About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Garden update for April May

Oh dear, it's four weeks far too long since I last posted one of my weekly gardening posts; clearly this challenge isn't working for me, and even writing this post isn't easy to get down to. I'm finding that, unlike the foraging challenge, gardening really doesn't happen one plant at a time. Of course, foraging doesn't either, but adding one or two new plants per week seemed to work quite well for me, at least until the autumn. With gardening, plants don't get on with doing their thing until I get round to harvesting them, they all need sowing, then they all need planting out, more or less, then there's lots of weeding, and a fair bit of cutting back, none of which is confined to one plant at a time.

I'm glad to say that this doesn't mean I haven't been gardening, I just haven't been writing about it regularly. I think it's best to drop the blogging challenge, because it's making feel guilty, and then I don't feel like blogging at all. I'll just carry on with gardening, and I might write about it from time to time, or I might not. For now, here's a review of how things are going at the moment.

Let's start with the potato bed. First, I dug out lots of bindweed roots. I'm under no illusion that I got them all, but I did get a lot of them.

Bindweed roots dumped on a path to dry

These do not go on the compost heap; I put them on a path in the hope that they'll dry out and die before finding any soil to set up home in. When I got fed up of hunting for roots, I moved onto planting potatoes. This involved digging trenches and shifting lots of horse muck (with many thanks to my friend Sue for the muck).

One feverfew left in the middle of the bed as a marker. First earlies are in the near corner, up to that plant.

One month on, and most of the potatoes have leaves above ground. Interestingly, the Desiree, which I saved from last year's crop, have been slowest to appear. The King Edwards weren't far behind the first earlies (the variety of which I've forgotten. I wrote it down somewhere.)

Lots of potatoes coming up

I have an experimental corner of the plot... Last year I tried growing potatoes from seed. They did quite well until I planted them out in the garden, at which point they all died. I thought nothing of it until I was clearing out a seed tray this spring and found, amongst the dusty dry soil, dozens of tiny potatoes. I must have neglected some seedlings that somehow managed to form little tubers before the plants dried out and died. I've planted some of the larger tubers, that is, those bigger than peas. Some were even as large as broad beans! Most of these have managed to get leaves above ground (I planted them less deeply than the full sized tubers) so we'll see whether they survive, and what the results are like. I'm also growing potatoes from seed again this year, but I'm not sure where I'm going to put them. Some are currently in small pots, others are trying to climb out of the seed trays.

Another early sowing was broad beans (or field beans, to be accurate). These started well, but then most of them showed black around the edges of the leaves, and failed to grow much at all.

Blackened broad bean seedling

We'd had such hot weather that I wondered whether they might be scorched, but consultation with a gardening book suggested frost damage. I'm not sure we'd had frost, but perhaps there was too much difference between day time and night time temperatures.

Luckily, I'd sown only half of the seeds, so I sowed the rest, this time in the greenhouse so I could check they'd actually germinated, which they all did, and quite quickly. I planted these out a couple of days ago, to replace the damaged ones.

More beans. The taller ones are those that survived the blackening.

I also sowed peas, at intervals (i.e. whenever I get round to doing another batch). They seem a bit patchy, but I came across an old rhyme about sowing peas: "One for the mouse, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow." I guess a low survival rate is the norm. I have quite a lot still to sow, too, and I haven't started any green beans yet.

I'm told these peas are so short they won't need support. I'm not sure about that, but we'll see.

The shallots are looking great, even though I planted them far more deeply than you're supposed to. Some of the parsnips are doing very well, but others suffered from this sort of thing...

... so I've been replacing them with the seedlings that are still coming up where the year before last's parsnips were (i.e. those that seeded last year). This year's garlic may not have survived the rolling and the dry weather, but luckily the garlic I gave up on last year has all come up again, so I may yet get a crop.

Oh so innocent-looking now!

In two of the tubs by this bed I've sown carrots, and they're just coming up. I'm not getting too excited about these because they got to about this stage last year, then I lost the lot.

Carrot seedlings

In another tub, I have elder cuttings.

Elder, most of which appears to be thriving. Some even has flower buds.

This is part of the hedge project. I cut down a leylandii hedge in three stages, finishing this January. I would like to replace this with a native hedge and to that end, I've been looking around for suitable plants and moving them up there. There are two chestnut trees there that I actually paid money for, and a third in a pot waiting to go in when the top section of soil's recovered from the leylandii (I'm not sure about this theory, but I know leylandii are greedy, so the soil will certainly be depleted). I say trees... they're four foot twigs at the moment, but they'll be trees one day. I've found a few blackthorn suckers (very difficult to dig up), some wild raspberries, roses, a few ash saplings, one rowan, and several young hazel trees. There are also sycamore and holly seedlings, but I'm not sure about keeping these. The elder cuttings came from the elder tree that was impossible to harvest from. I've hacked it right back and hope that it will shoot again from the base, but if it doesn't, at least I have the cuttings. The rest of the hedge is difficult to photograph, so you'll have to use your imagination - twigs and saplings that are almost impossible to see against a wire fence.

Speaking of things that are almost impossible to see, next along from the tubs are the asparagus beds. The shoots are still tiny, but looking slightly more convincing this year.

Two small asparagus spears, in April

I confess I did cut a few to eat, even though they're far too small. I needed a little something to remind me that it's worth the wait. I reasoned that other animals in my garden are less restrained than me about leaving the asparagus to grow strong, so I might at least enjoy a little. The asparagus is taller now, and quite ferny, for the most part.

Asparagus ferns

Another perennial vegetable I'm trying is globe artichoke. I sowed some seeds last year and planted out eight, then put the rest in a spare trough as I didn't know what else to do with them. None of the eight survived, so I'm glad I kept the spares, as quite a few of those are fine. I've planted out two into a flower bed and when I'm sure I've seen all the asparagus, I'll put some more into the gaps in the asparagus bed.

I'm hoping these artichokes will grow much bigger

In the bed next to the asparagus is last year's brocolli. I'm planning to grow beans, sweetcorn and squash in that bed (the Native American Three sisters) which can stay in the greenhouse a while longer, so I'm leaving the broccoli to flower. I'm hoping I'll be able to collect seeds from it, but even if I don't, the flowers are spectacular and the bees love them.

Purple buds and yellow flowers on the broccoli

Appreciated by bees

In the greenhouse, lots of things are getting eaten, but some are surviving. I got very demoralised when all my tomato seedlings got munched by a slug, but then friends gave me some of theirs, and someone else gave me a couple of aubergine plants, which I wouldn't have had space for if I filled the greenhouse with tomatoes, so it all works out in the end. The key is not to get too attached to a specific plan (the particular varieties I'd hoped to try this year) but take what comes.

Mostly alliums. If I remember which are which it'll be a small miracle.

Tomatoes, squash, and lost of purslane

Another part of the garden I've spent quite a bit of time on is the terrace. I mentioned in February that I'd started the job of topping the terrace with soil and replanting it, and I've continued with that. It's not completely covered and it's still looking mostly brown, but I'm hoping there's enough there to spread and give me a green terrace by late summer.

The terrace. Not very green, but still a nice place to sit

Finally, let's not forget the flowers. I tend to neglect these as I focus on growing veg, but I do love flowers in the garden.

Tulips in April. I should have planted these out so they had more space, but they seem to have coped with their cramped conditions.

Apple blossom above the wild yellow poppies. We may get a few apples this year. The cherry tree and one of the plums also have blossom.

Acquilegias grow like weeds here. Aren't they pretty?

The oriental poppies are just starting to come out

So there you are. If I write about two months worth of gardening all at once, it sounds like quite a lot, doesn't it?


  1. Cripes, you have stonier soil than I do! If you have any horse muck left, bung it on your asparagus. I put a huge load on mine as I think I saw Monty Don doing that on GW; they are supposed to be hungry plants.

    Nice to see your garden and how it is progressing. I don't have much to show from the veg patch yet and I've had to cover some seedlings with chicken wire, thanks to now having 3 cats which were digging holes and using it as a loo. So much for a fence to keep them out - ha! They squeeze under the gate. And even here with my dry soil I have lost lots of lettuce and spinach seedlings to little slugs, and those that survived have been half eaten by sparrows. So now I have plastic cloches over everything! To be honest the flowering side is easier..... :-)

    1. Compared with my neighbours' gardens, my soil is relatively stone-free. I can stick a fork in the ground without jarring my back! Even so, I've picked enough stones out this spring to resurface several sections of path.

      I do have some horse muck left. I was going to give it to the broccoli, but maybe this year the asparagus should win. I'm not sure I'll have any broccoli anyway, as the seedlings got badly munched in the greenhouse.

      I try to tolerate the cat digging holes in my garden, as I'd rather she went there than in the neighbours' gardens (where she uses the lawn rather than the beds, perhaps on account of all the stones). I do leave areas dug but not planted, but of course she never uses those!


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