Thursday, 19 May 2011

A May Update - Veg

Oh dear, like all of my intentions which start off well, I have let things slide on the blog front and realised it has been almost 6 weeks since my last post. Must try harder! It has been busy, busy busy here - here are some shots of the patch to give you an idea of where we are. Excuse the funny lighting - these were taken after work as otherwise I wouldn't have gotten around to it and another 6 weeks would have flown by.

As you can see in the tunnel, the broad beans which were sown early, are flowering nicely. I may hand pollinate these with a paintbrush as there is a a lack of pollinating insects under cover. We have had lots of early lettuce and radish from here, as well as dill and flat leaf parsley, which has spruced up the endless omelette's we get through! The pots contain blueberry bushes which are loaded with potential fruit and enjoying the murky water from the duckpond instead of ericacous fertilizer which is (in my view) too strong for these semi-bog plants. They are in the tunnel while they fruit to try and outsmart the birds.

You can't see clearly, but on the left of the tunnel there are some potatoes (planted mid March), with deceptively large halums and a few flower buds. I impatiently dug up a Red Duke of York the other day but they were only the size of Maltezers - a few more weeks to go. The Brassica seedlings are started off in here but will soon go out to make room for overflow tomatoes.

Excuse the mess. No point pretending it is ever anything but a mess.

In the greenhouse - still love it - we have cucumbers (by the door as they don't like to be too hot), sweet peppers, chillis, aubergines, melons along the back (a variety which grows to the size of an orange - great for our climate but never tried them before). Five tomato plants are coming along nicely along the right hand side. I still break into a sweat at only having 5 plants - more may go in the tunnel - but ALWAYS overdo it and end up stressed out at a mountain of rotting tomatoes festering in the fridge, because I can't use them all fast enough and can't face any more roasted tomato soup!

You can't see from the photo, but there is basil and coriander sown in the bare spots between the pepper plants, which will be transplanted at the foot of the tomato plants to ward off white fly and to chuck into pasta sauces and salads.

Yet again, I have gone WAY OTT with the potatoes - some are salads, (Pink Fir) some are first and second earlies and a maincrop of Wilja. Also some heritage hebredian black potatoes given to me by a crofting friend on the Isle of Lewis...can't wait to see how they turn out.

Onions, shallots and garlic that went in last October are looking good.

In the legume bed, peas. french beans, broad beans (the second round) and runners have all gone in.

I personally think peas are very pretty.

Er...yeah. Excuse the very unattractive squash bed, below. I am trying something new this year. Unfortunately the weeds won over and I didn't get around to digging over the squash plot before it became a major undertaking and now I just don't have time. So, bearing in mind that last year, the most successful squashes I grew were just the leftovers planted on the compost heap, I tried a little experiment. It goes something like this:

I have a friend who thinks this could be a potential Turner Prize Winner.

1.    Empty contents of compost bin - in varying stages of decay, onto newly strimmed patch of weeds and grass.

2.    Cover this stinky and messy mound with about 1/2 ft all over of well rotted horse manure (for which I am eternally grateful, we have in abundant supply).

3. Cover horse manure with old curtains, cutting planting holes. Make planting pockets with normal compost, and plant your squashes. Water well.

4.    Weigh curtains down with rocks and hope for the best!

The idea being that the compost/manure/curtain lasagna will, over the summer, kill all of the grass and weeds growing underneath, and the worms will help to work the manure into the bed for potatoes next year. It could be a disaster, but it will be no worse than the alternative, which is not growing squash at all and watching the thistles and grass take over completely. So far so good, although it dries out extremely quickly and needs watering most days.

I am doing something similar with sweetcorn, but will report on that another time.

Last night, we had our first strawberry! They are early this year and there are LOADS of them. 

Within tantalizing reach of the hen coop (bit of a planning oversight) the autumn Bliss raspberry canes are coming up nicely. These were an afterthought as I was given a divided clump last year but as it happens they did OK and an extra mulch should keep the weeds down.

Here is our rhubarb. These were planted last year as smallish plants, so should be established enough for a respectable harvest this year, but unfortunately all but one flowered (I have never seen a rhubarb flower before but they are nothing special). On the flowering plants, the stems were far too weedy and miserable to bother cooking, so I removed the flowers and left them to it. I think this may be because of the drought last year and this spring - causing the stressed plant to try a last ditch attempt at reproduction. However, we had a crumble out of the one 'Timperly Early' that didn't flower, so I don't feel too deprived.

So the news from the vegetable garden is 'nearly, but not quite' and I can't wait until I can stop buying veg and go back to just wandering into the garden to pick dinner.

Next time...a lamb update.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Everything is looking most promising, including the squash DIY bed. A lot of effort but rewarding, no doubt. Just think, in a few weeks you'll be eating top quality, home-grown produce. Hard to beat in reality! Just found your Blog through Barefoot Crofter on Lewis. I'll add it to my burgeoning list of interesting reads. Thanks and good luck. PS: As a former lawyer myself, I can say that it is possible to escape it!

  2. Hi Yeractual, thanks for following and for the light at the end of the law-related tunnel. I will read you blog with interest, looks like we are doing similar things in very different places!

  3. Hi Bonnie, glad you found me & my blog. So you have a crofting friend on the Isle of Lewis!? Funnily enough, even though I live in the Hebrides I've never tried those black potatoes. Maybe I will one day...