Monday, February 28, 2011

Strawberries & Rhubarb

You can tell that spring is on its way as the rhubarb crowns are ready to unfurl from their pink and yellow bulbs and little buds are on the fruit trees. It's still damn cold so any chance of getting excited about the upcoming planting season is dampened (quite literally) from the squidgy toboggan run that is our pathway to the greenhouse. It is bogging!

Couch grass has become enemy number one so far. I'm having a difficult time rummaging through dead grass leaves that have taken to throttling my lovely strawberries. Even the rhubarb is surrounded! I've been gradually picking through mud, dead foliage and slug's eggs (we'll come to them later) to dig up the new strawberry runners that sprouted last year. I've put down the new breathable fabric in the front bed and nailed it to 2 surrounding planks with tyres on top to weigh it down. It's particularly windy at the moment so I had a few stern words with the fabric before it finally laid down on the earth rather than blowing in my face. I cut out crosses along the grid marked fabric and plonked a strawberry plant in each one. I'm hoping the fabric will solve the grass issue that has ruined our previous two beds where we tried to grow strawberries before.

Strawberries are pretty tough plants and can handle a bit of neglect. When they shoot runners they're not fussy on where they grow. I've got them growing between bits of wood, soggy mulch, rain trenches, carpet, puddles etc. They are as annoying and stubborn as dandelions when it comes to casually planting themselves in awkward places but... they taste fantastic so I'll forgive their senseless wanderings.

Random Facts: The modern French word for dandelion is "pissenlit" which means 'piss on the bed' due to the strong diuretic effect the plant has. Strawberries are named so as they are berries traditionally grown on straw mulch, thus lifting them off the ground as well and away from slugs. (yeah, you probably already knew that!)

I got about 20-30 strawberries replanted before my hands went numb at dusk so I came back the next day to sort out the rhubarb. The grass here is just diabolical so I just dug and pulled up as much as I could. I'll come back to this when the weather is drier and easier to dig.
Whilst pulling up the clumps of grass I came across some rather gloopy looking eggs. Slugs eggs! Loads of them!! I managed to move a lot of them out of the ground and flung them out on the road for the birds. I fear that there will be more... a lot more! :(

A job we missed off the list was the scarecrow. Worzel Scummage is looking a bit worse for wear after enduring winter so Dave's going to give him a new post with new arms and a new can of cheap lager to complete his iconic look for 2011!

Worzel Scummage looking a bit knackered from Winter!
Strawberry patch ready for planting
Strawberries planted (3 rows done since photo taken)
Snug as a bug...
Euuuuwwwww!!!!!! (AKA slug eggs)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Plotting for 2011

Another year over and another year arrives! Winter was spectacularly depressing but it is gradually getting lighter and I have missed the plot during those dark nights. Only 5 weeks until the clocks go forward!

Dave and I went to our lovely local ale pub (The Albany) to discuss the rotation for 2011. We are pretty much sticking to what we know and what we love to eat. We have cleared the back of the plot and we're just waiting for it to be completely turned over with a rotorvator. We are taking a slightly silly risk with having the plot dug up so much at the back. We have lots of perennial weeds and chopping them up into tiny bits could be something we regret! Nevertheless, we're going to try and keep on top of the weeding. (Hmmm....)

The same rules apply this year, only growing stuff if it's cost effective and tastes better than supermarkets whilst being fairly easy to grow. We have both bought a fair amount of seeds from Thompson & Morgan this week and I have drawn up a plan of the plot (slightly more accurate ratio!) to illustrate each plant bed.

Dave has bought in some pumpkins that are called Dill's Atlantic Giants. I suspect that they will be HUGE! Possibly more for decoration than to eat but should be fun either way. The main crop spuds are a blight-free variety again, Sarpo Mira. I have bought some Apache 2nd Early spuds to see how they get on. Despite all the snow and frost we had over winter, you can never be sure if blight has been fully killed off. We're playing it safe as we adore our potatoes!

I'm going for a new variety of broad bean. I had a good first crop and then a very squishy one last year so I'm giving Jubilee Hyser a go to see how they do. Apparently they produce 'tremendous crops' so I'm looking forward to see how they turn out.

We are also attempting a blight-free variety of tomato, a different colour of flowering runner beans, kale, spinach, and swede. Dave also wants to give the "Three Sisters" growing scheme a go. Generally this is companion planting whereby squashes, sweetcorn and beans/peas grow within the same area. The sweetcorn provides a frame for the beans/peas to climb up whilst the squashes suppress the weeds.

We are also shifting the strawberries as they have been covered by couch grass and the old plants need to be composted. Strawberries generally are at their best for the first 3 years and then need replacing. We are planting them in the front bed but inside a breathable fabric that lets in water but keeps the weeds out. Hopefully we will get to do this on Saturday morning before the rugby matches!

Monday, February 21, 2011

A new breed of snail

I had to chuckle when I saw this image of a snail guitar. Love the headstock with the little snail feelers! Found in March's issue of Guitarist magazine. Snail-axe!