Veg Patch

To read the story of my Veg Patch in chronological order use the links in the Blog Archive

Friday, 30 March 2012

Spring has Sprung - Well this week anyway!

Its been glorious this week, more like the Riviera or the Costa's than Hampshire, and the garden has responded beautifully. 

The strawberry plants which were in the greenhouse and had flowers, were just crying out to be planted outside. Problem is this is the UK and frost is always just around the corner. Lucky for me then that a couple of weeks ago Lidl had a gardening week.

Some of you will be unfamiliar with Lidl. It is a German cut price supermarket company and there is one within walking distance of here. They sell lots of strange, but very delicious continental things and its very cheap. I was always a Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer shopper but now I can be found in Lidl. The other good thing is on Mondays and Thursday they change their non food stock and it always has a theme. So it was with some delight I noted that the gardening week was selling poly tunnels at £5.99 each. 

We got there early as these deals are not restocked. They were going fast but we managed to get four of these little beauties. 

So the strawberries were far to big for the pots now, so time to go outside. I have only ever had a couple of plants in a  pot so this time I bought 12 plants of four different varieties, so that we have fruits though out the summer. I bought  them as a collection from Thompson and Morgan  and am very pleased with how they have progressed.

I decided to use weed suppressing fabric under the plants. Not because I don't want to weed but I thought that as the plants will through off runners, this would stop them rooting and overcrowding the space. I can also then put some straw on top of it when the berries grow to stop them laying on the ground. 

Once the fabric was on I laid out the plants to make sure there was enough room and then planted them.

The final part of the job was to cover it over with the plastic protection sheet. Luckily I have always been good at wrapping parcels and presents so this posed no problem. 

Lots of other things have suddenly started appearing in the last few days. I now have seedlings in the greenhouse for Brussel Sprouts, Spinach, Broccoli, Peppers, Chilli,s and Three different sorts of tomato. Still waiting for the Peas to put in an appearance. 

Outside my first crop of potatoes came up for air this morning.

I have also noticed a couple of very tiny leek plants 

and during the day today my carrots have also popped up. There was no sign of them at 8am but by 5.30pm I could see hundreds of tiny seedlings. I am going to have to thin them out when they are a bit bigger. 

On to the chickens. I no longer feel like a prison warder, checking for escapes every 5 minutes. The Ebay delivery arrived 3 days ago and now the ladies are nicely contained in an escape proof run and they seem perfectly content. The run itself wasn't as big as we imagined so when we set it up we attached the puppy run to the side of it to make it bigger. This had an open top though, so a tarpaulin to provide shade and a bit of fruit netting have sealed the top nicely.

So in went the Chickens and out we went for a stroll with the puppy. Upon our return I walked into the garden and I couldn't believe it, there  was Geri happily ripping up daffodils again. "What the @@"& how did she get out?" An inspection of the run revealed it was secure. I put her back in and got on with jobs on the allotment, About 10 minutes later I look up the garden and she was out again! OK this was getting beyond a joke, has Harry Houdini been reborn as one of my back garden chickens? Another quick capture and return to the run, but this time I set up a surveillance operation, determined to know how she was doing it.

About 10 minutes later my patience was rewarded, although  I did nearly miss it as I was taking the opportunity of enforced rest for a bit of a doze. On the side of the run is a small hatch with a sliding door which goes up and down. I have been using it to put the drinking and food containers in the run. Geri got her head between the bars and then lifted it. This allowed her to put her foot in the gap created and force the door up. She then squeezed out and the door shut behind her. 

I was momentarily pretty impressed, who would have thought a chicken had the intelligence to work that out. So third catch of the day and then a strategically placed piece of string sealed her route to freedom for good. 

Since then there have been no escapes,and no more damage to the garden.  Although I must admit I have enjoyed the challenge of beating my chickens attempts to escape, I am happy they are over, for now anyway, but I am sure they are plotting further attempts!. 

And to finish off more Gibson news. He is growing rapidly now. I can't sit him on my lap anymore, he just hangs off either side. He is now enjoying his trips into the outside world, although it takes ages to get anywhere as everyone we meet wants to play with him.

He goes to the beach everyday and we are getting him used to going in the sea. Jim took some wonderful pictures last week so here are a couple including the last one which I think is the best picture we have of him. 

Saturday, 24 March 2012

How do you outsmart a chicken?

I sometimes wonder about my new life. I held down a pretty responsible full time job for 30 years making some fairly important decisions on occasion and now I spend my days trying to work out how to beat my chickens at their own game! 

They are devious, there is no two ways about it. After they lost the right to roam at will in the garden, they have done everything in there power to P*!s me off. Escape attempts from the run have been thick and fast, so far today Margot has escaped 5 times and Geri not far behind on 4. Bab's seems perfectly happy in the run, but I expect her to start at any minute.

I don't see what the problem is, they have a wonderful life. A very comfortable hen house, a large run attached and another large run on the lawn. It doesn't seem to be enough. I think the taste of freedom they have previously had,  has made them lust for it more and any chance they get, they are off!!

Well its round one to me.. Good old ebay, a large chicken run with a covered top is in a delivery van somewhere making its way to may little piece of England, and they won't be able to get out of that! 

So they are also trashing their run every time they are in it for more than five minutes. I spent ages getting it nice. They have lots of nice hardwood chips to walk on but all they want to do is dig them up. We have wasted so much food and grit because they keep filling the feeders up with muck!

The chips they kick up all the time have been falling through the wire and making a mess all around the run and I have been spending ages sweeping them up each day so something needed to be done to stop this happening. 

Thanks goodness for pallets. We had a stash left over from the landscaping, so I had to come up with plan. I decided to make the sides of the base higher to stop the bits coming out. So I borrowed Jim's Jigsaw and drill and off I went. 

It took me 4 hours in the sunshine but that was Round 2 to me as well. They spent an hour kicking up bits and none came out! Roll on the third round whatever that may be but as I am well ahead of them, they are going to have to come up with something good to beat me!

On to the vegetables. Things are finally beginning to grow in the raised beds. By things I mean Shallots. I planted them about 10 days ago and yesterday I noticed that green shoots have appeared. 

So at least if nothing else grows, we will have some nice shallots to fry and have on our summer barbecue burgers!

The greenhouse is finally living up to its name. There is greenery everywhere. Flowers, fruit and veg is popping up on a daily basis

The temptation to start planting outside is great, but even though it was the warmest day of the year so far today, there is still the chance of frost, so I will have to wait for another 4 weeks or so. 

I was a bit worried that the strawberries were flowering too early and they wouldn't be pollinated, I shouldn't have been concerned, I wandered into the greenhouse this afternoon singing along to the rather loud music I was encouraging my plants with, ( Do you think Prince Charles plays Creedence Clearwater Revival to his plants)  and nearly swallowed the biggest bumble bee I have seen in ages, it was flying straight for my mouth!! goodness knows how I avoided it!

I hope she did her job and I get great strawberries. 

Finally it wouldn't be the end of a post now without a Gibson picture. He has spent the day outdoors running around having a great time. Unfortunately he has discovered that he can dig holes. Two today!

He was very proud of them but was concerned that I wasn't as happy about it as he was. So he tried to give me a kiss by way of an apology, I was though holding the camera at the time!

Friday, 16 March 2012

The Right to Roam - Revoked!

I knew when I got chickens that they made a mess. I knew that they ate the grass and that they nibbled on plants. What I wasn't prepared for was the total destruction, on a biblical scale,that Margot, Babs and Geri wrought in the garden on Wednesday. 

Up until now they have dug holes in the beds to have dust baths, nibbled on pretty much everything and made lots of mess on the lawn, but all in a rather gentle way. I was happily thinking that we were going to co-habit the lawn very nicely. Then the chicken equivalent of hormones kicked in. 

Wednesday they managed to destroy nearly every daffodil in the garden, they randomly shredded the leaves and bit of all the heads. I wouldn't have minded so much if they actually ate them, it was just that they seemed to take great pleasure in ripping them up and wandering off. 

They can now only be described as truculent teenagers. I am hoping its because two of the three are now laying eggs, with the last soon to follow (I hope) and their chicken hormones are buzzing around all over the place. I want them to calm down and until they do they are no longer allowed the freedom of the lawn. My poor plants can't stand it.

So for now they are still on the lawn but in a makeshift pen. I just want to give all the newly appearing plants a chance to get established before the ravenous three descend upon them. They don't like it and can be seen staring at the few remaining daffs with a gleam in their eye..

As I just mentioned, two of the Hens are now laying. We got the second egg yesterday but who was it? Geri or Margot. We think its Geri, only because the two eggs have both been laid in the same nest box and Geri and Babs often can be found sleeping together! 

So again this morning two small but perfectly formed eggs laid between 8am when I let them out and 10am when I went for a quick check of the henhouse. 

By 10.02am they were on their way back to the kitchen to my latest purchase, a rather nifty egg skelter that stores the eggs in order of lay so you always eat the oldest first. Our Niece Hannah recommended it and so Jim went online and found me one at 

10.05am four eggs, what shall I make? Its got to be cake, three used 1 left for something else.

Lovely yellow yolks. 

And by 1040 am muffins to have with afternoon tea. Not bad, less than an hour from henhouse to ready to eat! 

On to garden stuff. Its a bit of a frustrating time, as nothing I have planted outside has grown yet, I did though plant two rows of leeks yesterday, so now I am waiting for signs of Leeks, Potato's, Parsnips and Carrots.

There is much more going on inside the greenhouse. The strawberries are romping on and this morning I noticed that two of the plants now have flowers. I will have to plant them outside soon to make sure they get pollinated.

The Broccoli and tomato plants are getting to be a nice size and some sunflowers I planted for the borders in the allotment are doing really well.

So a few more weeks when the chance of frost is gone, they will all be outside. 

Finally a couple of Gibson photo's. He is growing rapidly so got to take as many puppy pictures while we can!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Water Butts and Eggs Galore!

So it happened, on the day that the two extra water butts were delivered it was announced there will be a hosepipe bank in the South of England, but happily at the end of the report came the rider, except in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight! It doesn't rain here much at all but our local water company obviously has looked after its supplies better than elsewhere. 

Better safe than sorry though, its bound to happen here eventually so to save as much water as possible I can now store 600 litres.

The original Butt was placed next to the Greenhouse and now we had to fit two more in next to it. No Problem

An hours work and it was all done. 

Just as a slight aside, I did mention that the picture quality would not be so good for a while because I had broken Jim's camera. Well I found a company online called First Digital Repairs who repaired and returned it within a week. Very impressive service at very good price, especially as all the major camera shops I went to said that it couldn't be fixed and had to be replaced with a new one. So if you break your camera, give it a try. I had apparently got grit in the lens mechanism! Normal picture quality will be resumed from the next post. 

on to Egg news. After Bab's eggstraordinary day on Sunday her eggcellent work has continued and she has produced a small, but perfectly formed egg every day this week. I had the first egg for my breakfast on Monday. I went for scrambled.

It was delicious, As you can see the yolk was bright orange and it made lovely scrambled eggs. Jim had a little  taste, he gets his first home laid egg when I finish this blog, as we have saved the last two eggs to have them poached this morning. Here they are waiting to go in the pan.

And finally for today just a few pics of Chicken/Puppy action, Normally Gibson teases the chickens but yesterday it was the other way round, poor puppy was beside himself

Have a great day I'm off for eggs and then a bit of greenhouse time.