May 2nd Week: Planting Out Kale, Looking After Water Boatmen, Christies Lane In May (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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May 2nd Week: Planting Out Kale, Looking After Water Boatmen, Christies Lane In May
GROW YOUR OWN FOOD WITH DIRTY NAILS MAY, 2ND WEEK PLANTING OUT KALE In early March, Dirty Nails sowed kale seeds in pots in the greenhouse. The Pentland Brig and Westland Winter varieties have thrived and were transplanted into bigger pots mid-April. After a spell outside in the protection of a cold-frame, these strong young brassicas have been planted into their final growing positions this week. Their bed needs to be rich and well prepared. Dirty Nails weeds it completely, and firms hard by treading it down with small sideways, back and fore footsteps (the so-called ‘gardeners shuffle’). He then rakes and treads some more. Kale, like cabbages, Brussels sprouts and purple sprouting, needs really firm ground to anchor its roots and likes at least 2 feet (60 cm) between plants. Holes are dug with a trowel deep enough to take the kale up to its first set of leaves and filled with water. After allowing the water to drain, Dirty Nails pops the young plant in. As much growing medium is retained around the roots as possible. He uses his fingers to press soil down around the root ball. Then a boot heel is employed for a careful firming-in, followed by another watering.
Cabbage Root Fly is a potential menace in early summer. The female will sniff out fresh plantings and lay her eggs in soil around the stems. When hatched, the grubs burrow down and feast on the roots which either kills or weakens the plant beyond repair. Dirty Nails thwarts the flies by fitting collars around the stems of all his brassicas at planting-out time, which work as a physical barrier. He makes them out of carpet underlay, cut into 4 inch (10 cm) squares. A slit, with a little ’crows foot’ snipped at the end, allows a snug cabbage root fly-proof fit.
Pigeons can also be a problem. Dirty Nails ties strings between canes to criss-cross, creating a spider’s web effect above his juicy plants. Coupled with take-away cartons dangling in the area too, this usually does the trick. Kale is remarkably tough and should grow on to produce fresh greens for winter.
LOOKING AFTER WATER BOATMEN The water butt is currently home to gangs of baby water boatmen, also known as ’back-swimmers’. Dirty Nails was alerted to their presence en masse when he took a bucket of water to decanter off into smaller, more easily manageable portions for greenhouse use. As he dunked the can to fill up they used their long, paddle-shaped back legs like pairs of tiny oars to scatter and dive with a jerky urgency. Although these pond dwelling insects travel from water-source to water-source by flying, he was concerned that sloshing them out of their chosen element indoors would not be good for them. This is an annual dilemma which Dirty Nails solves by using a fine-meshed sieve. He pours the butt water through this, which strains out the miniature black and silver boatmen. They can then be safely returned from whence they came. EXTRACTS FROM DIRTY NAILS’ JOURNAL CHRISTIES LANE IN MAY “The cow parsley that dances with frothy white flowers like a creamy mist on the banks of Christies Lane is a seasonal reminder of the sunken country byway that this once was. The wild garlic that forms a pungent bed beneath the elm thicket opposite, at the junction of Coppice Street, is likewise a throwback to a more rural, pastoral yesteryear. With houses and factories stretching deep into old fields that were, and a mystifying assortment of motorised vehicles travelling to and fro, small reminiscences such as these are a welcome relief from modernity.
“An enormous sycamore grows on the far bank in a wooded belt, sentinel-like, dripping fresh palmate leaves that are almost luminous and catch the breeze and daylight to provide a lush and ever-changing kaleidoscope of green. Across the road opposite, an equally impressive monster beech. Thousands upon thousands of tiny lives pass between these two trees daily. If they could speak, tell a story of their time here, what secrets would they reveal? Of the muddy lane turned to metalled racetrack? Of the horse and cart to car?
“New trees planted in the winter just gone give hope for a future where nature has a place alongside the trappings of human progress. Blackbirds pinking amongst freshly strimmed grass clippings lift the spirit, but the thrushes’ song is drowned out by engine noise and the scent of garlic is lost amongst a poisonous cocktail of petroleum fumes.” A Vegetable Gardener's Year by Dirty Nails (ISBN 9781905862221) is available from www.dirtynails.co.uk or bookshops, rrp £12.99
In this section
- July 2nd Week; Harvesting Garlic, Developing Froglets, Working With Nature, Marbled Whites On Walnut Tree Farm
- July 1st Week: Harvesting Shallots, Potato Blight, Trinity, Jobs To Do This Week
- June, 4th Week: Red Cabbage, Watching A Drowning Bee Recover
- June, 3rd Week: Downy Mildew, A Much Needed Present, Mid-Summer In St James
- June, 2nd Week: Cylindra Beetroot, Working From Home, Weekly Jobs To Do
- June, 1st Week: Sunshine, Showers, Weeds & Tomatoes, Song Thrush
- May 4th Week: Cucumbers, Beans, Feast & Fast, Apples, 'Of the Woods'
- May 3rd Week: Succession Sowing, Bird Watching, Enjoying Pine Walk, Jobs To Do This Week
- May 1st Week: Earthing Up Spuds, Greenhouse Slug Patrol, Tess' Story, Jobs To Do This Week
- April Week 4: