Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Square Foot Garden in April

I have been dreaming for months about what I'm going to do in the SFG this year. Drifting off to sleep at night and in the small hours of the morning when I can't sleep have been partly filled with thoughts about how to improve on last year... being more realistic about what I can grow in the space I have, and with the time I have; knowing that if we're off on holiday, then things like tomatoes and other plants which need lots of watering are impractical. Tomatoes were frankly a waste of time last year, even though we didn't go away. I had them in troughs on the terrace, thinking that that way they would avoid the sprinkler system and disease. But inspite of a lot of TLC, they were disappointing. So I'm going to stick with things we eat a lot of and that are easy to grow. Artichokes, for example, are another lost cause. I tried to grow them two years running but they were a failure. I don't know why. The lamb's lettuce has been wonderful this spring - I sowed it last October - we still have three squares of it and it's in danger of going to seed, so I'll need to pick it all this weekend. I'll make a big salad and we'll have it for supper tomorow evening. Another pleasant surprise was the rocket, which is sprouting beautifully inspite of the long, cold winter. I have sowed some more because we eat a lot of it and it's so hardy.

We've had over a week of dry, warm, sunny weather, which has been great to get the garden started again.
I've put new compost and fresh soil into the beds, plus a generous helping of vermiculite. I had cleared the beds last autumn so there wasn't much to do. Hannah and I gave the outside of the SF beds a good painting with linseed oil this morning (did the bicycle shed doors as well), which should make them last longer.  I also needed to replace the wooden grids on the two 4x4s , but I decided to do it with plastic washing line instead of wooden laths, which rot too quickly. So I bought 40 metres of yellow washing line, which is a lot cheaper and easier than wooden laths, which need to be treated with oil and need screwing together at the cross-over points. We put screws into the beds at 30 inch intervals on the sides near the top edges, and knotting one end of the washing line with a bowline and hooking it on to one of the screws, I wound the rest of the line around the remaining screws creating a grid, finishing off the line at the last screw with another knot. It looks really good and is, of course, waterproof. It is really amazing what a difference having a grid makes. It's up to the individual, but I'm sure that Mel Bartholemew is right. A grid creates immediate order in the raised bed, and looks extremely attractive. The washing line grid is quick and very convenient, as well as being cheap. It's flexible, doesn't have splinters and doesn't wear out quickly. Doing it this way, one can also remove it easily if one wants to dig over the whole bed at the end of the growing season.

I have now sown spinach, chard and rocket, and planted beetroot, kohlrabi, parsley and red chard, as well as lettuce and a cucumber. At the back of the garden I've put up poles to grow sweet peas, which I've also sown - some of the seed were saved from last year) in the hope that they'll be a pretty eye-catcher in the summer months. I intend to grow bush beans and mangetout again as well because they're easy. It all looks really nice, and it's been well worth the wait. Everything looks beautiful -the cherry and apple trees are in blossom, and the lawn is spangled with daisies; the garden is decked out like a bride going to her wedding.  What a miracle spring is - thank God!

Friday, 1 April 2011

We were recently blessed by a dear friend who, last November, invited us to her home in Greece for a week in March. We were badly in need of a holiday and a break and the idea just gripped us. We have been married for 20 years, but had never flown anywhere together except for quick trips to the UK to see family. Hardly any ordinary German here can relate to this odd kind of non-holiday-idolising lifestyle, so while I was half apologising for mentioning that we were going off to enjoy ourselves for once, they were astounded that we hadn't done it before and a lot more often.

Anyway, we had a wonderful time and the change did us a lot of good. We stayed in the Pelopponese for five days before driving up to Athens again.

Our kind friends live in the middle of olive groves, five minutes from the sea ...

They have lemon trees, orange trees; oranges for eating as well as for juice, avocado trees, even a lotus or persimmon tree, called a Sharon fruit in Israel. They also had a loquat (Japanese medlar) tree, which I had never heard of or seen before.
 They also had a huge eukalyptus and gave me a few cuttings from it - I'm going to use the leaves to steep in hot water for when someone has a cold.

 There were wild flowers everywhere. Red, and blue anemones, blue and almost black irises, camomile and calendula in vast drifts under the olive trees, which grew not just in cultivated groves, but in neglected agricultural areas too,especially in archaeological sites.  

We were told that the locals pray, before buying land, that no ancient ruins will be found there while building work goes on, because if so, the land has to be excavated first. Some people have lost their land and income as a result. In Messini there are just such olive trees growing, which no-one had harvested.
The birds were having a wonderful time. All one could hear there was the humming of bees, birds twittering and the plashing of the stream which ran down through the site from the hillside above, along a cleverly constructed watercourse which has conducted the stream for over two thousand years.