Hello and welcome back to the blog! We are well into May now and to what is undoubtedly the busiest and best time in the gardening calendar. We’ve had long stretches of beautiful weather, which has allowed Andrew and I to get stuck into some extra spring projects not originally planned for this year. I have also been hardening off my seedlings from indoors and the greenhouse ready to plant out. But before I get to that, let me take you through some fun up-cycling projects we tackled this spring.
The Smoothie Bed
First up, is the new smoothie bed. We love fresh smoothie drinks in my house. My youngest especially loves to get the blender out, wash and chop his own fruit and veg, and blitz it all up into a delicious breakfast drink. We brought the silver drum, originally a coffee table, back with us from South Africa. It no longer fits with the style I want for our new home, so instead of throwing it away, we decided to up-cycle it instead by turning it into a planter just by turning it upside down. It has a galvanised finish so won’t rust outdoors.
Getting it ready was a family affair, with all 3 of our kids taking turns to drill holes for drainage before topping them with crocks. I filled it up with a mix of compost, rotten manure and soil, then made a semi circular trellis for the back half from bamboo. To secure them in place, Andrew drilled more holes and fixed the canes to the planter with left over cable ties.
We then planted a Mailing Jewel raspberry cane in front of each stake along with two varieties of strawberry plants: Cambridge favourite and Strawberry Symphony. The raspberry is a summer fruiting variety, so we should have fruit from July. We may have to net this bed to protect it from the birds, but fingers crossed they don’t find them!
I’m looking forward to my little guy collecting bowls of strawbs, raspberries and handfuls of spinach for our morning smoothies.
The black biodegradable matting around the strawberries does the same thing as straw; acting as a moisture retainer, as well as a weed preventer. It will also stop the ripe strawbs from rotting on the soil.
Sweet pea Tee-Pee
Next up, I wanted to create another spot for some of my homegrown sweet peas. We had an old tyre lying around that was originally intended to be the seat for the tree swing. I slightly (massively) misjudged the size and realised once I’d brought it home that there was no chance it could work for the swing. So instead, I spray painted it green with paint leftover from this project. Andrew layered some stones in the bottom half before filling the rest with the usual soil mix. The teepee is made from bamboo tied with twine. I planted two sweet pea plugs at the base of each cane and will tie them in as they start to climb.
In the greenhouse
And on to the greenhouse. As soon as I saw the weather forecast on my phone app showed no sign of frost for the next 10 days, which then past the last expected frost date for our area; I got to work preparing the greenhouse to be a haven for tomatoes, chillies and the like.
You can find these planter bags here. I decided to plant in these rather than creating fixed beds, just in case I needed more staging space in spring to raise seedlings. Once finished with for the season, I’ll empty the bags into the compost heap, wash and put them away for next year.
I ended up with 4 to 5 seedlings per planter, then added some basil I’d started a few weeks prior to each bag, as they make a great companion plant. While planting, I add a length of twine to each planting hole then tied it to the greenhouse frame to act as a plant support.
The greenhouse shelving will be home to the chilli plants, of which there are 10! We will no doubt be taking homemade chilli relishes to the market later on this year! I still have a few extras of other seedlings, squashes and cosmos to name a few, that I will be planting out in the next week once I find a home for them.
The Flower Trough
I wanted to add a flower trough to the kitchen garden this year to attract more pollinators and to bring some colour to the space. The trough is from McVeigh and Parker and this one is 5 foot long. We drilled holes in the bottom, added some gravel for drainage before filling it up.
I found a left over cut flower mix in my seed box and decided to experiment with them. I also interplanted 3 dwarf sunflower seedlings along the middle of the trough and a Nasturtium seedling in each corner which will hopefully trail over the sides. Nasturtiums as you may know are edible, but are also good for drawing aphids away from your vegetable crops.
The potatoes chitted for around 5 weeks before I planted them out just before the Easter weekend. The first and second earlies were planted up 3 potatoes per grow bag and there are 6 grow bags in total. I’m growing maincrop potatoes using the same method as last year. I made a video all about how I grew last years crop, which you can watch here.
Gutter grown peas
If you follow me on Instagram, you might of seen the peas I started off in guttering in the greenhouse. I started two varieties one dwarf and one climber. Germination wasn’t great, with only around 50% coming up. That left me with 4 seedlings of each variety to plant out, which is better than nothing I suppose!
I put together some pea supports and popped the peas out, along with some purple pea plugs I bought from the garden centre around 4 weeks ago. I also got some dwarf broad bean plugs because I couldn’t stop myself really and Andrew loves them. The cloches in the last photo are covering direct sown sweetcorn to help with germination.
Hardening off and planting out
Brussel sprouts were planted out and staked. Its easier to stake them as you plant them, then trying to do it later. The broccoli was popped in next to direct sown carrots and covered with mesh to prevent the pests that quite frequently bother both crops.
Climbing courgettes and munchkin pumpkins were hardened off and planted at the bottom of the archways. For the first couple of nights I covered them with a cloche, just to make sure they were hardy to night-time temperatures.
If you made it this far, in what is a rather lengthy post, I salute you!
The next post is all about flowers, trees and evergreens including, the new border in the front garden, an update on what I have added to the perennial border, and a look at the rose beds.
Even if it’s the busiest time of the year, I’ve made a conscious effort to stop a smell the roses so to speak. Its been fun to lie out on blankets with the kids, play frisbee and run around with our pooches, who are now all off the lead! I hope you’ve been enjoying this lovely weather too. Until next time!
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