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Daphne

So how is the season so far?

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We have our (late) tomato seeds in a tray in the hall. Went shopping too late again and there was nothing much left. Early potatoes in (Clara); trying a different planting system to get them deeper in the beds. Pulled the soil out to the sides to create a shallow trench, then planted as normal 4" down and 12" apart. This gets them 2"or 3" deeper, so hopefully less watering. Of the tray of 60 there was only room for 34. Seems a shame to throw the rest away so another small bed will be prepared and some will go in there to be harvested first very early, as planted before but just 8" apart. No second sowings this year, no cherry tomatoes and no parsnips.

Bought a cherry tree @Daphne, self pollinating. Wasn't much choice as either the frost or green/black fly had damaged most. It's a very young semi-dwarf (4m diameter, 3m high), so it will be a few years before it fruits;  it's just a twig at the moment.

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Getting a dwarf or semi dwarf rootstock is a good idea for picking purposes, fingers X for you that it turns out to be a delicious and prolific variety!  

This year I will be mostly growing tomatoes.  I am 100% shocked at the recent prices locally - I have seen 4/euro a kilo!  This is probably because of the Spanish lorry drivers strike so there is a shortage, but given we still have one pot of tomato sauce in the freezer from last summer, I think its well worth planting lots again.

I have to say my cabbage/kale/spinach bed has produced so much veg we have just been through a period of having a mandatory feed of cabbage every day, and sometimes twice!  The lesson learned is to plant less next year.

Yesterday I put together a salad of bought lettuce, then homegrown parsley and spinach and foraged sorrel.  Sorrel grows well here in early spring, and I used to grow it in England as well.  It likes damp soil.  Chicken like it too!

I will have to perservere with seed sowing, but so far my heated propagator isn't working well for me, its probably me.

 

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On thing I did discover last year @Daphne was that seeds also won't germinate if they are too hot. On the packets here they do state a minimum and maximum temperature. The parsnips failed dismally and were re-seeded, only to discover that the original seeds germinated when the temperature dropped and we then had far too many. Perhaps put a thermometer in the propagator to check it?

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Just seen the weather forecast for later in the week and it seems to be a repeat of last year with frosts. So it's just as well the potatoes went in 2 weeks late. Hopefully they won't have come up and we can simply lay rolled up fleece in the trench arrangement I mentioned earlier. Rain in the day means the fleece will be wet and won't give much protection though.

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Potatoes (2nd earlies: Jazzy and Ratte) and onion sets are in now. Lots of seedlings in the greenhouse. It’s unheated though so tomatoes and peppers will be coming in for the rest of this week and so will my potted Acer which is just coming into leaf ️ 

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We did indeed get the late frosts, but the potatoes were so small I just put a plant pot over each one and no damage. The Kiwis took a bashing though and some still haven't recovered. As for the figs; well they are a disaster! Every single bud has died and no sign of any new shoots on either tree.

Rushing now to finish the main crop potatoes before the heavy rain due Tuesday for three days and then, according to my chart, everything goes in before the end of April with the exception of the French beans early May, so we'll be busy.

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Well done on protecting the spuds!  Its certainly the period of mass activity.  Everyone is outside planting things, but the quantities - always massive! Because the tomato shortage is still ongoing (I really can't believe how pricey they are) I am majoring on them this year.  I have turned over one bed ready for small plugs, and am making OH eat cabbage and/or spinach every day to clear the other one!  I will be planting cherry toms this week, to take advantage of the warm period, and then we are forecast wet, so it should be a good time. 

I have just made a huge discovery, of the pleasant variety.  I have my own compost!  Its taken over 5 years, but my big heap of stuff has rotted down sufficiently to be useful.  It won't pass the Monty Don test, but its perfectly useable, so I am scattering it all over the place as top dressing on ornamentals, or in pots.  I'm not going to introduce it into my raised veg beds as they are more or less weed free, using bought compost.

However, I never cracked early sowings of veg seeds in my propagator.  I am now going to put in a 3rd attempt, in an unheated propagator indoors to start and then hardening them off.   

 

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My kiwi got absolutely hammered by the frost too Beantree. It does have a few leaves that survived it though and I noticed lots of new swellings along its branches yesterday so hopefully it’s going to try again. No other fruit or veg was damaged but the pieris was covered with red bracts about to burst into colour and they ALL got frazzled, and oddly my imperial fritillary flowers all succumbed too which surprised me.

Everything else is coming on ok now. I’ve planted out some peas (to be eaten my snails I expect) and sweet peas that had got to about 5 inches tall in their pots, the potatoes have popped their heads up now and I’ve ‘earthed them up’ with grass clippings (never tried that before). I’ve direct sowed the parsnips. Brassicas, onions and leeks are doing well in their pots.

Then flowers-wise I’ve got rudbeckia, heleniums, sunflowers, Mexican sunflowers, mesembryanthemums and nicotiana all coming in from seeds in the greenhouse and my dahlias are starting to sprout.

I love his time of year - I spend ages just looking at things!

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Frost isn't much of a worry for me, although some tender shrubs do get got from time to time, so I can understand the pieris frustration. I know my SIL gets very late frosts into May (Normandy) which must be soul destroying.  Fingers crossed for you both.  With figs keep an eye on them, they are pretty robust, I guess you might get a bumper crop next year, with the leaves coming later hopefully you will have a healthy plant through the rest of this year, even if the fruit isn't there.

You're doing well MT!  What a lovely selection of flowers.  I haven't started any seeds yet, I quite like direct sowing (I'm lazy) so once I have cleared a bed after the self sown weed flowers have finished I'll pop in some cosmos, sunflowers and tickseed.  I can see I have poppies coming up with the broad beans, and I hope I might find some more under various bits of foliage.  I also have thousands (well it feels like it) of nigella self sown in gravel. I like bulbs/corms/tubers because they are direct sow as well, although I have to supplement them each year.  I have dahlia (and a few seed ones as well), gladioli, a few lilies (they are looking strong now, after being feeble for a couple of years), acidanthera and ixia as they all cope with the heat reasonably well.  My iris have been in for about 5 years and this year they have been spectacular, they flower early before the real heat.  I think that's the thing, patience.  Not that I have much, but its always a lovely surprise, seeing what works each year, because often successes and failures change, without you knowing why half the time.

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You know the feeling when you discover loads of eggs in the nestbox, well I had nearly the same experience this morning when I found a load of new potatoes in my compost heap!  They must be from very small potatoes I got rid of at least 3 years ago, now they are of eating size and were quite nice (although I wouldn't rave about them) with an omelette for tea.  I have to say I felt like I had treasure, or was on advert, because the compost is all dry and loose and you could just pick them out with your hands.  The cat thinks the compost heap is specially for him, I guess its warm.

I also tried my hand at strimming today.  A big fail.  The machine is just so heavy (petrol driven) and too long for me, so I couldn't control it.  I did quite of lot of deadheading but not much cutting things at ground level, so the moral of that story is that OH will just have to carry on!

I also picked some strawberries, they were good.

 

 

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So do I now!  The idea was that I could help out on the new bit of olive grove, but its just not practical.  However, there are always other things to be getting on with (pruning/pulling up invasive weeds etc) so I think it will even out.  The soil is a revelation, its deep and crumbly and full of mica so you keep thinking 'GOLD'!  We visited last week to discover extensive wild boar damage (just to the ground) which involved a lot of earth moving/replacing.  Rather horribly we were out for a walk here a few days ago and came across a wild boar carcass.....with the head chopped off, obviously its been taken as a trophy.

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I was going to suggest a Stihl FSA45 battery strimmer @Daphne, but it's not that powerful and only has a run time of 20 minutes and a recharge time of 3 hours. Great for small jobs and fitted with the 1.6mm cord will go right up to the trunk without fear of damage.

Hoping that the addition of our electric boundary fence and the extra pig fences of our neighbour will prevent the wild boar digging up our courgettes again.

Your mention of a horrible sight reminded me of a walk on the Isle of Mull;  rounded a bend and were confronted by a dead sheep which must have stumbled over the cliff above us. When I say it was 'bloated' it looked like an over-inflated ballon that was going to explode at any moment. Needless to say we cut the walk short, turned round immediately and walked back.

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My mom had a wasp doing her best under the the roof of her caravan tent…

Not a place to let her get on with it. Sadly though as her little hive was very pretty, complete with little hexagon breeding chambers. 

17CDA5D9-F7F0-4724-8B82-F215A358A96A.jpeg

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After the frosts 6 weeks ago the figs are at last showing signs of life with small buds appearing on the branches. The white has suffered the most damage, with the top 8-12" of the branches now shrivelled and dead; the black has just lost the tip and the first fruit.

We're having a heatwave at the moment, so it's too hot to seed the leeks (15-20C) and perhaps we won't use the seeds this year. We do have a fair few tomato plants though, so that bed won't be wasted. Potatoes are loving the weather and soon everything will be earthed-up and the South side of the beds covered in leaf mulch to protect them from the heat and retain the moisture. Having to water the onions and carrot seeds three times a day though and the water butts are emptying quickly. They are predicting a drought this year, with each month so far having been well short of the average rainfall. We were discussing wether to bother growing all these potatoes next year, considering all the work, but they are rather expensive and with fuel and food prices soaring perhaps we have no choice?

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Its an interesting one Beantree.  We are definitely going to have an awful summer in terms of lack of moisture, because we've had such a dry winter.  I have something like mildew/aphids (not quite sure yet) on an established apple, plums are shrivelling on the tree before being full size, and our majestic cherry is on the way out.  Last year it looked a bit iffy, but yesterday we pruned out half a dozen large branches.  This is probably our fault as we have paved around part of it, thus preventing as much rain getting to the roots, although mature trees do fail, and this one has had split bark, slightly pinkish suspect 'lichen' and weeping gum for a few years.

Anyway, back to the potato problem.  I think it depends on your own personal tastes.  If you are very keen on spuds, then personally I would probably try to buy them in bulk. we used to have those large paper sacks of spuds, kept in the garage, from a local potato merchant when I was growing up and just before I left the UK I would buy my poultry grain and human spuds from a potato farm.  Do such things exist in France?  Then I would 'spend' my precious water on more expensive delicacies.

But your fundamental point, food/cooking is expensive, is correct.  This year I am thinking a lot harder about what I am growing/doing.  We tend to use tins/jars of pulses for convenience, but I am beginning to think about batch cooking in the autumn for the freezer, using dried ones.

 

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We eat an awful lot of potatoes @Daphne, mainly as chips. Potatoes are grown much further North, so the only source is the small market gardeners that charge the same prices as the supermarkets, if not more.

Decided to abandon the seeds this year at the moment because they are drying out too quickly, so shoot and then die. You only have to miss one watering, as I did yesterday and you have lost the lot. Just hoping we do get a cooler spell otherwise it will be potatoes, onions and tomatoes only this year.

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You and me both, I am just doing tomatoes for the summer, with the odd pepper/chili/beetroot/garlic and the strawberry bed to maintain.  I have one exotic, a chuchu, and I will continue to water 2 new young trees, a lemon and a peach.  If we get a downpour in the autumn I may stick in some fast growing beans, otherwise I'll wait till later autumn and get loads of cabbage/spinach/kale in.  We have just started collecting all the water when the taps run, and not flushing the loo every time.

Its a shame on the spud front, unless you happen to have any visitors coming to see you by car.  Potatoes are still cheaper than most veg, so I can't think of a substitute.

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We went for a walk this morning, and passed a young cherry orchard, about 5 years old and maybe 100 trees.  The owner's Mother said there are no cherries this year.  Well there are some, but only on trees that didn't get pruned last year.  Later we passed a large established cherry orchard, and the trees at the top of the field are dead/dying/hardly bearing anything, but those further down the slope where the water runs have an average crop (but not brilliant).  So, I think the water issue is key, although the old lady said it rained later than usual, when the bees should have been pollinating, and its possible that the pruning was too drastic (IMO).  I think the young trees will crop well next year, but the older ones, who knows.  Despite all this woe, we have now had our first (scrumped) cherries of the year!

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We pruned our cherry down from the top @Daphne, so we halved the height and took off everything we couldn't reach anyway. But we still have a poor crop because all the early buds were wiped out by the frost, so we have perhaps 20% of what would have been. What's there might be ripe in a few weeks and we are hoping that the thunderstorms predicted of Sunday do actually arrive to fill the fruit out, knowing that they usually split from over-filling. Few leaves on the figs now so I can see the dead branches to cut them off.

After extensive watering we actually have some carrots coming up, so on that basis I've decided to put a row of beetroot in, which are set much lower than carrots so stand a hope (1.5cm v 0.5cm) of staying damp. Not much of a risk really because they are leftover from a packet used last year with an expiry date of 12/2021; if we do get anything at all it will be great.

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You beat even me with the age of your seeds!  I think if your beetroot are shaded by something that will help as well.  I bought a new hosepipe on Monday and it reaches to the apple/ cherry/ plums/ peach so yesterday (overcast) I gave them all a good soaking, using the same logic as you, to help the fruit swell and then they will have to fend for themselves, with a soaking once a month perhaps.  I noticed today that the broad beans are going over (ie the plants are dying) well before I have harvested them all.  We are forecast rain Sun/Mon/Tues and I am praying for it.

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On 3/27/2022 at 10:20 AM, Beantree said:

 

Bought a cherry tree @Daphne, self pollinating. Wasn't much choice as either the frost or green/black fly had damaged most. It's a very young semi-dwarf (4m diameter, 3m high), so it will be a few years before it fruits;  it's just a twig at the moment.

I paid ££££££s for a cherry tree and it has died. Where did you get your "twig" from please? Perhaps I would have more luck with something smaller and sturdier? 

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Well we bought it in France @redhotchick. We always work on the basis of buy small. so give the youngster time to adjust to its environment. Mature trees do tend to suffer when moved. We make sure the hole is at least twice the diameter (perhaps 3x) of the pot and fill the outside with good quality compost and soil mixed. In the first year it needs watering.

If it does die it didn't cost much and the hole for the replacement is already dug.

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