It’s that time of year when the kitchen looks like a rather untidy harvest festival. It takes much longer to prepare and preserve the veg than it takes to plant it.
Not only is all of that very satisfying, it is encouraging to think ahead to the next season too. As I’ve been wandering around my veg patch there has been a wonderful aroma. I had assumed it was my multiplicity of BEANS! I’d never thought of smelling the flowers even though they are delicately beautiful. Then today I DID smell them – and that was NOT what I was smelling! The only other thing it could be was a squash plant that has weaved its way into my bean patch. And yes that is where the delightful smell was coming from!
The sweet smelling squash flowers
This prompted me to smell all the other types squash on the patch and blow me, none of the others smell at all!
I now have a confession. The label (nice eco wooden one) has rotted, so I don’t even know which variety it is, so I can plant it again. I wonder if any of you sharp eyed bloggers can tell me what it is?!
Which squash is this?!
In fact I have several squash that don’t look at all like what I thought I’d planted out! Note for next season: Label even more carefully and not only when they are seedlings!
I’ve had greenhouses for years now … sometimes terribly neglected I must say. But over the years I’ve seen most bugs that afflict gardens – and sometimes in plague-like quantities! There was the year of the spider mite, when my aubergines were all but wiped out and the year of the aphid (you name the colour we had them) and so on.
THIS year I decided to be really careful. I watched closely when the ‘difficult’ time came when bugs seem to do most of their munching. Having seen a few small holes in some leaves I sprayed with horticultural soap and kept on doing so. It seemed to be in control though some of my peppers were suffering and also my sweet potato vine that clambers up the back wall. Nothing too untoward seemed to be happening until it came time to harvest the second batch of tomatoes.
That’s when I noticed that masses of my lovely plum tomatoes were being inhabited by uninvited aliens!! Yuk!
Each beautifully formed tomato had one of these ***** nested inside it! Who on earth are they and how can I avoid them another year?! They have all but ruined the later ripening crop. It really is most off putting to cut it up and find one inside. There seem to be rather a lot squirming around. Or rather I should say there WERE rather a lot. Hmmm. I’ve ‘taken action’ shall I say. Please if you know what they are let me know. They are really juicy (so were my tomatoes once) brown caterpillars.
I thought I’d seen it all till I saw this monster
… AND I THOUGHT THAT CLIMBING BEANS CLIMBED?
Am I naive or something … aren’t climbing beans supposed to CLIMB? This year I thought I’d have a go at growing yardlong beans as we love French beans. And here we are in JULY and the wretched things are hardly off the ground! They were planted in the greenhouse pots and coddled till the better weather arrived and then tenderly placed in nice fertile soil between the wigwams of runners. Now the runners are looking monstrous! They’re up to the top of the poles and bidding for freedom in the sky. They have little baby beans on them and soon we will be enjoying the delights of fresh beans.
As for the ‘yardlongs’? Well, the first thing they did on planting out was sulk. They went a nasty shade of mottled yellow and so I gave them a severe talking to. I also gave them a liberal feed of liquid plant food. In return they slowly regained a more civilised shade of green. Then they just SAT. For weeks they didn’t grow at all. Now I have to admit this shot was taken a while ago when they had just about finished sulking. But even now they are looking pretty pathetic and have a few tiny climbing shoots about a yard high at best! How on earth are they going to catch up I wonder? If this summer hasn’t been hot enough for them I despair! My other French beans are looking much better though only just coming into flower.
Can anyone out there help me? I have watered and fed and cajoled ….
It really isn’t a good idea to go on holiday when it is seed planting time. This year it was ‘needs must’ as my nephew would have taken a very dim view of it if I had missed his wedding in order to coddle my ‘darlings’. In any case in any normal year the end of April should not be too much of a problem.
I sowed my seeds in tiny individual pots this year
These seeds were sown in tiny individual pots in a heated propagator to give them a good start in life. However it was SO cold that I had to bring the thing into the kitchen to get any life out of them at all!! They were visited and watered and talked to, but to no avail until it warmed up a bit outside.
Then my ‘little star’ was born. Last year I’d had disasters with butternut squash, but there he was sitting there in the tray. Small but perfectly formed.
How come a delicate squash can germinate when tomatoes refuse?!
Quite how he managed to germinate first when the tomatoes and peppers refused to come above the soil I will never know!! Then of course I had the problem that I was going away.
Just before I left, the tomatoes and peppers decided to make an appearance after about 5 weeks of sulking. They were minute and I was going away imminently. I just had to ‘pot them on’ and hope with fingers crossed. My dear neighbour did his job and came and carried on the visiting and cajoling and watering and they have continued to grow – a little bit – though they are still definitely sulking and I am too embarrassed to show you photos of them! Pathetic is the description – but not dead. The hope is that with the marginally warmer weather and longer days and now I am safely back home again, I can actually coax them into behaving in a more normal manner. I’ll let you know how I get on in future blogs.
I can’t believe how long it is since I wrote about our new strawberry bed!! It was ages before we could get it planted up – but here it is!!
As there are still frosts about we decided to cover it up when frost threatens just to give the strawberries a good start in life.
I knew there would one day be a good use for my mother-in-law’s old net curtains! They are exactly the right size to quickly cover the beds.
I knew there must be a use for the mother-in-law’s old net curtains!!
Who would have guessed it would take SO long to do! Now we are relaying all the beds in the veg patch too. First heaving all the old bricks out (over several days) in the FREEZING cold, then persuading the gardener’s mate to go into the arctic conditions to build them …
The beginnings of great things
I hope that my nex post will show great progress … and SOON.
The sun is out and I’m off up the garden to my green gym.
Tags: old curtains·raised beds·strawberries
I’m so glad that I didn’t give up with the pile of planks that I reported at the beginning of the winter!! We’d been putting up with cracking, crumbly soft wood planks and by the end of last season there was almost as much soil OUT of the cold frame as there was inside!
I’m glad I waited for this to be made for me ….
We also made the beginner mistake of not making it anything like high enough, so the poor plants kept hitting the ‘glass’ and folding over in a very unhelpful way! Now with my nicely re constructed cold frame, not only have we good treated wood that should last a nice long time, but an extra plank height too.
Over on the open ground site, we’ve put in a new raised bed for the new strawberry plants. Our old strawberry bed was in a silly place and had out lived it’s useful life too. Not to mention that this winter half of it filled up with water!! This lovely new bed (yet to be painted green so it doesn’t look so awful from the neighbour’s house!) is filled partly with our ‘home grown’ compost and the rest is some great top soil that we bought from a local company that we discovered was almost barrowing distance from the house! It looks ‘good stuff’ so we’re hoping (again) for great things! It’s currently covered with weed suppressing fabric while the soil settles (and the weather warms up a bit!) and also to deter the local felines from developing a new litter tray … We will eventually plant through the fabric. The new plants are all lined up hardening off in the new frame of course!
The even better news is that there is some top soil left over from the raised bed which we will use to top up the ‘new’ frame and if there is yet more it will be used to enrich to old strawberry patch which is in great need of tlc! I’ll let you know how we get on … meanwhile I await with bated breath while the gardener’s assistant gets round to making MORE raised beds inside the veg patch so that I will not feel quite so ashamed of showing you wide shots of my veg beds!!
As I said before you can only dream!!!
Getting the seeds for the next season is always exciting
It’s so frustrating not being able to get out and garden. It makes me realise how much I rely on my ‘outdoor gym’ for exercise and therapy. The one lovely thing that helps me keep out of the winter blues is to plan my next season’s veg. First I sit down and log what I already have and work out which seeds may actually germinate if they are a bit ancient! Then I work out what I need and order it. While I’m waiting for them to arrive, I plan on the computer how I am going to arrange them in my veg beds. I have several small beds, rather than one big bed and I try my hardest to rotate the crops. Sadly we like beans and peas so much, that I sometimes (like last year) try to squeeze far too many beans and peas into the plot! We will be eating runner beans for several months to come.
Then then the really exciting moment comes and the packets of seed drop through the door! I lay them all out as if they are precious jewels and savour each packet. Each year I try at least one new type of seed. You win some and loose some! Last year I had several ‘failures’ but let’s face it, it wasn’t the best season for experimenting, so I am attempting one or two of my ‘failures’ again!
I hope that the contents of many of my vegseeds above will feature in my monthly blogs ….
It may not look to you ….
A pile of old wood sitting in a concrete passageway may not seem much like a veg blog to you, but to me it is the promise of things to come … You see I have long been asking the Gardener’s Mate to build me a raised strawberry bed in a rather nice south facing patch of our our property. Since making this decision, I’ve discovered that the original creator of the garden also thought this was a good spot and that’s where she grew all her soft fruit, so it’s not such a silly idea. Currently the strawberries are languishing in a soggy corner of the veg plot and I really do need to dig them out, sort out the soil structure and plant something else in there for a few seasons.
It’s all part of a complete overhaul plan for the kitchen garden, built probably 40 or 50 years ago. It’s a great site nicely sheltered from the prevailing winds and parts of it are really well worked soil, but where we’ve squared it off or made new beds, it’s flinty clay over chalk, so growth even within a bed can be very patchy. By the time we’ve finished, there should be neat raised beds with sensible weed free paths between. Right now I’d be embarrassed to post a photo of it!
There are even wild dreams of a western wall instead of a nasty Leylandii hedge (inherited – wouldn’t dream of planting one) so I can indulge my fantasies of training fruit along it. We have a fence down most of that side of the garden. It is already home to summer fruiting raspberries, an ancient row of loganberries, Japanese wine berries and a recently created space for a new addition : possibly a peach tree. Elsewhere in the garden we have a autumn fruiting raspberries, black and red currants, gooseberries, a fan trained apricot and a lovely grapevine plus quite an orchard of established hard and stoned fruit. But the dream of a wall is still there waiting to be fulfilled.
I hope that one of my summer blogs will be able to show you the finished fruiting of our labours this winter and after all winter is the time to dream about things to come.
Tags: raised beds·west facing wall and fence
GETTING READY FOR THE BIG CLEAN
I suspect that I am not alone in that I hate the task of cleaning the greenhouse at the end of the season!
Last year I wasn’t well in the autumn so I left it to the Gardener’s Mate. Now he isn’t really a gardener, though terribly willing and when I eventually got back into the greenhouse, it wasn’t exactly ’clean’. It was beautifully tidy and the floor was neatly swept, but ‘the’ big task had not been done. The seasons flew by and here I am in Autumn again and I can’t put it off any longer. It must be scrubbed and de-greened!
One of my gardener friends said how much she loved the smell of Jeyes fluid. I can’t stand it! Even a drop of it seems to pervade the air for weeks. It doesn’t help that a very old can of the stuff rusted through and flooded the adjacent shed removing the surface from the shed floor and drowning some precious things including our beloved gazebo! Surely someone can come up with a ‘safer’ and less evil smelling compound. Come on fellow gardeners help me here: what can I use to that will kill the bugs and not me! I do have to admit that it is very effective and has done a brilliant job.
So our once green green greenhouse is now sparkling and I trust bug free. The winter lettuce is settling in and the tender bulbs are in there too. The peppers are still producing and I even harvested an aubergine this week, so they can remain for a while yet till I need the space. It’s rather sad saying goodbye the summer plants but very satisfying to see it fresh and clean and ready for another season.
Tags: cleaning fluids·cleaning greenhouse
It’s been a strange old year for my beans!! We love ‘em, so I planted plenty of them. Two varieties of runners (Moonlight and Scarlet Runner) and also several varieties of climbing French beans as they seem to freeze better and we love the flavour. I tried a new method of poles. I just put very long poles in a line deep in the soil. No string, wire or twine. ‘It won’t work’ said one of my best gardener friends. Well she was wrong! It worked really well, saved me ages tying them all together in wigwams or rows and has withstood the recent gales very nicely thank you!
Eventually we have had a bumper crop of runners. I was trying to decide which variety faired best on our soil but both have had their strengths. The Moonlight have produced well consistently and have not become tough towards the end of the season, but the Scarlet Runner has cropped more heavily especially towards the end of the season, though with a tendency to quickly get too long and tough if you don’t catch them young. So perhaps I’ll grow both again.
On the other-hand, my French bean were all a complete disaster. Most of them were chomped early season by an army of slugs and snails. Something was even eating my eco friendly slug pellets with gusto. We tried beer traps with a modicum of success, but as the gardener’s mate drank the remainder of the beer with as much enthusiasm, we didn’t keep up the experiment!
The French beans are far too nice to give up on yet. I can see I’ll plant just as many next year and hope that this time I can catch the munching mini beasts before they demolish them all.
Ahh the joys of gardening …..
My entire crop of French beans!!
My vertical poles did the trick nicely!