The cabbage cull

It will soon be that time of the year when onion sets and garlic need to be planted. The onion sets are on order, and I’ll be splitting up a couple of the garlic bulbs grown this year, and planting their cloves. Onions and garlic can go in during autumn or spring, and after this year’s disaster, I was keen to get mine in as soon as possible, in the hope they’d get a good stronghold over winter.

I dug out the crop rotation plan, and discovered that they should be planted in the previous season’s brassica bed.

Slight problem there… the cabbages, broccoli and brussels are still whooping it up in there.

So this week I’ve had to make an important gardening decision. My dad used to say that if you’re umming and ahhing about something, write down the plusses and minuses on each side of a sheet of paper, and all should become clear. So off I went, and the list looked a bit like this:

The plus side:

  1. If we ignore the cauliflower disaster of a couple of weeks ago, brassicas are one of the few things that actually survive in my veg plot

The minus side:

  1. Yes, they grow, but it’s touch and go if we get a hearted-up cabbage or not, and only a handful of last year’s Brussels formed nutty balls: all the rest were like miniature baggy cabbages
  1. If there was a cabbage-only supermarket, my family would not be the first ones in the queue. Over the year, I’ve had to be pretty inventive with my culinary skills to get the stuff eaten
  1. The slugs in the garden may as well have their own bar tab, with the amount of beer that’s sloshing around in the slug pubs
  1. I could start off a caterpillar farm with the pickings from the patch

So there you have it. The cold, hard evidence. Brassicas have had their day, so I’ve decided to not grow as many next year. I’ll still plant a few, but not enough to be over-run with the stuff: just sufficient to eat now and again. With this new decisive air about me, I set about clearing some space in the brassica bed to make room for the onion sets that could arrive at any time. Anything that looked puny, holey, or had started forming flowers was swiftly whipped out, and only plants that actually looked edible were allowed to stay in.

The final nail in the cabbagy coffin happened in the week. A photo appeared on the OH’s Facebook page, depicting a slug on the grass, with an arrow behind him saying ‘cabbages’. “Hilarious!” I thought, “I wonder where he’s found that picture”. A closer look revealed the truth. The writing on the sign was his: he’d set the thing up. The message really could not be clearer…

 

Garden update

I was wandering around in the garden this afternoon, dodging the showers, and noted that although we are not overrun with produce at the moment (cabbage and lettuce are the definite exception), it won’t be long before we are spoilt for choice.

The new brassica bed was only created in April – look at it now!

Positively romping along…

One slight spanner in the works is that the purple sprouting broccoli seems to be, well… sprouting… surely this shouldn’t be happening…

Everything else is looking good though – the potatoes have started to form flowers, but I’ve dug one up and there are no spuds as yet. I quickly popped it back in the ground and it would seem no harm has been done.  I will just have to be patient…

I also have a couple of new additions to the garden. Wandering around the garden centre this morning, I couldn’t resist these little chaps, and at £3.99 each, they almost jumped into my trolley themselves!

The new additions are the little chickens… not the pots 🙂

All in all, it’s all coming together like a plan. Now if this rain would just stop for a bit, it would be perfect!

Rain stopped play

I know the rain stopped a lot of gardeners’ play recently, but I for one was having a teeny bit of a smug moment about it all.

My lovely new water butt

My lovely new water butt

Only the week before, my birthday present had consisted of some new greenhouse guttering and a shiny new water butt – who said romance was dead… flowers are sooo last year!  After the other half had spent the entire weekend dodging the showers to get it all installed, I was hoping for a veritable downpour… and that’s exactly what we got.

Not only was the new water butt filling up at a grand pace, but the garden was getting a good old water too – If I strained my ears, I could almost hear the sound of slurping roots. And, after being told our area was on a drought warning, we certainly needed it – looking round the garden, some plants had fared slightly better than others.

After rescuing my brassicas from the beak of a hungry pigeon earlier in the year, the purple sprouting broccoli (PSB) has grown into fine specimens, and we’re getting a good crop from it. Alas, the same can’t be said for the savoys. Some look as though they have the potential to heart up, but some haven’t so much bolted, as scarpered and run for the hills. I think it was down to the warm spell we had. Not to worry though, some will make tasty treats for the chickens, and I’ll let a few of them flower so I can save the seeds for next year.

The PSB's in fine fettle

The PSB's in fine fettle

Meanwhile, back in the greenhouse, a load more brassicas I’d started off were about ready to be planted out. Fast running out of room in the garden, I set about preparing a new patch. After clearing the area, a few laps round with the rotovator soon dug it over, and before long the bed was ready to be planted.

Whilst preparing the area, I discovered ‘Chicken Olympics’: an entertaining game that anyone can play, providing you have 1) a couple of hens and 2) a worm. Simply place the worm on top of the wire in the coop. The birds will spot it, and the High Jump trials will begin. After said worm has dropped through, it’s time for the 20 metre sprint. I have to say that Winnie was the clear champion, due to her speed, eye to beak co-ordination and sheer dexterity. Oh, and I’m sure being a bit of a thug helped too.

Anyway, patch ready, in went three types of cabbage, next year’s PSB and Brussels, and some cauliflower plants. Slug pellets went down, netting went on, and we’ll have to see what grows and what doesn’t.

My family are cock-a-hoop – they thought they’d seen the last of cabbage…

Latest from The Hinckley Times – 26 April

Hinckley Times 26 April 2012

Spring has finally sprung

Pottering around in the garden today, I noticed a couple of things that were worthy of a photo, and signify that spring most definitely has sprung. The sightings of frogs ‘doing their thing’ all around the garden must be coming to an end – we now have frogspawn. The clever things have hidden it in the most sheltered part of the pond, so hopefully it won’t become an easy lunch for the fish.

A live sex show, courtesy of Mr and Mr Frog...

A live sex show, courtesy of Mr and Mrs Frog...

And it’s not just the wildlife that’s springing into action. The Viburnum is flowering…

So is the Berberis:

And the Acer is starting to bud

Acer

And last, but not least, the purple sprouting broccolli looks like it will be ready to start picking very soon – I hope we like it, as there appears to be loads of sprouts on their way…

Hurray for spring!

Who’s been scoffing my savoys?

Recently I noticed that something has been scoffing my savoy cabbages. They’re in a bed with some purple sprouting broccoli, and on closer inspection all of the plants had little holes in them or had been nibbled round the leaves.

I grew some purple sprouting broccoli last year, but it never actually sprouted due to the masses of snow we had. This year I’d like to at least see what all the fuss is about – apparently it’s one of the tastiest vegetable to grow – and the more you pick, the more it sprouts. Experienced gardeners tend to shorten the name to ‘PSB’ – at first I didn’t know what they were on about… I thought they’d got some new, exotic veg up their sleeve.

So… what was eating it? I’d already discovered a family of slugs had rampaged through my pak choi, but that was under the polytunnel. Surely it was too cold out in the open for slugs… would they not freeze? And it’s certainly too early for the dreaded cabbage white.

The next morning, from my kitchen window I spotted the culprit. Bold as brass, a wood pigeon was having a fine old party for one, merrily chomping through my prize veggies. I noticed that he seemed to be particularly fond of the plants in this year’s plot, having blatantly ignored the sorry offerings we’d had to eat from last year’s bed.

“I don’t flippin’ well think so, sunshine!” I hissed through gritted teeth. It’s enough of a challenge getting stuff to grow into something that looks half edible, without some bird coming along and eating it all. With not a moment to lose, I slipped on my wellies and ran down the path waving my arms madly to shoo him off. I then set about making sure he couldn’t come back for seconds. A quick rustle round the shed produced a roll of netting I’d bought cheap at the end of last year.

So there I was, in my wellies and pink spotty PJs, stretching netting across my cabbages, at eight in the morning. My poor neighbours…

Personally I’m not a big fan of netting – I prefer to see the plants growing. Plus the fact that mine was a tad small so it was so tightly stretched across, the plants looked like they were off to do a bank job.

So this week I removed the netting. I poked a cane in at each end of the bed, tied some string between them and hung two old cds from it. I was feeling pretty chuffed with my bird scarer, right up until the following morning, where I noticed the pigeon was back – not looking all that frightened. There was nothing for it – I hunted round the shed for a bigger piece of netting and that’s now protecting my broccoli – which I’m pleased to say, is starting to form sprouts.

C’mon pigeon – bring it on… if you think you’re hard enough…

Who's been scoffing my savoys?

This one was in the Hinckley Times on 15 March. Is there some subliminal messaging going on, I wonder. In a previous article I was stood atop a ‘Replace your old boiler’ ad. Now we seem to have moved on to ‘Beach body boot camp’…. ahem….

Here today, plum tomorrow

Last weekend, the plum tree was laden with fruit, and we could see ourselves gorging on plum-related goodies all through the winter. However, nature had another plan.

Autumn nipped into the garden yesterday on the back of a strong wind, which whipped all the plums off the tree, into the shrubbery beneath.

A bit of grubbing around produced half a basket of almost edible fruit, which weren’t any good for the fruit bowl but I’ve stoned and frozen them and they are making their way into a smoothie near you.

The  little plastic greenhouse had also blown over… again, spreading my PSBs all over the place. I wonder if they have the kiss of death, as they are either being munched to within an inch of their life  by caterpillars, or are in a random heap on the patio.

I’ve discovered a design fault with these  greenhouses – three words:

They… are… rubbish… Roll on getting the garden sorted and my new greenhouse up and working.

Waging war on the cabbage white

I don’t know how to say this… my purple sprouting broccoli (PSB to those in the know) have been violated in their own homes.

War on the cabbage white

I’d started them off in the little greenhouse so they could get good spurt on before they left the nest and got transferred off down the garden.

Checked at the weekend, and a cheeky little cabbage white has sneaked in – ignoring the complete patch of cabbages down the garden – and laid its eggs all over my little seedlings. The daily routine has now extended to catapillar watch – and some of the little critters are brilliant at the art of camoflauge and blending in.

I will now take no prisoners. War on the cabbage white. I will crush you and your sons and daughters with my bare hands if that’s what it takes… My PSB will again sleep soundly!