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In the growing garden: 9 June

09/06/2016

Each week I wonder whether I’ll have anything new to report from the garden, or whether it will all just have grown a little bit more than last week, and then I go and take photos and really start to look and the more I look the more I pay attention and the more I can see.  The garden is changing on a daily basis, never mind weekly.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

And this week the big growth spurt has come in the form of the strawberries.  Most of them have now dropped their blossoms and on the biggest I can just see the first blush start to appear.  I’ve tried to remember to water them, and actually remembered on quite a few occasions too and they’re looking lovely and plump, and if it keeps raining like the forecast suggests then they should be perfect for ripening by H and my birthday in a couple of weeks.  Time to get the netting out.

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

The blackcurrant shows no signs of flowers or fruit; I’m not sure whether it’s actually meant to fruit this year or not, given that we only planted it last summer.  It’s leaflet said to prune back to eight stems in a crown but as I only have eight stems it’s not been touched.  It is looking a little crowded though, and there are a few leaves that seem to wilt easily, even when the rest of it is fine so I’m going to go with my gut and thin it out a bit.  Maybe that will help it contemplate flowering.  I remember picking blackcurrants at home during the summer holidays so I think we’re OK for now, I just have to keep my inexpert eye on it!

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

Over with the onions and garlic everything is starting to wilt down, and the onions are pushing up out of the ground, though to what extent this natural ability has been ‘encouraged’ by (a) that wretched cat and (b) Pip ‘weeding’ it’s hard to say.  I don’t think I’ve grown any whoppers this year either but it’s all a learning curve and next year the sets are going deeper and further apart.  I am learning I promise!

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

My newly thinned parsnips are doing brilliantly.  They’re the one bit of the garden that I’m not watering because I read somewhere that they should only be watered when strictly necessary to encourage them to grown nice deep roots.  The seedlings looked a little wilty one time so they had a water then but since then, nothing, and they’re always looking perky.  I’m going to need to do another thinning soon but I’m going to leave it another week in the hope of baby veg.

The purple beans don’t seem to be getting any worse so perhaps whatever attacked them has moved on to pastures new.  They don’t seem to be growing hugely either so we’ll have to watch and wait.

And if they’re marking time, the peas are going backwards.  I’m sure at one stage I had three good rows but somehow that seems to have dwindled down to about eight plants.  I’m not sure whether it’s birds or just the attentions of the ever wretched cat but we shall love them, cherish them, and if necessary – do a replanting later in the season!

Space for the Butterflies - the growing garden

But in the same bed the carrots are up and in need of a first thinning, and the spinach carpet provided our first harvest for the year – spinach and avocado salad with pecorino – yum!

 

Family Garden Pip

In the growing garden: 2 June

02/06/2016

I fear I may have turned out to be all grown up without my even realising it.  I know this because on the sunny afternoon of the Bank Holiday Sunday, with the girls happily engaged in whatever game of something they were playing at the time (something that seems to involve quite a few karate-esque kicks from the sounds of things), and H out at cricket, young master Pip Squeak and I armed ourselves with the grown up trowel and all three little people trowels and went out to do the weeding.  Gardening on a Sunday afternoon – that sounds terribly responsible doesn’t it.

Space for the Butterflies - in the growing garden

Space for the Butterflies - in the growing garden

And in this case; long overdue.  The battles with the cat have put me off going too near until I can do the necessary disposals and the previous week I’d just been too grumpy to even start.  But the little black box seemed to be working its magic (and has continued to do so, save for the one occasion when it was repositioned leaving two beds unprotected at which point they were shall we say recontaminated), and so I set to clearing and then weeding.

Space for the Butterflies - in the growing garden

Last year my garlic and onions got a bit choked up with weeds over the winter and I promised myself it wasn’t going to happen again this year but goodness me can grass grow fast when it wants to and it wasn’t until I started to properly weed that I could see just how much grass was in there.  It all looks a lot smarter now, even though all my onions appear to be falling over, which I suspect is because I didn’t plant the sets deep enough and/or they’re too close together so they’re not growing very big.  I think part of me is still amazed every time I plant something and it actually grows so I need to remember that I don’t actually have to plant every seed in the packet.  Less is more will be my new planting resolution – well for next year anyway.

Space for the Butterflies - in the growing garden

The strawberries and blackcurrant, being nice sturdy plants, are doing just fine.  Pip and I weeded out all the stray bits of grass and a whole heap of soil that for some reason my wee boy decided was superfluous to requirement. We’ve still got strawberry flowers coming thick and fast but the petals have dropped from a fair few and the bonus of all this week’s rain will have to be nice big juicy strawberries in a few weeks’ time.

Space for the Butterflies - in the growing garden

I have six remaining purple bean plants in the far bed which seem to be coping, despite clearly coming under attack from some sort of nibbly thing.  I’ve heard good things about planting nasturtiums and basil as sacrificial offerings to the wee beasties and I’ve certainly got space in this bed for it – has anyone ever tried that, and did it work?

Space for the Butterflies - in the growing garden

Down the other end I have finally thinned the parsnip seedlings.  We have one solid row of parsnips and a few partial rows but there’s enough there to make a decent crop.  I suspect they’ll need another thinning before we’re done but I’m hoping to let them grow a little more first in the hopes of some baby veg from the thinnnings. Space for the Butterflies - in the growing garden

And last but by no means least, the most recent sowings are all making an appearance.

Space for the Butterflies - in the growing garden

The spinach is now a nice green carpet with occasional bald patches where Pip has grabbed up a handful, the pea shoots are slowly unfurling, definitely my favourite of all the seedlings to watch grow, and in between there is a faint haze of green where some teeny tiny carrots are starting to make an appearance.

Space for the Butterflies - in the growing garden

If we can keep the garden cat free, and not loose too many plants to this tiny boy’s favourite activities of “weeding” and running straight through the beds, we might just be growing some veg this summer!

Family Garden

In the growing garden

26/05/2016

The spinach has grown! Frankly it’s a minor miracle and I’ve spent most of the week convinced that I’d lost another bed full of seeds to the local cats but it seems that this is the year that the spinach is fighting back, and it’s lovely to see that little haze of green at the end of the garden.

Space for the Butterflies - the Growing Garden

And in return for their tenacity I’ve upped my game in the cat prevention stakes too. We went outside on Sunday for me to weed and thin the parsnips and the kids to dig in the patch of mud that is now very firmly their own but I couldn’t let them play, and frankly I didn’t want to myself as it was abundantly clear that whichever cat it is had decided to co-opt three of the four veg beds as their own. When so many people who have cats train them to use their litter trays or keep them as indoor pets it baffles me that it’s socially acceptable to allow a cat to soil my garden when it really isn’t for a dog or any other pet. And as even the netting wasn’t working as a deterrent any more I may have had one of those grown up tantrums where you stomp around muttering under your breath about how completely ridiculous it is while also getting three children dressed in something that they can go to the shops in, bundling them into the car and heading out in search of something to make it stop.

From the size of the cat deterrent section in the pest control aisle I’m in good company. I don’t want to put anything down that the children could touch, or that would be a bad idea for the veggies so our latest addition to the garden is a little black sensor that surveys my growing garden from the back corner. If it spots anyone or anything in the veg garden it clicks (which I can hear) and apparently also lets off a high pitched squeal which is both audible and off putting to cats. And so far , as far as I can tell, it’s working.

Space for the Butterflies - the Growing Garden

Which is definitely a relief because I think the sugar snap peas are about to sprout and I’d be really gutted to loose those.

The parsnips have started to sprout little feathery tops, and still desperately need thinning, and the purple beans that survived are looking good, though I don’t think I’m going to need to do any thinning there.

Space for the Butterflies - the Growing Garden

The onions and garlic are growing strongly but so too are the weeds and I’m itching to get out there and start getting it all tidied up.

Space for the Butterflies - the Growing Garden

And last but by no means least, the fruit garden is in bloom (ably tended by my chief assistant). The blackcurrant bush is pottering along; I’m not actually sure what blackcurrant blooms look like or when I should expect them, I just remember that the fruit should be there in August so that will be a nice surprise whenever it next does something, and all the strawberries are in full bloom which makes me think I’m going to need to rebuild the netting, at least over that end, but this time to keep out the birds.

Space for the Butterflies - the Growing Garden

It’s a time of anticipation; we’re not eating anything from the garden just yet, but I know that it’s only going to be a few weeks until we can pick the spinach and strawberries and the beans and peas won’t be too far behind. And then there’s the longer promise, there are teeny tiny little seedlings in the ground right now that will be our Christmas parsnips- always assuming we don’t snaffle them up first!

Space for the Butterflies - the Growing Garden

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Elma Family Garden Kitty Photography Pip

In the growing garden: 19 May

19/05/2016

The garden has grown again.  H and Pip built the final veg box over the weekend (well final for now) and all three little ones helped me plant it up.  So we’re definitely not a pocket handkerchief garden any more.

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In the original beds the garlic and onions are still growing well; as are a couple of tulips. I’ve no idea how they got there because I’ve never grown tulips in that bed as far as I can remember so I’m thinking a squirrel has been poaching out of one of my neighbour’s flowerbeds in the not too distant past.  Fortunately they’re all in the garlic section and I’ve been pulling them out as they flower so I don’t think we’re going to end up getting confused as to what is what.

The third bed, sovaldi sale the one we put in a few weeks ago has also been suffering from the attentions of the local animal populace.  I didn’t have any new netting so we left it uncovered for the first few days and it wasn’t long before someone’s charming cat had decided to use it as a litter tray again.  Even putting the netting from the garlic and onion bed back over the top didn’t stop it so I think we’re going to need to up our game on the anti-cat front, there but it’s a challenge to find something that keeps the cats away but doesn’t prevent the children from playing with the veg garden.  At the moment the candidates are wrapping everything in chicken wire and getting some sort of high pitched noise that cats don’t like. I’m contemplating putting bark chippings between the beds too on the basis that cats wouldn’t like to walk on it – do you think that would work or would they just leap from the wall?

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I’d resigned myself to the loss of all the seeds in the bed on the basis that the earth had been so churned up but it seems that miracles never cease and at one end we have a few straggly rows of teeny tiny parsnip seedlings, and at the other a good showing from the purple beans.  We might have lost a few plants in the middle of the bed but at least it’s not a total right off.  I’m going to leave the parsnips as long as I dare before thinning them out and then I’ll try to replant them in the gap.

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The new bed is more veggies; sugarsnap peas, carrots and another attempt at spinach, and it’s all notionally in rows – but given that the children were doing most of the planting I think there will be more than a few stray peas turning up across the garden.

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And finally the part fruit, part Pip’s digging patch bed.

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The strawberries from last year are now springing into flower so it looks like we’ll have lots of fruit this summer.  Of the plants that we moved across from what’s now the onion and garlic bed, a few of them have settled well and seem to be thinking about flowering although there were a couple that didn’t survive the winter.

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And last but by no means least, my blackcurrant bush. Planted, pruned according to instructions but with my heart in my mouth and left over the winter as basically a clump of sticks, you have no idea how much of a relief it was to walk out into the garden one morning and realise that it was covered with a little cloud of green leaves.  The leaves smell incredible too; just like tomato leaves smell tomatoey, these are a promise of things to come, you squish them and the scent is mouth-wateringly blackcurranty.

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And I think that’s going to be the garden for this year; even as H eyes up our slightly irregular shaped garden and queries how long it’s going to be before he finds himself digging in the fifth bed, at least until I think of something else that I really really want to try growing – any suggestions?

Elma Family Garden Kitty Photography Pip

Mud and Garden Expansion

20/04/2016

Last year, for the very first year, my experimental gardening resulted in some actually edible fruit and veg.  We had strawberries through the summer, beans on into the autumn, and the garlic and onions kept us going in home-grown all the way until the first touches of winter.  There was no way that I wasn’t going to try again this year; I’ve been well and truly bitten by the grow-your-own bug.

Last year our two little veg beds were affectionately known as the Pocket Handkerchief Garden, because as veggie gardens go, especially ones supposed to be supplying a family of five, it was really teeny tiny.  This year though I think we’re going to need a new name, because as I filled up one bed with garlic and two colours of onions at the end of last year, and weeded and replanted the blackcurrant bush and the strawberries in the other bed it was clear that we were going to need more space. And by we, we mean me, and possibly Pip, who I think would rank playing in the soil right up there on his top 5 things to do at the weekend.

Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

So this weekend we roused H from his post-race snooze, told him that even a new PB was not getting him out of helping, and set out to expand the garden just a little.  The aim is that this year we will at least double the growing space; we’ve bought two new beds, and I can easily see us adding in a third, or possibly just sinking a bean and pea wigwam into the lawn to make a little edible tent for the children.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

It turns out that constructing veg beds, digging up the turf and underestimating how much extra soil you will need to fill them, takes a lot longer than you’d think and so our progress from Sunday is just the one extra bed.  But it’s in, despite tree roots, it’s got some lovely new soil dug into our existing mud, and it’s even planted up.

Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

This years’ seeds have been sat on the dresser for a few weeks now, waiting for their new homes.  All seeds for things we eat, and things that should grow well and grow easily (I hope); carrots, parsnips, beans, peas and spinach, as well as a couple of packets of wild flowers that were just too pretty for anyone to resist and will go to join out butterfly and bee haven in the back garden.  The new veg garden bed has got parsnips at the south end (Albion F1) and three rows of Amethyst purple french beans at the north end, which I hope will taste as nice as they look, and after that the bed was full up.Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

It made me wonder how much of anything everyone else plants.  I’ve always sown all the seeds in the packet because my success rate is so very (very very very) low, so sowing everything I’ve got means that I might at least get something, but do people who actually know what they’re doing just sow half a packet and save the rest until next year rather than risk a glut?

Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

Hopefully we’ll get the other bed made up sometime in the next few weeks and then the carrots and spinach and peas can get to growing.  I really want to try courgettes again this year, I’ve not quite given up on them, but I think I need to give them a bit more space, which makes that third new bed look increasingly likely, unless they’d like growing in a nice big flowerpot all to themselves.

Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

But if I’m going to go all out and have five veggie beds then it really really isn’t pocket handkerchief sized any more – what do you call a ‘used to be pocket sized but now keeps getting bigger with every leap of my imagination’ garden?       Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

The Growing Garden?