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:


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:


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’:


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:


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:


The season  is really beginning.


Autumn tidying

Today was a garden day, it seemed like the first in months. The garden has been doing its best producing wonderful fruit and vegetables, especially plums, apples and tomatoes but, what with the allotment, and the musicians, various other family and work things, a wee trip to Norway and the small matter of the cracked bone in my arm, it is beginning to look seriously neglected.  So today I dug over one of the tomato beds, filled it with garden compost and sowed some broad beans. That sounds like it should have taken, maybe half an hour? But it took much longer because I had to do my annual compost bin turning in order to extract the compost. I have three bins – all plastic cone types and the system is very simple: pile stuff in bin 1, then when it is full, empty it into bin 2, then when that is full, empty that into bin 3. It works, more or less though there’s often a lot of soggy stuff in the process and inevitably a whole lot of uncomposted egg shells, sticks, ‘compostable packaging’, the nasty bits of plastic that come with tea bags and unidentifiable yucky things.  Today,  I found something much more exciting:

WP_20181006_11_42_30_Pro[1]This rather sad thing is a very nifty gadget for holding the tea leaves in a tea pot. It is much loved, particularly by my senior assistant gardener, who doesn’t like to find bits of leaf in his tea. It is very useful because you can use it in any teapot, meaning we don’t need to use the teabags with the nasty plastic in them. It’s been missing for a couple of months, ever since the musicians invaded. We assumed it was hidden under a piece of furniture or in a cello case or something and expected it to appear when they all moved out a couple of weeks ago. But here it is – in the compost bin, no doubt thrown in along with its cargo of tea leaves by someone not paying attention at the time. Sadly, even if we were prepared to clean it up, it is unusable now because I stuck my garden fork through it. At least we now know what happened to it and don’t need to worry about finding it, full of quietly rotting tea leaves under the piano.

In other news, I harvested another ton of green tomatoes and probably the last of the cucumbers: WP_20181006_17_24_43_Pro[1]

I’ve left a cloche over the plant just in case it wants to produce any more. My experiment with the cucumber frame has been an astounding success, with cucumbers lasting all summer. I’ll definitely do that again.  All this gardening seems to be evidence that my arm is more or less back to normal, though I still have the odd twinge when wielding the garden fork to clear out the compost bins.

It’s been a lovely day, the sun was shining, there were lovely orange clouds late in the afternoon


And I saw a wren in the neighbours’ apple tree.


I have a fig tree in a pot, given to us for our silver wedding by a much loved and much missed cousin. Every year I worry that the winter will finish it off, but every year it has survived:

WP_20180804_12_13_47_Pro[1]It even made it through the snow this year, when we had more snow than I can ever remember in Edinburgh. I think it may be the twiggy things you can see in this picture:

WP_20180301_07_48_59_Pro.jpgBut this summer, what with heatwaves and such, it has not only survived but is producing actual figs:


How exciting is that? I’m not holding out for a fig glut, but you never know.

Meanwhile we had our first ripe tomato for tea last night:


We ate it with some chopped garden cucumbers and a little salt and vinegar, to accompany a Friday night Indian takeaway.

We should really be working our way through the courgette and broad bean glut but last night we were all too tired. Today I’ve just harvested the last of the broad beans from last autumn’s cardboard experiment and will do something improving with them:


Here’s how they looked in the autumn, planted through the smiley cardboard, and in the spring after all that snow:

Hard to believe but the changing seasons and the surprising survivals are what makes it all worth it.

Pea soup and summer pudding

My gardening is still a little restricted by my damaged arm but I’m enjoying doing some light harvesting and cooking. Today’s haul included pea soup:


WP_20180721_15_39_38_Pro.jpgMade mostly from mange tout peas with some added whole peas from the heritage salmon pink pods – all very beautiful in flower but equally good to eat

We also had some broad bean guacamole

guacamole.jpgRecipe here

Later we had summer pudding. This is a dish which looks unlikely, but was described by a young visitor as ‘the best thing I’ve ever tasted’. It didn’t last long:


Summer pudding recipe

  • Mixed soft fruit – strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants (about 500g)
  • A stick of rhubarb, cut into chunks
  • about 100ml orange juice
  • tblsp lemon juice
  • 50g sugar
  • 3-4 slices of sliced bread*

All quantities are very approximate – nothing matters too much so long as it fits in your pudding basin and you can adjust the sugar according to taste and health obsessions

  1. Heat the orange and lemon juice in a pan and dissolve the sugar
  2. Stew the rhubarb in the juice for about five minutes until the mixture is quite thick
  3. Add the soft fruit and cook for about one minute – don’t overdo it
  4. Line a pudding basin with 2-3 slices of bread
  5. Pour the fruit and juice into the basin
  6. Put the last slice of bread on top to make a lid
  7. Put a small plate on top of the pudding and add something heavy to weigh it down (I use a cast iron pestle and mortar but whatever you have around would do)
  8. Leave to cool and then put in the fridge overnight
  9. Turn out onto a large plate and decorate with some extra fruit

*The recipes usually say to use white bread and cut the crusts off. I don’t bother. Wholemeal or granary bread with crusts seems to work perfectly well. We don’t always have sliced bread in the house but because of my wonky arm, we have been buying the sliced stuff  so I can make my own breakfast without asking some one to cut the bread for me. Unsliced bread would work too but you would have to cut it fairly thin.

Hedging my bets

The privet hedge at the front of the house has been having a growth spurt. I gave it a ritual hack back this afternoon but I had to stop when a nervous sparrow flitted in and out several times. It seems to have a nest in there so I stopped cutting, refilled the bird bath and left it in peace.


Meanwhile the privet hedge at the back of the garden is just beginning to rejuvenate after the removal of the conifers which blocked the light from it, but it’s going to be a little slow:


I’ve showed it the picture from the from the front garden to show it what it should be doing.  In the mean time I have stuck all my various hedge-improving cuttings of honeysuckle, winter jasmine and wild roses along the hedgeline to see what survives. And I moved a whole bunch of self-seeded campion which had invaded my raised beds to cheer up the barren hedge area.


The last remains of the conifers have finally gone. Professional tree cutters carefully removed the actual trees a couple of months ago and a kindly stump removal person has now ground the stumps down to sawdust.  I’ve used some of the sawdust to mulch the roses and other shrubby things in the front garden and there are piles and bags of it lying around everywhere for future use.  But, the main point is, I can now get on with the plans for re-designing the back garden.  I’m still procrastinating a little. What’s it to be? Greenhouse? Fruit trees? More vegetable growing space? A rose covered arbour? The neighbours think I should build a summer house. A sculpture – but ‘not a reconstituted concrete thing from a garden centre’ – has also been suggested but slightly retracted when I suggested making one myself from found objects.  I think I’ll put some temporary raised beds over the area and put the tomatoes out there for the summer and then decide what to do more permanently in the autumn (still tempted by the fruit trees and that would be a good time).

And, just to let you see how my vegetables are doing, here are my broad beans, the ones planted through the cardboard in the autumn, now flowering away:


Pigeon 1: Broccoli 0


Remember that lovely new raised bed that I made a couple of weeks ago?

WP_20180415_19_05_59_ProWell I put it in place round last year’s broccoli patch, in the process, removing the netting that was keeping the pigeons off. The broccoli has been coming back to life in the last couple of weeks, so I was reluctant to dig it out. But Ms or Mr pigeon spotted the lack of netting and moved in, munching their way through all the remaining florets:

WP_20180503_08_34_12_ProHint taken: time to dig up the broccoli and prepare the bed for this year’s runner beans. For how to do this, see here:

WP_20180506_13_19_13_ProIf you look carefully, you’ll see that I left a tiny broccoli plant (bottom left), which hasn’t flowered yet and may still produce some useable vegetables before the beans grow up.  In the top right hand corner there is also a broad bean, left over from last year I think and looking reasonably happy. So I left it too.  Meanwhile I sowed my runner bean seeds in pots, with the plan that they will be ready to plant out in a few weeks, once the trenches have settled.  And then I went and did the same for a runner bean bed at the allotment. That should provide more than enough runner beans in the summer!

In the picture with the pigeon, you can still see the stumps from the removed conifers. A stump removal person is coming this week to take them away, allowing my plans for the back of the garden to develop. Meanwhile, I will continue to indulge in some fantasy gardening for that space ……..

November blooms

Someone, or something, has ripped up the cardboard on the raised beds:


I suspect Bella, though there was rather a bigger hole than she normally digs, so perhaps it was an urban fox.  We do get them from time to time.

Anyway, I had planned to spend the day doing something else, but fixing the hole and replanting a few broad beans led me into the garden and onto doing more pottering. The leaves are falling fast from the monster sycamore in the front garden so, having dealt with the cardboard, my attention was turned to the front of the house, where the sun was shining. Mainly I cleared up leaves and rearranged things in the pots in the hope of a few wee flowers over the winter before the bulbs come up.

I had a look around to see what was flowering in the front garden today.  I found:


Lavender with lots of flowers and some bees,

Primula and osteospermum,

Rose Benjamin Britten, and rosehips on the wild rose and, then, totally out of season but blooming optimistically, a broad bean:

WP_20171105_14_42_53_ProMaybe that one will produce a bean or two if the ones under the cardboard don’t.

Having failed to get out to do the other things I needed to do, I made some apple gingerbread from the Howgate Wonders:

wp_20161218_0021Photo from a previous occasion, recipe here

Cheerful stuff for a lovely autumn day.




I cleared the courgette and marrow bed this afternoon.  They have been fantastic this year but all good things come to an end. I put down some compost in the raised bed and raked it over:


This of course created a perfect cat playground so I made an emergency visit to my local DIY store to buy broad bean seeds and pick up some cardboard boxes:


and noticed that some of them had faces:


Back to to the raised bed, I laid out all the cardboard, cut a few more holes, and sowed broad beans in half of them:


and red onions in the other half:


It may be a bit too late in the year for this, and I’m not sure the cardboard with the holes will work, but I’ve had a bit of fun:


and so has Bellawp_20171029_15_39_05_pro.jpgBefore the darkness descended, I also cut back the runner beans, leaving the sweet peas in case they manage a few more flowers.

WP_20171029_16_20_24_ProThen I sowed a few more sweet pea seeds in pots in the seedhouse to get next year’s supply going.  So the seasons turn. To a gardener, autumn is about new beginnings as well as endings.

Green soup and redcurrant relish

We’re having a very mixed weather this week – sunshine one minute, pouring rain the next. This morning I went out in the rain to harvest some broad beans. The sun came out, so I harvested rather more than I’d planned, cut back the plants, sorted out some entangled peas, cut down some more rainbow chard, rescued a younger generation of beans from the already gigantic broccoli plants and then it started to rain again.


It was beginning to feel like soup weather so a perfect time to make a massive pot of green soup, with all this bounty:


Green soup – usual recipe: swiss chard, broad beans, tarragon, mint, slightly elderly peapods with added broccoli leaf and fresh peas.   And then the sun came out again so we decided to have it in the garden. And then it started raining again so the soup got a little watered down.

Even the autumn fruiting raspberries are confused, fruiting prolifically and ripening at least two months early this year, in time to join the redcurrants, strawberries and summer fruiting raspberries.


Most of these have been eaten fresh in bowls with breakfast cereal in the mornings, or with cream or ice cream as a pudding.

I did feel a little overwhelmed by the redcurrants so made them into redcurrant relish – recipe here .  It has not set as well as it should and there is far too much.  The recipe said it made one large jar so I made double quantities which made seven medium jars.  I may have misread an ingredient somewhere as I was seriously multitasking when I made it. The recipe also says it keeps for three weeks so we may be having a bit of a runny redcurrant relish with everything thing going on for the next wee while.