Stockpiling

December 12, 2018

Waking to news of developing political chaos, somehow today seemed like a good day to sort out the stored potatoes (some of which have already developed ambitions to start growing), and do a bit of tidying up of the rainbow chard bed.

rainbow chard bed

I have to say, the chard has been a bit of a revelation this year – while it isn’t exactly my favourite vegetable, it’s proved more versatile than I thought and more to the point, it’s just gone on and on and on, providing at least one meal a week and proving a useful source of extra greens (and yellows and pinks and reds and oranges) for throwing into stir fries and other dishes.

chard in basket

Clearing out some of the bolted plants and the dead leaves I discovered that the mice have apparently discovered it too, so some of the roots at the base have been nibbled away, so it’s possible its days are numbered. Fortunately the kale has recovered from the caterpillar onslaught and is ready to take over the green leafy vegetable heavy lifting.

kale cavolo nero

Realistically, of course, none of this will help come March 29th, if we do end up with a chaotic Brexit. As any gardener could have told the government, it’s the worst possible time of year to be inadvertently blockading your own country of imports of perishable food. Our potatoes will have long started sprouting and any remaining leeks, chard and beetroot bolted, although we may well still have some kale if the winter isn’t too harsh and the hares too hungry. No, the real purpose was to stockpile a little sanity and perspective, something that I suspect will be in even shorter supply than fresh vegetables in the coming months. Sometimes you just need to let the politicians get on with it, and go outside and get your hands dirty with a bit of honest gardening toil.

That, presumably, will still be an option on March 30th next year. Whatever the politicians decide.

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So you Think you Can Garden?

August 6, 2018

Regular readers may have detected a certain self-satisfaction, not to say smugness, creeping into recent gardening posts of mine. Not only do I have hot and cold running hares in the garden, but we also have been having loads of tasty veg to eat (if slightly limited in variety) and the other half’s greenhouse is looking pretty spiffy too…

 

And then I go and visit a friend whose parents have been gardening at scale in the same spot for almost 30 years and realise that when it comes to growing veg I know nothing …

huge veg garden

For instance, do we have an ancestral grapevine in the greenhouse?

grapevine in greenhouse

Or a marvellously organised polytunnel?

polytunnel

Or enough strawberries to supply Wimbledon?

strawberry bed

And I don’t even like celery, but seeing this, I almost want to grow it…

celery

This is definitely not how my fennel is looking

fennel

And why do I not have TWO compost turners (not to mention two pink wheelbarrows)?

compost turners and wheelbarrows

And while I might have rescued one bee …

bee sign and bee hives

There was more (sheep, chickens, flowerbeds, beautiful wood piles, precisely placed decorative broken pots, an actual box of useful hose parts) but I think I may have to go and have a little lie down…

row of peppers

Having put myself firmly back in the beginners’ class, I shall return home with renewed ambition and hope that by 2048 I too will be beginning to get the hand of this gardening lark.


Eating a Rainbow

July 4, 2018

Never mind all that gadding about in the sunshine in France, I hear you cry: what of the garden? How is your veg plot growing?

veg plot in july

Well, funny you should ask that – thanks to the fine weather and a helpful neighbour it’s all looking rather good, at least for now, although the hares have done their best to remove any danger we might have a glut of french beans by nibbling the seedlings as they emerge from the ground. They don’t seem to have quite the same taste for kale and rainbow chard though…

Unfortunately, as we were on our way back from France we had news of a family bereavement which means that rather than spending the next few weeks as we’d planned, going absolutely nowhere, the other half has already had to hot foot it back to the US and I will be following him for the weekend.

rainbow chard

This has left me home alone with no company but the hares, and the feeling that I ought to be at least trying to keep up with the garden’s production before it all starts to get out of hand. As someone who is not one of nature’s vegetable eaters, this is proving a bit of an effort. On the other hand, after a trip during which I struggled to eat even one serving of veg and one of fruit a day, let alone five of them, it will probably be good for me. Even if I’m still yet to find a completely convincing recipe for rainbow chard.

garden veg ready to cook

Perhaps I should invite the hares around for dinner?


Pottering On

May 4, 2018

Obeying the iron law that seeds only germinate *after* the gardener has given up on them, my Himalayan poppies have finally popped up having been planted in March and largely given up for dead in April.

himalayan poppy seedlings

There’s no end to the disasters that may befall these tiny little scraps of green before they get a chance to turn into any sort of display of flowers but it feels like an achievement anyway. And besides, tending seedlings is really my favourite part of gardening – as I said in my last post, my gardening tends to be of the kill or cure variety but there’s something about these hopeful little green shoots emerging from the soil that makes me spend far too much time watering them, turning them, blowing gently on them to encourage stronger growth, and just generally hanging over them hoping they’ll be okay out there in the big bad world.

pea plants going out

But all good things must come to an end, and my pea plants were beginning to tangle their tendrils with each other so out they went today in the first real test of our new raised beds (the potatoes got there first, but potatoes will effectively grow in anything so they don’t really count).

pea plants under cloches

For now they’re still getting a little cossetting with bottle cloches and a precautionary slug trap, but soon they’ll have to fend for themselves.

Meanwhile, if anyone’s got any tips for germinating lemon seeds, I’d be grateful. Assuming that the iron law doesn’t apply in this case, and the batch I planted weeks ago doesn’t surprise me tomorrow …


I’ll See your Veg and Raise you …

March 16, 2018

Vegetable plot in March

vegetable plot master plan

Master plan. Version 1 …

As I mentioned earlier, plans are afoot for raised beds in the veg plot, which is currently home to some overwintering and just-about-to-bolt leeks and some hare-nibbled kale. Indeed, I had gone so far as to measure out the space available, work out the size of raised beds I wanted and draw up an actual plan. I was quite pleased with myself at having done this by myself, no mean feat with a tape measure that’s not actually as long as the longest stretch of the vegetable plot.

Having sourced some locally made recycled plastic raised beds, and realised how expensive the whole thing was going to be, I then effectively parked the project to think about it for a while, until I either made a decision or some raised beds miraculously fell out of the sky, but with spring approaching and no alternatives magically presenting themselves, I ordered a single raised bed unit to see whether they looked okay in real life.

This arrived yesterday, about 3 hours after the email telling me it would be coming in 3-7 working days (always good to manage your customers’ expectations), so today I went out to do one last check of my measurements and set the bed up where it was likely to end up. Hmm. Top tip for gardeners: always best to ensure you have included the widths of the paths between the raised beds in your masterplan…

After recruiting the other half, a bit of re-measuring, the removal of one buddleia bush (don’t worry about the butterflies, the garden is currently about 30% buddleia by volume), the demolition of the hare defences, and the remeasuring of the space, we worked out that we did have space for everything, got the trial raised bed up and had a look.

recycled plastic raised bed

It is quite shiny, although I suspect that won’t last. Much as I like the aesthetic of wooden beds, I like the thought of adding to the market for recycled plastic products even more, so we’ve decided to go for it and buy 10 more to complete my master plan.

The master plan also includes better hare defences, and I’m thinking we can move our bay trees into the plot as well, as they seem to get fairly heavily nibbled by the hares, especially in the snow. But then again, there wasn’t much else in the garden they could eat during the snow apart from the kale. Obviously it would be ridiculous to have extra bay trees elsewhere in the garden, just for the hares. So we definitely won’t be doing that. Definitely. Ridiculous idea.

hare outside front door

Anyone know what other plants hares particularly like to eat?


Reaping What I Sow

July 18, 2017

One of the great pleasures of growing your own veg is being able to magic up a meal out of the garden when you suddenly remember that you were supposed to have gone shopping for a vital ingredient of the meal you had actually planned.

beetroot harvest

Of course the meal in question is usually some variation on the theme of ‘random veg frittata’, but this is usually pretty delicious, so I’m not complaining.

In fact, though I’ll undoubtedly come to regret saying this, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the veg plot so far. Despite radical neglect from me, and the attention of the hares, it does seem as if the whole no-dig and plenty of organic matter approach has worked remarkably well. It’s all a bit unruly and I can barely get to my peas to harvest them but they are growing better than they did in the old plot.

lush growth in the veg plot

As long as I can find them while they’re still sweet enough to eat straight from the pod, then that counts as a win. Peas rarely make it to the kitchen in this household.

peapod

And my neglect of some of the wilder corners of the rest of the garden has also reaped an unexpected reward. I decided to leave some of the wild raspberry canes when I noticed they were producing fruit, and as a bonus, one of them is producing yellow raspberries, which are absolutely delicious.

Now I just have to work out how to incorporate them into the rest of the garden…


First Find your Veg Plot

July 6, 2017

We needed potatoes tonight, and the first of the earlies were likely to be ready. There was just one problem …

overgrown veg

I’ve been neglecting the veg plot recently, it’s safe to say. There’s just too much other garden to be getting on with, not to mention all the other things I’ve been doing and so I’ve been letting the hares keep on top of the weeding, without, it must be said, a great deal of success.

Fortunately, most of what’s in the plot this year is stuff that can just get on with things themselves, like broad beans

broad beans

And potatoes of course.

First potatoes

First crop of new potatoes. Very satisfying

Mental note to self: next year, plant the earlies right by the entrance to the plot, instead of deep in the back corner.

veg plot found

By tradition, all home grown veg is nothing less than delicious.

potatoes being cooked

And these were no exception.