Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Runner beans and a small flood

Runner beans and a small flood

Last year the runner beans were a disaster. Slugs ate all but 1 or 2 before they could start climbing. I'm determined that this year will be different and so started sowing at the beginning of April inside the greenhouse. Over the last 4 or so days they have been left outside in the cold frame with the lid off for the last 2 and there has been 2 ground frosts, neither of which have been bad.

The last few years our last frosts have been in the first week of May and I've always had runner beans out and have never had any problems with the cold but with this years crop starting earlier I have sown direct into the ground 1 seed at each pole plus now planted half the poles with young plants. I have also sown a load more in the green house.

All poles have a bean sown direct and 20 poles also have young plants.
Although we have had 2 frosts recently neither days / nights saw the air temperature drop below 1.5 deg C so I'm guessing the ground temp barely dropped to freezing but I have attempted to build some protection for them made from corrugated  clear plastic. It'll keep the wind off of them and may perhaps just hold that little bit of warmth in for an extra hour or so. 

Being earlier in the year by a few weeks there are less slugs around at the moment so I'm hopeful these beans may just get climbing before the slugs become a problem.

Luckily we have been given a load of pots so if all else fails then I can pot up a load of beans and get them a foot tall or so before planting out. I have loads of seeds this year to throw at the problem and still plenty of time in which to sow them. Fingers crossed.

Mini Flood
Despite digging drainage, channelling water into 2 ponds, having loads of grass to expire water, hundreds of plants, dozens of young Willow trees and a couple of dozen fruit trees, about 60 hedging trees and having raised the ground in a few areas we still have a boggy little field. I knew we had a small issue with water where we placed the Poly-tunnel but this last week saw a lot of rain and the Poly-tunnel had a inch of water on the floor. The trellis bed next to it also was totally full of water and my young wild flowers that have only just germinated were in danger of drowning if I didn't do something.

When we get around to building an extension we'll need a soak away so I've taken the opportunity to site this and started digging. So far I've only just removed the top 4 inches of turf, plus dug a little soil (clay) out but it was enough to drain the bed and most of the Poly-tunnel.

 A small channel from the trellis bed filled the hole as I dug away the turf. It had drained a bit by the time the photo was taken but it did lower the water in the bed and tunnel so that the roots of the seedlings aren't constantly in water.

This hole is still full of water several days later and will take the week to drain. I have to hope that when dug much deeper I find less clay and hopefully chalk otherwise it won't be a soak away but more a sump.

Many other veg beds around the garden still have the water sitting just a few inches below the surface. Most main beds are raised so this isn't an issue but every fruit tree is in effect planted in a bucket made of clay and therefore is sitting in water. As long as we don't have too much heavy rain in the next few weeks it'll be fine.

The turfs will be put to good use in the chicken pen, given them grass in the bare parts but also raising the ground to avoid their flooding problem.

Update - the day after
Plan A with the runner beans may not have lasted very long. Hard frost last night with air temps down to -1.5 so ground temp would have been lower. Will be interesting to see if they survive.

Thursday, 14 April 2016



Last year when the fox got 21 chickens we took a break from having chickens and needed to re-think whether the effort was worth it. It wasn't the first fox attack we had suffered. Three attacks. The first lot of chickens lasted a good year and we regularly saw the fox walk around the boundary feet away from the chickens and totally ignore them day after day, month after month, then it attacked.

After that the fence was raised in height. Another attack with all chickens gone. After that attack we put an electric fence around the pen but that failed as the electric fence was on top of the main fence and the fox bounded over both.

This time, having decided that we really did want chickens the fence got raised much higher and the electric fence was put in a better place, outside the main fence and 3 lines near the ground and a foot or 2 away from the fence.

The problem with raising the fence is the expense so the main pen became much smaller. This had the problem that the chickens scratched the ground so much it became mud, and after rain became a bog. Which wasn't nice. The new chickens weren't laying eggs very well, plus they weren't getting enough grit (calcium) in their diet and many were laying soft eggs. The problem with soft eggs is that immediately they were laid another chicken would eat them. From 20 chickens we were only getting 2 to 6 good eggs a day.

Smaller pen with no grass
When the main pen became smaller we also used the other part of the pen with a lower fence for a couple of chickens we were given by a neighbour. The pen wasn't nice for us to walk into or the chickens.

The new pen is twice the original size and 4 times as big as the pen we last made with a high fence.

Before the enlargement.

After the enlargement which incorporates a pear tree and an area of Willow and a few fruit bushes.

Click to enlarge.

It's nice to see the chickens are now spread out, plenty of room for each of them to avoid each other and there is now plenty of grass. Because it incorporates 2 fruit bush beds there is also plenty of manure used as a mulch which they have happily been sifting through looking for worms and slugs.