Category Archives: Garden

August Flowers

IMG_2678 IMG_2679 IMG_2680 IMG_2681 IMG_2682When I was little, the house on the corner of our street had a hydrangea bush in the garden. I have distinct memories of the little boy who lived there doing a wee up against it. I can’t have been more than five, but I found it very disgusting. Now I live in France, I am used to men, boys, girls and yes, even ladies, taking a wee in public. I have even seen people get out of their car at the supermarket, take a pee in the carpark and then go into the shop. It always makes me wonder whether they really can’t make it to the very nice toilets in the supermarket, only 50 metres away. 

Anyway, it’s not just the memory of the young boy taking a wee up against said hydrangea, but the fact that I was utterly convinced the bush was made of toilet paper; It was just that shade of pink that made it look like loo roll. That thought stayed with me for forty years and I have never been enamoured of the pink/blue standard hydrangea. 

Now, though, I have changed my mind. Look at these glorious flowers. 

IMG_2678 IMG_2695 IMG_2696 IMG_2697 IMG_2698The hollyhock is probably the flower I associate most with summertime France – they are everywhere. The ones in my garden start small and end up like triffids, towering two metres high or more. It has been so wet, the wisteria has had its second bloom. The roses are still going strong and the roadside flowers are everywhere

 

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Big boy crops

Just when I was wondering why on earth I would ever set myself a harvest target, when I was wondering why I would put myself through it all, when the last thing I tasted that I grew myself was a handful of broad beans a month or so ago… the big boy crops start coming in.

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It goes without saying that my 150 pieds de vigne are the ones that will bring up the rear end of the year, and now I have a couple of foraging friends, I’m still hoping to get a couple of kilos of wild mushrooms too. However, I’ve only done a couple of hours outside today and managed to get a whopping three kilos of plums, (on top of the seven I already had) two kilos of potatoes, half a kilo of sweetcorn, half a kilo of kale and half a kilo of tomatoes – my first major-ish tomato harvest of the year.

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Of my 250kg target for the year, I have so far harvested:

2.5 kg sprouting broccoli

4.5 kg cherries

2.1 kg broad beans.

200g peas

500g runner beans

10 kg plums

2 kg potatoes

500g sweetcorn

500g tomatoes

500g kale

500g courgettes

500g blackcurrants

500g redcurrants

2kg strawberries

That’s 24.8kg so far. That’s not as good as I’d want, though I still have 75% of the potato patch to dig up, carrots to come, beetroot, loads of healthy-looking kale, cabbages, brussels sprouts, spring onions, leeks, chilli peppers, onions, swiss chard, apples, pears, quinces, grapes, blackberries, walnuts and hazelnuts to come. For some reason, none of my cucurbits are putting out female flowers, so I’m going to give them a tomato feed watering and hope they change their mind. I mean, it’s been warm enough and they are well watered! They better get a wriggle on. I was kind of counting on them to be more productive this year.

I’m also pretty sure Tilly has eaten about 2kg of tomatoes. She is like a tomato hound. She’d live off them, I’m sure.

The plums have all been turned into jellies and jams this week. I have finally given in and bought a big galvanised cauldron to can stuff. The jelly was sometimes an easy set and sometimes took ages. It makes no sense. Same fruit, same process. Some takes 25 minutes and some takes almost an hour… so what has become of it?

IMG_0696So what’s in there? A Christmas jam for a start – plums, cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice. And some plum, chilli and ginger jelly which will be just perfect for Chinese sauces. What? You don’t use jelly in your Chinese sauces? Shame on you. The rest is either plum jelly, plum jam, mirabelle jelly or mirabelle jam. I’ve still got three plum trees to get the plums off, but they’re a way off yet. They’ll be going in the freezer, I think.

Still, the soil is soft, the day was just cool enough today to be pleasant and there’s a whole load of stuff still to do

Où sont les arrosoirs?

I’m making the most of this time between papers and students to get out and try to whip the garden under control. Not so easy in 32°C. Weird considering it was 17°C maximum last Wednesday and it rained most of the day. Less than a week’s worth of summer weather and it feels like it’s been summer forever.

I try to do as much as I can before 11am – walk the dogs, weed… it gets too hot afterwards. I’ve mostly weeded back the brassica patch, but it’s been heavily eaten by creatures of the crawling variety. Plus, I’ve been heavy handed with the weeding, so I pulled up a lot of spring onions by mistake. Some of the seeds I sowed directly haven’t taken, so I’m planting some late veg – swedes and bok choi. Today, I’m going to be pulling out the broad beans and putting in a row of parsnips. It’s a little late but we’ll see.

The big patch will be next. There’s a lot of stuff coming up…

IMG_0527This is a square of corn with pumpkins at their feet… there’s two rows of tomatoes behind them, then some peppers and chilis behind those.  But it is in need of hoeing and weeding. There’s a little space left alongside the dragonesque cardoons

IMG_0478These are a totally statuesque plant and are forming a great border between patches. Not sure why more people don’t grow them as ornamentals because they’re magnificent. On the roundabout in La Rochefoucauld (I know, illustrious!) there’s a few planted in a gorgeous, gorgeous flowerbed. I always mean to take some photographs but I’m sure everyone will look at me like I’m completely craaaaaazy. Like it’s acceptable to take photos of my adopted home town’s flowers, as long as they are doing pretty things and not adorning a roundabout near a supermarket.

It’s the flowers that are the stars at the moment though. The hollyhocks are starting and the roses are in full bloom. I mean to plant some darker hollyhocks, as I have every shade from Deep Purple (just like saying that because of the band…) to a Whiter Shade of Pale (I started, so…)

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Today will be an early start to see if I can get the brassicas weed-free and then to get on with the mowing. There’s a lot of stuff that needs weeding, so it’s just weed, weed, weed right now. You wouldn’t believe how fast those things grow. If human beings could eat weeds, we’d have no need for GM crops and we’d not be considering how we can introduce insects into our diet more regularly, just so we could sustain a gargantuan population. If only crab grass were edible…

I suspect I am three or four weeks off a first crop of tomatoes. It’s late, but you know what they say. The mini-pop corn are in flower and the big boy corn doesn’t look far behind. Beetroot are fattening up nicely, carrots are looking good. None of the onions have gone to seed and I might be able to harvest a few in a couple of weeks. Roll on harvest!

And unless something terrible occurs, the plums are definitely going to make up for the spoilt cherries. I’ve already had to prop a few branches up – they’re that heavy with babies. I’ll also get all the vines tied in over the next couple of days – bit of a slog to do 150. Luckily, I have more helpxrs arriving in the next couple of weeks. Not sure they will be as fun or as lovely as Shannon and Marcus though! It’s one of the benefits of opening up your house to passers-by – you get to meet lovely people and see their bit of the world as they tell you their stories.

Better get out there and get on with it. I’ve a huge jobs list. If it’s as hot as it was yesterday, I might have drowned in a pool of sweat by evening. I sense a long, cold bath at the end of it all. Bliss!

First flowers

Well, not exactly the first, but the first of my perennials.

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I love achillea – their flowers soften as they grow old, but I love their frothy green leaves as much. This one is Cerise Queen. I’ve also got Cassis and Summer Pastels but they are a little tardy this year. It’s amazing how much everything has shot up in this patch. The monarda is almost ready to flower, the dahlias have fat buds and the marguerites are also just about ready.

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The vegetable patch is coming on a little – though the cardoons are the mighty kings of the show right now. I was never going to go to the effort of blanching, peeling and eating the stems, so right now, they form a huge and magnificent dinosaur hedge along the edge of one of my plots.

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I’ve kept some peppers and chilis inside but the peppers I planted outside – well – they survived the rains. They might not have grown much, but they’re still alive. Then there’s the tomatoes. They’ve got little tiny toms forming – and I still have some more to go out. I think there are about forty in total.

The corn and mini-pop corn are doing fine and I’ve planted some pumpkins in the centre of the squares – I’ll be putting straw down as a mulch in the next couple of days.

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Then there are courgettes, cucumbers and cornichons, but they are still tiny! I’ve got melons to plant out as well in the next couple of days. I doubt they will be able to get enough of a summer to really do anything, though. It’s at times like this I think about putting up a second polytunnel. However, if the weather is hot, it’s awful to have to work in a polytunnel. Oh the sweat!

The runner beans are flourishing; I love runner bean flowers – they’re just about the prettiest things in the vegetable garden.

IMG_0480Lots of the lettuce have gone to seed, so I’ll pull them out and reseed.

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The kale is coming on fine and dandy – I suspect, like Mavis on 100$ a Month, it will make up a big part of my total for the year. I’ve got three rows of the stuff and it is looking remarkably healthy. The onions either side, well, they’re not as happy, and the beetroot are still all leaf and no beet. The leeks are looking more leek like and less like blades of grass. I’ve been clearing the weeds from that patch this week – an assortment of thistles, bindweed, forget-me-nots, purslane and other assorted things that I have no nice name for. I suspect I’ll be back out there tomorrow, as today is Manic Wednesday, where I teach from 8am to 7pm, and any spare time I have is going to marking my writing papers. Let’s just hope it warms up a little: it felt like April this morning – colder outside than it was in. 

First vegetables

Finally, the beans I planted way back in January have come up trumps and I managed to harvest some broad beans, some peas and some runner beans. This is just the beginning of the season for them.

As regular readers know well, I am a massive fan of beans – broad beans being my absolute favourite (though I love butter beans as well) so I’m pretty pleased with my harvest. They’re a little later than last year – but not by much. Do you think the year is catching up?

Broad beans

I’ve even had a handful of peas and runner beans. The runner beans look pretty happy now, it must be said, though I think next year I might plant them straight out, as it was tough to move them as they were in such big pots. I had my first pea and bean herb risotto on Monday night and it was GOOD to eat fresh stuff from the garden and not frozen stuff from last year. Saturday, it was new potatoes, broad beans, runner beans, peas with a little olive oil. I seriously could live off that meal. The peas are just perfectly sweet, the broad beans are still small and soft and the runner beans are also really crisp. I grated a little cheddar on top and it was just about the best meal I’ve had in ages.

Of my 250kg target for the year, I have so far harvested:

2.5 kg sprouting broccoli

4.5 kg cherries

1.1 kg broad beans.

100g peas

100g runner beans

That makes it 8.3 kg out of 250kg. It’s going to be a bit of a slog! I think I’ll have to rip up the broad beans quick sharp, add some compost and get a line or two of bok choi out, and some squash. Swede and turnip can also go out this late and they weigh in a bit.

To be fair, lots of things are beginning to happen. The first baby tomatoes are forming, the pumpkins seem permanently in flower. The potatoes look amazing and I hope they haven’t succumbed to blight. The kale is coming on great guns, as is the broccoli. The corn and mini-pop corn are beginning to pousse (I’ve always liked that French uses the verb ‘to push’ for ‘to grow’…).

As for the other stuff, well, not so much. I planted out a few peppers last week, despite the rain. They seem to be okay, but I don’t hold much hope for them growing big enough, putting out flowers, putting out fruit and ripening all before September. Likewise the aubergines. The rain has brought lots of mushrooms up, and I kind of wish I had a mushroom farm. It’d be hugely successful right now.

The lettuce have obviously had a bit of a drama and some of them have gone to seed. I would too if I were them. I bet they don’t know whether they’re coming or going with this weather. Pouring down for days at 20°C and then fresh this week. 24°C is not what I would expect of the weather for a daytime high. Oh well. You get what you are given. I think this serves me right for gloating back in January. Today, it is predicted to be only 10° hotter than that January day. Bah to that.

Still, whilst it is still too wet to mow, it is not too wet to weed, and I can start to make some headway on the annual weeds that have set up shop all over my nicely dug patches.

Last year, my coreopsis were flowering, the monarda were in bloom and I even had hazelnuts. This year, well, everything is very green. And that’s about the best I can say.

It was about this time last year that a very small puppy arrived here – Mr Heston Crow. He is not so little any more, but he is a darling. Really, he should be out herding stuff and looking pretty, but he tolerates long walks well enough.

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He doesn’t look so very cute any more, though Verity was right: he did grow up handsome.

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Charlton is a lovely dog. He is everyone’s best friend. There isn’t a dog alive who he doesn’t try to play with, should they come round to his house. If they grumble, like Dillon does, well, he leaves them alone. He’s currently playing Uncle to two very beautiful little boxer Xs that Madame V is fostering until they are permanently adopted. Milly and Molly. They are quite the delight. Charlton has had a very good teacher in Lola the GSD though. She has taught him exactly how to play nicely with others.

So, whilst it’s a bit skinny on the harvesting front, it’s busy on the work front. The school year is coming to an end, but I have plenty of summer clients to keep me busy. The marking has had its back broken. I’m surprised by how much I’ve done of it, to be honest, since the last few sessions I haven’t managed to mark my initial allocation in full. I have a better approach now – though I prefer to mark one question a day and to do the easy ones first, this time, I marked the hard ones first and the ones that are pair-marked, I’ve been marking in the evening like everybody else. This year, I haven’t had so much checking and enforced go-slows as a result. Plus, the weather has been a bonus for that. What else is there to do but go to bed early and mark?

I’ve banned downloads or DVDs as I usually do in the marking period, though I have been checking in regularly with Mr George RR Martin and his Game of Thrones creatures. I’ve nearly finished all of his books again, though I am disappointed that he hasn’t managed to whip out Book 6. I’ve said before and I’ll say again – if he doesn’t finish them, I will be distraught. Iain Banks’ death really brought home to me the mortality of my best-loved authors. I feel like some druggie whose dealer has shuffled off this mortal coil, ferreting around their old stuff in the hopes of finding a nugget of something that can give me a hit.

I think I need another epic series.

Up and at ’em

Surprisingly, the only thing that seems like it’s growing at the moment is grass. My baby plants are doing well though, but I’ve not planted many out yet. I’m far too afraid of frost, since there was one only 8 days ago. I suspect this week will see a lot more going in, especially when it’s a bank holiday week as well. I’m pretty sure there will not be another frost, since we are only eleven days away from the last frosts recorded in France.

Yesterday, I put in another row of red onions and some Swiss chard.

Swiss Chard Rainbow

The ‘brassica’ bed has now got cauliflower, kale, Swiss chard and onions in it. Today, I’m going to put another row of onions in and then the Savoy cabbage and red cabbage. There are two rows of kale down now – I figure if I have too much, I can always give it to my kale-mad friends. It’s like a kind of kale fetish round here. I guess it’s a superfood with lots of positive habits concerning your insides. It’s also great as part of a detox diet.

In the main root crop bed, the beetroot are beginning to show their first leaves and the Brussels sprouts that Marcus transplanted are doing fine. I pickled a lot of beetroot last year and the vinegar was sharp enough to set your teeth on edge. I need some more gentle vinegar this year. I think I used cider vinegar, but it is so harsh it makes me cry when I eat them.

The baby leeks still look like small blades of accidental grass. There’s kale in there too that was transplanted. The other seeds and onion sets haven’t put in an appearance yet, but I guess they will soon. It’s been damp and warm – the best combination.

The potatoes have now all but broken through the soil and I’m going to earth them up today. In the bean patch, I’ve been putting lettuce seedlings in but the beans are a little disappointing this year. Funny that last year was such a bumper crop. It was so cold so long that even the broad beans didn’t fancy it. The runner beans I started off in pots however… wow! They’ll be ready to go out in the next couple of days. I staked them already and they are HHHHYYYYYUUUUGGGGE. I’ve made hazel trellises for them to grow up, but I seriously forgot how massive they get. I’ve got some hazel and willow that I’ve coppiced and I’m planning on building a couple of raised beds with them. I stole had an idea that will mean I can use more portable beds to house all the big things that take up a lot of space. I’ve also got to get a handle on some weed suppressant – I spend far too long on everything besides the vegetable plots.

A lot of the raised beds on the internet are just not very big. They’re more like big planters. That seems like too small a space to me. I need B-I-G! Today I’m going to plan out a quick bed and have done. It’s getting a bit crowded around there, but I need somewhere near the water, because there’s nothing worse than trekking miles up the garden with a watering can, like Jean de Florette. In fact, I’ve had a good idea as I’m writing and I will see how I get on with it.

Today, I’ll also be putting down some more seed – parsnip this time – and planting up my geraniums. I had cuttings from last year and I’ve put them all in pink pots. Nothing says summer to me like geraniums. It’s a lot cooler today, so I should be able to get more done. I did a bit on the big patch that’s going to have all the summer crops – tomatoes, aubergines and peppers – but I need to crack on with it.

Hope your day is as productive as I need mine to be!

Reader…

My garden is full.

Seriously.

I have 200 metres squared of vegetable garden and there is no room left for anything else. Although it’s not full yet, it will be in a couple of weeks, and I need more space.

So…

I’m torn between adding another vegetable plot or adding raised beds.

I quite like the idea of raised beds. Less bending. Also, less digging, less turning, less weeding. I can put down a layer of weed suppressant, some newspaper and some soil, and it is done.

If I dig, I have to clear turf first, then improve the soil, then weed.

And weed.

And weed.

Of course, there are some disadvantages. Raised beds can dry out more in the summer. I’d need to mulch like crazy. It’s been nine whole days of dry weather and the soil is already too dry to dig.

Normally, too, I leave quite a bit of space between rows and crops – rather than cramming them in. I suspect a raised bed might make me put more in and be more intensive. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Plus, I won’t be able to easily fork it over in the same way. It will be harder to clear and to do with big tools. I’ll not be able to rotavate, for example.

Not that I do a lot but I like the option.

I won’t have the usual problem that some of my plants will need a deep bed, because they will always be able to go in a deep bed, but that means I’m still going to have three or four raised beds, just so that I can rotate my crops.

The logistics are a little frightening. I need more helpXrs with power tools.

I think the garden last year was further on. By the end of April, virtually all my root crops were not only in but shooting. Here it will take a little time. Luckily, rain is forecast for the weekend, and lots of it, with fairly warm temperatures. This means I don’t have to worry about watering, and everything will grow like mental.

Yesterday was a busy day. Marcus put in a row of red onions, a row of leeks, and a couple of rows of kale that have been sitting about for a while. Shannon and I planted in a load of lettuces and I got busy with the mower again. I think I need a little tractor. I’m coveting a little tractor. The things I could do with a little tractor.

I introduced them to the delights of Pan’s Labyrinth and whilst they were watching that last night, I tidied up the pots outside. I bought a couple of penstemons a couple of weeks ago and put those into my perennial bed, as well as the gladioli and a pink cactus dahlia. I noticed the monarda is going crazy and the Grande Marguerites are huge as well.

Red & Frilly

 

I think this year there will be fewer annuals in my flowerbed. I’ve planted up some of last year’s scabiosa heads which are now seeding, as well as a couple of packets of zinnia and annual poppies. Most of the flowers go as companion plants for the vegetables… marigolds, zinnia, cosmos, sunflowers. I’ve not been so successful with delphiniums and tomorrow, I am going to stop off at the nursery in Montbron and see if I can find any.

Anyway, Mme V’s daughter is taking my guests to Angoulême today to see if they can find somewhere without a goat. Having heard that there are not one but two people who walk goats through Angoulême I think their chances of leaving Charente with a vision of a rustic citidel filled with eccentric animal-walking residents imprinted on their memories is pretty high.

I’m off to check my seedlings and see that they survived their first night in the wild outdoors.

Enjoy your Wednesday!

Where it’s at

With massive thanks to my lovely helpers, the garden is finally coming under control. We’ve dug, we’ve weeded, we’ve hoed, we’ve raked, we’ve forked, we’ve mowed, we’ve pruned and we’ve strimmed. We’ve planted and seeded and re-potted. Virtually everything that needs to blossom has blossomed.

Not only that, it’s been a good year for blossom. Let’s hope it’s a good year for fruit. I didn’t get a single cherry last year, or even a plum.

The apple trees have now blossomed too – so that’s it for this year, blossom-wise.

The soil is now too dry to dig well – no rain predicted until the weekend.

So, what is up and what is in?

  • Gardener’s Delight tomatoes
  • Super Marmande tomatoes
  • Alicante tomatoes
  • Super Roma tomatoes
  • cauliflower ‘merveille de quatre saisons’
  • musselburgh leeks
  • Autumn Giant leeks
  • kale
  • sweet banana pepper
  • Rachel’s cauliflower seeds that I can’t remember the name of
  • cheap aubergines
  • expensive aubergines
  • savoy cabbage
  • oak-leaf lettuce
  • red lettuce
  • brussels sprouts
  • basil
  • red cabbage
  • Webbs lettuce
  • tabasco pepper
  • poppies
  • broccoli
  • cucumber
  • more lettuce
  • pumpkins
  • courgettes
  • Reine Marguerite
  • sunflowers
  • soucis
  • cornichons
  • prairie fire pepper

We’ve also planted two rows of carrots, put the onions in, planted the leeks out, put in the organic beetroot. Today, we’ll be finishing off the big patch and planting in some more stuff. It’s a frenzy at the moment!

I’ve put in two different carrots so far, though I might plant another row as well because I have an abundance of carrot seed.

The first one to go in was a gift from my friend Rachel; She got me a packet of ‘atomic red’ carrots that look a little like this…

This is from a cute blog I just found and I’m now following… She says it was the largest carrot she got from her raised beds. It looks pretty damn fine to me. It does look like it’s been accidentally cross-processed in exposure, so I am looking forward to this one! They’ve gone in next to the onions, as the onions seem to keep carrot fly away. On the other side of it are my little baby leeks; they are tiny little strands of grass at the moment. The carrots should be ready by the end of July. I’d kind of liked to have planted them when it was cooler, but the weather put paid to that, with such a cold spring. Hard to believe that three weeks ago, it was 4°C all day.

That’s something I don’t know for sure, but it does seem that my carrots did remarkably well last year.

The other is just a straightforward row of carrots next to my beans. The seed is quite old though, so I don’t know if I’ll have any luck. In the past, the only carrots I’ve had that were viable were packets of seed that were less than a couple of years old. Nothing like this palm that sprouted from a 2,000 year old seed!

Today, I’m putting in my lettuces and putting sunflowers around the bean beds. I’m mostly impressed by my runner beans, as I repotted them on Sunday and they’ve already shot up even further. They are growing at least three or four inches a day. It’s overcast today, so it’s a good day for seedlings to go in and get bedded in.

Last week, I harvested 3kg of sprouting broccoli. I’m still laughing at those things that say it is a six-month crop, because it was a good 12-month crop.

That means, from my 250kg total target, I have only 247kg to go! Yay! You might laugh, but if I can’t get 10kg cherries, 10kg plums, 10kg apples, 10kg pears and 10kg quinces, I’ll be mad. I’ll shake my fist at that there garden and threaten to burn it. I should get a good 30kg of grapes as well.

Anyway, I better scoot. I’ve still got fifty million things to do out there, and school starts again next Monday…

Come on Spring, where are you?

First, I need to confirm that I did in fact see The Brotherhood of Man. I was three. It was my Auntie Pauline’s birthday. We were in Torquay and they were playing in a hotel, so we did have a meal. Not only did I see them, but they got me up on stage to sing to me. She did not confirm, however, that there was chicken-in-a-basket.

There you are.

My nana just phoned to confirm that it did really happen and it wasn’t some weird sequin-induced euro-dream.

Early claims to fame.

Despite the cold snap today, I realised that things have actually blossomed a little earlier than last year. The forsythia by my window is just bursting into flower and there are lots of daffodils already in the polytunnel. The plum has yet to blossom though and that is usually one of the first trees to burst into bud. I can tell that it is close. I am just desperately hoping that the cold snap doesn’t kill off my cherries. I love my cherry tree and cherry picking is the highlight of the season for me.

I confess, though, the rickety home-made ladders are not exactly my cup of tea.

Ambulance for one?

So what is up this week, and what is not?

So far I have…

  • Gardener’s Delight tomatoes
  • Super Marmande tomatoes
  • Alicante tomatoes
  • Super Roma tomatoes
  • cauliflower ‘merveille de quatre saisons’
  • musselburgh leeks
  • Autumn Giant leeks
  • kale
  • sweet banana pepper
  • Rachel’s cauliflower seeds that I can’t remember the name of
  • cheap aubergines
  • expensive aubergines

This week, I have added savoy cabbage and today I’m going hell for leather with some planting to get my garden into gear. They might all only be tiny seedlings on the windowsill in the lean-to as yet, but they’re just biding their time. Maybe I should do a time lapse video for the season? It seems to grow and be over so very, very quickly. Stuff that goes in in April is out by September at the latest. You realise how short the growing year actually is. Except my broccoli. That’s still out there. I’m still waiting. All leaves and no florets as far as I can see.

I even mowed part of the garden on Saturday – though my neighbour shook his finger at me. Obviously he didn’t think it was time. Bah. At least my courtyard looks a little more presentable than it did.

Today is my big gardening day and I’ve got a good few things to get in. The things that are in the propagator are ready to move out and new stuff to move in.

So, what will I be putting in there next?

Tabasco peppers for a start. Then some flowers. I’m a little late with them. I got some packs of Busy Lizzies and some Mexican sunflowers that look a bit like asters if you ask me, but who am I to quibble?

Then it’s the herbs that need to get a move on. I can’t believe I haven’t got any basil in yet because mozzarella, basil and big beefsteak tomatoes are just about my favourite combos.

I think today will be a potting day rather than a digging day – the weather is supposed to be very cold. I believe there’s been all kinds of snow chaos further up north, but nothing here yet. Mostly, we shall be trying to keep fingers and paws warm. We went out for a long walk this morning, saw a few wild boar trotting through the forest, a couple of pheasant and the first wild primrose in bloom.

tabasco

I am just considering the cold weather and thinking. Perhaps I should plant some extra peppers and then I could warm myself up with my own tabasco sauce. Considering you really only need cider vinegar and a whole heap of tabasco peppers, it sounds pretty straightforward to me.

By this time last year, I had got a few rows of beetroot and carrot out – not this year. I’m a little behind. Nevertheless, they should be in by the end of the month, I hope. I just can’t get enough homegrown beetroot. Brassicas and root vegetables – I’m hard pressed to find ones I don’t like.

So come on Spring. Get a move on. I’m tired of waiting for you.

Houston, we have evening 2013

I’m such a daylight-lover that not having an evening really depresses me. Going from light to dark with ne’er a goodbye is just something very sad. I love that time when everything slows down and the sun melts into the horizon. It’s the first sign to me that the Winter is dead. You can actually do productive stuff without feeling like you should be in bed. Having the shutters still open at 6pm – delicious.

Not only that, but there’s actually another joyous little ray of light (no, not Madonna) coming into my life every day. I usually wake up about 6.30ish. I don’t know whether it’s me waking Heston up or him waking me up, but as soon as I’m conscious, I’m conscious of a warm breath right near my face. The room is pitch black – the shutters see to that – so the only way I know it’s nearly morning is Heston’s dog breath. Tilly would sleep all day I think. She snores right through even when I’m properly awake. However, I think that there’s something nice creeping into the bedroom – a little ray of light under the door each morning. It is wonderful to open the bedroom and see that the sun is beginning to lighten the world a little. Some days I think I just fester in darkness. It’s too cold to open shutters and opening them from 9am – 3am is so pointless that most of my village don’t bother. I don’t really either. This year has been one of the darkest winters for ages, apparently. It certainly felt like it. There certainly didn’t seem to be as many of those bright and frosty days as there have been in the past here.

It was that grim, it was almost Mancunian.

Sorry Manchester.

It’s true though.

So, to have an evening, to have long sunsets, to have mornings where it seems to take a while for the sun to break through the haze, it’s all good. Yesterday, the sun was so bright that I could barely see when walking the dogs.

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However, how quickly we forget the grievances of warm weather. A fly came in the house yesterday. It really pissed me off. Can’t I have one day where I open the windows and a beast comes in?! Plus, I can’t leave windows open as the chickens fly in. Maybe I need nets over the windows? The flies are quickly dealt with by the uber-efficient Catch strips which are deeply unpleasant but highly effective. The chickens, not so much. They come in for the dog biscuits, as far as I can see.

Cheeky chickens.

They’re back at full lay now, and how lovely it is to be able to give away eggs to friends. I have more friends than eggs, however, so I have to kind of portion them about wherever I’m going if I’ve got spares.

The chickens like the evenings as well; they sit on the windowsill sunbathing and cuddling. It’s kind of sweet. I like peaceful evenings like that.

It’s nice too, since most evenings I teach from 4pm-late, depending on what day it is. It’s nice to finish and have a little left over and still feel like I could do something if I wanted to. I don’t really, since I’m usually worn out, but it’s nice to be able to think I could if I wanted to.

And, just because I knew I’d had this reflection before, I went looking for it. Indeed, on March 9 2011, I realised I felt just as excited about the oncoming evening. I should bookmark the post for the middle of winter when it seems like the days will never brighten up. Still, the last time the sun got up so early was September, and the last time it went to bed so late was the end of October.

I’m obviously going to have to control myself or else I’ll be breaking out into song here and there.

But I don’t care. I’ve waited a long time to see the sun get so warm (it’s three whole months since it was so warm in the day! We had two days in mid-November that crossed the 15° mark).seeds

So, today I am breaking out the big guns. It’s rotavator time! After that, all hell breaks loose in a frenzy of planting and crazy gardening chaos.

I’m going to enjoy the quiet before the vegetation storm while I can!