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.


June 17, 2014

salad and spring onions

As a long period of far too much gadding about begins to draw to a close, we passed a bit of a milestone in the garden, with the first salad picked this weekend. That makes it the first crop for this growing season. Everything else is madly behind except for the broad beans, which are quietly going beserk and seem impervious to neglect. I must have a rummage and see if there’s enough beans in there to make them worth picking.

Broad beans

On the other hand, my peas are looking pretty weedy for some reason (although I have no idea why we call it that: weeds themselves never seem to be weedy; in robust health would be more like it)

weedy looking peas

As ever, my garden provides a mixture of pleasure and angst. I could happily spend hours doing activities which would be dangerously close to ‘tidying up’ if done indoors but which are highly enjoyable in the context of a garden. The painful part comes when I don’t have hours to potter in and the list of things to be done urgently gets longer and longer. Growing veg is pretty time consuming and planting dates wait for no man. I’ve already lost half my fennel by keeping it too long before planting it out and the celeriac was a complete non starter. Everything else is being threatened by weeds. I comfort myself with the thought that you can never actually finish gardening so it’s all relative. However, it would be nice to be able to find the crop in among the weeds

vegetable plot in June

My fellow gardening pal in the village keeps dropping hints about coming up for a look round the plot. His own tiny garden is always crammed with immaculately kept and meticulously planned veg. There’s only so long I can continue to fob him off with stories of outbreaks of bubonic plague and/or zombie apocalypses before he’ll get suspicious. I’ll just have to keep cracking on until I have something worth showing off or at least something that won’t get me hauled before the court for garden neglect.

The mystery beans, at least, are doing well.

mystery climbing beans

Sweet Peas

June 28, 2010

The first peas are ready

The problem is finding them

Of course, when I say ready, I mean that some of them are ready, but not enough for an actual meal. The first pick produced a small handful of pods which, when shelled, produced around a mouthful of petits pois, not quite round yet. Not really worth cooking, so I decided to try eating them raw, as I’d heard that some people like them that way.

Um. Wow.

I knew peas were sweet, but only that they were sweet the way sweetcorn is sweet, or roast parsnips: vegetably sweet, as in not actively bitter. I popped the first tiny pea into my mouth and bit down and was rewarded with a burst of pure sugar. Why did nobody tell me this as a child? I thought, although of course everyone had and I just assumed it was part of the great adult conspiracy to get me to eat vile vegetables by hook or by crook (see also avocado). We sat on the step and just ate them there and then – I was going to say as a healthy snack, but it felt about as healthy as crunching up sugarlumps. If really fresh peas were actually available in the shops they’d have to have one of those traffic light warnings on them. They’re basically all sugar.

Now I know most of you will be nodding and/or rolling your eyes and saying yeah, everyone knows peas are sweet, talk about the bleeding obvious, but hey, I came late to the world of vegetables and it occurred to me that maybe I’m not alone. So if you have never actually eaten a freshly picked and barely ready pea straight from the vine, do it, because those little green pellets you’ve got in your freezer are nothing like the real thing.  And do it quick before the children find out about them and grab them all.

O Frabjous Day

March 19, 2010

Calloo callay – my purple sprouting broccoli are sprouting. Actually, make that my purple sprouting broccoli is sprouting, because only one is, the rest are just, apparently, purple broccoli. It seems a rather meagre recompense for all the time spent planting, replanting, caterpillar picking and anxiously brushing snow off them all winter, but maybe the rest will catch up. We’ll see.

Apart from that, it’s all go in the vegetable patch as I’m desperately trying to keep up with the accelerated spring. The onion sets are in, I’ve chitted and planted more parsnips, my potatoes are chitting, my peas have germinated and the first eight broad bean seedlings are even now settling in under my proper grown up cloche. I’m starting off pretty much everything in pots which means some careful scheduling of the kitchen windowsill, the only spot in the house both warm and light enough to guarantee germination. I think I can get everything started in time, but it’s going to be a close run thing. Remind me, when I’m luxuriating in my freshly picked, delicious home grown vegetables, just how much work goes into them before there’s any reward.

It’s fashionable these days to want to be in the moment, savouring the here and now and not worrying about the future. But whoever it was who said ‘live your life as though each day was your last’ probably didn’t get much gardening done. But then, they probably also never spent a whole year anxiously nurturing a bed of broccoli plants in exchange for a single sprouting spear.

Garden Update

June 13, 2009

… because I know you’re all just desperate to know how my garden is doing. (You are, aren’t you? Just wait, I’ll take up decorating next, and keep you posted on how the moisture levels in the paint are decreasing).


Broad Bean Pod

Anyway, we harvested our first potatoes last night. This was less to do with whether the potatoes were ready and more to do with a slight catering crisis – it turns out that having four people in the house instead of two means we get through bags of potatoes faster. So anyway – three and a half potatoes, yay! They were – well, convention dictates that I tell you that these were the most delicious potatoes I have ever eaten, at least since the last first crop of freshly dug home-grown potatoes I ate. And they probably were but, you know, when all is said and done, a potato is a potato is a potato.

Replanted Broccoli. There is some in there, honest

Replanted Broccoli. There is some in there, honest

Meanwhile, the broad beans are showing the first tiny pods, the replacement broccoli seedlings are in, the parsnips are given up for dead, the peas are climbing like crazy but not flowering yet, and I have one – count ‘em – surviving leek. I’m thinking of growing it to mammoth proportions and entering it into the village show as I can’t really think of any other real use for a single leek.


Peas and Beans

But far more interestingly* than all that, I have started a spreadsheet! There have been a lot of excited articles in the newspapers recently about how you can beat the credit crunch by growing your own vegetables. I’m sceptical on this one. My experience of growing your own vegetables is that you get fresh and delicious** vegetables and (when they survive) they’re fun to grow, and it’s good exercise and you control what chemicals go into them, if any, and it’s a very minor way of cutting your food miles, but I’ve never really seen it as a way to save money. After all, by definition you’ll be eating them when they are in season and hence pretty cheap in the shops. And any casual glance at a catalogue or a garden centre shows that there’s an infinite amount of stuff you can spend money on. I’m a pretty tight, sorry frugal, gardener but I’ve already spent around (oh all right then, exactly) £31.40 on seeds, compost, and getting my round in at the slug pub. Meanwhile, 120g of freshly dug new potatoes (retailing at £2.99 a kg in Tescos) has saved me precisely 36p.It’s early days, of course. But I’ll be interested to see if I break even on the plot this year. And even though you won’t be, I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

*adjusted for being about gardening. And spreadsheets

**adjusted for being vegetables

If my Life were a Reality TV Show…

April 10, 2009

…the narrator today would have been intoning:

‘Day 22 of Seedling Watch, and up at the vegetable patch there’s still no sign of any life…’


‘…Or is there?’

bean_sprout pea_sprout

Yup, shortly after I really did give them up for dead, my peas and beans have started germinating. So in a fit of more mad optimism I’ve planted my broccoli and gem squash*. The jury is still out on the parsnips though – while there are signs of something coming up, I can’t remember what parsnip seedlings look like so I’m not convinced it’s them and there’s not enough of them yet to make it obvious.

And it’s not just my seeds that are showing signs of life…

horse chestnut
Horse Chestnut in leaf

*I know you all have zero interest in these details, but I can’t be arsed to keep a proper garden notebook so this will have to do.


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