24th November, 2008

It was a very cold weekend, the coldest this year. But I still got outside to do some of my latest favourite pastime...leaf collecting. I still have a way to go to fill the new leaf cage.

The greenhouse is the place to be if you are a young plant at this time of year I reckon. The broad beans are looking great.

The spinach and spring onions haven't done much but I will prick them out into modules next weekend. But the onions outside are a good size.

The lettuces are small and I think they may be bitter to taste, maybe I should taste a leaf and find out.

The garlic and shallots too are showing some green shoots.

The soil is very wet now and I won't be doing any digging for a while since I'll just make the soil structure worse by walking all over it, but also it is too heavy to work. I don't have a lot of compost left and I intend to incorporate the compost every time I am digging. So I'll have to wait.

Finally, I used up nearly 3kg of the stored apples to start off some apple wine. It's bubbling away nicely in the airing cupboard. It will be ready in 6 months if all goes well, that is when I'll be harvesting the broad beans. This is my first venture in to wine making and it seems to be relatively straightforward. Let's hope it works out. But it has inspired me to make more, I think I'll try some parsnip wine next. It's nice to have a bottle of wine at the weekend so to satisfy that demand I calculate I need to make a batch of wine every two months!

I've given up on the cider making unless I can find a cheap cider press, but that seems unlikely. I did make a bid on ebay for a 6 litre press but it sold for the price of a new one (~£110+). They seem to be popular at this time of year not surprisingly, so maybe I'll look again when they are not in demand.
I overestimated how much chicken wire I'd need to make a cage for the leaves. Or there was a generous amount of wire provided. Whatever, I have a very large cage now! I doubt I will fill it; it would be great if I did as I know I will use as much leaf mould as I can make.

I had to use the flash to take the photos, as it was getting late in the day. I've only managed to fill about half of the cage.

I've braced the supports for the blackberry and loganberry plants. The blackberry especially put on so much new growth over the summer that the supports were buckling under the strain.

I plan to cut down the Leylandii hedge (behind the blackberry in the picture) as it mostly dead and therefore not very attractive and it's very hard to trim, and it's probably drying the soil out.

The broad beans continue to grow in the greenhouse and there are two main leaves on most of the plants. The lettuce under the cloches are growing too and there should be enough to pick some leaves for a salad soon.

The potatoes are lasting well and we'll be eating them well into the new year. Also in store in the garage are the apples which are lasting well and are being used for apple pies mostly. I shall make some more apple jelly though on a cold day when I can't get outside, as every week there are a few apples that have turned brown. The onions should last us until the next harvest, although I have rediscovered fried onions.

12th November, 2008

The broad beans have started to germinate. It's amazing that these plants can grow in the cold and low light levels. As with last year, I'm giving them help by starting them off in the greenhouse where they get some protection, but I have successfully germinated broad beans directly in the soil outside. Tough plants.

I have been top dressing the front lawn which is a side project of mine. I'm trying to make it into the perfect lawn and spend some time (too much?) in looking after it. Last year I added lawn dressing which I bought from a garden centre. It's a fairly large lawn so the dressing cost around £20. This time I've gone for the cheaper option and have made my own dressing from cheap multi-purpose compost (4 x 75 litres for £10 from Wickes) that I mixed with equal amounts of sharp sand. I just spread it over the lawn and brush it in. I'll have some spare compost left over and I'll be using that for next spring's seed sowing. I got the idea of lawn dressing from Recycle now that suggested using your home made compost as a lawn dressing. The trouble with that is home made compost is full of weed seeds and I'm trying to grow grass not weeds. I'm very good at growing weeds anyway.

Talking of recycling, I was disappointed to read here that the UK does not have the capacity to recycle all its own paper and that some of it gets shipped abroad to the Far East where it can be processed. So there was I thinking I was saving the planet but no, the paper gets shipped half way round the world. How much carbon dioxide does that generate? It's all about money after all.

Another rant I have is about the government's initiative to provide 50% discounts for loft insulation. I reckon I can do this myself for a lot cheaper. I do have some existing insulation but it needs to be thicker. Then I learn that the government is still claiming the VAT, albeit at 5%, which seems rather cynical to me. There is a petition that I have signed (and you can too) to request that the VAT be waivered for loft insulation materials. If the prime minister wants to make tax cuts then this one would be helpful don't you think?

5th November, 2008

Not much activity now. I've been collecting leaves for more leaf mould.

The beds look very empty now. I've pulled up the squash and pumpkin plants and taken down the runner bean wigwam. There were two green marrow shaped and sized pumpkins which I am going to leave for a while to ripen up hopefully.

Leeks and cloches over the lettuce in the side bed.

Just parsnips showing, but I've dug in compost/leaf mould at the far end and planted garlic next to the parsnips, bu there is no sign of their green tips yet.

Only the parsley left in the middle bed.