Garden Like Crazy

October 3, 2018

It’s a sad truth that I, the supposed gardener in the family, am currently spending less time out actually gardening than the other half at the moment (who has taken Bob Flowerdew’s dictum that ‘nobody ever wishes they could spend less time in the greenhouse’ fully to heart). Today, with a gap in the work schedule, a mild and better-than-forecast day, and a field full of cows to entertain, I decided to do a bit of catching up with myself.

vegetable plot in October

Veg plot. Note giant broccoli despite the joint efforts of Moo I 5 and the cabbage whites

October is often a putting-to-bed month – or, in my case, a finding of lost vegetables month. As well as the requisite handful of potatoes from the multiply dug-over potato beds, I also uncovered some impressive-looking spring onions which had battled their way through between bolting fennel and galloping squash plants.

large spring onions

The squash has also managed to produce two squashes, which look like they’ll survive until the frost (it has produced numerous others that have just gone yellow and dropped off). I’m not sure the ratio of sprawled-over veg beds to return is quite in the squash’s favour here.

two squash ripening

Having dug out the peas, it’s interesting (to me, anyway) to see how far a bed that was heaped when it was first filled has settled down over the summer. It has since been topped up with compost from the maturest dalek, and a barrow load of horse manure.

raised bed emptied

It’s fair to say from today’s evidence that our composting strategy is still a work in progress. I ended up having to empty out and turn the contents of all three daleks because combining binge gardening with small compost bins means you quickly fill up your working dalek. Obviously the answer to that is to resolve to garden more regularly and keep on top of things. Naturally, our response is to start pricing up compost tumblers, a shredder, and some more daleks.

And the cows? They ungratefully spent the day in the other half of the field, mooing at the tractor that was cutting the hedges. Honestly, so fickle.


Shooting Blanks

August 17, 2017

I managed an hour or two in the garden today, and not a moment too soon as the sole surviving pumpkin plant appears to be mounting a bid for freedom.

pumpkin plant

It doesn’t appear to be mounting much of an effort to grow pumpkins though – the few little fruits it has produced have tended to rot off before they amount to much. This may be sheer loneliness – I planted out four squash and four pumpkin plants this spring, and it is the sole survivor of the rampant slug army that is inhabits the garden. Despite many dozens of them meeting their doom in the beer traps, there seems to be no end to them; perhaps I should stop buying them rounds …


Perhaps I should also stop providing neat little slug starter homes…

Despite the slugs, and some rampant neglect of my own, the plot has proved surprisingly fertile ground for the plants that did survive. None of my French beans made it past the hopeful seedling stage, and the curly kale just evaporated without trace but the red winter kale is looking pretty good, if somewhat slug-chewed, the beetroot has already provided several meals and is wonderfully sweet* and the peas have just gone beserk. They have resisted all attempts to be propped up so picking them involves wading into the patch and pulling out the pods before the tendrils can fasten themselves around your ankles, but for the first time in years we’ve had enough peas to cook and eat, rather than just be scoffed straight from the pod. I think this may be first-plot syndrome – they always seem to do well on new ground, and then are never quite so good again (she says, grandly, having had all of three veg plots in her entire life).


Tonight’s supper, which was, as tradition demands, delicious

My broad beans are a sad disappointment though. They are producing magnificent pods but there’s just nothing in them or almost nothing. Clearly with that and the pumpkin, there’s a lack of pollination going on. We seem to have a fair few bees about, but perhaps they’ve been distracted (or indeed held captive) by the peas. It might have helped if I’d staked them properly, or kept them a bit better weeded, but it’s definitely been a case of the survival of the fittest in the garden this year.

broad bean pods

Broad beans: all hat and no cattle

* adjusted for being beetroot and not, say, chocolate.

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.


Binge Gardening

April 5, 2017

We had gardening pals around for lunch today, who very kindly came bearing surplus seeds as I have neither bought any myself nor managed to get to the regular seed swap organised by the local guerrilla gardening group.

As well as the pleasure of their company, inviting them round also gave me the spur I needed to put some hours in on Sunday catching up with myself in the garden.

Veg plot in AprilNotice the veg plot now has proto hare-defences, created out of the hazel sticks and some willow that we cut back earlier in the year. In my head, this was going to be one of those Pinterest-worthy rustic woven fences, but it’s perhaps not quite as impressive (nor indeed likely to be as hare-proof) as I’d hoped. The main problem being that I didn’t have enough suitable material for weaving in, but as we have two largeish willow pollards in the garden, there will be more where that came from. Also, I am avoiding putting any of the willow actually in the ground as I don’t want my fence to turn into a line of willow trees the moment I turn my back on it, which willow is prone to do (even if stuck in upside-down, apparently)

As for the rest, well, we’re still seeing what’s coming up so that’s my excuse for not getting to grips with the other parts of the garden. I was pleased to discover that what I had thought were peonies are in fact hellebores


And I’ve long wanted wood anemones, and suddenly I have a nice little clump of them. Not quite in the right place, but I can help to spread them.

wood anemones

Of course, some other less-welcome plants are popping up too

nettles emerging

A reminder not to let everything get too behind hand …

Food Miles

August 4, 2016

I have to admit, as I cycled back to the old house this afternoon, I was wondering whether the whole idea of keeping the veg plot on was a brilliant idea. Five miles of cycling there – and more importantly five miles of cycling back, uphill – seemed like a lot of extra cycling just for a few veg. And I knew that things had got a bit out of hand while we were moving and I hadn’t had time to keep on top of things (unlike the rabbit, which has made good use of the time digging itself a new burrow under my beetroot and completely demolishing the French beans, although it’s falling behind on the salad). And it’s not as if I didn’t have plenty of garden at the new house to take in hand, which it desperately needs.

veg plot in august

What is the point of having a resident rabbit if it won’t keep on top of the salad?

But then again, there’s no veg plot at the new house and it will be a while before we can get organised enough to have one. And there are worse ways to spend a couple of afternoons a week than cycling down to my ‘allotment’ and spending a few hours weeding, clearing – and harvesting

august harvest

Especially harvesting.

I’m still turning over in my head where the veg should go in the new house, whether we want raised beds, how we’re going to replace the greenhouse. I don’t think these are decisions to be rushed, either. I’ve been spoiled – even with a resident rabbit, having a Victorian walled garden at your disposal for a veg plot is pretty jammy. Replacing the plot is going to take a while (let alone getting a greenhouse even half as good). I may be cycling back and forth between gardens for a while …

There is also garlic news, but I think I will give that a post of its own.


November 3, 2010

I may have mentioned that the landlord has offered me a bit more space for veg growing next year, which I have accepted.
For those of you not paying attention at the back, my original plot was like this:

Last year, the new plot was added, which effectively doubled the space:

I wasn’t sure how much I was being offered this time, but thought it would probably be about as much as the new plot again, and I’d planned to add in maincrop potatoes and onions, holding out the possibility of being almost self-sufficient in potatoes year round. But I was up the other day and my landlord had marked out the new space and found out that my vegetable empire has actually doubled again.*

I’ve got some idea of what to do with the space, like make my seed bed a bit bigger so my leeks aren’t so damn weedy. But then, I wasn’t going to grow half as much salad as this year either so that’s not going to take anything like all the extra room. I can’t put in any perennials so fruit or asparagus are out. I’d like to grow more broad beans and more peas and maybe space them out a bit more over the season. I’m thinking of growing some Romanesco, just because who wouldn’t want to grow something as fractal as that? I daren’t grow more parsnips, but we could do with more squash and maybe some different varieties of things I already grow. Other than that, I’m struggling a bit because we already grow most of the veg that I actually like eating as it is.

Still, I suppose this counts as a nice problem to have…

*which means if current trends continue, it won’t be very long before it’s basically taken over the entire planet, in which case the only vegetables available anywhere will be ones that I like. I hope you were all just pretending to enjoy courgettes…