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Elma Family Garden Kitty Pip

In the growing garden: 4 August

04/08/2016

If I had hoped that my sugar snap pea stalks would yield enough peas to serve up with supper one night, I was sadly mistaken. Not, I should stress, because the pea plants are in any way lacking, or making empty their seed packet promises, or in fact doing anything other than hurtling out peas in a never ending stream of green.

Space for the Butterflies - grow your own veg

The peas are growing, and in doing so appear to have become the main source of small additional snacks for the chief assistant gardener and his big sisters. And there was me thinking I’d get to eat them all because the first time I picked one and handed it to them they Pip took one bite and with an expression of deep confusion handed it straight back with a, “No like it Mama!” that might have we’ll have said “what are you doing giving me that Mama!”

Space for the Butterflies - grow your own veg

but then the girls discovered that if you split the pod inside you find the sweetest peas and from that point onwards it’s been all we can do to keep them on the stalks long enough to get big and juicy.

And while there is a nice completeness about growing food that actually makes it to the dinner table, I could never mind a little bit of garden snaffling; there’s just nothing quite as tasty as very freshly picked fruit and veg.

Space for the Butterflies - grow your own veg

In the rest of the garden we’re in the gathering in stage of the year. All the hard work of planting and weeding and thinning and all the rest is gone now, it’s more just a case of keeping an eye on everything and watching it grow.

Space for the Butterflies - purple beans

The other current harvest is the purple beans. They look magnificent and I keep meaning to pick a few and steam them for supper in the hopes of keeping their purple colour during cooking; I can still remember being very disappointed in a purple cauliflower that leached all its colour in the pot and presented as a very unappetising greyish blue and my beans have fought so hard for survival that I’d hate to spoil them now.

Space for the Butterflies - purple beans

The carrots and parsnips will be a while yet I suspect; they’re all flourishing and I rather suspect that any collapsing of foliage is more to do with the small tiger we found lurking in the vicinity mewling wildly.

Space for the Butterflies - small tiger

“Bob!” said Pip (my aunt’s cat).
“No, not Bob sweetie, just a cat”
“Where Bob Mummy? Where Bob?”

Sorry little furry interloper but my son’s affections belong to another.

Space for the Butterflies - messy carrots

I haven’t cleared and replanted the onion and garlic bed, nor have I cleared the spinach, which didn’t really survive my scissor based attack, and what with trying to go easy on my hand, and not wanting to start something new and then leave it as and if and when we get to go travelling, I suspect they will stay that way until it’s time for the big Autumn clear up and time to get ready to replant the onions for next year.

Space for the Butterflies - chief assistant gardener

But for now, may the peas be ever plentiful!

Garden

In the growing garden: 20 July

21/07/2016

After a very crazy end to the last weekend, more on which another time, it’s high time for a little update on my garden now that summer has finally arrived.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

And with summer has come the first serious harvest of the garlic and onion bed.  I’ve lifted all our garlic and both sorts of onions, as far as I know anyway – Pip has a lovely habit of pulling on the leaves so there’s every chance we’ll find a stray when I turn up the beds, but for now, all is safely gathered in.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

This year’s garlic was not a great success, I planted Marco garlic this year and I’d say that out of the whole patch I’ve got two that look like proper heads of garlic.  The rest seem to have just made slightly larger single cloves, which I’m sure are edible, but I’m not sure are actually going to make an appearance in the kitchen.  I genuinely don’t know where we went wrong this year; last year I had heads of garlic that were completely formed but tiny because they got choked by grass when I abandoned the garden in the middle of the year, so this year I’ve been much more diligent with the weeding (despite occasional appearances to the contrary).  They may have been spaced a bit too close together thanks to my enthusiastic assistant gardener but I don’t think that should have caused it – could it be just a duff batch of garlic sets or have I done something really obvious that I don’t know about?

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

Truth be told, both sets of onions also suffered from over planting and a failure to thin, but in among what would more charitably be called shallots we do have some genuine homegrown onions that look like they could have come in a veg box, so I’m counting that a win.  Pip and Elma are mostly just thrilled that we are finally finally allowed to pull things up from that bed – it’s been a long time since November!

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

The red onions are called Electric and the yellow are Senshyu Yellow and assuming they taste as nice as they grew, they’ll be worth trying again next year.

And so now I have an empty bed, or at least I will do when I pull the weeds up.  I’m thinking about trying another crop of spinach because the last one grew so quickly so I think I could easily get it in before the end of the growing season but I don’t know whether I’d be better letting the bed ‘rest’ before onion planting time comes around again.  As with all these things it will almost certainly come down to time and energy rather than any great gardening principles so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

Next door the parsnip forest continues to flourish.  It is now almost certain that most of the parsnips are a smidge on the close side, which is probably apparent from the photos to everyone but me, but they’re borderline so I’m leaving them all be for now, and if I end up with micro-parsnips they’ll still taste nice roasted with maple syrup.

Aside from the spinach (which is in an odd sort of will-it won’t-it regeneration at the moment) this year’s successes despite cat-based odds are the beans and the peas.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

I ate my first sugarsnap pea straight off the vine yesterday and the more I look the more I see; I’m trying to hole out for enough to be a formal side at supper before I pick the lot but they’re very hard to resist for casual snacking.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

And last but by no means least, the purple bean plants have not only flowered teeny tiny little purple flowers, but started to grow teeny tiny little purple beans.  Given how many bean plants we lost in the early days, these are serious survivors and it will make them all the sweeter when we get to bean harvest time.

Garden Photography

In the growing garden: 7 July

07/07/2016

It’s been a couple of weeks since I did a little garden update and my growing garden has been growing.  Mostly in the wonderful summer time sort of way, and just a little bit in an ‘aargh I’m really busy and I can’t quite keep up with it sort of way’.  The rain has been wonderful for the whole garden, and really rubbish for letting me actually get out there of an evening or at the weekend to tidy it up and do the little bits and bobs that need doing so mostly it’s been left to itself.  Fortunately neither veggie nor flowers gardens seems to mind too much.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

We were in Devon at the weekend where the hydrangeas are in full deep china blue bloom.  Further north mine are just starting to make an appearance and I can just about forgive the lack of blue this year given when I get highlighter pen pink and the loveliest of blue blushed lilac.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

The roses have their own rambling dance across the back fence, and showers of petals douse my little boy every time he slams a football into the back fence.  These pale pink beauties are hiding from him, tucked up behind a bramble but given away by their gorgeous scent.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

In the fruit bed the strawberries are all over now.  We did have some, but I never got around to netting them and the birds had more but I don’t think we minded too much.  I’m never going to have a strawberry patch that can produce an entire supper’s worth of berries unless I dig up the whole lawn; these are more about the fun of watching and waiting for the strawberries to turn red and then timing just right to get to them first.  Next year though, netting.

Next door to the fruit the onions and garlic are all wilting down nicely and I think it’s time for the garlic at least to come up.  I’ve tried lifting a couple to see how they were getting on but for the first few I wondered whether things had got a bit muddled between the planting and the harvesting because what I was pulling as garlic turned out to be a single bulb, more like an onion than a head of garlic split into cloves.  Fortunately third time lucky I pulled a nice fat proper looking garlic.  Whatever the funny ones are, if it doesn’t look right then it doesn’t go in the kitchen and I’ll just chalk it up to experience. But if there’s something obvious I should know as to why it didn’t work then please let me know.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

The parsnips and purple beans are putting everything else to shame. The parsnips are a regular forest, I have no idea whether they’re too close together or whether they’ll be OK but I’ve gone with what felt about right and if we have lots of teeny tiny parsnips this winter I’ll know for next year.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

And at last, we have promise of beans. Well promise of beans and what I think may actually be a teeny tiny baby purple bean.  We’ve celebrated by finally getting around to staking them and hopefully before too long it will be purple beans for supper.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

Speaking of staking, and slightly off centre wonky staking at that, I’ve also (and also finally) staked up the sugarsnap peas.  I’ve given them a little arch to climb along but apparently it clashed with their outfits or something because they turned up their little climber feelers at it and steadfastly insisted on being ground cover peas, no matter how many times I tried to give them a persuasive twirl around the hoop as I passed by.  Now we have bamboo of the ‘rescued from the floor of the shed because I couldn’t find where we’d put the rest of it’ variety and some very snazzy green garden twine and they’re quite happily ensconced in a sort of wigwam with one minor addition because one pole was too short. So far they seem to love it and I’m determined to protect them from the birds. They may take our strawberries, but they’ll never take our peas..!

My spinach forrest has been eyeing up a bit of a bolt this week.  It also seems to have got a bit squashed in places (Pip Squeak?!) so after I’d taken these pictures I basically attacked it with a pair of scissors and enlisted some child labour to help with stripping the leaves.  We got a colander-full and what I left behind will either grow again, or it really won’t and I’ll have to pull it all out and plant again – but maybe a little more sparsely this time.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

The carrots are another crop where I’m worrying about spacing.  This is how close they are together at the moment and I don’t really want to thin them any more because then I’ll only be growing about five carrots total so I’m hoping they’ve got enough room to grow long enough.  Because my little photobombing gardener is getting so very excited about the prospect of actually being able to pull things up without a cry of “nooooooo!” that the least I can do is make sure there’s a carrot on the end of it for his snack!Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

 

 

Garden

In the growing garden: 23 June

23/06/2016

This week’s garden is brought to you by the colour green.  In the middle of winter when every colour is muted by the all pervading grey, or when it’s spring and you spend all your time desperately trying to protect the tiny slivers of seedlings it’s easy to forget just how green the garden is in the summer.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 23 June

Despite the rain, despite the muggy looming skies, or perhaps because of them, my garden is in full riot.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 23 June

It’s the spinach that really took off this week, it’s gone from a sprinkling of seedlings to a carpet to a full on hedge, and right now we are definitely not eating it at the rate it grows.  I’ve pinched out the tops to stop them flowering, mostly because I have a recollection of Mum telling me to do that with some spinach that I grew years ago.  I didn’t at the time and it bolted, grew leaves that could easily have doubled up as umbrellas, and I spent a solid morning cutting out the stems before we could eat any of the leaves.

I’m thinking that either I need to see if anyone in my office likes spinach, or I need to freeze a few portions for the winter; it’s far too tasty to let go to waste, and the birds and minibeasts appear to be leaving it alone for now. Actually, looking at that picture again maybe I need to do both.

Even the peas and beans have deigned to do a little growing this week.  The beans are definitely emulating the tortoise rather than the hare; despite being one of the first things planted this year we haven’t got to the point of needing stakes just yet.  The peas on the other hand have definitely started that grasping search for something to cling onto; reaching out and patting the neigbouring soil like someone trying to find their glasses on the bedside table of a morning.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 23 June

I know I’ve got some wigwam holders and some more canes somewhere in the shed, but for now I’ve borrowed some stakes and the hosepipe arches from the soft fruit bed to rig up two pea arches.  Hopefully the peas will approve.

For the root veg I hope I have done my final thinning.  It feels completely sacrilegious to be pulling up perfectly good vegetable seedlings, especially when, like the parsnips, they’ve actually been doing pretty well.  Petite little parsnips, and doll sized carrots just starting to turn from white to orange as if touched by the dawn.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 23 June

But my new garden mantra is “quality not quantity” and I know if I want proper full sized veg it has to happen to give the others room to grow.  I’ve gone by the highly scientific method of gut instinct and just pulled what looked like it was struggling or would soon run out of room if I imagined a full grown carrot beneath the surface.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 23 June

The thinnings I’ve left for the birds in the hope that it will distract them from my strawberries.  We’ve been having a very successful strawberry harvest so far, growing lovely big juicy red berries – which promptly get snatched from beneath our less than watchful gaze by a highly intelligent blackbird with excellent taste.  We haven’t eaten a single one.  It’s entirely my own fault; I haven’t netted them and I haven’t mulched them so frankly what was I expecting to happen.  Netting and straw are top of the agenda for the weekend though; I will have my homegrown strawberries and cream before the summer’s out.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 23 June

Which just leaves the onions and garlic, now looking less like a riot, and more like the morning after.  They had their moment of glory in the spring, when all around was merely dark earth and promise, and now I’m just waiting until the right moment to lift them; which from memory is usually the point at which we realise that we need an onion for supper and we’ve run out.

 

 

Garden

In the growing garden: 16 June

16/06/2016

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 16 June

Right up until yesterday afternoon I’d been certain that any update from the garden this week would just be a picture of an umbrella, surrounded by what was once grass and is now a definite quagmire.  But unbelievably we actually saw some blue sky and so I nipped out to take a few photos and do a little tidying up.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 16 June

I’m afraid to say that despite Facebook messages from my gardening guru (my aunt), I have yet to mulch my strawberries, or even net them.  The latter is getting rather urgent as only the calyx remains of what was a giant strawberry that the girls were eagerly watching.  They’re all looking pretty plump this year though so at least something is benefitting from all the rain and if I can pop out today for some netting we might just manage to eat some of them ourselves.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 16 June

A careful examination of the blackcurrant bush suggests that it is not going to fruit or flower or anything this year, and that seems to be par for the course according to my research; it should fruit a bit next year and a lot the year after.  The leaf curl on closer inspection looks a lot like some sort of wee beastie; the leaves are hard to the touch not soft and floppy like a wilted leaf ought to be so I’m hoping for a whole family of ladybirds to move in and scoop them up for lunch – all ladybirds discovered around the premises will be promptly rehomed on the blackcurrant bush.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 16 June

The onions and garlic are doing much what they’ve been doing for the past few weeks, only with a few more weeds; I think I need to get out there the next time it stops raining.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 16 June

Meanwhile the carrots and peas are definitely growing, and the former has been thinned, and my spinach carpet is growing beautifully despite, or perhaps because of, regular additions to the supper table (I love spinach and avocado salad, I could eat it every day).

The purple beans are still on hiatus; I’m sure they are growing, I just can’t see it, so I’ll have to have a little faith and trust in their future.

The parsnips on the other hand are growing and growing and growing.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden 16 June

I had a second thin of them today, and when the little roots that I pulled came up smelling like parsnips I knew it was true; we’re actually growing real edible vegetables! I think I might need one more thin before I just leave them to it and it’s certainly a lesson in leaving enough space between all the seeds.  Notes are being taken for next year!