Symbolic Forest Gardenblog

An experiment in container gardening

Archive for the ‘Photobloggery’ Category - page 1 of 3

Potato Harvest

The first batch of potatoes, Red Duke Of Yorks, is now up and out of the ground. By “ground” I mean “bin”, of course.

Potato harvest

And when I say “first batch”, I mean “second batch”. The second batch of potatoes, the ones that were hugely leggy because their shoots were already six inches in length when I planted them, died off well before the plants from the first batch, one of which is still in full greenery. Presumably this is a result of the shoots being far too long; which, in turn, led to them having much more trouble with the bad weather.

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Harvest

After 11 weeks, we have harvested the first crop of this year: “Ostergru├č Rosa” radishes, planted back in March. I pointed out, last time I mentioned them, that we didn’t have much success with radishes last year. These, though, have been a lot more successful: a good clutch of long, fat roots.

Radishes

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Psychic

The pea plants must be reading this blog. Three days ago, I said there was “no sign of any sort of flower yet” on them. And what do I see on each of the first batch of plants this morning?

Pea flower

Fingers crossed they will all set fruit!

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Growing up

Never trust anything you read, especially if it is on the back of a seed packet. “Self-supporting if sown in a block”, it says on the back of the packet of peas I’ve been sowing for the past couple of months. Self-supporting if sown in a block. Now, I admit, the pea stems aren’t exactly lying flat on the ground, but they have lurched rather drunkenly over to one side, the well-grown stems from the first batch completely swamping the later ones. I have, rather belatedly, added some string to prop everything up and get everything growing a bit more upright. I’m not too sure how these peas are doing: the first batch may have plenty of leaf and tendril, but there is no sign of any sort of flower yet.

Both batches of potatoes are well up now and have completed earthing up – the second batch with a few sprigs of leaves showing, the first batch with a good head of foliage. The leaves of this year’s variety are, initially, a beautiful deep maroon in colour.

Young potato leaves

I was hoping that the plants would retain the colour as they grow. As the leaves get larger, however, they fall back to a more conventional deep green, with only the midrib and some of the larger veins keeping the red pigment. There is no sign yet, touch wood, of the leafhoppers which plagued our potatoes last year.

More mature potato leaves

Two weeks ago, I sowed the main batch of courgette seeds, and was rather wary. We’ve not tried to grow them before, and I’ve heard stories of people having lots of trouble with them this year. However, in exactly 7 days every seed in the batch had germinated and was showing itself above the surface. I’ve killed off one as it was showing signs of rot, but the rest seem to be going well. They have started hardening up, and before they’re three weeks old should be ready for planting out.

One last thing for today: if you read Alys Fowler’s advice column in the Guardian Weekend magazine, you might have noticed last Saturday’s query about mossy containers. My mossy containers, that is: that was my letter! In particular, the container with our Swiss chard plants in, which developed a thick green carpet last autumn which didn’t seem to bother the plants at all. I shall stop worrying now that the moss might be bad for them.

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Rain

It rained all last weekend; and since planting up the runner beans on Tuesday the rain has been essentially continuous. So I’m getting somewhat behind with the gardening, and getting more and more depressed about the state of the place. Gardening has been limited to poking the camera lens through the kitchen door, which is an angle I don’t normally try. The curly parsley decided, when the weather was hot over Easter, that it was time to bolt into flower. So far its flowers have not yet come out: maybe the rain has made it regret its decision.

Parsley trying to flower, in the rain

From that angle, the garden looks rather lush. It doesn’t feel that way when you’re standing in the middle of it. Moreover, the wet weather has prompted the local slugs and snails to mount a full-on attack of chewing. The garlic and fennel are too strongly-flavoured, but the runner beans and lettuces have survived a major hit, some of the pea plants are just hanging on, and a tray of coriander seedlings was completely destroyed, not a leaf left. Last night I went out twice, armed with scissors, and killed about eight slugs and five snails, stabbing the snails thoroughly and snipping the slugs in half. Well, it’s better for the rest of the garden than poison, and it definitely kills them before they can eat any more.

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Rosemary blossom (again)

A month ago, I posted a photo of a rather lonely solitary rosemary flower, as our small bush was just starting to come into flower. Ever since, as blossom erupted up and down each branch of the rosemary plant, I’ve been trying to make a better photo of it. None of the photos I’ve taken, though, has really managed to properly capture the beautiful deep violet-blue of its petals. In all of them, even those taken in the brightest sunlight, the colour seems rather pale and washed-out compared to what I can see myself outside in the garden. The local honeybees are loving the rosemary, too. Last year it was rare to see a honeybee at Symbolic Towers; I assumed there weren’t any hives nearby. There still aren’t many to be seen, but they are now regular visitors – whereas so far this year bumblebees have been a relatively rare sight.

Still, I have pushed on and tried to get the rosemary petals on-screen, before the flowers all turn to seed. Here’s my best attempt:

Rosemary in flower

Not my best photo, but it gives at least an impression of the deep, strong colour I can see with my eyes. In the foreground, you can see the flower stalks some of the chives are sending up; and in the background the feathery foliage of one of the fennel plants.

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Blossom

Back in January, I mentioned that all the rosemary in Southville seemed to be blooming. I said at the time that our own rosemary bush seemed to be slowly coming into bud: two months later, it is starting to flower. On Sunday, I noticed one solitary bloom:

Rosemary starting to flower

Today, there are rather more: I will have to try to get a less lonely-looking shot.

Yesterday, I spotted that the peas sown last Saturday, and the radish seeds sown back on the 11th, are both starting to poke themselves above the ground now. Looking back, I apparently didn’t mention the radishes when I planted them. Last year we grew several batches from a variety packet called “Rainbow Mixed”: they were good for science experiments but not much else, as almost all the plants we grew produced lots of foliage but hardly any root. From a box of radishes, we would get maybe one or two which had roots worth eating. This year, then, I’ve picked a different variety, a German type called “Ostergru├č Rosa”, sold in this country under the Eden Project’s brand name. Supposedly they should turn out with long, French Breakfast-style roots. We shall have to wait and see.

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The week in the garden

This week, it really feels as if the garden is properly getting itself going. More and more insects are out and about, and more things are starting to come alive. The lettuce and calendulas sown three weeks ago have just made their first appearance above ground, and the pea seedlings which have been growing on the kitchen windowsill are getting larger and larger, stretching their tendrils like the most grotesque of scarecrows. Today I started hardening them off ready for planting out; I probably should have done it earlier.

Pea seedlings on their first day out in the garden

More peas will start germinating soon. The first batch of this year’s potato crop went into the ground today too – well, into their container. This year we picked Red Duke Of York, as something we are unlikely to see in the greengrocers, and I’ve tried to squeeze four tubers into the container rather than last year’s three. The second batch will be planted in about a month’s time.

To get the potatoes, we popped over to the Riverside in Southville. Naturally, we were rather tempted by their selection of herb plants. Possibly too tempted: intending go there purely to get potatoes, we also came home with a black peppermint, some sweet peas, and two fennel plants. The fennel is instead of the dill we grew last year; I will explain more about that later.

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Progress

The peas planted last weekend were showing the first signs of poking up above the soil five days later, on Friday. By yesterday, the seedlings appeared to be coming on well.

Pea seedlings

Those peas are the ones we sowed for planting out in the garden later; there is no sign of the variety we sowed for pea shoots yet. There is also no sign, apart from a little ground disturbance, of the seeds I sowed outdoors. Of course, the peas, inside on the kitchen windowsill, have something of an advantage. Other things are doing well, though. I said just over a week ago that the first shoots of chives had started to appear. They have been coming on fast: getting on for a couple of inches, they are now big enough to photograph.

Chive shoots

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Growth and slumber

As you might have noticed from the date of the last post, not much gardening has been done recently. Even though I went out to swap seeds, nothing yet has been sown. It has still felt cold and frosty, damp and grey, at least until a warm bright morning this morning. I went outside and noticed that the chives have started to wake up. Grown from seed last year, they did not come to much in their first year. However, they seem to be coming back again, because each plant now has a cluster of new shoots poking upward.

Moreover, the three boxes of rocket, which I had been intending to pull up, are bursting back into life too. The wild rocket had been laying low but hanging on, a carpet of foliage which managed to survive the frost and snow we had earlier in the month. This morning, I noticed that in the past week it has bolted and burst into flower.

Wild rocket

The two boxes of garden rocket had even managed to keep their flowers all winter. These too, though, have started growing fresh flower shoots and buds recently.

Garden rocket flowers

Pulling them up is on hold for now: at this time of year, anything in flower deserves to be kept for the sake of the local insect wildlife. I do love letting the garden rocket go to seed: last summer each rocket flower stem was surrounded by a cloud of hoverflies for most of the day. The neighbourhood hoverflies are still waiting to emerge, but no doubt there are other hungry insects looking for nectar right now.

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