Archive for the ‘Backyard Farming’ Category

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With the ground warming up around the UK and some parts passing their Last Frost date, we can all start sowing most of the crops now (There are still crops which can be sown from the March and April month lists)…

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Organic Sweetcorn can be grown in your own back Garden !

Outdoors:

  • Maincrop sowings of root crops – carrots, beetroot, leeks, radishes, turnips etc

  • French, runner and broad beans, mangetout & podding peas – sow in modules/pots if you have trouble with slugs/mice etc

  • All the brassicas can still be sown this month for overwintering – kale, brussels sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli, summer and winter cabbages, calabrese and cauliflowers

  • Leaf beets inclduing Swiss Chard

  • Herbs including parsley, coriander and others

  • Keep sowing salads, Much better a small sowing every 2-3 weeks than a large patch that bolts before you can eat it

  • Early sowings of fennel – if you have trouble with it bolting, wait until mid-June

  • Sweetcorn – but only sow direct if the weather, and soil, are warm, if not then start it off in modules / small pots.

  • Salad Onions

In trays or pots

  • Brassicas & Salad Onions (If you have slug / snail problems)

  • French, runner and broad beans, all types of peas

  • Sweetcorn

In trays or pots indoors

  • Courgettes, squashes, cucumbers and melons – ideally best sown by the end of May

In a polytunnel / greenhouse

  • Summer salads

  • Basil & coriander

  • Plant out summer crops (tomatoes, peppers etc) started indoors once you’re certain night time temperatures won’t fall too low

Maintenance

  • Application of compost onto growing beds if you haven’t done so already (Creating compost in less than one year is possible with the right amount of turning and moisture / urine addition)
  • Weeding will be a chore now, good strikes on sunny days with a hoe will be useful
  • emptying your composting area and bagging up the not-so-ready compost / mulch / mold to stack somewhere out of your way and to continue composting in the bags (I recommend you get hold of stronger bags such as old compost bags or builders rubble bags as they can last years – contact a local established gardening firm or landscaping company, they often need to dispose of hundreds of mulch bags after large landscaping jobs or annual mulch applications)
  • Slug / Snail / pest control including checking regularly for Aphid and Spider Mites etc.
  • If Green manures were sown at the right dates, you may need to start chopping and forking them in as you should be getting ready to start planting crops such as Tomatoes etc.

Note/s:

We have had a pretty bad start to Spring / Early Summer – it was only 8 degrees celcius on Monday and we have had hardly any good sunshine besides that one week where we had perhaps four good days? You may still need to sow indoors with this unpredicatable weather otherwise outdoors may be a gamble considering this year’s miserable start …

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Hi everyone, this has already been posted in March but I’m posting again because, although the April sowing calendar is the same for March and they share the same crops, now more crops can be direct sown outdoors.

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Cucumber Seedlings – Organic Permaculture

So here it is, just remember next year if you use my site as a reminder of what and when to sow, that March and April are the same however, a good vegetable book is still recommended as sometimes you might find a book that is more relevant to your country / area – we are in the UK so this advice can work in similar northern hemispheric climates however, the timings might be slightly different.

April Sowing Calendar, Click Here

Regarding my own personal experience this very gloomy and wet 2018 Spring, I have had okay results in seed sowing but Onions have had a 50% or so failure rate, Marigolds have so far had 100% failure including newer seed …

Here is a nice little video on Permaculture as well as a Permablitz in action, being put into practice in Hawaii, at the  1:40min mark of the video where they are re-designing a back garden into a permaculture garden, I could not help but realise that one day perhaps, every garden in that little town / area would convert into the same or similar idea, ending with the entire town becoming one large permaculture site which merely has some houses and roads in-between the various food forests and vegetable gardens!

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Hawaii Permablitz Back-Garden Design

Imagine if a society like that could end up breaking down their garden walls to effectively remove what are real social and environmental barriers and upgrading their consciousness to the point of respect that no one should own any land and we are merely just temporary users of land – that we do need some small space to actually live on but we use the garden/s for growing and therapeutic reasons. Creating in effect, a large wildlife friendly human oasis similar in concept to the ‘green belts’ which some cities have

-Jeff Permie ( Growinagrden.wordpress.com )

At the 3:22 min mark, Paul explains the difference between consuming your own home grown Organic food and the taste you can sense if you should happen to go back to eating or consuming store / generally available factory or monoculture farmed foods.

At 5:00 min’s you get the full tour of his back garden and the design which has a beehive, banana trees, fig, limes, vegetables (chard, beets, rocket and salads), Sweet Potato, Tumeric and ginger to name a few.

In the context of special interests and corporate interests that are looking to control our food supply, this is again a very simple answer, if we start to shift from being consumers with rights towards being producers with responsibilities … then we actually take back our power.

– Matt

The concept of Hugelkultur (Hugel Mound Growing) can basically be described as a self-composting bed or planting area (in the case of this article, in large pots). The gardener digs a shallow trench or pit and places logs, branches, sticks, twigs, brown leaves, nitrogen rich greens and or fresh manure, then tops these materials with the dug out earth and finally a decent layer of compost.

A good Hugel with large thick logs can be self-composting for anything up to 10 years. Read previous articles on traditional Hugels here Article 1 and Article 2.

Just the other day I realised that I can re-create the Hugel system but in large plastic planter pots, this will give you the benefit of Hugelkulturs without having to strain your back doing loads of digging!

Anyone taking on an uncultivated or fallow piece of land such as a disused Allotment Plot can always Sheet / Lasagna mulch a section, cover the result with thick impermeable black plastic sheet to kill off the perennial weeds and simply place Hugel Pots on top to ensure the land is still productive. Once you need to remove the sheet after a year and start using the ground space for planting, you can simply knock over the pots and empty the goodness to build up the humus / top layer!

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Hugelkultur Mound in Planter Pots

The general rule in terms of what can be grown on the Hugel Mound in year 1, are shallow rooted crops / plants such as various lettuces. Thereafter you can grow plants that require more nutrients and moisture and then finally on year 3  you can pretty much grow anything from Tomatoes to Pumpkins.

In the terms of the Hugel in a large pot, you can start the bottom layer either with composted or semi-composted wood chips (skip them and use soil if you have Slug / Snail problems), place a decent layer of soil (especially soil you wish to amend) on top of the latter with the Branch, Sticks, Twigs and cardboard / leaves as the carbon layer.

Follow on top with vegetables, fruit scraps, cut grass or fresh manure and then go on to adding the thick layer of soil / compost for growing in

(refer to image for general idea on layers, there are no specific rules but rather guidelines to follow) such as:

  1. Wood and wood chip need Nitrogen to break down, the plants you intend to grow need nitrogen too, the wood will suck this out of the soil and this is why we add manure or nitrogen rich fresh greens like veggie scraps and grass clippings / garden prunings, therefore, try to add as much green / manure / nitrogen rich material the more wood you have – greens decompose much quicker so stuff a lot in there.
  2. Compose the larger wood at the bottom and build up with smaller pieces until you reach brown leaves and cardboard this should ensure nice air spaces between are protected from being filled in by settling materials, these air spaces are important to ensure that the process does not become anaerobic – you could even start the logs on top of a 3-5cm thick layer of fresh grass clippings although this is not imperative.
  3. Intending on using this pot every year for the same purpose and do not intend on emptying it for a few years? then this is the time that you can use much thicker logs and branches in the bottom, if you want to empty the contents regularly (every 1 – 2 seasons) then it would be more beneficial to use thinner branches and sticks instead.
  4. Shallow rooted crops are mostly recommended in the first year however, you could easily use root crops such as carrots and parsnips provided you have a deeper layer of top soil / compost, remember that carrots and parsnips need nicely sieved compost / soil to prevent roots from ”forking”

This is kind of my own invention (The Design), I got the idea from the mirror strings you can buy from some garden centers which sell them as pigeon deterrents. The issue with the latter is that they are cheaply made (small mirrors glued to fishing line – that’s it!) and they don’t last many heavy wind sessions before you see them broken all over the ground (I have seen this happen probably around 20 times in the last 4 years).

So I decided to design my own – with the emphasis on lasting, and not really as a pest deterrent but more as a Garden Ornament. I also took some inspiration from a Permaculture book I read which had a reflection chart (depicting the reflection values of various objects from Aluminium foil to wood, rocks etc.).

Tools:

  • Timber Saw
  • Wood Glue (PVA) or Silicone Glue if preferred
  • Drill and Screws
  • 4x wood screw type vine eyes (screws with a closed loop on top)
  • Strong Fishing Line or Thin Cable / Wire
  • Wire Cutters and Pliers

Optional:

  • Some Colourful Outdoor Paint / or just wood varnish
  • brush / es
  • Sealant spray paint (if you use indoor paint instead of outdoor)

Materials:

  • Long-ish piece of Timber (square profile – about 4cm x 4cm x any length you like), you may need to use the same piece to cut the supports to hold the Charm
  • Small Mirrors, get mixed shapes if you like (known as Mosaic or Tile Mirrors)
  • Sea Shells (optional)
  • Glass Gems (also known as flat marbles) – (optional)
  • Pool Tiles (optional)

In the following diagram, you merely cut out a couple of wedges from two of the sides of the timber, these you will stick to the other two sides to create angled surfaces to place more mirrors ( we want many mirrors reflecting in various directions and angles, so please don’t be regimentalised when you are cutting – let go of the OCD for this project ! )

Jeff's Garden Solar Charm 1

Garden Solar Charm – Diagram 1

Now go ahead and glue your various mirrors onto the angled surfaces as well as on the flat areas, you can decorate the rest of the free space with Glass Gems, maybe a few flat sided crystals, sea shells and pool tiles (create patterns, you can get very small mini pool tiles which are about 1/4th the size of the standard small pool tile).

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Garden Solar Charm – Diagram 2

Once all is dry and happy, you can paint around the decorations and mirrors or varnish (I prefer to paint / varnish later, I didn’t want the mirrors etc. to be glued onto paint – this was a personal preferance) then go on to taping the mirrors with edging tape or electrical tape so you can spray it a few times with sealant spray – this helps to protect against environmental wear as well as an extra barrier to hold the objects on and reinforce them a bit more.

Now screw in one vine eye on each end (top and bottom) to attach your swivels to and then the wire / fishing line or cables. It is now up to you to decide where and how you will hang your new ornament in your garden, I attached it to a fence pole by cutting two timber pieces (+- 35cm long each with a 45 degree cut on one end), attached these to the pole and then screwed one vine eye subsequently on the end of each of these supports. The charm was first tied onto the top support with about 10cm of fishing gut between the vine eye and the swivel, the next was tied whilst the charm was hanging, this gave me a chance to decide on how taught I want it tied, I went for only slightly with a bit of give.

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Garden Solar Charm – Diagram 3

An that’s it! You can be as creative or simple as you like, you could even cut the timber into more than one section with an assortment of swivels so that each can rotate in different angles, at different speeds etc, the options are pretty much endless …

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Below is a list of what can be sown indoors, outdoors or in greenhouses and polytunnels during the months of March and April, this is for the UK / British Climate but can still be relevant in some other parts of the Northern Hemisphere

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During April 2017 we had a last minute frost which decimated at least 40% of my seedlings in the Polytunnel on the allotment, even though I got in there after work to shut the door and ventilation – my mistake was when I gave them a quick drink (this froze and killed them).

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Between Middle of March and April, most of your Spring sowings should have been started. Of-course it also depends on where exactly you live, but this is the average dateline for most of Britain.

Outside (depending on weather and soil conditions)

  • Root crops such as carrrots, parsnips, beetroot and turnips
  • Mangetout & podding peas & broad beans – probably better started indoors to avoid pests
  • The first sowings of summer salads including lettuces,radishes, cress, endive, & rocket,
  • Brassica crops for eating this summer & also through into the winter – kale, brussels sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli, summer and (early) winter cabbages,  calabrese and cauliflowers
  • Leaf Beets as well as swiss chard
  • Leeks
  • Radishes and spring onions
  • Some Green Manures are good to scatter sow now so they can be ‘chop n’ dropped’ in time for Summer plants such as Pumpkins, Squashes and Tomatoes when they need planting

Indoors

  • If you have slug or weed problems, then you may find all of the brassica crops, leeks and salads do better started in trays/modules and then planted out when they are better able to withstand them.
  • Similarly broad beans and peas may have to be started indoors if you have trouble with mice
  • Any companion / sacrificial plants such as Marigolds,

In trays or pots somewhere warm (germinator/warm airing cupboard etc).           Bear in mind that they will need somewhere warm & light to grow on

  • Tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, ideally by the end of March.
  • Celery/celeriac (again need heat to germinate)
  • Courgettes, squashes, cucumbers and melons (but not too early, or they will get too large before the weather is good enough for them to go outside)

In a greenhouse / polytunnel in the ground

  • Summer salads
  • French beans for an early crop
  • Herbs such as coriander, basil & parsley

Remember, to come back to this page easily you can just click on the ‘Monthly Sowing Calendar’ tab on the home screen.

 

 

Runner Beans are notorious for being water gluttons! An older method of water retention as well as feeding them is the bean Trench, I spent quite a while searching for a decent short video online but didn’t find anything that had the relevant correct method so I will be describing it as below (Many video’s online show only some newspaper or cardboard then it is topped with loads of rotting vegetables with Zero (0) browns such as mixed cardboard or rotting leaves in-between! Don’t follow that  at all), it creates a horrible pungent smell and attracts flies, you cannot ever expect good compost material if you only add in nitrogen / sugar rich matter and ignore the browns / Carbons to balance it all out … (rant over).

My advance apologies for not having photo’s as well, my bean trenches are actually not ”standard” as my soil is actually quite nutrient rich already, I have many other larger projects going on as well so I only dug a small 20cm wide by 10+ cm deep trench as a mini experiment. How is it you ask, that I can post a ”how to” on Bean Trench creation if this is my first experimental one? Because it really is a similar concept to Hugelkultur / Hugel Mounds which I have built or been involved in building quite a few over the last four years, the only main difference is the absence of Wood / Logs.

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Runner Bean Trench Layers – Organic Gardening

METHOD:

  1. Select your growing area and dig a trench about one spade blade depth and the width of a spade blade sideways (make notches at the base of the trench as air pockets – these help prevent an anaerobic environment [see image]),
  2. Lay a carpet of Brown Cardboard at the base of the trench and up the sides,
  3. If starting this in Autumn / Early Winter (it’s the ideal time), then drop grass clippings, vegetable and fruit peels, coffee and tea grounds / leaves, even composted and sieved woodchip in – follow the diagram image for the best sequencing of layers,
  4. Cover with your dug-out soil only when you finish filling, you can leave the trench open and fill in gradually over the Winter and merely add a very thin layer of soil every time if you prefer. However, this way may need a mesh net / wire net of some sort to prevent foxes etc from digging around.
  5. Stop filling / adding vegetable scraps etc. into the trench at least 6 weeks to 2 months before you plan on planting the Beans or in the case of a one day trench project, cover with soil  2 months before you intend to plant and ensure you poke a few breathing holes after every rainy day.
  6. In the case of creating a Bean Trench in Spring, you can still line the bottom with Cardboard and fresh grass clippings with some brown rotting leaves, then top this with 6 month to 1 year old compost from your bin/s.

During a mild winter, certain Runner Bean varieties may actually survive underground as a Herbaceous Perennial (The roots go dormant underground and re-sprout in Spring) – one such variety I have experience with is ‘Scarlet’. Thus, as I am expecting some of my Scarlets to re-sprout, I decided to grow Runners in the same spot as last year (partially due to lazyness).

I am likely to still grow a batch of Runner Beans at home or on another section of the Allotment and this is where I will most probably dig a deeper, more traditional trench.

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