Ready or not, here I come…

I’ve been on invalid duty this last week… My mother is still suffering badly with shingles, and my daughter has ruptured the ligaments in a knee and is hobbling round in a full leg brace and crutches.

So I’ve not been in the garden as much as I’d like. However, a bit like the saying ‘a watched kettle never boils’, a summer garden left for a day or two suddenly shoots up and throws forth a bounty of produce (or at least the promise of bounty) and starts to look really beautiful. Suddenly, it really doesn’t need your help and has a mind of its own:

The 6 raised beds in the formal area are currently producing broad beans, carrots, lettuces, mizuna, rocket salad. The runner beans are reaching the tops of their poles, the sugar-snap peas are flowering, and beetroot, spring onions, celery, red chard and cucumbers have shifted a gear. There’s a ‘long haul’ bed of swedes, parsnips and more carrots sown for early autumn. I’ve also put some Cavolo Nero in with the chard and cucumbers… Not sure if that’s too much, but it was already netted and I can always thin something out later.

In the fruit beds, the strawberries are producing a daily handful. I’m not expecting much from the newly planted currant and gooseberry bushes, as they need to establish this year, but there’s still a little offering on those.

The rhubarb has, at last, started to grow, after a very slow start.

The blueberries, which were in a terrible half-dead state when I repotted them last autumn, are looking lush and healthy, thanks to Dalesfoot generous offer of a trial-bag of ericaceous peat-free compost. I’m genuinely impressed with their composts, not least by the water-retaining properties due to the sheep’s wool used. I’m finding this is a particularly useful addition in raised beds and pots which dry out quicker.

I took the plunge and decided to utilise the front garden for vegetables. I’m not there yet with the design, and I do want this to look nice all year round so it needs some thought, but with the beds now filling up its going to look fine as it is for the summer at least.

I’ve put a lot of sun-and-heat-loving veg here… Tomatoes and aubergines in the sheltered spot, peppers and basil in the ‘hot frame’… and sweetcorn, courgettes and Borlotti beans planted as a ‘companion’ group.

Round the edges of the main beds I’ve got various other crops nearly ready. The garlic and artichokes, and herbs a-plenty. And that artichoke needs picking!

Also more temporary structures… Another tomato bed (covered with an open cold frame, as it’s a windy spot), a pallet of ‘balcony pots’ filled with more tomatoes (this worked very well last year). Potatoes and more courgettes I have in bags and large pots, which I’ve edged with some cut-down pallets. At some point these are going to form a 4x8ft bed, so I’m just trying it out here ‘visually’ to see if I’d regret converting this part of the gravel driveway permanently.

I’ve also put the red cabbages and flower sprouts in pots. They grow very large, and I just couldn’t figure out how to fit them into the bed scheme this year. I noticed a white butterfly flitting over them, and thought I’d check under the leaves before covering them with netting. Rather than the grouped yellow eggs of the Large White, which are easier to spot, on nearly every leaf there was just one tiny egg… Produced by the Small White. Both need to be squashed off if you find them, otherwise your cabbages will soon resemble doilies. If you need a crash-course, try to spot the ones above!

I was blown away with a talk at last year’s Exeter Food Festival about edible flowers,  and was determined to grow some this year. I’m not normally a huge fan of pansies, but I thought these would look great in a salad… And nasturtium flowers too. I’ve also planted a couple of supposedly ‘flower-only’ courgettes, for stuffing and/or frying tempura style, although I have to say that they all seem to be fruiting regardless!

The terraced flower border is beginning to grow too. It’s a bit shady in the afternoon, so I’m hoping it gets enough light here to be successful. I’ve also experimented with some baby Hostas along the bank, using copper slug rings as pest defences. If these survive without too many holes, then I’ll consider putting my large pot-bound Hostas here too.

Not now though… now I need to go and see if any new potatoes are ready… And pick that artichoke before an invalid needs me!

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