Did the copper tape defeat the slugs and save my strawberries?

You betcha!

So… strawberries, slugs, copper tape.

I promised you an update after I put copper tape around the raised bed with the strawberries growing in it, hoping it would deter the slugs from eating all my strawberries like in previous years.
Well I am pleased to say it definitely works. Definitely.

Last year we maybe got one bowl of strawberries for the entire season, a bit disappointment because the year before we’d gotten loads. Well this Wimbledon finals day, we had enough strawberries for 3 massive portions and we’d already had 5 or 6 portions in the weeks leading up to the final. All eaten with cream of course.

So we’re looking forward to lots more strawberries but now that the slugs are under control, another pest has become more obvious…¬†the starlings. They are eating the strawberries through my netting. Need a new plan ūüôā

 

 




A busy weekend in the garden. Quadgrow, tomatoes and the war on slugs.

I’ve had a busy weekend in the garden this week, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to give you a very quick update on how things are going with the new quadgrow system.

I installed it in the greenhouse about 3 or 4 weeks ago and planted up my baby tomato plants. What a difference in them now. They are huge and covered in little yellow flowers which means I’ll have tomatoes soon.

As I had hoped, the water reservoir seems to be doing its thing, I haven’t had to water the tomatoes at all since I installed things, they have been surviving/flourishing on the water and feed in the reservoir so I am very hopeful that this will mean the tomatoes are much healthier this year as they will be getting a consistent amount of water and food.

I recorded a wee video to show how well things are doing.

I also began my battle with the slugs this year. Last year, although our strawberry output was fantastic, we actually got very little of them because something else was having a good old nibble on almost every one of them.

I thought the problem had been slaters, as every strawberry was fine and plumptious on top, but underneath was eaten away and full of slaters, but a bit of a chat with some gardeners who are more experienced on these things felt it was more likely that slugs were eating the strawberries and the slaters were just taking advantage of the soft open fruit the slugs had left.

So, this weekend I installed some copper tape right around the strawberry bed in the hope that it will deter slugs.

Hopefully come Wimbledon finals day I can update you on the mountain of strawberries we’ve had to eat.




Winter draws in, the year comes to a close and we are already thinking about spring

carrots and beetrootIt’s getting dark about 4:30pm in the evenings now and it’s definitely chilly.

Our veggies gradually slowed down their growth and have now come to a stop.

It’s time.

As much fun as it is in spring when all the new plants first pop their heads literally “above ground”, we need to accept that to make this happen, we need to clear away the old stuff and get things ready for over wintering and eventually that spring surge. This means a bit of work to empty the beds and greenhouse and a bit of a scrub and polish to scoot away the muck and yuck of the year past.

We’ve planted up strawberries this year which means they have a permanent home in one of the beds so instead of emptying that one, we need to cover it over with a fleece to protect the plants once the frosts really start to bite. Hopefully our new frames over the beds will make this an easier job.

For the other beds, we’ve pulled all the beetroots and carrots that were there as our last harvest before topping the beds up with more soil and manure(for next years nutrients) and digging them over. We wondered if the soil was getting a bit tired this year after the two fantastic previous years so we are going to really focus on boosting it with nutrients before spring.

The greenhouse doesn’t escape either. ¬†I’ve emptied out all the old tomato plants, cleaned the pots and gave the greenhouse a really good clear out and scrub down. I use a sanitising product called star san for this which is a contact sanitiser, meaning that once the greenhouse is cleaned I can spray this all over the frame and glass to kill any nasties leave the greenhouse sparkling ready to house the tomato plants for next year.

 

So was there anything we grew last year which we wont again?

  • Green beans – last year was our second try at growing green beans. We did have marginal success this year in that we got lots of beans, but they were small and weedy and not very tasty so we are not trying again.\
    It’s just not worth the amount of space and effort for the results.
  • Yellow courgettes – they just can’t be relied upon.
  • Orange carrots – they are the slowest growing and give the smallest yield.
  • Globe carrots – not impressed. Very small and took ages to mature.

 

Anything new for next year?

  • Not new but we are going to move the peas to their own spot. They were so successful that we feel they have earned it.
  • We are going to try the dwarf/patio versions of some of the tomato plants to try to help with space in the greenhouse.

Apart from that everything will be pretty much as usual. Purple carrots, stripy beetroot and all sorts of tomatoes.

Oh apart from one thing… this year will be the first year that we are going to attempt to grow our own flowers for the garden too, instead of buying them ¬†as plugs from the garden centre… watch out for lots of updates about that.

 

Oh and before I go, we have to wave hello to one of our readers – Hey Katy!!!!! Hope you guys have a great thanksgiving!!!!!

 

 




July already – quick get the potatoes pulled

IMAG2547This year seems to be whizzing by and to be honest, almost without me noticing.

I’m finding this year that the garden and its moods are not quite as obvious as it’s been in previous years possibly because of the very mild winter we had where next to nothing died off and flowers continued to flower right through. This meant we didn’t have the usual spring and instead have been hit with a summer where a lot of the flowers in the garden have already past and although everything is very green, there is not much in the way of colour about.

We’ve found also that this year has been a lot harder going for veggies too, with not nearly the success we’ve had in previous years. Our beetroots are no where need harvesting size yet, our carrots are all leaves and very little, well carrot! The tomatoes as well are green but nowhere near ripe yet. I suspect the lack of definitive winter, spring and summer has affected things. We’ve had a lot of warmth, not as much sunshine as previous years and more rain than previous years.Could this be it?

Our usual champion of the garden – courgettes – have just been rotting on the plants as babies and we haven’t managed yet to eat any.

However it’s not all doom and gloom. This year’s trophy for fabulousness goes to the peas. We have had so many peas that the plants are now almost past and starting to die of, and I never thought I’d say it, but I’m kinda getting sick of peas from the pod. I know that is a sacrilegious thing for a gardener to say but I’ve been eating them in huge handfuls daily (along with help from colleagues at work).

The strawberries too have been incredibly tasty although we found a very amusing trait which may be of interest to those of you thinking about giving strawberries a try next year. DON’T plant them in the bed you used for garlic the previous year. Garlicky strawberries are a bit weird and trust me, a couple of our plants REALLY picked up on the garlic.

Dad helping with the tatties july 19th 2014Potatoes have also been a success, my dad helped me pull a couple of batches yesterday which have really enjoyed all the rain, our salad potatoes ARE HUGE. Like baked potato size. Next weeks potato salad is going to be a stonker (next week is my annual birthday bbq).

So how do things stand, well check back in a few weeks, the weather is meant to be sunny for a bit, so hoping the tomatoes will ripen and the carrots and beetroot will catch up. I promise to keep you posted.




It’s time for an update

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A few weeks back I introduced you to a garden newcomer called cucamelons. At that point they were just little seedlings and you couldn’t really tell much about their “character”. I’m glad to say that they have come on in leaps and bounds since then.

They should keep going in this long and spindley fashion and be putting out little runner shoots before eventually producing tiny little water melon looking fruits. I’m hoping they will be a good little greenhouse treat to stop me munching on the tomatoes. Its not good that more often than not, the tomatoes don’t get as far as the kitchen.

And here’s a full frontal.

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So how is the rest of the garden doing?

Well it’s a bit early in the year for anything much to be edible other than salad and radishes but we are on the way.

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The tatties are doing well too, the flowers have already formed and look like opening their buds any day now.

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We’ve also got our first teeny tiny courgettes, green and yellow. I’m just hoping that this time we wont suffer from rot like last year.
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So all in all quite happy about the garden so far. Everything is beginning to to do its stuff and hopefully we’ll start getting some good weather soon to help it along.

The tomatoes are flowering too, although I’ve been a bit worried that the plants aren’t as tall or bushy as other years, I guess we’ll just have to see how they do.

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So there you are. A quick update of the garden at the end of May.




Our 100th blog post – keeping the sparrows away from our veggies

Yippee!!! This is our 100th blog post so join us in raising a wee glass and celebrating.

So apart from stressing over what to write about for this¬†“special” blog post, what have we been doing? Well this weekend we’ve finally completed a job that’s been on our list for a little while. We’ve netted over the beds to protect them from birds.

Here at Ar Bruidair, we are lucky enough to have lots of local wildlife that visits us and makes our garden interesting. The most common being the sparrows and starlings. We have a huge amount of sparrows nesting in the trees around our house and even in the eves of the house and they are noisy little things I have to say.

This is lovely and we both enjoy watching them going about their daily routines, however one part of their routine is a bit on the annoying side. They nick stuff. It’s that time of year when the little birds are being born so for the last few weeks the local bird life have been stealing pieces of our reed fencing, coconut matting from our hanging baskets and various other bits and pieces to line their nests, meaning we’ve had soil and plants fall out of the hanging baskets and holes in our privacy fencing.

Recently though, they’ve added a new little habit to their routines, the now eat my salad and dig in my beds.

Now ok, I fully accept that we grow plenty enough salad for us and the sparrows, but it’s more the digging in the beds which is frustrating me as they are killing off the seedlings as they start to come up and my beetroot crop has been halved (they seem to have gone for all the same type of beetroot too).

So I figured that given that we are about to have strawberry plants setting fruit, it was time to stop putting things off and actually get around to netting things. You’d think after last years war with the cabbage moths we’d have done this already, but I confess, sometimes we get lazy.

So how have we done it?

For this I have to say a big thanks to Cecelia at work. She told me of a great solution she had used in her garden and it works great, is easy to set up and costs way less than buying the proper netting cages at the garden store. Get us sticking to our thrifty promise.

So you’ll need to pop to your DIY store, we went to B and Q and got everything we needed for less than ¬£30.

things you need to make bird net cages

Ok you’ll need.

  • 1/2 inch pvc water pipe (B and Q do this for ¬£20 for 15 meters)
  • Bird netting
  • Some string

We found that our secateurs cut the piping really easily, you could use a knife or something similar.

 

 

It’s up to you how tall you want the net cage to be, as we were only covering things like salad and carrots, we didn’t need it overly tall so we cut the piping lengths which were twice the width of our beds. For our beds, 3 per bed seems to be enough, but obviously if your beds are bigger you may need more. Then it’s as simple as pushing each end down into the soil as far as you can to form a hoop over the bed.

IMAG2321You can see it take shape as soon as you start to push the piping into the beds.

Once you have as many as you need, it’s time to add the netting. It’s easier to have two of you doing this as stretching the netting out over the frame is quite frustrating if you are on your own. Simple stretch it out and cut it to the size you need then either peg it down into the soil or attach it to the side of the beds if like me you have raised beds.

We used small nails along the beds which the net fits over and is held in place.

Remember, you will need to be able to get at the veggies to do all the chores like weeding, watering etc so don’t fix it down permanently on all sides. We’ve fixed it to the centre support using garden wire but kept the two ends fixed temporarily using the nails so that we can get into the beds when we need to.

Kate attaching the support piece

One other thing you can do, if you are worried that the structure may not hold up against your particularly strong birds of winds, you can fix a cross brace to help strengthen it. For this we just used another length of pipe and cross tied it to each support.

 

 

 

There you go, our finished bird proof beds.

 

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Is that spring I’m feeling?

seedlingsIt’s only the beginning of February but I swear there’s a feeling of spring in the air. (Well come on we haven’t really had a winter have we?) and with the approach of spring comes the hive of activity to get the garden ready for the coming year.

So anything new this year? Well yes!

We don’t have a massive garden, so we’re actually quite lucky in that the amount of work we need to do to keep on top of it is actually quite little, but it doesn’t mean we can ignore things.

The greenhouse

So far, during the dreich winter nights we tackled one of this year’s biggest jobs, cleaning the greenhouse. It’s been up now for a couple of years and although it gets wiped down and general cleaning regularly, every couple of years it needs to have the roof panels cleaned – on the inside. The greenhouse is a poly-carbonate type and the roof panels are a bit like corrugated cardboard, all little tunnels full of air. ¬†Unfortunately this means that these tunnels get clogged up with YUK. Green, slimy algae type stuff. So the big winter job was to get these all cleaned out.

It wasn’t actually as hideous a job as we thought, with the stormy weather we’ve had, we had learned how to very efficiently attach the roof panels which had been blown off and so we were able to get these off and on again relatively easily. Dealing with the yuk actually turned out not too bad either, we soaked the panels with my acid based sanitiser I use for brewing and then put the hose on full power and blasted the yuk out of the channels and across the garden – MOST SATISFYING!

The inside and all the jointed received a similar treatment so it’s now all shiny and ready for the next stage. Which is setting it up to take the potting of seedlings and then them moving into their final pots. Mostly this will be setting up the shelving and cleaning the pots and filling them with compost to give it a chance to heat up a little before potting but we’re also going to try a new approach with the tomatoes this year. Normally we use canes to support the tomato plants but this year we are going to tie guide strings for the plants to climb. It all sounds very simple, we run a string from the bottom of the pot to a spar on the ceiling and then this gets loosely wrapped around the stem of the tomato plant as needed. We shall see how that goes.

The other big job will be the shed, we are going to replace our old run down shed so watch out for a fun filled blog post on a 5foot tall woman trying to put a shed roof on.

The beds

As always we have the three raised beds but we are going to tweak things a little this year. The bed nearest the shed is going to be halved and half will become the strawberry patch. We haven’t grown strawberries before but Alan Titchmarsh assures us that it’s very easy. (yes I’ve spent today watching youtube)

Before we go planting anything in the beds though, which probably won’t be until mid march, I need to dig some compost through them to add some nutrients for the new plants that will be living there. That’s not a job I’m looking forward to – I have to actually climb into the compost pile to shovel it. Eeeeewwwww!!

¬†What’s on the menu?

Well as usual we will be growing a plethora of carrots and beetroot (varying colours) and the usual tomatoes and courgettes etc but this year’s new things to try will be the strawberries and we are going to try peas. Mostly I’m wanting to try growing peas because everyone talks about how amazing it is to eat peas straight from the plant. I know I’m easily influenced.

So as usual, here is our list.

  • purple orange and globe shaped carrots
  • red, golden and stripey¬†beetroot
  • yellow and green courgettes
  • red, purple and yellow tomatoes
  • purple and white tatties (potatoes)
  • purple, red and white radishes
  • salad leaves mostly green
  • rhubarb
  • herbs
  • strawberries and peas as the new things to try

That’s quite ¬†a healthy plan I think ūüôā

ok so check back next week as we’re going to spend next weekend getting ready.

Bring on springtime!

Just for fun

What I watched today to get me all inspired

Here’s what we were doing this time last year –

Other folk getting ready for spring