beaky raiders off while the various peas get properly established. Oddly, they have shown no interest in the adjacent and equally young lettuces which remain intact & growing well.

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More happily, the double red sweetcorn seed that I sourced from the remarkable Dr Alan Kapuler has just started to germinate, so I dare to hope that it will succeed healthily in making the leap from Oregon USA to a roundabout in the UK home counties. Treasured marigold seeds also from Kapuler’s Peace Seeds are also germinating well; a variety named Frances’s Choice. I was seduced by its story (from Alan Kapuler’s “Mushroom’s Blog”):

Towards the end of Frances Hoffman’s life, I would wander the garden and pick her a bouquet. She was a lifetime seed saver, horticulturist and plant genius so my eyes were open to the unusual and unique. By the time I had picked several dozen kinds of flowers, I walked down a 40’ row of China Cat MG and saw a heretofore unseen flower, single petaled ie 8 petals, dark red-purple with a gold rim around each petal. I cut the flower and put it in her bouquet and tagged the plant. A few days later, on the phone, she expressed her appreciation for the flowers. Her only specific comment was ‘that’s a right beautiful single marigold’. So having tagged the plant and collected several mature, fertile, seeding flowers. I planted them the following year and got a 40’ row, all with the same flower as I sent Frances. Of particular relevance here is that the seeds from the one plant, now called Frances’s Choice bred true in spite of the layout wherein the one plant was in a direct seeded row of about 300 plants of a marigold mix that upon close inspection can be seen to have virtually every plant different from one another. So we found that most of the T. patula’s breed true rather quickly. This is not true of Tagetes erecta which outcrosses very easily. Frances’s Choice is 3-5’ tall and has 8-9” long stems, ideal for picking for small, distinctive and outstanding bouquets.

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progress

With a bit ofIMG_3371 warmth things are progressing well, and some nice leeks and psb for supper. More seeds planted today: beetroot Chioggia / Cheltenham Green Top and yellow cylindrical as well as a white variety; two Turkish chillis Urfa Biber & Aci Sivri and Purple Jalapeneo; purple basil (which was wonderful last year); flat leaved parsley and some dwarf yellow french beans, variety Rocquencourt.

The broad beans and various peas are all looking healthy and salad leaves/radishes also taking off. The only pestilential activity I’ve found was a mass of aphids on the roses – my green thumb and finger a clue to their fate…

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seagrass shed

A dry May Day allowed me to paint the shed; much needed new livery to match its recently waterproofed roof. I’m not sure that the colour is as bonny as the previous blue, but it’s certainly better than the rather tatty algae finish that the winter months had generated. Note also the quince tree, recovered from its frosting and greening up again, as is the espalier apple tree on the other side.

And it’s comforting to see that the pea and broad bean seedlings planted out over recent days are all looking happy and healthy in situ. I’ve also continued with the no-dig method and added a good layer of home made compost to what will be this year’s courgette bed.

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a constructive weekend

Twisting twiggy birch brooms (sound like the start of an old fashioned tongue twister) turns out to be not only immensely absorbing but also rather therapeutic. Hours passed unnoticed as I transformed piles of branches into woven supports for the various peas I currently have germinating – Golden Sweet (yellow) and Shiraz (purple) mangetout, tall heritage pea Lord Leicester and dwarf petit pois Charmette.

The shed roof has been leaking gently all winter and somehow there was never time to fix it properly – until this weekend. Luckily it was perfect weather to let it all dry out before giving it a smart new hat. I had to do some rather alarming acrobatics to apply the gloopy bituminous glue, but got it all done just as the rain was starting. (By the way, the hubcap scarecrow in the background is my neighbour’s take on Jeremy Clarkson; it certainly gave me a fright, if not the pigeons!)

 

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