Gardening blog

This is a rough and ready record of the work I do on our land which is a vegetable garden, forest garden and orchards on the edge of 8 acres of ancient woodland which I manage in Mid Wales. I started growing food in Autumn 2022 and this is the first time I've had access to a large plot and had an uninterrupted period of growing, I class myself as a beginner and very much trying stuff out as I go! Please don't read for expert advice! 

Links to useful things:

No to Round Up! I hope that if you're reading this you know the problems associated with this weedkiller. There is a huge shelf of it in my local farming supply shop and I see people using it outside their homes and on their driveways but it is extremely harmful to both wildlife and humans. Read more here.

Hot bed for seedlings, this has made a huge difference this year.

Organic compostable corn starch mulch sheet, degrades in up to 3 years. Brilliant for transforming very weedy scrub land which we have.

I get seeds from Earthsong Seeds, Welsh Seed Hub, Tamar Organics and Real Seeds

18th July 2024

The copper tape on the pots seems to have worked so far. I also got some galvanised lawn edging, put copper tape on the top and made an oval bed by digging a trench and hammering it in. I then planted celeriac in the middle. If this works it will be great but an expensive and time consuming way of keeping the slugs away. Planted more beans in pots. I've now used up all the copper tape so bought some more. I'm hoping it lasts a few years?

17th July 2024

Back from working away and back in the garden. Pumpkins and squashes even more ravaged by slugs, most of the beans that had survived have been eaten by slugs. The slugs are just not going away. Put copper tape around pots and planted the remaining bean plants I sowed before I left. Hope to get at least some beans this way.

I'm peeling all the garlic and putting it in the freezer. A review of what I grew which overall actually did really well apart from losing some to mice after being picked.

All from The Organic Gardening Catalogue.

Carcasonne - 2 bulbs - 15 bulbs, 6 were eaten by mice, good size.

Kingsland - 4 bulbs - 40 bulbs, about 8 others which split and we ate as wet garlic. Most of them are quite small bulbs.

Solent - 2 bulbs - 16 bulbs, decent sizes.

Eden Rose - 4 bulbs - 37 bulbs, most are a decent size, no wasted or ruined ones.

Elephant - 1 bulb, 6 cloves, 3 were small and got eaten, remaining three are good

Away with work 10th - 17th July

Tuesday 9th July

The kale I potted up on Sunday and put in the polytunnel has been eaten by something, a mouse? Felt really down today. Potted up loads of seedlings.

Sunday 7th July

Potted up some more kale after the 30 Cavolo Nero plants I potted up on Tuesday were ALL eaten by the hare. It's my fault for leaving them in a vulnerable posisition but we had guests and I was distracted. Hours of time and loads of money is being reduced to nothing on a daily basis. Feeling very depressed about it all.

Friday 5th July

Did lots of watering. Feeling extremely deflated by all the things eaten. All my new dwarf beans have gone. Some days I feel like giving up, the things that aren't being eaten are growing so slowly. If things were growing quicker they may not be so susceptible to pests. It's a hard year for growing food.

Tuesday 2nd July

Lots of watering, sowed some Yellowstone carrots in a big tub. I think mice are eating the dwarf beans. Pulled out some bolted salad leaves and the aubergines from the polytunnel, not hot enough this year and they aren't growing. Put cucumbers and a kale in their place. Potted up lots of Cavolo Nero into larger pots to fill gaps later in the year.

Monday 1st July

Seeds sown: 

Beans - Runners (too late?), Dwarf varieties - Maxidor Yellow, Uplands, Castandel.

Beetroot - Renova, Barbabietola di Chioggia, White Albino

Sunday 30th June

Planted out more squashes. I have loads but I think around 1/4 were eaten so it was good to have replacements.

Saturday 29th June

Planted out squashes and luffa plants. Made hoops from plastic pipes and netted some more beds. Planted out amaranth, probably too late.

Friday 28th June

Weeded and extended bean beds, made woodchip paths, it looks really tidy now. Planted out squashes, sunflowers and replaced a lot of the beans which were eaten. 

Thursday 27th June

Weeding and bed making, clearing and tidying, ready for the rest of the plants to go out. Re-potting squashes till they are bigger and can defend themselves. Trimmed garlic, the bit I had left to do was left by the compost heap and had been munched by we think, mice. The rest is undamaged and looks great, really good garlic harvest this year. Planted out some sunflowers and cucumbers. Pretty much all of the beans have been eaten by the resident hare which makes me so depressed. We put netting around the three main bean beds and I have some more to plant out, hopefully the netting will work. Eric is working on putting it around the whole garden enclosure which already has stock fencing around it, after the sheep and deer ate things last year. Slug damage is on-going but seems a bit less, sheep fleece is helping keep them off the courgettes and squashes but some still go over it. 

Away visiting friends and with work 21st - 26th June

Friday 21st June

Pricking out cabbages, celery, celeriac. Put netting around things to prevent hare damage. Picked all the garlic, trimmed and cleaned it.

Thursday 20th June

Seeds sown: All Year Round Cauliflower, Medaillon Cauliflower, Two types PSB, Romanesco Cauliflower, Des Vertus Savoy cabbage

Direct sow into the raised "hot bin beds" - dwarf beans and fennel.

Wednesday 19th June

Today discovered that the sweetcorn and a third of the beans have been eaten by the hare as well. Put hoops and netting up to try and mitigate some of the damage. 

Tuesday 18th June

Pricked out more celeriac and celery, most of the celery and celeriac I've planted out have been eaten by a hare that's living in the vegetable patch. 

Monday 17th June

Pricked out celery and celeriac. Potted on winter squashes. Added cardboard and compost to another wooden pallet "hot bin" full of horse manure (from last year) and weeds. Planted all the rest of the tomato plants in the brassica cage where slugs have eaten every single thing I've put in there, apart from tomatoes. 

Sunday 16th June

Cleared the broad beans from the polytunnel and planted cucumbers, cornichons and lettuce.

Saturday 15th June

Sowed the last of the beans: Runners, Rampicante, Machynlleth, Inca climbing.

Friday 14th June

Planted out celeriac and celery. Put up our bell tent at the top of our land. Laughably, this was purchased so I could work in the early hours of hot days... I'm sure they are coming. 

Wednesday 12th June

Filled the pots with tomatoes and cayenne pepper, planted squashes in beds. Weeding.

Monday 10th June

Planted out more beans, including dwarf, the rest of the peas and beetroot

Harvested then cut and dropped the field beans in the polytunnel and planted out tomatoes into that bed. Put the rest of the peppers into the polytunnel. Just waiting to harvest the rest of the broad beans and I'll plant out the cucumbers and rest of the tomatoes. I have loads of tomato plants so I squeezed in some pots and trays to get a few more in the polytunnel.

Saturday 8th June

Planted out beans, sweetcorn and squashes.

Thursday 6th June

Made an extra bed in the square "hot bin" beds which now has loads of weeds on top of horse manure. Added a few layers of cardboard, then compost and planted lots of lettuces and salad leaves.

Wednesday 5th June

Making paths and beds, weeding.

Tuesday 4th June

Making paths and beds, weeding.

Saturday 1st June

Seeds sown:

Cauliflower Medallion, Kohl Rabi, Joan Swede, Celery

Lettuce and leaves: Little Gem Cos, Red Leaves, Rocket, Spicy mixed

Herbs: Dill, Parsley, Coriander and Basil

Cabbage: Wong Bok

Chard: Fordhook, Rainbow

Squash: Spaghetti, Blue Hubbard, Berrettina, Red Kuri, Candystick

Carrots and parsnips in pots at the wood.

Friday 31st May

Planted some Sweet Yellow Peppers in the polytunnel. Filled in some celery gaps where they had been eaten by slugs. Made more bramble defences. Pricked out two types of kale.

Thursday 30th May

Perfect weather for gardening, cloudy and not too hot. Transplanted last remaining uneaten Filderkraut and made a barrier of brambles and thistles around them to deter slugs, hopefully. Planted out Crookneck squashes. In the polytunnel I planted out the remaining aubergines, some peppers and interplanted them with salad leaves. Some chard, beetroots, onions and lettuces went out. Lots more weeding and getting rid of as many bits of wood as I can from the beds. They were initially very useful making beds on the slope but some can now be removed, killing the slugs as I go. 

Wednesday 29th May

Weeded and prepared beds then planted out courgettes, 3 varieties, some squash, celery, rocket, salad leaves, beetroot, nasturtiums, tomatoes and cucumbers. Dug out some kale from the polytunnel and relocated it to the brassica cage, not sure if this will work. Prepared bed in polytunnel for aubergines, peppers and cucumbers. Transplanted some salad leaves into pots to try and avoid slug damage.

Tuesday 28th May

Planted out henbane and sweetcorn. Feeling very down about the state of the world and then arriving at the woodland to the biblical proportions of slugs. Hours of work sowing seeds, raising seedlings, pricking out, then planting out, only for entire crops to be eaten overnight.

Monday 27th May

Went and splurged on a Kadai fire bowl which I have wanted for years. This is part of my vision for harvesting and cooking on the fire throughout the summer. Took it to the woodland and did some weeding for an hour or so. Got back to the caravan and spent a couple of hours mending a 5m bell tent we bought on eBay for £120. Lots more damage that we realised but all fixed now and this will be part of a camp at the top of the woodland, by the vegetable patch. This is so that in very hot weather I will be able to get up and work on the vegetable patch and forest garden in the cool early hours of the day then work in the shade for the rest of the day. Here I am sewing the tent outside the caravan.

Saturday 25th May

Some watering and generally checking of things but mostly explored and enjoyed the woodland, harvested some hawthorn flowers for a tincture, gathered alder cones and oak leaves and bark for dyeing.

Thursday 23rd May

Weeding beds and paths.

Wednesday 22nd May

Weeding beds and paths.

Tuesday 21st May

Very hot at the wood so I did as much weeding as I could then lots of pricking out in the shade. I have loads of plants and not enough beds. Frustrating as if it wasn't so hot I could make beds! The plants are doing well but most of my Filderkraut cabbages have been eaten which is really upsetting. The driveway is finished!

Monday 20th May

We went to collect some nasturtium seedlings in Builth from a post Freecycle. This amazing lady gave us loads of plants and seeds and a bottle of homemade nettle wine! Sowed Sweetcorn Damaun. My other sweetcorn seedlings have been dying, this happened last year, I had to start again and they never fruited. Not sure what the problem is. 

Friday 17th May

Seeds sown:

Beans - Machynlleth climbing, Alda Gold Dwarf, Uplands Dwarf, Maxidor Dwarf, Runners from a farm, Lazy housewife, Pea Bean Inca, Climbing french (Franchi)

Amaranth grain

Thursday 16th May

The trouble with following Charles Dowding's biodynamic calendar is that sometimes I just glance at the planting for the day and do that, then realise too late that I've missed things or I'm too late with things so I had a catch up day, some things I am too late for but trying anyway. Slugs ate ALL my cauilflowers, despite the beer traps. Planted more tomatoes into the polytunnel.

Seeds Sown:

Kale - Scarlet, Uncle Bert's Purple, Siberian, Sutherland, Black Tuscan

Peas - Gladstone, Kelevdon Wonder Dwarf, Pedigree Early Sugar Snap

Cabbage - Filderkraut, Rouge Tete Noir Early Autumn, Kalibos, Des Vertus Savoy, Offenham 2

Cauliflower - Romanesco, All The Year Round

Brussels - Darkmar 21, Seven Hills

Others - Quinoa, Greek Gigantes Bean, Bicolor Sweetcorn, Smooth Luffa

Tuesday 14th May

After two years of waiting our driveway is finally being done! This means we will be able to bring our storage truck to the wood, have friends to stay who have camper vans and it will make big deliveries of compost, etc loads easier. Most importantly we won't be wheelbarrowing the compost/woodchip through a swamp to get to the vegetable garden. So happy. I finished the arrow bed, planted out more peas, sugar snap peas, sweet peas, planted tomatoes, marigolds and aubergines into the polytunnel, pricked out salad leaves and lettuces. 

Monday 13th May

Been busy on Super Seconds all weekend and was desperate to come and check on my plants. Lots of slug damage. Went and bought 12 cans of Fosters to try and tackle the problem. Expensive but it helps. Planted more cabbages, onions, etc, in the arrow bed. Making alternate lines of different types of cabbages, onions and flowers. 

Thursday 9th May

Not as hot today, planted lots of things in the "arrow bed" I've been making. It's a large triangle and I've put a path down the middle like a keyhole bed so I can access it better, it looks like an arrow. Very weedy and full of brambles, this has been a long process of weeding, Eric helped as the brambles were really deep. Then I levelled it as best I could, used a combination of mulch sheet and cardboard to cover it, mulch on the paths and edges, cardboard in the middle, then fresh compost, we get tonne bags of these at the moment while we are still creating so many beds. The woodchip we have been shifting makes the paths. 

Wednesday 8th May

Too hot to work outside for long but I did and felt awful afterwards. Planted out beetroot - 3 varieties, lettuce, radishes, sunflowers and calendula. Also planted some lavender and rosemary plants we bought. Pricked out celeriac seedlings. Put the Filderkraut (sauerkraut variety) cabbage and cauliflower in the brassica cage.

Seeds sown: Bicolor Sweetcorn, Lungo Bianco Courgette, Basil. Cucumber - Ridge, Tanja, Cornichon and Melone.

Monday 6th

Moved wood chip and made paths

Friday 3rd May

Moved wood chip and made paths

Wednesday 1st May

Loads of pricking out and re-potting of cucumbers, medicinal plants, celery, etc. Seeds sown: Gigante Parsley, Coriander, Bicolor Sweetcorn, Special Swiss Sweetcorn.

Monday 28th April

Same as Friday

Friday 25th April

More work on the beds and shifting the woodchip delivery - 4 tonnes of it.

Wednesday 23rd April 

Both working at the wood together which we haven't done for a while as Eric has been busy with the planning application. Did loads more bed making and shifting compost. Planted wild strawberries, geraniums, Good King Henry, poppies for edible seeds, cornflowers, calendula and nasturtiums in the new bed. Planted Babington's Leek in one of the vegetable beds. Forced myself to take a break and walk in the woodland. Wild garlic not in flower yet, it was a beautiful day, I got a bit of heat stroke.

Tuesday 22nd April

Worked on end of medicinal herb bed, putting down weed suppressant and moving compost. There are tadpoles in the pond we put in! 

Monday 21st April

Me and the tawny owl (taking up residence in the eaves of the compost toilet) stared at each other for over a minute until a bird disturbed it and I watched it fly off all around the garden. Planted main crop potatoes - Sarpo Mira - in tubs. Bed weeded and pea sticks added, transplanted Kelvedon Wonder and Pedigree peas. Sowed parsnip, carrot and radish seeds direct in the garden.

Friday 19th April 

Went to the wood and filled 10 large tubs for main crop potatoes. Did the same as before with bracken mixes. Took a load of plants to the polytunnel from the greenhouses by the caravan to make space.

Seeds sown: Peas - Kelvedon Wonder, Gladstone, Sugarsnap, Pedigree Extra Early. Tomatoes (too late, I missed the last dates but thought I'd try due to the heat pad) Gardeners Ecstasy, Denmark Farm Black, Ailsa Craig. Courgette - Bianca Di Trieste, Trieste half long, All Green Bush, Lungo Bianco. Squash - Rouge vif d'Etampes, Summer Croockneck. Patisson Croblan, Spaghetti, Potimarron. Cucumber - Tanja, Melone, Tanja.

Wed 17th April

Finished the bed I started on Sunday.

Seeds sown: Onions - Silverskin, Red, Welsh. Lettuce and leaves - Mixed red, spicy, Rocket, Spinach, Reines Des Glaces, Lobjoits. Leek - Bulgarian giant, Bandit, Elefant, Jolant. Chard - Rainbow and Rhubarb. Golden Self Blanching Celery.

Sunday 14th April

Spent all day digging the weeds out of a patch of land to be converted to a bed and moving a mound of earth made when Eric dug a trench for the water pipes. Moved the earth to some beds where I had attempted to level the ground and dug out trenches to do so, didn't really work so filling it in.

13th April

Went to the wood and did some weeding. Harvested PSB, kale and rhubarb. Saw two small owls sleeping in the eaves of the compost toilet. 

Pricked out Lulu tomatoes, Broccoli (Autumn green Calabrese), All Year Round Cauliflower, Golden Acre Summer Cabbage, Filderkraut Cabbage, Calicos Cabbage, Offenham 2 Cabbage

Planted: Onion seeds - Bedfordshire, Cipolla Di Genova, Ailsa Craig. Beetroot seeds - Barbabietola, Renova, White Albino. Celariac - Giant Prague and Brilliant. Parsnip Imperial Crown. Sicilly Giant Radish.

5th April

Seeds sown:

Onion - Copolla Di Genova, Ailsa Craig, Bedfordshire Champion

Leek - Jolant, Bandit, Bulgarian Giant, Elefant

Calendula, Sweet Pea, Corncockle, Flax (for seed), Sunflower, Cornflower, French Marigold - Disco and French Honeycomb

3rd April

I planted the Acoustic potatoes. Weeded creeping buttercup and rosebay willowherb... I've been doing this endlessly and it will continue until the winter. Saw three frogs in the polytunnel pond.

2nd April 

More weeding, planted some cottage garden type plants I've had for ages, toadflax and I'm not even sure what the others are anymore. Filled up big buckets for potatoes. I am converted to buckets after I watched this video last year. My potatoes were not great but I think that was due to using shit soil and having a drought, we ran out of water completely at one point and I did not keep on top of earthing them up, etc. I also think I overcrowded the pots, having 6 varieties split between 20 pots. This year I have two varieties, about 14 potatoes of each (so one or two small ones per bucket. We did have quite a few potatoes to eat overall and I loved tipping them into the wheelbarrow to get them out, less digging = excellent.

I'm also experimenting with the soil. Two have just compost (decent stuff that I just bought, we don't have enough hand made yet), 6 have a mix of half compost, half dead bracken and two buckets are just bracken. This is inspired by people who grow potatoes in grass clippings. I thought I'd give it a go, I've not found any evidence that anyone else has done it, maybe because it's a stupid idea? I'll find out. We have a LOT of dead bracken and use it for mulching everywhere, it's very useful.

Saturday 30th March

Sowed Astralagus seeds after they were soaking for 24 hours

Friday 29th March

Dug weeds out of new bed at woodland. Sown today (all from Earthsong seeds):

Henbane, Tibetan Gentian, Wormwood, Mullein, Echinacea, Californian Poppy, Bee Balm, Ashwagandha

Sunday 24th March Sown today:

Kelvedon Wonder Dwarf Peas, Extra Early Pedigree Dwarf Pea, Parsnip, Salsify, Celeriac - Brilliant and Giant Prague, Beetroot - Cylindra, Barbabietola di Chioggia and White Albino, Tomato - Peacevine, Lulu's Best Ever and Darby Striped, Sicilly Giant Radish

22nd March Weeding one of the big areas covered with plastic to make a new bed

Wed 20th March - harvested 4 types of kale, PSB, herbs and wild garlic. Some aubergine seedlings poking through

18th March - Weeding and mulching the asparagus bed

17th March - Weeding and mulching the asparagus bed

14th March  Two x one ton bags of compost delivered. Already some things are sprouting due to the heat pad

13th March Harvested kale and wild garlic from the woodland. Seeds sown:

Cayenne pepper, Kalbi Round No. 2 pepper, Corno di Torro Rosso pepper, Sweet Yellow Stuffing pepper, Globe artichoke, Black Beauty Aubergine x 2 (Real Seeds and Mr Fothergill’s)

12th March Heat mat has arrived as recommended by Alas Fowler here - https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/feb/15/use-warming-mats-to-heat-your-seeds#:~:text=You%20sit%20the%20seed%20trays,These%20warming%20pads%20are%20efficient.

Seeds sown today using Charles Dowding’s calendar as a guide which follows biodynamic guidelines - AKA planting with the moon.

Coriander, dill, giant parsley and amaranth.

Mixed oriental leaves, spinach, Lobjoits Green Cos, Reine Des Glades Lettuce, Rocket, Spicy Salad Leaves, Lettuce red leaves

Broccoli (Autumn green Calabrese), All Year Round Cauliflower, Golden Acre Summer Cabbage, Filderkraut Cabbage, Calicos Cabbage, Offenham 2 Cabbage

Welsh Onions, red onions, Babington Leeks and Celery

11th March Cleaned out the two greenhouses by the caravan, went to the wood to check and get some compost

Had a busy few weeks preparing for fairs and all I did at the garden was a little weeding and some harvesting. It all starts in earnest now. Eric has been planting trees.

26th February Planted the barberry and finished off the bed with compost and mulch. Harvested PSB. More weeding.

25th February First day in the garden for ages. Something is eating my broad beans, mice? Rhubarb looks amazing. Kale all looks like it’s had a growth spurt. Planted broad beans in the poly tunnel. Did lots of weeding in beds and brassica cage. Saffron looks a bit sad, planted at the wrong time.

14th Away for 12 days. Wish I’d had more time to spend at the garden but with work, guests and rain it hasn’t been possible.

11th Feb  potatoes arrived, into egg boxes for chitting

7th Feb Planted saffron bulbs which had already grown and were overcrowding the pot. Saving one pot if this doesn’t work.

2nd - 9th February a friend was staying so we couldn’t work as much on the land as we would normally. It was raining a lot anyway

1st Feb Making new beds and weeding

27th Jan Finished creating bed and path by the bay tree. Weeded the PSB bed

24th Jan Finished weeding the asparagus bed which was back breaking work. Harvested all the beetroot, most went in the compost but a salvaged some for a meal. Weeded the bed by the bay tree which has been a mess for ages. About 4 hours work, very tiring.

22nd Jan IBC’s full from all the rain. I took out the Brussels which came to nothing - sown too late. Planted the broad beans that I sowed in October. Only a third survived. I put a net over them as last year the new sowings were all eaten by birds. Weeded the asparagus bed.

19th Jan Very cold again but a lot of rain is coming. We decided to install an IBC down the slope in the forest garden. Eric made a stand very quickly and we filled it up from the other IBC’s that were full. Now have about 600ml extra capacity. I weeded where possible, mulched and made a low wall for one of the beds.

17th Jan Very cold and I didn’t have long. Cut brambles and weeds from the forest garden bed I’m turning into extra growing space. Cut back mugwort and Marshmallow to the ground. Eric trimmed by the pond which will become beds… pondering the layout.

16th Jan Made a bed around the Goji tree, used wood chip from Facebook to landscape and added trays of potatoes. Made a bed with compost down the side. Extended the celeriac bed. Added a bed to the edge of the other hot bin pallet bed. Aim with this wood chip is:

Landscaping

Moisture retention

Weed suppression (cardboard is underneath)

Feeding tree

Will turn into compost eventually and become a bed

15th Jan Added wood chip from Facebook guy to goji tree and made a bed around it. Mulched the chard bed. Planted a rhubarb I’d dug up ages ago. Put trays and pots for potatoes around the brassica cage.

12th January Weeded around celeriac, I think they are no good but leaving most of them for now. Chard looking okay. Mulched with bracken after. Weeded chard and beetroot bed. Leaves dead on beetroot but beetroot can be eaten. Started to dig out the brambles by the plum tree to extend that forest garden bed.

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