Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Battle of the Bay Tree Won at Last!

Over the last few days I have been desperately trying to remove a bay tree from a small plot that I wanted to free up for an extension to the veg plot. It was only a little tree so I thought it would be easy. Of course it wasn't! the roots seemed to go on forever. However, with lots of hacking away with a spade and an axe, and lots and lots of unrepeatable expletives, the bay tree finally came out! Hooray!

The plot also had several pallets piled onto it which I have removed and once they have dried out a bit I will chop up for firewood. There were also several sheets of corrugated metal which were previously from a pig sty - we took this out several years ago to make way for the goat shed. I have thought that maybe one of the local scrap metal dealers might give us a couple of pounds for them, you never know. Worth a try anyway.

Anyway the plot is now dug over and ready for planting. The soil could do with a bit organic stuff dug into it, but my next batch of compost isn't really rotted down enough yet, so it will have to do. I am thinking that it will be a great spot for the courgettes and pumpkins. Maybe the cucumbers as well? I'm not sure yet, I will have to measure it out in my usual highly accurate way of pacing it out or using a couple of bamboo sticks!

I am really pleased to have finished this as I have been meaning to do this for ages and it will give me just that bit more room for my various crops.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Planting Trees.... and Digging Up Trees

At the end of last week the ash trees that I ordered arrived. This is part of my masterplan to be more self-sufficient with heating fuel. The theory is that I buy a few more every year until I can start coppicing the first batch in around five years time. I will probably run out of space before then, so I will need to keep my ambitions in check as far as this particular project is concerned.

This weekend I had the task of planting my new ash trees. This should have been an easy task - dig a hole, add compost, put in tree and water well. However, predictably it was not. When I started digging in the plot that I had earmarked for four of the trees, after getting just a few inches down I found it was full of rubble. As this part of the garden serves no other particular useful purpose I was determined that this is where at least four of the trees were going to go, so I spent hours digging out bits of brick and stones. When talking to my wife, we remembered that the original plans for the house (which we have lying around "somewhere") show a small barn on this spot. I guess that when it was demolished some of the rubble was buried. I had hoped that digging out the stones I might find something interesting, but aside from a few small fragments of nondescript pottery it was all just brick and stone.

Anyway, I finally got them in and found a spot for the other three trees. I just hope they survive my planting - my record of tree planting is not very impressive. As you can see I have put wire around them to protect them from marauding chickens, geese and children.

Today, I have had a day off work as our youngest had a day off school for teacher training, so I persuaded him to "help" me try and dig out a bay tree in a small plot that I want to use as an extension to the veg plot. Currently it is being used largely as a dumping ground for odd bits that I haven't had chance to get rid of. The bay tree is nice, but just in the wrong place. Predictably (again) this was not a straightforward task. We have cut the tree right back and dug around it cutting through bits of root as we find them. So far it is just refusing to budge so I think this could turn out to be a long job. We gave up late this afternoon as it felt that we were getting nowhere. Weather permitting, battle will recommence tomorrow evening!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Making the Most of the Spring Weather

I have been away for the last couple of weekends so I have got a little behind with the usual spring planting. So this weekend, as the sun was out, it was a perfect opportunity to catch up a little. Cue lots of seed sowing. I have sown my parsnips seeds in toilet roll tubes this year which I am hoping will increase my usual rather poor success rate. The problem I always have with parsnips is that germination is so slow that the seedlings often get strangled by weeds, but it so hard to keep the area clear of weeds without pulling up the seedlings in error. This worked really well with carrots last year so we will see.

I had hoped to use the same method with my peas, but I ran out of tubes, so they will have to be sown directly into the ground.

I also sowed some more lettuce, some squash and some pumpkins. As well, for the first time ever, I have sown some tomato seeds. I usually "cheat" and buy plants, but I thought I would try and grow them from seeds this year.

Rather later than planned I got the rotavator out to go over the veg plot, and amazingly it only took five attempts to get it started. I was expecting lots of pulling of the starting cord followed by scraping away at the spark plug to try and get it started, but thankfully it behaved itself very well this time. Before I did this though, I dug up the last of the leeks which were looking a little sorry for themselves, but they will be fine for soup. I also discovered a couple of parsnips that I didn't know I had, which was a nice surprise.

I bought some red onion sets and shallots to put in a few weeks ago, but they didn't make it in. Unfortunately, several of the shallots had rotted. I only manage to salvage about a third of them. I also planted the onions. This is much later than I had intended, so they will probably end up being rather on the small side.

The only thing I didn't do this weekend that I really wanted to do was to plant the potatoes, but I have a couple of days off work at the end of this week so hopefully I should be able to do these then.

Friday, April 9, 2010

I Have Ordered Some Ash Trees

In my on-going attempts to be more self-sufficient it has occurred to me for a while that I could plant some trees with a view to coppicing them for firewood. My understanding is that ash is the best wood for firewood, so that is what I have ordered. I have started with 7 with the assumption that at least a couple won't survive given my past attempts at growing trees and I have ordered them from tree-shop.co.uk. I have no idea what this supplier is like, but they have an enormous range of trees to choose from.

It has been a little tempting to get carried away and think of planting an entire woodland, before realising that I have barely an acre (at a generous estimate) into which I need to fit a veg plot, some grass from the boys to run around on (including a very large trampoline), a goat pen, an area we rather ambitiously call "the orchard" and various bits that I have grand plans for.

This is a long term project of course; it will be at least five years before I can start looking at cutting the trees. I am aiming to buy a few each year up until I start cutting them, but I suspect I may run out of space before then. No harm in being ambitious though, although I don't really know how big they will be after five years.

The trees are due to arrive next Thursday when I am due to have a few days off so hopefully I should be able to get them in straight away...........just as soon as I figure out where they are going to go!