Sunday, 4 May 2014

Long overdue garden update!

I know I've been away from here for a long time!  Life has just been busy.  Since making the decision to leave my job in January, I had to wait out my gruelling 7.5 week notice period, after which I went directly on holiday to Malta!  It was nothing short of phenomenal and I have several posts to do about the Maltese Islands and their flora.

Reclaiming my social life!  I don't officially endorse Southern Comfort or any of their products, but I personally encourage drinking them! Haha
Since then I've been busy working away on commissions and getting my business started, as well as finally having a social life (Which I literally felt like I haven't had for several years).  If anyone is interested in following my business ventures please keep an eye on for any developments as they happen.  It's slow going right now, but I've had some bridal commissions and lots of paperwork to do around it before I get fully into the swing of things.

I've taken away the cosmetics sections of the blog, which although I do make don't really warrant their own section as I don't post much here about them.  So I have added new sections on Gardening on a Budget, Indoor & Container Gardening and my Lessons Learned series.  I've also changed the header but not sure if I like it yet!

Yes, I like my Nesquick chocolate milkshake...hey at least I recycle!
 Got all my plants in full swing now, some doing better than others, but definitely a large variety going on!

I apologise for the quality of some photos - I took them all on my phone because it was simpler/both my memory cards are still full of Malta photos I've not backed up yet

Most days are a bit soggy but warm enough, with the greenhouse sitting at roughly 20-25 degrees centigrade most days.  On Friday this reached 32 degrees!!

My star plants right now are absolutely my broad beans, which I planted 19th February and they proceeded to rocket skyward ever since.  They are all absolutely laiden with flowers now!  I am growing Sutton Dwarf, Aquadulce and Masterpiece Green Longpod varieties (5 of each).

So far I've managed to deter the slimy beasts (slugs & snails) from my broad beans (last year they did nothing short of rape them of all their worth - not a leaf, flowerhead or pod was left).  However, this year they look much, much healthier and larger plants, I think particularly the new varieties are really impressing me (previously I've only grown Sutton).  I keep all of them on the metal shelf provided by my Dad when he was cleaning out his office.  Since I've been using it I've not had a single slimer on that side of the greenhouse.  So I'm thinking about either replacing the wooden shelf that came with the greenhouse (and is attached to the greenhouse itself) or coating the entire thing in copper tape.

The slug was actually the second pest to get its teeth into this leaf - the top layer was eaten neatly off by some other creature, exposing all the veins first, and then the slug just came in and had a party with the rest
Unfortunately the non-metal side of the greenhouse has suffered a fair amount of slimy creature damage.  I am unkeen to use slug pellets, being a vegetarian/trying to be an organic gardener, but I am not too concerned as most of the cucurbita are actually pretty advanced, and it only seems to be, in most cases, their first set of leaves being eaten, which would have probably fallen off soon anyway.

A few plants have suffered though - like the above four Aubergines.  Its hard to tell from the rubbish photo but it does actually look like the growing tips are intact on at least 2 of the plants, so provided there's no further attacks in this particular pot they might make it.  I do however have zero cucumbers left, though I know one seed has germinated but is still to surface so it might be my only one!

My Inca Berry (aka Cape Gooseberry) plants may look from afar like they are suffering, but in fact they are thriving!  Throughout winter they seemed to have no clue that winter had arrived (much like my goji berry plant) and as soon as it hit March their leaves started to turn more dark and purpley then flowers popped up everywhere.  They also have a lot of new growth.  I haven't pruned any old leaves off yet or any new growth, because though I want all their energy to focus on the fruits, I am concerned that pruning may encourage more new leaf growth instead.  Everything I've looked up on them basically says to leave them alone once they flower, and cut down on watering them/bothering them in any way.  I do have three (well technically 4 since the shortest one appears to be twin plants) so I might experiment with pruning if I get too impatient waiting on my fruits!

Inca Berry flowers and new leaves appearing
Inca Berries have papery pods like Tomatillos which host the berry and protect them as they grow.  These turn a light brown shade and then fall off when ripe.

I've not actually had the pleasure of tasting these yet so I am pretty excited to be getting a harvest soon.  Even the most stunted plant (about 1ft tall, while my tallest is approx 3.5ft) is laiden with pods and new flowers are still appearing.  They appear to be self pollinating too, which is great.

Cucamelons are getting going now!  I've added them to this hanging basket so the mini melon plants can trail over the edges.  Very hopeful and excited for the look of this later this year.  I intend to earth up a bit as they grow.

It may be quite hard to see these plants, since most of them are purple!  These are all different types of chilli.  The ones with the green true leaves starting to come through are calico and black pearl (at the moment they appear to grow much the same).  The fully purple leaved ones are all Purple Flash.  They all appear to be struggling with actually getting growing very fast!

Black Pearl chilli plant
This for example, is an ordinary disposable cup that I'm using as a pot, which cannot be more than an absolute maximum of 5cm diameter.  The roots are tiny and all my chillis still have far to go in these vessels before being potted on.  I had been waiting for them all to get true leaves but decided to pot them into these early from the propagator because they were so slow growing!  I don't know if the propagator they were in has restricted their roots or if its because they're all purple that they're absorbing less chlorophyll?  However my green-leaved chillis are all just mildly larger.  

I planted these 19th February - so I feel they should be much, much larger.  Mark suggested feeding them with Baby Bio plant food, which I will give a try.  It may not seem much because they are still SO tiny, but they have been growing since potting on.  Nearly all of them have started growing their true leaves now, and I planted all of them with the soil right up to the base of the leaves so they've been pushing up a little.  It is quite baffling considering everything else in the greenhouse is doing pretty exceptional (aside from those poor devoured cucumbers, though they were growing well until that instance) so I'll just have to do that awful waiting/patience thing.  

I may try to plant some new seeds of the same chilli types and see what happens - perhaps starting them so early and having a long germination period rather than a shorter one in hotter weather wasn't the best approach?  I'll keep you updated on those.  I am so excited for them to grow up because their foliage is absolutely stunning, not to mention their ornamental (but thankfully also edible) chillis.

French, Borlotti and Soya Beans have all popped up now, and getting some gorgeous, fresh looking leaves on them.

I have 4 varieties of Okra this year (fast become my favourite vegetable to eat, though peas are still at the top for now).  I'm impressed with their growth thus far considering they are more partial to hotter climates.  I will be re-potting them soon once all the seeds have fully emerged.

Green Giant Tomato

The tomatoes are thriving!  I've planted them all so that I can earth up once they are a little larger, to extend the use of their pots.  I'm really pleased with their progress so far, and soon I'll be able to start making decisions on how I intend to prune and shape their growth.  I like these slightly purple leaves of the Green Giant.  

Potatoes are doing great!!  I have four varieties, and need to earth them all up now.  Pleased with how much they seem to be thriving, considering my first time growing them was last year and it was really just a last ditch attempt to not throw away a potato which was chitting on its own in the cupboard haha.  (I did get some absolutely delicious potatoes from it but they were tiny).  This year I bought proper seed potatoes and proper potato grow bags, so looking forward to hopefully a larger crop this year. 

More soon on the variety details of my potatoes, okra, tomatoes etc.  Just wanted to give a larger update overall, but I will soon be building myself a small (not walk in) fruit cage because both my gooseberry and blackcurrant are laiden with these:

Goosebery flowers - Can you see the little green gooseberries above them?

This green gooseberry in particular is thriving with a ton of new growth and flowers appearing.  I'm very excited because I got all my fruit bushes last year and they grew and went dormant, and this is the first year they are flowering/fruiting!!


  1. Well, I wouldn't worry too much about the small chillis - you have so many other lovely plants! Re the chillis though: the compost in which you have them looks quite coarse. Is it home-made? Maybe it lacks sufficient nutrients? I always like to start plants off on fairly fine compost (I use commercial multi-purpose, but remove the big bits - a sieve comes in handy here). If the Baby Bio is not strong enough, try using "Tomorite" or similar tomato-feed. The battle against slugs and snails is a never-ending one isn't it? I find that the only effective counter-measure is the blue slug-pellet.

    BTW, I hope your new business takes off. It must be such a relief to you to be your own boss!

    1. Thanks Mark. It is bought compost - the same as all the others have, though I did start them off in seed starting compost (Westland I think, I've had good success with this in the past) but now they are in the general multi-purpose one, so perhaps they are still adjusting from being babied! I also used a new propagator with them this year, and I think it may have restricted their roots. So I'm just hoping they are committing all their energy to growing glorious roots and then will shoot up like my broad beans in no time.

      As far as my business is concerned, absolutely! I'm an organised person (despite the impression my disorganised blogging puts out) so I'm good at sticking to my hours, but I can be flexible if I need to, which is more amazing that I imagined. My boss is great - she even gives me weekends off! Haha

  2. Broad beans would make good ornamentals and the flowers have a lovely perfume.
    We have sown Inca berries and cucamelons this year so I was interested to see the inca berry flowers.

    I'm glad that you have sorted out your work situation and have an exciting new venture - good luck.

    1. Yes the Inca Berry flowers are more intricate than I expected. The plants themselves will grow pretty fast and need staking, but they are so incredibly cold hardy so if they don't fruit until next year you don't even really need to fleece them. Mine just kept growing all through winter, a gorgeous green and then the leaves turned more purpley just in March right before the flowers appeared. I can't wait for the fruit now!

      The broad bean flowers really are stunning, especially because the plants really are doing so well with year without slug interference. All of the flowers are much bigger than previous years, even on my suttons, which I've grown before.

      Thank you! I am very excited for the future, its nice getting to actually spend time in my house & studio, and doing my own thing finally!

  3. Busy busy. It looks like its going to be a very successful year for you, and I hope that goes for your new business too.

    1. Thank you Jo!! I'm hoping the sheer rediculous numbers of plants I have going means that despite the slugs and other bugs I will hopefully still have a decent harvest!

  4. The long wait definitely paid off, as your garden looks great and fresh! And your absence in the blogging world is understandable. Starting up a new business can really take most of your time due to paperwork and planning. I hope you have someone to help you all through the process, so you won’t carry the stress on your own. How is it progressing, by the way?

    Charlotte Brock @ MKT Law, PLC

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