Thursday, 22 May 2014

Creating my corn bed!

My weed bouquet

Our grass badly needed cut - I've been so busy nurturing seedlings in the greenhouse that the small grassy area of the garden (the rest is currently slabs and a half made raised bed) has been severely neglected.  I went round pinching off all the weed heads (dandelions which had mostly flowered or gone to seed eek), and then pulled up some of the long grass to dry out and use later as mulch.  At least the weeds went to some use and gave me a little weed bouquet pictured above.

Then I instructed hubby to use the scary lawnmower and get rid of the jungle dwelling there.  Well though the lot was very green the lower areas had obviously started to die off a bit, and left the ground looking rather...well, barren.

I decided that the grass has just been a nuisance, and if I want it I can purposely plant it later, where I actually want it!  So I got about digging it up and digging it over...

A few hours later I had a lovely bed of soft, crumbly soil. It's roughly 4 foot by about 5.5 foot.  I chose to grow my corn here up against the shed because it is the only part of the garden where it can get plenty of sun but not block out sun for any other crops.  (The sun hits the shed and the corn won't block out any more light than the shed already does).

My corn varieties have been sitting out for a few days getting accustomed to the harsh Edinburgh winds and I like them to dry out a little as it makes it easier to get them out of the pots and separate them.

They were soon sorted into their varieties (Starting from top left to right then bottom): Popcorn Fiesta, Spring Treat Sweetcorn, Strawberry Popcorn and Minipop.

I then planted them into block of rows to help with germination later in the year.  Many people say not to mix varieties because they can cross pollinate but to be honest, I just want some corn, I don't really care if they mix.  Though hopefully I'll get some gorgeous Strawberry Popcorn cobs, they look so appetising!

My very technical sketch to plan my planting...

As you can see from this angle, the "grass" area is really awful, so I'll just HAVE to dig up the rest of it to make more beds...What a shame!

You can also see the raised bed here - I've still got a whole plank depth's worth of filling up to do, but I've have some stuff essentially composting in there (air can still get in at the sides of the cover) so I will see what happens with that.

Please ignore the weeds, I'm still developing a lot of the garden this year, having never had time last year.  So I've let the weeds grow because I know that I'll be overhauling the entire area within a few weeks anyway.  

These are all the stones I found when digging this bed area.  Yes all of these were UNDERNEATH the grass, apart from the longer one, which was edging part of it.  I'm quite surprised by how clean they look!  Foot is added in for size reference - bear in mind my feet are a UK 8 which is quite big!

It may not be the neatest, being a little flimsy, but hey I spent £6 in total buying this bamboo edging in Poundland (6 packs of 1 metre in order to get enough length).  There were some bits where the wiring wouldn't allow it to sit flat, hence the odd overlap area.

After a good watering and mulch with the dry grass, the bed is finished for now!  I'm planning to fertilize them soon with a liquid fertilizer.  I like to let them settle in a bit before feeding them.  Does anyone know if Tomorite is okay for corn or should I use something more general purpose?

Also, I'm trying to decide what to put in the corner area between the raised bed, steps and corn bed.  It's quite triangular, though I had planned to pull up the other steps too so could be larger.  Was thinking either a companion flower for pest reduction (The raised bed will be mainly squashes) or possibly parsnips?  Any recommendations?  I don't want something that will shadow over the squashes too much.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh

Banana flower
 This is pretty late, but for my birthday in February we visited The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.  Though it was generally soggy and not greatly flourishing outdoors, they have 10 glasshouses with individually controlled temperature environments, so they can grow a broad variety of plants at any time of the year.  These are a select few of the 1000s of photos I took on the trip!

The gorgeous glasshouse in the winter sun (and captured hubby standing admiring it too!)

Inside the glasshouse there were all sorts of different areas.  I have to say I loved the tropical ones the most for their range of colours!

Those green bits = bananas!

Cocoa pods

A maturing pineapple

Sorry - camera a little steamed up!
There were so many gorgeous flowers!

No idea what this is, but it looks very alien!!

There was even a range of fascinating and unusual leaves

Odd leaves didn't look like a real plant at first, but they are!

In the cactus and succulents glasshouse

There was even a Robin in there!

 Outside crocuses were one of the few plants growing happily outdoors on February 26th, literally coating the ground!

So much detail in tiny crocuses
 The rhododendrons were also out in a range of buds and full flowers.  

You're allowed to take photos as long as you don't sell them (I think you can sell them but you need permission).  I'll certainly be getting some of these beautiful plants made up as prints for my own wall though!!

If you're ever in Edinburgh, drop by the Gardens - outside is free entry, and the Glasshouse is a bargain £5 per person to the whole thing.  As you can see, even during Winter there's plenty to see, so its worth going at any time of the year.  There's also student gardens and vegetable patches to visit, though these were pretty quiet in February.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Lettuce and Smoothies

This box contains Lamb's Lettuce "Jade", Amish Deer Tongue, Lobjoits Green lettuce and Red Pak Choi
I've only sewn my lettuces indoors this year so that I can actually get some (the greedy slugs never share).  I have two window boxes along the studio windowsill, so if I want a little break from work I can go and check on these without getting too distracted.

This box contains a Spicy Greens Mix, a Salad Leaf Mix, Sarah Raven's Best Winter Lettuces Mix (Can Can, Green Salad Bowl and Merveille de Quatre Saisons) and Paris Market Atlas Carrots 
Both boxes have a nice quantity of leaves on them now.  I intended for them to be cut and come again boxes rather than grow larger "adult" lettuces.  As you can see in the one above, I also sowed a generous amount of mini globe carrots, which add an adorable look to the box.  I may need to thin them out soon, and I might just eat the thinnings as part of a salad.

I may take a few lettuces and plant them out to mature later also, at least one or two of each type hopefully.

My first harvest of just one type of lettuce (Though I did munch some leaves of the other types while I was at it....)

I was a good amount but not enough for a full salad, so I decided to add it one of my smoothies.

First I made a smoothie with 250ml of fresh orange juice, about 30ml of tea (1 teabag green tea with mango & lychee plus a ginger tea bag soaked for a good 30+ minutes and allowed to cool), loads of spinach, a banana, a generous helping of frozen peas and frozen blueberries.

Sometimes I add ice, but I've found lately the frozen peas add the same effect and equally make the smoothie more silky textured.  I always top my smoothies with a tablespoon of linseeds, ground ginger and ground cinnamon.

Blended in my smoothie maker and poured into a tall glass.  This thick "shake" was delicious and filled with veggies and fruit.

I made another smoothie batch to bottle and keep in the fridge, using the remaining ginger/green tea mix (about 300ml), all my fresh lettuce, spinach, peas, blueberries, cranberries and blackberries.

Most of the fruits I bought fresh and froze immediately once home, because I can use a better amount that way, and I find blueberries especially begin to grow mould really quickly if you buy them from the supermarket.  I also added some Chia seeds to my normal topping mix, and they are better for smoothies which you leave in the fridge rather than drink right away, because they swell and become more substantial.

So it was a good use of my lettuce, as this lot stretched two bottles alone!  The other one I got a bottle out of as well as my freshly poured glass.  Now all I need is for it to stay sunny and next time I might get to drink it outside!  

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Garden Wildlife

So after reading Sue's recent post I thought I would introduce you to some of my more recently seen wildlife in the garden.

I found this creep inside one of my propagator lids a few weeks ago.  I tried to pull it off but he was having none of it!  Eventually they crawled to the corner and I managed to slide them off.  I'm glad to have found the pest here though, because as it was trapped I was able to catch it and take it out of the garden completely.

I'm always surprised by how fast these little creatures are, considering how they are often associated with being so slow.  If I'd asked this particular snail to deliver my mail it probably would have been a strong rival to Royal Mail!  Let's just hope he doesn't use his speed to return to my garden any time soon.

Okay, so the squirrel isn't really in my garden.  This is Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh, where squirrels hang out like inquisitive children or akin to the pigeons in pretty much every town square.  They're bold and fearless and will happily come up and sit on a bench or the grass with you, waiting for you to share your lunch.  I seem to have this affinity with nearly all animals, who think I will be happy to share my lunch with them and they also enjoy coming up for a lick/nibble on my vegetarian flesh (I've decided I must just smell of vegetables or gardens or something).  I'm not as much of a fan of them as they are of me (up close anyway), and prefer to admire from at least a slight distance!!

Apologies for the terrible photo, but this was literally snapped in the middle of the night in the pitch dark, using only the phone camera light.  And the wee thing was on the move.  I discovered it when I went round in the dark to pull the bin around, having remembered moments before heading up to bed that the bins get collected the next morning.  

So in a frantic moment I raced around the back, from the front (the idea being I would come back into the front of the house from the street).  Just as well, as if I'd gone straight out the back I may have mowed this poor thing down with a wheelie bin!  I got to the corner and heard an animal sniffing in retort with great alarm, and as it was on the stones it made quite a noise retracting from my foot which landed directly next to it.  

At first I thought it might be a cat judging by the noises it made, plus there is a local cat who likes to hang around in our garden/on our doorstep waiting for us to come out/come home and on occasion has even sneaked into the house!   But as I passed the corner and looked back, the tiniest illumination from next door's security light showed that whatever was there was entirely too small to be a cat.

Turning on my phone light I was very pleasantly surprised to see a hedgehog!  I've not seen a wild one for a large number of years, in fact only once before have I encountered one so closely.  Hoping not to repeat the first experience of being bitten on the toes by one (I was about 8 and had orange flowery boots on) I slowly approached it, and tried to take a photo without frightening it.  Of course like all wild creatures, it moved the second I took the photo and proceeded to crawl across the path and into the hedge.  

I'm thrilled to have seen one, and hope to see it again in my garden.  It is welcome to eat all the slugs that plaque my garden and continue making its adorable unimpressed snuffling noises!