Oslo Garden

A blog about gardening in Oslo, Norway


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A new growing season

From here on in, the days get longer and the weather becomes milder. 20160318_090959In the month since my last post, there’s been another dump (or two) of snow in the city, rendering it all white and wintry. But this week, temperatures have risen and the sun’s been strong. The remaining snow on the ground has started to melt. There is a definite sense that spring is in the air!

I’ve removed the covers from my plants and the plants are still waking up. Lovely spring bulbs that I’d ordered in the autumn disappointingly have never arrived. So I’m short of spring colour this year. But it’s the perfect time to look ahead and start making a plan for the garden for the coming months.

This year at home, my aims are to:

  1. Harden off new seedlings in my cold frame which will hopefully make acclimatising plants a bit easier.
  2. Use the cold frame to start growing some cool-weather crops a bit earlier, and also to extend the season at the tail end.
  3. Focus on creating mixed pots with lovely combinations of vegetables and colourful annual flowers to attract pollinators.
  4. Make a bee hotel.
  5. Pot up my dahlias earlier so that they can start flowering earlier and make the most of the warm season.
  6. Make plant supports and set them in place when the plants are still young. Last year I left it too late and before I realised it my Dahlias, Cosmos and Antirrhinum all had curly stems and were useless for displaying in a vase!
  7. Run another trial to grow winter vegetables, but this time sowing them earlier in the summer so that they become more established before the winter arrives.

At the school, it’s Year Three of a 3- year rotation. I aim to:

  1. Be more organised and sow more crops in succession to extend the harvest season and avoid gluts of produce.
  2. Try growing a few new varieties this year, namely more mange tout peas, some Vicia faba and a vine winter squash.

More of that, and a growing plan, shortly.

Now, I must get on to ordering some seeds….

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The F word

It feels like I’ve been on the starting blocks waiting for the full force of Spring to arrive for a couple of weeks now. Every time there are clear blue skies, temperatures rise a few notches, I get ready to shoot out of the blocks and go into gardening overdrive. But then the big F re-appears….Frost that is. Overnight. Once or twice. Just to remind you not to be too hasty….

While waiting, I can use the time to begin hardening off my seedlings, so that they will be ready to be planted out in their final location. This will, hopefully, coincide nicely with all risk of frost having passed.

Hardening off involves gradually preparing seedlings that have been nurtured under a protected environment, to be outside. They physically have to toughen up. So it begins with leaving them out for an hour or two on their first day, somewhere sheltered, out of the sun and preferably covered with a light fleece. Then they go back inside and return outside the following day, for a little more time. This is repeated each day, increasing it over successive days and in time exposing them to sunlight little by little until eventually you can leave them outside overnight covered with a light fleece. Finally a few days before they are planted out, you leave them out all day and night without any cover. This process should take a couple of weeks.

This year I have also carried forward the School Project I began last year and have been busy making plans for a planting scheme for the school garden’s raised beds.

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I have simplified the system this year, basing it on a three-year rotation (this now being the second) and growing fewer family groups of vegetables but more variety within each group. For instance within the Legume family, I’ve picked three varieties of Bean alongside one Pea.

Salads – Lollo Rosso, Iceberg, Maravilla de Verano- form the borders between the sections of crops in each bed. The lettuces will be continually harvested until late August/September, after which they will be replaced with a sowing of a green manure crop. This will add valuable nutrients back into the soil before the frosts return.

Flowers- some edible, some to attract pollinators and some to distract the pests from the juicy veg! Calendular, Nasturtiums and Sweet peas.

Bed A:

Wigwam with Climbing Beans- Runner Bean, Blauhilde, Cobra.

Ambrosia Peas

Carrots- Purple Haze, Cosmic Purple, Atomic Red, Milan- surrounded by Garlic Chives

Bed B:

Kales- Westlander Winter Kale, Redbor

Chard- Rhubarb, Rainbow

Radish interspersed with the lettuce

Bed C:

Wigwam with climbing beans (as in Bed A)

Summer Squash- Gold Rush (Yellow courgette), Sunbeam (Pattypan)

 


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Sow what?!

Now is a good time to start thinking about what vegetables and fruit you want to grow. Here’s a handy checklist to help you plan:

  • What do you like to eat? Stick to things you enjoy eating or want to try for the first time. The last thing you want is an endless supply of something you don’t like, though you can be generous and share it with friends, family or neighbours!
  • How much space have you got? You don’t need a big area but some fruit and vegetables like to have deep soil to stretch out in so if you are planting in pots, make sure they are deep enough. Think about the eventual height and spread of some plants so that they get what they need and you don’t get crowded out!
  • Spread out your harvests. Don’t sow things all at once. That way you can harvest gradually rather than having one harvest at the end.
  • Where are you going to grow? Make use of the space you have so that you maximise your potential. Is it south or north facing? Do you catch the sun for part of the day or for the whole day? Is it windy, is it by the sea? As a general rule find a sheltered spot that gets at least some sun in the day.
  • Match your growing space with the plant’s needs. You’ll get better results if you give the plant conditions it prefers to grow in. For example, lettuces, like to keep cool and can tolerate a lot of shade. Plus they don’t require a lot of space. Whereas courgettes like to spread out and adore the sun. Keep them happy and they’ll reward you!

Look out for seeds at your local garden centre: Plantasjen and Hageland are the largest in Oslo; some supermarkets and whole food shops. There are also online retailers such as solhatt.no and gardenliving.no that sell varieties specifically suited to the Nordic climate.