I keep reminding myself that it really is just the beginning of January, the temperature is spring-like. I had to start the new year the right way, with some work on the allotment.
It was dry enough to pull out the old chard plants – they were very good and provided me with multiple harvests. I don’t grow spinach, chard is much better, has stronger taste and doesn’t bolt. I had all the plants in my large net cage – had to do it like this because the pigeons were waiting to peck the little seedlings to death. They did it to me last year so I was prepared.
As I was doing that I finally decided what to do with the oldest of my greenhouses. This is the only one that has a bench. I had two growbags on that bench but it created too much shade underneath and that growing space was wasted. I don’t really need a bench in the greenhouse, I have got enough bench space in my large greenhouse in the back garden. The growbags had to go and then the bench could be dismantled. Not sooner said than done. It was surprisingly easy and now I have got more growing space in the greenhouse, the extra soil was distributed in the beds inside and some of it I put on my flowerbed in front of this greenhouse. When I go back tomorrow I will try to detach the bench frame – it should be possible using some little spanners – I’m sure I’ve got a set somewhere.
Yesterday was an unseasonably warm day. I had to remind myself what date it was, it felt like a good day in early spring. It is too wet to do any serious work on the allotment, but saying that, all my serious work is done. The greenhouses are ready for the next growing season and as I have four of them I can spoil myself. I have decided to grow quite a lot of tomatoes, less of aubergines and a good mix of sweet peppers and chillies.
I have a good reason to grow more tomatoes, we are still using my bottled tomato soup and also chopped roasted tomatoes.
The chillies did very well and I have managed to dehydrate them, ready to be used in future recipes.
Yesterday was dedicated to work in my big greenhouse in the back garden. I have got four large grow beds there and I was able to single out and plant all my leek seedlings, also the onion seedlings. I have started those in late November. It seems to work, they are looking good.
I have also planted some garlic cloves, to make sure I have got enough to harvest later. I have garlic already growing on the allotment but you can’t have enough!
That was exactly my thought about onions and leeks so I started two more seed trays with leeks and onions. The plan is to grow quite a lot of vegetables that we like.
After worrying about not being able to go to the allotment I’m happy now. As part of the new regime us oldies – anybody over 70 – I can go to the allotment every day and keep my distance of two metres from the next gardener, that would be my one exercise per day. I live only about five minutes away from the site, never meet anybody on my way and when I’m there, I am very often the only one. I have no underlying health issues so, if the situation stays the same, I’ll be fine. My sanity will be preserved.
I was there today working in the last net cage, getting rid of the weeds and putting down some of that fragrant wood chip. Beautiful, and very useful – it stops the weeds growing and the path doesn’t get slippery. Win win.
A few days ago, again before the new way of surviving started, one of my friends told me about a pile of some black sacks with some large black flowerpots that were dumped in the new car park close to the old Charterhouse nearby. It is just behind our boundary fence and Frank managed to heave a couple of them over. I emptied the pots, saved the compost, gave the pots to my friends and started planning the next step. The following day I took the wheelbarrow to the car park and in three goes brought all the sacks – all 12 of them – to my back garden. An amazing haul – about 25 pots and three big sacks of very rich compost. I have also discovered that it was used for growing cannabis – the root balls were still in the soil. We shall draw a veil over the origin, it was my gain and I did put it to very good use.
As I wasn’t then quite sure if I would be able to work on the ‘farm’ I decided to hedge my bets. I filled on of my large grow bags with the new compost, placed it on a little table, put it in the veranda and a large tray with four of those pots beside it. The plan is to grow as many of tomatoes, peppers and chilies as I can, I am sure we are going to live through some difficult times.
It was another reasonable day, I knew I wanted to do a lot so I started – after breakfast and a nice strong cup of coffee – by going to my local B&Q to get some potting compost. Us oldies get 10% off on Tuesday, only on gardening things though. I got two huge 125 l bags and took them to the allotment.
When I got home there was the small matter of cutting down the rushes in the pond. I have been putting it off but today was the day. Job done, I’m happy.
I have got two greenhouses on the allotment and the work was done in the older one of the two. I put two of the grow bags on the bench there and started filling them up with the compost. To make sure I have got enough I also used a bag of horse muck in each grow bag, to enrich it. These will be used for growing tomatoes – the whole greenhouse will be just tomatoes, the peppers will be in the half of the poly tunnel I am sharing with Simon.
In order to give each tomato plant the best conditions I put some flowerpots with the bottoms cut off in the bed and filled them with the compost too, just to give the tomatoes exactly what they like – deep soil to develop healthy roots.
Also the greenhouse in the back garden is ready, the same arrangement is there.
If everything grows this year like it did last year I’ll be happy….
I have had these grow bags in the garden greenhouse for about 8 years. They are much better than the standard plastic tomato grow bags – much deeper and very environment-friendly. I just add some fresh compost at the end of the growing year and on it continues. I couldn’t remember where I got them from so I just randomly put a name of a seed company in and – bingo! Found them and ordered some more. Marshalls seed company has them. All I have to do now is wait. The growing rings I have bought years ago at a garden show and they work very well, they sit in the soil and have a ring around the main part, a water reservoir so the water goes directly to the roots.
Well, another gardening year is upon us. Doesn’t the time fly?!
I was lucky that I managed to get most of my digging done when the weather was reasonable during November. Now I just have to go and fork it over and get rid of some persistent weeds – why don’t the slugs and snails like weeds??
There is only one more piece of land to go over and I shall be ready for the planting and sowing.
That done I was able to concentrate on the greenhouse in my back garden. As the last thing at the end of autumn I sowed some lettuce seeds in one of the big grow bags. Of course the seedlings looked small and a bit pathetic but as soon as the days started getting longer they grew. I had a nice lot of iceberg lettuce seedlings and I managed to transplant them all. With a bit of luck and some more sunshine we shall have our own lettuce soon.
Whenever I go to any garden centre or a DIY shop I see grow bags for sale. I think I only bought them once, the first time I wanted to grow tomatoes in them in my old greenhouse. That must have been at least 15 years ago. I wasn’t happy with them at all – they were very flat and even though it said that you can put 3 tomato plants there I found that the plants didn’t thrive. Either it was the quality of the compost or there wasn’t enough of it. I remember I wanted to put a short stake beside my tomato plant – no good, the bag was so thin the stake couldn’t support anything.
I have read recently in one of the gardening magazines that to overcome the problem with grow bags (obviously there is still the same problem with them – too thin) we should put two bags on top of one another, open the bottom one to expose the soil and score the bottom of the top one so the roots can carry on down – are you still with me?
The problem doesn’t get solved this way! I’ve got a solution, a very simple one.
After I’ve emptied the mushroom compost from one of the sacks I mixed about two-thirds of my own compost (it has been quietly rotting away in the corner of the garden) and one-third of the already mentioned mushroom compost; put this mix into the old sack and seal the top with a tape. Lay it flat on the ground, level the compost and insert two grow rings (they have a jagged edge which cuts the plastic exactly the size of the ring, an outside ridge which is for filling up with water so it goes directly to the roots). The bag is much chunkier than even two grow bags on top of one another and I know what quality of growing medium is inside.
It fits exactly into the gap between the two benches in my greenhouse but if need be it could quite easily stand outside on level ground, in a sheltered spot for the tomatoes to enjoy the sun.