Despite slugs, snails, aphids, kids and footballs, I'm making time to work on the garden and to enjoy it, because spare time is precious. I still don't have enough time in the garden but every little bit is making a difference. Writing this summer post has given me pause to stop to think about why enjoying the garden this year is different.
My gardening obsession has gone way beyond growing a few beetroot and trying to identify plants. Six years of helping myself to the community garden space, training in garden design/horticulture and engaging with the wider gardening community via blogs, lectures and visits to shows and gardens has undoubtedly given me a lot more confidence in what I'm doing.
My ideas have changed as well. Instead of growing neat rows of lettuces and carrots for the larger community, I now grow only what I and my helpers like. At the start, I so wanted the community to join in that I grew veg as tempting giveaways. I've now come to my senses and identify what I love to eat, what I'd like to try but is expensive in the shops (if available at all) and what is better freshly picked so that I can use the space effectively. When the veg patch was just started there was, shall we say, confusion as to who could take the harvest. It's fair to say that one's now been sorted. (Helpers, gardeners and very small children only.)
I've learnt to think ahead with my seed sowing so that the garden can be used all year round and not just in the summer months. (I have kale, broccoli (hurrah!) and romanesco cauliflower plants ready to go into the ground now that the broad beans have been cleared.) And I've introduced more flowers, both for bio-diversity, colour and/or for eating so that other people who live here appreciate what I'm doing. (Flowering now: Feverfew, sweet peas, meadow flowers, lavender, anemones, geraniums, pansies, dianthus, day lilies and the ever present nasturtiums. Next month these should be joined by rudbeckia, echinacea, delphiniums, lupins and sunflowers.) … :D
The result, this summer, is that the veg garden is full with lots of mange tout and peas, kale, courgettes, beans and tomatoes growing, brassica plants for the winter, fruit and herbs. Space is made for unusual edibles such as Cape Gooseberry, asparagus, artichokes, cucamelons, golden mange-tout and giant sugar snaps. I'm also not averse to removing plants that aren't working for me. All last year's strawberry plants will be being torn out as I don't like the flavour (but the slugs do). This year's Mara des Bois strawberries are so much nicer, and I'm thinking of planting just a few standard strawberries, nothing fancy, just Elsanta or Cambridge Favourite. The new Polka raspberries are a revelation - large, firm, sweet. Perfect. Autumn Bliss raspberries, you've been warned.
|These are early Autumn Bliss from last year's canes.|
The warm and wet spring was a mixed blessing: more pests but I was able to sow earlier; more sunshine and rain meant that my lettuces and salad leaves bolted as soon as they were ready to eat, even the baby leaves! Rows of radishes and beans have been slimed and munched before roots could form.
But all that doesn't matter now that mid summer is here because, on the plus side, I can nibble on mange-tout pods, peas, raspberries and strawberries as I water the garden in the morning. The peas have now been picked, podded, blanched and frozen but there's still time to resow for a second harvest. I'm going to resow broad beans as well; they won't set pods before the autumn cools but I should get a crop of bean tops which are delicious steamed and served with a knob of butter and a wave of salt and pepper. (The same way I cook kale, incidentally.) Sometimes with a softly poached egg on top. Simple, delicious, seasonal.
In previous years, I've felt a sense of panic as the year marches on and I get behind with my sowing, thus missing out on winter veg. Dare I say, I'm a bit more organised this year? Fruits and veg are appearing in manageable waves - so far there are no gluts, although I have seen baby courgettes starting to form. And my winter veg are good sized, healthy plants currently hardened off ready to be planted.
|The orange fruit of physalis form inside the green pod. |
When they're ready to be picked, the outer case turns brown and papery.
Cape gooseberries are expensive to buy but easy to grow from seed.
As befits a midsummer edible garden, there's still plenty waiting in the wings. Container potatoes are flowering so should be ready soon - I might have a quick furtle to see what's in the bag. Balcony tomatoes are starting to flower and the outdoor tomatoes are growing really well; hopefully this means that they won't all fruit at once! Courgettes are appearing, tall beans, more giant mange-tout and winter veg are ready to be planted out. Braeburn apples are looking good for the autumn. Actually, these look more like cooking apples but they are definitely Braeburn!
I wasn't quick enough with the elderflowers this year. I walked high and low over Hampstead Heath and found just enough flowers to make about 3 litres of cordial, most now frozen in small plastic bottles until needed, but this was in the very last week of local flowering. It makes sense that the trees would flower according to their growing conditions and location; being urban, London is a few degrees warmer but, as I drove back up through the countryside from the Hampshire coast last week, I saw so many elders still with a few flowers that I had to stop myself pulling over in country lanes to pick more! The up side is that I now know where all the elders are on the Heath; there's a huge amount of berries forming so I won't miss out on elderberries (or sloes!) later in the year.
Yes, it's shaping up to be a very good year.
This end of month post is linking up to The Garden Share Collective hosted by Lizzie at Strayed Table in Australia. The GSC is one year old this month (happy birthday!) and is a growing group of food gardening bloggers from across the world. (Australia, New Zealand, UK and now US.) If you want to join us in our end of month garden share, click this link to find out more. Click the logo below to see what other GSC bloggers are writing.