End of June ‘Quick-notes’

The one squash outdoors which has survived is blooming.  After a shaky start and removing a few grubby, yellowed leaves it seems to finally be settling down and getting to work producing squash.  This variety is ‘Boston’, an early winter squash – I’m not sure it’ll manage a full-sized fruit this late in the year but that I’ve gotten this far is a personal achievement.

There seem to be a good number of bees around this year – they are certainly loving my sage, lupins, and foxgloves.

I must have mixed up a seedling when planting these lettuces – a row of green punctuated by deep red =) These petunias (‘Fanfare Dark Blue’) are growing really well.  Despite being in a tiny container it’s growing and blooming profusely – I know these are bred to work in hanging baskets but I didn’t expect them to work quite so wall in the flower bags due to the limited amount of soil available in them.

These are the same buddleja I grew from seed on the windowsill last winter – I can’t believe they’re getting so big.  Growth isn’t super-fast at the moment but it’s still satisfying to see them getting a little bushier with each passing week.  I’ve been advised that they’ll most likely take a growth spurt in the autumn so watch this space.

The turnips are getting to a fair size now – this picture is of a ‘thinning’ – one I removed to allow the others to grow to full size with plenty of space.

I’m now up to over 4 and 1/2 kilos of produce this year – with plenty still to come.  Not bad, for a beginner, though there are certainly particular areas (I’m looking at you, beans and peas) where I feel my harvests have been very low so far.

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Weeding Week

Now that I’ve (just about) caught up with my planting, stuffing the last few unfortunates into the ground in the hope that being kept in their pots hasn’t hurt them over-much, I decided it was finally time to make a start on the weeds. I actually don’t mind weeding, especially on a nice day, but I knew this was going to be a full-scale war. Especially with the creeping buttercup. Oh how I love and hate thee, creeping buttercup. Beautiful flowers, horribly invasive. If it stayed in my lawn I’d honestly let it do it’s thing – same with clover and daisies – I’m not one for a ‘manicured’ lawn – I even leave the ‘annoying to cut’ bit at the side to go a bit wild as the birds seem to like it. When those weeds start invading my veg bed, though…

From a quick look on the internet, I think I can say with fair certainty that I found these weeds: creeping buttercup, dandelions, daisies, hairy bittercress and / or thale cress, sheep’s sorrel, bugle, white clover, groundsel, rosebay willowherb, broad leaved willowherb, sow thistle, cleavers, bramble, and possibly pineapple weed, I’ll need to go back out and smell it. Oh and marigolds (calendula) since I’ve taken up nearly as many of those as all the rest of the weeds combined. There were others, but I caught them either too small to be identified or I have too fuzzy a memory of them to guess at what they might have been.

Some of the weeds I just trim back, knowing they’ll try to invade my growing space again but enjoying their flowers too much to remove them entirely – like the buttercups, rosebay willowherb, clover, & daisies. I never touch the bugle as I really like it and it isn’t very weedy in my garden.

The last and biggest ‘weed’ I took out was this privet branch:

Our next door neighbour’s privet hedge has remained untrimmed for a few years and is now very tall – I totally don’t mind this as it’s beautiful when in full flower and the birds and bees love using it as a nesting site / perches. However, when there was heavy snow, a lot of it started to overhang my fence. Most of it popped back up but I think the weight of the snow and heavy winds finally took their toll and this branch was half snapped-off by the time I took a saw to it. Now my berry bushes are less shaded and I don’t have to worry about them being dropped on from above. I have absolutely no idea what to do with a small-tree-sized piece of privet, though – pretty sure my mini-shredder won’t manage it ;)

As if that wasn’t enough for me, I’ve also been over to volunteer a couple of times at Jupiter Wildlife Centre in Grangemouth… where I’ve been mostly weeding! It’s just that time of year, I suppose – everything is flourishing, especially the weeds.

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Several Firsts & Second Helpings

This little, lonesome purple flower is my first sweetpea flower, ever! My grandfather used to grow them every year and I was allowed to ‘help’ but I’ve never actually grown them from seed to flower myself before now.  This poor plant is a little bedraggled – I put it out a little early and it was caught by the bad storms we had.  I found it prostrate and languishing when I came back from hospital, helped it up onto the netting and now it’s starting to eagerly scramble its way up!  The comfrey tea I was attempting to brew looks well steeped now.  I’m not sure whether to be worried or happy about the fact that it doesn’t really smell much – maybe I’ve done it wrong?  Is it missing the vital feeding ingredient which gives it it’s usual horrible smell?  I’ll need to do some research.

Another first – tomato flowers.  These are another thing I’ve never grown by myself before.  My plants are doing well in their new pot which has a reservoir of water in the bottom, growing at a fair pace and flowering away happily.

These strawberries are ‘Cambridge Favourite’ and after producing masses of flowers are now living up to their promise with screeds of huge strawberries.  It’s a bit of a challenge to get them before the slugs, but there are at least plenty to go around – I’m picking two or three strawberries around this size each evening.  Now that the nasturtiums are in full bloom they, too, are adding vibrant colour to lunch – the flowers and leaves have a lovely peppery taste and worked really well with chickpeas, pineapple and feta cheese for a lovely summery salad.

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2011  // 2010

This year has been an odd one – a warm spring and, so far, a wet and windy start to summer.  Last year at this time we had weather so hot I had thought  I’d find my garden dead or dying when we came back from a trip to Yorkshire.  This year, although some things got off to a head start, a lot of other things have been delayed for me.  Part of that was the long hospital stay as it meant I’ve been a bit slow about getting some of my brassicas out into the ground. The few I did plant out early are not nearly as progressed as last year’s batch, though, so I’m not sure whether it was too much early heat / lack of water, or not enough sun.

I can’t complain too much, though – the cool weather has meant my lettuces, pak choi and spinach have all lasted a lot longer than they did this time last year – where they were bolting almost as soon as they got two true leaves!

One thing I have in profusion is self-sown marigolds – a bucketful.  These aren’t even all of them as some were left in by virtue of being pretty and prolific growers.  Reminder to self: deadhead flowers, this year!

The peas sown in the bags on the wall are doing not-too-bad.  In fact, they’re doing better than their peers in the ground, hmph.  I’ve never had much luck with peas – they should, by all accounts, be easy to grow but mine never seem to take off as strongly as I see others’ plants doing.

A few more flowers have poked up, breaking the purple hegemony: the black and yellow petunia – which was supposed to be an all black variety – and this year’s first nasturtium flower.  Both the nasturtium plant and blossom are much bigger than any I managed to grow last year – I’ll be continuing to start them inside from now on!



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Gardening Scotland & Purple Profusion

Last Friday I got to go to Gardening Scotland – with the whole gallbladder saga it was a close thing but I was determined not to miss the ‘big event’ I’d been looking forward to for months.  We took it easy, sauntering around at a very gentle pace, but managed to see most of the show before we had to head off.  It was a great day in terms of both enjoyment and weather – almost too hot outside for Scotland!  I managed to restrain myself and only picked up a few african violets and a beautiful tile by Helen Michie.  You should check out her work, it’s gorgeous.  I fear I may have been a bit of a fanboy, gushing over her tiles.  I really do love pottery, I’ve discovered.  I left Andy to ponder over the food stalls whilst I went to look at the plants and he managed to pick up, I think, at least three types of cheese, some bacon and a nice chilli jam.  The cheeses included a really tasty smoked brie – I’ve never tried smoked brie before and could only have a wee nibble, but it really did seem a wonderful combination of flavours.  Started me thinking how well smoked paprika and brie might go together.  There were some other funky things there but since we bought them for presents I’ll have to keep them to myself ;)

I’ve got a wee gallery of photos from Gardening Scotland – I was too busy gawping to take as many as I would have liked – which are at the end of this post.  They’re the same ones as on my facebook, so if you’ve seen them there there’s nothing new here.

I had a few down days when I first came home feeling a bit lost – I couldn’t garden, couldn’t cook more than basics and my creativity was being busted by the heavy painkillers + boredom making me fall asleep.  It was because of that and finally getting back out into the garden that I realised just how sane my garden keeps me! Despite being barred from heavy lifting I’ve been out with camera in hand doing small jobs, picking salads and, of course, snapping some pictures.

The ‘season’ at the moment seems to include a lot of purple – this totally has nothing to do with my preference for that colour.  Honestly!  Most of the purple flowers are either from mixed colour seed, things which I had no idea they flowered purple or which I knew they did but it was nothing to do with choosing them.

Purple Venezuelan chilli, Salad Blue potato, Sage, Petunia, ‘Bijou Mix’ foxglove

In more productive garden news, I’ve been eating at least 4 salads a week which are majoritarily  from the garden – tonnes of salad leaves, potatoes, chives, herbs, radishes.  To mix things up a little I decided to pull up the makings of a stir-fry.  Now, my beans and peas are weeks behind schedule and I haven’t got many things in the garden which are typical stir-fry ingredients but I figured I’d ‘make do’ and it turned out  just fine.

Salad leaves, matchstick-cut potatoes (boil them for ~5 minutes before adding to the pan), pak choi, radishes, young turnips and turnip leaves.  The turnips, which were plump thinnings, tasted absolutely sweet and delicious – ‘Navet De Nancy’ is the variety and I had decided to give eating turnip leaf  a go when I heard this variety’s leaves were a good cooked green – waste not, want not, eh? Tempted to sow more just to have them as ‘baby’ veg.  I’ve also been fairly impressed by the vigour of my Forellenschloss and Really Red Deer’s Tongue lettuces – I’ve now chopped their crowns off 3 times and they’re still coming back!  I’d sown another couple of rows of them as I’d worried about keeping myself in salad leaves but if they’re all this happy then I might well end up with a fair glut at some point.


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What A Week!

Last week I knew I’d likely not manage a post due to being in for surgery.  That’s fine, I thought, it’s ok to have a week off, I mean they’re taking bits of your insides out!  That’s totally a good excuse.  Little did I know I’d end up in there for a week and end up missing out on two/three posts.  Bah.  But oh well, at least I have plenty to write about now ;)

Even in hospital I managed to have a little bit of greenery as my awesome aunt brought me a beautiful bunch of roses.  Every one of the non-medical staff, when they came into the room, made a bee-line for the roses to give them a wee sniff and comment on how lovely they were =)

Being in for a week rather than one or two days max, though, meant having to try to sort out what to do about the garden and all of my indoor plants.   There were greenhouses which needed opening… but only at the right temperatures, my african violets needed watered but they are sensitive to over-watering and do better with warm water, and the plants in the greenhouses needed to be kept well watered on hot days – especially the tomatoes!

When we had the really bad windy weather last week I’d put some plants into the shed, intending to ask Andy to help me get them back outside once I got out of hospital.

I forgot about them even when I was going through everything that needed taken care of.


I didn’t even want to look – my second peas and beans, my biennials, marigolds, purple cauliflowers, a big box of mixed lettuce, nasturtiums, and some extra sunflowers I’d sown were all in there. To my great surprise everything was pretty much fine!  The only real problem was that some had grown a bit leggy trying to stretch to the small shed window!

Less lucky were my outdoor beans, which suffered pretty hefty wind damage – this was especially annoying because they were heirloom ones sent to me by Matron.  The first leaves were all but wilted off and what was left looked peaky so I’ve nipped them off (they just seemed to be dragging the plants down) and I’m now just waiting to see if the rest of the plant will perk up any.  I still have a few seeds left, but I’m hoping these ones will pull through.

One of my big squashes looks to have died – I think the wind snapped the stem or pulled the roots out.  Either way it’s sitting limply on the surface of the ground.   The other one is looking ok though – I banked it up on all sides with earth and that seems to have saved it so far.

The leeks… probably won’t make it.

On the up-side, Andy and I ate garden-fresh potatoes smothered in freshly cut chives the night before last.  I think I finally started getting through to him about the wonderfulness of home veg growing when I asked him to help me dig some out of a bag and when he found one he pulled it up, looked it it and grinned “…it’s a potato!”.  I couldn’t help but laugh, but I knew exactly what he meant – that feeling of ‘wow, I’ve just put my hands into the soil and pulled food from it which was grown right here’ is like no other.  I’ll make a gardener of him yet.  He has a fairly green thumb, I think, given that he managed to keep everything alive and well whilst I’m away – it’s just overlain by drum and guitar callouses, hehe.  The potatoes (epicure) tasted pretty good – though they’re getting to be a fair size for first earlies as this was a bag planted early due to hopefulness with the  good spring weather we had.

The  ‘miscellaneous brassicas’, sweet peas, border plants, gladis, outdoor lettuce, garlic, sage, spring onions, and most of the sunflowers are doing ‘ok’.  A little battered but nothing that probably won’t mend.

The potatoes, strawberries, lupins, radishes, turnips and foxgloves seem to be doing great – almost totally unaffected by the weather and growing strongly.  I was expecting more casualties from the foxgloves and lupins but there’s nary a snapped stem betwixt them.  I can’t believe the colour of the turnips – such a bright, beautiful purple and white just under the surface. Finally, to add to what is becoming a UK-wide exclamation, I think I can say I’m looking at getting a really hefty crop of strawberries this year!

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