Archive for the ‘Seasonal Maintenence / Jobs’ Category

may 2018.jpg

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)…

sweetcorn.jpg

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 …

Advertisements

There are enough Dandelion flowers in bloom that you can start collecting now for various recipes, Last year’s Dandelion Flower Wine was a great success as well as the Jam – I still have one bottle of Wine left which us being saved for s good sunny day.

dandelion gorilla 1

Today I collected enough for a batch of Jam, this recipe will be an annual mainstay in my home preservation to-do list, the only other Jam recipe I like almost as much is an experimental one which includes Fuschia berries, Ginger and Crab Apples – this recipe, will remain top-secret for now unfortunately 😉

I noticed today that many of the flowers are in bloom all at once owing probably to the sudden 10 Deg Cel. + more heat we have had since the previous week, compared to last year where the plants gradually sent up flowering stalks a few at a time – in conclusion I recommend you get out now before the plants run out of energy and shoots! Throwing a bag in the fridge / freezer is always an option when you don’t think you can get hold of enough in one go!

Another recipe is Dandelion Root Coffee, you merely collect enough dandelion roots to fill a typical oven baking tray.

Wash them pretty well, chop them into small +- 3cm / 1 in long pieces and lay out on a baking tray and cook in the oven until they brown and become a bit crusty (to be able to crush them into a powder) this calls for carefully keeping an eye and ensuring the roots don’t burn. Once complete, just crush them into a powder and store in a jar – some people wrongfully call Dandelion Coffee a ”Coffee Substitute” this is a different taste and is much healthier …

Links for recipes:

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.

bean trench

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.

If you like this post then feel free to share it via social media, I do not (I don’t have the time) to share or create multiple accounts for that purpose, this blog is also not monetised and all adverts seen go towards WordPress itself.

Hi all, after a long time away from the blog, my first post in 2018 is unfortunately just monthly sowing advice from my available calendars which you can refer to anytime of the year.

There is still time for the usuals which would have preferrably already been planted late last year (September to November) such as Broad Beans / Field Beans either as Green Manure or for seed harvest, or even Garlic (November till March).

Click here for the sowing calendar for FEBRUARY.

In the meantime, below is a picture of a honeybee foraging on the Purple loosestrife last summer 2017 (a good pollinator and pond marginal plant) which also provides biomass at the end of Autumn, the hardwood-like twigs are great for Hugel Beds or for Tinder in a Rocket Stove.

Purp Loose Bee

Purple Loosestrife – Pollinator Friendly Pond Marginal

Nature provides! I say no more, well I still have to give you all the basic recipe for this natural Immune System Booster.

At the moment, Elderberries (‘Sambucus nigra‘) are still available on most Elder trees (pay attention to trees that are mostly in shaded areas or situated behind / under larger shrub or trees as these will bare berries a little later or / the berries will take a bit longer to spoil).

 

I emphasise on the importance in obtaining Fresh berries as opposed to buying dried berries online, buying online should be a last resort only if you have actually made the effort in trying to locate the Trees and found none or if you live in a highly polluted area…

The steps are really simple and this syrup can be made into many different recipes for various Medicinal Benefits, here however, I am giving the very basic recipe and you can then go ahead to try different herbs / spices to make different batches for the Flu / Cold season.

What’s needed:

  • Harvested Elderberries that are enough to make Two Cups of loose berries (I recommend you pick a lot and freeze he rest but please, remember to leave some for birds and other wildlife),
  • Water (2x Cups),
  • Local Honey (One Jar per 2 cups of berries),
  • Muslin cloth or bags,
  • Optional: Cloves, Ginger, Thyme, Cinnamon sticks etc. for more advanced medicines

Method:

  • Place the Two Cups of Elderberries in a Saucepan / Pot together with the Two Cups of water and a cinnamon stick, then boil,
  • Once Boiling, lower the heat and simmer until the liquid reduces to around half the original volume,
  • Pour into a heat resistant container and let cool down to room temperature ( a measuring container might be best for your first time),
  • Once cool, pour the mixture through a Muslin cloth or bag into a new container, lift out the cloth / bag and give it a good squeeze to release extra juices,
  • Add the same amount of Local Honey as your leftover liquid so for example, if you had 350ml of the juice after it cooled down, then add 350ml of Local Honey and mix well,
  • Place into clean sterilised jars (I Highly recommend the Washing and Oven method)
sambucus nigra

‘Sambucus nigra’ – Ripe Elderberries

This recipe is to boost the immune system for the flu and cold months and needs to be placed in the fridge / freezer immediately.

Dosage:

  • Take one spoonful every morning during or near the flu season, increase to three times per day if you feel flu or a cold coming on.

In the fridge this should last 3-4 months only so I reccommend actually making a large batch (4x cups of Elderberries makes around 3 standard jam / honey jars with some leftover) and freezing the rest to keep aside for closer to December onwards.

One good idea I have seen is to pour them into ice trays for freezing, you can then remove a few cubes for your own use anytime between or before December!

elderberry syrup

Elderberry ‘Sambucus nigra’ Syrup, medicinal recipe

Woodchip is a great soil amendment and adds nutrients into the soil slowly, I have observably proven this to myself last year on my Allotment where I stashed a few wheelbarrows of woodchip on a section of my plot because otherwise the communal woodchip would likely have been finished by the time I needed some.
Once I dug my pond out, I covered the mound of woodchip with the soil from within the pond, about 6 months later I finally started a new project in the place of the mound of soil where I discovered the very well composted woodchip and noticed when digging that the topsoil layer was darker within a few inches under the topsoil line, when I compared this to a section just a meter away, the soil was lightly coloured and only darker very close to the surface line…

Below is a great video proving and showing from day one to 8 years on, the soil is even dug down seriously deep to prove how far the amendment reached until the soil quality becomes poor again.

 

Important Note: If you obtain free woodchip from your local Tree Surgeons, always ask what tree/s were chipped! Basically, Broad Leaf are usually Alkaline or Neutral PH (Oak is Acidic though) and Coniferous are Acidic PH, So use Conifer Woodchip for pathways as less weeds will germinate amongst the mature rotting chips as well as a mulch for Acid loving plants like strawberries and Blueberries. Use the Broad Leaf for your beds and as a soil amender!

Video courtesy of youtube channel OneYardRevolution

Late Summer / Early Autumn is the best time to start gathering the materials you need for your planned Hugel Bed / Mound, many Herbaceous plants which can be used in conjunction with the wood logs, branches and sticks are now ready to be chopped down and composted or used in another way. Autumn / Winter is the preferred time her in the UK to create your Hugelkultur mounds mainly due to the need for the wet season to soak the beds, the buried logs will soak up the winter rains for months until the upcoming growing season.

Two pieces of advice I can definitely lecture on about in this article to ensure a successful Hugel Project are;
1: Ensure Air Spaces inside the mound and
2: Add lots of Nitrogen rich Biomass internally to offset the nitrogen locking that the logs will create during decomposition

Air Spaces:
Although there are guaranteed to be air spaces between the logs and branches / sticks, I have found that rain and the settling down of the materials can cause these spaces to fill in, often causing or risking an anaerobic result – go explore your garden or any other garden you have access to (You may even be able to make a deal with a local gardening company – they could leave a bag of said such materials for you outside one of their customers properties so as long as you collect the bag and not leave unwanted contents at the site!) remember, you can always bargain that most companies have to pay to dump their waste at commercial specialist dumps, remind them that you are helping them reduce the need to do so, in most cases they will still have charged their customers to ”remove” the waste even though you took if off of their hands, the customer will inevitably still be charged for it being dumped.

There are many herbaceous plant species which have a hollow stem and need cutting down in Autumn, cut these stems into pieces which you will spread around and in between your logs at different levels to ensure small air cavities will remain. Cedums, Ornamental Globe Artichokes, Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes), Young Bamboo (and old), some Hydrangea varieties and many more have hollow cavity stems which harden enough when dry to be used in this case.

Then there is dry hard leaf ”garden waste” which takes ages to decompose, these are leaves from shrubs and trees which are more on a glossy and hard / stiff texture than a soft / decidious and most likely in all cases, evergreen. Three options I have from the top of my head as examples are the leaves of ‘Magnolia Grandeflora’, The climber ‘Clematis Armandii’ , the Loquat ‘Eribotrya japonica’ Fruit Tree, Some Rhododendrons (look for the large leaved varieties) and Laurels. We have found that most of these leaves can take up to two years in an unturned / undisturbed compost pile to break down, they maintain their structure even when pressed down so they are perfect for maintaining air spaces / gaps internally within the Hugel Bed / Mound! Practically any glossy leaved plant / shrub / tree will do but the larger and dryer – the better!
In fact, a couple of these Tree / Shrub leaves will actualy curl up to form a cilyndrical tube shape with an internal hollow gap, when pressed these are strong and bounce back right away once released.

Nitrogen Rich Biomass:
Probably one of the best options are fresh grass clippings from your lawn mowing or that of a neighbour / friend. You can even clip your grass at your home twice a week for the last 3 or so weeks of Summer, keep these clippings aside in a breathable bag until ready to add into the Hugel Bed – if you obtain clippings over several weeks, you Will need to add additional fresh greens into the mix to compenate lost nitrogen.
Horse Manure is also a great option but I would suggest it be used more as an addition to fresh green waste rather than 100% of the nitrogen source
The not-so-popular option amongst people new to Permaculture, is human Urine, which has a good nitrogen content and is often used diluted 1 part to 10 in early season liquid feed for plants
If you plan on lets say December being your target month for getting your Hugel project started, I would advise Growing a patch of Broad or Field bean green manure from Late August / Early September – these will be ready for chopping down and adding into your bed around and amongst the logs as the fresh greens instead of grass clippings which won’t be available during that month anyway

Further Reading: Click Here for an article on the step-by-step making of a Hugelkultur Mound / Bed