Friday, 26 November 2010

No Dig Gardening, books and Winter Colour

The light at this time of year is really beautiful, the colours have a real vibrancy.

As well as the autumnal colours and foliage, I'm cheered to see a few flowers adding their brightness too.

With the days shortening and nights getting longer I've been catching up on some reading and finally got myself a copy of Charles Dowding's 'Organic Gardening: The Natural No Dig Way'.
I highly recommend it - I haven't quite finished it yet, but I love the idea of leaving the soil structure as intact as possible and minimizing disturbance.

I had already come across the idea of 'no dig' gardening in permaculture literature and I'm enjoying looking into it further and using it, hopefully exclusively, on my plot.
I already learnt this year how silly it is to weed and leave bare soil (and what a waste of resources / nutrients that can be) as nature is very quick to recover it. From now on I'm a complete mulch convert.

I tend to grow my plants in modules anyway and that suits a mulch system, as the plants have germinated and strengthened before being transplanted through the mulch.

I love what Charles says about how healthy plants generally suffer less from pests and diseases.
I also love his ideas for successional sowing - similar to Joy Larkcom - she has great ideas for creative vegetable gardening too.

There are a few things in Charle's book that I've had different experiences with e.g. rocket - luckily nobody told me not to sow it until after midsummer, so last year I had a great crop all summer - with no problems from flea beetle. Maybe the leaves did bolt slightly early - the the flowers are so pretty that I don't mind much.

Another great book that I got to read recently was Masanobu Fukuoka's 'The One-Straw Revolution' which looks at one mans journey of discovering natural farming techniques in Japan. It has a great feel to it - feels very wholesome to me.

So, thats my inspiration sorted for a while. Now all I need is my garden. It is challenging being over two hours away from 'my' garden, although I am lucky to have my aunts garden here, which is very natural and lush, and a few pots of things to keep my green fingers happy.

I must admit to getting itchy fingers and also longing to have my garden properly up and running. I want to see the seasons go by on my own plot, watching the successions of planting and harvests etc Patience must be a virtue I'm still cultivating!

Anyway, there is distraction here, for example a few experimental winter salads in pots in my aunts barn. They won't feed an army, but I like to see things grow .. and to see how much they WILL grow over winter.

Here are some late sown lettuces (sown end Sept / early Oct) which are coming along just fine.

My calendula was still blooming earlier this week (although now sulking after a couple of nights of hard frost).

I love these violas, which have self seeded in cracks at the edge of the bed near the front door.

Surprisingly, the tall shrubby Escallonia is still happily flowering away and has been for months now.

Of course, there are still a few roses too. They don't have much scent when picked, but when I dry the petals on the radiator the room is filled with a delicious lingering scent.

My aunt's ornamental pyracantha also gives great colour this time of year.

I love how it has crept over the wall, so we can see it from the house now.

The girls are doing fine also - and add bucket loads to winter cheer.

Here's Benny, patrolling the drive.

Here Anna and Esmie are having a great time rummaging through the leaves and undergrowth.

Here they are again, setting off from the doorstep out into a hard frosty morning.

Wonder if the frost will turn to snow soon?

It's trying to snow as I type.

Until next time ...

Monday, 15 November 2010

Mulch, oca and cows

I haven't been posting much recently - as there just hasn't been much going on.

We're in the process of meeting the new planning regulations - so have to sort an Environmental Screening Report for the planners and further adapt our reedbed plan to meet new specifications. Once they're in the planners should be able to make their decision.

With the weather turning colder and the days shortening, we haven't been down to site as much lately. However, at the end of last month and early this month I decided to cover some of the vegetable beds for winter.

I had weeded them earlier .. and left the earth bare. Silly move. They just got weedy again. So, this time, partly with the help of a friend, we covered the beds with the weeds (pulled them and laid them on top) and then covered the bed with an old tarpaulin and some cardboard.

This way, the nutrients stay in the soil. It doesn't look pretty - but then again, I'm not there much to see it right now. Next year, if I have any 'bare' patches, I'll try using a green manure over winter instead.

In the foreground of the above picture, I've used some spare weed suppressing membrane to cover a long bed. Rain will get through, but it should warm the soil .. and loosen the grip of the unwanted grasses etc.

I've also covered the other long bed (to the left in the picture below) which is really overgrown (no picture yet - sorry) and I'll be interested to see if it suppresses the weeds and grass at all.

Nature was kind enough to provide me with some oca from the plot this year - guess I left a few tubers in the ground last year. I picked them on our last visit, when the foliage had completely been frosted. The tubers aren't very big - but they are tasty - even raw.

Funny thing with the oca is, I'd planted pink and white tubers in 2009 but only got white ones this year.

I also got a nice surprise crop of mizuna - where I'd weeded the month before, which has been sheltered from the frost by brassica seedlings that have also sprung up.

Back up at my aunts I started off a few salads in late Sept / early October. The most sluggish of these is the rocket, pictured below.

The peppers and tomatoes did really well this year (in the glass roofed barn) and we're only coming to the end of them now.

The red curly kale is still looking .. and tasting .. great. It really brightens up the garden at this time of year .. and looks great with dew drops on the leaves.

I also have some baby leaf salads on the go. These are outside in one of those 4 tier 'plastic' greenhouses.

Here are some that lettuce and orientals that I'm raising in modules. Not sure how fast they'll grow at this time of year, but I'm curious to find out.

I even have a couple of cabbages too...

.. and we've just got through the last of the container potatoes.

Back down in Leitrim we've had a mini disaster. Cows got in and have been over the lawns and the veg beds etc. We'd never got round to putting up a fence before we had to stop building and we hadn't had a problem before. They've made quite a mess really, poaching up the ground, so we'll have to go back down and put up some temporary fencing for security.

In the meantime, we're down to our last two long red sweet peppers .. might have to try stuffing them. They're delicious. Will have to grow more of them next year.