Saturday, 15 April 2017

Seedlings, weedlings, naughty sheep, and pristine spoons....

Throwing a few seeds in to some pots is not a good idea for trainee market gardeners....there has to be order, otherwise there can be no progress forward, this I have learnt. For instance, that every tray of plantings has to be labelled. This I have done. I used plastic spoons for the labels, and what a jolly look it gave to the rows of trays. However, ........... what I did not know was that sunlight fades the marker pen ink used to write on the spoons. So........ what did I plant in which pots? ...this, then,   became the panic of the moment when I went to have a look at our pots to see if the seeds planted in them had suddenly magicked themselves into  six inch high plantlings, but no, most had not even woken up yet...... and all the label spoons were still sparkling white but minus any writing on them.

Not to worry, though, because I write down everything I do in a note book, and because I had started off organised I was able to label the pots again. The cardboard strips I cut up for labels look nowhere near as smart as those white spoons though, and of course the cardboard will go soggy quite quickly if I can remember to keep everything watered.

It feels an awesome task to organise what to grow, how much to grow, and when to grow. Growing for ourselves is different to growing to sell, this I am learning.

One of the things I have come to understand is that seeds are not inanimate objects that somehow grow into plants.... if you are lucky. Each day I go out to our little raised bed greenhouse to say 'hello' and 'good morning' and 'how are you doing?' to the seedlings, and 'come along, wakey up' to the seeds still asleep. And I am coming to understand the magic of new life, especially the climbing beans (of which  there are 100 pots so far) which are starting to show their shoulders as their  seed bodies wake up and thrust their first roots down into the compost. I am aware of the surge of new life. As I say, it is magic.

I have always had an affinity towards growing things but they have always been away from me. Having the raised beds close to the house has helped me keep connected to our growing plants. At the moment the courtyard is looking quite empty of things but I anticipate that soon, within a matter of weeks, every bit of it that can be used for pots and things will indeed be used. And I love that the tractors are also in the courtyard, and that bits of hay and straw are drifting all over the ground. It gives a very country, folky, look to the place, and is very much in keeping with our rural way of life.

A quick word about the sheep..... in previous blogs I have been oh so pleased about having them roaming around, but it was a grim faced Lester who came into the Music Room the other night after his early evening walk with the dogs. I think I have mentioned before that he is having to put a fence around all of the fruit trees because the sheep have taken a liking to eating the bark of some of those trees, the plums and apples in particular. There are about seventy trees of varying ages to do. Some will be left to their own chances, but most have been done, except for the line of fruit trees running parallel to the lane and the back of the veg plots.

So it came to be a hot afternoon, and we were having a musical jamming session with the original members of our band, The Bollards. Time passed, and soon the music session came to an end. Meanwhile, the sheep were doing their usual walk up and down and around, but unsupervised by us because of the distraction of playing music. This, then, was the afternoon when our best, and gloriously full blossomed, apple tree received a severe munching of its bark from the sheep. It was in that last line of unfenced trees, and was the best tree on the farm. Lester was not happy.

What to do.............

1) Shoot all the sheep. But this thought only lasted a split second.
2) Sell all the sheep, and just raise pigs, rabbits and chickens for our supply of meat. But this thought only lasted a few minutes as we realised that we would miss having sheep here.
3) Persevere with getting the trees fenced, but time is racing on and the veg paddocks need to be tilled ready for the coming growing season, and the potatoes need planting as well as the first of the green beans. Plus there is the never ending Chicken Hut Project, plus the Produce Hut Project, plus the Greenhouse Project which all need to get done before the end of 2020 2017.

So what we did was this: we halved the walking area of the sheep, so that now they have the River Path, the River Beach, and the Far Field to roam in, but they are banned from the Back Field  which is where the Veg Plots, the Pig Paddocks, and  the majority of the fruit trees are, including the badly damaged apple tree. This has now been severely pruned in the hopes that it will decide to keep on growing and not give up on life.

There are still fruit trees along the River Path, but Lester has now double fenced them, and soon they will have a bucket of cow poo each, into which will be planted fennel seeds. The idea about planting fennel came to Lester after he saw a lamb try to eat a sprig of leaf from a robust fennel plant which had self seeded itself close to the roots of a young plum tree. The lamb launched himself towards a fennel leaf poking through the fencing wire of the tree, but did a sharp withdrawal as his mouth engaged with the delicious tang of the plant. It is hoped that by growing fennel round each tree will act as a natural deterrent to any other wandering mouths.

Over the next few weeks, when time permits, we shall continue fencing the rest of the trees so that the sheep can come back into that area to graze.

So a solution has been found. We keep the sheep, have forgiven them because they are only being themselves, and have gained time in which to get the other projects on the way. For myself, I am plodding on with getting the seeds sown, but all in pots except for the potatoes and green beans which have been planted straight into the ground.

The Seed Planting Project.

Us gardeners know all about the weedlings, that they tend to outpace the speed at which the veg seedlings grow. That if the weather is too cold, then the weedlings will still romp away with joyful vigour, but the veg seeds will stay asleep. Of course they will wake up eventually, but by then they will have to battle with the entrenched weeds, and us gardeners will join in with that battle by having to do the unlovely task of weeding.'s the plan. All of the seeds are to be sown in pots first, then grown to a good size, then planted out into the Veg Plots. This is making a lot of work now, but we think that it will save a lot of time later as it will be easier to hoe around the veg plants because we can see them, rather than leaving everything to grow into a jumble of weedlings and seedlings.

This would be a simple method to use if we were growing just for ourselves, but we are also needing to think about the produce required for the Market Garden Project. We are also mindful about the need to supply our cows with fresh greens as often as we can.

And so now I have emptied my head of things to write about, so I shall wander off into my day, and say bye for now!



coffeeontheporchwithme said...

Busy days, indeed! One of my first paid jobs was working in a greenhouse, transplanting seedlings from seed trays into plastic cell packs. I also took cuttings from various shrubs and potted those up with rooting powder. I enjoy reading about your progress and I look forward to seeing what the results will be. What do you think you will plant the most of? -Jenn

Rhodesia said...

Glad you have the sheep sorted out! Weedlings are a pain, I find even in my potting soil they seem to appear, it is an ever ending battle. Re marking my seedlings I ice ice cream sticks. The cheap ice creams on a stick that come from Lidl are perfect. I am using the same sticks this year as I did last year as the writing is still clearly visible. Good Luck and Happy Easter Diane

minwks said...

Hi Vera and Lester, We use cut-up Venetian blind blades and found they serve as very good plant markers - indelible pen or pencil help.
So disappointing about the lovely apple tree - but hopefully it will regenerate for next year.
Every day is full for you - glad you still have time for music.
Regards Janine

DUTA said...

I like it that you talk to the seeds. I believe plants are living things; the ones that are not for food or medical purposes should be left in the soil and treated kindly.
Having said that I must confess I enjoy the beauty of flowers more when they are in the garden, than when in the vase.

Denise said...

Aaah...those weedlings. I have been doing weedling battle today, preparing two beds for beetroot, parsnips and broccoli. I am determined to keep ahead of the weedlings this year, and it is proving much easier with the garden on the doorstep, as you are finding too. No more trekking across town to the allotment! Good luck with the seedlings; they'll pop up soon.

Vera said...

JENN, we are hoping to be able to concentrate on herbs, baby veg, and salads, but time will tell which becomes our best selling crop!

DIANE, we do not buy ice cream products so those useful wooden sticks are not available to us, so cardboard will have to do! We think we have tomatoes starting to grow in the pots, ....but I am aware that it could also be weedlings!

JANINE, those blind blades sound like a good idea, but cardboard labels will have to do for us at the moment! We don't play music as often as we should though, now that the growing season has arrived!

DUTA, I agree about cut flowers.....I also prefer to leave the flowers in the garden than see them slowly dying in vases indoors! As for treating growing things kindly, the farmers round here have been putting chemical weed killer on their fields. It is very sad to see great swathes of brown vegetation signalling the killing of everything being subjected to that poison, including all worms and insect life.

DENISE, the seedlings are already starting to pop up, including the tomatoes. But you must be so happy to be able to grow your own produce in your own back garden!

Dawn said...

you are going to be busy with those seedlings, I hope they all wake up for you, I am growing extras this year to grow on as food for the goats

Vera said...

DAWN, so you and I are not only feeding ourselves but also contributing towards growing food to feed our animals! Hope your foot is healing.

northsider said...

I look forward to reading about your market garden this year Vera. I am busy weeding at the moment and covered up our emerging potato stalks today.

Vera said...

N.DAVE, the market garden is very slow going at the moment because other things keep getting in the way and diverting our time away from that project!

rusty duck said...

Fennel eh. I wonder what other mouths it deters. Deer? Rabbits? Mice? I have sown some so feel an experiment coming on..

Vera said...

RUSTY DUCK, hope the fennel works for you too!