The Cottage Smallholder

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Edible garden update: December 2009

Photo: Frosted kale

Photo: Frosted kale

When I lie in bed and hear the wind in the trees the garden doesn’t sound very inviting. But most days I spend and hour or so working in the edible part of the garden. Once I’m out there, I love it. Yesterday I spread the last 20 kilos of Rockdust soil conditioner . I ordered 60 kilos from Harrod Horticultural and have spread a kilo per square meter over the old, faded kitchen garden and 500g per square meter over the more buoyant new plot. I can’t wait to see the effect.

I also found the time to spray all the fruit bushes with winter tree wash against the dreaded sawfly. I hadn’t heard of this until Susie left a comment on November 2nd. Thank you so much Susie, it was so disappointing to loose so much of our crop last year. This is an organic wash that contains oil so could clog up the nozzle of a fine sprayer. So I used an old dishwasher rinse aid bottle as a sprayer – it worked reasonably well as you are supposed to spray the ground around the bushes but it was tricky to coat all of the branches. I’m going to give them a quick spray again with  my Hozelock pressure spray. My mum gave me this years ago and it’s invaluable for spraying crops, fruit bushes and roses.

I’m enjoying all the monthly newsletters that the seed companies send me. This week the Marshall’s newsletter gave me the nudge to protect the brassicas against the pigeons. The kitchen garden is now netted over and looks very strange.

I’ve secured the glue bands with string as the gnarled old trunks leave gaps on the edges of the bands.

I’m still battling with the leaves. I have already filled sixteen sacks. Four are the nifty jute sacks and the rest are in degradable dustbin liners. I stabbed holes in the later with my garden fork – great fun. And my homemade biodegradable bag loader works well in the dustbin liners. I have moved to the front garden now. Now I’m an experience leaf collector I reckon there must be at least eight bags worth out there.

The strawberries that I planted last week are already throwing up new leaves. They looked a bit mothy when they arrived in a jiffy bag so I’m really pleased that they have perked up. Despite spending hours trawling the web for advice on overwintering strawberries I’m still not certain whether they should be under cloches or not. They are supposed to be dormant in the winter but if mine are developing new leaves they are wide awake! Any advice would be welcome.

When I’ve finished doing the leaves I’m going to tackle the pond. Apparently the winter is the perfect time to do this before the arrival of the frogs. The plan is to dredge the pond and spread the build up of fish muck on the kitchen garden – this has to be a great organic fertiliser as its 17 years of sludge and the pond is 28 feet/8.5 meters long. It’s going to be a big project. Watch this space!

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  1. It’s ages since I’ve been able to log on for a browse but I’m please I did today because the link at the bottom sent me to this page. I first read about rock dust about 18 months ago in the ‘Home Farmer’ (great magazine btw) and I’ve been meaning to order some ever since. This has spurred me on and I’m going to order some right now! So thanks again for the inspiration Fiona.

  2. Wow you’ve been busy. I’ve been so lazy about the garden recently with all the rain and high winds we’ve had. Plus the chickens have been trashing a few beds and pots in their search for bugs so it looks dreadful out there and I’ve been putting it off.

    My strawberries are like yours, putting on lush new growth instead of being dormant. But then I also have roses still trying to bloom. We need a early good hard winter to get the growing clock back to normal, otherwise we’ll end up with all the buds and new growth being killed off too late and then poor growth next year.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Joanna

    Thank you so much. Anne Mary’s Caledonian pine tree shed another branch in the high winds yesterday so I have plenty if fir branches 🙂

    Hello Free

    Yes you are right – I got that wrong. February seems to be a good time in the UK. Thanks for letting me know.

    Hi Linda

    I would be so grateful for any advice I want to give these plants the best possib;e chance.

  4. Hi Fiona
    I’m new to growing strawberries but mine are at a community garden. I notice that everybody else has covered theirs completely with leaf mulch. Ours were in the cold frame and did produce berries initially but the berries were mushy. So we moved the frame and let them be. Like yours, ours are still growing leaves and even flowers (not under mulch yet).That is about all I know. Not sure if it helps but I’ll ask a botanist in my community garden about it. He knows everything!!!!

  5. Are you sure there are no salamanders, frogs, and such that are already trying to get a good wintersleep in and around the pond? You should have don this earlier, I think.

  6. I don’t think the strawberries are overwintered in any particular way. As far as I can see, here in Latvia they don’t cover them and if they were liable to bad weather it would be here. I shall check to see if they have covered them with fir branches as that is the normal method of giving protection here.

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