Friday, March 30, 2007

God, not the best week, gardening wise. Last weekend I didn't get to the lottie at all, and I only popped down quickly on Tuesday morning to plant a thyme bush and some violets that a friend had given me. I was distressed to see that the recent cold snap seems to have killed my peas :-( but that the gooseberries seem to be doing well, and the raspberries are still asleep.
My seedlings are a mixed bunch. One lot of tomatoes is thriving and the others are looking pale. Looks like I might need to replant them in a different medium. and the lettuces are doing well for the most part. I must sow some more this weekend, to renew the stocks.
Must do a few duties over the weekend, namely plant some more spuds, plant the strawberries, try sowing some peas and radishes and flowers. The weather seems to be warming up so maybe now is the right time?
And maybe I will at last fulfill my ambition of getting some horse crap from the pony club. I want some to spread as mulch till planting and some to mix for my potatoes that I am going to grow in the big bin. A few aches and pains seem likely for Monday :-)
I wish a good gardening weekend to all those reading.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

A friend at work gave me a nice gift: a pot of thyme and two little plants that she described as a sort of ground cover violet. She says they have pretty flowers and cover a lot of ground quickly, and they tend to invade but she says that she just attacks them with the hoe when they over-grow and don't mind. Good for path edges. I might put one just near the door of the shed instead of the weeds that are there. I will get some stones and make a little bed for them.
Looks like it will be a sucky weekend, probably rain, but then again that is the weather forecast so forgive me for being cynical. Will have to at least dig in this artichoke stump my friend is giving me.
Went past the pony club yesterday - WOW! the pile of manure and straw that is there! beckoning me... Tomorrow morning I will go, I swear, and get a few bags of it. Then I will be able to dance in it, like this guy... ha ha
Oh and big excitement, I got a big black bin (4€82 at Brico Depot, the discount hardware place) and I am going to try the vertical potato method in it. So the horse crap could be handy there too! SO is looking at the bin last night - "This isn't staying here, is it???!!!" He's just not into all this - and composting seems to be a pretty disgusting business all round to him.
I popped down to the lot yesterday morning, and even though we are having a cold snap, the raspberries and gooseberries seem to be starting new growth! Onions are coming up, and some spuds. Hope they don't catch cold. My peas are not looking well though. I might pop some seeds in this weekend, just in case the others flatline. The compost bin is dodgy, part of the front had dropped off!! I shall have to get some nails and screws in some strategic places I think.
To all those reading, have a nice weekend in your gardens (weather permitting...)

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Monday, March 19, 2007

oh and I forgot the job that Smallest One and I did on Sunday! Pricking out the lettuce and tomato seedlings. She got quite filthy, even got potting mix in her hair (sigh). But she enjoyed it.
I followed the instructions from the Gardener's Almanac. I was surprised at how you can pull out the seedlings by their leaves! They are tough little buggers!! I thinned out some of the lettuce, some still needs doing (I have about 9 single plants), and all of the tomatoes (18), into single plants. Hmmm SO was already complaining about the seedtrays now there are twice as many. Hopefully in a couple of weeks the lettuce will be big enough to plant out!!! The tomatoes will be there for a while yet though!! I guess once it really warms up they can sleep somewhere else.
Also brightened up my balcony! Put in a big container with six strawberry plants and a pot of lavender. Just outside my bedroom window. Mmmm in July it is going to smell soooo sweet.

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Ah that was a full-on gardening weekend!! Saturday Biggest One and I set off at 9.30 full of good intentions. It was not too cold, and we hauled a heap of stuff down to the garden: some more tools, the fruit bushes, potatoes, my week's vege scraps, some shredded cardboard for mulch.
With quite a bit of difficulty we put up the compost box, it is massive! About a square metre!! But it makes the place look tidy.
Then we put in some spuds, Rosevals (reds) and Sirtema. I have loads left over! might have to give them away. I will put in some more in April, to make sure we have a plentiful supply.
Finally, after much thought, I decided to put the fruit in its definitive position. It is cold but not very windy, and they are a bit sheltered by the compost box. So we dug in a bit of compost, forked all over the joint then dug some decent holes and planted them. I put in a few poles too near the raspberries so I can string up some wire later on in case they need support.
We went home, I cooked lunch then went out again by myself after lunch, when I planted my pea seedlings that were not too happy in their newspaper pots, I put some wire fencing next to them so they can climb. If they die, I guess that is the law of nature!! I've got plenty more seeds at least! Popped in some mint too, in a big plastic container that I hid in the ground. And in a rather daring move, I also planted some carrots (early) and some parsnips. Call me crazy. Might just sprout.
My bloody legs were killing me on Saturday night though.
Yesterday (Sunday) a very garden-oriented friend came to visit the allotment and was impressed by the setup. He helpfully spotted some (wonderfullt fragrant) thyme, growing madly all over the place on another allotment, at which point he bent down, found a piece that was sending roots into the ground, pulled it up and twisted it off! "Here you go, go and shove that in next to your shed." OMG I am an allotment thief! I thought, but then I rationalised that this fellow really did have rampant thyme and he could never use all that was there and I don't think he will miss a little bit of root that was out on the pathway. So I shoved it in next to the shed and felt slightly less guilty.
He has kindly offered me a couple of artichoke plants, which I gratefully accepted, I will have to go and get them next weekend. Dunno where I will put them! But artichokes are delicious, so couldn't refuse.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

BUGGER!! in capitals! Meteo France has predicted SNOW for next week!! What am I going to do? My strawbs are in toilet rolls and the gooseberries and raspberries are in soil filled bags!!! How long can I leave them like that??? And should I at least bung them outside on the terrace to get them used to the nippy weather???
So much for my big planting session, although I think the spuds will be alright in the ground. Or should I plant it all and put plastic over it??
I am frantically forum-ing to try and get an answer from my experienced diggers!

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Last night I opened my box from the garden mail order firm. I was a little bit horrified because 1) the strawberries looked dead except for some little green shoots in their crowns and 2) the instructions on what to do with them until you plant them outside were not adapted to someone living in a flat. They went like "dig a hole in the corner of your garden and lay the plants at a 45deg angle covering the roots lightly with soil". OK that was out. So in some desperation I just shoved them into toilet roll holders and filled them with potting mix and then gave them a good watering. I hope this will stop them dying the death before Saturday. The raspberries and gooseberries were in plastic bags with their roots naked so I opened the bags, filled the bottom with potting mix, again a good water and put a rubber band around the filled bit.
The planting instructions were quite specific, but not very familiar to me. Firstly you soak the roots in water for a certain time, then it says to dig a hole, put in some potting mix or compost and fill it with water to make a kind of mud. You dip the roots into this, then you plant them in a hole that you have already prepared with some nice fertile stuff at the bottom of the hole. I will try this technique and see what happens. I am a bit worried as the plants seem to be completely lifeless but they assure me they are in "vegetal dormancy" and will wake up once they are out in the air and sun.
Saturday is going to be so busy: I need to build the composter and set it up, plant these fruits, plant my spuds which are looking like aliens, plant my parsnips, some carrots , beets and spinach. Oh, and rip out another 20 kgs of weeds. By hand. Phew.
He Who Must Moan is making acid comments about the tomato and lettuce seedlings cluttering up the kitchen windowsill, the fruit bushes in the pantry, the plastic bottles waiting to go to the garden and the cardboard boxes all over the place.
Lots of plastic things looking like this...
I also think that he went to get a jar of jam in the pantry and dropped my seed packets all over the place because there was a bit of yelling and something about "bloody seeds". I told him that he will stop moaning once he's eating the raspberries but I concede that it is rather a weak argument in the absence of material proof...

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I received my plants!! When I got to work this morning, the postman had delivered a nice package for me. was a bit suprised to see the plants just sealed in plastic bags, still they are guaranteed so if they don't work, I will complain.
I got:
seeds - carrots (early and late), spinach, parsnips, basil
3 raspberry canes
3 gooseberry canes
a packet of strawberry plants, tied up in a rubber band
and a little bag of sparaxis bulbs (free gift)

We have decided that the garden needs a bit of heavy duty work, so next Saturday we will have a family digging day and all pitch together to get the spring plantings done. My spuds need going in, and all this fruit, plus a few carrots, beets and spinach and my pea plants. Must try to plant progressively, to avoid a huge glut...

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A mixed weekend for gardening. It was a bright sunny weekend but I just didn't get around to actually planting :-(
I did go and get my compost bin though! Why do I always imagine that gardening things will be neat and tidy? This was just a stack of wood parts that had never been unpacked and had been lying on the lawn of this guy's house for months. Still, it is a fair size and when I slot it together it will be terrific. It was hard to get into the car though.
The guy was really friendly and also gave me a half-bag of potting mix, a garden "claw" and oh no, a nearly full bag of peat. Have just realized that the campagin is on to stop people using peat in their gardens :-S Mmmm well I guess since it has already been bought, I might as well use it, otherwise that is a bit silly. But I will remember not to buy it again. But then I will have my compost next time...
Speaking of compost, the guy also lead me to his current compost bin and said "I don't think the new owner of the house is interested, if you want some, take some." This was prime compost! Years old, although I found the quantity of eggshells somewhat offputting. They must have been old though because a small push reduced them to pieces. I filled a big garbage bag with this stuff, and it will now dutifully be mixed sparingly with the earth under my fruit bushes, and dug into the to-be tomato patch.


Friday, March 09, 2007

OK this is probably rather off the subject, but those who know will say that I am a keen reader and I suddenly thought that the blog would be a good way of keeping up with what I have read and what it was like. I have just read one good thing and am currently on a another good one so it's a positive moment for novels :-)
Have just read a book by Eliot Pattison (who used to be a lawyer I believe), which is called "Water Touching Stone", and which is quite a captivating story about a Chinese civil servant turned casual investigator after years in a Chinese goulag followed by retreat to Tibet with the monks. This was a story about murdered boys, corruption and personal ambition disguised as politics. A terrific read, although it was hard at first to work out who was who, but there is some fascinating insight into buddhism, the Tibetan situation and China's cultural policy for its "colonies".
And am now reading one by Alexander McCall Smith who I really think is starting to become one of my favourite writers. He is just fab. (Another lawyer? what is going on?). OK, he is immensely popular (and prolific!) with bestsellers all over the place but we are far from pulp fiction here. I am now on Friends, Lovers, Chocolate which is the 2nd book in his series The Sunday Philosophy Club. It is quite delightful.
I admit that yesterday I rather guiltily bought the 1st book which I didn't have when I noticed an English edition in a bookshop. I first started reading Smith when I was given his "2 ½ pillars of wisdom" a trilogy comprising the splendidly named 'At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances', 'Portuguese Irregular Verbs' and 'The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs' and relating the trials and triumphs of an obscure linguistics professor.
To be consumed when it is pissing down with rain and you can't go out planting like this week :-)


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Hmmm was given an interesting prospectus this morning by a workmate: a local company called Ecosys sell natural compost, mulch and potting mix. It seems not very expensive, the mulch is 9 euros for 100l. They apparently have their own sites where they compost organic waste. They also sell wood for fires that has been recycled. They have a store not far from where I work, I think I will go and have a squizz, just to get an idea of the amount that represents. I fancy some of that mulch for the "Hot Veg" (tomato, gherkins, courgettes, peppers) plot that isn't going to be filled for some weeks yet...
Pouring down rain here today, at least the strawberry plants are getting a good drink!! Hope the onions don't rot though :-S

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Another weekend - Saturday was a nice day but impossible to get out gardening. I did however go down to the allotments because we had to elect a supervisor. Exactly what that person does is unclear. What is clear is that there is a large portion of the gardeners on our lot that go down there to drink several bevvies and smoke their Gauloises Brune while fannying around with a couple of sad looking cabbages. The meeting was held in our communal shed and the alcohol vapours in the air when I went in would have been enough to knock a large herbivore of its feet. To sum up, the guy that actually has the approval of most people does not want to stand again because of the hassle and the guy that is standing (and ended up being elected) is said to have "numerous good qualities" but is suspected of having pocketed over 300 euros that were amassed by unofficial (paying) drinking sessions!
A few negative issues were also brought up, namely that in the past people had been evicted from the allotments without any official consultation and that the waiting list had been corrupted and some people's mates were given a plot ahead of others. Since I was on the waiting list for 3 years I was a bit peeved to hear that.
When I saw the association secretary on Sunday, I mentioned all of this to her. She said she was staying on as secretary to keep an eye on the supervisor!! Crazy. Just remind me never to leave my handbag unattended...
On Sunday finally got to garden a bit, despite blustery weather. I bought a few more strawberry plants at the garden centre, a variety called Cijosée, which according to the web is similar to the Mara des Bois, has a "pretty conical fruit, bright red, shiny good presentation, fine juicy flesh of medium acidity". Well, we will see what it gives us. I got some black plastic down with the help of Smallest One and planted them in that. Of course once I got it all in, I realised that the rows were really not terribly straight. Oops.
Also put in a few sugar snap peas, once they come up I will put up some trellissing to help them on their way.
There are a lot of weeds again but I didn't have time to deal with most of them. Next week if it is fine, I want to start putting in the spuds and early carrots which will give me an opportunity to weed a big patch.
Pleased to see the garlic sprouting very well, the green tips are now about 8 to 10 cm high. The radishes I planted under plastic are also coming up, so in a couple of weeks we might have our first crop!!
Unbeknownst to SO I took some photos of my seedlings, he would wonder what the hell I was doing. Must download them soon. The peas are doing well:

and the tomatoes are starting to get proper leaves:

The lettuces though seem all legs, very spindly, I don't know if that is normal?
Also did a bit of balcony gardening: a nice potted rosemary plant, I bought two primroses that are now hanging outside and I planted some asters (think it is a dwarf variety, it says 30 cm tall). Just now the balcony is full of purple crocuses that were hiding from last year, some pretty white hyacinths, and some orange and yellw tulips. To my surprise, some herbs from last year, mint and tarragon is starting to appear from the pots I had left outside in gay abandon. Surprising how things cling to life!

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Friday, March 02, 2007

God I am bloody annoyed. Lidl (you know, cheap hard discount store, like Aldi) advertised all this gardening stuff, on sale from yesterday so at lunchtime I went out in the pouring rain to have a look, ended up doing the shopping at the same time as it happens, and there was practically nothing yet!! I really wanted some woven sheeting to put under the strawberries, it was only 4 euros! there was none left, probably been pillaged by rabid pensioners at 3 minutes past nine yesterday morning. Crap.
Well, I did get some pot holders to hang outside my window (I'll put them outside the bedroom, now that the bedroom has been redecorated, or halfway, and fill them with something bright and cheerful) and some very cheap seeds (29c a packet) of lettuce and spring carrots and also spectacularly dropped a bottle of orange juice smashing it all over the floor. Every customer at the checkout saw and they were all gaping like stunned mullets. I turned towards them and gave a sweeping theatrical bow but strangely enough no one clapped. God it's hard being dramatic sometimes. The checkout chick that had to clean the floor looked at me like a was a dog turd on the sole of her shoe, even though I did say sorry. I then had to load the groceries in the boot, again in the rain. What a day...


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Oh oh and in other news, I have joined a Yahoo group called Freecycle. Think these exist all over the place now... (OK quick google proves the twattish nature of that statement, it's a worldwide concern...)
The idea is that it is a "giveaway" platform - if you have old stuff you don't want, advertise it, if you need something, say what you need, but NO MONEY must change hands. It's just give and take. I like this, it warps the capitalist system!
Anyway I thought I would be a bit cheeky and post a request for gardening objects! And some bloke has offered me a compost bin! Yay! Just have to organise to go and get it. Forgot to ask if there was any compost in it.... oh well if he doesn't want it I'll take that too.


Since seeing all the blossom on the trees I have been getting terribly excited about the prospect of spring!! So I was very pleased when my seed catalogue came through the post (with bonus offer of free postage, yippee).
This morning I slipped an envelope in the mail asking politely for: 3 gooseberry plants (mixed, there is a purple, a green and a yellow variety)), 15 Mara des Bois strawberry plants, 3 Heritage raspberry canes (at Smallest One's request, little does she know that I will hastily be putting a net over them for such marauders!), some Lombardia summer spinach, some early carrots and some late ones too for good measure, basil, and parsnips (Guernesey variety). And what's more I am told I will get a free pack of Sparaxis bulbs. Hmmm wot's that then?
Sparaxis is apparently a South African native that is also called a Harlequin flower. They look quite pretty, a single petal but nice bright colours. Says they flower late spring early summer so maybe by June we might see what they look like. Oh well, I suppose I can chuck a few around the edges and a few more in a big pot and see what happens. If they like heat they might even do alright on the balcony. *thinks deeply* Experimental... Never look a gift horse in the mouth...
My seedlings are doing well, especially the peas! But I planted a few lettuces from an already opened packet and no sign of them, I think that one will go in the bin. Luckily my other "Fat Lazy Blonde" variety (no really, that's what they are called!!) seems to be sprouting happily. Maybe a few plants from the garden centre are in order so we might have some home grown lettuce before Christmas hee hee.
And I also have a lovely purple hyacinth in a little pot handpainted by Smallest One on the kitchen window sill. It smells divine.

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