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June 2010

Nightmare of Marestail

During the year, I spend a lot of my time weeding. Each month there is another enemy to fight, another variety to beat back with the aim of giving the plants and flowers room to do their "thing"

Early June is the time for Marestail to be at it's peak.

Marestail-in-gravel

Equisetum Arvense,(Horsetail, or Maretail) is a weed that i'm very familiar with, as my childhood garden had a lot of it. My parents didn't require my help often in the garden, but removing it was a chore every now and again when it started taking over. Maybe that was always in early June, but my memory of that garden is mostly centered on the Cherry tree that I built a treehouse in, and the Raspberry canes and apple trees I could scrump from regularly.

This weed has been round since the time of the dinosaurs, and is capable of exploiting weaknesses in concrete to push its way through to the light, so i'm afraid there is no way that you are getting rid of it completely, But, you can reduce it to the point where it doesn't bother you too much , and you can just do an annual (late May,/ June) attack to overcome it again.

1st thing to know is that the roots go very deep, so don't bother trying to dig it up, 2nd is that if pulled sharply, it will snap cleanly, at or above ground level and this often makes the plant grow back with branched growth (i.e 2 strands of weed where there was one). If hand weeding around other plants, then pull each strand of Marestail gently, so that it stretches, and breaks off below ground. This gives the longest time for a weed free border.

If you have a large patch with no other plants that you want to keep, then I would recommend either Glyphosate application at this time of year, - or the organic method of smothering it with black plastic or carpet.

This doesn't get rid of it, but will bring lots of the roots to the ground, where they can be pulled out in winter.

Never put Equesetum in the compost bin, and never rotovate ground that has Marestail in it, - this is the fastest way to get a lovely prehistoric carpet of ferny strands.


Monday is my favourite lunch

Monday is my favourite lunchtime of the week.

What?  .. I can hear people yelling at their computers from all over the land, - why Monday? - Well although I love Sunday Roast dinner with my family, Homemade Soup and Cheese & crackers on a Saturday and various packed lunches the rest of the week, Monday is my Admin day, and so after a morning of invoices, phone calls and emails. I get to make lunch for myself at home.

Saladleaves&herbs

Ah, Myself..... that's the word that means my lunch can be my favourite. No fussy 6 year old, or Hubby to worry about their likes and dislikes. No trying to leave certain colours textures and tastes out to accommodate different palates to mine. On a Monday, I can go round the garden and pick any herb, leaf, veg, or fruit I want. I can sort through the cupboard and fridge, to find whatever I like and add them all in to one huge plate of lunch. - and I do.

Today's salad of choice includes

4 types of lettuce leaves, Rocket, Chervil, Coriander, Fennel, Parsley, Radishes, baby carrots, pea shoots, spring onion (all from the garden) with tomato, mushroom, courgette, sun dried toms and leftover chicken.

lovely served with a vinaigrette of fresh Rosemary and lime with Balsamic & oil.

But i'm always looking for more ideas - anything you recommend that I should try?


Chickens in the garden

Way back last October, I introduced you to Sally and Princess Leia, my new rescue chickens. At the time, they were rather short of feathers ,and didn't like us getting anywhere near them. 

Freerangechickens

They immediately set about fertilising our lawn, like Rebecca and Emma and Robin had told me they would, and pretty soon became part of the family, - laying their first eggs within 3 weeks. So how have they fared over the last 7 months?

Well if anyone had told me i'd have fallen in love with some extremely stupid chickens i'd have laughed at them long and loud, but now... after 6 months of fantastic over eating of freshly laid eggs, i'm loving having someone to throw slugs to, (that appreciates them) I enjoy an excuse to go out in the garden every morning, and evening, and the greenhouse gets opened and closed when it should be.

Over the winter, they were allowed the run of the garden whenever we were in the house, and soon regained all their feathers.

Freerangewinterchickens

but by spring, I was tired of them eating my uncovered lettuces and chasing them back to the patch of ground elder that I wanted gone, so we built them a large run across the bottom of the garden. 

Chickenenclosure

- Unfortunately we soon discovered that they liked jumping up onto the gate, and out into the garden, - so we've had to employ all kinds of discouragement to stop them escaping, - the most effective being some netting over the areas where they can jump up and out. They are only let out of their pen when we are around the house, so that they don't run the risk of meeting Mr (or Mrs) Fox, and we make sure that as well as their food, they get the pick of the excess green crops and weeds from the garden.

My lettuces are practically slug free - yes that could be down to a dry spring, or it could be that every time I see a slug, I get to give it to an appreciative audience, and the population of molluscs is kept to a minimum.

My compost has an addition every week of some very rich chicken manure (and newspaper), and seems to be doing very well on it.

Now I know that we are lucky that they have been laying 12 eggs a week between them, and that at some point they will become just pet chickens rather than a healthy addition to my food list each week (although William seems to be quite happy to eat them when the time comes!) but i'm hoping that is in some part due to the fact that they are happy in our garden, that we don't stress them, that they get to have a run about, - if not quite free range, then at least with plenty of room, a bit of sun and shade, and regular food and water.

Sallynotstayingstill

They don't like their picture being taken any more, and can move fast when food might be on offer, but they no longer cower when we go to pick them up, and are quite happy to be picked up and moved about by us, (even a loving 6 year old)

i've talked to lots of people over the last 9 months about keeping chickens (it's a real conversation piece at dinner!)  - I havn't told them that it's easy, - it does take time every morning and evening to make sure that they are fed watered and in the right place. - They do poop all over the place if allowed to, - yes even in their food and water bowls.

The Eggs do make up for it in a lot of ways, - so I don't have to feel totally guilty when I ask friends to look after them when we're away. Would I consider a garden without chickens at the moment, - No way!, they are pets, the eggs are very good additions to my menu each week, and they are great pest eaters, so at the moment, the chickens stay.


Harvest for this w/e 30/5/10

LettuceArctic-king

Well it's actually been 2 weeks since I last posted about my harvest, but it's mainly been Lettuces. This is the last of my overwintered as plugs Arctic King Lettuces, which have hearted up wonderfully, but were just about to shoot. So I picked all three, which made about 5 meals of salad. I've also now picked all the chicory, which hadn't hearted up, so mostly got fed to the chickens. We also had about 12 portions of mixed leaf lettuce, and another handful of radishes, but the ones in the pot are now over so have been pulled out and replaced with tomatoes. We've also added Pea Shoots to salads.

The herbs have been fantastic the last few weeks, and Parsley, Coriander (confetti and Leisure) Chives, Rosemary and thyme have all been used a lot in cookery over the last week.