9 Jul 2014

The plot thickens, actually … eomv June/July

There's no getting away from the fact that gardening is time consuming. Last year I didn't give the garden as much attention as it needed and, come summer, it showed. (To me, at least.) With that in mind, I've made more effort this year with the result that it's coming together very nicely and the veg garden is definitely plumping up with edibles.



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.



32 comments:

  1. Your Autumn Bliss Raspberries look just like mine. Why do you think the leaves are so pale, with only the ribs dark green?
    Your garden is "bountiful" now, there's no doubt about that!

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    1. The leaves are showing interveinal chlorosis, Mark. It usually happens when the soil is deficient in micro-nutrients (manganese or zinc) that the plant needs and can take a bit of guesswork to correct the situation. My best guess is that the heavy spring rains washed a lot of nutrients from the soil; also my canes, grown in the ground, are getting a little congested as I allow all the new canes to grow each year so a bit of thinning may help. Let me know the growing conditions for your raspberries?

      There's a good explanation on this link but scroll down past the opening paras on Chlorosis (which is the opposite). http://bit.ly/1qMw8ER

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  2. What a good idea to resow peas for a second harvest..

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    1. I always think it's worth giving it a try - why not, if you have the space! I once had tiny beets from an August sowing, fleeced the remaining plants over winter when they stopped growing and had fresh beetroot to eat in March! Doesn't always work that well but worth trying.

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  3. What a truly lovely post Caro, I really enjoyed it. You are right to just grow what you and the others love and what you can't buy, it's something I've been learning. I haven't spent enough time lately on the garden or the allotment. I was away for a week, and it's all got away from me! Never enough time... I haven't got to grips with winter veg yet, although I do have six sprout plants that someone was giving away at the allotments. I missed the elderflowers this year as well, but I'm hopeful I can make some blackcurrant cordial instead. Hope you enjoy the rest of the week, CJ xx

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    1. Aww, thanks CJ. I think it's okay to let the garden go when family time beckons but, you're right, it's hard to get the work/life/garden balance. Everything in the garden can be salvaged, even if you're eating marrows and have to chelsea chop everything to encourage new growth, but children grow up so fast and that's time that can't be clawed back! Blackcurrant cordial sounds wonderful, you're making me wish I grew blackcurrants as well now! Hope you also have a lovely week, with a perfect summer ahead! C xx

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  4. Lovely progress! your garden looks so healthy and bountiful. Really promising! I dream I can pick some fresh apples, berries and cherries on my home garden... :-)

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    1. Thanks, Endah! A midsummer garden is a lovely space to enjoy, especially when there's food there as well. The berries and other fruit are the sweet treats of summer for me but I also love the healthy greens that I can grow. You have lots of plants and edibles in your garden that I'd like to be able to grow and taste - there's always something to tempt us gardeners!

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  5. A most enjoyable post and lovely photos. It's certainly all looks good and growing well.
    As you rightly say it's both having the time to work in the garden and enjoy it that's important, rather than letting it become an obsession. Growing what you like is equally important and I'm glad that you've realised that. Flighty xx

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    1. Thank you, Flighty. Growing what you like can be a two edged sword; if you just stick to what you know, you might be missing out. Also, in a small space, it's important to be effective - carrots may be nice but they're cheap in the shops so I don't grow them. If I had a full sized allotment, things would be different!

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  6. It sounds like you've worked out what works for you, what doesn't, what time needs to be spent on each area and what you enjoy to grow and eat. I think knowing these things is half the battle. When I first started gardening, I wanted to have a go at everything, regardless of whether I liked it or not, now I grow what we enjoy eating. No point spending time growing things that aren't going to get eaten. Well done with the planning of your winter veg. I had some things on the go but the seedlings got eaten by slugs so it's either going to be a lean winter again or I'm going to have to look out for some plug plants.

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    1. I think we all fall into the lure of the seedpackets - so many lovely veg to grow! - but quickly calm down to grow what we know works for us. The slugs have been such a nuisance this year so I hope that my winter veg make it through - although they're looking pretty fried at the moment!

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  7. Lovely post Caro, you have so much going on there! I'm sure I have the odd 'Polka' plant or two amongst my Autumn Bliss canes. I can't distinguish between them though. I keep o planning to re sow some mange tout for another crop, it is worth a try!

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    1. Thanks Joanne. It's great when everything starts producing and you can see the results of all your labours! I'll keep sowing as the beds clear - as long as I can get some water to keep things going!

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  8. Your garden looks so productive and beautiful. I love the way gardening is always an experiment and things never remain the same from year to year. Sarah x

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    1. Thank you, Sarah - and you're right, the fun never stops when gardening! C x

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  9. It's been a great year for produce hasn't it? :)

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    1. Not too bad, although everything here would be better for more watering! I wish I had a bigger patch to grow veg in, it would be lovely to be self-sufficient in veg.

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  10. Everything looking good Caro - I have been doing some successional sowing too - as one lot of crops is cleared it is good to be able to keep the momentum going. My loganberries has been fantastic this year like raspberries but with more depth of flavour - good job really because the blackbirds have been having a field day on the raspberries. When you don't have a huge garden you just have to sort our your priorities don't you.

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    1. I like the sound of having loganberries, Elaine. You've done well to transition from your allotment to growing in your garden space; that must have been hard for you. A lot of my re-sowing is down to slug damage - even at this time of year! And, yes, it is definitely a question of priorities and not been retrospectively jealous when reading of other lovely harvests on other blogs!

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  11. Dios elderflower cordial store well in the freezer? - not that we would have room for any

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    1. It does, Sue. I've already defrosted a couple of bottles to give to family or use myself. I've read that the cordial will store for up to a year this way. I know what you mean about freezer space, I could really do with another small freezer at this time of year!

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  12. Elder cordial eh? I must google how to make that as we have lots of elder! Wow.....everything is looking stunning and I can't take my eyes off your cherries, how juicy they look. I think it's going to be an outstanding year for you.xxx

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    1. Sarah Raven's recipe is the one that I used, it's delicious with subtle hints of orange and lemon. Hope you managed to get some made, if not you can join me in getting ahead of the game next year! I guess temperatures must be slightly cooler where you are if you still have elderflowers on the trees. Lucky you!

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  13. I am tremendously impressed Caro, both by your organisation and by what you have achieved. And by ensuring that only those entitled get to pick the results! It is all looking both productive and beautiful. I'm going to be sowing more sugarsnap peas and French beans, and lettuce to take the place of the plants that were supposed to take over from the bolted ones but which were devoured. Grrr... I find your garden really inspirational.

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    1. Oh, thank you so much, Janet. It all looks good on paper but we know the hard work that we put in to achieve that, don't we? ;) Trouble with growing veg is that once you've got the harvest, that's it - no Chelsea chop for a second flush of veg unfortunately, it's back to the beginning! Hope your second sowing works out!

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  14. Everything is looking fantastic Caro. Gardening is time consuming, especially when I seem to spend so much time watering but it is so rewarding and I can't imagine not being able to grow, even though I am exhausted at the moment. ;) And you've spurred me on to keep up the successional sowing. I was doing quite well on that front but work has got in the way over the last few weeks. But I will dig around in my seed box now and get sowing. ;) x

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    1. Glad I've inspired you, Welly - that returns the favour for you inspiring us all in the Cut Flower Patch! ;) The watering is the main problem at the moment, it's a chore rather than a pleasure - but it's a problem that I'm working on … so on we go, it's worth it when you get to eat home grown.

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  15. Reflecting in your garden is priceless. I too over the past years have realised that only growing what we eat is important instead of getting excited about exotic veggies for others. Each year is challenging when it comes to gardening and that is the beauty of it I guess. I am loving your cherries and can only dream of growing them myself - far too hot here for them. Enjoy your gardening and see you next month

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    1. Taking a walk round the garden, even for just a few minutes, means that you can see what needs to go top of the list for the day's chores - plus it's something that I enjoy doing, especially if I can nibble on pea pods or beans. I'm wondering now - are there no cherries at all in Australia? Have you tried to grow some - I have a small tree that I grew from a cherry pip (actually, nature started it off for me!). Might be worth the challenge …. :)

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  16. It looks brilliant Caro. Glad to read that you are growing what you like and the crops are shared by those who support the garden.

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    1. Thanks, Anna - I have a sneaking suspicion that my helpers, whilst enjoying the herbs and veg, would be happiest to see more flowers and ornamentals growing! But I'll persevere … !

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Caro x

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