July 10, 2019

Yesterday’s roundup of my vegetable blues failed to include the asparagus bed – not because it’s all ticking along nicely, but because it had got so weed-ridden the one photo I took of it didn’t really look like an asparagus bed at all.

weed-ridden asparagus bed

This may go part of the way to explaining why it’s not doing so well, although to be fair the not going well part preceded the weed-ridden part. The fact is, only one or two of the crowns I’ve planted have produced even one decent looking shoot. The rest have tended to shrivel away as soon as they’ve emerged, although more are still coming up in places.

small asparagus shoot

I’m not sure what the problem is (I can’t blame the pheasants this time). I did think it might be the dry weather we have had (regular readers of the blog may be surprised to read this but we have actually had some longish spells of no rain). It’s all a bit unsatisfactory given I spent actual money on these plants from an actual garden centre rather than sourcing them in my usual fashion, a mixture of scrounging, growing from seed* and village plant sales.

cow watching

“I wouldn’t do it like that, if I were you”

Anyway, under the watchful eyes of Moo-I-5 I have now given them a good soaking – and the weather gods are busy rectifying the ‘too little rain’ part as I speak – and mulched the survivors with a good layer of compost, which felt like the sort of thing a proper gardener might do. Hopefully that will do the trick but either way it looks as if my hopes for an abundant asparagus bounty will have to wait a few more years. I’m beginning to understand why the main reaction to my asparagus-growing plans has been shaken heads, cynical laughter, and reminiscences about sitting down to an asparagus spear each after four years of anxious care.

mulched asparagus bed

Any tips from the more successful? Other than ‘move out of Scotland’, of course …

* I did actually, many moons ago, grow some asparagus from seed in our first ever vegetable garden. By the time we sold the house, several years later, the tiny little fronds were just about visible to the naked eye, but only if you looked very closely.



July 9, 2019

‘Looking on the bright side’, the other half said as I surveyed the ruin of what had been only the day before, a bed of French beans, ‘at least you now have a camera so you can blog about it.’

chewed beans

‘I wonder how my beans are getting … oh’

This is true – due to the kindness (and awesome organisedness) of a local cyclist on Twitter I am now the proud custodian of an actual camera for the first time in about five years. Despite being over 10 years old, it’s in immaculate condition and came complete with box, cables, spare battery and manual (ah, remember the old days when things came with instruction manuals instead of a sheet of paper saying ‘Do not stick this in your eyes or feed the batteries to your children. Google everything else’ in every known European language?).

It’s nice to be able to take a proper closeup again, even if it is of the devastation a peckish hare can wreak when it puts its mind to it.

close up of beans

Otherwise, the veg patch is the usual mixed bag of things which are dying in new and horrible ways (potatoes: liable to die at a moment’s notice when you plant them deliberately, but completely impossible to eradicate from the bed where they were once grown three years before)

dying plants in potato bed

and things which have grown in overwhelmingly enormous quantities (it is apparently a myth that rabbits – and, indeed hares – eat lettuce).

giant lettuce plants

The garden remains a work in progress and I suspect it always will be – I shall never be the owner of the equivalent of a garden that still has its box, cables, spare battery and manual. But on a sunny Sunday afternoon when you’ve got visitors coming – it does occasionally scrub up rather well.

garden with parasol

I’m mostly joking when I call this corner ‘the Mediterranean garden’ but occasionally it comes close …

Garden Assistance

June 16, 2019

After a week of gadding about, today felt like a day for hunkering down and getting on with the gardening. Undoubtedly there were more productive things I could have been doing, but sometimes you get stuck into a task and find it hard to stop.

Which is why our back patio now looks like this:

weed-free patio slabs

Oh, okay, that was a carefully selected camera angle and a tight crop; the true picture looks like this (please excuse the pile of stones which are awaiting a project that needs a load of stones (we’re not bringing any more gravel into this garden if we can help it), various random stumps which have been sitting there so long I’ve stopped seeing them, the mystery giant’s chair that was left by the previous owners and has proved a good place to harden off seedlings out of reach of slugs, the equally mysterious spare flagpole (we already have a main flagpole) found in the garage, and the overgrown mass of vegetation which is currently smothering a collapsing trellis and wood store which will be sorted out in the fullness of time):

back patio

I did leave one ‘weed’ – a little patch of speedwell. I’ve always thought of it as growing in lawns but it seemed happy among the stones so I’ve transplanted some more around the edges of the patio. With any luck it will spread along the gaps between the paving stones and at least give the dandelions and other weeds a run for their money. Something has to, as I know that my efforts this afternoon have largely amounted to giving them a nice radical pruning, rather than actually eradicating them.

speedwell flowers

It was also satisfying to discover many ex-snails (last seen doing their bit for science) among the weeds – we have a resident thrush whose intermittent hammering forms a soothing soundtrack to any gardening task. While I am now a little fonder of the stripey snails than I was before, I’m fonder of thrushes, which have had a tough time of it due to our farming habits. It’s good to know that our garden functions as a thrush habitat as well as a hare one, especially if it makes the garden a bit less of a snail habitat.

Meanwhile, the young hare is no gardening help at all, having decided that my (allegedly fenced off) asparagus bed is a handy place to chill out – unless ‘contemptuously demonstrating the uselessness of my hare defences’ counts as helping…

hare in asparagus bed

Damn it’s cute though.

Blooming Marvellous

June 14, 2019

Returning from Edinburgh yesterday afternoon, and doing the garden round to see what if anything had changed in the two days I’d been away, I noticed that something had been nipping the flowers off my geum and leaving them scattered on the ground.

This morning, the culprit was revealed.

hare eating flowers

It appears that the stems of geums are very delicious if you’re a young hare.

hare and flowers

Fortunately we’ve long since decided that when it comes down to flowers versus hares, the hares win every time. This one in particular takes cuteness to an advanced level, as I think you’ll agree …

hare cleaning whiskers

(Photos courtesy of the other half and his much more capable camera)

This went some way towards cheering me up after our MSPs made entirely the wrong decision in Parliament yesterday.

Rotting to the Core

June 4, 2019

Yesterday saw me at home, waiting for some work to arrive, knowing it was going to be a ridiculously short deadline when it did arrive, unable to go anywhere because it could arrive at any moment but with no actual work (work work, that is) to do until it came …

It’s in situations like this that a garden comes into its own, because once you’ve started there’s no end to the pottering that can be done in one. It wasn’t particularly convincing gardening weather, being June which means our summer is effectively over and our ‘green winter’* has begun. Still the rain held off and – in between nipping in to check my emails – I managed to plant out the rest of the Swiss chard and two kinds of kale, tie up my peas, water the greenhouse, cut back the grass around the raised beds and (if you squint a bit and choose your angles carefully) generally make the garden look as if I knew what I was doing.

Vegetable garden looking tidy

Even the peas (well, one pea plant) were behaving themselves – I believe this may be the first time in my pea-growing history that one has actually attached itself to the support provided.

pea tendril attached to cane

Come lunchtime, with the work still not in evidence, I had to get a bit creative. Time to empty the compost tumbler and start a new batch. We’ve been turning the current batch for a few weeks and while it never really heated up that much, it has turned into something resembling compost in less than two months. It’s certainly turned into something that resembles compost more closely than what was in either of the two working daleks – one of which has been sitting there since *looks at the pieces of newspaper miraculously preserved in perfectly readable condition at the bottom* mid February without noticeably composting anything at all but which had acquired a working wasps’ nest (sorry mama wasp).

compost in tumbler

Compost tumbler day one – watch this space. Literally, as I’m quite capable of making this into a timelapse sequence and inflicting it on you

By the time the other half came home from work I had the tumbler filled with one and half daleks’ worth of compostable material and we then spent a happy half hour feeding a pile of brassica stalks into the shredder to add to the mix. We’ve got a way to go before we’ve fine-tuned our composting operations – without worms (and wasps) to do some of the work as you get with a traditional heap, getting everything finely chopped up and getting the balance of carbon and nitrogen (and moisture) right is a bit more crucial, but at least I could head back in to check my emails one last time, confident that the tumbler is doing better than our previous arrangements (even if not *how much!?* better) … only to discover that the work I’d been waiting for had actually arrived three hours ago.

* The months of June, July and August when the weather’s not that much nicer than actual winter, but people look at you funny if you wear your winter clothes.

Garden Visiting

May 12, 2019

Bike parked by garden

Sometimes everything just comes together and this afternoon was one of those times: glorious May weather, a gap (of sorts; there’s always something I could usefully be doing) in the schedule and not one but two open gardens to visit, both of them, crucially, offering teas.

Sunny view

Of course, this being May, you don’t have to go far to be struck by the beauty of late spring – this is the wood along our road at the moment.

spring woods alongside road

And you don’t have to go far to find bluebells either – even on the short ride down to the first garden, famous for its bluebell wood, I was assailed on all sides by the heady smell of them and shimmers of blue beneath the fresh spring green, but it was worth the visit, and not just because of the chance to catch up with Old Nearest Village gossip (the oldest inhabitant, who sweeps the board at the village show each year, lost her greenhouse over the winter so it’s all to play for in the tomato classes) and the ample tea.

bluebell wood

(We’ll draw a veil over one chap who managed to go from ‘why don’t you wear a helmet?’ to ‘I just drive them off the road anyway, they get in my way and slow me down’ in just three moves, a record, I believe).

Then it was off down more quiet rural roads to the next garden.

road with overhanging trees

(Potholes not shown; some of them were truly spectacular. I particularly liked the stretch where just one of them had been outlined in red, presumably for mending, while the dozen other equally hazardous ones around it had been ignored).

The second garden was also spectacular but more of the ‘just shows what you can do if you’ve got staff’ variety (as observed by the only other cyclist there). Also you had to pay separately for your tea, so I was glad I’d made good at the first. I am gradually learning that the posher the garden, the less generous the tea arrangements.

formal garden

All in all a very splendid day. Although our morning coffee on the bench, enjoying the view, (and my homemade chelsea buns) was possibly just as enjoyable …

coffee and chelsea buns

… Especially as it didn’t come with a side order of cyclist-baiting remarks.

Piling it on

May 10, 2019

Among our many garden plans to be pursued in the fullness of time, one that’s been brewing for a while now has been establishing a fruit cage next to the greenhouse. This has moved up the agenda a bit, partly due to the hares discovering how tasty blueberry bushes are, and partly due to the fact that some friends of ours inexplicably wanted rid of a compost heap full of well-rotted compost and this seemed like the perfect place to put it to work.

So far, fruit cage progress hadn’t got much further than covering the site with old carpet (checks notes) more than two years ago in an attempt to get the nettles and brambles growing there under control.

old carpet covering fruit cage site

Encouragingly, this turns out to have been reasonably effective, in that the soil underneath the carpet was pretty clear of weeds (or at least visible ones – I have no doubt that there will be nettle roots still in there waiting for a chance to emerge).

soil under the carpet

I can’t say the same of the carpet itself, which demonstrates yet again that what this garden really wants to do is grow grass and it doesn’t mind where it does it. If anyone was looking for a half-way house between astroturf and laying a lawn in the traditional fashion, this could be the answer…

carpet with grass growing on it

We have run out of time this season to get the fruit cage itself up and the beds properly prepared, so we decided to buy some time by lifting the carpet, piling on the donated compost and and re-laying the carpet until we are ready to do the rest. This took a startlingly short amount of time – less than half a day. Given I can easily spend that long trying to weed the dandelions out of a tiny section of the back patio, I’m beginning to contemplate carpeting that too.

piled up compost

Anyway if nothing else, this gave us an opportunity to make use of our pile of pallets in true allotmenteering style.

pallets on the carpet

I’m not 100% convinced by our new decking, to be honest

Now we just have to hope that the blueberry bush survives the hares’ attentions until its new home is ready. All in the fullness of time …