I Don’t Need No Gym

I am doing my best to publish at least one article a week on my knife blogge, but I had trouble managing that and I could not write much for Affinity as you might have noticed. The main reason is my huge garden, which kept me occupied for two months almost continuously.

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Whilst re-potting my bonsai, I tried this year also to plant new poplar trees in my coppice since the water voles did such a number on them a few years ago. I found an easy way this time to plant them -instead of digging holes, I drilled them with a long carbide-tipped 12 mm masonry drill. It went comparatively easy and fast and after just a few days work I managed to plant several rows of trees. Then came warm weather and everything started to grow, the trees took root and it looked promising. And after that came abnormally deep frost (-5°C) most of the trees died and my work was thus wasted. The frost also killed one of my most beautiful outdoor bonsai trees – my only hornbeam – the roots froze in the bowl. What a beautiful spring start!

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I did manage to get about 2 cubic meters of firewood from my coppice this year, which is good, about a month’s worth of heating right there, with minimal money expenditure. I also cut a lot of dead wood from my apple tree, which is slowly dying from water vole damage. The tree still lives, but only just. The odds are that next year it will all be firewood since it also received additional damage from the late frost. What a beautiful spring start!

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When planting potatoes this year, I added a lot of charcoal to the soil that I prepared over winter. Then I covered the potatoes with only a thin layer of soil and a thick layer of grass clippings to try at a larger scale the experiment from last year. After that came a short drought and abnormally high winds, which blew the grass away in some parts, and the potatoes froze due to the strong late frost that followed shortly after. About 10 % of the potato patch thus did not sprout at all and another 10% look weak and sickly even now. What a beautiful spring start!

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Here used to be several huge compost heaps. I flattened them out into one huge new patch, which took me several weeks of hard work. I planted pumpkins on there after the strong frost was over. But the weather after that was so cold and miserable that they did not grow at all for about a month and slugs destroyed about half of them despite my best efforts, using both manual and chemical tools at my disposal to kill those buggers. On some evenings I collected as much as about 1kg of slugs from the vegetable patches. This week some of the pumpkins finally started to grow as the night temperatures are over 10°C at last, but some are still tiny and there is a huge question mark over whether I will or will not have any use from all this work at all. What a beautiful spring start!

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The seeding potatoes were very small and thus there was more of them than I expected. I had to prepare a small new patch near my second greenhouse to plant them. It was a lot of work to haul all that compost there to plant them, but at least these were completely unaffected by the frost and they appear to thrive. Great! When I was at it, I also prepared a second patch, where I planted red beets. Those are still tiny because the weather was so fucking cold overnight that it was on some days in June colder than it was first two weeks in April. I also planted some sweet corn, two packets. One packet did not germinate at all, and the other one produced just several sickly plants that are now still smaller than the grass that I have not mown for a week. Fuck this spring.

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I had so many tomato seedlings that I planted over twenty of them outside. Three got immediately mauled to death by slugs. The rest managed to grow tough enough for the slugs no longer trying to eat them but they did not grow any taller – they are positively tiny. Because the nights were so cold. I am curious if we get an extremely hot and dry summer after the extremely wet and cold spring. So, like last year, first nothing grows because it is too cold, and subsequently nothing grows because it is too hot. I hate this year’s weather.

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I did not sift the compost heaps but I did at least pick bigger stones manually, as I do all year throughout my vegetable patches. I got several buckets worth. If you remember, I used most of these accumulated stones last year to repair the walking path to my home. Well, I got about 20% of what I used up last year back again. Stones are not a renewable resource, but my garden has a seemingly unlimited supply of them.

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When planting the trees, I hit something hard twice. Once a bigger stone and once a buried brick. And when planting beans and working on the compost heaps I suddenly hit a really large stone, that I subsequently had to dig out. These are big slabs of phyllite that were used as paving stones in the past around here. I have a pile of them both from digging them up in my garden in seemingly random places and from the time when we too had walking paths paved with them, which I replaced with modern concrete paving a few years ago. At least these stones can be useful in the garden, but hitting one with a gardening fork or a shovel is not fun. Neither is hauling them solo onto the wheelbarrow. I procrastinate moving this one for three weeks because I sprained my back with the previous one.

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Apart from slugs, grass also thrives in the fucking cold weather. I have to mow it to be able to access all the areas of my garden where I need to work. At least there are no HOAs here so when I want to leave a patch with pretty flowers on it where it does not impede me, I can do that. So I do. Yay for pretty flowers!

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Tomatoes inside the greenhouse do look promising this year. I put a lot of compost and some fertilizer in there in the fall and I mixed it with the soil thoroughly. Inside the greenhouse, the climate was warm enough, albeit possibly too humid. The plants had wet leaves each morning because they had to actively pump out water. I used a chemical spray to prevent Phytophthora infestans. I hope it works because if they do not get sick, they really do look promising. Fingers crossed, I had enough setbacks this year already, and I need some wins.

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The fig trees are growing like mad. I cut them down to about 70-90 cm in height and they are double that already. They were overshadowing the tomatoes and I had to prune them. They put out some fruit already, so I might get some this year too despite the really heavy pruning in early spring. The figs really liked the warm and tepid winter and the greenhouse shielded them from the negative impacts of the cold spring, so they are the only plants that truly thrive. The grapes and pomegranates thrive too, but I did not take pictures of those since I have been ranting long enough already.

Often in the past, I said that I do not need to go to the gym, I get enough workouts in the garden and it is more useful. Well, this year the bad weather and extreme slug infestation are doing their best to make the second part of that statement untrue. At least I don’t have to pay for it. Oh wait, I do pay for it – the molluscicides, fungicides, and seeds…  Well, I might still come out with a profit, but it is not sure. I need at least 150 kg of potatoes to come even. Every other vegetable on top of that would be a bonus. That is not impossible, even with this bad start of the year.


  1. says

    @GAS, that’s the problem with the spanish slugs. They are so vile that even birds and hedgehogs do not eat them. And their slime is so gluey that natural predators of slugs -- ground beetles -- do not eat them either.
    I said a few times that if those were garden snails, I could at least cook them. But the spanish slugs seem to have actually displaced garden snails, I haven’t seen one in years.

  2. Jazzlet says

    The weather has been pretty screwed up here too, but slug damage is somehow more heartbreaking to me. I hope your tomatoes and potatoes along with the remaining squash etc all romp away with enough rain to keep up with their needs and enough sun for them to grow at a good pace.

  3. Jazzlet says

    Oh and those particular hawkbits (the orange flowers) are among my favourite wild flower, they are so very cheerful.

  4. Dunc says

    I’ve been having very similar problems here in Scotland. It’s been a dreadful start to the year, and now it’s way past the point where you could hope to make the losses back. We’re also overwhelmed by the slug onslaught. I have no brassicas this year -- every planting I attempted simply got wiped out by the slugs.

  5. says

    Looks similar here. I had more tomato seedlings than I cared for, and since they germinated like mad, they were too many for the tray. My squash worries me, but we should get tons of courgettes. And don’t get me started on the slugs… We have snails as well and that’s good, because they like slug eggs.
    Right now I’m hoping that the thunderstorm I can hear will get its arse over here.

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