Category Archives: garden

the life and times of a virgin gardener

Here and now in the garden

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Time to get going with the veggie garden again. I do confess to being a woman of fits and starts with gardening ( well, with everything, if I’m honest). The ‘earlies’ I bought a couple of months ago with every intention of planting have turned wrinkly and a bit mouldy in the bag so I am thinking they would probably not be the best start for a healthy crop. But the main crop potatoes are sprouted nicely and I have planted them out today in two massive pots on the patio along with 2 lots of onions and 2 courgette plants. This year I have planted the courgettes one to a pot as I hadn’t realised just how big those things grow last time. We didn’t have much of a crop last season and even though what we had was fabulous I think with more space they will crop more. That’s the theory anyway.

I also bought 3 big new pots in the sale section at the garden centre, 2 courgette plants, 3 bags of multi-purpose compost and a bag of farmyard manure. Saves you money this growing your own vegetables don’tcha know? ‘The Help” ie Son 3 brought the haevy stuff in from the car whilst I did the artistic planting-y bit. And will obviously take all the credit.

Tomorrow I am going to plant some bulbs the kids gave me for Mother’s Day ( here in the UK that was in March). It is a ‘purple selection’ so I think they will match my handbag and shoes perfectlly. I did a bit of desultory weeding. The type that means grabbing big handfuls of last years cabbage and yanking it out of the ground by the roots. I didn’t attemt to tackle the forest of attractive dandelions that need serious digging. I had a Scarlett O’Hara  moment about them.

The really good thing about being in the garden though is it is a very mindful experience. I do struggle with being as ‘here and now’ as I would like to be. Too much of my life has always been spent in fantasising and planning which is all very well if you are writing a book or carrying out a great design plan, but for day to day peace of mind there is nothing like just being in the moment and accepting it as it is. Someone said to me ‘Grateful people stay sober”. Whatever your drug of choice, gratitude has a sure fire way of putting addiction firmly in it’s place.

Today I am glad of a reminder from the garden that I am glad to be here and now.

New Potatoes and Curly Carrots

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It is a gorgeous summer day and I spent the afternoon tidying up the garden, mowing the grass ( I daren’t use the term ‘lawn’ under the Trades Descriptions Act), clipping the hedge with some help from son 3 and harvesting veggies.

This is our first crop of carrots, all curly and feathery topped. I wish I could do a scratch and sniff post so you could inhale the carrotty scent as they came up from the ground. I squeal with excitement at every vegetable that materialises. I also picked some tiny baby beetroot.

Tonight we are going to eat tuna steaks with steamed new potatoes, curly carrots and the tiny bettroots just for fun.

And after we are having strawberries and bluebrries which are right now marinading in a couple of spoonfuls of balsamic vinegar. Apparently they taste amazing with balsamic and fresh pepper so we will see. I didnt add the brown sugar as I know the fruit will be sweet enough for us! And psssst Im not doing sugar ( grin).

Food straight from the garden feeds the soul not just the body. Good food shared in good company makes your heart sing. I am lucky, I have both.

One potato, Two potato, Three Potato, Four ..

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One potato

Two potato

Three potato

Four!

Five potato

Six potato

Seven potato

More!

 

Digging up our first ever potato crop yesterday was truly like finding golden treasure. To put the fork in and turn the soli over then find a perfect new potato just made me shriek and grin! I dug up just enough for dinner for last night and we savoured every delicious, earthy, sweet mouthful. And yes, they really do taste different. We ate them with salmon, some lettuce from the garden mixed with sugar snap peas, cucumber and mint ( also from the garden). We had a large jug of iced water with lemon and mint, added butter to the potatoes. Heaven.

I love potatoes.The daughter of a friend of mine, who is now in her twenties, asked Santa for a bag of potatoes ‘All for herself” when she was 7. She would have loved these!

You can do so much with a potato. Boil it, mash it, fry it, make chips and fries with it, bake it, add cream and onion and garlic and Frenchify it deliciously.Make Bubble and Squeak ( potatoes and cabbage leftovers English) or Colcannon (Bacon and potato leftovers Irish), Potato Cakes ( Welsh), Champ or Tattie Scones ( Scottish).Use it in an ‘egg’ and spoon race. Play counting games with it. It must be one of the most maligned vegetables, blamed for making us fat when it is a solid satisfying complex carbohydrate which releases sloooow sugars to keep us steady between meals.

This was my first foray into potato growing, there are lots more out there just waiting to be savoured and eaten. The onions are coming on too, as are the carrots and beetroot. So, One potato, Two potato ….

 

Of Cabbages and Kings …

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“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

 Lewis Carroll from Alice in Wonderland, ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’

The vegetable patch is exploding with growth. Spring cabbage and potatoes are vying for space. The carrot tops are waving like a feathery forest. Feeling tired tonight and needing a simple but ‘good for you’ meal we had fresh new potatoes with butter, chicken gently fried in some olive oil and with organic stock cubes and tarragon for flavour and a spring cabbage cut straight from the garden.

It never ceases to amaze me just how miraculous it feels to grow, cut and eat your own vegetables. I know I am not naturally ‘green fingered’ and I don’t honestly know that much about gardening, but I am learning by trial and error. I love the fact that the earth is generally so forgiving. I know that to get ‘perfect’ show specimens it is probably wise to follow the rules, whatever they may be, but there is so much joy in having planted those little plug plants of cabbage, weedy as they looked and now to have big green plants and eat them!

Yes it tasted delicious.

How did your garden grow?

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View of the extended raised bed

Mary,Mary Quite contrary

How did your garden grow?

With silver bells and cockle shells

And pretty maids all in a row.

I always loved that rhyme as a child. Our garden still aspires to be pretty as well as practical but the joy of seeing the vegetables coming up is just as much fun to see.

thought it was time for a vegetable garden update. After a very hot April and May we have returned to a more English summer of rain and warmth interspersed with days when you wish you’d worn that sweater. Its meant an end to daily watering and fears of the ever looming hose pipe ban and the garden has been very grateful.

Potatoes and carrots

The spring cabbage and potatoes are shooting up. The carrots are very pretty with their feathery tops and the onions are beginning to look a bit more sturdy. Somehow the days get away from me so the 2nd raised bed has been waiting to be ‘raised’ with the rhubarb plant I didn’t kill sitting proudly in the middle. This afternoon I resurrected my bricklaying skills ( see picture for evidence, and stop chortling at the back!) and added another few feet. I added some soil improver for our clay soil, lots of chicken poo and voila. Ready for the red cabbage which has to go in or it will start climbing out of its plug plant box all by itself.

Red cabbage plants

Every time I go in the garden I get lost in plans for the future. Sometimes just sitting there with a cup of tea counts as gardening. Honestly.

Greenhouse. Chickens. Flower beds. Less lawn ( or grass as it should be called, lawn implies something altogether more pristine and cared for).

And then there are the birds to watch. The big bully pigeons get on my nerves. They shove and throw their weight about . But today a robin sat on a stray basketball in the garden and hopped between that and the bench under the tree. I didn’t get a picture, maybe next time.

Spring cabbage and Potatoes in raised bed

salad leaves on their way

Rhubarb makes a come back!

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The vegetable patch is coming on, this year I’m growing some veg I haven’t tried before. Last year I grew in pots on the patio until I coud get a patch of land clear so this year we have space for potatoes, spring cabbage and onions in one plot. Some herbs in the smaller bit – feverfew, mint and chives so far. I have another big pot with potatoes, one with carrots and some salad leaves and beetroot in others. Still to be sown are yellow and green courgettes ( got to get going with them!) and some red cabbage plants all ready to grow on.

Carrots

Spring cabbage, onions and potatoes and Mr Frog

I’ve been growing sunflower seeds on the windowsill just for fun, look how fast they grew! Now to find a nice sunny spot by the hedge for them to be planted out and hopefully wave their sunny faces at us. The seeds will be a treat for the birds later on.

Sunflower babies

Last years rhubarb plants which i thought would never take in our poor clay soil have got a new lease of life. I reckon next year we might have a nice crop from them. The ground has been treated to bags of organic soil improver and lashings of chicken and horse poo. I’m still ogling websites for chicken coops and chickens which I would love to have. Maybe next year?! One of my favourite sites is this one : http://www.bhwt.org.uk/

If you are in the UK check it out. The British Hen Welfare Trust re-home ex-battery hens and give them a whole new life. They may arrive looking tatty, feather-less and somewhat the worse for wear but they soon settle in, grow new plumage and become part of the famil. That is my plan anyway. I just have to sort a good home for them first. And just think of all that free chicken poo!

Rhubarb ( no custard)

And lastly – what is yet to come! There is the untamed wild / wildlife upper part of the garden. I didn’t get to the dandelion heads in time before the wind last weekend so we will have another bumper yellow crop in next years grass I’m sure 😦 Longer term we have plans to have a greenhouse on here. Not too big, but somewhere to grow seeds and tomatoes and maybe a few more exotic things like peppers and cucumber. We have a load of old paving stones which I will start putting down later in the summer as a hard standing base. Then all we have to do is ave up for the greenhouse or hopefully find one on freecycle!

There is something about being in the garden and growing things that gets under your skin and into your blood. My ‘gatherer’ nature emerges as I see the seeds begin to sprout and green shoots appear out of blank brown earth. It is good for the soul.

And here is froggy who is bouncing up and down and keeping a beady eye on my cabbages.

Froggy

Flowers to make your heart sing

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Nothing makes my heart sing quite like flowers.And spring flowers are the best of all. The reminder of hope after winter. The touch of warm sun and the scent of newly mown grass for the first time. I love looking at other people’s gardens, whether on a walk through the neighbourhood or by visiting formal gardens to walk and wonder and take photos. Azaleas are out now and the scent is sweet and heavy on the air. I buried my head in white lilac too and just drank in the essence of it. Tulips are coming to the end now but the last blowsy exotic petals fall downwards  so that the flowers look like designer  ‘fascinators’ all ready for a smart wedding. Huge purple globes from giant chives make me stop and stare, oh I have to find some of those for our garden this year!

Pink tulips

Poppies are bursting their buds, eager for it to be summer, fooled by the unseasonal warmth. Giant Californian poppies with gorgeous red petals so lush and vibrant you wonder if they are real. Small field poppies in red and orange and yellow, their delicate tissue paper heads bouncing and fluttering in the breeze. Delicious herbaceous borders planted with an eye for colour and design that makes me smile with admiration and awe. Part of the joy of other people’s planting is stealing ideas and inspiration. Magnolias have blossomed everywhere it seems this spring. They seem far too exotic to grace our urban streets but there they are, in ordinary front gardens, bringing a splash of summer. Now they, like the tulips, are at the end of their flowering and even more beautiful as they fade. They become like a different flower so I have to get close to make sure they are the same.

Magnolia

poppy

poppies

Weekly Photo Challenge- One

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The First Dandelion

Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging,

As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,

Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass–innocent, golden, calm as the dawn,

The spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face.

Source: “Leaves of Grass,” by Walt Whitman

Dandelion Clock

I’m growing vegetables – making raised beds

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So today was the day. First the ugly truth, or ‘What Has Happened Under There?’ since last year    

I want to grow more vegetables this year. Last year I did ok for a beginner with courgettes, a few beans, peppers ( 3), a fantastic pumpkin and some tomatoes, lots of spinach and cut-and-come-again lettuce. They all grew in pots on the patio whilst I tried to get the side of the garden under control!    But now of course I want more. Potatoes and onions, broccoli and carrots, broad beans and green beans, squashes and fat juicy tomatoes. I want to be able to supply us with veggies. But first I need to get some plots sorted.

My research tells me that raised beds are the way to go. Less digging and warmer soil means growing starts earlier . I have pink fir apple potatoes just begging to go in the ground.

As you can see, there is work to be done!  Next came removing the sheeting and , sigh of relief, it did what it ‘says on the tin’! The ground was much easier to dig, most of the weeds have gone and those pesky dandelions that were left were easier to pull than I anticipated.

My plan is to use some of the large pile of old house bricks sitting in the garden from when we had our house extended a couple of years ago. I like free resources!

Clearing the ground still took some work. Old bricks and edging stones were buried in there and ivy seems to have got everywhere, coming over from next door! I spent most of the morning on it, should count as a good all body work-out! Who needs the gym?!

After a break for lunch and a cuppa I enrolled DS (2) in a bit of light manual labour and wall building. We got the edges flat-ish and used bricks 2 high to make the bed. So far I’ve filled it with the compost I have and some chicken poo pellets. Now I want to source some well-rotted horse manure and some more compost and we will have a yummy planting area. The soil is poor and clay-y so the more goodness I can get into it before we start the better.      

Sadly we sacrificed a few tulips but they are gorgeous on the windowsill and the bulbs will be replanted elsewhere.

Oh and the end part of the bed we have delegated for short root plants as we found an old pathway under there! I’m pretty pleased with the result so far

And now for a cup of tea and 2 Scottish oatcakes with PB.