Tuesday 30 July 2019

In the market for gilts

Not high finance but pigs. A few weeks ago I wrote about our run of bad luck with recent attempts at artificial insemination which led to the acquisition of a new young boar. He has settled in well and got to work with one of our existing sows more or less straight away. I'm counting on him to do a better job than me.

Because of the ever-lengthening interval since her last pregnancy, we fear that our second sow has become infertile. This often happens if a sow is not regularly 'in pig'. Hence the decision to buy in some new breeding stock.

After a search we came across two six month old gilts (that is a female pig that has not yet had a litter). We travelled to the other side of the land of roundabouts in Milton Keynes and brought home these rather attractive young ladies - sisters.

Tuesday 23 July 2019

From the cutting garden

A selection of cut flowers picked today.

Antirrhinum - Simple but tasteful.
1000 seeds in a 50p packet

Gladioli - They can be a bit blowsey and
ostentatious but this variety is attractive. A line
of corms planted a couple of years ago  and more
or less left to their own devices. They reliably pop
up every year.

Gazania 'Purple Prince' - I think they look
in a flower bed rather than a vase. Or maybe
something else should join them?

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Summer greenhouse

The summer greenhouse gets regular attention: daily watering; pinching out tomato plant side shoots; tying in cucumber and tomato stems as they head towards the roof; supporting pepper and aubergine plants as their fruit swell, making the plants top heavy. I find aubergines and peppers grow better for me in 8” or 9” pots; tomatoes, cucumber and melons are planted into the greenhouse border. 

Yesterday I thinned out some of the bunches of grapes, still green, which conveniently hang from parallel stems trained along the roof. It looks like a good crop this year. The variety is the well known dessert grape, Black Hamburg. 

There are automatic watering systems available whose main advantage is if you are away for a day or two. I’m not keen on overhead watering as tomato and aubergine plants are not keen on regular soaking of their foliage. There is also the risk of scorching as the water droplets act like mini magnifying glasses. A system of drip hoses feeding each pot or leaky hoses for the greenhouse beds are alternatives. 

However, I’m more than happy hand watering from a hose to the base of each plant, and as required to each pot. Regular, even watering for tomatoes in particular is important to avoid blossom end rot on the one hand, or their skin splitting on the other. The former results from under-watering and the latter from irregular watering leading to rapid expansion of the growing fruits.

I count to twenty for each plant. In my 16’x8’ greenhouse this year I have 12 tomato plants, 6 cucumber plants and 6 melon plants. That’s 8 minutes of watering the greenhouse border plants and maybe an additional 2 minutes watering the aubergine and pepper plant pots. On very hot days I might do this twice in one day.

We have started to harvest tomatoes and cucumbers on a daily basis so every visit has a reward.

Monday 1 July 2019

Viper's Bugloss

The last couple of weeks have seen a profusion of viper's bugloss (Echium vulgare) spring up. Their deep blue flowers catch the eye especially with a background of green grass. If you look closely you will see long red stamens emerging from the blue petals. They thrive in disturbed, dry sandy soil so it’s no surprise to find them on the field margins in this area.

Bugloss is apparently derived from Greek for ox tongue and the rough hairy leaves are, I suppose, suggestive of this. The seeds resemble adder's head, whilst other references state viper's bugloss can be used to treat adder bites. Its probably wiser to go to A&E for emergency treatment should this remote occurrence happen to you.

The bees are very keen on bugloss and it is in fact related to borage which is often grown with bees in mind.