Life in the Highlands

Hello and thank you for looking at my Blog...i hope you enjoy my site. I'm pretty new to this but hope to keep it all updated with the progress of my garden. I've really enjoyed being able to start everything from scratch and the hard work has been worthwhile. I hope you enjoy seeing my progress too! Feel free to leave comments it's always nice to get feedback.

Monday, April 23, 2007

End of April 2007

I was well chuffed today when i checked my tatties, some where through the ground and showing life. The soil still looks dry but when i dig down there is moisture further down, it has been showery this week so that's helped a bit too and the seeds are romping away now. My carrots and beetroot have now germinated too BUT what made my day was settling down to weed the asparagus bed and noticing that there are yet more spears showing through, green and purple. They look a bit thin but then i expect that this is because it's their first season. Hopefully as time goes on they will become thicker and more of them.

As you can see from the picture the Berry bushes are in full leaf, i've underplanted these with Lavender Hidcote, to make a fragrant addition to the beds. Did you know that Lavender softens the tartness of acidic fruits? Even just a few drops of cooking essence added to a saucepan of stewed fruit can make a big difference to the taste.

I lifted some strawberry plants today to reduce the size of the strawberry bed and started adding the grass mulch to the remaining strawbs. I dug over the area and took all the runners out that were there and was pleased to see that all the manure and compost had done the soil structure some good. By reducing the size of the strawberry bed it allows me an extra bed so i can do a four bed rotation, much better. Whilst clearing the bed i noticed that the strawberries are already putting out flowers and one or two were in flower. This is a whole month earlier than last year.

In this newly cleared space, I'm going to plant corn, beans and squashes, commonly known as three sisters. In a three sisters planting, the three partners benefit one another. Corn provides support for beans. Beans, like other legumes, have bacteria living on their roots that help them to absorb nitrogen from the air and convert it to a form that plants can use. Corn requires a lot of nitrogen to grow. The large, prickly squash leaves hide the soil, preventing weed growth. The three sisters also complement each other nutritionally. Corn supplies carbohydrates and a variety of important amino acids. Beans have protein, including two essential amino acids that corn lacks. Squash contributes vitamin A. Squash seeds also contain quality fats that corn and beans lack. Anyway this is my first attempt at Three Sisters so i'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Besides clearing away strawberries, i've also sown more seeds. Swedes and turnip. The turnip is a bit early usually being sown in May but everything seems to be a month ahead so i thought i'd give it a try. If it works i'll be harvesting early, if not, i'll be sowing more seeds. My soil is excellent for turnip, like other Brassicas, turnip grows best in a moderately deep loam, fertile and slightly acid soil. Turnip does not do well in soils that are of high clay texture, wet or poorly drained. For good root growth turnip needs a loose, well aerated soil, for this reason i tend to sow my seed on the top of a drill (similar to when tatties are earthed up) as this is the only way i've been successful in growing turnip and swede.

In readiness for the rest of the brassicas i've raked level the bed and cleared any weeds that were there. I plant my brassicas in the bed that onions were in the year before. The reason for this is that i've found they like the soil being that much firmer. I just dig a hole and drop my brassicas in and then firm around them.

Remember the Impatien seedlings i pricked out into trays, just look at them now. Almost ready for putting into small pots. They have fair picked up speed in the last week or two. Even as seedlings they are easy to look after, just plenty of light and make sure the compost is moist.

These will look nice in tubs come the summer and remember to jam them in. If you want your impatiens to grow taller, space them quite close together, about six inches apart, but if you want them to spread out more, plant them at least eight inches to one foot apart. Also they are one of the few plants that will do well in shade and flower their socks off. In actual fact too much sun stunts their growth with smaller leaves and not many flowers.

In the ornamental garden the Chives are already putting out flowers and are a particular favourite of mine. I will split the plant up later in the year and spread around the garden as the clump is getting quite a size. It would make nice edging in the veggie garden and give me some herbs to harvest.

The garden is really gathering pace and the growth spurt is on. Some of the earlier stuff is in flower and it's a real time of change, with the best still to come, i for one can hardly wait.

Happy Gardening!

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Spring has sprung!

The weekend has been a warm one and the mercury hit 23 degrees C - that's hot for Scotland at this time of the year.

Already the neighbours are in regular grass cutting mode during the week and the grass looks like it does in summer. One set of neighbours are already on their second day with the bbq. I didn't have the heart to spoil their peace and quiet with my mower....I'm pretty lucky with my neighbours they're all a great bunch so my mowing can wait another day and they get to enjoy their garden uninterrupted.

Walking around my garden tonight enjoying the very warm sunshine, i noticed my Spirea 'Bridal Wreath' has tentatively flowered....a whole month early. It usually flowers in May in these here parts but this year it's in April. That means spring is here!

Spotted a Swallow yesterday so summer can't be far away, the geese are also flying off after their winter break. Significant numbers of Greylag and Wigeon geese overwinter on the Cromarty Firth. I love to see these making their practice runs. I'm always amazed how they know to fly in a 'v' formation. A few oyster catchers are nesting nearby and they are so funny in that they nest in the unlikeliest of places. Their nests are on the ground and they seem to spend a lot of time chasing passers by. Some even nest on the local golf course near the fourth tee, quite interesting if your ball lands within a reasonable distance of the nest site, they have been known to try and move the golf ball; now if only i could train one to drop it next to the hole.

I've got lots of veggies in pots and desperate to put them out but i'm still worried there may be frosts. I did put them out today in the hot sunshine...not sure they were appreciative of the increased light intensity. Talking of pots i had sown some nasturtiums at Easter in the veggie garden and noticed they are putting up shoots already. Not surprising considering the warmer weather. Must plant more of's a plant that i've only recently discovered and adore with a passion. It's funny how i've ignored it for years to become a complete convert.

Kiwi Jenny is still putting on growth and very pretty the leaves are too, they are multi-coloured and furry. With the promising weather i'm hopeful for a good display this year. Finally got the wires on the fence so she's got something to cling too.

There is an Almenchier tree just outside my garden fence in the wild section which is visible from the bedroom window and it's grown over the past five years to be a nice size and at the moment is covered with a beautiful froth of white flowers. This area runs alongside the veggie garden and is covered with Rosa Rugosa roses and in the summer they look stunning and afford some privacy from the public footpath and also attract birds and bees. I have plans to extend the planting further with some Blackthorn's (Prunus Spinosa) so i can harvest Sloes. Had hoped to get some in last year but time moved quicker than my planning.

Popped to the garden centre today too.....came back with lots of goodies for the Ornamental Garden. Lots of perennials to put in to fill up some of the spaces between the shrubs. I was like a kiddie in a sweetie shop. I bought more violas as the ones i bought last year have already flowered and i was lured by the scent in the garden centre. They sure add colour to the garden, sadly lacking at this time of the year for me. Note to self to get daffodil bulbs in this fall to ensure more spring colour next year. That's me though always thinking ahead! I also bought the lavender for the paths on the steps in the veggie garden as companion planting for the currant bushes. Hopefully i will be able to smell the fragrance from my seating area.

Whilst at the garden centre i was eyeing up the box hedging. D'oh forgot to measure out the area for the hedging and see how many i will need. The knot garden idea has taken root now that i've identified the possible space. At the moment it's not very inspiring with my clothes pole in the middle of a gravelled area. A knot garden may be the answer as i can still keep the stones, yet another jotting in my notebook for future ideas and plans fuelled by a suggestion of lavender for the box garden. I quite liked the idea and as usual my mind is working overtime and now a mixture of box on the outside with lavender on the inside of the knot garden is taking shape....hmmm must really get this down in my jotter.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Easter 2007

This weekend is the the Easter holiday weekend, yippeee. Good Friday is traditionally the day for planting your tatties and I'm no exception.

I'm planting Lady Christyl, my favourites and have proved to be a good cropper in the past and taste just like a new tattie should. I'm also for the first time planting Swift and a row of Vanessa so not sure how they will turn out. So this morning after dropping my cat off at the vet for a check up i was down at the beach collecting kelp. Plan is to pop in the bottom of the trenches and throw a bit of soil over the top and plant the tatties in this. The ground has previously been manured so this should set them off to a good start.

I'm now finding that i'm being forced out of my home by the numerous seedlings that i've got growing in all the bathrooms. Most folk are reputed to keep coal in their baths but i keep plants and seedlings! Even the dining room isn't sacrosanct. I really need to get my greenhouse up this year!

The runner beans are really romping along and i need to slow these down a bit, so i'm going to transfer to the cold frame. It's still too early to plant them outside as we've had a lot of mornings with frosts. What a difference a week makes.

The courgettes are also starting to produce their second leaves but seem ok at the mo. The Impatiens are growing away quite nicely and are looking sturdy plants already. Will need to start potting them on in another couple of weeks.

In the garden the Asparagus continues to put up spears, Purple Pacific only so far though. My garlic is going great guns now although the shallots are a bit slower. No sign yet of the beetroot or carrots that i had sown two weeks ago, but it may be the temperatures aren't quite right yet....also it's been a very dry April so far, the ground could do with a bit of rain.

I'm popping to the garden centre over the weekend too as i'm going to try and pick up some lavender for the veggie garden. Thought i would edge the currant beds with it. This would make a nice decorative edge and also attract insects and bees. Lavender also repels aphids. I thought i would also see if i could get some more Box (Buxus Sempervirens) as i could edge the beds with it where i've got the kerbstones. The plan is (through time) to train the box so that it obscures this and again provides a decorative edge to the beds. Having got the fruit and veg garden whipped into shape (just about) i'm now looking at aesthetics. I want it to be pretty as well as functional. I've always wanted a knot garden and was looking at the utility garden to see if this was possible....i haven't drawn it out to scale but there may be room for a more simple design.

The grass has grown this week again and needs cutting again but this is useful as i've acquired some paper shreddings from partner's mum and useful to mix with grass clipping to compost. I'm really into recycling becomes addictive.

Happy Easter everyone!

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

April 2007

Another weekend and been a busy bee came up trumps with two lovely warm spring days and no wind. Things are getting busy again in the garden and i always find that April and May extremely so trying to keep on top of things.

Cut the grass which was needing to be done and finished off weeding the flower beds in the Ornamental garden so feel like i'm on top of that part of the garden. That should leave me in a good position for the long weekend next week to get things really moving in the veggie garden.

This weekend in the veggie garden i've continued with my sowing and started also sowing Nasturtiums as companion plants.

The Impatiens planted on in trays last week are doing really well and steadily growing so lots for pots for the summer. Impatiens look really stunning if three or four are planted in a container. They fill out and flower their socks off all summer long with very little attention. I tend to dead head them once a week, make sure they are well watered and they reward you with a fantastic display.

The courgettes and runner beans sown last week are through. So another wee while and these will need potting on....once they get started they romp away.

Managed to weed the currant beds and top dressed with compost. That should keep them happy for the summer. I also need to keep a sharp eye out for the gooseberry sawfly as last year they attacked one of my currant bushes and stripped most of the leaves over a couple of days...i managed to pull the caterpillers off and spray with salt water....hopefully they haven't managed to get to the soil to pupate. I did loosen the soil in that area and leave for the birds to forage for any grubs that may be present. Nonetheless i need to keep a close eye open to catch them quickly.

Whilst weeding the asparagus bed which had been planted up last autumn, i noticed that some of the purple asparagus was already poking through. No signs of the green ones as yet. Although will not be harvesting this year to give the plant a chance to build strong and healthy crowns. Will need to add some more compost to the top of the bed to ensure that they keep moist over the summer.

Kiwi Jenny was previously planted in the garden has also sprung into life and picking up speed. I'll need to get the wire on the fence next weekend so that it's got something to grab hold of. The leaves are looking promising and look very attractive. I'm really interested to see how this plant fares. I've planted where it gets sun for most of the day. So far it's survived the mild winter outside.

The apple trees have also burst bud and now growing, some quicker than others but i'm sure by the end of April they will be covered in flowers....lots of lovely apples for the summer. I also noticed that some of the geraniums had survived the winter in pots so need to get these repotted and trimmed a bit. I'm going to take cuttings too to increase the number of plants i have. Unfortunately i lost a fair few geraniums that i potted on as the cat knocked them off the window cill and i managed to chill a few too. Two lesson's learnt for next year.
Happy gardening everyone!

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