Showing posts with label In the VegPatch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label In the VegPatch. Show all posts

1 Aug 2021

The good and bad of my veg patch this week

Curly kale plant growing
Last kale standing
(and yes it is surrounded by self seeded forget me nots that will need to be moved, eventually)

Honestly, there are times when I wonder why I grow veg. With my small veg patch, my efforts are hardly a step towards self-sufficiency, especially when plants give up the good fight against pests, predators and precipitation (rain). (I do love a bit of alliteration.) But, then again, I’m an optimist by nature and have learned to roll with the heartache of seeing weeks of nurturing wiped out.

As we’ve come to expect in this very British of summers, variable weather conditions have favoured slugs and snails this past week, although I must say that lovely rain has left all the greenery looking very lush, even if my kales and cabbages have all but disappeared. Luckily I have a few spares waiting in the wings; veg growing is nothing if not a learning curve.

Yesterday was one of the brighter, yet chillier, days (perfect weather!) so I was able to grab a few photos in the evening as I inspected the patch after work. 

Green tomatoes ripening on plant

Ah! The waiting game as tomatoes gradually ripen ... they would get there quicker if grown in the warmth of a polytunnel or greenhouse but I don't have that luxury. Mine are chosen for their ability to be grown outdoors - hellooo again, British weather! Dare I keep my fingers crossed and hope for another blight free year?
These tiny tomatoes in my photo above are Mr Happy from Mr Fothergill’s children’s seed range and were destined for my niece’s young family to grow. Lockdown dictated otherwise and the plants stayed with me. I just love the name though - and if they ripen, I will indeed be Miss Happy! 

Single green plum on tree
Plum. Singular.
Readers may recall my very reluctant plum tree - yes, it’s still standing. Very close scrutiny joyfully revealed one solitary large plum dangling in the branches. Whoop!  Now don’t get too excited, this should be ripening by now but the tree is sending me a message - it’s reminding me that it’s the perfect time for pruning stone fruit trees, and that's long overdue here. One more for the weekend agenda, then. (I seem to be constantly chopping things down or digging things up recently - life as a gardener!)

And speaking of digging things up, the broad bean plants can come out; these were a major fail this year. I’ve never had a problem with broad beans but this year the pods refused to swell - probably the unexpected heatwave and not enough watering. The delicious primavera risotto that I make with home grown broad beans, asparagus and peas will have to wait until next year.

Turning resolutely away from the disasters, let’s look at my raspberry patch. I mulched around the canes with some of my Hotbin compost earlier year and, together with regular bouts of heavy rainfall, the difference is noticeable. The first clusters of large firm fruits have ripened - even though they're an autumn fruiting variety - several small handfuls have (in time honoured tradition) been picked and eaten straightaway and I’m hopeful of a steady crop in the weeks ahead. This variety, by the way, is Polka.

So, not all bad news then ... 

This week I'll be filling gaps in the veg patch by sowing 

  • two varieties of spinach - a hardy winter cropping variety that can be sown from now until the end of September, plus a vigorous summer variety for baby leaves. 
  • chard - can be sown again, now we're past midsummer. This sowing will give me baby leaves for salads and larger leaves in autumn and winter. Pink Passion for colour and Fordhook Giant for flavour. 
  • Coriander - delicious in salsas, salads and the lentil dhal that I make regularly. I'll be sowing this now until the end of August and hope the plants mature in time for some seeds after the pretty flowers. 
  • Plain leaved parsley - this is a last chance sowing as the window for outdoor sowing is March to July, although the temperatures now are not dissimilar to those in April. I chop flat leaved parsley into just about all savoury food so like to have some on the balcony and in the veg patch. 
  • Carrots - I sowed another batch of carrots last week; this time I used Extremo (Mr. Fothergills), a variety which crops over winter. I've not grown carrots over winter before but am really quite excited at the prospect of harvesting carrots in the colder months ... allegedly until April, if what I read comes true. 

20 May 2018

Six on Saturday: Mid May in the Veg Patch

Honey bee on chive flower

May is the token first month of summer and it's been a corker.  Everything that looked a teeny bit dismal in the middle of April has burst into life, seeds are germinating, bees are buzzing and it's a real pleasure to be outside in warm sunshine.  This is a novelty as I usually associate May with the sort of unpredictable weather that makes it hazardous to plant out beans and sweet corn that I've nurtured indoors. This year I've sown my sweetcorn seeds straight into the ground having seen last year that direct sowing produced much stronger plants than those I transplanted.

11 Sept 2013

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

My flowering veg patch

This was my veg patch a couple of weeks ago at the end of August.  Sun shining, bees buzzing ... it felt like the best of summer as I walked around picking fresh raspberries and tomatoes.  Crouching by the low wall around the central veg patch bed, this view looks more like a cottage garden - you'd never suspect that I was standing in a sea of concrete paving slabs and overlooked by about 50 flats, would you?

With the weather having become suddenly autumnal over the last few days, I wanted to post this photo as a reminder of one of summer's peaceful golden moments.  It will also remind me that, in spite of feeling that I hadn't achieved much this year, this part of the garden flourished with herbs, rhubarb, raspberries, sweet corn, mountain spinach (orach), beans, nasturtiums (red, white, orange), phlox and echinacea. There's also five varieties of tomato, a forest of sunflowers and a cabbage growing to the right in there.

I think the weather is set to stay gloomy for a while but I'm hoping that we're due a little more summer after the long wait for spring to arrive earlier this year .

3 Jun 2012

June, so soon?

I'm hugely relieved to have an extra day off work this weekend.  Dare I say that I won't be celebrating? Much as I think Her Maj is a wonderful, decent, long-suffering and hard-working woman, I have too much to do to make time for jollifications and revelry (never mind the ensuing hangover!).

Early morning veg patch
~ End of May veg patch; this quarter looking very lush in the sunshine! ~

My feet seem to have hardly hit the ground in May; between work and garden, my cup has indeed runneth well over (leading to many post-midnight bedtimes, so exhausting...). I've been potting on seedlings in the mini-greenhouse or starting them off, weeding in the veg garden and harvesting cauliflower sprouts, kale, cabbage, herbs; transplanting raspberry runners, moving strawberry plants, topping up raised beds (and potatoes in sacks) and filling large pots for overflow veg, squishing or squirting blackfly on the broad beans and fruit trees, and, finally, sowing flower and radish seeds outside - and, of course, watering, watering, watering.  More or less the same as every other gardener, I imagine!

So, apologies if this is boring and more to aid my memory than blog interest, a quick recap of where we're at in the little London veg patch:

Chilli in window
Chillies, capsicum and bell pepper seeds sown into modules at the beginning of April, two to a module, all germinated successfully and (because I hate to waste a perfectly good plant) all potted on successfully in mid-May into J. Arthur Bower's seed and potting compost (recommended by Which? garden as the top compost in their trials last year).  Total: 3 Purple Beauty bell peppers, 3 Orange bell peppers, 4 Chilli Corno di Torro Rosso, 1 Hot Banana chilli, 2 Chilli Guindilla Roja and 3 Hamik capsicum.  One way or another, it will be a hot summer!

Coral poppyPurple podded peas have gone out a few days ago; courgettes, sweetcorn, popcorn, mangetout, kidney beans and dwarf french beans to follow before the weekend is out.  The Lazy Housewife bean (growing in the safety of my balcony at the moment) is about 3 feet tall, much to my relief.  Borage seedlings have been planted out under the fruit trees, several Violet de Provence artichokes have gone in at the back of the walled border (yum, looking forward to eating those!) and radish seedlings have appeared amongst the broad beans only days after the seeds were sown.

Nasturtiums (3 varieties) are growing well, californian poppy seedlings have been set amongst the herbs, orach, calendula and geums are adding a pop of colour to the sea of green veg, and a Coral poppy bought last year is now looking very gorgeous - can't wait until the flowers unfurl as this will be the first year of flowering!

Cabbage heart My efforts of last year are still rewarding me: Hearted cabbage is still waiting to be eaten and I'm picking tender kale leaves for lunch and for the freezer as those plants look as though they'll flower soon. I've discovered a fabulous River Cottage recipe for kale: simmer the leaves with finely chopped garlic until soft, drain and chop finely, pile onto toast and adorn with shavings of parmesan. Quick and delicious!  One word of caution though - caterpillars!  I carefully picked over the leaves, then left them in a sinkful of water.  After about 10 minutes I found 8 tiny caterpillars at the bottom of the sink. A further soak in a water/cupful of vinegar mix netted another 4 caterpillar babies. And I thought I had good eyesight!

The perennial cauliflowers are a story in themselves and I'll post about them this week.  They've now spectacularly sprouted, some have flowered and look beautiful, others were covered in grey aphids so have been chopped back to the ground - and are beginning to resprout!

My teenager just asked if he could help me in the garden (think Bob a Job week, accelerated to millenium rates of pay).  After a quick think about what still needs to be done, I've said yes; despite what felt at times like re-enacting the Labours of Hercules in May, there's still a border to clear, 2 walled beds to dig over, strawberries to move, seedlings to be planted, bean towers to be built and 2 raised beds to be constructed and filled.  Yes, I will be more than happy to have his help ... I might yet stand a chance of enjoying a chilled glass of wine while standing back to watch the veg grow on a warm summer evening!

Enjoy the Jubilee folks - I'm off to celebrate being in the garden!

Cavolo Nero and Red Orach
I love the colours of the kale and red orach next to each other! 

14 Apr 2012

Springtime in the veg patch

Well, yesterday's book review post went down well, didn't it? Not a single comment!  I've silenced you all.   I'm hoping after a rather long break from blogging (sorry) that you'll all bear with me while I review some of the books I've been sent. I've got one more craft book, a balcony gardening book and - the one I'm really looking forward to - Martin Crawford's How to Grow Perennial Vegetables, which arrived unexpectedly a few days ago and I'm quite excited about. I've a feeling that one is going to be a real winner.

It's such a busy time of year, isn't it? I'm still trying to decide what to plant where in the veg patch, I've got seedlings coming up in trays all over the windowsills (I really, really want a greenhouse), the recent warm and wet weather has prompted the brussels sprouts to zoom skywards so they look like sprouting broccoli (albeit with very pretty yellow flowers!)

Sprouting Brussels sprouts
~ Sprouting Brussels Sprouts ~

Purple sprouting brussels
~ Sprouting Tozer Brussels ~

I wonder if I could eat them?  They look so like broccoli, I can clearly see them steamed and served with a drizzle of olive oil or butter and quick grinding of pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt...  Hmmm, perhaps time I had some lunch.

On the plus side, I have 100% germination of my pink broad beans (I'm only growing nine plants as I've yet to discover whether I like them) and the herbs, garlic, onions and potatoes are all coming along nicely. I also have one or two cauliflowers ready to be picked (more on this later) and the fruit trees are in blossom.

I planted a cowslip in the veg patch last summer as the plant provides food for butterflies.  It's looking a bit wind whipped at the moment but has trebled in size and is a real splash of welcome colour (and edible to boot). All in all, a well spent couple of quid in the supermarket.

Cowslip in flower

My sage, repotted last summer to give the roots a nice deep pot, has got wonderful purple buds at the end of the stems - I'm not sure if these are flower buds or not, only time will tell.  Whatever, my liking for a purple and green colour combo continues...

Sage bud

Self-seeded sunflowers are popping up everywhere. I don't want them to completely monopolise the space (I have no idea whether these will be small or giant sunflowers) so I've been nibbling on a few of them and adding them to salad.  They taste a bit like watercress, tasty and succulent.  I'm going to grow a pot specifically for adding to salad leaves - the same technique as growing pea shoots and baby spinach leaves for a salad bowl.

And finally, I'm wondering if I might have strawberries to eat after the next warm spell ...

strawberry flowers

These were photographed this afternoon and are runners transplanted a couple of weeks ago. Amazing what a week or two of sunshine and rain will achieve! 

8 Jul 2011

Midsummer Veg Patch view ...

:: Sweet corn 6 weeks after planting out ::
Oh dear, 8th already and the last month has turned without the veg patch progress being recorded. Time for an update, I think; the days are slipping away and my brain is already planning winter veg.

I remembered to snap a few pics a week before the end of June and then took a few more a day or so ago, both of which are a week away from a true end-of-month but between them will provide a useful log of information for next year.  Take these courgettes, for example. Planted out early June, 4 weeks later, leaves the size of dinner plates with a few flowers. Good progress or good horse muck, who knows? Tra-la-la, it works.

:: 5th June courgette, approx 8 inches ::
:: 5th July courgette, approx 3 ft ::

The UK weather in June gave us some sunshine (plus 2 days of heatwave), brisk breezes and plenty of rain - often in the same day! Nights were cool and dawn often gave way to clear blue skies that clouded over by mid-morning. Endless days of buffeting winds made seed sowing and planting out quite challenging. Weeds flourished in the wet and warmth; continuously clearing them off became a necessary chore (which I haven't quite kept up with, despite a 2 hour session in a downpour). Early beetroot and carrots were enjoyed, beetroot tops, spinach leaves and herbs were added to salad (Oh for a few chickens to add freshly laid eggs to this!), french beans were resown along with sweet corn, radishes, spinach and wildflowers. The lavender, oregano and thyme flowers in the herb bed are a sight to gladden the heart on a sunny morning.

Recently though, I seem to have lost the habit of popping down every evening, there's just too much else to do. So, the spinach has bolted and new baby leaves are not quite ready, spring onion seeds are still in the packet whilst I continue to buy from the supermarket, the next lot of carrots are still to go in. Shame on me, most disorganised!

Porcelain garlicOn the bright side, onions, garlic, carrots and beetroot are bulking up, the courgettes are flowering - in fact the sweet corn  is struggling as most of it is hidden under the courgettes (is it too late to transplant, I wonder?).

Sweet peas are now scrambling rapidly up the netting, hopefully there'll be some flowers to look forward to in July as well as peas of the edible variety.  Self-seeding flowers (poppy, cerinthe, borage, honesty, calendula, nigella) added to the patch this year will make a bigger impact next year, but at least they're there.  The sunflowers (unplanned and sprinkled throughout) are a cheerful sight, growing up through the potatoes but the large ones, frankly, are blocking the path through the veg patch. Next year, I'll be more ruthless in pulling them out. (There's that learning curve, again.)


10 May 2011


Actually, I rather wanted to title this post 'Pomiculture' but that word relates to the cultivating - as well as growing - of fruit which, here, is not strictly true.  Although I think I can make an exception where my lemon trees (now solitary tree) are concerned.

The lemon trees were a bit of an experiment;  the decision to purchase a couple of frost-hardy specimens was more out of curiosity for the exotic than any real belief of seeing lemons in London. Not that we're totally gullible but if it says 'Easy to Grow' on the label, we trust that's what we'll get.  Last summer the leaves were a real hit with the children - they give off a wonderful citrus odour when squeezed firmly.  (I love to do a squeeze'n'sniff, or taste, guessing game with the kids, especially in the herb patch.) Delicate white flowers almost bulked up into Lilliputian lemons but were annihilated by strong winds.  After my winter of discontent with the Veg Patch, one tree was definitely a goner with the other having some green-ish stems mixed in among the brown ones.  A bit of pruning supplemented by lots of recent sunshine and things are beginning to look up again - we have leaves!  By my standards, this is promising.

Lemon leaf

Other fruit has fared slightly better:  apple trees stripped of any potential fruit last year are now, quite definitely, plumping up for a summer showing:

apple buds

Ditto with the Morello cherry trees which are positively dripping with fruit - and raindrops!

Cherry ripening

Strawberries on Leigh's allotment (with all day sunshine) are ripening slightly ahead of the Veg Patch strawberries.

strawberry ripening

As the Veg Patch strawberries were transplanted in early April, this has probably set them back a little, although there are plenty of flowers so we'll see - perhaps giving us an extended, if inadvertent, strawberry season.

I have 10 raspberry canes that are new to the Veg Patch this year, as is the redcurrant, and so it's too early to tell if they're settling in nicely - new leaves but not much else. Two survivors from our first (2009) raspberry order have just started showing Proof of Life by way of tiny drupelets. The first year canes (primocanes) have been replaced with second year fruit bearing canes (floricanes):

Raspberry fruit

I noticed those two ants after I'd taken the photo! Has anyone else noticed large numbers of ants this year? I'm even seeing them on my balcony which is unusual, although probably lifted there by way of the sage plant I had to resuscitate.

Blueberries are into their second year and are definitely confused. They should be bushing up nicely but are like a row of debutantes that have come out in their pearls and underwear, i.e. hardly any leaves but masses of bijou berries. Bizarrely, the bushiest blueberry is the one that is sharing it's pot with two self-seeded foxgloves. Either it's roots are enjoying the shade or it just likes having company. All parts of a foxglove are poisonous and I wonder if close proximity will affect the blueberry fruit? Not sure I'll be eating from that particular tree, or letting the children sample the fruit!

blueberry hollyhock

A quick backward glance at last year's fruit list shows that my trip to Capital Growth's soft fruit growing workshop has influenced my choices this year as I've added a redcurrant to the Patch and also have melon seeds sprouting! I saw melon growing in the Regent's Park allotment last August so know that it is possible to grow it outdoors here, and have chosen 'Blacktail Mountain' early watermelon (very small red fruits) and also Minnesota Midget, a small canteloupe melon which has to be started off in a heated propagator. Hopefully there'll be more to tell about these in the End of May round up.

4 May 2011

April roundup... Update (2)

Several blogs that I like to read have posted an end of month review and I'm going to follow suit.  I can't think why I haven't done this before as it seems a really good way of keeping track of progress (or, in my case, lack of) month by month.

It pays me to remember that I mustn't compare the state of play in the veg patch with progress elsewhere; after all, it's not a competition but it is really useful to see what other, more experienced gardeners have already planted out or got on the go. It's interesting to see what's happening in different parts of the UK and, in Canada, the Urban Veggie Garden is just experiencing the first flush of Spring. Early sowing can depend on access to a greenhouse (which I don't have) or perhaps having wide windowsills to accommodate seed trays indoors (I'm deficient in that area as well).

I confess, there hasn't been as much sowing progress as I would have hoped (I've been spending a fair bit of time digging out weeds, moving raised beds forward to maximise space and putting a scaffolding plank alongside the path, on the right above). But with this unseasonably warm weather, I have to remind myself that it is only just May so there's still plenty a bit of time.  What I have got is lots of sweet peas in toilet rolls on the balcony (Cupani, Mixed Spice, Perfume Duet), which have recently been joined by Lazy Housewife (kindly sent from Matron) and Cosse de Violette beans started off in pots. Sweet corn (Lark and Sparrow - are those real varieties?) will be started off this weekend, as will courgettes (Striata D'Italia), pumpkins and squashes. I'm experimenting with growing melons this year (soon to be sown in a very warm spot) and have chosen Blacktail Mountain watermelon and Minnesota Midget canteloupe from The Real Seed Company. By the end of May, I hope also to have just a couple of bush cherry tomato plants and some peppers on the go.  It's said, "wishing's one thing, doing's another" so we'll see...

Back outside, Onions (Hyred and Snowball, above) have been growing in the veg patch for the past month, with Fiorentino Spinach planted in between the red onions (below). The first two rows of Spinach are ready to be picked as baby leaves and the next two rows of seeds were sown over the bank holiday weekend:

Potatoes (Blue Danube, Charlotte and Vivaldi) have sprung up from potatoes mistakenly left in the ground last year (gosh, I feel I'm really baring my soul here! - the veg patch has practically planted itself) but I have actually myself sown three varieties of beetroot (Perfect 3 and Cheltenham green tops for myself and Chioggia for my friend who runs our local deli and likes this variety, which I don't.) The fox chased a mouse over that bed last Friday night, scattering the soil, so it will be a test to see if I can tell the difference as (or if) they grow!

I'd like to have shown the progress in the garlic bed, with 3 rows of Amsterdam carrots companionably sown in between. Sadly, this is not be just yet as a fox (the same one?) dug deep into the bed last Monday and disturbed all the planting. It would seem he was (successfully) after a bird that had probably flown down to pull up my garlic! I guess that's nature for you and, judging by the wing feathers, I think it was a blue jay.  Very beautiful. (Sorry to be so macabre with the photo. I didn't know what it was and wanted to identify the bird, so please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.)

The disturbance has blown my garlic experiment out of the water: I'd planted a row of cloves saved from last year's home-grown garlic, a row of store-bought Porcelain Garlic (Music) and a couple of rows of T&M Sicilian Red garlic. I'd hoped to compare the success rate of the different sources. Now who knows what will pop up where? Fingers crossed it isn't as bad as it looks!

I have a couple of beds waiting to be planted up at the end of the month with the courgettes, etc, and buckets of rescued red orache (atriplex rubra) - self-seeded from one tiny garden sale plant. The seedlings were carefully transferred to recycled flower shop buckets before I dug over the bed. (I hate abandoning plants, and will do the same with my beetroot thinnings.) The intention is to replant these around the raised beds with plenty of other flowers to liven up the view.

I've previously written about the rampant growing going on in the herb bed and now the horseradish has flowered (above).  Oh my goodness, whatever next! I have no idea what this plant will do next but have read online of people mowing it down to keep it under control - which seems a bit drastic! Equally, I don't know if this is what should be happening with a second year plant and if the roots will still be edible.  (If anyone does know, I'd appreciate the advice.)

Elsewhere in the herb bed, evidence of last year's self-seeding is apparent:  parsley, coriander, fennel and sunflowers mingle happily together with a few strawberries (from runners).  Actually, I rather like this - at least for now!

That's probably enough for today.  I'll save news of the fruit and flowers for tomorrow but I'd like to leave you with this photo which fills me with hope:  if I'm right, those are ladybird eggs on my fennel so the greenfly on my red Orache had better watch out!

By the way, credit where credit is due:  I was inspired to write this End of Month View by Helen/The Patient Gardener, Janet/Plantalicious, Karen/The Garden Smallholding and Flighty/Flighty's Plot.

13 Oct 2010

I've just popped a casserole in the oven - a piece of pork belly nestled among carrots, onion, garlic, turnip, parsnips and with sage going in later. (Trying out Heston Blumenthal's recipe of the week for Waitrose.) Bathed in home-made chicken stock (Prue Leith's recipe), it should be beautifully cooked by dinner time and all that will be needed is to mash the vegetables, fry off the meat and serve up with the crackling which is being slowly roasted in the oven alongside the casserole.

It gives me huge satisfaction to know that all the vegetables and herbs in this dish (bar the turnip) have been home-grown and, for me, the wonder veg is garlic. I planted a few cloves of ordinary garlic last November along with the onion sets, partly out of curiousity and partly because I wanted to have something growing over the winter.

I say "I" planted but, actually, the cloves were planted by the Veg Patch Kids, my part being to show the children how to measure the planting distance and dibble the holes (we used the handle of an old wooden spoon, marked to the correct depth) and which way up to pop the cloves in. I'm probably more amazed than they are that a single clove becomes a whole new garlic.  Even more amazing, I've read that home-grown garlic cloves will adapt year on year to produce the best bulbs. So I've saved a few of my heroes to go back into the ground later this month.

I assume that everybody grows garlic - it's really not hard - but what I found interesting was the little experiment that I ran.  Ever one to fly in the face of good advice, having been told not to plant supermarket garlic, of course I then had to. The original bulbs were, I believe, from Spain – they're the big whoppers in the picture.  They were already showing 6 inches of growth when the January snows fell and came through that beautifully. Then, in late April, the Gardening Guru gave me a few more garlic bulbs to sow - Isle of Wight and T&M Choice. They'd just been delivered to him by Thompsons which I thought was a bit late as they need a good frost to start them off.  I planted them anyway - some under the plum trees, some between the beetroot (probably not my best idea of the season).  The plum tree garlic should really have been watered more regularly and the beetroot garlic was overshadowed in the summer months.  A selection of the results are in the photo below, with the clear winner being my Spanish supermarket garlic which grew to be about 2 inch diameter with well-formed tasty cloves.  (But then it did have the benefit of being grown for 5 months longer than the others.)

Will I do it again this year?  Yes, absolutely. In fact, I've already selected some Porcelain Garlic which hails from the Highlands of Scotland (via Waitrose) and will plant those alongside my London/Spanish cloves - but will also be choosing some commercial bulbs to pitch against them for comparison.

P.S. I'm sure you all know of the massively diverse health benefits of eating garlic but did you know that recent research from the University of East London reveals that garlic may be effective against the superbug MRSA?  

1 Sept 2010

Catching up…

Well, here we are again… I hadn't realised that I'd been away so long, the weeks have just slipped by.  (Did anyone notice?)  I wish I could say that I'd been enjoying myself on holiday somewhere warm - but, no. Truth is that the deluge of rain … day after soggy day … coupled with very strong winds was wreaking havoc in my little vegetable garden and I had to devise various Heath Robinson structures to stop everything keeling over.

My poor beans had been happily climbing up a ridge-tent-shaped frame of bamboo poles - but I'd forgotten to pinch out the growing tip. Gradually it became a tad top heavy and started to lean ever-so-slightly.  The problem was made worse as continuous rain softened the soil and the wind pushed it over as if the frame was being pulled from one end.  I had to duck underneath to get by!  All very well until someone gets hurt and one stick was, by now, at eye-poking level.

While figuring out a solution to the bean problem, the wind kept blowing and then I found my beautiful super-tall sunflowers had succumbed and collapsed across my fruit trees and crash landed on the potatoes.  The roots were ripped up but because I found them not long after, I was able to firm them back into the soil and start hoping for recovery… but that ol' wind kept blowing.

Time for some urgent action.  A hazel wigwam was dismantled and the branches used to pin the sunnies against the wall.  Hmm, gooood thinking. 

The beans, though, were slightly more problematic: I'd tried tensioning the frame with some ties, like pitching a tent.  That worked for a while but the wind got stronger and stretched the ties.  It was Leigh who found the solution: a small team of us dragged a very heavy builder's bag over to the veg patch as ballast and anchored the bean frame to that.  Looks ugly as hell but - hey - it works!  Should get a few more beans before the end of the summer.  And what have I learned from all this?  Next year, I'm going to grow my beans up a very sturdy wigwam!  (and pinch out the growing tip)

Elsewhere everything is a bit wind-bashed but surviving:  I'm getting some lovely carrots with excellent flavour…  (all that rain must have done them good)

The beetroot is getting awesomely large…

The bees are still visiting the last of the lavender…

And what I thought were wonderfully chic black chilli peppers are, in fact, turning a vile colour I can only describe as blorange.  Fingers crossed for improvements on that front…

10 Jul 2010

Keep Calm and Carry on…

Last weekend someone crept onto the veg Patch just before dawn and helped themselves to the chicken wire which protected the crops from foxes and cats. We know when this happened because a friend recalls seeing it at 3 a.m., yet it had gone by 7 a.m.  Not to worry, I thought…  I'll just pop out and buy more.  Then I found out it's actually quite expensive: it will cost about £70 to replace all the wire that's been stolen.  (It's been disappearing over the past few weeks but somehow I didn't notice until the last but one piece had gone.)

~ "when we had wire" - the last 2 pieces ~

Without any security on the VP, I'd say the chances that the new lot would be stolen pretty swiftly are quite high - even if we had any cash left in the kitty for the purchase, which we don't.  So, nice one Mr. Burglar-person…  stealing from a community project,  must make you feel real good about yourself.  The Thief must have known he was doing wrong as he would have had to unravel the wire from around the onion bed - so it was hardly Not In Use at the time.  Unscrupulous villains like this rarely have a moment's guilt;  I can only hope that what goes around, comes around … and move on.

Because of this, I have felt disinclined over the past week to sow/plant any more stuff as the last lot got dug up overnight.  But, this morning, I was out on the VP at dawn (trying to beat the heat), weeding and digging and thinking that I should see what else I can grow this summer for the autumn.  Digging out my box of seed packets, this is what I came up with:

 ~ Carry On Sowing ~
Apparently there's still time to sow more broad beans, peas, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, runner beans, carrots, beetroot, spinach, squashes, salad stuff and herbs.  Gosh, I think I may just have talked myself into a little bit of busy-time. 

9 Jun 2010

Tribulations of urban balcony gardening…

I'm not normally pessimistic but I confess I have been a bit disheartened of late.  I've been invaded.  Yes, just a few days away from home over  half term and a family of pigeons have moved in, taking over my balcony, behaving like rock stars and trashing the place (seedlings completely squashed or broken). All very distressing.  

My kitchen now looks like a horticultural hospital as I've started again, this time indoors, and am also hoping that the poor oppressed cauliflowers, courgettes, squashes and nasturtiums will recover.

Outdoors, my growing year is revealing that  I'm Seriously Muddling Along.  I'm already reading about the successes and soon-to-be harvests of more organised and/or experienced veg growers which is making me feel slightly panicked as I'm still sowing stuff.  It seems that every time I venture out to the Veg Patch the list of Things To Do stretches ever-longer, leaving me feeling just a tad overwhelmed.  I seem to have leapt straight from March (waiting for the frosty nights to pass) into June (scorching sun, drying winds, torrential rain) and my planting and sowing schedule is still languishing at the beginning of May!  On the plus side, at least the kids' broad beans and sunflowers are still alive. (The Veg Patch is faring better than the balcony, pigeon-wise.)

I've had one raised bed ready for planting for a couple of weeks but have been diverted off from this task by putting in another brick path and digging over a bed for my french beans (Blue Lake from Dig In, doing nicely), putting up a little support frame for them and inter-planting them with strawberries.  The little reclaimed brick paths between the beds hit the to-do-list last year when the kids and I tramped home with a couple of inches of veg patch clay-mud attached to the bottom of our shoes.  I'm planning (eventually) to put them in around all the beds, just loose laid so that I can lift and plant in the space if needed.

Suddenly though, everything  is a priority: seeds lately sown (literally), sweet peas to transplant (the coppiced hazel branches for the wigwam have already been delivered by a friend), weeding to be done (that one crept up rather fast!) and lettuces/beetroot/carrots/spinach to be thinned out. Oh, and a blog to write.  … And pigeons to be dealt with (a losing battle so far).

-- Take four children, a bag of lettuce seeds and a lot of enthusiasm.  Thin out seedlings in due course. -- 

I've recently applied for funding to extend the Patch with some railway-sleeper beds which I hope to fill with sensory plants and edible herbs and flowers as a Children's Garden.  I've had to draw a rough sketch to show where the planters will be and it's made me realise how small the Veg Patch is.  I take my hat off to those of you who have huge allotments to fill and control, although (perversely) maybe it's easier if you have lots of space to fill?  I've had to take out the Kale (really only any good now for my neighbour's rabbits) to make room for … what? radishes? sweetcorn? leeks?  Where will the pumpkins, courgettes and squashes go?  What about the tomato bushes, cauliflowers, nasturtiums, calendula and herbs?  Oh, never fear, I will fit it all in - but I may have to stop and dig out another bed beforehand!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...