Thursday, 24 July 2008

Up The Garden Path has received an...AWARD!

I am thrilled to have been given an award by The Compostbin.
Given that this is such a new blog I consider it a great honour. The rules are that I pass it on to 7 of my favourite blogs. I can't, however , pass it on to The Compostbin. Here are my seven:

Pollys Peri-wrinkles & Piercings in Ireland. I drop in most days and Polly always makes me laugh.

France This Way
. A fellow Englishman living in France (further south than me though).

Garendenny Lane Interiors, again in Ireland. She has a wonderful collection of fabrics which, as an upholsterer, I would love to get my hands on! More importantly she has just opened an on-line shop. Lovely things and I hope to send something to my sister for her birthday.

Thurston Market Garden. How can I possibly not include a gardener who also keeps Berkshire Pigs!

Hedgewizard's Diary. Full of wonderful stories and tips. You name it he grows it!

Obscure History. Slightly different this one. Some of the stories are sad; some are funny; some are just plain daft. But worth a look.

So there you have it! Take a look at these and I hope you enjoy them. Thank you again to Compost Woman for my award!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Farewell to the Blue Team

Our first three chicks were hatched from the incubator in late-April and were followed a month later by eight more. They became known as the blue team and the yellow team because of the tags we put on their legs to remind us when they were born, how old they were and when they would mature into egg laying hens. That was the plan.

Unfortunately two weeks ago the yellow team were taken by a fox or other predator - during the day and with no noise, not even disturbing our dogs which is worrying - leaving just a couple of feathers. And yesterday a chicken farmer confirmed my worst fears - the blue team are all cockerels! And so they will be dispatched later today.

This will be a first for us and will no doubt bring us many regrets. However, we have raised these birds with a purpose in mind, knowing full well that if they were not hens we would eat them. They have had a fine time living in the open air and being well looked after. Their diet has been well supplemented by worms and other insects they have found in the garden and it has been a joy to have them following me through the flower beds while I weed. I weed, they feed on the bugs bought to the surface.

We have more eggs due to hatch next week. We timed these ones to hatch when my mother-in-law will be staying. She is blind and we thought this would be a surprise for her as she will be able to hold them before the end of her stay. She follows our life in France very closely (I write that without any of the usual daughter-in-law irony!) and was staying with us when I gave Max the incubator for his birthday. I sincerely hope there will be at least two hens this time - although comments about not counting chickens come to mind! We do still have our original two hens and one cockerel but I find that two eggs a day are not sufficient - especially when our sons start cooking brownies for tea! - and I really resent having to supplement them with shop bought eggs.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Crop Rotation

Of all things I find this the hardest thing to sort out. It would be so easy if all things were planted on the same day and cropped on the same day. Simple to rotate then. Fortunately, vegetables aren't like that or we would be hungry for half the year.

Crop rotation is essential to growing vegetables to avoid the build up of pests and diseases which hide themselves in the ground and are more than capable of over-wintering and rearing their ugly heads the following year. Not all vegetables need to be rotated but it always helps if it's possible and for some it's vital.

I have done my best to organise my plot into beds and thanks to Max putting slates around them this has worked quite well - although we will have to change them as the hose pipe keeps catching on them. So I have a number of beds with different vegetables in each. So far, so good. But now I've dug up the potatoes what goes in next? I'm about to dig up the onions - what can I put in their place? And after the French beans are finished?

I spent this morning putting my cauliflower (Nautilus) and broccoli (Marathon F1) in the potato bed, together with some leeks (blawgroene herfst) that I bought yesterday. It seems I got it wrong!

I wish I'd found Downsizer first! This is the first time I've seen crop rotation simplified so that even I can understand and follow it - although it's a bit late for the caulis and broccoli unfortunately. Brassicas don't appreciate the ground left by potatoes as it is not firm enough. Well, at least I've discovered this in time to make sure they are well firmed in even if I can't move them. I think the leeks will be ok - I hope so as it took two hours to get them in!

So if you want some help with your crop rotation take a look at Downsizer and see if it helps.


I have never grown cucumbers before (where have I heard that phrase before!) but this year I put some seeds in a pot and they started to grow! Surprise, surprise! However, when I planted them out they didn't seem to be making much progress so in my new found enthusiasm for everything potager I bought three cucumber plants and stuck them in too. Hmmm, these didn't make much progress either so I just decided to ignore the whole lot and get on with the rest of the garden - broad beans were doing well and saved my enthusiasm from vanishing.

They say if you ignore something it will go away. Fortunately cucumbers don't know about this because quite suddenly they started growing at an incredible pace and were promising to overrun the garden. Rapid checking in every veg book in the house told me to pinch them out after a certain amount of leaves had appeared - but we were way beyond that. I also noticed that there were dozens of fruits appearing on all six plants but they were all tiny and only one - which by this time was a full size cucumber! - had grown at all. Several tiny fruits had turned yellow and were clearly not going anywhere but the compost heap. Decision time.

I finally spent a morning pinching out all the trailing parts of the plants. Truth be told I had no idea what I was doing but apart from anything else, they had to be stopped from taking over the entire patch! The results were extraordinary and almost instantaneous. Within a week rapid growth was showing in several fruits on all of the plants. Withing two weeks we were eating reasonable sized cucumbers. Now, three weeks later, I am picking at least one full sized fruit a day, if not two. I have a feeling that next week I will be picking more than that!

I am extremely pleased with this. We have a family arriving tonight for three days and then next weekend my sister-in-law and mother-in-law plus one daughter and possibly another child will be here for a week. Our eldest son will be arriving with them so the house will be full. Cucumbers will be welcome!

In the top two photos you can clearly see the two different types of cucumbers. The top photo is one of the plants I bought with a smoothish skin and the second, with an almost prickly skin, is one of my seedlings grown to fruition. In the final photo, I have put the flowers of borage in with the sliced cucumbers. These flowers are edible and I think the blue is so lovely next to the delicate green of the cucumber.