Thursday, 16 June 2016

In the garden

For purely selfish reasons I've decided to try and do a post, probably every couple of weeks rather than every week, about the garden. Purely selfish because it will be a good record, in so many ways, for me to look back on - of what has or hasn't worked, of how well certain things are developing, even just where I've grown particular vegetables from season to season. I've found myself this year wishing that I could look back on photos from last year to see how, for example, my sweetcorn compare at this precise time or whether my cucumbers were already flowering last year by now. So I do apologise if you're not interested in seeing my garden, and there are lots of prettier, more interesting gardens to look at on the internet so I can completely understand why you wouldn't be interested! Please just skip over these posts if that's the case, they're really for me more than anyone else!

So last year I started making slight inroads with our veggie patch. Around this time I'd just built one raised bed, and then later in the year I got a further 2 beds built. I found these quite manageable throughout the growing season, and come Autumn they were still in a good state and even got properly put to sleep for the Winter, weed free with a layer of leaves all over them. So we hit Spring this year in a pretty good place. But I was also keen to reclaim more areas of the veggie patch and build further raised beds. And that plan has been going well - I've got another 5 more raised beds built in fact.

It's still not looking pretty out there, and there's still loads to do but it is getting quite productive. And we've been harvesting a few different crops already - which is hugely satisfying. But maybe enough on the written history, and I'll just skip to a photographic tour.

I think I might have posted photos of this first little patch earlier this year. An ancient wheelbarrow turned into salad planter, and a now unneeded wooden gas cylinder shelter turned upside down which has become a strawberry patch.

We've been thinning out the lettuces into our salads and the strawberries are coming in dribs and drabs now, I've netted them but I've been meaning to get some straw around them all week and that hasn't happened yet.

They're right next to the fairly battered greenhouse, in which we have tomatoes, cucumbers and an intriguing 'cucamelon' plant - I'll let you know if we get anything from that.

Here's the first new patch I dug and built this year, and this is the one which took the most time.

I was lucky enough to have a lot of waste wood - old joists etc - from the barn end of our house which we converted for my parents a couple of years ago. These have been great for building all my beds - they're not aesthetically perfect but they seem to fit the purpose well enough.

I really should have taken some 'before' photos to compare here. It's now choc full of earthed up new potatoes, but back in March it was an enormous mound of nettles, brambles and bindweed. The soil in this area, though riddled with weed roots, was amazing - incredibly rich and loamy and loaded with worms. I think it was probably the site of an old compost heap, and because it was a large mound, there was enough of the soil to fill another bed as well. So clearing it was time well spent - although if I'd realised how long it would take me I might not have tackled it!

Here's one of the beds from last year, with broad beans, onions and garlic all doing well.

This bed has blackcurrants to the right, which are just starting to ripen and need a good weed, and gooseberries to the left - ditto to the ripening and even more so to the weeding, the poor gooseberries are almost submerged. There are raspberries further down too which are also fairly much submerged, these areas of the garden are mainly 'inherited' and are the ones I find hardest to stay on top of.

We've had several meals from the broad beans, and still lots more to come. So much better than shop bought.
Here's another of last year's beds. This one has peas, parsnips, a row of carrots which are just starting to emerge and then spinach, which I'm already picking regularly.

You can see quite a few patches of brown, dead looking vegetation around some of the beds - we've not been experiencing drought like conditions (ha!), everything generally is incredibly green and flourishing,but there are a few areas in between beds where I've been very bad and put weed killer down, I'm planning on putting a weed suppressing liner down in these 'paths' and then hopefully covering it, most likely with bark chippings from the sawmills down the road. 

And the last of the existing beds. A row of parsnip thinnings - I'm terrible at thinning out anything, I hate to throw away perfectly good plants, so they all got replanted in various places. I wasn't sure they'd cope with being transplanted but they are mostly holding their own. Then quite a few tomato plants, which I think have grown enormously just in the couple of days since this photo was taken, and which need staking. And there's now a row of carrot thinnings at the far side - see comments re parsnip thinnngs! I'm not so sure the carrots are going to handle their transplantation so well though, they're looking a little wilted at the moment, despite how much rain the garden has been enjoying this week.

The second of the new beds...

Here it is from the opposite,onion/pea side.

Onions, my earlier sown peas (just starting to produce some pods which are delicious eaten whole, although these peas were grown for the actual peas inside), another, slightly later, sown, row of broad beans, a few purple spouting broccoli plants, more parsnip thinnings (!), a couple of courgettes - one massive one dwarfing the other, I'd forgotten just how much room these need, although I spotted a baby courgette on it today so it's hard to be annoyed with it, I think I may have to find a new home for the smaller relation though - and a few cucumber plants.

New bed number 3...

This one is dug out, lined and built, but the soil was not great here and I'd run out of my good supplies from elsewhere in the garden and really couldn't afford to buy in enough soil to fill this. So I've done the same as last year and planted in bags of compost - this was an idea I read about on 'Faith, family, food and fabric' here. It worked really well last year, especially with a combination of sweetcorn and pumpkins so I've done that again (with some cheeky carrot thinnings in a few spaces!).

Pumpkin flowers already
 I'll hopefully build up the soil in this one gradually with things like local manure, the almost mature contents of our wormery, leaf mould compost etc, but quite possibly I'll be growing in bags again next year as this happens.

New bed number 4...

This one was an unplanned addition. My Dad has always liked gardening, and does potter around with various bits and pieces still, but I think his biggest pleasure now is buying plants! He came home one day with about 20 more strawberry plants which he'd seen and felt were too much of a bargain not to buy. I found another ancient wheelbarrow at our nearby recycling centre to repurpose, and that's up near his end of the house with some of them in it, so quite manageable for him to look after. But the rest needed a home so another bed had to be built. There's room in this one for the strawberries to spread quite a bit, and it's amazing how many runners they're already starting to throw out, but for this year there are also some extra tomatoes in here and another little row of parsnip thinnings! The strawberries themselves are ripening nicely, and getting picked daily.

Again I've been meaning to get some straw around these.

I'm keeping reasonably on top of pinching out the side shoots on my tomatoes this year, and we already have quite a few flowers, I think the tomatoes. perhaps more than anything else, are loving the wet weather we've been having this week.

I seem to have completely missed taking any photos of new bed number 5, possibly because it's a strange, long thin bed just for asparagus and it's not very easy to photograph. So that will have to wait till next time, especially as this is already so long! There are a few tyres scattered throughout too, some large tractor tyres...

More purple sprouting broccoli - one of these plants has been producing snacks for children for a few weeks now, not quite enough to cook really not that I get the chance!

Some runner beans, also enjoying the rain and just starting to make the dash for the tops of their poles...
Blueberries in smaller tyres in the background here.
There's another large tyre with carrots and a few extra peas, which also didn't get photographed, and then quite a few smaller tyres. These mainly have cucumbers, with just one odd squash. There were 2 originally, but I think I was a bit quick to plant them out and one sadly died.

These tyres have a thick layer of old cardboard beneath them to try and help keep them weed free.

A couple more missing tyres with gooseberries and quite a few other bits and pieces I could mention - lots more blueberries all doing well, loganberries and tayberries almost ready, sweet peas squeezed in mainly in pots here and there, a couple of honeyberries which look amazingly healthy but have no berries - perhaps they need to be a little older before they bear fruit? - there is just so much going on out there and so much to do! And I haven't even mentioned the tree chopping, coppicing and pruning which has been taking up huge amounts of garden time, but in the process providing us with excellent stocks for the wood burner next year.

I'd like to think that future garden posts will not be anything like so long! In fact I guarantee they won't be! But before I finish I must add a couple of last photos, of something we've never had any success with previously - sunflowers!

Happily our sunflower seeds (like pretty much every seed we planted this year in fact) did really well, and we have around 15 sunflowers standing reasonably tall already. Including several with very exciting buds...

They won't be long now!



  1. Wow, my friend, you have been busy!!! I love it all. So much goodness growing in your garden, and lots of love put into it. I love these posts, keep them coming :)

    Happy gardening my friend, enjoy the harvests. xo

  2. I enjoy reading about your work in the garden. My goodness you are so productive! The cucamelon sounds intriguing...! X

  3. You have an incredibly green thumb! Your garden is growing in leaps and bounds...wonderful that you have been harvesting already. Yum!

  4. Well, if we must look at photos of your garden Sally, at least it is lovely and very healthy looking :-) Not a chore, really.

  5. LOVE seeing pics of your garden!

  6. It was great fun to tour your garden. I'd prefer to be able to do it in person but this works.

  7. What a productive garden, Sally. I'd love to wander around it! A question about planting into the compost bags - do you put a hole or holes in the bottom of the bags?

  8. Great post and what a wonderful tour in pictures! Sadly, we only have a large courtyard in our new place, with no grass at all! But some of your ideas could work for us, I think. Just need to get a load of soil delivered, I suppose! xCathy

  9. I was feeling productive today as I planted some herbs I bought in pots from Sainsburys. That's feeling slightly inadequate now.


Please post a comment, I love to hear from you!