It’s that time of year, yet again! This time we’re a bit later than normal, and Easter is a bit earlier than normal, so it’s all a bit proverbial about proverbial. The weather has just been a bit damp for digging over too much, but Suz and I turned a couple of the beds last weekend, just to throw some of the weaker weeds (chickweed, grass etc) under the soil for the worms to eat. “The Beast” was pulled from its winter shed and checked over, before being put to work to rotovate the brassica bed that hadn’t been turned in a while. The bed we’d spread compost over and then covered with black weed fabric last autumn ended up as beautiful soil and really didn’t need any work with the worms having done it for us!
Here we have Jay getting stuck into clearing the bad weeds from the old squash patch, just before I started rotovating the straw into the soil. The artichokes in the forground have survived the winter with no cover. Not having grown them before I’m unsure how to overwinter them, but I suspect the harsh ground frosts we sometimes get here might nobble them. Luckily this winter has been ridiculously mild, a sign of things to come maybe, so they all seem to have pulled through, with two having actual small flower heads still intact!
Whilst we prepare an awful lot of our own produce, it’s been getting a bit silly. In the past, Jay and Smiler have cut apples on the top of the old picnic bench in the back garden, we then scratted them on the picnic bench seat, moved the juice inside to the dining room table, and then on into the pokey kitchen to bottle them. Preserving veg is a similar process, so this year, if all goes to plan, we’re going to extend the kitchen so we can at least have two people working in there at the same time without treading on each other! With this in mind, we have (very) reluctantly decided to grass over three of the vegetable beds.
In the photograph here you can only see two grassed and rollered, as I couldn’t bring myself to grass the third as it was beautiful soil. However, common sense prevailed and that too has been under Johnny’s old roller. Johnny was the chap who used to live at No.1 Merrybower Cottages, and is sadly no longer with us, although his wife Phyliss lives in Kings Newton, where the Newton Wonder apple tree is from. I never had the pleasure of knowing Johnny, but he worked at the coal board as an engineer, and made his own kit. We’ve been lucky enough to inherit a roller he made, and it’s beautiful! I can pull it, but it’s a decent weight and width, and has proper bearings with grease nipples, allowing it to glide along easily, despite probably being fifty years old. It’ll outlive any of us here at Merrybower, I’m sure.
I digress; the result of a longer kitchen is that for a month or two, we will be without a kitchen, smack bang in the middle of preserving and cooking season. Realistically we need to grow a bit less this year, and we’re also taking into account that this year will see far more tree fruit than last, and more cider making, so the time will still be used up, but in different ways. Whilst we only used five beds for veg growing, we have gained most of the fruit cage after pulling the raspberries and strawberries out last autumn. Where the strawberries will now go still has some older earth from the paths we dug out last year, and keeps throwing docks up, so I’m going to use that bed for root veg (carrots etc) that should do well in the new soil, and it gives us another season to rid the soil of persistent weeds before adding long-lived strawberries to it. Plus we also have the raised bed, and separate gooseberry/rhubarb beds, so really we won’t starve!
You can see Smiler did a cracking job of mulching the currant bushes – to the left of them is where the strawberries will go next year, to the right is where they were, and I have no idea what we’ll put in there for now!
Speaking of docks, Suz tackled the dock seedlings that are scattered beneath the hedge where they blew over from No.1 when it had a year of neglect whilst empty. We’re still struggling to stay on top of them, but as long as we mow and pick, we’ll eventually rid ourselves of the pernicious things!