4 Apr 2020

End of March in the Veg Patch

Narrow garden within a low wall, with soil for growing food plants, surrounded by paving.
Hardly a vision of beauty, although this space will fill up fast.

Isn't it lovely the way our gardens are giving us hope and keeping us sane, carrying on regardless while the world beyond the garden gate is mostly off limits? Even if the weather isn't good, I like to have a wander around the gardens here most days and feel much calmer for it. I'm lucky that I have two gardens to look after - the veg patch and the car park garden - plus a few borders including the triangle by the washing lines which is mostly maintenance free (although there are some gaps crying out for new plants).

Pear tree covered in white spring blossom
Pear blossom - always a picture in springtime!

I haven't done much to the garden in the past month, beyond wandering around, secateurs in hand, noting what needs doing and occasionally snipping bits off trees and plants, so the veg patch is a long way from being a vision of loveliness.  This is not to say that things aren't happening ...   oooh, no.  Indeed the area is a sea of frothiness from pear and plum blossom - even the quince tree is studded with the little peppermint stick coloured whorls of blossom buds.

Quince tree with small candy stripe buds and green leaves

Under the quince tree (Oh how I wish I hadn’t planted it in such a windy corner!), sweet cicely leaves are coming up ready to sweeten stems of rhubarb. I’m not convinced that particular trick works but the eventual seeds are a delicious hit of liquorice. And while the leaves are young and tender, I should really try adding a few to my salad.

Young green serrated leaves of Sweet Cicely herb pushing through soil.

Ransoms and rhubarb ... always sounds to me like the title of a Mills and Boon novel. Romance among the rhubarb?  Perhaps not.  I would say I should get out more but, current climate, maybe not.

Wild garlic and rhubarb leaves growing in a raised wall border.

Anyhow, I digress.  Skinny stems of Champagne rhubarb (top half of the above photo) have been ready to pick since the beginning of the month, as have the wild garlic leaves (bottom of photo). For making wild garlic pesto, the best method I’ve found is on Instagram from Julius Roberts (@telltalefood); he comes from a cheffy background so has some really good food prep videos, including the pesto one - his top tip is to make the garlic leaves less pungent by briefly wilting them first. (Worth checking out Julius' account for his fabulous singing lurchers, Loki and Zephyr.)

I’m really pleased to see the return of the Siruparber rhubarb, given to me by Lubera. It didn’t come up at all last year (the second year after planting) so I thought that was it, game over. But, here it is again! Super! The leaves are still tiny and the stalks shorter than should be expected so I’ll probably just mulch and let it grow this year so it can gather strength. And try to keep it well watered. The soil in the veg patch has already dried out and cracked after a couple of rain free weeks.

small rhubarb plant growing
Still too small to photograph the beautiful red stems

The broad beans are flowering really well now and are really rather beautiful. I haven’t grown this type of hardy broad bean before so it will interesting to see whether there’s a compromise between taste and timing.

Broad bean plant; the white sweet pea type flowers have black and pink markings

What else?  As it’s still very early in the season, I have the usual kales and a few herbs to pick from; other than that it’s a waiting game of watching buds form.

Pale green  trumpet flower on Honeyberry plant

One of my honeyberry plants (Lonicera caerulea) has died, the other is still in its large pot but flowering.  It never produces much fruit so I’m thinking this would be a good time to plant it as part of the edible fence/hedge in the car park garden. I might have left this too late but at least it would be reliably watered with lovely soil for its roots to explore.

I’ve noticed tiny flower buds on the red gooseberry bush. This is a fruit I really look forward to but has really nasty thorns so, knowing that I'll lose some of the precious summer fruit, I’ve pruned back the branches that were growing too close to the ground as well as some of the branches growing into the centre of the bush.  I hadn’t realised that lower gooseberry branches will root into the soil - I do now, and could have made several new plants!

I’m still waiting for the apple trees to blossom, the cherry trees are almost there and there’s no sign of life from the redcurrant. Raspberry canes are shooting up having been pruned back to the ground last year. One cane near the quince tree has even got buds on it; that took me by surprise but should be okay as the veg patch is generally frost free.

Can I just say that I’m a bit fed up with the cherry trees? They’re both sour Morello cherry trees which is pretty useless for eating fresh (but useful in a chutney) but, more to the point, last year were infested with fruit fly larvae which look like teeny maggots. That was not a happy discovery.  I’m not sure how (or even whether it’s possible) to prevent that happening again and am wondering about replacing at least one of the cherry trees with another apple tree.  I'll just park that thought until the autumn as it's probably difficult to get hold of a new tree at the moment.

What I'll be doing in April:
As usual in this very busy month, I'll be sowing as many seeds as I have room for!  I'll be getting squashes, courgettes, beetroot, beans, calabrese, brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli sown in modules ready to plant out in a few weeks.

I've managed to squeeze an order in for sweet corn seeds so will sow those as soon as they arrive. Otherwise, I think it might be a case of weeding and enjoying the sunshine promised for this weekend!

Wishing everyone good health and gardening,

Caro x


  1. Good read and pictures, you've certainly lots going on and to look forward to.
    Thanks, and for you too. xx

    1. I think that's the joy of having an established patch, there's always something new to see and lots to grow. I imagine you feel the same about your allotment. I do love growing fruit and veg! xx

  2. You quince is further on than ours - no buds yet. I’ll be interested to hear whether sweet cicely is effective as a sweetener.

    1. I've tried sweet cicely as a sweetener in the past, Sue. It doesn't sweeten like sugar, but seems to take the edge off rhubarb's sharpness by layering another strong taste over the top. I think sugar is still needed, and I don't like having leaves in with my rhubarb!

  3. Your garden looks so neat and organised Caro. It's amazing how bare spaces soon fill up and become lush and overflowing. I would like to see a photo of that spot three months from now. Take care xxx

    1. Wow, that's a compliment, Anna! I'm always trying to keep the space tidy as it's overlooked by non-gardening tenants. The intention is to have it overflowing with veg and flowers by the summer - which reminds me, I must sow some Cosmos seeds! Thanks and you too. xx

  4. How interesting everything looks. Loving the broad beans, they smell lovely too. Yours are way ahead of mine.xxx

    1. I hadn't realised that broad bean flowers smell so gorgeous but kept getting taken by surprise by lovely wafts of scent while I was weeding in that area - it was definitely the beans that did it! I sowed these beans (Super Aguadulce) in early winter, into small pots, and planted them out in early January (I think, not sure without checking) . This was a first for me but worth repeating if only for having lovely bean flowers early in the year - bees are zooming around my veg patch already! :) xx


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