Solstice

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Edinburgh skyline from Inverleith Park, midwinter

I took this photo yesterday but the light in the sky was so lovely, it represents the season rather better than the rain and gloom today.

We should have had a special dinner to celebrate the Solstice but it was one of those ‘see what’s in the fridge and cook it’ days. So we had green soup: cabbage, courgette, leek and some ageing sprouts.  I know it doesn’t sound in the least bit tempting but it was rather good.  In more celebratory mode, we had the last marrow last night:

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The last of a wondrous crop this year.  This one had been sitting in the vegetable basket for a couple of months but was delicious in a vegetable curry, despite the long wait.

And here’s the advent calendar update for the Solstice:

Spider plant – you know why – if not,see here

Hamamelis – the lovely witch hazel, blooming magnificently in the early spring

and the beautiful bees, cheering us all as we creep slowly through these dark winter days.

 

 

Lacemakers

The tomatoes are ripening very slowly.  I’m still holding out for some red ones before it gets too cold for them outside.

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Blight has been a real issue this year and the green ones that I harvested last week are not really ripening inside. So they have all been turned into ‘Autumn chutney’: basically green tomato and apple chutney, with added courgettes.

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I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when I have an abundant green tomato harvest, but I’m always hopeful.

While I was checking up on the tomatoes, I thought it was time to cut back all the finished pea and bean plants.  The peas have been great this year.  The broad and runner beans have been reliably good but the purple podded French beans have been rather sad.  I’ve had a reasonable crop of beans but, maybe because they grow so low on the ground, the slugs and snails have turned the foliage into rather beautiful lace work:

These are the joys of gardening.  Nothing is predictable so we take our pleasures where we can.

Contrast

Just as the Scottish schools went back last week, the weather turned warm and sunny. Then Friday and Saturday were cold and wet, so an assistant gardener went camping with his friends. Today is hot and sunny.  Such is a Scottish summer: unfair, but today was a good opportunity to get the resulting wet sleeping bags and socks washed and out on the line.  But this is not a housework blog.  Any wander through the garden leads me to check on the vegetables. This combination of sun and rain is delighting the runner beans and courgettes.  Here’s what I picked on the way back from the washing line:

WP_20160821_002Runner beans, French beans, courgettes, almost the last of the peas and the first of the autumn raspberries.

I also noticed some purple sprouting broccoli:

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and some healthy looking tomatoes, still green, but promising:

WP_20160821_006Sun and rain: just what we need, if perhaps it could just be a little better co-ordinated with people’s camping plans.

Lazy Saturday

There’s nothing better than going away for a couple of days and coming home to discover it’s still the weekend. But a lazy one so far:

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Bella is making the most of the sunshine, so I brought all my baby tomatoes, aubergines, chillies and cucumbers out to join her in the sun:

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They seem to be very slow to get going this year and it’s still too cold at night to put them in the seed house so they are languishing a bit in the house.  I’m confident they’ll start growing properly eventually. In the meantime there is promise of lots of fruit to come on the sunset apple:

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and the redcurrant bush:

WP_20160514_011.jpgLots to look forward to.  Long may the sun shine

More spring purples

.. and reds and yellows:

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Yesterday I got on with the big task of pricking out seedlings. I seem to have an awful lot of purple sprouting broccoli and rainbow chard. So that’s next year’s multicoloured spring sorted. I also sowed all my runner bean seeds in paper tubes, ready to be planted out once the cold weather really has gone:

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and dug my runner bean trench – see last year’s post on how to do that. This year there were no musical scores in the trench but there were some other bits of writing drafts which I’m delighted to see the back of. All growing into lovely runner beans over the next few months, I hope!

That, along with some grasscutting and general tidying up, was a good day in the garden. Back to work today and fuming at all the ‘happy bank holiday’ stuff that everyone else seemed to be blogging and tweeting about. I had to work late as well but came home to this lovely display of daffodils, cheering me up no end:daffodils May

 

More mud and some spring flowers

Saturday morning – time to finally get some of that spring stuff going – and what is it doing out there? Sleeting heavily on the swamp, turning everything into mud.  Yesterday we had lovely frost

 

But we also had roofers attempting to mend an awkward leak- so there was scaffolding all round the rhubarb.  WP_20160212_003[1]

I have to say they were very careful and didn’t damage any plants, though they managed to knock down and break a hanging strawberry basket while manipulating their ladders.  The strawberry plants are fine but the pot needs to be replaced.

But today there is just mud and rain and sleet – so  it will be another no gardening day. I went out with an umbrella to put some kitchen waste in the compost bin, which was steaming nicely, so something positive is happening in the garden today. Oh and there was this lovely little crocus, pushing its way up beside the rhubarb:

WP_20160212_002[1]Rhubarb and spring bulbs – yes I know its a bit weird but it seems to work.

On mud and not gardening

It’s been another no gardening weekend – away all day on Saturday and on Sunday the weather was foul foul foul – cold, wet, windy.  I’ve been reading everyone else’s blogs and you all seem to be sowing and planning and digging and doing stuff while nothing much at all is happening here. So I thought I’d better organise my seeds for the coming year. My first task was to sort out what was left from last year – so I got out my trusty seed box:

Seed boxIt seems I’ve got quite a lot left over from last year and most of them should survive another year, even when they say things like ‘use by 2010’.  It’s always worth a try!

Then a look at my raised bed plans – I try and rotate my crops a bit but don’t do it very well.  The trouble, in my north facing garden, is that the runner beans will block the light from other beds unless I put them at the back.  So the runner beans get rotated between the two back beds, and everything else sort of moves around a bit in front

raised bedI was looking for a picture of the raised beds – not having a chance to take any new ones lately what with weather and darkness and such – and this was all I could find to demonstrate, complete with our long lost Robbie, who loved to stretch out across them.

So the plans this year are for runner beans in the back right, tomatoes in the back left, courgettes and marrows in the front left and more tomatoes in the front right, as well as the overwintering onions which should be finished before the tomatoes go in.  A new long bed, which wasn’t built when this picture was taken, will have peas, peas and more peas and some broad beans and a few brassicas.  Cucumbers and peppers and any mad things like aubergines and melons will go in the seed houses.  Salads will fill in any spaces as they appear.  I’ve got another bed in the front garden where I’ve tried tomatoes but they don’t seem very happy.  I’m tempted to turn the whole thing over to herbs which flourish there but I’ll maybe give vegetables another shot this year. I’ve never had much luck with root vegetables and don’t have room for potatoes so that’s about it.

So back to the seed order – I seem to have lots of most things left but I’ll need more peas and more runner beans and some flower seeds.  It should be a fairly economic year unless I have a mad urge to try something new.

I usually delay any actual seed sowing until March so I had a quick look at my old garden diaries to see what I usually do in early February.  I was relieved (a bit) to note that most Januaries consist of moans about the weather and my inability to get out in the garden because of the dark and the rain – so maybe this year is not unusual, apart from the year that we built the pond – five years ago this week it seems.  Here’s what it looked like then:

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Again, complete with Robbie.  And here’s what it looks like now (well last summer):

Spot the frogs
Garden pond

Five years on it was well worth that muddy day in February.

Goodbye to 2015

Here’s a review of my garden year

January

In which we said goodbye to our beautiful Robbie, aged 15, and enjoyed the first snowdrops

February

When I visited Shetland and was impressed by a bath garden, I sowed some broad beans under a cloche, I spotted some self-seeded lavender coming up through paving stones and I finally replaced the leaking water barrel with an old dustbin.

March

The daffodils appeared, and so did some mysterious holes in the lawn. I sowed my first seeds and enjoyed some lovely violas.

April

The magpies made even bigger holes in the lawn, we enjoyed our first crops: of broccoli and salad leaves, and seed sowing started in earnest.

May

I dug the runner bean trench and added some musical compost, the optimistic melons were doing well on the window sill, the apple blossom was glorious, I enjoyed the wallflowers in the front garden and spotted a little friend in the pond.

June

I had my first decent harvest of salad, I discovered the beauty of blue peas and one year old Bella ventured into the garden for the first time (having joined our household from the cat rescue in May).

July

We made Bella a cat cave. Mainly, the garden just blossomed with fruit and vegetables and flowers

August

Bella survived our holiday and enjoyed our return, discovering the joy of fairy mounds. I made some green soup and the vegetables kept coming.

September

Yet more courgettes and marrows arrived, an assistant gardener left, a cow joined our animal collection and I visited a posh allotment.

October

I brought the first bowl of tomatoes into the house to ripen and sowed some broad beans. I did some painting for the first time in ages and we delivered a food parcel, a chilli plant and some beloved cacti to our wandering son.

November

November is always a bit bleak but we had lots of tomatoes, the last of the carrots and a bumper apple harvest.

December

I did some baking, we had a tiny bit of frost, I made an outdoor Christmas tree and we had roses on Christmas Eve, and a lot of rain.

That’s my year in the garden in pictures.   There are lots of things that I forgot to photograph but it’s nice to have this record.

Happy 2016 to all my readers and I hope your gardens and allotments and cats and families all have a happy and useful year.

 

In the swamp

The garden is a swamp today.  It has rained solidly for several days and there is little to inspire out there. Everything is inches deep in water, the water barrels are overflowing, the cat would like some welly boots to get across the garden. So today I’ve had an indoors sort of day, getting on with the festive baking.  Christmas cake and Christmas pudding now done.  Once I’ve made these, I always reckon we can get through Christmas somehow and live on pudding and cake for the whole festive season if necessary. The only garden produce that went into them was one of the lovely apples, which was added to the pudding. Meanwhile I’ve been enjoying just looking at this amazing pepper plant which lasted the summer in the seedhouse and has continued to flourish inside for the last couple of months:
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Maybe we could use it instead of a Christmas tree?

I also noticed that the insect-eating pitcher plant has produced a weird flower:

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I looked online to see what I could find about these flowers and found only that it is the wrong season for flowering.  Oh well, maybe it would be happier in the swamp, though it’s a little bit cold out there tonight.

 

Over the wall

I’ve always wanted an allotment. Here in Edinburgh there are long waiting lists for the local authority allotments – people say you should put your children’s names down on the waiting list when they are born and there might be a chance that their grandchildren will get to the top.  Well I’ve been on the waiting list for four years now and nothing so far.  As well as the council allotments there are some even more exclusive ones, including the Dean Allotments. These are privately owned and I’ve yet to find out how you even get on to their waiting list.  But they are in a special place  – in the grounds of the Modern Art Gallery. I’ve often looked over the wall at the little plots, envious but impressed:

Over the wall

But today I was allowed through the gate and into the plots. Today was ‘Doors Open Day‘ in Edinburgh.  Doors Open Day allows you to visit lots of historic buildings and places that are normally closed to the public.  I’ve seen inside many interesting buildings over the years but this year it was the Dean Allotments that caught my eye.  The allotments were once the kitchen gardens for an orphanage built in the 1830s. The gardens stopped being used when the orphanage closed but were turned into allotments the 1980s.   The art gallery took over the building in the 1990s and I discovered today that the allotments were doomed to become a car park when the art gallery moved in. They were rescued by some feisty allotmenteers, with the help of artists Eduardo Paolozzi and Ian Hamilton Findlay, whose art works can be found on the allotment ‘shed’. Making the allotments into an artwork made it much more difficult to bulldoze them for a car park. They certainly seem like art to me:

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Allotments with the old orphanage in the background. And a gnarled old apple tree, possibly dating back to orphanage days:

Gnarled apple tree

I was delighted to get this close up view of the allotments. But I was also pleased when I came home to my own garden and looked at my raised beds, still full of autumn vegetables, and in no danger of being turned into car parks, so long as I’m in charge.