Spring is sprung at the Acreage

I know it's traditional to say spring is the most welcome of seasons after a long, dark and usually wet winter. However, I've got to admit it's only in recent years, specifically the last two, that I've enjoyed the arrival of spring.

I've always found autumn the best season, with summer and winter in joint second place. However, that was before I started with raised beds and cultivating a very small piece of ground for vegetables and revitalising some of the long dormant borders.

So this year, like last year, I've rather enjoyed watching the year start and enjoyed being able to get out into the garden where there has already been a flurry of activity.

An unusually ventilated garden shed
An unusually ventilated garden shed

Things didn't exactly start well when in February storm Eunice (this is a storm called Eunice) blew the roof of the new shed twisted it twice in mid air and smashed it to pieces.

The original suppliers, Shedrite provided a very sturdy shed but lousy construction and after sales service. In fact we're still waiting to hear from the original suppliers as to whether they would be able to repair/replace the roof. Needless to say after multiple chasings, we moved to plan B and Bulldog Fencing and Sheds were engaged to build and fit a new roof.

It seems that Eunice was not an ill wind as it's given Vaughan a not inconsiderable amount of pleasure in seeking to recover the cost of the shed roof repair from the original suppliers.

Before you all cry but it's storm damage two points to consider. Firstly right next to the shed is a weather station which recorded the wind speed at the time and it was less than that required for storm damage. Secondly the very capable Bulldog fitters found the (technical term) eejuts who constructed it originally tried securing the roof with just 9 screws and five of them missed. So that sounds like the very definition of not fit for purpose in terms of the fixing process. In any event, it's now in the hands of the Mem'Sahib who is on the legal case.

The new potting shed
Re-roofed and felted and perfect for potting

In any event, the repair and full build check has (eventually) resulted in a fit for purpose shed which is ideal for potting and pottering.

At present it's full of seed trays on a bespoke potting table. Beetroot, runner beans and dwarf French beans are underway though so far only the first in the list has actually germinated.

A little longer for the others to kick into action but we'll get there I'm sure.

Of course, I didn't waste the winter months entirely and planted some late onions and garlic in the raised beds very late in October.

Overwintering Onions and Garlic
Two over-wintering raised beds

In the nearest bed are sixty onions (we get through a lot of onions) that have made fairly good progress since the autumn.

In the far bed something of an experiment - though they seem to have taken to the soil at the acreage.

Twenty four garlic plants now easily at 18 inches to 2 feet in height.

They are both something of a bonus and even provided some much needed signs of life over winter, not to mention a much needed flash of greenery.

They'll be another couple of months so the raised beds will be given some decent rotted compost after they are harvested. They'll provide the later crops this year. All in all, these two beds have produced an abundance of vegetables in the year or so they've been at the acreage.

Speaking of compost, regular readers will remember the plastic compost bins that became air born and weaponised in the spring of last year. After a good look around solutions in use by friends and neighbours we have two alternative replacements.

Well, this year we have some alternatives. Two wooded slatted compost bins - not in their final position (some paving slabs, membrane and tidying before they are finally positioned, but you get the general idea.

As you can see from the shed, the raised beds and the compost bins, I've an appointment with some Ronseal (wood preservative) looming over the coming week but it's certainly kept me busy.

This week also saw some fairly strong tomato plants arrive and immediately filled the kitchen with that 'tomato plant' smell that always reminds me of summers as a child.

These were supposed to be bush varieties, but the sent the wrong ones, so I have some frames to build when the go out at the end of the month. Just at the moment though, it's just that bit too cold for them to be outside.

However, a little time later, they were potted on into larger pots and are currently rather enjoying the south facing window and the spring sunshine.

They're growing with a strength I'd normally associate with Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors so fingers crossed.

Thankfully, the Mem'Sahib has shown an interest in the tomatoes, or at least the watering of them. On the other widow sill there are some chilis - one moderately hot and one (a chocolate habanero) that i'm told should blow socks off at thirty feet. We'll see how they go.

There have also been a couple of areas that always looked scraggy and weren't really doing anything useful,.

Strawberry patch - before

One such space was this area which has always been tricky to do much with other than have it as more lawn.

However, last autumn, I marked out the area with large railway sleepers with a view to making a new strawberry patch. The sleepers were then removed this spring leaving a really good template to work around.

The long grassed was cut, the sleeper templates used to cut out a recess into which the sleepers could be levelled and sunk. Then before they were put in place some barrier boards were put in next to the house walls. A weed proof membrane went underneath the sleepers and Robert as they say is your father's brother.

Strawberry patch under construction
Strawberry patch - In progress

Taz has certainly been paying close attention to the process although I suspect he sees its bone burying potential rather than its suitability for a strawberry patch.

Before anyone asks, a mix of well rotted garden rubbish, some compost suitable for fruit and veg and topped off with a little top soil. There may well be straw for the bed and the nematodes will be out to play well before the bare root plants arrive later next week.

The next step, either later today or tomorrow will be to build a rectangular frame to rest between the retaining slat and the wall. This will be covered with a small chicken wire. The idea is that the holes will be large enough to allow pollinators through, but small enough to keep the feathered strawberry fans (particularly the blackbirds and the thrushes) out. We will see what success we have with that endeavour.

I'm also noticing a few of the additions made last year are starting to be visible this year. Unfortunately the flowering cherry tree didn't (blossom) this year although it seems to be in good health otherwise. Maybe it just needs a little more time or the chaffinches have been having the flower buds as an early morning pick me up.

Although we're not talking the rolling bulb fields of hamster jam. we have seen the more robust of the bulbs sown last year emerging. Some pretty spectacular parrot tulips in shades ranging from off white and yellow to dark reds (blue/black in bud(.

The bed may need weeding and mulching but it can wait until they have died down and their much needed and appreciated burst of colour has gone over for this year.

Bramley apple tree covered in heavy blossom
Bramley apple tree in full blossom

And finally, Esther, those of you who follow the blog will know we had a very poor year for Bramley apples in 2021.

A light prune (it needs a bigger prune) and clearing out of the dead wood seems to have done the tree (now pushing 40 years old) a world of good. If the amount of blossom is anything at all to go by then this year looks as though it could be a distinct improvement. Vaughan for one will be pleased,, as he's seemingly quite a convert to apply poys.

There are still plenty of plans for the next couple of years including the creation of a quiet and more secluded space beneath the large sycamore tree complete with semi-circular oak hurdle over which the winter/Christmas flowering clematis (jingle bells) can grow. Also some decking and a summer house at the bottom of the garden overlooking the paddock (at a lower level so as not to spoil the view) and a little more water in the garden - but those will be projects for the medium term I suspect. We may even have an afternoon tea and some southern hemisphere wines to celebrate the view and how lucky we are to have a space like this to relax and get away from the madness of the working world.

Somehow, this track seems appropriate to add a little latin warmth to the start of the year. Although the cherry blossom let me down, the apple blossom makes up for it.


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