I am starting a new project today as it’s New Year’s Day. I have decided to invest in a grow lamp (£40) with the aim of starting off plug plants for growth in the polytunnel very early in the season. I am not sure if it will all work so this is a bit of an experiment. The grow lamp has full day light spectrum bulbs that are 55w each. According to some initial research I have done on the topic, the lamps need to be turned off at night to give the plants time to ‘sleep’.
I am going to try by starting some lettuce, in the hope that I can transplant it outside, but I also think you could just grow a few trays of cut and come again lettuce entirely inside. You might be wondering how ‘green’ all of this is in terms of electricity. The bulbs are not particularly high in wattage, and as a by product it light our utility room to such a degree that we won’t need to put the light on in there, so I don’t think it is too bad. It will only be used in the winter months as there is usually enough sun in the poly tunnel to grow things outside from April to October.
We’ve just got back from a little trip down to Cornwall, and while we were there we visited the Eden project for the forth time in 15 years. It’s so great to see it developing and I always find it really inspiring. Sooo we have decided to expand our growing space.
Becky came up with a great idea to lift some of the paths in our vegetable garden, thus increasing our growing space. So today we went from this.
She is a genius.
Oh dear…this summer we have been terrible at uploading pictures and stories to the blog, but on reflection I think there is a reason. We have now been living and working Sencemeadow for 4.5 years, and some of the ‘projects’ of the past have become just part and parcel of our yearly cycle. I don’t mean to diminish the immense pleasure we both still get out of growing our own food, but we are finding that less and less of it is brand new and noteworthy. To summarise our summer I want to talk about the vegetables that have got on well, and the ones that have struggled. The seasons has been pretty good weather-wise with lots of warm sunny spells to swell the fruit, but not so scorching that everything dies in the heat.
- The onions have been fab, we have a huge bag of storing onions in the garage, which I am steadily working my way through cooking up veg sauces to freeze for the winter.
- The potatoes have also been great. Our friendly potato farmer gave us a few different types of seed potato this year. We have found that..true to his prediction..the only variety that has not got on well was the Maris Pipers, which the slugs sniffed their way to and ate their way through. The other two varieties have worked well and are super tasty. We have a huge sack in the pallet shed.
- The courgettes have, in the end, been great. As you may remember we struggled early on with lazy plants that I was pretty convinced wouldn’t come to much at all. In the end the courgette plant has produced more courgettes than we can eat. The variety is wonderful, really firm and tasty, and so prolific. We will definitely grow that one again.
- The corn grew well, but was stolen by squirrels. The little devils helped themselves just as the crop came good.
- The Tomatoes have been steady this year, we have been getting a few every couple of days, from both the outside and polytunnel crop.
- The aubergines have been good,we have at least 4 little aubergines to swell up over the autumn.
- The poly tunnel bush forming french beans have been ACE! I am definitely going to do them again next year. They are a great follow on crop after the early poly tunnel salad.
- Chard as good as ever
- Outside french climbing beans have been a disaster again.
- Outside salad all eaten by insects.
- The Autumn raspberries have been fab, but I think we over pruned the early raspberries at the end of last season.
- The Strawberries have been steady, but I think need replacing.
- The gooseberries and current bushes were all eaten by the birds and need netting next year.
- Ditto the cherries
So can’t complain…the veggies have been late but generally good. We feel that we need to put back some nutrients into the soil next season, I think we have been a bit ‘take, take, take’, and we know that isn’t how mother natures rolls.
We are having a total nightmare with our squash this year, and cannot work out why. Any thought great fully recieved. We grew a really nice selection of squash plants in spring;
and were ready to plant them out by late June. Well the results have been rubbish. The plants have basically failed to thrive, turned yellow and got eaten by slugs. Fearing it was something to do with our soil, we have resorted to starting a few ‘reserves’ off in grow bags as squash is a really big part of our summer produce and we are already feeling the gap.
Asks you can see from the photo, there are a couple of semi decent ones, but as yet no sign of any fruit. We are keeping them well watered but are getting close to giving up on them. 😦
Today we have harvested the first polytunnel salad of the season. Usually things get very busy from here on in, culminating in more salad than we can eat by June.
Our squash plants are making progress. This year we have germinated most of them inside in the bathroom, and we have had better results than normal.
The grafting that I did in February is looking very positive with little leaves sprouting from the tops of each of the root stock. I now need to keep them pest free and hope that they continue to strive through the summer when the tape can come off.
Last year the raspberry bed got away from us a bit. The birds ended up having a good year because we couldn’t get to everything to harvest it. Nothing against the birds but I really like raspberries so this winter we’ve done a hard prune to get it all back under control. Possibly too hard, but time will tell. We’ve taken out all the runners and also managed to move the gooseberry and redcurrant bushes to their own beds. They have joined a new blackcurrant bush that my clever mum propagated for us. Hopefully now we can get to things we can make better use of them. We just need to finish weeding and recover with mulch and we’ll be good to go.