Leafyleith's Blog

April 12, 2010

Raised bed gardening

Filed under: Gardening Year 2 — by leafyleith @ 10:46 am
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Two tonnes of soil and horse manure delivered? Check.
Soil and manure carried through house? Check. (Thanks JB, Neil and Mel.)
Raised bed built and filled? Check.
Seeds sown? Check.

Raised bed gardening is go at Leafyleith.

Many (mainly JB, Neil and Mel) have asked about the merits of raised beds, so I am hoping for a good harvest this year to prove that raised bed gardening really works.

And what a transformation, don’t you think?

It’s been a glorious weekend – 18 degrees for the last couple of days – which has been rather welcome and a bit unheard of in these parts at this time of year.

I’ve probably been a bit premature but I couldn’t resist sowing a few seeds, just to test out the new arrival.

So down the far end, I’ve sown radish, rocket and lettuce (Lollo Rosso and an Italian mixed leaf selection), just a couple of rows of each, but the sunshine on Leith is set to continue for the rest of the week, so hopefully they will germinate.

Meanwhile, Cat War continues… The chicken wire is working a treat, however they are now using the flower bed on the other side. And they don’t even have the decency to dig a hole.

March 28, 2010

Commando Cat

Filed under: Gardening Year 2 — by leafyleith @ 3:02 pm
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I was feeling rather inspired last week. Spring has sprung, I thought. So I got my seeds out and started planning for the new raised bed.

I started sowing sweet peas, calendula and nigella for my summer pots and window boxes. And I began hardening off my delphiniums and cleaned the copper rings which will protect them from slugs and snails.

And then this happened.

This is Princes Street, Edinburgh at 6pm at the end of March. It’s just not right. And now I’ve just seen a weather forecast and it says it’s going to SNOW.

Another upset are these bleeding cats. There are five regular visitors: Monster Cat, Cagney & Lacey, Scabby Doo and Minging Fluffball Siamese. And at least another three that appear every now and again. They really make my blood boil because they use the veg bed as a giant cat litter tray. It’s truly disgusting.

I have tried lots of things to deter them:

  • citrus peel
  • cat shoo plants
  • cayenne pepper
  • lavender
  • half empty plastic bottles of water
  • throwing glasses of water at them (quite satisfying, but worried a person might be standing over the other side of the wall)
  • chicken wire

The chicken wire is a recent purchase. I’ve covered the veg patch in it. There is nothing in the veg patch at the moment because it will soon be converted into a raised bed, but I thought if I can stop them crapping in it with the chicken wire, they may take the hint and move off elsewhere.

That was my theory.  But a couple of hours after unrolling my new weapon I looked out and Lacey was using it like some kind of Commando Cat, pacing up and down between the holes, like it was in training to go to Afghanistan. Quite funny, really.

I’ve been thinking about getting one of these sonic cat deterrent monitor thingies, but they are about fifty quid and seem to get mixed reports.

If anyone has any suggestions of how to deal with these blighters, I’d love to hear it. Please don’t bother with the dog suggestions though.

January 9, 2010

2010: a gardening odyssey

Filed under: Gardening Year 2 — by leafyleith @ 6:35 pm
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I’ve been in hibernation for some time now, but I thought a review of my first year of gardening might jog my memory for moving things on in 2010.

Things I learned:

  1. You don’t need to adhere to the seed packet instructions too much when it comes to measurements, but DO leave at least a hoe’s width between rows just so you can keep the weeds down and not break your back in the process. I didn’t do this and wish I had
  2. Don’t be too enthusiastic with your sowing… you don’t need to sow the full seed packet in one go
  3. Successional planting is the key, so that everything isn’t ready at the same time
  4. Don’t believe the weather forecasters if they tell you it’s going to rain. I went off on holiday for a week after being promised rainfall, and came back to a withered up mess. If you are going away for a prolonged period, ask some kindly person to check on your plants
  5. And finally, don’t think people are weird just because they’re not interested in gardening and plants. Well you can think it, but probably best just to keep it to yourself

So that was Gardening Year One. Roll on Gardening Year Two. It’s going to be a busy year.

So far, I’ve got some seed catalogues to flick through, plans for a raised bed (and hopefully some ‘volunteers’ to cart the soil for it through the house), some new pots to fill and some dead delphiniums to try and revive.

Oh and while the weather is so chilly, I’ve been trying to help out Blackbird and Robin with some suet coconut shells, meal-worms and a delicious selection of seeds. Don’t forget our feathered friends during these temperature challenged times.

August 31, 2009

Keep smiling

Filed under: Gardening Year 1 — by leafyleith @ 10:26 pm
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Happy Toms

Despite the washout summer Leafyleith has been quite productive this month. I think it has rained almost every day for July and August – so much for the warm, hot summer the forecasters promised.

As you can see, the tomatoes have been quite fruitful.  But I did have a bit of a disaster earlier in the month. I went off for a holiday and didn’t bother getting anyone to water the plants. I don’t know why I believed it, but the forecast said it was going to rain all week, so on return everything was rather withered and one of the tomato plants had completely collapsed.

Anyway, I made some Green Tomato Chutney which was quite tasty for a first attempt and some Italian Courgette Soup with the courgette glut – delicious.

Other highlights this month have been the flowers.

Dead chuffed with my sunflowers, which made a rapid transformation in about 3 weeks. From this:

sunflowers-july2209

To this:

sunflower-aug09

I’m definitely going to do them again next year. Along with sweetpeas and marigolds.

Looking back at these photos, it’s hard to believe that that was just a couple of weeks ago. It’s now getting colder and darker earlier at night which is a bit of a bummer. I fear that’s it for this year. Fingers crossed for a crisp, sunny autumn.

July 23, 2009

Ground control to Major Tom

Filed under: Gardening Year 1 — by leafyleith @ 5:12 pm
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I’ve been attempting to grow some tomatoes in my wee grow-house and they are looking rather good. Even if I do say so myself. My dad is an expert tomato grower, so am hoping there’s something in the genes.

tomatoes-july09

This isn’t my handiwork. I got these a few weeks ago, so they were already quite established. When the fruit is there you need to keep them well watered and feed every second watering with Tomorite.

Now I just need some sunshine to ripen them up. And a bit of sunshine on my chilli peppers wouldn’t go amiss either.

chillies-july09

July 22, 2009

How Not To Garden

You know that programme ‘What Not To Wear’? Well, tonight you’ve tuned in to an episode of ‘How Not To Garden’.

After 40 days and 40 nights of rain – slight exaggeration, but there’s no chance of a drought here in Edinburgh – the plants have gone berserk.

All the books say courgettes are easy peasy and they’re not lying. However, courgettes are the main item on the ‘How Not To Garden’ agenda.

I’ve been growing some in a tub and unfortunately mine are growing under battery conditions.

courgette-flowers

Please don’t report me to the Courgette Protection League. I really didn’t know what I was doing. Next year, I must remember only two plants to a tub.

The flowers are absolutely amazing. I’d planned to make some tempura fritter thingies with them, but it’s been raining so much I haven’t got around to it. You’re supposed to pick the flowers on a sunny day, so they are open and ready to stuff.

I also read that you should pick the male flowers to eat. You can tell the difference because the female flowers have a courgette attached and the males are on a stalk.  I seem to have a self-sufficient female colony because the males are only now appearing. My ladies seem to have courgettes already developing… how did that happen?!

Just so you can see that I’m not all bad, here’s how a courgette should be treated. They like space to spread out,  so the fruits can form properly.

courgettes-in-garden

The thing is, I’m not that bothered about the battery ones because I think they’ll be tastier if they’re small and M&S charge a small fortune for those baby ones. Although, I ate one of mine the other day and it was incredibly bitter, so maybe I’m in for a big disappointment.

Other disappointments of late:

  • rocket and pak choi bolting because I didn’t pick them in time (been eating out a lot lately)
  • butternut squash and beetroot also living in battery conditions and
  • sugar snap pea plants being eaten alive by god knows what

Actually, now that I come to think of it, the rest of my gardening antics have actually been quite successful.

Shed & Lawn Man and myself enjoyed a lovely sugar-snap and mangetout pesto pasta dish the other night. I’ve only got about 15 plants on the go, but they have been quite productive so far.

mangetout-pods-july09

And the runner-beans are also coming on a treat as well. Look at the flowers on these, so I’ll be harvesting soon if the sun decides to make a reappearance.  So I’ll leave you on that happy note.

runner-bean-flowers

July 1, 2009

No slacking

Filed under: Gardening Year 1 — by leafyleith @ 7:56 pm
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The lack of posts in June may have given the impression that there’s been a bit of slacking going on at Leafyleith. No, no, no.

While I have been out gallivanting quite a bit – St Paul Cap de Joux, France; Manchester, England; Dunfermline in the Motherland – I have been quite busy researching gardens in these locations. In some cases getting some hints and tips, and in other cases spreading the word of the power of planting.

Anyway, while I’ve been on tour, the sun has been out and the vegetables and flowers have been hard at work. Great results on the flower growth front.

tropaeseum speciosum

I cannot recommend highly enough Tropaeolum Speciosum (AKA Flame Flower or Flame Thrower as Shed and Lawn Man seems to call it).

It has the prettiest leaves and dainty red flowers, with lots more on the way. Everyone comments on it. It’s my favourite thing in the garden so far (apart from my hammock).

That pic is actually two plants that I put in last year and I thought they were goners because they initially lost their leaves and only grew about 5cms, but what a result this year. So I’ve invested in another one for up at the deck.

hydrangea

The blooms on the inherited hydrangea and the  honeysuckle I planted last year are also on their way. The jasmine has done it’s bit already and it smelled superb. It has flowered but seems to have taken on a growth spurt, so am hoping a few more are on their way.

I didn’t think much had happened on the veg front and I must admit I am getting a bit impatient with progress, but I just had a quick look at previous photos and the sugar-snap peas and mangetout are coming on a treat with flowers out this week. I presume flowers are a good sign?

mangetout and sugarsnaps

Runner beans and butternut squash are also growing, but the star of the show is the courgette.

courgettes in tub

As you can see, I made another novice gardener error by planting too many in that tub. On hindsight, I really should have planted just four seeds in there, because they all germinated and are doing brilliantly. ‘Note To Self’ for next year. So have transplanted a couple into the garden where the radishes were, and passed on one to my neighbour (who seemed most impressed that I’d grown them from seed). Courgette plant to a good home, anyone?

pakchoi

Another quick developer is the pak choi and rocket. I planted these seeds a couple of weeks ago and look what’s happened already. Although I am a wee bit anxious about them because there seem to a flurry of butterfly type creatures which I think might be Cabbage Whitefly. So I need to deal with them pretty urgently.

Don’t want to harp on about it, but space is tight and successional planting is not really possible at Leafyleith. So I’ve put my name down for an allotment. There’s a bit of a wait here in Edinburgh, so if I haven’t developed arthritis in four years time, I should be able to start successional planting and growing lots, lots more…

June 6, 2009

Hoe, hoe, no!

Filed under: Gardening Year 1 — by leafyleith @ 11:55 pm
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A fundamental novice gardener error has been made at Leafyleith. Because space is a bit tight in the veg patch, I have to admit I didn’t exactly follow the instructions on the seed packets. How much space does a carrot actually need, I asked myself? I’ve now learned why space is kind of important.

Unless you want to be on your hands and knees weeding with a trowel, then always leave at least a hoe’s width between rows. It’s not rocket science and it’s what will be happening in Leafyleith come 2010.

Weather-wise May was a sensation. Me and the plants were loving it. That’s the reason why I haven’t been inside in front of the computer. It’s been so marvellous, we even had the parasol up for two days in a row and Leafyleith had its first harvest.

radishes

I ate a couple of these whoppers earlier and they were delicious, delicious, delicious. It’s exciting stuff – for me, anyway.

This afternoon I invested in some pea and bean mesh from a shop in Portobello. I thought it would be simple. I only had to string up about a two metre distance. Told you, space is tight at Leafyleith. Boy, was I wrong.

What a fankle I got myself in. It took me about two hours. Shed and Lawn Man says it looks fine, but I am not convinced. And I am not sure the RHS will be happy with my efforts either. It’s horrible green, plasticky stuff, I wish I’d gone natural and just used old branches. 

pea-support

Top tip: those little Gu chocolate pots are not only delicious but they stop you poking your eye out on a bamboo stick, as well.

I planted some runner beans a couple of weeks ago and had them in individual pots in the grow-house. The books say not to be hasty with runner beans and, for once, I followed the rules. A weekend inspection showed there were tiny cracks in the soil and, low-and-behold, another inspection four days later made my heart skip a beat. They’d grown about 15 cms and had fully established sets of leaves. Result! So I’ve planted them out with some sweetpeas for company and they seem to be growing a treat.

runner-beans

The rhododendron has come alive over the last couple of weeks and is looking completely amazing. Photos don’t do it justice and a neighbour says its the best he’s ever seen it (but I think he was just trying to make me feel good). The bees are loving it. It’s Bumble Bee Central out there.

rhody

May 18, 2009

Snails With Attitude (SWA)

Filed under: Gardening Year 1 — by leafyleith @ 1:43 am
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Mr-Snail

Look who I found lurking around in Leafyleith this evening. There was a bit of a snail party going on tonight. I wasn’t actually invited, so I gatecrashed.

These guys normally come to a very squishy end, but after taking a number of photos I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. So they’ve been given a reprieve and have been moved to the garden refuse bin… I know, I’m a sucker.

Have been away on holiday so the garden has been sprouting forth without me. I am pleased to say that growth is coming on (albeit frustratingly slowly for me). 

After being in the heat of Ronda in southern Spain I got a bit carried away and expected to come back to see geraniums in bloom, sunflowers at least 30cm tall and a few rounded radishes. But alas, it wasn’t to be.  

I was only away for a week and it is only May, so I had to have a word with myself. I think the 10-15 degree temperature difference has a lot to answer for.

Anyway, Spain inspired me. I love going to foreign countries and I want my garden to remind me of the places I’ve been. 

I’m so excited about the prospect of beautiful, red geraniums and the heady scents of  jasmine and honeysuckle wafting in the garden door. You’ll see from previous entries that I’ve picked lots of flowers with delicious fragrances – honeysuckle, sweetpea, jasmine, mock orange. All I need is a bit of warmth to spur them on a bit, then I’ll be happy.

April 29, 2009

Radish Result

Filed under: Gardening Year 1 — by leafyleith @ 8:47 pm
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growhouse

This is my new lean-to growhouse complete with geraniums, marigolds, sweetpeas and various sleeping herbs. Got some plug plants a few days ago and have been busy potting them on. 

Not sure how the geraniums are doing as they were looking a bit sorry for themselves tonight. But I suppose I’d be feeling a bit sorry for myself if I’d just arrived from the warm Guernsey sun.

I’ve just been for a garden tour and I am pleased to announce that the radishes have pushed through. I’ve been getting a bit anxious about my seeds, you see. It’s been a bit cold of late and I thought I’d been a bit premature with my sowings, but tonight my spirits are lifted.

polytunnel-extraordinaire

I thought it might have been down to the polytunnel, but in actual fact the seeds have sprouted outside the tunnel as well. The gardening books do say radishes are easy to grow and this appears to be the case at Leafyleith.

Fingers crossed the beetroot, carrots, lettuce, parsley and dill make an appearance soon.

I am also taking part in a pea trial for the RHS to test out sugar-snap peas and mange tout. The packets arrived through the post last week, so I really need to get my act together and get them into the ground. Unfortunately there are over 500 of the blighters and the space at Leafyleith just isn’t big enough, but will have a go and see what happens.

seed-trial

Cats have moved off the veg patch (thanks to polytunnel extraordinare) but are now crapping by the compost heap. I’ve planted some Cat Shoo plants in their new ‘litter tray’ to spoil their fun. I’ve tried coffee grinds, half empty bottles of water, orange peel, you name it. Cat Shoo is my last resort. I don’t think I’m ever going to get rid of them now.

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