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.

All Good Things …

December 12, 2016

… must come to an end, and that includes the old veg plot and greenhouse.

destroyed kale

The rabbit has been systematically working its way through the curly kale (you know, you wouldn’t think rabbits were all that systematic but they do seem to like to eat things in order).

chillies ripening

I do like the way these chillies ripen, as if they had been dipped in paint (or held in the fire until they glowed red hot)

In the greenhouse, the tomatoes are finished and we should really put the tomatilloes out of their misery, but the chillies are still staggering on and producing chillies. In fact, there’s a three-line whip in the town mouse household at the moment – if it’s possible to put chillies in a dish, then in they go (fortunately they’re not that hot)

chilli crop

Meanwhile, after five years of trying, I appear to have cracked the secret of growing a decent crop of leeks: move house before they are due to be ready.


Fun as it is to have a new garden to play with and a whole new vegetable plot of my very own, I’m really going to miss the old plot. Not many people get a proper walled kitchen garden to play with (even a part of it) and a big greenhouse to boot. I’ve learned a lot in the past few years – mostly of the ‘what not to do’ variety – and we’ve eaten well as a result, even if occasionally it’s felt like an effort to get through all of the bounty that’s been produced. If I’m feeling sufficiently sentimental, I may even go through some of the edit highlights before I finally say goodbye.

We’ll have to wait and see what lies beneath the carpet in the spring and start a whole new vegetable growing adventure …

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 …

Hungry Gap

January 20, 2015

I was reading some cookery writer in the papers describing the ‘hungry gap’ as this point in the year, when there’s nothing to eat but kale and root vegetables, which had me muttering ‘hashtag firstworldproblems‘ at my weekend supplement (yes, I do spend rather a long time on twitter these days, why do you ask?). In fact, as anyone who grows their own vegetables year round knows, the real ‘hungry gap’ is May and June when all your winter vegetables have either been eaten or sprouted and the rest haven’t really got going. At this time of the year, as I was tweeting smugly only the other day, we’ve got relatively plentiful fresh produce – leeks, parsnips, kale, more kale, a bit of perpetual spinach, some over-eager purple sprouting broccoli, and, bizarrely, spring onions.

Or at least that was the picture until the ground froze solid. The parsnips will now need a pickaxe to extract them from the ground, and the leeks and spring onions aren’t going anywhere until it thaws either. That leaves some beetroot which has been frozen and defrosted enough times that it has started to delaminate in interesting ways, and the kale, which is looking a bit … well over-harvested (you’ll have to excuse the quality of the picture; my phone camera gets almost as excited about a bit of sunlight as I do these days).

kale patch

Tell me, does everyone’s kale patch look like this at this time of the year or is mine the only one channelling Dr. Zeuss?

Me and Julio Down by the Kail Yard

August 15, 2014

Heading up to pick kale for our supper tonight, I thought I might have solved the mystery of where all the caterpillars had gone, or rather one of them at least:

cabbage white butterfly

Under the netting was a cabbage white* butterfly. I don’t know if it was too chilly to move, or had died of loneliness (because there weren’t any others, nor any caterpillars either) but it stuck around long enough to get its portrait taken, and then be deposited well away from my brassicas.

aphids on kale

All is not entirely well with the kale though, with some of the tops of the plants infested with aphids of some sort. I just cut off the affected parts of the plant and chucked them away. It adds to my suspicion that netting brassicas causes as many problems as it solves. Especially if the butterflies keep turning up on the wrong side of the nets.

That said, there is still rather a lot of kale. Let the other half’s joy be unconfined.

lots of kale

* Pedantic entomologists will tell you that there is no such thing as a cabbage white butterfly. They can feel free to identify this one in the comments; until then, it’s a cabbage white.

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

Gardening Weather. No, Really

February 27, 2014

A strange thing happened this afternoon – I looked out of the window just before 5pm and realised that not only was it not dark, but that it was actually nice weather. And I was getting tired and cranky from looking at my computer all day and needed a bit of a break. And I hadn’t been out in my garden for weeks other than to empty the compost bucket and raid the kale patch.* So I siezed the day and dashed outside to get something done and had, ooh, a whole half an hour before the skies darkened and it started hailing. It was nice while it lasted though.

hail storm

What’s worse than raining cats and dogs? Hailing taxis…

Worryingly, I noticed that the weedlings have already started sprouting underneath all the vegetation. It’s too much to hope that they’ve just been battered to death by the hail, I suppose?

* And seriously, when did kale suddenly become a thing? We only grow it because it’s one of the three things that reliably grow in the Scottish climate, along with onions and tatties…

Trolliday Jobs

August 6, 2013

Here’s what I managed to get up to in the garden on Sunday when I was busy avoiding twitter:

netted kale

This represents *either* me having just netted the kale in time to prevent it from being munched wholesale by cabbage white caterpillars … or me having erected a nice protective net to prevent the cabbage white caterpillars from being picked off by the birds. Only time will tell. It also represents, now I come to look at it, an awful lot of kale. I thought that last year, of course, and the pheasant ended up eating most of it, but I think this year we and the caterpillars will have enough to share.

lone celeriac

Unlike my celeriac. Although I should point out that this is an infinite percent increase on last year’s celeriac crop of zero.

It’s not Often…

May 3, 2013

… I can combine gardening and cycle campaigning but this week townmouse is proud to present:

101 uses for a dead spoke reflector

101 uses for a dead spoke reflector

How to protect your kale from marauding pheasants, while also promoting cycling. Seems to work a treat too …