A Busy Week

It has been a rather busy week and I have been too rushed or too tired to give much time to this blog but I will remedy that now with an update on progress in the garden.

The first early potatoes have been earthed up twice and are bursting through once more in the polytunnel.

Potatoes three days after earthing up! Potato plants

More maincrop potatoes are in the ground and others I have planted in Ikea bags beside the polytunnel.

Potatoes planted in Ikea bags

I have moved some peas into the orchard/forest garden area.

Peas in forest garden

Calabrese and romanesquo have made their way out to the vegetable beds, where more peas have also just been directly sown. Cauliflower will follow shortly.

Brassicas under pigeon net
Brassicas netted against pigeons.

Kohlrabi and beetroots have been hardening off ready to plant out too. I will do that this weekend.

Kohlrabi hardening off in the polytunnel.
Kohlrabi hardening off in the polytunnel.

Courgettes are also in the polytunnel, with bubble wrap on hand to protect it if we have a cold night. I have planted them more closely than is advised as one or two were too long in the pots and got a bit squashed so may not make it.

Courgettes in Polytunnel

I also forgot to mention before that we now have our water butt set up out back to water in the polytunnel and the outside tap by the orchard/forest garden has been fixed so we can use the hose to water on that side of the house.

There are plenty of flowers blooming about the place and lots of busy bees.

Flowers Lucky white heather and daffodils

Free wood from outside my husband’s workplace. (They were going to chip it so it was up for grabs.)

Free Wood

And the pond is coming along nicely.

Dug pondNow it is the weekend I can really get on with things!

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A Sunny Day in the Orchard/ Forest Garden

We have had a lovely day in the orchard/ future forest garden. This morning we woke up to warm temperatures, hazy sunshine and this visitor on our bird feeder:

Woodpecker
Woodpecker. We have heard it for weeks but this is the first time we have seen it visiting the feeder.

I spent some time building up nutrients on the lasagne bed. While I was doing that I picked some cleavers (which I know by the rather amusing name ‘stickywilly’) that arrived with my compost from the allotment. When it is young and tender it can be used as a spring green which you can cook like spinach – a little bonus harvest from something that most people just view as an annoying weed.

There was a lot of watering to do today. It really felt more like mid-summer than early April! It was almost too hot to do any work in the garden.

I planted out some broad beans and direct sowed some parsnips, swedes and radishes, then started to create a fence with cut dead stems that I cleared yesterday. The brassicas spent the day out in the open polytunnel again.

Broad beans in a 'lasagna' bed.
Broad beans in a ‘lasagna’ bed. Building up organic matter rather than depleting soil is by far the better option, though in any case, we did not want to dig and disturb the roots of the mature fruit trees.
Fence made from biomass gathered on site. We don't have willow but these old stems do the job rather well.
Fence made from biomass gathered on site. We don’t have willow but these old stems do the job rather well. It is not very strong but it should discourage the chickens (when they finally arrive) from disturbing the seeds and seedlings.

It was so lovely and warm that we all spend the day out in the orchard, having a few drinks and some music.

Guitar music outside.

The dogs had a fantastic time too – though they did get rather hot.

Dog in the orchard Dogs and DaffodilsWe spent most of the day outside and when the temperatures began to fall a little we decided to use the chiminea.

Chiminea
The chiminea – another use for some waste materials.

I hope everyone else had as lovely an Easter day as we did.

More Demolition and a Little Construction

We spent a lot of the day doing more work in gutting the outbuilding. Most of the stud work is now in the pile for reuse.

Before
Before
After - Another section mostly stripped.
After – Another section mostly stripped. The carpet had to go to the dump but a lot of the rest will be reused on other projects.

We also managed to find the time for a tiny bit of construction. We put together the basic run we have bought for the chickens. It is just a small one because most of the time, once they have settled into their new home, they will be free range in the orchard/ forest garden. This lightweight frame should also allow us to corral the chickens onto some of the beds so they can fertilise them and scratch them up.

The coop and run roughly in position in the orchard/forest garden.
The coop and run roughly in position in the orchard/forest garden.

A Home Office With a Difference

Working from home can be difficult on occasion but has its up side. When I can sit outside with my dog, writing on my battered old laptop on a sunny day I feel incredibly lucky.

My 'office' this morning.
My ‘office’ this morning. I saw and heard several enormous bumble bees, and bird life in full voice.

I sat in the orchard/forest garden for several hours and got quite a bit of work done. I didn’t even need to wear a coat. The dog enjoyed himself sniffing about and chasing insects. While I enjoy sitting out there, of course, another function of sitting there for longer periods of time is that I am able to observe the changing light, the sheltered portions and sunny spots, the wildlife that is around me. This will enable us to see what does and doesn’t work about the ecosystem and how we can make it more productive.

Took a quick break to capture the moment.
Took a quick break to capture the moment.

At lunchtime I did some watering in the polytunnel and outside. The polytunnel is getting really warm inside now on a sunny day. Radishes are sprouting up and it will soon be time to do some more direct sowing in there.

Believe it or not, we had a brief hail storm this afternoon! That is just our typical, changeable Scottish weather. Soon we will have to set up our rainwater collection systems properly to water everything when the weather settles. More on that before too long…

Onions, Planting, Outbuilding Work and More

The weather has not been quite as lovely here today. It has been cloudy and much colder than yesterday but we have all still been really busy and we have achieved a lot on all fronts.

The vegetable beds are now all complete! Eight beds, ready and waiting for us to plant up in the next couple of months. They are a bit stoney but the soil is good.

Vegetable Beds Ready Completed Vegetable BedsWe have also planted out hundreds of onion sets – first outdoor planting of the year. There is one full bed and also the edges of two more, in the centre of which we will be planting vegetables which like onions as companion plants. A few more went into the edges of the orchard.

The bed is pretty stoney but the soil seems good.
The bed is pretty stoney, as you can see in this picture,  but the soil seems good. Some red and some white onions have been planted and we still have quite a few left over for replacing any duds.

Some other planting has been done in the garden, some flowers and shrubs to entice pollinators and disguise the fence in front of the polytunnel.

New Shrubs next to fenceThere has also been some more progress in gutting the outbuilding. Some more panelling and carpet has been removed, we have taken a lot of old carpets down to the recycling centre and some old stud walling has been removed to reveal the pleasing arch behind. This mirrors the south-facing arch to the front of the building that will be glazed to provide solar gain.

Stud Wall RemovalThe warmer weather we have had over the last few days has also brought on the tomato plants I have overwintered in the front porch. There are now several tomatoes growing on the plants!

Tomatoes Tomato Plant FruitingIt has been a really busy day but it feels good to be moving forward more quickly now spring has officially arrived.

Forest Garden Hen Coop

No chickens yet but we do now have their house ready! We have had a lovely sunny day here today which we spent clearing (and relaxing) in the orchard/ forest garden. Then we built the coop for our future hens.

Chicken Coop Chicken Coop 2

We are going to rehome five ex-battery hens, which they think should come to us some time around the end of April, though the coop is big enough for several more so we can expand the flock at some point if we decide to do so.

Hens are a vital part of our forest garden plans and today we got a sense for the first time of how lovely that part of the garden is going to be in the summer sun.

We decided on a wooden coop after some deliberation though decided to buy a kit rather than build one ourselves from scratch because we have so much else to be getting on with here at the moment. Many people choose a plastic coop but we felt that we would rather not buy anything made of plastic, even if they are a little easier to keep clean. Its a personal choice.

We are a little concerned about foxes, so they will be confined to a run when we are out. Then of course they will be kept in their coop during the night. It is meant to be fox-proof, so we hope that they will be safe. The hens, once they are used to life outside, will be free-range in the walled orchard when we are around. In the long-term it will be full of food for them to forage. We hope it will be a lovely environment for them, where they can see out their days.

Now we just can’t wait for them to arrive!

Spring is in the Air

The weather is finally starting to get a little bit warmer – it feels like spring has properly begun. The daffodils are coming out now in sunnier parts of the garden and trees are budding. The comfrey which has been looking rather grim over winter following its unceremonious removal from the allotment and transplantation in the orchard/ forest garden has produced fresh shoots.

Comfrey coming up. This small patch, once established, should provide us with plenty of plants to populate the ground beneath our fruit trees.
Comfrey coming up. This small patch, once established, should provide us with plenty of plants to populate the ground beneath our fruit trees.
The daffodils are in quite a shady spot but a few of them are almost there.
The daffodils – a few of them are almost there in the garden, though they are out in sunny, sheltered spots in the surrounding area.

Flowers that appear early in spring are particularly vital – they will attract the pollinators that the garden requires to thrive, as well as putting on a pleasant show for us.

If you have dandelions – don’t pull them all up! Many people spend a lot of time getting rid of them but they are useful early pollinators and also have deep roots and draw up nutrients from deep below ground. In fact, they are just one of many plants that most call ‘weeds’ that are actually very beneficial.