Blasted Stockpilers

March 18, 2020

So, with everything being cancelled now, and spring advancing fast across the land – you might be wondering how my gardening is getting on. Surely this will be the year when everything gets planted in good time, the weeds get tackled, the wilderness beaten back (except where I’m actively encouraging it to come forward)?

Well, maybe. Today I did venture up to the greenhouse to water the seeds I’ve planted so far and to start preparing the beds for their future inhabitants. Peering at my sweetpea planters I noticed that one of them had what looked remarkably like a broad bean seed in it. Funny, I thought and looked again and realised that, no, it was two broad beans. And that the modules where I’d planted my broad beans had a neatly excavated little hole in each one.

excavated planting modules

The mice have clearly figured out a way into the greenhouse and had been busy storing up their own supplies by excavating every single broad bean and pea seed I’d planted, stashing some (I expect there will be misplaced pea and bean plants all over the place) and – from the evidence of the little pile of bean shells in the corner – scoffing the rest. So much for us gardeners having a ready source of food in the coming months.

broad bean remains

Fortunately, between the ones I found and the leftovers in the packet I had enough seeds to replant (and the modules are safely in the utility room until they sprout). I feel a tiny bit guilty about stealing the poor mice’s supplies but then again, if they hadn’t been greedy enough to dig up too many to hide properly, then I might never have noticed and they could have consumed the rest at their leisure. I’m sure there’s an Aesop’s fable along similar lines…


Shooting Blanks

August 17, 2017

I managed an hour or two in the garden today, and not a moment too soon as the sole surviving pumpkin plant appears to be mounting a bid for freedom.

pumpkin plant

It doesn’t appear to be mounting much of an effort to grow pumpkins though – the few little fruits it has produced have tended to rot off before they amount to much. This may be sheer loneliness – I planted out four squash and four pumpkin plants this spring, and it is the sole survivor of the rampant slug army that is inhabits the garden. Despite many dozens of them meeting their doom in the beer traps, there seems to be no end to them; perhaps I should stop buying them rounds …

slugs

Perhaps I should also stop providing neat little slug starter homes…

Despite the slugs, and some rampant neglect of my own, the plot has proved surprisingly fertile ground for the plants that did survive. None of my French beans made it past the hopeful seedling stage, and the curly kale just evaporated without trace but the red winter kale is looking pretty good, if somewhat slug-chewed, the beetroot has already provided several meals and is wonderfully sweet* and the peas have just gone beserk. They have resisted all attempts to be propped up so picking them involves wading into the patch and pulling out the pods before the tendrils can fasten themselves around your ankles, but for the first time in years we’ve had enough peas to cook and eat, rather than just be scoffed straight from the pod. I think this may be first-plot syndrome – they always seem to do well on new ground, and then are never quite so good again (she says, grandly, having had all of three veg plots in her entire life).

peas

Tonight’s supper, which was, as tradition demands, delicious

My broad beans are a sad disappointment though. They are producing magnificent pods but there’s just nothing in them or almost nothing. Clearly with that and the pumpkin, there’s a lack of pollination going on. We seem to have a fair few bees about, but perhaps they’ve been distracted (or indeed held captive) by the peas. It might have helped if I’d staked them properly, or kept them a bit better weeded, but it’s definitely been a case of the survival of the fittest in the garden this year.

broad bean pods

Broad beans: all hat and no cattle

* adjusted for being beetroot and not, say, chocolate.


Mixing its Toasties?

September 30, 2015

his year is testing, possibly to destruction, my theory that one cannot really destroy purple sprouting broccoli, which over the years has survived caterpillar attack, frozen winters, and variations on the ‘user error’ theme and still managed to give us some welcome veg come the spring. Rabbit attack might be different though… it had recovered once, albeit starting to flower early, but the demon bunnies came back for another round.

massacred broccoli plants

I’ll say one thing for rabbits, they’re thorough. They don’t lollop around nibbling a tender shoot here and a tasty morsel there – if they did, we might be able to come to an understanding. Instead what they do is zone in on one particular bed and, over the course of a day or two, destroy it utterly

ex green beens

Less than a week ago, this was a flourishing patch of green beans with plenty more young beans coming through…

With the beans and the beetroot they scarfed the lot (well, they left a neat little pile of beetroot tops for me) but they leave enough of the kale and the broccoli to allow for some resprouting and then come back for another meal. Kale and broccoli might be tough but I don’t know how long even they can take that sort of treatment and survive.

chomped kale

Kale starting tentatively to resprout

But maybe they won’t have to, because the other half did discover a dead rabbit inside the fence this afternoon, half hidden under the bushes (I swear it wasn’t me). Cause of death unknown, and hopefully not mourned by its numerous offspring …


Delicious with Strawberries and Cream

January 2, 2015

beans being cooked
It is a truth universally acknowledged that home-grown veg, by definition, is more delicious than any other kind (why else do I bother, after all? No, don’t answer that). So it seems almost irrelevant to wonder how the dinosaur eggs turned out once we came to actually eat them. After all, they were kind of cool looking, germinated easily, climbed up their beanpoles (a first for me), looked decorative, cropped heavily and were easy to harvest, and then kept well as dried beans, so there was no real rush to, you know, actually eat them as after all, they were bound to be delicious. That more or less makes them the perfect grow-your-own crop, especially for the recovering veg sceptic like myself. But in the interests of narrative closure, I thought we should probably actually try them one of these days, it was just a question of how. The guy who had passed them on to us suggested ribollita, but we made ribollita back when we were working our way through Hugh Fearnley-Washingup’s Veg Everyday Book and I remember looking down at the resulting bowl and thinking if my seven-year-old self had been presented with it she would have sat at the table and wept for up to a week rather than eat a single spoonful, and once I had proved that I was a grown up by finishing the bowl, I then decided the seven-year-old me had a point. So not that, then.

This year, it looks like our January cookbook of choice will be the other half’s magnificent tome on Mexican cooking (which, among other things,* recommends frying everything in lard, thereby undoing at a stroke this month’s home baking moratorium, but that’s another story). As he was looking through the recipes he asked whether we had any dried beans to make refried beans. And lo and behold, we had.

burritos with refried beans

And so tonight we had burritos with spicy beef, and avocados, and soured cream and refried dinosaur eggs.

They were, naturally, delicious.

*Like drying your corn – to make your own tortillas, naturally – with quicklime. I’m afraid we resorted to buying ours from Tesco’s


Bringing in the Dinosaur Harvest

October 13, 2014

Now that I’ve resumed light gardening duties, it was time to tackle the dinosaur eggs, otherwise known as Purple Podded Best beans, which have done rather spectacularly well. The problem with getting seeds handed over in a mysterious little unlabelled bag is that they don’t come with any instructions. So I wasn’t sure exactly when or how to harvest. I was going to leave them on the plants until the frost killed them off, but a bit more googling suggested that this wasn’t a great idea in a damp climate so today I hoicked them up to dry them indoors.

bean_poles

Some of the pods had actually dried out (we really did have a spectacularly dry September) and were looking rather spiffy.

bean pod

Others had gone a bit soft so I pulled those off the plants and shelled them and the rest got hung up to dry in the shed on an improvised rack.

bean plants ready to dry

Even further googling suggests that podding them and drying them in the Rayburn’s warming oven might be an even better option, and it might still come to that, although then they won’t germinate, which slightly misses the point of having some heritage orphan seeds.

the harvest so far

Anyway, seeing as these were given to me by a seed guardian, and it’s all about preserving varieties for posterity, if anyone would like a mysterious baggie of dinosaur eggs of their own then give me a shout in the comments, although you might want to wait until we’ve actually tried eating them and tell you what they taste like. Or at least confirm that they aren’t going to eat us…

squash harvest

In other news I’m unimpressed by my squash harvest. My friend suggested that they were ‘mainly ornamental’ but ‘not even particularly ornamental’ would seem to be closer to the mark. Depending on how they taste, I’m going to have to try harder to get hold of gem squash again for next year…


Scotland Agrees …

September 12, 2014

… regardless of the current debate raging over Scotland’s future, everyone I have spoken to recently is unanimous: this fine, dry, warm September weather can continue just as long as it likes. If it wasn’t for the chilly starts, we might actually be in July.

It’s been good news for the garden with a bonus second picking of broad beans – maybe not quite enough for a meal, but enough to make a solid contribution to a dish of Random Veg Risotto (where we’re going to put all the French beans is another question seeing as we have rashly filled up the freezer with blackberries).

September broad beans

My peas, which have been absolutely pathetic all summer long, have suddenly discovered their mojo. In September. (They’re still not climbing up any of the supports I provide for them, of course, but I’m used to that)

bonus peas

And the dinosaur egg mystery beans? Well, whatever they are, there are about to be a lot more of them…

mystery beans

This may or may not be a good thing.


Thickety-Boo

August 12, 2014

We’re all about the casual gardening style here but I think I may have overshot the boundary between ‘deliciously informal’ and ‘inconvenient mess’ with my mangetouts, which have now formed an impenetrable thicket.

impenetrable mangetout thicket

There are mangetouts in there if you know where to look but finding them involves bodily picking up the entire tangle and rummaging around in it. As with all veg harvesting, it takes at least three iterations to even begin to feel you may have found them all, and even then you can guarantee you won’t have (see also: potatoes), which is why every time I go up to pick the next lot I find some which have clearly been beyond ready for weeks and have to be podded like conventional peas

mangetout thicket close up

Anyway, we were going to have mangetouts in our fried rice this evening but it was still hammering down and playing hunt-the-legume did not appeal, so perpetual spinach it was. Next year, I swear, I shall grow my mangetouts in regimented rows, like a proper gardener. I think I may make this resolution every year at about this time.

And talking of hunt-the-legume, the dinosaur eggs have produced dinosaurs.

mystery bean pods

Recipes for something resembling borlotti beans welcomed.


Gardeners’ Question Time

July 28, 2014

Purple sprouting broccoli plants

Here’s a little mystery for you all: where are all the caterpillars? We picked some kale a few weeks back and despite them being netted, there were a few green caterpillars lurking on the leaves, more or less as I expected. Since then we’ve had lots of lovely weather and lots of white butterflies fluttering about the plot but when I pulled up the netting to have a look and pick off the worst of the infestation before it got out of hand there weren’t any. And nor is it the effectiveness of my netting, either, because there are none on the purple sprouting broccoli either, which is unnetted. Very odd. And yes, I do realise  that by posting this I will be completely inundated with the things before the week is out.

greenhouse in walled garden

And here’s another question: if a gardener who doesn’t particularly like tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, cucumbers or chillies were to suddenly find themselves with the use of a greenhouse (what can I say, it was just looking sad and empty and I couldn’t resist), what should she grow in it? Beyond ‘extra salad’, I’m struggling a little, frankly, although there are some in the village who use theirs to get extra early potatoes. I suppose I could grow tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, cucumbers and chillies for the other half, who likes all of those things and has been struggling bravely through a diet of kale and, er, more kale in recent years.

greenhouse interior

In other news, the dinosaur eggs are flowering.

mystery beans flowering


Are we Bored of the Buzzard Yet?

July 7, 2014

I know I am, but sadly the bird itself doesn’t seem to have got the message and managed one of its closest non-contact passes yet this afternoon, having cheated by swooping before I’d even arrived in its known territory (although thankfully it’s not as bad as this mad bastard  – thanks to CycleDevon for giving me a whole new set of things to be worried about, although at least I know now not to resort to any comedy headgear)

Veg plot in July

So let’s just draw a veil over its antics (at least until I manage to borrow a head cam and get some dramatic footage of it) and concentrate on the garden instead which, after a spell of me actually regularly gardening it is looking – well, with a sufficiently artful camera angle anyway – almost looks as if I know what I’m doing.

climbing beansIf you look to the left you can see an amazing feat of vegetable intelligence: my magic beans are not only thriving (never a given with beans), but are actually climbing up the bean poles I have provided for them. And if you’re scratching your head and wondering what’s so amazing about that, then you’ve never grown any sort of climbing plant. Every year I plant beans and peas and other climbers and watch them climb up each other, make special journeys across slug-ridden soil to climb up other plants’ beanpoles, or just cling on to weeds or even passer by’s legs – anything except use the support I have provided (my mangetout have formed a thriving but completely impenetrable tangled thicket that has somehow managed to avoid every single one of the pea sticks I put out for them and are just clinging to each other in a heap on the ground). So there’s clearly something very strange going on with these ones.

I shall be sure to pinch out their tops before they reach up into the sky…


Deep in the compost…

May 13, 2014

… something stirs

beans emerging

My dinosaur eggs are hatching. Stand by