Let them Eat Broccoli

April 11, 2019

Well, I hope you’re all enjoying the fine spring weather (at least for viewers in Scotland) – it is pretty much inevitable that when I’ve got a tight work deadline and a looming cycle protest (or protests – we’ve now got 17 different events planned and more in the works) to organise, that (a) everything will start to happen at once (laptop: would now be a good time to tell that you I need an update?) and (b) the sun will come out.* While I’ve been largely chained to my desk, the other half has been taking advantage of the lengthening evenings to go out and do some gardening pottering and the hares have been taking advantage of the rising sap to, er, hare around the field next door pausing only to make more hares, and it’s beginning to get on my goat. Expect it to start raining at the weekend, when at last the deadline will be over, even if the PoP preparations can only get more frantic from here.

All of which means I’m also falling behind on the gardening, although at least it’s chilly enough at night to mean spring is not yet completely in full flow. And I’m pleased to report that I was wrong about one thing – our leeks may be almost finished and last year’s potatoes sprouted beyond all hope but, had the worst predictions of the pundits over Brexit come to pass, we wouldn’t be completely starving after all. Despite the best efforts of the local cabbage white population and Moo-I-5 we’ve got broccoli coming out of our ears at the moment. Here’s hoping that’s not the only doom-laden prediction about the whole fiasco that will fail to come to pass …

Purple sprouting broccoli

* It’s possible that there are meteorological forces at work as well, but I prefer to blame the weather gods and sod’s law.

Full Disclosure

August 21, 2018

So, I’ve shown you the other half’s greenhouse, and someone else’s garden altogether, but what of my own veg gardening? Are those raised beds still proving so wonderful?


veg plot in August

To be fair, August is always a bit random on the gardening front as the accumulation of any spring and summer neglect comes home to roost in spades, but I’ve never grown an additional mystery crop of mushrooms in my potato patch before:

mushrooms in potato patch

Any mycologists out there?

mystery mushroom

I’m more or less resigned to the fact that cabbage whites will come and infest my brassicas. In the past I’ve tried netting them, picking them off, and just ignoring them, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it takes a lot to completely kill off purple sprouting broccoli. Hopefully, enough plants will survive to put out spears in the spring, after the caterpillars have been killed off in the winter. This year, I’ve cut off the worst of the leaves and stuck them, caterpillars and all, in the compost bin, which probably only means that the caterpillars will have worked up a good appetite by the time they’ve finished crawling back round the house to the veg patch.

caterpillars on broccoli

Interestingly (for a certain value of interesting) the broccoli is quite badly infested with the yellow-and-black caterpillars of the large white, while the cavolo nero right next to it has a much more limited number of the green caterpillars of the small white. Any entomologists care to weigh in?

In other news, my sole squash plant has turned into a sprawling giant which has quite overwhelmed the beans I had optimistically hoped it would share its raised bed with, annexed the fennel bed next door, and is currently conducting a hostile takeover of the not-yet-cultivated mixed bramble and willowherb patch next to the pond. Normally, my money would be on brambles winning any sort of territorial battle, but this time I’m not so sure. The only thing it’s not doing is apparently producing any squashes (but then again, I thought that about the pumpkin last year).

squash plant

On the other hand, despite all this, we’re still getting plentiful potatoes, chard, kale (some with added protein) and giant beetroot. And the peas, which should have been over and done by now, are having a new lease of life and are merrily producing new shoots, flowers and pods. Obviously, what they’re not doing is using any of the supports I helpfully supplied for them, which means they look terrible and picking the peas is a challenge, but August peas of any kind are a bonus so it’s worth the effort.


How does your garden grow?


February 28, 2016

Hmm. Was I ever foolish enough to claim that purple sprouting broccoli was indestructible? Over the years I’ve been growing it, I’ve certainly put that to the test, having seen my plants variously munched by caterpillars and pheasants, been felled by frost and heavy snow, bolting, and suffering from general user error and still coming up flowering in spring. This year, despite being eaten by the rabbit, they had started to recover but when I went up to check on the veg plot this afternoon (shamed into action by the other half actually starting to tidy up the garden this morning) I was distressed to notice that my celebration of their recovery had been premature

unsprouting broccoli

I don’t know what exactly is causing the damage this time. I thought we’d got rid of the rabbit, although there could still be a gap in the fence. The damage looks a bit different from when the rabbit was rampant before too – the plants look almost as if they have been gnawed

gnawed broccoli plants

Any ideas apart from extremely unambitious beavers?

The garlic, on the other hand, is going great guns. growing garlic

Hitting the Big Time

November 20, 2015

Well, finally. After more than ten years of steady, even prolific blogging, someone has actually contacted me to offer me something to review that I would actually want. OK so it’s not the ‘waterproof in Scotland’ reviewing gig I’ve long been touting for (I note, with only a slight twinge of professional jealousy, that Lovely Bike is currently helping check whether things are ‘waterproof in Ireland‘ for Georgia in Dublin, but then again she manages to look entirely chic and soignée in their rainskirt whereas I look like a cross-dressing farmer so I can’t say I blame them) – but someone has actually read what I’ve written about my gardening and is still prepared to risk their heritage garlic bulbs to the tender mercy of the Weather Gods, Peter Rabbit and my own absent-mindedness so that I can review them. Thank you Marshalls Seeds … and watch this space.

With the garlic in the post, and my new found reputation as a pro-gardener at stake, I thought I’d better actually get up to the plot and try and retrieve the situation after what has been a season marked mainly by neglect. The good news is that the rabbits have either been eliminated or are on a diet because the purple sprouting broccoli is recovering from their attentions

purple-sprouting broccoli

I told you it was indestructible

and I even found two tiny surviving perpetual spinach plants; they won’t be much use on their own, but I didn’t have the heart to grub them up.

two surviving perpetual spinach plants

I suspect that for the rest of 2015 we’ll mainly be eating leeks and Red Winter kale though.

kale and leeks flourishing

Just occasionally, my somewhat slapdash approach to gardening pays off in unexpected ways – I was slow getting my second batch of salad in over the summer and had pretty much written it off in September, but the weather has been so mild, we’ve started picking it again. Not for much longer, I suspect, as the forecast for tonight is to reach freezing, but I have moved a few plants which I hadn’t got around to planting out and were still in modules (you may detect a theme here) into the greenhouse.

lettuce in November

Lettuce. In November. In Scotland. What is the world coming to?

Even so, I shall be sharpening up my act for this garlic and giving it my best shot so I can review it thoroughly. I’m sure you would expect nothing less…

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 …

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

Eight out of Ten Cats

January 8, 2014

As the weather app that came with my shiny new phone combined fiddliness with uselessness (as in, I had to click three links and get onto the internet to discover whether ‘overcast’ meant ‘overcast all day’ or ‘raining most of the day and then overcast for one random hour during the day, which anyway it predicted wrong), I naturally turned to twitter for alternatives. Most of twitter sensibly suggested the Met Office Weather app, which I have duly installed, but it also – via @strangemeetings – threw up the delightfully daft Weather Whiskers app, which gives you the forecast through the medium of lolcats.

Disappointingly, despite cats’ previously noted forecasting abilities, they don’t actually use cats to generate the forecast – I was imagining some sort of network of cats distributed across the country with radio collars tracking whether they were heading out for an evening’s marauding, or curled up safely on the sofa – but get it from the Weather Underground instead. Still, so far it seems accurate enough and while the Met Office is better at giving you the details, it is slightly less depressing to wake up to a forecast of Rainz. Oh Nos. And even better is when it changes from Meh Overcast to Mostly Cloudz to – amazingly – Partly Sunz which it did today. This alone makes it a win in my book.

And so I took advantage of the Sunz to get out and try and catch up with my garden again for the first time in weeks. At this time of the year it’s more a matter of carting manure around and digging than anything else but it has been so mild that some weeds are still growing – and they’re not the only things.

purple sprouting broccoli

The purple sprouting broccoli has jumped the gun by about three months (you always get one or two that go early, but almost all of them are showing sprouts just now) and the broad beans, completely unfazed by the gales that destroyed their cloche, are looking battered but unbowed.

Broad beans

If last year was anything to go by we’ve got a lot of winter still to come, but you take your green – or purple – shoots where you can find them these days.

Making Mountains

November 17, 2012


I’ve never quite understood what it is about moles that gets gardeners so worked up. Sure, they can turn a lawn into an ankle-twisting assault course (I’m not entirely certain how they haven’t drowned in their tunnels this last summer, so soggy has the grass become), but compared to rabbits (and mice) they hardly really count as a pest. If you ever see one in person they are so strange and so endearing, it’s hard to know how anyone can bear to send for the mole catcher or attempt to polish them off.

molehills in leek bed

Well, that’s one way to earth up your leeks I suppose

Of course, that was before they stopped excavating the lawn and turned their attention to my vegetable patch, and specifically my leeks, instead… although in truth, my leeks are not up to much this year, half of them having bolted and the other half barely bigger than my spring onions (which are still going strong). So on the whole, although I’d prefer it if they didn’t re-engineer my raised beds with their molehills, I’m not quite at the stage of making a mountain out of it. Ask me again when they start using my parsnips for pit props… or I put my welly through one of their tunnels.

broad bean

Last of the summer broad beans


But all is not doom and gloom – lurking among the (still-flowering) broad beans, I found this surprise. Anyone got a recipe for just one pod of broad beans? The rest, I’m afraid, got sent to the compost heap. They might still be hopeful of producing beans, but there are no pollinators around to help them out. I also noticed a tiny, perfect, cauliflower lurking amid the leaves, and the purple sprouting broccoli seems to have given up all thought of sticking to its spring schedule and continues to sprout away like mad. Might be time for another of my (un)seasonal veg medleys

Anyone else’s garden still throwing up the odd surprise?

Eating Seasonally

September 12, 2012

seasonal vegetablesAnd for tonight, Madam, we have a seasonal medley of vegetables consisting of potatoes found in the old potato bed left behind after you thoroughly dug it over and removed every last potato, the last of the side sprouts of broccoli salvaged from the club root disaster mingled with the first of the purple-sprouting broccoli which bolted and started now instead of April like it’s supposed to, with or without a bonus amuse bouche of crunchy caterpillar surprise depending on how thorough the chef was at picking it over and – the pièce de résistance – a miserable handful of what may well turn out to be your entire crop of french beans for the year.

Bon appetit!

Sliding Block Puzzle

August 15, 2012

It’s not just my mornings I’ve been rearranging – the veg patch has reached the point where it’s time to start moving things around as the winter crops start to grow out of their seed bed spaces. The first early potatoes are all* dug (and the second earlies are looking a little sorry for themselves … I hope that’s just them having done their stuff and not something more sinister).

Time to move the purple sprouting broccoli to their winter quarters (er, well past time, come to think of it)

I am currently testing to destruction my theory that it’s not actually possible to kill off an entire crop of purple sprouting, however hard you try. So far, caterpillars, slugs, cruel winters and benign neglect have not yet seen them off entirely and we’ve always managed to get something. This year I seem to be trying both caterpillars and benign neglect, as the summer has finally cheered up enough to let the cabbage whites do their stuff. Quite a few caterpillars got premature flying lessons as I moved the plants, I’m afraid

And now it’s time (er, also well past time) to move the leeks to where the broccoli was. A gardener’s work is truly never done.

* and by ‘all’, I mean that I will undoubtedly be hoicking at least a dinner’s worth of stray potatoes out of that bed come spring, despite having dug it over three times