Sunday, April 17, 2011

Asparagus and more

We have had a busy couple of weekends since I last posted - mainly constructing and moving stuff. Maybe we'll get to the planting and enjoying stage sometime...

Work in progress: Asparagus beds, greenhouse, chicken house and compost bins
Firstly, all 10 Asparagus crowns have produced at least one spear...which is a relief! Hopefully either our neighbour will clip the wings on her 5 chickens or we will seal the back hedge - either way I can remove the temporary fence from around the Asparagus beds.

Asparagus spear
We have concentrated on the area behind the greenhouse that will become the home for our chickens. The area will be enclosed on 2 sides by chicken wire fence, the 3rd side by the back of the greenhouse and the remaining side is 3 meters of picket fence and the compost bins.
3 compost bins and a leaf bin
After seeing the price of decent wooden bins with opening fronts (about £100 each), I visited my local timber merchant (Thaxters of Holt - excellent service and prices) and bought about £80 of wood. 8 hours of sawing and screwing later, I had three bins built. And a matching leaf bin on the side. Total cost: less than £100

Old gate
We decided to give the chicken area a grand entrance, so recycled the gate from the front of the house (removed to make the drive entrance a sensible width).

I planted another permanent resident - an Himalayan Birch 'Grayswood Ghost'. This should develop wonderful smooth, white bark.

Himalayan Birch 'Grayswood Ghost'
It looks a little lost at the moment but the garden should grow around it as it grows.

Finally we moved the old summerhouse to a temporary position to allow the new boundary fence to be constructed...which has gone well too. I'll write more about that project another time.
Tired, old summerhouse

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sussex Gardens: Free plant labels

Roz recently posted a great recycling idea over on Sussex Gardens: Free plant labels: "A cheap and easy way to label plants and seedlings is by re-using plastic food containers like margerine tubs or milk bottles. Just wash out...". Click through to read the full post.

Free plants

The postman has just arrived with our 42 free Petunias from the February issue of Gardeners World. Looks like I will be potting those on this evening!

Tiny petunias!

If you missed the free offer, Thompson and Morgan offer a similar colour mix - click here to see it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

New lunchtime visitors

I was about to nip out for half hour in the garden at lunch when I noticed an odd grey lump by our new asparagus beds...quick look with the bins and I saw there were two Red-legged Partridges sat there!

Red-legged Partridges stood by our wheelbarrow
Not my finest moment of avian photography but I wanted to show the wheelbarrow in the frame.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Asparagus planted

Originally we planned to prune the back hedge and put up a chicken-proof fence...but the delivery of a box containing 10 Asparagus crowns on Saturday lunchtime soon changed the plan. It was time to get building and digging.

Firstly, we needed to determine where the edge of the veggie beds were going to start. This is determined by a gatepost and gate which will be the entrance to the chicken area. So time to dig a deep hole for the post and praise the light soil we have - hole digging is easy :)

With the gatepost in place, we could then put in the two 3.6m sleepers to make a retaining wall (the garden slopes slightly and I wanted the beds to all be level). Moving the 3.6m sleepers from the drive to the bottom of the garden was not fun - they are very, very heavy! We did find that you could put the sleeper on our 4-wheel garden cart by removing the sides and placing timber blocks on the bottom to avoid catching the small lip. It made steering awkward but was a lot easier than carrying the sleeper the whole way (which we did with the first two).

We then levelled the area for the paths and two narrower beds and dug over the area. Twice. It was meant to be a proper double-dig but the awkward way we are doing this - constrained by time and the temporary tree housing - meant that we made hard work of digging to a suitable depth.

Ness had to leave at Sunday lunchtime for a business trip, so before she left we carried the four 2.4m sleepers, that make up the long sides of the beds, into place. I then worked to finish off. My biggest mistake was to build the bed sides before digging in compost and leaf mould to the two beds. This made forking over the narrow bed quite awkward. Time was marching on and the clouds were darkening, threatening rain.

To plant the first bed, I dug the 30cm wide, 20cm deep trench and realised that I should have just emptied the soil into a wheelbarrow as the remainder of the 60cm wide bed could not hold that amount of soil. Anyway, I made the best of it, forking over the bottom of the trench (which was already fairly open) and building a narrow mound to trail the roots over. The five crowns fitted perfectly with 40cm spacing and I sieved soil back into the trench to cover the crowns with about 5cm soil.

One bed done, another to go but no time left. the remaining five crowns went into a tray of damp compost and I just managed to clear up our tools before the heavens opened. Hopefully half-hour at lunchtime tomorrow should get the other crowns planted and I'll add pictures then too.

We also added 2 species to the garden list this week - Lesser Redpoll on the niger seed(!) and a male Blackcap has been singing and showing occasionally in the bottom hedge.