Bringing in the Dinosaur Harvest

October 13, 2014

Now that I’ve resumed light gardening duties, it was time to tackle the dinosaur eggs, otherwise known as Purple Podded Best beans, which have done rather spectacularly well. The problem with getting seeds handed over in a mysterious little unlabelled bag is that they don’t come with any instructions. So I wasn’t sure exactly when or how to harvest. I was going to leave them on the plants until the frost killed them off, but a bit more googling suggested that this wasn’t a great idea in a damp climate so today I hoicked them up to dry them indoors.


Some of the pods had actually dried out (we really did have a spectacularly dry September) and were looking rather spiffy.

bean pod

Others had gone a bit soft so I pulled those off the plants and shelled them and the rest got hung up to dry in the shed on an improvised rack.

bean plants ready to dry

Even further googling suggests that podding them and drying them in the Rayburn’s warming oven might be an even better option, and it might still come to that, although then they won’t germinate, which slightly misses the point of having some heritage orphan seeds.

the harvest so far

Anyway, seeing as these were given to me by a seed guardian, and it’s all about preserving varieties for posterity, if anyone would like a mysterious baggie of dinosaur eggs of their own then give me a shout in the comments, although you might want to wait until we’ve actually tried eating them and tell you what they taste like. Or at least confirm that they aren’t going to eat us…

squash harvest

In other news I’m unimpressed by my squash harvest. My friend suggested that they were ‘mainly ornamental’ but ‘not even particularly ornamental’ would seem to be closer to the mark. Depending on how they taste, I’m going to have to try harder to get hold of gem squash again for next year…



October 12, 2013

Nothing to say really, except that the squash harvest is in. Having really struggled to grow these at first, there’s something extra pleasing about them now. Well, that and the fact that you cook them loaded with butter and pepper…

gem squash

And talking of things I struggle to grow, what on earth am I supposed to do with my sole surviving celeriac? Can’t even remember why I planted celeriac now…

Let the Sun Shine In*

March 9, 2013

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

Bonus Issue

October 8, 2012

Sometimes at this time of year, you find you get a little extra from the garden. Like these gem squash found lurking in among the frost-felled foliage (the vines may have wandered a little into a nearby flowerbed…)

bonus broad beans

bonus mushroomsAnd some bonus sunshine (it’s been warmer outside than indoors these last few days, at least during the day) to bring on the last of the broad beans from the shoots which spring up from the base of the plants after the main stems have done their work. It’s always worth leaving these to see what develops, although next time I might be a bit more assiduous about weeding out the nettles which, I found out the hard way, were guarding them. Ouch

It might be time to get some new stakes for supporting the broad beans though, if these mushrooms shooting from the base are anything to go by. I don’t think these will be making it into our supper…

But you don’t get anything for nothing in austerity Britain – clear blue October skies mean only one thing: frost. We woke today and yesterday to white grass, complete with bonus deer footprints

Whether you consider deer to be a ‘bonus’ in the garden depends largely on what they’ve been eating, I suppose …

I Keep Waiting…

October 4, 2012

… for the mythical time (generally ‘next week’ – it’s been next week for a while now) when I will be less busy and able to devote more time to the garden and cycling adventures and the like. Meanwhile actual time marches on, with the first frosts finally felling my squash plants

Never fear, though, the squash themselves have survived

It just shows what a little coddling can do. If only I had time to lavish the same level of attention on the rest of my crops we’d be laughing.


Reaping What I Sow

September 1, 2012

This being September, the garden should all be about mellow fruitfulness, and gathering in the harvest but *ahem*, after a busy few weeks, instead it’s all looking a bit neglected.

The sweetcorn have finally flowered but they have combined that with falling over so I’m not hopeful that we’ll be seeing any crop this year. Also the other half has inquired only semi-sarcastically if it’s some kind of a dwarf variety seeing as other people’s sweetcorn is over their heads. What can I say? I have no patience with a wind-pollinated crop that falls over at the slightest hint of a breeze.

The kale on the other hand is growing great guns. We have curly kale and cavolo nero. Looking at this picture, I realise we have quite a lot of it. It may be a bit late now to be asking for your delicious kale recipes…

But look! We also have gem squash – quite a few of them. No need to ask for delicious recipes for these, just fill em with butter and salt and pepper and roast them. Yum. Just have to hope they ripen before the first frost…

Military Manoeuvres

July 25, 2012

It seems that gardeners, like generals, are compelled always to try and fight new wars using the tactics of the last. Take my brassicas. The first time I attempted to grow them they were plagued by cabbage whites. The next year I netted them against the butterflies and they were promptly munched by slugs. The year after that I planted them too close together and the broccoli bolted, not helped by a summer so grey that any right thinking vegetable of Italian origin assumed it was in fact winter. This year I have been carefully checking for caterpillars and guarding against slugs and planted everything out with reasonable spaces between them and half of them have promptly succumbed to club root. This is particularly annoying given that last year I went to the effort of testing my soil’s acidity and digging in some wood ash to bring it down a bit for the brassicas, which is supposed to help with club root. This year, I’m afraid I filed that one under too much hassle – after all, I’d never had a problem with club root – so I’ve only got myself to blame.

Of course, sometimes it works out in my favour (so far at least). Another crop which hasn’t done too well – with the exception of Seymour – has been squash. This year I decided to give my plants the best possible start in life in the hopes of raising at least one. I sowed only four seeds, paid them lavish attention, waited for a warm spell (ha!) before planting them out, put them under a cloche for extra warmth, propped them up on sticks so their leaves were out of the way of the slugs, fed them on coffee, and guarded the entrance to the cloche with a slug trap. I confidently expected perhaps one sickly infant out of all that – but all four have survived, nay thrived. One of them has even produced a female flower already. They’re crammed into far too small a space, but there’s no way I’m going to thin or move them now. They’ll just have to sprawl as best they can over the empty spaces where all my failures have been. And undoubtedly now I’ve typed all this they’ll promptly keel over from some disfiguring disease. I should probably have remembered to take a photograph before they all expire.

The slugs, meanwhile, seem to believe in taking the battle to the enemy. As I tweeted last night I was just nipping out last night to pick some spring onions when I saw this chap making a bee-line for the kitchen door.

But that was just the advance scouting party. The armoured battalions can be found lurking between the fennel and the drainpipe

I think some of them will be getting some parachute training – sans parachute – shortly.