Saturday, 17 September 2011

Growing season nearly over - reflections

I've had quite some time to mellow out and De-stress myself.
I gave up my job to help my wife with her business looking after children. Some days can be quite stressful and I do wonder if it was the best choice.
Then I remember everyday was stressful helping people with computers, I sort of understand the need people have for their computer and for some it can be like severing an arm if they break.
I was once like that myself - many a time I had spent most of the night working on my PC unable to bear the thought of it still being broke in the morning.
Things have changed so much for me, I can honestly say I don't like computers anymore. In fact I'd go as far as most technology.
Don't get me wrong tech has its uses, without my computer I couldn't write my blog, or my digital camera I wouldn't be able to keep a record of my garden and my ps3 - watching blue rays whilst I drink beer :)
I found gardening by accident, not a match made in heaven - plants that take time (a lot of time) to grow and need to be looked after - then there's me, someone who needs everything yesterday and gets bored very easily.
I still don't know why I love gardening so much, but things have evolved so much from getting my first plastic greenhouse - measuring 4ft x 2ft, I now have 108 square ft under glass (its all polycarbonate but glass sounds more professional).
When I think, Do I still have the same passion for gardening? the answer has to be yes! more so than ever, my impatience is still there - again more so than ever! but I kind of micro manage it. All my little projects reward me daily with something new.
As for growing season over - It should be but again my much hated tech should see the end of seasons all together (these plans to be revealed later).
Has this season been a success? All those who know me would definitely say yes. but for me its a huge resounding no.
My goal of self sufficiency fell well short of the mark. So far in total perhaps
30 cucumbers, 1kg assorted peppers, 10 marrows, 5 courgettes, 3lb of strawberries and 10kg of tomatoes.
Herbs - coriander, 3 types of parsley, chives, sage, rosemary, 5 types of basil, 3 types of mint, dill, chervil, Tarragon and oregano.
Out of all this we have bought fresh herbs a couple of times from the supermarket and salad leaves perhaps once a week.
The two mains reasons why so bad - 1 the English summer (a Thursday this year) and 2 my constant over watering.
Next years goals - water less and total self sufficiency.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

I really have to stop having Hamster days.

With the threat of tropical storms and the back end of a hurricane hitting the UK, I decided it would be a good time to move my existing greenhouses and build the new one that has been sat in my garage for a week.
So over a 2 day period I completely re arranged my garden. The first task was to remove all of the plants in my way, Mostly consisting of a few hydrangeas, some test annuals that I had grown other bushes that I don't know the name of and one mammoth Hosta that had been driving me nuts for a long time.
Yes the flowers on the Hosta are nice but regardless of the amount of organic slug pellets I put near it that plant was like the slug equivalent of a Travelodge with build in restaurant.
The Hosta wasn't going to give up without a fight and it took nearly 30 Min's to remove in the process I also snapped my digging fork, but It was time well spent and I was so please to get rid.
The tomatoes also got cut down, I'm not complaining I made my first ever batch of green tomato chutney today.
Next job weed fabric and 25 bags of pea gravel, I'm kinda thinking if I get rid of the grass near the greenhouses it will cut down on moisture and bugs.
Moving 2 greenhouses, the plastic 6x4 tent thing - me and my wife - no big problems really. Then on to my 6x6 greenhouse - took 4 of us to lift and the amount of creaking and groaning it was making - I nearly had a panic attack lets put it that way.
With the news of very strong winds on the way, I was really struggling to decide to build my new greenhouse or not.
I kinda got to the thinking that if it survives 80mph winds it will be around for some time, We started building about 2 in the afternoon - 7pm it was getting dark the wind was picking up, it was starting to rain and I had about 7 glazing panels to snap in.
Also 1 door to build and a window, the good news was I really couldn't risk leaving them till the next day for fear of the wind getting in a causing damage,  so another hour was spent by torch light (still raining) finishing the build.
A small review for the company who made the greenhouse - really simple instructions, excellent design, good build quality, easy to construct and amazing value for money.
The negative - please find another way of securing the glazing panels, they are held in place by plastic strips that click in place (with brute force). I have blisters on most of my fingers, the last few panels almost brought me to tears (I need to add I'm no wimp - 6'2 tall and lots of muscles).
But with all that pain there is pleasure and I can grow a lot more plants now with so much more space.
If my maths is correct I now have 108 square ft under cover.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Before and After pics

Just a few images, It still amazes me how quickly the garden has changed.

Taken 31-05-2011
you can see the space marked out for my first greenhouse

Taken today 06-09-2011
Just over 3 months if my maths is correct.

Taken 09-06-2011
Everything is so small and neat and tidy

Recent 05-09-11
I know its progress and I'm enjoying the crops but - welcome to the jungle

Inside the plastic greenhouse that you can just see  in the pic above

And finally the front garden

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Pics as promised - 4 - 09 - 2011

I thought these were Golden Wonder Peppers - Turns out there way too hot for that so I've no idea.

 My first pea plant - Kelvedon Wonder - in 8 weeks now is 6ft tall
 Lettuce crop number 2 :)
Temp plastic greenhouse number 2 6x4 ft

The runt of my tomato plants - hes doing OK really :)
Chili peppers Cayenne

More tomatoes - Moneymaker I think

A new front garden :)

After some hassle with the neighbour demanding money from me (about £400) because he was getting damp across the front of his house.
Apparently it was the soak away that was broke and it was my fault for parking my car on it.
Things got quite ugly :(
so my resolution was to dig up the front garden, which to be honest i was using as a parking lot and wasn't pretty.
I do need to publicly state that the reason after investigation the soak away had failed, was due to - drum roll - nothing to do with my car - but due to about 30 years of muck being washed off a flat roof.
He never did apologise :(

Total cost of the project - was a lot of hard work on my part and £35 paid by the neighbour.
I decided once I had finished to make some alterations to the front wall and then, a new lawn perhaps. :)
that did cost me lots £12 for the seed.
The plants I used were ones that I had in my greenhouse, grown from seed I was going to keep then until next year and try my luck at selling at a car boot sale. (oh well needs must)
My front garden as it stands now :)

Not a bad result, neighbour off my back, a new garden and a saving of £350

Update - 04 - 09 - 2011 growing season nearly over :(

It's been a a very busy few months, personally and in the garden.

I can safely say that my intention to keep a weekly blog didn't quite work out, well I've just got back from a weeks Holiday in Paignton, Devon. I absolutely loved it.
There is a massive BUT though, seems my garden for the moment is not the only thing that has taken up roots. I missed it and was pleased to come home.
I do think the plants had missed me too :) a weeks worth of crops were waiting to be harvested.
loads of cucumbers, tomatoes, courgette, marrow and chillies.

When I get some time I will post some more pics.
On a side note, I bought another greenhouse today, 8x6 so bigger than my other "I have no idea how I'm going to fit it in my plot"
I have to wait for my tomatoes to ripen and then it can probably go there "Yet another test for me I will have to wait for something that I really want yesterday :( the irony is the tomatoes would ripen faster if they were in the greenhouse that I'm waiting to put up.
Lesson learnt container pots from now on.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Weekly Update 17/06/11

More Marrow flowers - Male this time 

My first cucumber

Chili plants flowering nicely

The Big Experiment - Soil Mixes - Part 3 - day 16

Firstly apologies, It should be day 14 (I've been really busy - To be revealed later). The soil mix experiment almost at conclusion.

Most of the seedlings are now at a stage where i needed to pot on, The sweetcorn definitely needed it as their main roots must be about 8" long.
My conclusions.
This is really difficult, the slowest for germination was - the soil free mix (not exactly slow 16 days). Where it failed there was a plus point, by far the easiest to prick out and pot on.
As time has gone by I have developed my own method for germinating, a mix of soil - vericulite and a little perlite. the cover the seedlings with vermiculite. Water from the bottom and give one spray across the top to further dampen the vermiculite.
If it starts to look a little dry, water from the bottom - never spray the top.
I'm getting good results this way and no damping off. (touch wood)
There is another soil experiment I'm working on though and I will post the results when the time comes.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Plant Pots - On The Cheap

Locally I have been buying my small plant pots for £1 for about 10, sometimes 15. If I was to go to the likes of B&Q they can get quite expensive.
I had been looking on ebay at a deal £7 for 50 - 13cm pots, not too bad a deal. I still wanted cheaper, after scouring the local car boot my wife spotted 2 bin liners full of large pots, I asked the gentleman how much and his reply was "make me an offer". After a bit of discussion he came back with the price of £3, I thought that was a little expensive per pot (there was some big pots in there). To my surprise that was for the bag full. He offered the 2 bags full for £5. We had struck gold there must have been 300 pots in there.
On our way back we called in a local garden centre, Right next to the toilets was a skip with lots of plant pots.
I enquired and was told to take as many as I liked. We took most of them.
Another 100 possibly.

Now is all I have to do is wash and disinfect them all.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Weekly Update 9/06/11

Weekly update number one.
So much is currently happening in the garden. I spent a lot of time over the past couple of days, digging a new vegetable patch (I use the term vegetable patch loosely there is only tomato, basil and lettuce in it). It would seem that my soil type would be silty clay, that has been dried out and compressed over the years.
I went out to buy a digging fork as I was getting no where fast with a shovel, I should have bought a pick axe. With me having to resort to using a hatchet, it only took me two days.

The plants are really starting to flourish and I have been quite happily eating strawberries as they ripen. I have big plans for my strawberry patch which is now in my redundant greenhouse. I have a growbag across the bottom and then the shelves will also be filled with new plants.
I have given up cutting off the runners in the hopes of increasing fruit. Every time I remove a runner two new ones grow.

The marrow plant has gone nuts outside and produced its first flower (if you can call it that, looks like something off the alien films). I've never eaten a marrow before, I hope it tastes nice.

The Peppers are starting to flower.

Finally I have tomatoes after a long time waiting.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was guilty of overwatering my plants, I just never knew to what scale until now. Wilkinsons ph and moisture tester - £4 and worth every penny. Just stick the probe in and a meter will tell you how wet. I've not watered my Livingston daisies for 3 days and they are still wet.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Big Experiment - Soil Mixes - Part 2 - Day 7 Update

Doesn't time fly when your having fun, Seven days have passed and the preliminary results are here. If I'm honest they have and haven't surprised me.
Looking at them it turns out the best soil mix for germinating seeds is (drum roll) soil. Allysum was showing growth after 2 days, then second was the perlite and soil mix on day 3.
Vermiculite and soil - vermiculite, soil and perlite came in a joint third.
Last was vermiculite and perlite only showing the slowest growth.
My thoughts:
Firstly the seedlings are looking quite leggy, thats my fault due to lack of space they shared a home with the tomatoes and chillies so light is at a premium.
I don't know if its me making excuses but the soil used is very expensive and designed for germinating seeds, would the results have been the same if I'd used normal general purpose compost.
I suppose its still the old me, everything needs to be upgraded and made better.
There is one big hurrah, I've never had sweet-corn germinate before.
Finally these results are just the beginning I want to see how the plants develop, those that need nutrients will be given them. So next set of results in seven days.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Moving Day - My Plants Get A Real Greenhouse

Friday was a perfect day, started by taking my son to fly his plane then on for some fishing at a local canal. Blue skies and definitely the hottest day this year.
I got a phone call from my wife to tell me that the greenhouse I had been so eagerly awaiting had arrived. It took me about two mins to pack my tackle away and a quick drive home. There it was, Two boxes. I could hardly believe they could flat pack a greenhouse so small.
I found the instructions and I could see why there had been so many bad reviews, they made no sense at all (I spent a lot of time over the next 2 days staring at those instructions very blankly).
It was a giant meccano set, as my wife said I needed the help of my son.
Many hours later and things were starting to take shape. My brother turned up and helped for a while, but he had to stop as he had dislocated his arm digging a couple of days ago. He was a lot of help to say he was in a sling.
About 8 hours work for 2 people
The next day after tightening and un-tightening every screw on the frame to fit the panels, my plants finally had a new home. 

The Tomato's look very lonely in there with only  a cucumber for company
The whole project must have taken about 14 hours and 2 people to complete. As for the reviews of the greenhouse, I would say partially founded as most of them were complaining about how difficult it was to build.
I know I took a risk buying it, especially based on the reviews. When you think about it though are there any easy to build greenhouses. The one thing that counts is I am Highly pleased with the finished product, and I can't wait to grow lots more plants. 

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Straw for the Strawberries.

Firstly I wonder if thats where they got their name (never thought about it before).
Two of the Strawberry plants I bought have done really well over the past month (both Elsanta) the final one (Cambridge Favorite) has been infested with aphids and ants :( no amount of spraying with soapy water is getting rid of them.
My first strawberry was ready for eating the other day :) (delicious) a lot though had been sitting on the soil, I'm surprised they hadn't rotted.
A 3 mile walk and a 40p bag of straw from the farm shop later.
I can now stop worrying :)

Hydroponics for the beginner :(

First I'm going to start with a couple of disclaimers.
I know my blog title states Technology out.
I'm going to stand by that and in my mind I class Hydroponics not as a growing Technology but more a science, just another growing medium.
On another level ethically I'm not so safe, I don't like to use of chemicals, pesticides etc. I have used slug pellets but they are organic so I'm told, safe for children and pets.
So then why hydroponics which is just water and chemicals, I like to play I cant help myself.
It was totally an accident. (sort of)
I got to thinking about my big experiment, those seeds without soil would die once they expend their own nutrients. At last an excuse to go to the hydroponics shop I've passed for months and wondered about.
The soon to be seedlings needed nutrients.
I came away from the shop with a bottle of nutrients, a very basic Deep Water Culture setup (called a bucket bubbler) and lots of magazines.
This works by suspending the plant in a nutrient solution and an air pump/air-stone highly oxygenate the water.
this site can explain it all a lot better than I can -
I see another experiment on its way. my cucumber plants (grown from seed about a month old) one plant has gone nuts, its double the size of its siblings.
Having planted out the ones I need its left me with lots of spare plants, I just can't figure out what to do with them even Jurassic plant on the right there.
1 hour later.
If hydroponics is as good as they say it is - this little cucumber should grow bigger than its bro, I'm not going to hold my breath :(
Again I will post updates in a week.