Growing melons

This year, one of the new crops we’ve tried out has been melons.

We planted Sutton’s Musk (F1 Emir) melon seeds from the James Wong collection – and grew the seedlings on in our greenhouse. The pack says these melons will grow in the UK without a greenhouse but as we had space in ours, and our garden gets a fair bit of wind, we thought they’d do better inside it.

And today we harvested our first melon. We have about another 10 nearly ready, and more coming on. This first one was very sweet and tasty, so melon growing seems to be a success.

From waste land to greenhouse

And here it finally is! Three weeks ago we promised that we’d tackle the last major bit of the garden that needs attention – the far end, which looked like this:

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Well, we did, and now look – our greenhouse is complete! The guys from Swallow Greenhouses arrived on Tuesday and we couldn’t believe how quickly it went up. In just half an hour it was complete – it really made our two-day foundation setting project seem a bit pathetic!

So we were really looking forward to getting planting, but there are a few things we needed to do first. David got some left over wood from our coldframe project and we built a skin to go on the inside of the greenhouse, to protect it from the soil and to create a raised bed.

Then we dug a channel up the middle, which will be the pathway. We’ve created raised beds around the outside and will also be able to use grow bags in the middle because the greenhouse is pretty wide. Next we plan to build a red brick path up the centre – Lee suggested this as they’ll absorb heat in the day and release it at night – our very own storage heating system! When we get around to that we’ll blog it here – but it might not be for a while, we have a puppy to play with!

Cement mixing is fun!

So we’ve borrowed our neighbour’s cement mixer, and we’re set to start on the foundations of our new greenhouse.

We spent ages digging the foundations – they aren’t particularly deep but the ground was really stony and full of comfrey and other really persistent weeds we had to clear completely before we could start the cementing. It was also really hard to get everything square – but fortunately we had our architect friend Lee to keep us on the straight and narrow –  thanks Lee, again!

The cementing so far hasn’t been without error to be completely honest. We weren’t sure how to get the foundations level, so we put stakes in the ground and made sure they were level, intending to fill the cement to the tops of them. However, it quickly became clear that if we did this we’d run out of cement and our foundations would be unnecessarily deep, so we’re going to have to chop the top inch off each of the stakes when we’re done – oops!

We also didn’t order enough ballast to mix with the cement so Jess and I ended up doing a last minute run to Homebase (seriously not the best place to buy anything…) to buy more. Our poor car wasn’t happy with the weight on the way home, but at least we’ll now probably finish everything this weekend.

Check back next week for the third and final stage – installing the greenhouse!

See this patch of land?

Not very impressive is it? We spent all of last summer working on the rest of  the garden, and this poor little bit up the back here got barely any attention. We dumped the stuff we couldn’t burn or compost here, to sort out later. Well… this is later.

So we’ve wanted a greenhouse for a while, and while we weren’t sure about putting one right at the end of the garden there really isn’t a better place, it gets sun all day, even in the middle of winter. And the ground isn’t great, so building onto it is ideal.

So, in just three weeks, this patch of grotty garden needs to turn into a beautiful new greenhouse… We’ve done the digging now, so check back for stage 2 – the foundations – in a couple of days!

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Boring January!

January. I hate hate hate it. Its dark, wet and cold but all of the Christmas things that usually make winter bearable have finished and been packed away and there is this ridiculous pressure to be healthy and start new things – when all you want to do is curl up with a duvet and a chocolate pudding.

And I don’t think you can really do much in the garden in January either, especially if you work every given moment of daylight and rely on a few snatched hours on the weekend between the torrential downpours and the howling gales.

I’m really impatient for the spring to arrive so I can get planting. I even went and just stood in the potting shed for an hour the other day, it was too wet to be outside, but I felt closer to my garden. I went to the garden centre and bought the trays I’ll need in a few months time, and cleaned my tools (again). And twiddled my thumbs.

One useful task we’ve achieved though (thanks to reddit/r/gardening for the tip!) was to sit down and properly plan our vegetable planting for the season ahead. Last year we didn’t have the luxury, we only got our raised beds up in April and then it was a case of just growing anything we could that late in the spring. This year however we have time (so so much of it) on our hands when we can’t be digging or potting or sowing, so we sat and did the thing we like next best in the world – we made spreadsheets! 😀

First we made a list of all of the vegetables we most like to eat – I think a lot of people grow things because they think they should but what is the point if you don’t enjoy eating it afterwards? Then we got out all of the seeds we’ve bought over recent months in dribs and drabs on wet-day trips to the garden centre.

We went through and matched those we want to plant to the list in our spreadsheet, and marked in when they need to be sown, where they need to be sown, when to transplant and when to harvest. We split items into those that will be grown outdoors (even if started in the greenhouse) and those that will be in the greenhouse*. We’re still buying seeds so they’re not complete yet 🙂

Outdoors:

Planting schedule

 

Greenhouse:

 

Greenhouse planting

We didn’t quite go to the extent of our lovely but very committed gardening neighbour Mike who has a plan down to the day, the hour, the air pressure at which he’ll plant everything, but I think our graph will help keep us on track and make sure everything goes in when it is meant to. It will also help us with successional sowings, which we didn’t really manage last year.

Then we drew a map of our vegetable garden and what is currently in each plot. As you’ll see, we’re still getting plenty of veg out of the plot, from brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale and leeks to pak choi, turnips, kohlrabi and winter salads. But we’re going to use this map to plan what can come out so that we can add in the manure the fourth bed is filled with from last year, before spring planting.

Bed planner

So – how to fill a boring January? You could clean your potting shed, polish your tools, sort your pots and seed trays, purchase seeds, build a bird table, clear paths, fix guttering or – you could make a spreadsheet! 😀

Here’s to spring!

* We don’t as yet own a green house. David plans to build one in February…

** A big shout out to reddit/r/gardening for keeping me sane and giving me some great ideas and reading over the winter months 🙂