Country Cottage Journal…Beginning the Year in the Garden

Propagator at Bealtaine Cottage

Now is the time to sort out seeds and get sowing underway. January passes very quickly…we’re already halfway through!

First of all, ensure all trays and pots used for sowing are scrupulously clean.

No need to use chemicals for this, as soapy water, clean rinsing water and air-drying will ensure a perfect result.

I have used this method for the past eleven years and it has never failed.

Always use a good compost if you cannot make your own.

The John Innes recipe is perfect, but can be difficult to get it all together…

2 parts sterilized loam
1 part moss peat alternative 
1 part sharp sand

The loam and peat is put through in 3/8 in (9mm) sieve.

To each 36 L  add:

1-2 oz (42gm) superphosphate
1/2 oz Potassium nitrate
4-6 oz (21gm) ground limestone

I prefer to purchase sowing compost, as one small sack is usually enough, keeping home-made compost for the potting on process.

Once seeds are sorted and new ones added to the stock, it’s time to get sowing.

Success is all as the season can be delayed!

At this time I also clean the tunnel plastic to ensure maximum light penetration.

Daylight is now increasing by over a minute a day!

A good tidy up of the garden begins around this time, especially in the west of Ireland as Spring is about a month earlier in the gardening calendar.

This is measured on charts from Wisley in the SE of England and is in line with the Cornwall temperatures, due to the effect of the Gulf Stream.

Once the first signs of Spring appear, it is as though a magic wand has been cast over the landscape, with each day being a new day of discovery.

Sometimes there happens a snowfall that appears to set everything back, but in the absence of a deep and lingering freeze, it is very temporary indeed!

Pruning fruit trees and trees in general can be done before the sap starts to rise.

However, and this is from my own experience, Birch trees are known to rise sap very early on in the year, so do not cut as this can lead to the tree bleeding to death!

I encountered this much to my own grief…

In short, just because it’s cold and wintry at present, be aware that Nature’s clock is ticking and, if like me, you garden alone, there’s simply not enough hours in the day! Happy gardening!

Please note there are seeds available from Bealtaine Cottage…here’s the link:

https://bealtainecottage.com/seeds-for-sale/

Many are perfect food providers for Bees…remember the Bees in your garden planning this year!

An Angel in the Snow

Angel in the snow at Bealtaine Cottage

The wind howled all night as it carried snow in from the Atlantic Ocean.

The moon drifted downwards as the sun rose.

Somewhere in-between I got up and lit the stove, walked the dogs and returned to settle into a hunker-down day in the cottage.

Che Mousy Bear at Bealtaine CottageAs I write, the dogs are in their baskets and the cats are lounging on the sofas.

Animals know when it’s cold and really appreciate being indoors!

Che-Mousy-Bear is purring loudly on the sofa nearby my desk.

Sam sits opposite.

Stereo purring!

The porch at bealtaine cottageThis kind of weather often makes an appearance after Spring has been called.

The Primroses and Daffodils don’t seem to mind.

Bealtaine Cottage PorchThey know it won’t last!

The snow is soft and fluffy with little ice and no frost.

veranda at Bealtaine Cottage The wind has settled down and the sun is shining.

Today I shall work in the tunnel, sowing herbs and pumpkins…it’s Spring, even if there is snow!

Indoors I am sorting seed and making Smudge Sticks  for sale in the Bealtaine Cottage Shop.

A big pot of vegetable soup is on the menu…just the thing on a snowy day!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/BealtaineCottage

The Easiest to Grow Vegetables and Fruit from Bealtaine Cottage

Potatoes.
Last year I grew them successfully on straw and manure spread on the ground on top of cardboard.
The ground was in perfect condition afterwards for digging in a new Rhubarb bed.

Swiss Chard.
A  cut and come again crop.
It just keeps on giving!
www.bealtainecottage.com 007Here it is growing outdoors during the winter.
The frost may set it back but it grows again quickly from the root.
Swiss Chard in the tunnel today...Ruby Chard

Swiss Chard in the tunnel today…Ruby Chard

Eat young leaves as salad or
cook.
You can sow directly into the soil, but I prefer to start almost everything off in pots to give them some strength to resist the slugs!
Dark Ruby Chard has over-wintered well in the tunnel

Dark Ruby Chard has over-wintered well in the tunnel

The stalks are marvellously coloured and can be white, as above, yellow, red, and orange, so they can look great in flower beds too!

www.bealtainecottage.com

Beetroot grows easily and stays in the ground over winter, so can be harvested without fuss.
If left in the ground until the following spring, you will be able to harvest some young leaves from the plant too.
Great in Juices too!
www.bealtainecottage.com 029Parsley…a biennial, so will over-winter perfectly and not be set back by frost if protected just a little, like above, using an old bottom-less bread tin.
 

Pumpkins…grow the same as Butternut Squash…the more enriched the soil,  the bigger they grow…so, watch out! 

Pumpkin and Butternut Squash…I grew these from saved seeds from the previous year.
Just make sure that the soil is enriched with lots of well rotted manure, or good compost, for they are hungry plants!
www.bealtainecottage.com 001
Apples…invest in a few apple trees…fruit trees will never let you down! I have planted around forty fruit trees of all varieties here at Bealtaine Cottage.
permaculture at Bealtaine Cottage 019
When in blossom, fruit trees are a wonderful source of food for the Bees…
harvesting blackcurrantsBlackcurrants…the gardens at Bealtaine are infested with them!
I have grown all of my Blackcurrant bushes from seed or cuttings!
I have a surplus of Blackcurrant cuttings at the moment and these are offered for sale at this link…
https://bealtainecottage.com/seeds-for-sale/
 
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Bealtaine Cottage now offers a subscription website and seeds for sale at minimal cost to supporters, (this keeps me solvent, pays the mortgage and sometimes a little more)…keeping the main website free for all, along with a NO ADS Youtube channel, Podcast and FaceBook sites, all listed above.

 

“…the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.”
Wendell Berry