The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Garden update: April 2010


Photo: Calabrese and caualiflower plantlets

Photo: Calabrese and caualiflower plantlets

“We regret to inform you that we have to put off delivering your order until the end of May….”
“Great!” I thought. “Thank goodness for that.”
By the end of May things will have quietened down in the garden. At the moment I’m feeling just a bit overwhelmed.

As you can imagine I am working flat out in the garden – when I’m not resting on Danny’s wonderful swing seat. Hence the rather bumpy transmission of service. Many apologies.

We are sharing our garden with hundreds and hundreds of plantlets. The green house is full, the cold frame and makeshift cold frames (five at the moment) are bursting. Some of the bigger annuals are on a redundant border (under cloches at night). Watering wise it’s quite a bit of work as it has been so dry this April. But it’s heartening to see so much new life – the garden is buzzing.

A lot of the vegetables are already in the borders in the kitchen garden. The Rockdust soil conditioner that I scattered over the borders has made a big difference to the soil. Incidentally Rockdust is basalt – which is used a lot in biodynamic gardening. This was a lucky surprise for me as I had no idea when I ordered it last year. The soil looks dry on top but when I plunge a fork in it is much more friable, easier to work and full of worms.

I ordered enough compost and manure to dig into the kitchen garden as well as the herbaceous borders. So as each border is overhauled everything is beginning to look much fresher and more cherished.

We started growing Swift potatoes in a bag in the green house in late January. The plants are enormous now so we hope to be eating new potatoes in May. Our broad bean plants barely survived the winter. We were left with just three out of forty so we set some new seeds and these are strong little plants. I’m growing some nasturtiums in the broad bean bed as apparently black fly prefer the taste of nasturtiums to the sweet tops of the broad bean plants.

Determined not to be beaten by wilful non germinating carrots I raised seedlings in trays and transferred these to the border when they were large enough to handle.

We raised pea seedlings in halved 2 litre plastic milk bottles in the green house, and some of these have already been shifted into the border beside the minute carrot plants. Now it’s a bit warmer we can sow the seed directly into the borders at two weekly intervals.
I have finally made an asparagus bed. A real labour of love as the soil for this was sifted by hand to get rid of the stones. We are using the French biodynamic method – where the crowns are placed much closer together than in the traditional way. We invested in this spring planting asparagus collection  from Thompson and Morgan.

The turnips, beetroot and Sutherland Kale are in. Brussels sprouts and calabrese are waiting in the wings for a leaf day. Our autumn planted January King and Savoy cabbages are just staring to heart up. The shallots are doing well and our garlic looks very beefy.

We have trays of seedling tomatoes, tomatilloes, peppers (hot and sweet), curcurbits, runner and climbing French beans all waiting patiently to be planted out. We also have trays of recalcitrant dwarf beans that are refusing to germinate and sweetcorn which is almost as shy and appearing very, very slowly.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Dozenoaks

    You are living in a city so I really admire your perseverance in growing stuff to eat.

    My first serious garden was just 10’x10′ and I loved it! BTW there are lots of new pouches etc for growing stuff on walls and fences in city gardens. Might be worth checking out.

    Hi Angiemay

    I’d love to see that recipe if you ever unearth it!

    I’ve grown tomatillos once before in the greenhouse and they were easy. You need more than one plant for pollination. They are not susceptible to tomato blight. As far as I can remember I made some sort of relish with them.

    This year, if my two plants survive, I’d like to be a bit more adventurous.

    Hello Chickpea

    I don’t know how I ever had the time to be a decorator!

    Seriously though, this is what I planned to do when I retired to make an income. I’m just starting early.

    The spring and autumn will be busy and the time in between will allow me to set up more projects. My plan is to set up lots of small streams of income rather than relying on just one job.

    Hello Paula

    You are creating a garden and that is hard work both physically and mentally (lots and lots of research). Don’t beat yourself up. You are doing so well and I always enjoy my visits to your blog as you are teaching me lots!

    Hi Su

    You are so right. Once we are out of June everything settles down. It’s well worth the effort. Today I made a new dish and most of the ingredients were harvested last year. Very satisfactory.

  2. I can sympathize as my greenhouse and everywhere else is overflowing too at the moment! But it will all be worth it in a few months.

  3. It all sounds great! I’m enjoying hearing about the future bounty in everyone’s gardens, but it makes mine seem paltry. But then, this is only my first real year at it, so I have to remember my learning curve.

    And also remember that I have to eat/can all of it!

  4. Glovecat

    You’ve been busy! I’m enjoying your blog and am doing a similar thing with regards to self-sufficiency, so it’s good to check in and see how the jobs compare. I can’t wait to see how the biodynamic method works out for you. 🙂 It’s funny, yesterday evening I updated my blog with an April Update, before coming over here and finding that you’d done exactly the same. Keep up the good work – I reckon you’re inspiring countless people through what you do and the way in which you write about it! 🙂

  5. ChickPea

    Kerumbs, Fiona – I am exhausted just reading about all this………….
    All very best wishes, x

  6. angiemay

    Tomatilloes! I’ve got a really good recipe (somewhere) from our years in California (where they are easily bought) involving pork & large quantities of coriander and mild green chillies. It’s one of my favourite meals and my old neighbour always makes it for me when I’m over visiting.
    Looking forward to hearing about how yours grow & what you get up to with them.
    On the seedling front I feel way behind after reading your progress… Have got a greenhouse full but it’s never enough!
    BTW, anyone seen any sign of gooseberry sawfly yet? Have nematodes at the ready and am just hoping the blighters aren’t munching as I sit here 70 miles away!

  7. dozenoaks

    It all sounds fabulous!! your making me very jealous… My cold frame is similarly bursting, but I only have room for one frame and no green house. I know what you mean about being overwhelmed even so 🙂 But, if we can produce a tenth of what you do this year we will be doing very well.

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