Inkwell’s Guide to Gardening #2

It’s been a couple of weeks since our last post. We have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of our seedlings. The glorious weather has helped us greatly. Sunshine creates heat, we water well, when we remember and pop the seeds have grown! If you have planted your seeds in trays, then you might need to think about thinning out or separating some of the seedlings so that they have the chance to grow bigger. You should always refer to the packet your seeds came from to establish what their preferred distance is.

The compost you have planted your seeds in should provide enough nutrients until seedlings have their first/second set of new leaves. You will then need to use a diluted amount of fertilizer every week. Growing your own plants means that you get to choose what to feed them. Organic fertiliser means healthy for you and the earth you plant into. Liquid seaweed it is for me but hopefully I’ll have a new trick up my sleeve soon. I will tell all later in this post!

The peas and beans will need a frame building for them to climb up. Over the years I have tried different approaches with frames. I haven’t tried all types of frames and would like to continue my pursuit in finding the best frame for the garden I have. In past years I have built tepee supports, and fence frames. This year I would like to trial the ‘A frame’. To build a frame you will need some lengths of wood/metal such as old branches, canes or offcuts. I usually tie everything together with garden twine. The plants will need something to then climb up and I have been successful with twine and netting in the past. Of course, all these frames can be used in pots.

Your small plants should be planted outside according to the information on the packet. The peas and French beans I planted in the greenhouse are now ready to be housed outside. They are quite large now and I don’t want them to start getting tangled, which has the potential to make planting out a small challenge. When I plant out my peas and beans, I will also pop some seeds, of the same plants in the ground. And thus, begins my succession planting.  Make sure you water your plants well when you have planted them out. They will need to be watered often for the next week or two, this helps them establish. Don’t be alarmed if they don’t grow as fat as they have done in the shelter of your house/ greenhouse, this is normal as they are adjusting to their new home. As your other seedlings establish plant them out as mentioned.

Protecting your plants from their predators will ensure success. Think about what types of predators may be prevalent in your outdoor space. Mine include cats, birds and minibeasts. It seems that all the cats from the street, including my own, descend upon the vegetable garden. I don’t blame them; the beds probably look like giant cat litters to them. Cats don’t tend to like garlic, so I sprinkle some of that around. I also net some of my beds which helps protect against all three ‘pests’. If you are using net, which is helpful to keep out butterfly’s and therefore caterpillars, you will need to think about the size of the holes in your netting. I use the term pests lightly as I know the ecology of life requires birds and mini beasts but if vegetables are to be grown, we need to protect our plants against them.

As with fertiliser I don’t like using harsh chemicals which upset the balance too much. Some suggestions could be, broken eggshells as a good snail and slug deterrent. They don’t like the sharp feeling as they slither over them. Eggshells also fertilise the soil too. Copper ribbon wrapped around plant pots is another excellent deterrent for slugs and snails. Apparently, their slime reacts with the copper and they receive a small shock that they don’t like. There is also a world of shop bought deterrents. I have gravitated towards the Neudorff products as my experience with their products has been great when I have had minibeast issues. These are just a few suggestions but do look around and find out what’s best for you. There is plentiful information online with regards to pest control.

Growing vegetables is fun and reaping the rewards is great. Flowers can also be just as rewarding to grow. From perennials to biennials to annuals, the choices are massive and cater for every grower’s wants and needs. Mostly I have kitted my garden out with perennials. I find them easy to manage as they come back year on year meaning I can focus on the vegetable patch and all other aspects of life. I do plant annuals/bedding plants in my pots and hanging baskets and usually source these from the gardening shop or my mum’s greenhouse. Forgetting to water pots is my main challenge but a couple of years ago I came across water crystals. You sprinkle them in the soil of your pot, and they help hold the water for better distribution. They allow me to forget to water some days and make sure the plants don’t die of drought.

Chickens

Our household desire to be marginally self-sufficient has prompted us to rear our own chickens, to produce eggs for us to eat and share with family and friends. I am also hoping that we can make use of their poop in the compost heap that I’d like to start. Chickens are also excellent foragers and will eat the plant eating minibeasts in the garden. I think of chickens as a win win pet.

We didn’t take this decision to keep chickens lightly and did plenty of research before settling on the decision. That said things don’t always go exactly to plan! We purchased three chicks at two weeks old and brought them home to join our family. Gertrude, Chicky and Mavis have been staying in the house with us in a heated container until they are old enough to stay outside fulltime and without the heat. The house now has a farmyard like aroma, which we have all grown used to. That and the smell of incense! The weather has enabled us to allow the chickens to be in their run, in garden through the day of late. They look super happy scratching around on the lawn and it’s much easier than barricading a space in the living room where the cats frequent.

We would like the chickens to be friendly and have handled them lots and so our family bonds grow ever strong.  Gertrude, the feistiest of the bunch, started showing signs of being a male and after time we had to agree to send him back. We felt that Gertrude/Gerry would not have been appreciated, in future days, by the neighbours or ourselves at the crack of dawn as he crowed his wakeup circadian rhythm. We were sad to see him go.

Welcome our new chick, who is yet unnamed. She is settling in well.