Tuesday, 24 May 2016

A ton of things to do

Shortly after 9am yesterday morning, we took delivery of a ton of topsoil from a local supplier. So I spent a hour shovelling and barrowing top soil into the vegetable garden and then Mr J took over. He would of course, have done all of the hard graft, but I feel it only right that I at least attempt to do a share (however small) of the hard  physical work.

The topsoil bought was to boost the meagre soil in our raised beds. So first, we filled the raised bed to which we had added extra height (and had already put about 6 inches of compost), giving an eight inch depth of soil which I where I plan to grow parsnips.


Then we topped up the cardboard boxes that had the latest set of canes in them, I had already added about four inches of our homemade compost to the bottom of the boxes, so only around two or three inches of topsoil was needed. Finally the rest of the topsoil was put onto cardboard where another raised bed will be.

While Mr J barrowed the topsoil onto the last area, I started to plant up the cardboard boxes. Borlotti beans that had been started in the greenhouse went at the base of each cane, courgettes, one per box and some spinach and rainbow chard.

Apart from pausing for coffee and a spot of lunch, Mr J spent the better part of the day filling the wheelbarrow and emptying the topsoil onto the beds, but the job has been completed and he also used a little of the topsoil to fill a hole in the lawn of the front garden. 
The new rooster and the girls were very keen to meet each other and by mid-afternoon we let them meet. Shameless Jack was very impressed by him and they become 'friends' before you could blink! He seems to have settled in already and the older girls have shown him around the garden, especially where the food is kept. This evening when they have gone to bed and started to go into their night-time trance, we will apply another dose of scaly leg treatment and the preventative dose for all of the girls. I'm not a very squeamish person when it comes to animal health issues, but mites of any type I really do not like. Treating for them makes me cringe, but I'd rather the birds were in tip-top condition because that way we get the best quality eggs and eventually the best quality meat.
Late afternoon, as we sat on the bench on the patio, a movement caught my eye. It was Thimble, our neighbour's cat, who had climbed up onto the stable roof and over the Dutch barn's roof to try to reach the bird box on the front of the barn. The bird box is home to a very lovely family of sparrows, so I was keen to ensure that Thimble didn't catch them. I needn't have worried, there was no way that he was going to be able to reach the bird box and thwarted, he went back over the barn roof, across the stable roof and came over to us for a cuddle and fuss.
At supper time a friend, Cath, arrived for her first visit to our new home. Cath and I met when I first moved to Mid-Wales about 17 years ago (since then I have moved to Gloucestershire and then to our current home in south east Wales), we share lots of interests in common and most importantly, share a similar sense of humour. Our youngest children were at primary school together and although they went to different secondary schools, they remained good friends throughout their teens. Cath and I don't see each other often, but we stay in touch by phone and social media and then have a good catch up over a cuppa and something to eat every few months. Cath arrived with gifts, which was unexpected and very welcome. She bought me some gardening magazines and these beautiful flowers. These lovely jewel coloured roses and lisianthus are certainly making a statement.
After all that physical work Mr J and I slept well last night and despite still being tired, my body decided that I should be up bright and early. So I made a cuppa and headed outside to let the birds out of their houses for the day. As so often happens when I go outside, I got side-tracked and as soon as the chickens and ducks were running around their respective areas, tackled a couple of gentle jobs.

I used the rake to make shallow troughs for the parsnip seeds and got the seeds in. Before I gently tamped down the soil over the seeds, I planted pot marigold seedlings at the end of each row, one module of seedlings at alternate ends of the rows down the length of the bed.
watered the parsnip bed and the plants that yesterday I had planted into the cardboard boxes. Once the water had soaked into the soil a little, I placed straw as a mulch around the borlotti beans and courgettes.
A layer about five to six inches deep seems to be enough to conserve moisture in the soil and prevent weed growth. I've left a small space around the stem of each plant to make watering easy, directing water straight to the roots. The courgettes look like they are cradled in straw nests. This photo shows the mulching when I was about half way through building up layers of straw around the young courgette plant. When I'd finished the straw was just about the height of the cardboard box, it will sink as it settles over the next few days, but by making it this thick now, I shouldn't have to top it up over the growing season. 
Heading back into the house for some breakfast and a much wanted cuppa, I noticed that the rhododendron (or is it an azalea?), that I had transplanted into the shrubbery in winter, is now in full bloom. And what a beautiful flower it has, the buds had a very pale pink blush, but they have opened to show a crisp, pure white with a rich yellow splash. They look like floral fried eggs!

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