Lawnmower holiday

There are tons of peas and beans in the garden so I made a classic green soup for lunch, with some added watercress from the pond:

20190721_134259[1]

Earlier in the week I made a classic summer pudding:

20190716_224500[1]

It was duly guzzled by my various visiting young people.

It’s lovely to have all this wonderful fruit and vegetables but all these gluts are causing a bit of crisis at the allotment. The warm wet weather of the last few weeks has caused a massive growth spurt among the onions, strawberries, peas, beans and courgettes, which is great. But is has also caused enormous growth of grass and weeds, which, combined with our faithful allotment push mower having a breakdown, has meant that things are getting a little out of control. The mower has gone to the mower hospital to see if it can be tempted back to life but what to do about the grass? The solution was to take my ancient, but almost wholly reliable, lawnmower from the house along to the plot (for more on the history of this beast see here and here):

20190721_141715[1]

Part of its realiability comes from its ancient metal parts which make it much heavier than its younger partly plastic cousin. It was too heavy to take on the bike but it was quite easy to get it to the allotment, just by pushing it along the street, if you discount the funny looks from passers by. But then I am often to be seen carrying odd things along the road to and from the allotment. It did a stalwart job of dealing with the overgrown grass and clover and will stay at the allotment for a short holiday until its modern friend is feeling better.

lawnmower

 

 

 

 

 

A garden feast

I’ve spent most of today at the allotment, tackling weeds and harvesting onions. Everything is coming along nicely although the peas are still rather straggly, which is strange as the peas in the garden raised beds are in full flourish, with their beautiful butterfly wing flowers:

20190713_1750241-e1563139137116.jpg

The onions have been magnificent this year but feel a little overwhelming at the moment. I’ve also had an invasion of musical instruments, bikes, camping equipment, bags of laundry and random pairs of shoes this weekend. And that is a good thing, because it means that my lovely young people are around, filling the house with youthful noise and clutter and emptying the fridge. They are particularly good at helping to cook and eat their way through the fruit and vegetable gluts. This evening they helped to eat a feast from the garden, including a giant lettuce, with nasturtium garnish:

20190714_203414

An enormous pan of onion soup, with added herbs and Swiss chard:

20190714_203418

And the first broad bean guacamole of the summer:

20190714_203423

They’ll be in and out over the summer, bringing friends and more musicians, who last year helped me eat my giant marrows – for more on that see here

Fortunately the marrows have just got going:

20190714_141341

and in a few weeks should be big enough to feed my musicians.

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

20190704_215610

20190704_202809

20190704_202425

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

20190707_111733

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:

20190707_111605.jpg

20190707_111310.jpg

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.

 

 

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:

20190416_161833[1]

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:

20190416_145448[1]

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’:

20190105_141021

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:

wp_20180617_10_27_33_pro

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:

20190324_173019

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

WP_20181006_18_20_56_Pro[1]

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

Fig

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:

WP_20180804_09_42_56_Pro[1]

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:

WP_20180803_14_56_34_Pro[1]

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:

WP_20180804_11_07_34_Pro[1]

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:

WP_20180721_20_51_35_Pro.jpg

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.

WP_20180526_15_53_38_Pro

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:

wp_20180512_10_19_06_pro.jpg

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.

WP_20180526_19_27_56_Pro.jpg

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:

WP_20180525_18_46_23_Pro.jpg

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 ……..