Baselining

May 31, 2017

With the other half finally home, and things slightly easing off on the bonkers busy front, it’s been time to start getting to grips with the gardening backlog. Today, I managed an hour or so listening to the radio (PM is as ever the only news programme that’s bearable during election time, indeed increasingly the only news programme that’s bearable full stop) and planting out my leek seedlings while the other half tackled the grass.

leek seedlings

I’m putting this year’s veg growing down to establishing a baseline – things can only improve from here, effectively. Especially as I discovered this morning that the Small Emergency Backup Hare is using the potato patch as its current chilling spot. Clearly my hare defences need to be exchanged for something less rustic and more agricultural, possibly involving chicken wire and/or baler twine.

veg plot at the end of May

Meanwhile, the Large Main Hare and another Large Main Hare appear to be working on the stock of Small Emergency Backup Hares, although Mrs Main Hare doesn’t seem to be too keen right at the moment. Yesterday, as I headed off on my bike to Bigtown they were so busy chasing eachother round the farmyard at the bottom of the hill they were actually running towards me instead of away – I can only hope they’re a bit more wary around the cars. And I’ve discovered that, for an animal with a reputation for the uncanny and the magical, when hares get frisky with each other they’re actually pretty heavy footed (especially when you’re all alone in the house and wondering what on earth is thundering around outside). Humans clearly aren’t the only ones to totally lose their cool in the presence of the opposite sex…

frisky hares

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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.

leeks

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…


Last of the Winter Leeks

April 5, 2013

last of the leeks
This represents not just the last of the winter leeks – but probably 50% of the entire harvest… Riddle me this: why is it my leeks come out looking like spring onions, while everyone else here seems to be able to effortlessly grow enormous sturdy looking leeks – while my parsnips, which nobody else seems to be able to grow at all here, come out looking like this?

giant parsnips

This year, it will be different…


Winter Gardening

March 28, 2013

First find your leeks…

snow covered leeks

Actually, scratch that – first find your basket…

snow covered basket

In the interests of strict accuracy these pictures were taken a couple of days back, and today we’ve had actual sunshine and, if not warmth, at least the return of sensation to our fingers and toes. The snow is also gradually melting, although I expect the big piles along the roadsides will be with us for a while.

I had hoped that the snow would offer me one benefit – I might find out who or what has been eating my kale, which has basically been reduced to sticks. Yesterday, the other half reported pheasant footprints around the kale bed in the snow, so I went up this afternoon to get documentary proof only to discover this:

non-snow-covered kale

The miscreant has obviously been watching CSI:Bigtown and has decided to cover its tracks. As this would make it some kind of garden criminal mastermind, I think we can pretty well eliminate pheasants from our enquiries…

Update

I wish a certain grey furry miscreant would learn the same trick

muddy cat footprints


Let the Sun Shine In*

March 9, 2013
shed_windowsill

shed windowsill once the growing season gets underway

If I learned anything from my vegetable growing experience last year (and there are some who may question that…) it’s that a few really healthy plants (eg. Squash) are far more productive than a lot of weedy ones, like my leeks. Of course a whole load of really healthy plants would be more productive than anything, but that does tend to lead to problems of its own. I know already that almost nothing germinates here unless I start it off indoors, but windowsill space is at a premium around here as I haven’t a greenhouse. The kitchen windowsill is the warmest spot but faces east so anything that spends too long there tends to end up rather spindly. The only south-facing window we have is in the shed and so that’s where things get hardened off and there’s just not enough room to give everything the space it needs.

shed window

So this spring, gee’d on by Gardener’s Question Time’s seasonal tips, I decided to get the shed in a bit of order and try and increase the amount of sunny window space available so I don’t have to cram everything in so much. The other half came up with a cunning plan for putting some height in, but first I decided cleaning the window for the first time in what looks like this century would be a good idea

ancient cobwebs

I think some of those cobwebs might have been Grade II listed.

Now all we need is the sun. Oh, and time to get everything planted, of course.

*assuming it ever comes back, that is


Spring Harvest

February 25, 2013

Heading up to the veg plot yesterday to see what it is like when it isn’t doing its best impression of a rice paddy,* I was surprised to hear the sounds of voices from people working in the woods beyond. It turns out that the landlords have had the cunning wheeze of getting their snowdrops thinned for fun and profit: some nice young men come along with implements of destruction, dig up the snowdrops while they’re still in flower (so they know what they’re getting) and then pay £20 for a tray of singles – and £35 for a tray of doubles. Given that the snowdrops very quickly grow back (in fact they’re better for the thinning) and grow like weeds up here anyway, it’s a bit like finding someone willing to buy rain, or mud, or midgies (all of which I have no doubt you’re going to tell me have a lively online commodity market. OK, maybe not midgies).

Still, it put the landlord in a good mood and meanwhile I have at least managed to convert mud and rain and midge bites into a number of giant parsnips, one of which I traded for one of the landlord’s giant leeks, my own being disappointingly weedy this year. These were then converted into curried parsnip soup for lunch and, ultimately, cycling fuel (or possibly extra padding and/or insulation…) I would like to say that there can be no nobler fate for my garden’s produce but honesty compels me to state that I wouldn’t mind finding someone willing to pay me cold hard cash for crocosmia corms or, come to think of it, ground elder roots, especially if they’re willing to dig them up themselves.

Offers in the comments please. Unless you’re about to tell me that ground elder is edible, in which case I KNOW, it’s just that it also tastes like hedge.

* we have had a week – A WHOLE WEEK, people – of practically no rain. I’ve not yet heard someone complain about the drought but it’s surely only a matter of time