Rather a lot has happened here at OHP over winter and an egg-cellent place to start this update is with the arrival of the hens! There’s been much discussion over the years about when livestock may become part of the cohousing group development (guinea pigs don’t count) and now that there are several families living on site we considered the time was right. Not only have the Hackworthy’s moved in but so have some chickens courtesy of our builder Dean. Everyone has settled into their new homes well but so far only the chickens have laid some eggs. Photo below right shows ones of our eggs with a bought large egg on the right for scale. The 13 chickens of various breeds have taken up residence in the courtyard and so far no one has even heard the cockerel. So far some of the chickens have been named Jasmine, Coral, Delilah, Queenie and Duke. Let’s hope the egg production increases from 2 a day to just a few more but we’re perhaps not quite up to the heights of 72 a week just yet.
Sheila and I began this growing year as we usually do with a walk around the garden writing a list as we go of everything that needs pruning (fruit trees, roses, herbs), digging out because it’s finished or died in the recent cold spell (lavender, rosemary, old sweet peas, annuals from last summer) and eating (spinach, sprouts, kalettes and parsnips). This years list is 4 pages long and has kept us both busy all day for a week so far and we’ve barely made a dent in it.
Sheila and I usually pick a border and attempt to tackle everything in it at once. I’m working on a drawing of our site so when I talk about the garden its easier to understand – Sheila still has issues with the veg bed numbering, I maintain no 1 being at the top of the hill and no 7 being at the bottom makes perfect sense! So far all the shrubs along the border below the car park have had a firm prune, usually we’re too cautious with the forsythia and the fuchsia but they were starting to get in the way of the path (below left). The autumn fruiting raspberries have all been cut off at the ground (below right) as they fruit on stems they regrow every year whereas only the oldest growth has been removed from the tayberries and Japanese wineberries as they fruit on last years growth.
This year we were not so heavy handed with the orchard, only removing branches that crossed and shortening the longest spurs that appear too thin to support apple growth. Most of our trees fruit more heavily on the polytunnel side of the orchard and therefore several trees lean that way and are currently propped to try to encourage them to straighten. We lost the Braeburn and Conference pear to disease and storms so their spaces in the orchard will be filled by another cherry called Kordia and an apple called Summer Red, now I just need to dig some big holes!
Here’s my favourite bit of garden planning, drawing the plans and colouring (though my colour coding went a bit astray) where there will be pumpkins growing beneath the sweetcorn as they did so well last year. Above right are the beds behind the plant room (which actually contains the ground source heat pump and not plants) showing where the new summer raspberry canes will go.
Above left are the gooseberries after a very prickly and severe pruning (aiming for an ‘open goblet’ shape as per Monty D), in the centre photo are the currants. I don’t think I’ve ever pruned the redcurrant before which probably explains the excess we usually have. I advertised the overwhelming redcurrant crop a few years ago through my work Facebook page usually used for A&E shift swaps and a colleague I barely knew answered and we spent a happy afternoon in the sun picking them together. I hope there are many such friendships among people who grow their own fruit and veg because we are always wanting to trade surplus. If only we could have visitors currently as I usually ply them with blackcurrant jam. Above right are irises under the silver birch grove and the snowdrops I found in a huge swathe years ago under our blackberry and redistributed around the whole site. There are daffodils, crocuses, grape hyacinths and the usual million tulips just popping up – sure signs spring is coming!
Look out for a blog about the big move from caravan to The West Barn coming soon!