The missing sunflowers

I love sunflowers and haven’t had the space to grow them since I was a kid so now this year since I have a garden, perfect I thought, I’ll grow loads and they’ll brighten the place right up. 

In my first attempt I sowed the full pack of seeds direct, nothing happened. 

For my second attempt I sowed the full pack into modules and left the tray on the patio but the next morning each and every one of the sunflower seeds, and the peas I’d sown in another tray had all gone. 

So onto my third packet of seeds, I sowed them in modules but put the tray into the conservatory and let them grow out of harms way. Once they were big enough I planted them out, thrilled with my success. Within a week all but two had been munched by slugs! Between the late start and summer never really appearing the two that were left never came to anything. 

Then at the weekend my husband noticed something on the lawn (moss), on closer inspection it was my sunflower seeds from the second attempt! The magpies are forever storing stuff in the lawn so they are getting the blame for this! Most of the seeds have sprouted but obviously never came to anything. So now I can add magpies to my growing list of garden pests! Maybe they’ll learn for next time they steal my seeds that they’ll just sprout and won’t be so tasty in a few months time when they come back to get their stash. 

  

With the house we inherited a sort of lean to greenhouse effort which has been great but has a bit of a mix of wood and old kitchen worktops which are supported by bricks and some seriously sharp and rusty angle iron so on Sunday we set to work pulling it all out along with the hundreds of spiders that live in amongst it. My in laws were having a new kitchen fitted earlier in the year and I saved some excess, lovely sparkly cream worktop from the junk pile so that’ll be cut to size and supported on some old fence posts we took out of the garden. All ready for next year and my first proper veg growing season. 

   
 
The new worktop

  

Slow progress

The veg beds as of last night

  
First bed has been planted with winter field beans. Second has strawberry plants, elephant garlic, germidour garlic and Shakespeare onions. Third has just been dug over and weeded, waiting to be sown with field beans. Fourth is in the process of being dug and the fifth has a layer of cardboard to discourage any grass roots from sprouting before I get round to digging and weeding it. 

It’s hard finding the time to get work done at the moment since the light is pretty much gone by the time I’m home from work and fed. It was pitch black at 7.30 tonight!

I gave up any last hopes I had of my wee tomatoes ripening on the vine so harvested them and have brought them inside to ripen. 

  

Foxes, garlic and lots of onions

Every morning after I’ve dug over an area of garden then raked it until it looks good I notice that it’s been dug a little more during the night, and not so neatly. We have a lot of foxes in our area and I’ve always known they take a shortcut through the back edge of our garden which has never bothered me but now they’re obviously hanging around in the garden and causing a bit of chaos which worries me a bit for next year when I have veg seeds or seedlings in nicely prepared beds. There are three areas the foxes get in and I can access two of those to close off the gaps then hopefully if there is no through route they won’t bother coming in.. although maybe that’s just being a bit optimistic. Does anyone else have this issue? How do you deal with it?

I’ve been off work ill for the past couple of days and have spent most of my time in bed watching videos of Sean’s Allotment Garden which just makes me want to get out there and grow! The only things that are still going in my containers are some peas and four turnip seedlings planted a couple of weeks ago which I’ve covered with old plastic cups to give them a chance of surviving the slugs. I have seen few toads in our garden but clearly not enough to keep our masses of slugs under control. 

 
In the border there are still sweetcorn plants which I’m not very hopeful for, we’ve had such a bad summer that I can’t imagined the cobs will be very good but I like the look of the plants so I’ll leave them be for now. For the veg patch I’ve ordered some garlic, elephant garlic and onions for autumn planting. Only trouble is the onions come as 75 sets so I’ll be giving some away to anyone who will take them as I really don’t have the space or need for 75 onions. 

I also ordered some ‘Patchwork mixture’ heuchera as plug plants, I went to Tatton Flower Show earlier in the year and the floral marquee was full of heuchera for sale but I was on a budget and resisted so when I saw plug plants I just had to go for it. 

I did however buy a couple of Thalictrum plants at Tatton which I’ve finally planted out into the garden, one white and one purple. I just love the delicate fern like foliage. 

  
My current task is to research some green manure for the empty beds then once myself and the weather are feeling a bit better I’ll get cracking on with the three remaining veg beds.

Spending and a bit more digging

I noticed some slate labels on crooks reduced in Sainsburys to £2.10 a pair, but printed on the labels was ‘Grown in the UK’ and I was really after blank slate labels for my veg beds but I figured it’d be cheaper to buy them and just write over the pre printed text than buying blank labels elsewhere. When I got to the till they scanned through at 70p so I’m quite chuffed with that. 

The reverse side of the slate has ‘Garden Trading’ printed on which will probably be better for writing over. 

   
 
Not much has progressed in the garden as we’re also doing up the house so due the rubbish weather I’ve mainly been working inside. My husband bought me a Bee Balm plant which I’ve planted into the new flower bed, I’m still harvesting peas and when the weather allows I’m getting some digging done in the veg beds – two down, three to go. 

  
Yesterday we popped into Dobbies on the way past and my eagle eyes spotted a 50% off sign above their seed collections so I purchased

  • Brussel Sprouts Bedford
  • Leek Musselburgh 
  • Nasturtium Ladybird Mix
  • Pea Hurst Greenshaft
  • Sweet Pea Prince of Orange
  • Sweet Pea Spencer Special Mix

I also saw on Gardeners World that Monty Don was sowing some turnips so I may sow a few today and see how they get on. 

The last carrot

I pulled up my last carrot tonight to have with my tea, I’ve been putting it off since my second sowing were all munched by slugs as seedlings and I didn’t want to be without my homegrown carrots after discovering just how good they are, but now I regret the delay because it’s just not as tasty as the younger carrots were, all lessons to learn for next year I guess. On the plus side I’ve finally managed to pick enough peas to have with a meal so I’m looking forward to that!

I wonder about starting carrots off in old toilet rolls under they are old enough to fend off slug attacks then just planting out the full roll..

Later tonight I’ll be single digging one of the new veg beds after re-reading Monty Dons book to find he’d written that double digging isn’t required on grassland (yay!)

  


At the weekend I finally got round to planting out the 80 odd flowers that I’d bought from Thompson & Morgan as tiny post-sized plug plants, unfortunately when I labelled them I used an inky pen which just disappeared from the labels after a while so there were a few unknowns in there (yet more lessons learned!). At the moment the flower bed looks more like a veg bed but hopefully the plants will fill out and I’ll be planting annuals in any gaps next year. The bamboo canes are marking out the area I’m planning to have a hazel wigwam which will probably have sweet peas growing up it. 

  
 

My husband told me that I always have grand plans which involve too much work but it keeps me busy and out of trouble, he should think himself lucky that all I want to do is dig and not shop!

Good old Monty

I figured since it wasn’t raining at the weekend I should make a start on the double digging of my new veg beds, I had read it was hard work but the only major issue I found was that I’d greatly underestimated how unaccustomed my hands are to a bit of work! I had dug half way along my first bed when I stopped for dinner and whilst inside I referred to my Monty Don Complete Gardener book which says if the bed was previously grass then double digging isn’t required, just single dig and lay the turf upside down in the trenches. Well if Monty says so then it’s good enough for me! Plus it’s half the work and it’s somewhere to hide the masses of turf we’ve created. 

The flower bed hasn’t been so easy to dig over because about half a spit deep is where the soil stops, underneath is some sort of builders grit which has been used underneath the slabs on our front path. I think I’ll just incorporate a load of compost and look on the positive side that the bed should be well drained and suit all the lavender plants I’ve got waiting to go in. I’ve got 100 allium bulbs headed my way come September so I’ll need to look into whether I can plant them in this bed as planned or whether the soil will just be too shallow.

All turfed out

We hired a turf cutter on Friday, thankfully it was the first dry day we’d had in what felt like months. 

  
We cut out 5 veg beds, a flower bed allowing for a grass path between it and an existing bed and widened the edge where we had planted a mixed native hedge last November just to give it a bit more room because I don’t think we’d given it enough grass free space when we planted it. 

    
We then relaid some of the turf on the ground which was a raised gravel area full of bricks and broken pipes just a few weeks ago. Really happy with how it looks now. 

 
I’ve been cutting lengths of turf and piling them upside down in a compost bay so it should hopefully rot down into nice topsoil but there’s so much turf I may have to find somewhere else for a secondary pile. 

Elsewhere my peas are finally showing and I can’t wait to eat them straight from the pod, I’m running low on carrots and I think my second sowing seedlings have mostly been munched (by snails?) along with most of my stawberries so I’m a bit dissapointed. The sweetcorn seems to be doing well, there are plenty of tassels so I just give the plants a shake on the way past to help them pollinate and fingers crossed there’ll be corn on the cob to be eaten soon. 

  
I’ve got lots of little tidying jobs to finish and then I’ll mainly be double digging in preparation for next years veg. My back hurts at the very thought of it!