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.

 


What Lies Beneath

March 25, 2017

So, I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath to discover how the manky pink carpet experiment has been getting on.

carpet-covered veg bed

Well, as it happens, due to a rare confluence of events that meant I was not required to be in a random Scottish city this weekend, combined with a slight lull in the immediate pressure of POP preparation (but there’s still time to contribute to our crowd funder, just saying), and a day promising sunshine and light winds, gave me the perfect (indeed, possibly the only) opportunity to find out. In fact, I would have been hard pressed not to spend today out in the garden, given the gloriousness of the weather.

potatoes chitting

So far this year, my entire preparation for growing veg has been a half-hour trolley dash through potato day (top tip: label your seed potato bags before you pick your potatoes, and then put them in alphabetical order for maximum efficiency), and chitting my seed potatoes. I knew that the carpet hasn’t been down long enough to properly deal with the weeds or let the organic matter break down, but spring waits for nobody, and I decided to open up the first bed and put my first and second earlies in today.

veg bed uncovered

If I’d been hoping that underneath there had been a magical transformation into wonderful friable rich soil, I would have been disappointed, but if I’ve learned anything in gardening these past few years it’s to manage my expectations, so I was just pleased to discover that the grass it had covered up wasn’t just sitting there unscathed. There are still some clumps hanging in there to deal with, and a lot of the coarser plant material hadn’t broken down yet, but there was also a fairly healthy population of worms. So the carpet has saved me a lot of digging, although I suspect come later in the season when I’m battling the weeds that did survive, I will wish I’d been more patient

Fortunately potatoes have a fierce determination to grow and will do so even in a light-proof plastic bin so I suspect they will manage anyway (that said, I note that last year I was still putting potatoes in at the end of April, which might explain why we had such a rubbish crop – I had forgotten that. Clearly you can push even a seed potato too far.)

Anyway, given that I haven’t even bought any seeds yet, he rest of the bed can remain under the carpet for now, hopefully mulching down into something marvellous. Meanwhile the now-spare carpet has been moved up to where the fruit cage will be, which is currently about 50% nettle roots by volume. I don’t think we’ll be planting our raspberry canes there for a while …

potatoes planted

What with all the digging, lugging about of heavy stuff and general hard labour, I feel a bit broken now, but it does feel good to have got started for the season.


Man Bites Potato

June 10, 2016

potato plants in greenhouse

‘It’s not so much the space they’re taking up,’ the other half said, as he enquired when I’d be digging up the potatoes in the greenhouse. ‘It’s that I’m worried they might grab a leg as I squeeze past and have me for supper…’

potato flowers

It’s true that the potato plants in the greenhouse have grown almost obscenely luxuriant, including even the flowers, but fortunately the one I dug up this afternoon didn’t appear to have any half-digested gardeners among the tubers

first potatoes

So we had them for supper instead. They were, naturally, delicious and happily non-exploding (and I note that we’re precisely one day earlier harvesting our first potatoes than we were last year).

potato harvest

Along with some lettuce, which is already getting out of hand.

lettuce plants

Note that this very close-cropped and selective shot is the pretty much the only angle from which my veg plot looks even mildly well tended. A friend came up to visit this morning and saw the worst, but hopefully she will spare my blushes.


Gardening Leave

May 6, 2016

campaign t-shirts on the line

I find myself between jobs (and campaigning) for a week or two – a rare luxury. Naturally there is all sorts of admin backlog I should be getting on with, which I’m chipping away at, but there is finally the time (and the weather) to try and catch up with the garden.

broad beans planted

The first batch of broad beans are in, as are the peas – and the last of the seed potatoes went in today, which may be something of a record for late planting.

seedlings awaiting planting

The queue of things awaiting planting doesn’t seem to get any shorter though. And you’ll note the careful camera angles so you can’t see the weeds and the overgrown paths …

Maybe if I get a few more days to catch up with myself I’ll be able to show you what it really looks like. Well, assuming that this really is the onset of spring and it isn’t about to start snowing again …


Expectations Management

April 30, 2016

Well, miracle of miracles, I got out and did some gardening today. I still have too much work to do, although the end may be in sight, but with Pedal on Parliament finished – meaning that it’s now possible to actually finish dealing with my emails before the next tranche arrive – and the garden backlog getting steadily more urgent, I decided that if I didn’t get out now then I might as well give up on the veg this year. All I needed was some decent weather and I could get my seed potatoes in, or at least the first and second earlies, before it was too late.

wrinkled seed potatoes

Top tip for gardeners: don’t wait until your seed potatoes look like this. Although apparently they will still grow

Now if you’d told me even a week ago that a day when there was only one sudden violent hailstorm, plus intermittent icy showers, no actual ground frost and a forecast of it not to snow again at least for a while would count as decent gardening weather, I’d have looked at you as if you were mad – but after the weather we’ve had in recent days, we’ll take what we can get, frankly…


Ready or Not

April 5, 2016

Are you bored of the ‘I’m too busy to blog about anything except about how I’m too busy to blog’ posts yet? I know I am … Things are hotting up as the preparations for Pedal on Parliament enter their last few weeks and suddenly it’s April and how did that happen?

Anyway, for those of you waiting with bated breath to find out whether the seed potatoes survived, they appear to be fine. Not planted yet – don’t be ridiculous – but fine.

seed potatoes in greenhouse

And I think they may be ready to start growing, if the potatoes we had stored in the basket in the kitchen are anything to go by.

potato shoots

Let me out of here!

I shall enter the greenhouse warily next time I go up. I don’t want to be grabbed by the ankle by a desperate tuber shoot, begging to be planted.

potato shoots


Before a Fall

March 31, 2016

seeds planted

As I took this photo in the greenhouse yesterday – pleased at having caught up a bit with my gardening backlog and got all the ‘sow by March’ seeds at least started in the greenhouse – I reflected that, over the years, I had managed to pick up a few bits and pieces about this grow-your-own lark (after all, making mistakes is probably the most effective way to learn). While things might change if we move to a new place with new soil and new pests and a different microclimate, at least in my old familiar plot in the walled garden I knew enough to get the growing season off to a good start in a pretty slick operation, even if I did say so myself.

With the other half’s tomatoes and tomatilloes germinating on the kitchen windowsill, and the chillie seeds enjoying the gentle heat of the rayburn, and the seed potatoes chitting nicely at the back of the greenhouse ready to be dug in, I went to bed feeling that we had done a good days’s work.

And woke to a heavy frost. I *think* the seed potatoes should have survived it, but who knows what a seed potato that has succumbed to frost looks like, compared to one that hasn’t?

Certainly not me …