Gardens with Benefits

July 29, 2021

If you ignore the fact that the magnificent towering pink flower spikes to the left of this picture are, in fact, willowherb and hence, technically (but who decides these things anyway?), weeds, the garden is looking almost … gardenish from certain angles.

Garden in July

Much of my gardening activity in recent weeks has been in the form of making piles, moving piles and occasionally removing things from piles and putting them in their final home. It’s hard to tell whether any of this is ultimately going to be productive or not, but it gets me outside and keeps me happy and that’s the main thing. Today was the turn of the large pile of weed roots outside the fruit cage, some of which have rotted down sufficiently to be put in the compost (or would be, if all three compost daleks weren’t full) and some of which have sprouted and had to be pulled up anew.

raspberry canes outside fruit cate

In doing so, I noted that we actually have more fruit outside the fruit cage than within it, as the top half of our garden is rampant with wild raspberries, while I’ve just excavated the wild strawberries out from under some more rampant plants in the flowerbed beside it and they have been producing a steady trickle of delicious little berries. None of these have troubled the kitchen at all, as they tend to go straight into the gardener. There have got to be some perks to the job, after all.

wild strawberries

In other news, our neighbours report that they have had rabbits in their veg plot. This is bad news for the neighbours and turned out to be quite bad news for the rabbits, once they’d been caught. It will ultimately be bad news for us once the rabbits work out that there is another garden down the hill a bit with some southern townie softies who are unlikely to be as free with the shotgun but for now it is good news as it turns out that the rabbits ate their pea plants. The neighbours have been generously leaving surplus eggs on our doorstep at regular intervals, which is extremely welcome but has created an imbalance in the rural favours calculus. However, as we have a massive surplus of both peas and mangetout, I’ve finally been able to tip the scales back a little in our favour (as well as keep on top of the picking which has been getting away from me somewhat in recent weeks).

peas

In other news, the Hare’s Toothbrush, given up for dead for the second winter in three years, is … not.

Cordyline

This would be better news if I hadn’t just planted what will be a massive cardoon right next to it.


Out with the Old

January 8, 2017

We had one last task left over from 2016 this afternoon – finishing up at the old plot and clearing out the greenhouse.

We weren’t the only ones doing a bit of clearing up – as we approached the gate, a buzzard flew out of the walled garden and when we got in there we found out why. Just be thankful that I decided there was no tasteful way to photograph what was effectively the top third of a rabbit. Too late for most of my veg, unfortunately.

clearing out kale plants

We came away with the last leeks, a few token kale leaves and broccoli sprouts, and a bag full of chilies.

And that’s all, folks.

empty greenhouse

2017 will be all about the new veg plot, a fruit cage, and hopefully finding a replacement greenhouse. I cycle past an empty one every time I go into Bigtown which is slowly falling into decrepitude. One day I may have to stop and make them an offer…

road ahead

No reason for this photograph, except I liked it


Well, That Was Quick

May 12, 2016

I haven’t even caught up with the garden backlog yet, and the disasters have already begun

Chomped broad beans

I’m really hoping this isn’t the return of the rabbit. The guys who do the landlords’ gardening bring along a couple of jack russells* with them, one of which had apparently dispatched a couple of rabbits over the winter, but they were up in the walled garden yesterday and didn’t encounter any bunnies. And besides, a rabbit would have eaten all of them, so it may be mice.

chilli flakes on broad beans

Whatever it is, I am following the advice of Gardeners’ Question Time and trying chilli flakes as a deterrent. OK, so the advice was for your bulbs, not your already planted (and partially chomped) broad beans, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Or I may just have made my pea and bean plants extra tasty for the more adventurous rodents, but time will tell on that one

chilli flakes on peas

There is exciting house news, but that will have to wait … Have a bluebell instead

bluebell

*I actually had to ask what breed they were because they looked a bit like jack russells but they weren’t yapping their heads off.


Best Served Cold. Or Warm, in a Creamy Sauce with Potato and Broccoli

October 7, 2015

No time to blog properly, but I would like to record that we were invited to lunch today by a fellow gardener and took great delight in dining on …

(if you’re of a sensitive disposition don’t read on)

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.

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… bunny rabbit stew. Not *the* rabbit, although the rabbitter in question does apparently do house calls. I wonder if he charges double for delivering gardeners their nemesis, skinned and ready for the pot…

There was then a great quantity of entertaining gossip about said rabbitter and his tangled love life but unfortunately none of it can be related here. The more one gets involved in local life, the less blogging one can actually do.


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 …


Rabbiting On

August 11, 2015

It is a sign that something is amiss with your supposedly rabbit-proof walled garden when a) it has rabbits in it and b) the more rabbit-sized of the two dogs you have borrowed to help flush out the rabbits or at least put them off their kale suddenly appears *outside* the walled garden, looking in. We’re not sure entirely how, but I suspect a non-rabbit-proof fence is part of the equation.

At one point a rabbit appeared and made a run for cover, but not at a pace which suggests the dogs had inspired any panic. Sadly, in the five years (blimey, is it really that long?) since she last effectively cleared the walled garden of marauding rabbits, the older of the two has become less of a formidable enemy of bunny-kind and more of a sedate old lady. And the younger – the result of what is suspected to be a liaison between a staffy and basset hound – just doesn’t have the stick-toitiveness of a proper rabbit-chasing dog. Still, we may not have done much about the rabbits, but we did give two dogs a very nice half hour hurtling through the overgrown flower beds and smelling all manner of brilliant smells. And if it persuades the rabbits to move out and find somewhere that is not infested by dogs with the body of a brindled bolster and the legs of an Edwardian sideboard, then all to the good.

And the furry little bastards still aren’t eating the (now bolting) lettuce…


Weeding Frenzy

July 10, 2015

Let the record show:

vegetable plot in July

It may not last …

After a couple of weeks of a light workload and no gadding about, I have finally got the veg plot something like under control (with a bit of help from the other half). I think we can agree that this is something of an improvement on a month ago

overgrown paths on vegetable plot

Previously, on Town Mouse…

Not that everything in the garden is entirely rosy – those weedy things in the foreground are squash and pumpkin plants, which are looking especially pathetic, with the exception of the one which took matters into its own hands and sent its tap root so deeply out of the pot it was in, it effectively planted itself in the greenhouse (the other half took pity on it and cut it free of its pot in the end).

self-planting pumpkin

And it looks as if Peter Rabbit has been busy with the perpetual spinach

perpetual spinach plant munched by rabbit

While totally ignoring our glut of lettuce.

totally untouched lettuce

The peas … what can I say about the peas? There is another bed of them which is doing slightly better but we’re a long way from having enough peas to trouble a saucepan with. Fortunately a handful of pods makes for a decent reward for a hungry gardener

pathetic pea plants

Still we will not be short of fennel in a hurry…

fennel plants

And we have kale. Lots and lots and lots of kale. This is about one-third of it. What was I thinking?

plenty of kale

Oh yeah, that I should grow stuff that’s suited to the Scottish climate and virtually unkillable even through neglect. And, apparently, not particularly palatable to rabbits…


You Know you’ve been Neglecting your Garden When…

June 29, 2015

… you head up to your veg plot and discover that the rabbits are busy moving in under the purple-sprouting broccoli

rabbit hole

This is not good news, as getting rabbits out of a walled garden is harder than you might think. The sad truth is, though, that this is no more than I deserve as I’ve let myself become just too busy to put any real time into my veg. Fortunately, the other half, meanwhile, has been doing sterling work in the greenhouse, complete with our first tomatillos (hopefully – who knows what lurks inside all that packaging?)

tomatillo fruit

Still, today I finished one mega job that has been taking up most of my waking hours. And with the Cycling Embassy AGM out of the way, I now have no more places I have to be – except home – for a while. I have regretfully turned down the opportunity to go to Birmingham for a meeting, there are no deadlines looming, and life will, I hope, return to something like normality for a while.

dry ford

although what’s normal about a completely dry ford?!

Starting with routine ford inspections, naturallement


Down an Actual Rabbithole

June 20, 2014

A week of fine weather, limited gadding and a light work schedule has meant that I’ve managed to … well, catch up with the gardening would be putting it strongly, but almost everything that was climbing out of its pots to be planted has been planted, the weeds are now in most cases lower than the plants they are engulfing, and I’m beginning to see how the year might not be a complete disaster, veg wise.

cleared gravel

This afternoon it was almost too hot to be up in the walled garden – yes, really (or perhaps I’ve lived in Scotland too long). So I switched to my other obsession which is reclaiming the cobbles and gravel from the encroaching vegetation, which is rapidly making the transition from ‘very Chelsea‘ to ‘second growth forest’. It’s one of those jobs which, when I’m in the right frame of mind and there’s something good on the radio, I can do pretty much indefinitely. If you want to know how indefinitely, and you’re familiar with the Radio 4 schedule, I ended up weeding from the start of Gardener’s Question time to the end of the News Quiz. It doesn’t seem to have cleared much gravel, but I’m now incredibly well informed about everything from splitting herbaceous perennials to the superpowers of Susan Calman. Fortunately, I don’t think it’s possible to overdose on Radio 4 but I’ve certainly got some interesting aches developing in my weeding arm…

The cleared cobbles are being planted with creeping thyme, something I first mooted three years ago, bought the seeds for a year ago, and am now actually getting round to doing, which is about normal for my schedule. Whether it will work or not, only time will tell. In my head, of course, it’s already forming a gorgeous scented weed-suppressing carpet underfoot.

creeping thyme seedlings

In other news, a rabbit has been spotted in the walled garden, and an exploration with a friend’s dogs this morning discovered this going in under the fence on the south side:

rabbit hole under fence

I may have to get all Jeanette Winterson on their arses. Or more likely find a humane way of blocking it up while apologising to the rabbits.*

*not because I’m against killing rabbits, just because I’m a bit of a wuss


In the Interests of Balance…

July 27, 2011

… I feel I should point out that, yesterday’s post notwithstanding, our meal planning this week has revolved around the need to eat up all the beetroot, broad beans, peas, potatoes (the Shetland Dark), salad, Romanesco, perpetual spinach and, unexpectedly, purple-sprouting broccoli which wasn’t supposed to start sprouting until next April but which managed to confuse the early part of summer with winter (an easy mistake to make) and has gone already.

In the interests of balancing this balance I should add that a baby rabbit was spotted lurking behind the water butt this afternoon so it could all still end in tears. If only for the rabbit.