The Little Veg Bed

Finally, got around to writing this blog post about my gardening exploits this past weekend.  The weather was delightful, dry and sunny and it was the perfect opportunity to set to and put my plans for a vegetable/fruit bed into action.  I reported in previous posts how I had decided to convert the ‘Big Border’ in the middle of the garden to grow produce and I have moved a few plants but it really needed a concerted effort and focus to progress it properly.

I did managed to buy three bags of farmyard manure before the lockdown and I have been saving them for the vegetable border.  I spent Saturday working through the first section of the border, just over a third of the border.  Many snowdrops were lifted, luckily its the ideal time to move them in the green; perennials were moved mainly to the border on the other side of the grass path; some camassias were relocated to the slope and I have to admit that a significant number of camassias have gone to the great compost heap in the sky.  Now some might be shocked by this but the camassias were taking over the border and their large leaves and bulbs make it challenging to grow much else so the time was rip for a cull.

This is the border at the end of Saturday.  I add two of my precious bags of manure, dug it all over and raked it.  I’m going to try to not walk on the border having worked so hard on the soil.

Sunday was planting day which was very exciting.  Raspberry canes went in along the top of the border by the grass path.  I had bought a couple of pots of canes before the lock down but then realised on Sunday that I now had 10 canes and if I placed them the appropriate 1ft apart I wouldn’t be able to fit them in.  So I have thrown caution to the wind and have planted them in a double row with the canes planted at 45 degrees to the ones in the adjacent row, so its a kind of zig-zag, if you see what I mean.  The fruit section was expanded with a rhubarb, some relocated Sweet Cicely, a Gooseberry Invicta and half a dozen Strawberries.

The Veg are represented by four Potato Sharpe’s Express, three Broccoli, Shallots started in pots, some Lettuce Little Gem seedlings.  In addition I have sown Rocket, Beetroot and a salad leaf mix.

Here is the Little Veg Bed at the end of Sunday all planted up and no space to spare.  I’m now planning on extending across the border as I will hopefully have Courgette, more potatoes, and Sweet Peas to plant as well as other salad seeds.

And to just finish off my happiness we have good steady rain on Sunday night so the border has had a good soak.

I can’t believe how much I have enjoyed pulling this border together.  I’m really excited about the prospect of finally making veg growing work so watch this space to see how I do.

 

Edibles Again

Some eight years ago I made the decision to give up on veg growing and gave up my allotment.  It had been a love/hate relationship from the start for a whole raft of reasons and I have never regretted the decision.  However, for some reason in the last couple of months I have had an inkling to try growing veg and fruit again but this time at home in my garden. This surprises me as I have never felt a desire to grow edibles at home.  My garden isn’t huge, and being wide and sloping it doesn’t really have the option to have a veg garden at the end.  But then why does the veg garden need to be at the end of the garden, hidden away?

I found myself digging out Geoff Hamilton’s Ornamental Kitchen Garden, one of the first gardening books I was given.  I always remember being fascinated by the idea of mixing up veg and flowers in the garden but for some reason I have never really taken up the challenge.  Now though, having gardened very little over the last two years, I see the garden with fresh eyes and I think why not, lets give it a go.

It started with a short list of a rhubarb plant, maybe an artichoke, and some potatoes.  Nothing much, just things that could be incorporated into the borders and as my son said I do like good foliage and these plants all have nice foliage.  The rhubarb went in about a month ago and this started more thoughts about what to grow.  Maybe some raspberries, and of course a gooseberry bush as I love gooseberries.  As I have a habit of crashing into projects and then regretting it, I decided to wait until I was back from Madeira to see if I still felt the same.

But Madeira just confirmed my thoughts.  I was fascinated by their approach to growing edibles.  The eastern side of the island is what is called the rural side of the island.  Here, vegetables and fruit are grown in any space that seems to be available.  The soil is rich and they plant crops close together, not in rows placed wide apart as we do on our allotments.  I love the lushness and abundance and it got more thoughts going.

The result is that I have decided to really embrace growing edibles and instead of putting just one or two things amongst the flowers I am going to turn the big border in the middle of the garden over to edibles.

This border has always been a challenge for me.  I’ve never really worked out what to do with it.  I like borders to have a feel or a theme something that give them cohesion and this has never really worked in this border.  The drainage in this border is very good due to the slope and there are quite a lot of bulbs planted at one end where they get baked in the sun and at the other end there are a number of hellebores that are thriving.  But in between its all a bit of a mishmash,

So the plan is to slowly clear the border, leaving the planting at the two ends.  There will be a row of raspberry canes along the top edge, set back a few feet from the grass path and the veg will be grown in small blocks following the principles in Geoff Hamilton’s book.  As soon as something finishes, it is replaced with another crop.  To help with this I was given a new cold frame for my birthday and this is already full of seedlings waiting to go out.  I also managed to buy some raspberry canes, a gooseberry bush and some strawberry plants before the garden centre had to close due to the lock-down.  I am stocked up with seeds and other essential supplies so hopefully this new project will give me some light relief to being working at home for the foreseeable.

 

 

 

The Plot Fueled By Hops

I have nearly come to the end of just over a weeks annual leave and I have managed to spend a couple of hours on six of those days at the allotment.  This has made a real difference and I am beginning to feel more on top of things.  There is still masses to do but if I hadn’t spent the time I have I would really be struggling.

I have lifted all the garlic, red onions and shallots and these are mostly dried and stored either plaited or hanging in bunches in the garage.  I have weeded the two beds they were in. I’m still removing perennial weeds mainly couch grass and creeping thistle but as I haven’t had the plot for a year yet this is not surprising.  I added a couple of bags of spent hops to each bed and also several bags of the local council compost. In these beds I have planted out Savoy Cabbage and Spring Cabbage.

Mum's runner beans with my parsnips and salads in front
Mum's runner beans with my parsnips and salads in front

I wasn’t sure until today where the spent hops came from just that every so often bags of it appeared in the car park for us to help ourselves to.  However, it goes very quickly so you have to grab it while you can.  I keep missing out as it is delivered in the morning and by the time I normally get there it has already been nabbed.  Today was a real result as there was only two of us at the site and my fellow allotment holder got me six bags which should keep me going for a while. He told me that the farm just down the road is a sort of wholesaler for the local micro brewery and therefore has lots of spent hops to get rid off.  The arrival of the allotments is a god send to it as it solves their disposal problem.  I doubt if there are many nutrients in the hops but it does work well in aerating the soil and helping to break the structure up.  It also smells wonderful so you can get quite merry without a drop passing your lips!

Too many courgettes with florence fennel seedlings in front
Too many courgettes with florence fennel seedlings in front

The peas and broad beans have also finished.  Sadly the peas were hit by pea moth which I hadn’t heard of until I investigated what the maggots might be.  It turns out that you have to sow early and late to avoid their flying season.  I am now digging over these beds in order to sow green manures before planting out onion and garlic sets in the Autumn and Spring.

Leeks in need of weeding and uncultivated big bed
Leeks in need of weeding and uncultivated big bed

I still have one large bed which I haven’t cultivated much of and I really want to get dug over.  I have some Butternut Squash at the end I have dug over and I need to clear the rest of the bed before it spreads though it is very slow to get going so I should have time.  This is the one job I had hoped to get down this week but haven’t mainly because I set myself impossible targets and also because it rained today.

top of potato patch with fruit area behind
top of potato patch with fruit area behind

Harvesting wise we are steadily working our way through the potatoes.  I like Inca Belle although it needs less time to cook than you expect which is fine now I know this.  Charlotte has been OK and Piccolo Star is proving to be very prolific.  However, none of them are as tasty as Rocket we had to start with and I will definitely be growing more of those next year.

Squashes
Squashes

Courgettes are going well although in hind-sight I realise 3 plants is probably at least one too many when it is mainly only me eating them.  I think next year I will try one of the yellow round courgettes as well as the normal ones or maybe a striped one.  I don’t suppose there are any late cropping varieties that I could extend the season with?

PSB, Carvelo Nero, potato patch and the silver hop bags
PSB, Carvelo Nero, potato patch and the silver hop bags

The leeks are in but not getting going as much as I would like.  Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Carvelo Nero are looking good and I am wondering whether to start harvesting the Carvelo Nero.  I am really pleased with my Uchi Kuri Squashes – they are romping all over the place and have lots of fruits on them so hopefully I should have a good harvest.

Sunflowers look great - haven't heart to cut them
Sunflowers look great - haven't heart to cut them

Fruit wise hasn’t been so good but I understand that the plants often need a year to settle.  However on the floral  front the sweet peas  have been fantastic despite the late start and the sunflowers are also going great guns.

The only real downside has been the dead grass snake I found tangled up in the netting on my Mum’s bed (she has masses of runner beans and a nice crop of carrots).  This really upset me so I have removed the netting that was over the PSB and Carvelo Nero and I have been spraying with a homemade garlic spray which I am hopeful will deter the Cabbage White Butterflies.  I am going to rig up some CDs later to try to deter the pheasants and pigeons.  If this fails I will have to resort to Enviro-Mesh on hoops but I’m not keen as it’s all extra expense.

I am really pleased with the progress  I have made since November when the plot was little more than a ploughed field.  Who  knows what I will achieve next year.

Today's harvest Sweet Peas, salad leaves and hedgerow plums
Today's harvest Sweet Peas, salad leaves and hedgerow plums

A final bonus was discovering today that there are plums in the hedge along the side of the site so I came home with enough to make some jam which  will be the first preserves I make from the plot.  I also  noticed there are lots of blackberries in the hedgerow so I am hopeful  of blackberry and apple crumble later in the year.

Soft Fruit Border: a new project

A small revolution is happening chez Patient Gardener.  My non-edible stance has slipped and berrilicious things have started to appear in various guises on the patio.

This change of heart has come due to a continuing fustration at not growing edibles which was finally solved when I read A Taste of the Unexpected by Mark Diacono (you can find my review here).  Thanks to the book I have realised that I can grow edibles without having to spend ages tending a veg plot which I just don’t have the time or interest to do, by growing perennial edibles.  Obvious really but sometime the obvious has to be pointed to us. So I am starting with a soft fruit border.  I use the word border because I might interplant the fruit bushes with some annuals but only after I have checked that this won’t upset the fruit bushes.  So far for my soft fruit border I have rhubarb and gooseberry which are already in the garden but will be relocated.  Also a lovely selection of strawberry plants (see above) including minature ones which have been donated by some twitter pals. They should look good at the front of the border, trailing over the scaffolding edge (its a raised border on the slope).

Then yesterday  five Raspberry Autumn Bliss arrived from Victoriana Nursery along with instructions which I need to read. In the parcel was also a Bilberry plant  (above) but looking at it I am thinking that maybe I should have ordered three and not one as it seems so tiny.  I will do some better research into their eventual size and maybe order some more.  I am still awaiting delivery of a Japanese Wineberry which will be trained along the fence at the back of the border.

I’m also toying with the idea of a fruit tree but due to limited space I don’t want anything that will grow too big and it would need to be self-fertile, attractive and produce something delicious and different.  Still researching.

I have other edible plans but will reveal these when I have something to show.