Monday, 20 June 2011

May 18th

What Not to Do, No.238:
- leave things un-picked, so they go over, and you have to pull them up. As with my leeks here. Actually I think we did eat another one or two after this point, but then they put up flower spikes and turned woody. Note to self: bit dim to grow stuff and then leave it in the ground. They got all through that winter, too.

Three types of lettuce, all of which seem pretty snail-resistant, at least going out as plantlets. Lollo Rosso, Red Oak Leaf, and, um, I forget what the green one is. It's nice and crisp, though. I think the oak leaf will be a regular - pest resistant, very attractive, and substantial leaves with a crunchy rib. I'm going off Lollo a bit; it does tend towards limp.

Some alpine strawberries and a jazzy (dead) beetle.

I love my purple geraniums and their feathery leaves. They even flourish in a shady border; bless them.

What Not to Do - No.237 (May 5th)

- grow sunflowers from seed indoors, when they have sown themselves in the beds so generously from last year, and seem to thrive *much* better that way. Compare the long weedy individual that I grew in the lean-to, with the beefy youngsters (shorter, but much stouter) that reared themselves outdoors.

My Bijou Giant Mange Tout, getting a much better start than the Golden Sweet did, although they still struggled in the subsequent dry weeks:

Most excitingly, my blueberries have flowered and set! I bought two plants at the end of last year, knocked down to about a quid each in the local Focus store (now defunct - shame, as it was good for knock-down bargains).

Prettily-coloured pansies: mauve on the back, orange and yellow on the front. Here they're at the feet of a blueberry plant.

A hoverfly, sunbathing. Looking back as I write, in damp-mid-June, I'm nostalgic for those sunbathing days already. I hope May and April didn't constitute the entire summer.

What Not to Do - No.236 (May 1st)

- put your peas (Mangetout Golden Sweet, in this case) out on the beds in their tray, ready to plant them up, and then forget about them for a few days in the warm sunshine. Result - rather yellow, barely-surviving pea plants. Oops.
The very beginning of May, this was. I was in two minds - junk them, or plant them out anyway and see how they do. I did the latter, and now, having seen how they did, I think the former would have been wiser. (I did however then plant some more, direct into the soil, amongst the feeble ones, so all is not lost.)
It didn't help though, that the weather was then warm and dry for weeks, and although I watered, it probably wasn't enough for them to catch up after that bad start. Though, I think they were probably too far gone, anyway...

Here they are, hopefully planted out. To add to their troubles - this bed really needs improving. The two beds nearest the cherry tree are rather dusty; I must add some 'organic matter'. The strawberry plants don't seem to find it a challenge, though.
Don't worry - I did add some string for them to climb up. They are now producing the odd pea, though the plants haven't climbed very high - nothing compared to the luxuriant wigwam they achieved last year.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Meanwhile, out in the garden itself...

Hello, Salad Burnet. Hello, Lemon Balm.

And hello Lovage! Thanks to some root-plantlets from my friends Beth and Chin, and some over-wintered seedlings that I'd forgotten I had, I'm going to have a LOT of Lovage this year, by the looks of it.

Dicentra Spectabilis, 'Bleeding Heart': every garden should have it! It waves delicately in the wind, hence being slightly out of focus. :)

Cherry tree blossom:

The grape vine bursting out:

Chard, which valiantly made it through the winter, wilting and then re-growing at each frost. I really should have fleeced it - my problem is that, wonderfully hardy as it is, and so easy to grow, and so pest resistant and so forth - I actually don't like it very much. I like earthy (e.g., celeriac) but chard, I find TOO earthy. Perhaps I should try to stick to the white variety, which is supposed to be the sweetest, rather than this one, which is Bright Lights.

Chicory. This came about by chance, really. All my lettuces had bolted last July/August, and when I went (unusually, but as a treat) to the garden centre, they had no lettuce plants. I thought I'd give chicory a try, as a green.
Well, dammit - here's another one which is spectacularly hardy and pest-resistant (these plants made it through all the winter weather, uncovered) but which I don't actually like. It's too bitter for salad, and cooking it doesn't help. Perhaps it will heart up and form endives, which Duck likes - but I'm not sure what that involves... Brutal as it seems, I guess I'll pull them up!

Ahhh. Forget-me-not.

Lots of ladybirds around; in fact, I have to be careful where I step or sit. I hope it's a good omen, and doesn't mean that they'll soon be followed by record numbers of aphids.

Black peppermint, delicous...

... and equally delicious fuzzy Apple Mint. Really not long till I get a glass of fresh mint tea, at this rate.

I think these are 'Thalia' narcisuss; maybe it's the shady position, but they always seem to hang their heads like this:

... which is why I don't feel at all bad about cutting them to bring indoors:

This corner is where the shed is going. The shed that's been in sections in our sitting room, for X months. It will be SO much more useful when we actually assemble it. The pallets are for making the base on which it will sit.


Seedlings are springing up very happily, and this year, they have more space to spread out in, as I got this plastic greenhouse/shelving thingo to put outdoors:

At the moment it's mild enough that I've started leaving the flap open at night, though any risk of frost, and I'll be zipping it up overnight again. Seems to be working very well and, SO FAR, no snails have climbed up into it.
In the blue bucket in the foreground - some komatsuna which survived very well over winter, and which I'll be growing again next winter, under a cloche, just to be a bit kinder. It's a slightly spicy green, great for adding to a salad or sandwich; and not as hot as rocket. We had some heavy snow and some hard, long frosts, so it's pretty hardy stuff.

Beetroot 'Cylindra':

'Feltham First' Peas:

'Goldensweet Mangetout' Peas:

'Winter Marvel Lettuce:'

Calendula Officinalis:

Spinach 'Matador' (back left), 'Little Gem' Lettuce (right), Sweet Peas (left), Cima di Rapa/ Rapini (front):

Those black plastic trays are testament to how much Tesco Free Range Chicken we get through. I make holes in one tray, with a bradawl, and then place it inside an unpunctured one, which serves as the drip tray. Works a treat. Of course, they are thoroughly washed first...

You can also see my two labelling methods: plastic milk bottles cut into strips, marked with marker pen; and foil-lined drink cartons, likewise cut into strips, and marked with biro. The former type doesn't work too well out in the garden, as the marker pen soon fades (which is why I lost track of my tomato varieties last year). The latter type works more through the imprinting than the ink (see the Calendula label) so can't be washed off, but the labels lose their rigidity once damp, so you can't prang them straight into the soil.

One of my resolutions this year is MORE LABELLING; especially of collected seed. I'm trying to decide whether or not to plant some unidentified brassica (?) seed, or not. Might be Pak Choi. Might be something else. It's probably edible, however.

Monday, 27 September 2010


I've been very lax about the blog I'm afraid, but that isn't because nothing was happening in the garden. In fact, we've had plentiful tomatoes, courgettes, beetroot and beetroot greens, runner and climbing beans, and raspberries, all summer long. The glaring gap has been lettuce, as they all bolted in July. Next year, I must plan for that!

A typical haul lately:

The tomatoes are three varieties; Gardener's Delight, Latah, and Purple Cherokee, which are the large ones. I think they all did better outdoors than in (I tried both), but had a tendency to split in heavy rain - I might have to make plastic shelters for them next year to keep them from getting so soggy.

Beetroot 'Cylindra', which I allowed to get quite large. Very tasty, and soft even at this size.

Hyssop - makes a delicious tea, and very good for any type of cough.

Scarlet Emperor runner beans, which have been prolific - my only trouble was picking them before they got too large and tough. They seem quite good at hiding in the foliage, in spite of their size! The round courgette is 'Tondo', but I only got one or two per plant so I don't think I'll bother next year. Quite a few courgettes yellowed at the tips, not sure what to do about that.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

June, before and after

Here are some comparison pics, taken respectively on May 31st and then June 16th, when I came back from two weeks holiday. My kind neighbour had taken on the watering duties for me.

Mangetout peas - Golden Sweet on the left and Bijou on the right - with runner beans, calendula, and sunflowers. In the growbags, are New Zealand spinach, and courgettes (out of view).

Lettuces: I missed their prime, they were already starting to consider bolting when we got back. They're Webb's Wonder; very tasty, and heart up beautifully, but unfortunately appealing to the slugs and snails - unlike the Lollo, which they don't touch.

Purple Cherokee tomatoes:

Flower bed - Aquilegia and geraniums. These aquilegia are long-flowering; they've been in bloom since early May at least. I thought they'd be finished when I got back from holiday, but they're still flowering now, more than a month later!

Calendula - which turns out to be giant calendula, the tallest of them reaching above my waist-height. Although very colourful, they're taking up rather too much space; also, they have no calendula scent. Next year I plan to grow Calendula Officinalis, so I can collect the petals for herby purposes. These ones are very attractive to flea beetle, quite usefully, acting as traps; I've tapped out the beetles into a bucket of soapy water. Nothing else seems to have suffered from them, so perhaps the calendula lured them, though there were no holes in the flowers or leaves.

Some more general pics from June 16th:

Bijou mangetout; they get even bigger than that. Very tasty, sliced and stir-fried.

Lychnis Coronaria, 'rose campion' - grown from seeds that I sneakily purloined from the garden of my old doctor's surgery. I need to give less space to flowers next year, but these have given a great splash of colour all summer.

The roses:

Needing a haircut: