Raised beds

Raised beds update

So whilst giving a FaceTime tour of the garden earlier today I realised it might be time for an update on how our crops are doing. We have six raised beds so I’ll go through each one in turn.

Raised bed 1:

6 asparagus planted back in April. For the first year in order to maximise harvests in future years you are supposed to avoid cutting it and instead leave the foliage to grow. This helps to strengthen the crowns and ensure a productive crop for years to come (approximately 20 years apparently).


Raised bed 2: 

Two rows of turnips planted (purple top Milan)and two rows of beetroot (Boltardy from seed tape). The turnips thrived and have now all been harvested. We’ve eaten some (lots) and have cooked and mashed the rest for the freezer for our autumn and winter roast dinners. Yum! 


I’ve not been that impressed with the seed tape if I’m honest. The idea behind it is that the tape has seeds spaces out evenly so thinning is not required and all seeds should sprout. This has not been the case for us. We’ve found that some of the seeds have not sprouted at all and some appear to have moved so they are growing very close together. We do have the very first of these ready to pull I think, although I need to work out how we’re going to use them before we pull them. At the end of one of the rows where no seeds sprouted I threw in some carrot seeds just for fun so the space wasn’t wasted. 


Now the turnips have been pulled we’ve transported some cauliflower from bed number 4 which need to be thinned. Now sure how well they’ll fair long term but they seem to be hanging on just about for now. We’ve also put a final row of beetroot down the middle with some carrot seeds at the end where the tape ran out, just to use it up. 

Raised bed 3: 

12 strawberry plants. We have 8 plants of the variety Elsanta planted down either side of the bed and have four different varieties down the middle: Delizz, Vibrant, Fruitful Summer and Cambridge Favourite. They were really all bought on impulse with wanting to get something into the soil so there is no special reason for these varieties it was just what happened to be in the garden centre when we were buying! They are doing alright and are giving us a good bit of fruit so far, though yesterday C ate all our of pickings straight away so I’m not sure I’ll manage to preserve any. They’ll stay in this bed for about 3 years until they’ll need replacing/a new home. I need to do a bit more research into the different varieties and their needs/timings but for now they have some straw underneath them to protect the fruit and they seem to be managing ok. 


Raised bed 4: 

This bed is our cauliflower and pumpkin bed. We have two rows of cauliflower down either side, again we threw in a good number of seeds and have done some thinning. They are still fairly closely packed but they seem to be managing so far. No sign of anything apart from massive leaved yet though.


The pumpkin was originally two seeds planted next to each other and thinned to one. It’s in the middle of the bed on one end and was only really planted for novelty value as C loved seeing pumpkins around Halloween, even though we didn’t have one and J doesn’t really like the taste but I do. It has done really well and is starting to take over the bed a bit with its massive leaves and the starting of flowers have appeared.


Raised bed 5: 

This bed is still not completely filled yet. In half we have salad leaves, four different varieties of which three seem to be doing well. This last weekend we’ve also added in one row of swede seeds and will add in at least one more in a couple of weeks. These should be out in late autumn/early winter hopefully.


Raised bed 6: 

This bed has been entirely J’s choice. He was really keen on planting some beans so has half a bed of broad beans and half of baby sweet corn. All bought as plants from the garden centre as we were too late to use seeds. Long term we plan for beans and anything else needing canes to go into the field. 


So that’s our six beds so far. Not bad for our first year I think and certainly good to have them all filled with crops considering we were quite late in the day getting them built and filled. Planning for next year will be key I feel and I’m already getting excited about it!

chickens

Cannibal chickens

So unfortunately today we discovered that one of our chickens has eaten an egg. Yesterday when C and I collected the eggs one of Anna’s eggs had a crack in and there was some dried egg matter on the eggs. As usual the eggs were all on top of each other so its not unusual for one to get a crack in it occasionally. No egg from Dorothy, but its not unusual for the girls to have a day off a week. I cleared out the straw and disposed of the cracked egg and made the nesting area ready again for the next day. Today I had already collected one egg first thing before work and C and I found four more in the nesting box. And unfortunately there was not only no egg from Dorothy again but also there was dried egg on the other four eggs in the box and on the straw. It looks like Dorothy’s egg has been consumed. Bugger!

Now there can be several reasons why a chicken might turn cannibal: they could be stressed, bored, lacking in a nutrients, thirsty or accidental cracking. Now we have had some very hot weather in the UK this week so that could have made one of the girls act out of character. The disruption that we had last weekend with discovering the girls had created a new nest and then having to open it up could have made them act out of character. Who knows. So I’ve made sure the food, water and grit/shell are all well topped up and thankfully tomorrow is the weekend so we can monitor the girls all day and remove the eggs promptly and hopefully discover who the culprit is and stop the cannibalism. Goodness only knows how though!

Raised beds

Filling a gap

So with harvesting the turnips we now have half a raised bed empty, the other half still has beetroot in. I had thought about planting some more carrots but J suggested that I kill two birds with one stone and transplant some of the cauliflowers that I needed to thin into the space. We will always use cauliflowers and they have the advantage of not needing to be picked straight away (you can cover the head over with the leaves and keep them in the ground for a while) so it seemed like a sensible decision. So this morning C and I dug some holes in our empty space, only about 7 along the row.


Then we watered the ground well and pulled up a few cauliflower plants from our existing over crowded bed and planted them soil all into their new homes.


I then gave them another quick water. C and I were then out for the rest of the day and I didn’t get to revisit the raised beds until gone 7:30pm. This was the sight which I found.


Not a good look. There has been a big heatwave in the UK this week so I’m guessing (hoping) they just need more water as they settle into their new home. Worst case scenario and they don’t take I can always pull them and plant some seeds before it gets too late. The heatwave is supposed to be ending tomorrow so maybe they’ll fair better then. Fingers crossed.

Raised beds

Pulling up the turnips

So unfortunately my excitement about planting turnips (and hence my sowing all the seeds at once) has come back to bite me squarely in the backside. For now all of my turnips are ready to harvest. At the same time. Unfortunately turnips aren’t the type of crop you can leave in the ground until ready as if they keep growing they end up rather woody and unpleasant to eat. So we have had to pick them. We’d already had about half a dozen picked the other week for when we had some friends come round for dinner. And have picked another 30+ now.

Now there are only so many turnips you can eat at once. Especially when the weather is as hot as it has been recently. So last night I peeled, diced and boiled a big pan full of them and mashed them up to freeze for future roast dinners when the weather cools down again. However, that still leaves me with about 20 to use. For the moment they are sitting in a bowl in my kitchen but I know that should only really be a short term home for them. I guess my afternoon will have to be spent googling “ways to cook and use up turnip”. One major plus point is that they do have a lovely delicate sweet flavour and I do really adore the taste. And if nothing else this abundance has taught me the importance of planting rows in succession to spread out the harvest!

Lazy beds

Potato flowers

So we have planted six different varieties of potato in the field: red duke of York, Charlotte, Maris peer, Maris piper, King Edward and Purple Majesty. We ended up planting them all at the same time as we were very late doing our lazy beds. But we have a mix of types (first early, second early, main crop and late main crop) so we were expecting to at least have some time lag between harvesting. But now four different varieties are starting to get flowers on. For those that aren’t potato growing savvy, once the flowers start to die back is generally when you begin to harvest. So this means that we now have potentially four different varieties looking at about the same stage of growth. Which means we are going to end up with a hell of a lot of potatoes all at once. And it only seems to be the odd one or two plants from the different varieties, which would suggest we could be harvesting bits and pieces of different varieties at once. Very confusing and it doesn’t really help with my planning and organisation! I guess now I need to start looking at ways to store potatoes as I don’t want my amazing crops (well I’m presuming they will be amazing) to go to waste. The flowers are really pretty though which is good as the potato plants themselves seem quite ugly!

chickens

The egg mystery…

So this week we haven’t had as many eggs as usual. The girls haven’t been themselves really, J had to chase two of them into bed the other night as they had climbed on top of the hen house and were refusing to get down and go to bed, even though it was gone 11pm and very dark. And we’ve had workmen around a lot with getting my cabin built and the final few bits of outside work sorting the patios etc which can be quite noisy and unsettling for them. And it’s been really hot this week which can tend to make chickens lay less. So although I was a bit perturbed by the decreased eggs I figured it was just one of those things. 

Anyway yesterday I let the girls out in the morning as usual before heading back in to make the morning coffees, and then at about 9:30 we went out to check and see if there were any eggs. However, we could only count five chickens, Dorothy was missing. The fence had been on the whole time and I was sure that I’d counted six chickens tumble out of their house that morning. We looked around the hen area but no sign of her or any evidence of any predator attack. It looked like somehow she had flown over the fence and escaped. After a good search, including a root around the pampas grass, we headed back inside but J and I kept popping out alternately to check and see if she had returned. And lo and behold she had reappeared about an hour after we were first looking for her. Now that really bugged me but we suspected that she had been hiding in the pampas grass and we had just missed her. We had things to do for the rest of the day so didn’t give it much more thought. However, today we were having a Father’s Day barbecue and I just went out to check the girls didn’t need anymore water before we started cooking as it was a scorcher today and Dorothy was missing again. 

I was determined to get to the bottom of the mystery of the missing chickens and eggs and so called J to come out and bring an old walking stick with him and we began hacking at the pampas grass. We found what looked like an entrance point to the centre of it where through their scratching about they had managed to create an archway into the centre (see below).

So we tried to clear some of the vegetation so we could get a better look inside. Not exactly easy as the leaves are actually quite sharp and so J got his hedge trimmers out to tackle it. Finally I managed to spy some eyes peeping out at me from across the other side of the pampas grass, Dorothy appeared to be laying an egg (see below you can just about make out her eyes and beak).  

Now I am not happy with the idea of my chickens laying eggs randomly somewhere else, they could easily encourage rats or other pests. We started giving it a good trim right above where she had been sitting desperately trying to make our way into where she was. Thankfully she rose and scuttled out and we could then clearly see eggs. Now that is eggs plural (see below) so it wasn’t just a one off occasion. She had been using her newly established nest for a while. 


As a reminder Dorothy lays our white eggs, but our discovered horde also had some normal looking ones so she has clearly had some friends also sharing her private nest. We managed to get the pampas grass cut back enough to get into them and in total from there we collected a dozen eggs. Seven white and five normal coloured. It certainly made it our biggest daily haul to date. Now we just need to find out a way to make sure they go back to using their actual nesting area!

Life in the Countryside

Colour co-ordinating the outside

It sounds like the most ridiculous thing doesn’t it? Trying to colour coordinate the outside buildings/furniture. But that’s what we’ve been doing this week. We have a number of wooden bits outside that need painting with some kind of treatment to make sure that they last well. And, well, it just made sense to try and ensure they all matched. So we have three picnic benches which J had rescued from being thrown out last year and, even though they are in quite poor condition, with a lick of paint they should look quite presentable. We had started painting them a grey colour last year but it hasn’t really weathered that well so we’ve gone for a better quality paint/sealant in a colour called ‘white ash’. It has needed a few coats but should look good once finished.

We also have C’s playhouse in the small cottage garden which was painted a cream but we’ve gone for the same as the benches as the cream had a bit of a yellow look in comparison. We’ve also given a first coat to the log store with the same paint and we’ve started on the cabin too. Although I think it will take a while until that’s all completed as we’re going to try and rope in someone slightly better at painting than us to do all the cutting in around the windows. So for now these photos are just a sneak preview.