More hard frost this morning, beautiful. We need to keep feeding the birds as they get into mating and laying. the Buzzards are out, calling high over the stubble fields, rousing the spirit with their eerie cry. Despite the frosts the leaf-buds have burst on the lilac tree! Spring is definitely here 🙂 I’m so looking forward to when the tree flowers … and scents up the whole garden.
I’ve managed to turn quite a bit of earth that needed it in the beds, so the frosts are working on that soil, it will be good and crumbly in another week or ten days. It’s just so good to have my hands in the soil again – tha bad back from over-gardening at the beginning of Feb was a “show stopper” for all the wrong reasons :-(. I’ve done a lot of weeding in the past few days and things are coming together, looking like a garden again.
I need to get black membrane on the veg beds to warm them up. these frosts aren’t helping that at all but the bright sun on the black with absorb the heat and transmit it into the soil. As lots of veg are growing away well in pots indoors I’ll need the beds in a couple of weeks. One polytunnel is up, over a bed, so that is warming up nicely inside. I must get the other one up soon …
Jo and Roy are coming to help get the greenhouse glazed at last. It’s taken a year! Various folk have said they’d help but it’s all been wishful thinking so far and so frustrating to have the frame of the damn thing but not be able to use it! they’re both such fun and so helpful. Jo’s a great garden designer and I hope to get over there in a couple of weeks to get some pix of her place over by Goodrich Castle. She’s done wonders with it and now the trees have gone in the whole shape of the place is coming together … watch this space …
Onward and upward, as they say, a gardener’s work is never done … but that’s at least half the fun :-).
Spring is just about to spring! We’re just coming into this month’s Northern Planting Time (NPT), that happens on Saturday 12th March with the Moon reflecting the earth-sign of Taurus the Bull.
This is a good time to get sowing if you haven’t already, especially root crops like turnips, swedes, parsnips, early carrots and to get those spuds you’ve been chitting into the ground. You’ll need to cover the spud-bed with fleece in most areas unless you live far enough south to be past your last frost date. It’s worth it though, to get the spuds started, especially the first earlies, so you have some to harvest along with the first peas and broad beans for a lovely warm salad.
I already have swedes and turnips coming in pots on the window-ledge but I’m going to get some early carrots started in boxes in the polytunnel. A fairly deep box is fine for them, especially if you choose an early variety like Amsterdam Forcing or Nantes 2. The Nantes – my favourite carrot – grow to about 16cm so your box needs to be a good 20+cm deep. I usually use one about 25cm deep. If you use a cardboard box then this can be dug into the ground once it’s warm enough and will rot down around the growing carrots so there’s no need to disturb them and cause deformed growth or flagging. This is a good trick to use with lots of veg.
Do remember though that you can sow anything on a root day – all plants have roots, need roots in order to grow, so they will get the benefit of root-day sowing.
You go on to cultivate – transplant, weed, hoe, generally care for – on the day relevant to the veg; e.g. fruit-day for peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers; leaf-day for cabbages, celery, leeks, lettuces; flower-day for broccoli, cauliflower, purple and green sprouting.
And, of course, you spray each with 501 on their relevant day too.
New Bed …
I found I really need yet another veg bed – who doesn’t? There was a piece of border along by the path in front of the house which was absolutely full of couch grass and buttercups suffocating the lovely plants I want like hardy geraniums, a blue aquilegia, lungworts and a pretty miniature rose. As soon as I could get out at the end of January I dug the whole lot out, potted up the plants I want and put the rest on the compost heap. I gave the whole lot a spray of 500 and covered it up with black membrane to warm it up and keep the weeds down.
I think I want to put the early broad beans in here so it’s now time to get a trench dug, bung in a good layer of bokashi and any other compost I have to spare and maybe a bit of manure. A layer of earth goes on top of the plant-food-layer, it’s no good putting seeds o
r plant roots straight onto hot compost! After a day or two I’ll sow the broad beans into the trench and put a row of pea-sticks to either side of each row – this has two purposes; to hold the plants upright when they get tall enough and to keep the kitties off! Nothing like a good hedge of pea-sticks to keep venturesome kitties at bay :-).
I’ll probably succession-plant this bed when the beans have gone with some autumn cabbages. If there’s a gap between those two I’ll fill it with some lettuces.
Hellebore in the new bed
I’m also having a heave-ho in the flower garden too. Of course, there’s lots of weeding to be done now the plants are coming up and I can tell the difference between what I want and nettles, creeping buttercup and other weeds … definitely plants in the wrong place :-).
I had a go at that this afternoon and discovered that the heavy work I did last year had been effective, there were a lot less horrors than I’d feared. The worst problem was wretched purple loosestrife! This stuff, while lovely in a wild setting, seeds like it’s going out of fashion and always where you don’t want the darn things! And, just to make things worse, it has a creeping root-system of good thick stuff, belt and braces, seeds and rhizomes, just to make sure its genes get spread all over the garden. I was wondering whether to pot the things up and sell them at next month’s Farmers’ Market but I suspect my fellow gardeners are well aware of the problems and wouldn’t want them.
Purple Loosestrife is a problem-plant too, an in-comer from North America. It can choke our waterways and won’t do your pond too much good unless you’re willing to drastically cut it back every year and pull the roots out too.
I managed to get just about all I could see out but I know there will be some roots left so it’s a case of being vigilant and getting in there to dig them out as soon as I see them. Ho hum … a gardener’s work is never done :-).
The flower beds benefitted greatly from the cold and the snow. Last year’s vegetation disappeared and clearing has been very easy. The new growth is coming through nicely despite it still being cold with hard frosts some recent nights I’ve not pulled too much off the herbaceous perennials so it still mulches them, keeps the frost from damaging, killing, the lovely spring growth. This is something to remember – if you clear up too much and too quickly then you can seriously damage your plants! Nature knows, this is why there’s lots of “untidy” litter around in nature, it has the purpose of guarding the new growth from the frosts that are likely to go in until May in this garden.
Daffy Down Dillies
It does feel like everything is bubbling in the earth, the sprouting growth bursting out of the pot, the earth-cauldron, shortly to froth into blossom. I love this season :-).
We had fire today … I burned the huge heap. It was marvellous, took just a couple of hours and left me with excellent wood ash for the garden. And a fire for the Triple Goddess, Brighid at her season of Imbolc.
February is hard on gardeners and the garden. It can be freezing or it can be warm and sunny – I’ve got a sunburn in the February sunshine a few years back. This year we’ve got wind … so far. Lots of wind, 80mph at times, knocking the electricity out, blowing down the chimney and generally sounding just like the wind in Hans Anderson’s wonderful story, “The Wind’s Tale”.
One thing that is no good at all is to sow seeds, or plant out plug plants, into cold, wet soil with a harsh wind and little sunshine. Sowing is definitely for indoors, or the polytunnel, or greenhouse, or under cloches. I’m doing all of those. I’ve got turnips, early lettuces and cabbages Premier and Derby Day. I’m just about to sow tomatoes, aubergines, sweet pepper Jumbo, Feltham First peas and broad beans Aquadulce. They’ll start life in the propagator with bottom heat to encourage them.
I’m going outside the box here, biodynamically. For various cat-reasons sowing didn’t happen on the fruit days during the last northern planting time. To stay strictly in the rules I would have to wait 4 whole weeks for the next fruit planting time with all three factors right. Three factors? They are …
Northern Planting Time
These three things mean the Earth is “breathing in” … i.e. the energy is being pulled down from the stars into the soil – that’s the NPT, northern planting time. Afternoon – that’s also when the Earth is breathing in, energising the soil with the star energy the Moon collects. And fruit day – that’s when the Moon is collecting and focusing the energy from one of the “fire” constellations, Aries (Ram), Leo (Lion) and Sagittarius (Archer).
Well, I’m not going to be able to get all three lined up, but I can get two of them together. As I said, if I wait for the next NPT it’ll be too long away so I’m going to go for it on the next Fruit Days, Wed & Thu the 9th and 10th of Feb. If I wait I won’t be able to sow until Fri 18th, over a week later. And a week is a long time in gardening, many seeds will have sprouted in that time.
Sowing the tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, peas and beans this coming Wednesday and Thursday I’ll have two out of the three lined up … I’ll be sowing on Fruit Days and in the afternoon. That way, the energy will be pulling down into the soil (afternoon) and the Moon will be focusing energy from the fire constellation Aries (Fruit days). Two out of three is a lot better than nothing. Planting in good time, not waiting another week, is good too. I’ll then cultivate the seedlings on fruit days in the NPT to help them establish good roots which will work fine.
Biodynamics is a process that helps plants do their very best. It is NOT a religion where you will be blasted to hell if you don’t do it exactly by the book! Do take that to heart, don’t be put off doing it just because you can’t always be perfect. Honestly, good enough is fine, is very good. Always just try to do your best and know that plants want to grow, even in the most adverse conditions they’ll have a go. A friend of mine had to keep her lovely hosta stacked between a couple of concrete blocks for 2+ years … and she lives in snow-stricken Scotland! It’s fine, it grows its leaves beautifully and flowers like mad. That’s an extreme example but it really does goes to show that plants want to grow and will give it their best shot all the time. Biodynamics helps them.
So go for it with your biodynamics even if sometimes you can’t do it perzactly right every time. I do … and it works.