Roadside conifers

There is a row of conifers alongside the road outside the property – they have been there ever since we moved in. Recently, these roadside conifers have become more and more of a problem as they take a lot of water out of the ground (impacting the vegetable plot) and produce a lot of shade (again impacting the vegetable plot). On the upside, they do provide a good wind break!

When you look at the before and after photos below, you begin to realise just how much they have grown in the last 8 years. Our local tree surgeon reckons that they will only last another 10-15 years at most. In fact, we have already lost some of them in the last couple of years.

Rather than leave them to the bitter end, we have decided it is high time that the roadside conifers are taken down. We are going to replace them with natural hedging that is more in keeping with this area. However, it does mean fell them and then digging out the roots! Hopefully, we will be able to digging out the roots without knocking down the dry stone wall at the front of the property!

The good news is that it will provide space for (yet) another row of fruit trees in the orchard.

Roadside Conifers in 2013
The conifers along the roadside in December 2013. This was the day Northern Power Grid installed our three phase electricity supply.
Roadside Conifers in 2021
This is taken almost 8 years to the day later than the previous picture. It is difficult to believe how much they have grown in that time.

Replacing LED drivers

We installed two sets of suspended lights in the kitchen back in 2014. It was one of those things that we installed with every intention of “tweaking” at a later date. However, we never seemed to get around to it! On a couple of occasions we thought it could have been a little bit brighter in the kitchen.

I thought it would just be a case of changing over the light bulbs.

Screwfix stock some slightly brighter 12V LED MR16 bulbs. I thought it would just be a case of swapping the bulbs over. Simples. But no. That didn’t work. Well, it worked for one. But once all the bulbs were replaced, they all went very dim. Some of the new ones stopped working altogether!

Although the difference in the LED bulbs (4W for the old ones and 6W for the new ones) was minimal, it seem enough to tip the old LED drivers over the edge! A quick test with a volt meter showed that the LED drivers where outputting about 4-5V rather than 12V. I later wondered whether it was the defective LED drivers that was producing the dim lighting. However, by this point I had swapped all the bulbs over! I wasn’t going back!

On reflection, the old drivers were 7 years old so they hadn’t done too badly. The replacements were only £15 each on Amazon. Simply changing the drivers over fixed the issue of dim or non-working bulbs.

Replacement LED drivers
Two new LED drivers for the suspended lights in the kitchen. One driver for each row of lights. Each driver is rated to 60W, but there is only 5 lights on each row (each is around 6W each). £15 each from Amazon.
Replacement 12V MR16 bulbs from Screwfix. £8.29 each
New bulbs installed and now significantly brighter than before!!

New orchard – new trees!

It has been a long time coming, but we have decided it is time to plant new trees in the orchard. It is easy to forget how overgrown this was when we first moved into the property. Despite multiple attempts at pruning the existing trees, we have finally had to admit defeat! Plus the wind has taken it’s toll on the aged trees and we have probably lost 4-5 during the last couple of years.

Cutting the existing trees down seems like a big step, but they are at the end of their life and need to make way for new ones. The existing fruit trees either bore little fruit or no fruit at all.

Looking back at the orchard when we first moved in, it is a wonder that we hadn’t done this earlier! Here’s a post from 2013!

We have replaced all of the trees with heritage varieties – all of which have been grown in Yorkshire. After talking to a number of suppliers, we ordered all of our trees with RV Rogers in Pickering.

Here’s a list of what we have planted.

The intention here is that these are full height trees (rather than dwarf trees). This will enable us to mow around them with ease.

OK, I am on a break. First job – cut the trees down into logs.
Second job is to feed the left over branches into a shredder. Third job is to dig up the roots with a mini digger!
Then it is a case of tracking in the soil where the old trees had been and reseeding the grass.
Once the grass had reseeded, it was a case of marking out where the new trees are going to go
New trees planted – the first 8 are in! The tree in the foreground on the left is a Quince tree that we planted a couple of years ago.
Each tree has a hefty stake and a strim guard (the dark brown thing at the base of each tree). This protects them when using a strimmer.
Each of the trees has a pretty hefty stake in place, plus a strim guard, felt mat and a protective green basket (to protect it from chickens, dogs and deer!).

And just for the sheer hell of it, here are a couple of pictures from the orchard in 2013/2014.

This was after we had had a good tidy up. The old shed is gone and the trees have been pruned back.
The dry stone wall along the edge of the orchard has been rebuilt – if there was ever one there in the first place!
Here’s the orchard as it was when we first moved in.
The shed at the end of the orchard (this is where the gates are now).

Soil testing

We have never tested the soil here ever since we moved in. I think that it is fair to say that our success with growing vegetables has been “variable”. Some, although not all of it, maybe due to the quality of the soil. It is time to do some tests!!

Jo found a kit online that contains enough chemicals for up to 40 individual tests. Given that we are growing vegetables in a number of different locations on the property, it makes sense to do a number of tests in different locations.

The tests are easy to do once you get the hang of it. There are four separate tests: PH, Phosporous (P), Potassium (K), and Nitrogen (N).

For the PKN tests, the results all follow the same categorisation:

4 = Surplus

3 = Sufficient

2 = Adequate

1 = Deficient

0 = Depleted

So we tested four different locations where we are growing vegetables. The results are shown below

TestLeft Veg PatchRight Veg patchPolytunnelGreenhouse
PH5.05.255.56.5
PP3P3P3P3
KK2K0K0K0
NN0N0N0N0

With the exception of the greenhouse, all of the soil is a little bit acidic and can do with being raised. Ideally, the PH should be between 6 and 7. All of the samples, including the veg patch where we have been growing peas and beans, is indicating that it is low in Nitrogen.

I am not sure how accurate these test kits are. Having read the reviews for various test kits on Amazon, the feedback on these kits seems to be “mixed”.

This particular kit seems to be available under a number of different brands, but it is the same kit inside. They all retail for around £25. How accurate are they? Mmmm. Not sure.
Using the test kit on the samples from the vegetable patches
This bed had broad beans and peas in it until very recently. This is the left hand bed in the vegetable patch.

Runner beans

I have always liked runner beans ever since my dad used to grow them in the garden when we were kids. Jo’s not very keen.

I thought we would have a go with two varieties this year – Galaxy and Scarlet Emperor.

They were both propagated in pots for a week and then put in the greenhouse before they were planted out this week.

In hindsight, we are a bit late getting this going but let’s see what happens.

Galaxy on the left, Scarlet Emperor on the right. These have been in the ground for around 3 days.

Carrots

We had a bit of spare space for some carrots. In fact, we had two spare spaces, so I have sewed a couple of rows of carrots in both locations. Just to be able to compare how they fare!

Jo has been trying to grow these in the new greenhouse. However, I suspect that it is too hot in there for carrots! Let see how they do in outside in the vegetable patch.

Three guesses where we got these from?? Not sure that they are the best variety for us, but they were free!

Potatoes – one set up, another set down

I spotted some seed potatoes to harvest at Christmas time. But we didn’t have enough space in the current vegetable. However, one of the previous sets of potatoes really seems to be struggling and I decided to clean one row of these to make way for a new planting of Christmas potatoes.

So the poorly performing potatoes were the Second Earlies – Nadine. The main crop – Golden Wonder – are doing really well. However, just because we have a lot of greenery doesn’t mean that we have a lot of potatoes. But we will have to see. I decided to sacrifice one row of Nadine to make way for a row of Maris Piper.

Having decided that the Nadine potatoes weren’t doing very well, the 5 or 6 plants that I dug up produced quite a few potatoes – all small, but in good condition.

Space for a row of Christmas potatoes. The beetroots are in the bottom right coner.
Not too bad for just 5-6 plants given that there wasn’t a lot of greenery on the surface!
From the local garden centre – should be ready well in time for Christmas

Potatoes

The two sets of potatoes seem to be doing well and I reckon the first crop (Golden Wonder) should be ready by Mid August – if the estimate of 16 weeks is anything to go by! They have been in the ground for 10 weeks now. I couldn’t really have planted them any earlier because of the frost. There’s lots of green growth above ground, but I wonder how much growth there is underground!

The other set (Nadine) seem to be quite a bit behind the first crop. This is a bit surprising as both were planted at the same time and they should take the same about of time to mature.

In hindsight, I think the potatoes plants were probably planted too close together. Re-reading the guidance – they should be 12 inches apart and 30 inches between the rows. Next year I think it should be one variety in this plot with three rows of better spaced plants.

The space to the right in the photo is occupied by some beetroot plants (variety: Bolthardy). I sowed them originally in pots in the greenhouse and put them into this spare space above a week ago. some of the plants looked a bit sorry for themselves when first transplanted, but it looks like all but two will survive.