Monsoon weather

I brought the lawn mower back from the allotment last week so that we could tackle the jungle in the garden. Fortunately a small gap in this year’s monsoon enabled us to have a go at the lawn.  But the monsoon has returned, which means the lawnmower is useless and the grass just keeps growing, but I have found a solution

I evicted all of these little chaps from my pea plants and set them to work on cutting the grass.

Meanwhile the marrows are really enjoying all this rain:

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I did get a great harvest from the peas and made a huge pot of pea and broad bean soup to see us through the November-like gloom:

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Now all I need to do is to persuade the snails to stay on the lawn and leave my other plants alone. We can all dream.

Not yet autumn surely

This week has had some extremes of weather and the garden and wildlife have been loving it. Following last year’s heatwave induced frog invasion, the pond has again provided a haven for these little beauties during the hot early part of the week:

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Generally they have been very shy this year, coming out only after dark and hiding under the pond jungle the rest of the time. But on those couple of hot days they were out sitting on the lily pads, looking awesome.

The heat was followed by biblical downpours which made the pond look great but no sign of the frogs

The slugs and snails however have been enjoying all this rain and are having a great time on the pea plants:

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Most things seem to be surviving this onslaught though and the pea harvest has been wonderful. Yesterday I also harvested a couple of cucumbers and today I harvested a baby marrow, leaving the rest to grow into monsters. Then I spotted the first tomatoes forming on the tomato plants

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I know, they are tiny but they are full of promise.

I picked what is probably the last of the summer raspberries and strawberries, a few autumn raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants and a windfall apple:

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The apple trees are groaning with fruit this year and have had to be propped up with a range of ingenious devices to prevent their branches breaking. This one falling off should help the poor tree to survive for a little longer.

Despite the four seasons weather we’ve had this week, it’s not autumn yet.

Let the gluts begin

Been away for a wee holiday, enjoying the great outdoors, lots of walking, wildlife and dipping my toes in water, history, art, literature and gardens. But I’ll leave writing about that for another day. The main thing is coming home to find that the cats have survived and the vegetables are flourishing

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The allotment is groaning in onions and strawberries and there is promise of lots more to come:

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These are the tomatoes and cucumbers in pots in the new seed palace. There are lots more in the ground. The cucumbers are doing beautifully in the cucumber frame, although a couple of monsters managed to breach the defences round the cucumbers  the other day:

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One of the joys of growing your own vegetables is sharing them with other people. Over the last few days I’ve delivered strawberries and raspberries to two generations of family members and served up garden salad, home made onion quiche, onion soup and new potatoes to several more – let the gluts begin.

 

 

Strawberries, onions, peas, cats but no unicorns yet

Lots happening in the garden and the allotment just now. The back hedge is still growing happily. You may remember that last year I promised flowers and bees, butterflies, bunnies and possibly unicorns – see here Well we have the bees and the butterflies and the flowers. I haven’t seen any bunnies or unicorns yet, but we do have flowers:

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and a rather a splendid cat, adorning the the space where the conifers used to be:

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I’m sure the unicorns will come in due course.  Meanwhile the peas are beginning to flower:

20190622_07370120190622_122502Those are the Norli peas and the stunning Carouby de Mausaune. Even more exciting, the Salmon pink heritage peas, which I saved seed from last year, are about to produce their astonishing pink flowers which bunch together at the top of the plant:

20190623_192038[1]Chelsea has taken an interest in the peas and particularly in the strings holding them up. Here she is lurking behind the pea stakes, ready to pounce:

20190623_092713.jpgDown at the allotment, the peas are not doing so well. They were started rather later and they are struggling in the battle of the slugs and snails. But I am ever optimistic. We did a great grass cutting and weeding today and were rewarded with the wonderful onions, here hanging up to dry in the kitchen:

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and the first allotment strawberries, which will not keep long before they are demolished:

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A stressful time of year

Today I had to dig up my awesome rainbow chard plants to make way for cucumbers and runner beans:

20190525_111939[1]Most of this sadly had to land in the compost bin, but I saved a big bucketful to live on for the next few days:

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We are subsisting almost entirely on rainbow chard and rhubarb at the moment which is probably not a good thing. Never-the-less I felt dreadful pulling these up when they still have some life in them. So I’ve planted out some tiny replacements in the wildlife area. These plants seem to be so robust that they might just grow there and can act as perennial vegetables for longer next year if they survive:

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Then I planted out some baby cucumbers and runner beans in the empty beds

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You may have noticed some more rainbow chard in between the bean poles. Just making sure that we don’t starve next May when that is all there is.

This moment in the garden always feels a little nerve-wracking. Planting carefully tended seedlings, grown from tiny seeds, out into the big scary world, full of slugs and snails, cats, cold, drought and invading weeds. However, I’ve put my tried and tested slug and cat protection devices out and covered the cucumbers with a cloche. Usually enough plants will survive to provide a bean and cucumber glut in August but there’s always a sense of uncertainty. That’s the excitement of vegetable growing – the uncertainty, the stress of not knowing, the creative cooking required when everything succeeds and the joy when things work out well.

 

Planting peas

I didn’t get much gardening done this weekend: housework, walking thousands of steps round Edinburgh and visiting relatives took up too much time, which was, mostly, not a bad thing.

However I did get out for a couple of hours this evening and moved the pea glut onwards. The peas have germinated beautifully in their pots in the seed palace. So I planted them all out with various anti-slug and anti-cat devices.

There are four varieties here: Carouby de Mausaune, Pea Prussian Blue, Sugar pea ‘Norli’ red flowered ‘Grijs’ and the heritage ‘Salmon Pink’.

Pictures from previous years (apart from Prussian Blue which is new to me this year) to see how they should turn out if all goes well:

I have a few more waiting in the seed house to go to the allotment so we should have a decent glut this year, as well as the glorious flowers.

Meanwhile, we had our first, and probably only radishes in a salad:

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These are the beautiful, if unproductive radish purple plum, grown from last year’s seed

It’s still too cold to move the tomatoes and cucumbers out to the seed house but at least I feel that the vegetable season is seriously underway.

 

On not growing cauliflowers

Last night I was out for a meal with some visiting work colleagues at a rather overpriced hipster restaurant. Since we don’t eat out much and when we do we tend to go to the same old places, I was a little out of touch with what the trendier menus have to offer. I made the error of ordering the ‘cauliflower steak’, which is, apparently, a ‘thing’. I thought it sounded alright until I realised it was basically some unappealing couscous, topped with a great lump of charred cauliflower. I was too polite to make a fuss but compared to the joy which is a well made cauliflower cheese, it was a serious disappointment. Everybody else, tucking into their meaty plates, seemed to have heard of this abomination but chose not to warn me. It was, otherwise, a very pleasant and sociable evening, with considerable laughter, if only the others laughing at me for my poor choice of meal.

But what does this have to do with gardening? Three things

  1. The ensuing discussion about cauliflowers provided an opportunity for me to pass on some education regarding vegetable growing to my colleagues. For example that, despite the restaurant’s claim to serve local seasonal produce, it is unlikely that cauliflowers are in season in Scotland in May. This enlightened my colleagues to all sorts of things about me, ‘you do have a hobby other than work then?’ . I didn’t mention the blog.
  2. My left alone at home assistant had a much better meal: leftover green soup, made the night before from very much in season Swiss Chard (although he did miss out on the entertaining conversation, laughter and some overpriced red wine):

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3. I have never successfully grown a cauliflower and am not further tempted to try. But I will continue to buy them from time to time from farmer’s markets and make them into proper cauliflower cheese, as God intended them to be served.

Update – how to cook a cauliflower –

  1. purchase from farmer’s market (don’t attempt to grow yourself)
  2. Break into florets – that’s how they are designed!
  3. Steam lightly and smother in cheese sauce (with some added home grown onions)*

 

*permitted vegan uses of cauliflower include cauliflower curry (thanks Tootlepedal for the reminder), cauliflower soup and the satisfying crunch of cauliflower in piccalilli

 

Baywatch

I’ve been on the hunt for a new bay tree since losing the last one to the dratted vine weevils

I found one in a pot in my local DIY store

 

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But being from a DIY store rather than a proper garden centre, it had not one but, I think I counted, sixteen plants crammed into this tiny pot.

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I hate waste , so I planted one rooted cutting in the herb bed in the front garden, where it looks a little out of place but hopefully will grow tall and strong, and the others all in individual pots. They won’t survive in pots in my garden as the evil weevils will seek them out to destroy but I’ll pass them on at a plant sale some time soon.

Meanwhile, I have been working up this year’s pea glut:

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In another attempt to deal with waste, I plant these in cardboard coffee cups. I plant these in the garden where the cardboard rots away, sometimes leaving a film of plastic which I then dispose of. I know we should’t buy these at all but sometimes they are hard to avoid and I try and give them a second lease of life by bringing them home and filling them with peas. The labels, you will note, are also repurposed – cut from a plastic food carton and lasting for several years.

I’ve also sown a few pea seeds straight in the ground – it will be race to see which do best in the battle against snails and other pests.

Spaghetti junction

Did you know that spaghetti grows underground? Nor did I until I found a vast network of it underneath the strawberry patch at the allotment:

20190416_161827[1]Actually, it’s not spaghetti, these are couch grass roots and they form a vast underground network right across our allotment. It is hard not to admire their tenacity but today, their bid for world domination has been thwarted, slightly. The strawberries are looking a little happier, although I can spy a few green shoots of spaghetti still sticking up amongst them:

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It was a surprisingly satisfying way to spend an afternoon away from the cares of the day job, helped by a flask of tea, some sandwiches and beautiful birdsong:

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As a special treat, the single broad bean plant that survived the winter has produced flowers:

20190416_172600[1]Isn’t nature astonishing?

Sunshine and rainbows

Despite a busy weekend, I found some time for the allotment this afternoon. We surveyed the plot again and now have our plan down in writing. There is blossom on the plum tree and birds flying all round the plot. Our overwintered onions are doing well and we are still harvesting purple sprouting broccoli and some baby kale.  The autumn sown broad beans have been almost completely hopeless: old seed, pests? We’re not sure why but one brave little plant has survived:

20190324_160136This should give us lovely beans in early summer. We sowed a whole lot more today to keep it company. In between the rows, I sowed some saved seeds from the magnificent radish ‘purple plum’:

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I’ll see whether they are any better at producing radishes in the allotment than they are in the garden but, if not, we, and the bees, can always enjoy the flowers:

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Meanwhile, back at the house,  my tomato seeds have germinated and are now queuing up on the windowsill, waiting for the warmth so that they can go out to the seed palace in a couple of months (oh dear – sown too soon again).

There was a cold wind alongside the sunshine and some icy showers. This late wintry combination brought us a rainbow, lighting up the trees:

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The season  is really beginning.