Garden Review of 2017 – my Top 5 Vegetables

Looking back to the 2017 season in my garden, and highlighting my vegetable growing successes.

The spring and summer of 2017 have long since ridden off into the sunset, and the memories of my first spade into the tired old lawn of my new garden are beginning to fade.

So, what better way to beat the February chills or driving myself crazy with wanting to sow every seed, than to look back at my five favourite vegetable successes that grew in my new garden.

Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’

Three Squash Spaghetti Stripetti
Three left!

Having never grown a squash before, and rarely tasted them in anything other than soups, I decided to grow 2 Squash Spaghetti Stripetti seeds.

I greatly underestimated what these plants could do, although the wind sorted one of them out in just a few hours of planting it out into my new raised bed. I sowed a replacement, but really didn’t need to.

Within only 6-8 weeks of sowing the first one, I was already expectantly watching the first of the squashes form under a mass of leaves and tangled stems.

Small Squash Spaghetti Stripetti forming
The first Squash forming after about 6-8 weeks of sowing.

I ended up with the original plant meandering and clinging to all other plants (including the lawn), with a radius of about 20 feet.

By the time that the plant had peaked, it had given me about 15 edible big plump squashes. I swiftly learnt how to roast them up and have enjoyed eating their soft, spaghetti-ish, kind-of sweet yellow flesh. I still have three of these in my kitchen – they store really well.

Courgette ‘Black Beauty’

Courgette plant on flower
One of the Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants on flower. They went er.. bananas.

The Courgette ‘Black Beauty’, just like the namesake horse, galloped along and took over my diet for about 3 months, allowing me to legitimately infiltrate the courgetti fad crowd with my tricky-to-clean spiralizer gadget.

I’d tried growing these over the years with intermittent success. In this new garden though, for some reason I thought 6 plants would be ok. This gave me heaps of courgettes resulting in a great soup recipe, and new-found friends at work (gardening really is sociable!).

Courgette, Potato, and Cheddar Soup
Courgette, Potato, and Cheddar Soup – one of the tastiest ways to reduce my courgette glut.

Considering that the seed ‘should have’ been discarded about 8 years previously, they did very well. After drowning in courgettes, and the plants experiencing mildew that eventually suffocated the courgettes and the marauding squash plant, I pulled up both after a long and happy harvest.

I kept a tally, but gave up at the end of Week 7’s harvest. At that point, i counted a total of 45 courgettes, weighing a cumulative 15.5 kilos (that’s 15,500 grams – the equivalent of just less than 1 London Bus).

French Climbing Bean ‘Blue Lake’

French Bean 'Blue Lake' beans
Just a few of the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ beans that cropped well in the new garden.

This was probably my best harvest yet, and these French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ beans soon took to the wigwam and cropped. They were the second plants to be planted out into my new garden, as the seedlings had spent most of April crawling around my old house’s windowsills desperate to be planted out whilst solicitors did their job.

French Bean Blue Lake seedlings with wigman
My French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ seedlings had been desperate to be planted out in 2017, so they were 2nd out, in week 1!

Heavy assaults from snails were seen off with some magic sweets, enabling me to have many harvests right up to the frost. I’ll definitely continue growing these, as the beans are so tasty, and I love to pop a few in a stir fry.

Mixed Salad Leaves

handful of mixed salad leaves
The mixed Salad Leaves have been lush and delicious, and I’ve enjoyed picking them in the morning sunshine before work.

These did really well, considering that they were supposed to have been sowed ‘before 2012’. They were desperate to be planted out when they were filling up the windowsill of my old house, so they were the first plants in – just a few days after getting my new house keys.

A red leaf lettuce planted out.
The slugs don’t seem to like these red-leafed lettuces. I’ll grow some more.

I grew a mixed range, and I soon realised that one of the red leaf varieties did not appeal to slugs and snails. I think I’ve identified the variety as Lettuce ‘Red Salad Bowl’ (ingenious name, right?), and will be growing it again in 2018.

Pea ‘Alderman’

Last year, I returned to growing one of my first garden successes from when I was a child – Peas. Armed with a packet of Pea ‘Alderman’ seeds, and a newly erected fence, I sowed my line.

Handful of Peas 'Alderman'
My one and only handful of Peas ‘Alderman’ from my 2017 garden. Delicious.

They germinated fast, but the woodpigeons and slugs were fast too. I managed to pop some wire over them but they’d already taken heavy slug damage. I managed a harvest though – a handful of pods – and well, a mouthful of fresh peas. They were delicious, but brief.

Small harvest of Pea Alderman
My 2017 Pea harvest. That’s it. Baby steps, Andrew. Baby steps.

I hope to improve this in 2018, and be two steps ahead of my pea-nibbling foes.

So, those are my vegetable highlights of 2017 – all of these grew from seed, and were planted out in my new garden.

What did you grow in 2017?

Did you have any vegetable growing successes in 2017? What are you planning to grow in 2018? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, happy gardening (or simultaneous seed catalogue browsing and dreaming). I’ll post the garden review of my favourite flowers in a few days, but for now – thanks for reading.

Andrew

Sowing Sweet Peas, Salvia and Broad Beans in February

The propagator is fired up, and the sow-athon begins with Broad Beans, Sweet Peas, and Salvia.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been chomping at the bit to get gardening again. February can be one of the most bitterly cold months in the UK, and so when you get a little bit of sunshine, or a day without rain, snow, wind, or freezing conditions, it is so tempting to get out there and make a start.

In my last post I shared my seed planner, and I’ve found that really helpful in reminding me what I’m going to grow and how I can pace myself a bit. I’ve already added more seeds to the schedule!

So, with four days of February under our belts, I’ve decided to start sowing some seeds, and set up my little propagator again on a windowsill.

pots of cineraria and salvia seeds in a propagator
Cineraria ‘Maritima Siverdust’ and Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ are the first in the propagator this year.

First in today were my Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’ seeds – only 6 seeds so far, but I can go back and add more seed in a few weeks if they don’t germinate well, or add more a few weeks later just to stagger my crop.

As a child, broad beans were like nasty little warts and they tasted disgusting, yet, as an adult I simply cannot get enough of them. I’m frustrated by the lack of them in my local supermarket – and can’t even get them frozen, so I thought that I would sow some myself. I’m worried about the blackfly though, as they took great delight in attacking my tomatoes last year, but I’ve been watching several videos on how to deal with these on Broad Beans. I’m also looking forward to the benefits that they will give my garden by pumping nitrogen back into the soil. The courgettes and squash will love that!

packets of sweet pea, salvia, and broad bean seeds
The first seeds to sow in February – Sweet Peas, Salvia, and Broad Beans.

In addition to these, I also sowed a dozen each of Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ and Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mixed’. I grew both varieties last year, and whilst they flowered well over a long season, they didn’t climb. I think this was due to the garden twine ‘web’ that I put up for them, so I will swap that to wire before I plant these out. Past experience shows that these will germinate quickly, but last year the Royal Mixed variety were up first.

Finally, I’ve sown some more of my Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ seeds. I sowed some of these (same packet) last year, but only one germinated – although it did become a large striking plant in my new garden.

Salvia 'Farinacea Victoria' with deep blue flowers
The sole surviving Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ plant was covered in deep blue flowers.

Hopefully, they will be more successful this year, and help fill my new border with its beautiful deep blue spires that looked great, and were popular with the bees. This early sowing does at least allow me time to perhaps get some new seed if the germination is poor.

These Salvia seeds actually join my Cineraria ‘Maritima Silverdust’ that I sowed last week. Those will add an intricate snowy-leafed set of foliage to my garden.

Cineraria 'Martima Siverdust'
Cineraria ‘Martima Siverdust’

They worked really well in my previous garden where it was sheltered and shady, and they lived on for about 4 years! They contrast well with most other plants.

As I finish typing this post, the sun is blazing, the birds are feasting on my feeders, and I can hear a blackbird singing. It feels like Spring is here, but I’m not fooled by February – which won’t flinch about bringing deadly snow and ice.

Have you started your 2018 sowing season yet? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, thank you for reading, and happy gardening!

Andrew

Goodbye Aubergine

Always acknowledge when it is time to give up. And give up.

I’ve always wanted to grow Aubergines (US readers: that’s an ‘egg plant’), but I just can’t get them to a harvestable level.

I’ve been trying to grow Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’ since 2011, pretty much every year but only got close that year, and again in 2017 (when I switched to Aubergine ‘Early Long Purple 2), but they just don’t give me any fruit bigger than a radish on a cold day.

Aubergine and Nasturtium plants in a wicker basket.
Aubergines in a wicker basket did well in 2011.

The plants are always healthy and their silvery green leaves are quite elegant, but years into trying, I’m going to stop.

Even 2017’s raised bed saw them grow well, but in the end they seemed to run out of steam. It’s not that I’m not sowing them early enough – I’m following the packet. I just don’t have a greenhouse, and have no plans to.

It’s important to know when to stop and move on.

What about the Tomatoes?

In 2017, after gales, baking sunshine, and waves of blackfly, I did get a bumper crop of Tomato ‘Minibel’ but I threw most of them away as they were turning faster than I could eat them.

The potted-on Tomato 'Minibel' seedlings.
Too many Tomatoes.

I only eat them in salads, and whilst their small red plump fruits were delicious and fresh, I just wasn’t able to keep up (not least because of the Courgette glutz).

I’ve decided that I probably won’t bother growing them in 2018, or if I do, it’ll just be a couple of plants.

Instead, I’ll try out some new produce instead – Turnips and Broad Bean are top of my ‘must grow, must eat’ list for the new year.

Why isn’t it Spring yet?

Filled with dreams of Spring 2018, I’ve found myself browsing and buying next year’s seed.

I’m feeling impatient.

Snow is on the ground, the garden is brown and sleeping, and I’m thumbing the Sutton’s 2018 seed catalogue impatiently. Sometimes my eyes glaze over and I catch myself drifting off forward in thoughts of filling seed trays, potting up, and bright spring sunshine.

garden in snow December 2017
The back garden is covered in snow.

I’m lacking in the TARDIS department, so I return to the cold winter window view of 2017, knowing that at least my planning will be good.

Over the last year I’ve been tuning in to videos by Vivi, who has been allotmenting for years, but in 2017 she put herself out of work and aimed to become self sufficient. Her videos have kept me inspired to keep gardening, to keep trying when it doesn’t quite go to plan, and also to try growing new things (as well as making soups!). She inspired me to grow squashes after watching her harvest a wheelbarrow load off her allotment, so in 2018 I shall be growing some new things… well, new to my gardens anyway.

First Grows

In 2018 I shall try growing:

  • Turnip ‘Snowball
  • Carrot ‘Flyaway F1 Hybrid
  • Carrot ‘Sweet Imperator Mix F1

I bet i’ve tried growing carrots before – i mean, who hasn’t? But the harvest can’t have been successful as I’d have remembered what happened. The latter of the three firsts are those ‘vintage’  kinds of carrots – the yellow, purple, red and orange kinds. So these will be fun to grow. The ‘Flyaway F1 Hybrid’ carrots should, as their name suggest, be ‘fly-away’ for the carrot fly larvae.

Turnips are completely new to me, and I don’t remember them growing on my parents garden either. I’m really into roasting veg, so I shall be roasting these snowy white turnips. I think I can also eat the tops too.

I’ll also be growing a range of Peppers, because I’ve realised that I use quite a lot of these in my cooking – far more than tomatoes, so I shall swap to growing those instead. And what I’m sure will be a mixture of disbelief and amusement of my mother, I’ll also grow some Broad Beans in 2018.

From what were bland-tasting, smelly warts as a child, after 30+yrs, I finally realised that they’re actually quite tasty, healthy, and filling. I know that you can get varieties that can be sown in Autumn, but having missed that boat, I’ve got my eyes on some Spring varieties like Crimson Flowered or Listra instead. Thankfully, you can get away with sowing these as early as February.

But I’ve got to wait to sow the rest of these seeds. Months.

Instead of Christmas shopping (it’s December after all), I ended up on the “1 present for you, 2 presents for me” routine at a local garden centre. Oops. I came home with two packets of seed and a propagator.

Other garden tasks for 2018

Once it’s dry enough, I am going to demolish an old little shed in the back corner of my garden. There’s a much bigger and newer shed opposite it, and I don’t have enough junk to fill both. How this little shed has survived the gales of 2017, it’s anyone’s guess. It has no felt, the door regularly swings open, and I think i could push it over with one generous poke from my index finger… yet still it stands.

A lawn garden with sheds awaiting planting
The little shed on the left is going to get it!

My plan is to carefully remove the pane of glass (I think it’s glass anyway), and then deconstruct it so that I end up with a pile of planks. I then want to recycle it into raised beds, as my one from last year really worked well.

The end of April 2018 will signal the end of my first year in this house, and hopefully by then, I’ll have worked out how areas of my garden perform, and will be able to plant appropriately.

For now though, I shall continue watching the winter garden, feeding the birds, and dreaming of warmer, greener months ahead.

Squeezing out the 2017 harvest

My first attempt at growing Squash Spaghetti Stripetti, keeps me in food into 2018.

As 2017 heads towards its inevitable end, I’m pleased to find that I still have three large Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ in storage.

Three Squash Spaghetti Stripetti
Three left!

These were grown by me for the first time, and were a complete success.

I enjoyed watching the squash plant shoot across my garden, clasping on to so many plants – including the lawn and the Fennel. Every so often a big yellow flower would open followed by a swelling fruit. By the end of the season I counted 12 squashes (there would have been a couple more if i hadn’t have snapped a stem, or the mildew hadn’t choked the leaves). Still, for one plant, that’s a tremendous good job and I’d certainly recommend them to anyone to try.

 

Squash Spaghetti Stripetti seedling
One of the Squash Spaghetti Stripetti seedlings (after about 8 days) in April 2017… just days before i moved house.

Next year, I’d like to grow them upwards though, as they were a bit of a space hog, and I’ve seen that you can persuade them up an arch or trellis.

The largest Squash 'Spaghetti Stripetti' a few weeks ago.
The first Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ early July.

Cooking Squash Spaghetti Stripetti

Once I’d got these impressive orangey squashes, I then thought I should learn how best to cook them.

Once you’ve finally managed to cut them in half (which is by far the hardest bit), use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Then, put a little olive oil spread around the insides of each half, and season with some salt and pepper, and then turn them face down on a baking tray and put them in the oven at about 180C for 35 mins.

Roasted Squash Spaghetti Stripetti
Roasted Squash Spaghetti Stripetti is delicious!

Flip them over and let them cool. These spaghetti types are great for roasting and then using a fork to strip them out. They collapse into a delicate spaghetti shape with little effort. They’re pretty sweet and buttery as they are, but really quite versatile.

I’ll definitely be growing another one in 2018, once I’ve got an arch or trellis up.

As ever, happy gardening!

Andrew

I don’t think you’re ready for this Courgetti

I’m drowning in Courgettes, and I’m spiralizing them as fast as I can go…. but I fear this is only the start!

You might remember that I planted 6 Courgette ‘Black Beauty plants earlier this year, and when I moved into my new house at the end of April, I swiftly built a raised bed and planted 4 of them in it, and 2 of them nearby.

Two Homebase raised beds stacked on top of each other and filled with soil.
I built my raised bed at the end of May, and planted 4 courgettes, 2 squash and 2 aubergines.

Well, having since had weeks of hot weather and sporadic heavy rainfall, I’m now in the midst of a Courgette-valanche, a Zuchinni-overload, I’m drowing in them. Plus, i somewhat foolishly gave them all liquid fertilizer at the weekend! :S

Today I went out and picked 8 courgettes.

Courgette harvest of week 4
4th week of courgette harvests – 8 of them!

Introducing the Courgettometer

Because I love a good bar chart, I’ve decided to keep a tally of how many courgettes i’m picking per week, and how much they weigh. I’ll probably do the same for the French Beans, although the Courgettes will win on weight easily.

Here’s the Courgettometer’s cumulative courgette weight chart so far:

Courgettometer - week 4
A chart showing the cumulative weight (in grams) of Courgettes from my garden – week 4

I knew I’d get more than I needed (I’m the only one here to eat them), but in just the 4th week of harvest, they show no sign of giving up. Thankfully I traded in my wrist-achingly manual spiralizer for a Morphy Richards electric spiralizer a few weeks ago, and after a few very disappointing and messy squishy attempts, I’ve pretty much mastered it and now I’m eating a courgette most days via the magic of courgette spaghetti – or ‘courgetti’ as I like to call it. I don’t eat pasta or noodles, so turning a courgette into a noodle form gives me a lovely bulky meal that’s also far healthier (and less uncomfortable) for me to eat. It also means I can eat them alongside a load of other vegetables without realising I’m eating a whole courgette.

A bit of a squeeze

The Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ are likely to give the courgettes a run for the title of heaviest veg harvest this year, with the one surviving plant in the raised bed having gone potty (I almost wrote ‘bananas’ there) in the last few weeks. It has probably reached a good 15 feet in spread, swamping and strangling anything in its path, and there’s loads of squashes littered around the garden under its leaves.

The largest Squash 'Spaghetti Stripetti' a few weeks ago.
The largest Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ a few weeks ago.

I originally planted two squashes in this raised bed, but sadly (and probably fortunately), the wind snapped one of them in half. Stupidly, I sowed a replacement, which is now sitting impatiently on my kitchen windowsill as I wonder whether the hell I can let it grow.

As for the courgette overload, I’ll keep eating them, but at some point I’m probably going to have to start giving them away to neighbours and friends. That’s one of the great things about being a vegetable gardener – if you produce too much food, you can be sure that you can give it away. Veg gardening can be a very sociable past time.

That’s it for now – but let me know whether you’re drowning in a pile of fruit/veg yet? I’d love to hear of more recipe ideas too – I’m thinking about Courgette muffins, courgette cake, and wondering whether they convert to soup very well.

As ever, thanks for reading, and happy gardening!

Andrew 🙂

 

The first harvest of 2017 – lettuce, strawberries, and raspberries

The first harvest of 2017, and my new garden, has happened!

About a week ago I was really pleased to finally stop having to regularly buy bags of salad leaves. Usually these are over-priced, crushed into the displays that they soon decompose, and are a wet limp mess by the time you go to serve them up.

Instead, each morning I’ve been out in the morning sunshine picking fresh leaves from the salad leaves that grew from those ‘sow by June 2012’ seeds that I sowed en mass back in early April.

Salad leaf seedlings in a tray
The old Erin Eco Salad seed starter kit has germinated – 5 years beyond the recommend sowing date.

It seems that they all germinated, and so whilst they were desperate to be planted out, it wasn’t until the start of May that I was able to actually plant them in soil at my new house once i’d broken the lawn.

handful of mixed salad leaves
The mixed Salad Leaves have been lush and delicious, and I’ve enjoyed picking them in the morning sunshine before work.

These fresh green and bronze-red leaves have been delicious, and I was kind of proud that I’d managed to grow and harvest these. I’m not usually successful with salad leaves. My failed Rocket sowing put me on a downer, so I’m glad that these worked. Even if i’ve had to be vicious with the slugs and snails.

Joining these on Wednesday were my first Strawberry ‘Cambridge Favourite’ and Strawberry ‘Elsanta’ strawberries, which were nicely red although greatly varied in size.

first strawberry and raspberry harvest of 2017
Strawberry ‘Cambridge Favourite’ (left), Strawberry ‘Elsanta’ (top right), Raspberries (bottom right). Might even be a mouthful?

I also managed to pick three small Raspberries from the plants that I picked up at my local Wilko store. The Elsanta variety have always worked well for me in my previous garden, giving me a small but steady crop in the summer. Well… aside from my bare root strawberry disaster earlier this year 😦

Strawberry plants in a patio planter
Some of my older Strawberry plants are happily growing in some refreshed compost in my patio planters.

It’s unlikely that the Blueberry ‘Vaccinium Corymbosum Patriot’ plants will give me anything this year as they’ve been busy growing branches and leaves, and the few berries and flowers they did have were soon removed by the two days of flattening wind that trashed most things in the garden.

Do you have a particular variety of strawberry or raspberry that works well in your garden? Let me know in the comments below.

Anyway, there’s plenty more growing – including more veg, but i’ll tell you about that in my next post.

As ever, thank you for reading, and happy gardening.

Andrew

Dealing with Blackfly and Rosemary Beetles

The Courgettes are thriving but they’ve come under attack from blackfly, and the Rosemary has a beetle infestation.

The sun has absolutely been blazing over the last couple of weeks, so this has meant a lot of running around with watering cans desperately trying to save the plants that are waiting to be planted out; the plants that can’t be planted out because the ground is like concrete; and the plants that are planted out and roasted.

Blackfly on the Courgette plants

Today, whilst on my watering can round (i need a hosepipe, don’t i?), I spotted some familiar friends have arrived to celebrate what looks like a bumper crop from my Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants.

courgette flower buds with blackfly
The Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ flower buds are covered in Blackfly.

On the flower buds were the little black things, with the occasional ant running around. Yes, it’s the blackfly!

I’ve already had these visiting my Tomato ‘Minibel’ plants, but they’ve now migrated to the four courgette plants in my raised bed (the other two are a few metres away, but have a companion plant by luck).

Blackfly on Tomato 'Minibel' plants
Spot the Blackfly on the Tomato ‘Minibel’. Their sap sucking holiday will come to an end.

I’ve not suffered with slugs and snails in this raised bed, and I’m wondering whether this is because i put some copper tape around most of it, or whether it’s because the wood of the bed is pretty rough. Either way, this doesn’t stop blackfly, but it would mean it’s a good place to plant the protective Marigold French ‘Orange’ plants – cheap and cheery – and something the blackfly don’t like. This seems to have helped the tomatoes, otherwise, i’ll be getting the soapy mister out again to spray them with.

The beetles: live at the Rosemary

Whilst watering my patio, where several plants sit waiting to be potted up, I then noticed some elaborately black and gold-y looking beetles in the replacement Rosemary plant that I had to buy when the big old one didn’t survive the house move ;(.

rosemary plant with rosemary beetles infesting it
My new Rosemary plant is being invaded by these pearlescent Rosemary Beetles. Pretty, but they’ll seriously damage it.

It needed a good soak, but curious of what these beetles were, I googled them and discovered that they are specifically Rosemary Beetles (or Chrysolina americana) and have only been known in the UK since the 1990s. The RHS knew all about them, and also have a survey (which i’ve just filled in).
Despite their name, apparently they’re also not restricted to rosemary, and may well spread to Lavender, Sage, and other aromatic plants. I really don’t need that, as I have plenty of those plants, and last weekend was establishing a herb garden area (i’ll show this off soon).

Whilst they spoke of insecticides, I’ve opted at this point for a thorough shake and flick method, and a meet and greet with my shoe, which is still very successful with the slugs and snails. It feels like such a shame to kill them, as they’re quite pretty, but this new rosemary plant is suffering before it’s even been planted out.

Anyway, elsewhere in the garden there are lots of things growing, and I’ll be sharing a few of these – including the first harvest photos, in my next post.

Happy gardening, and if you have to go out in the sun, make sure you wear suncream and/or a hat out there!

Thanks for reading – Andrew.

 

The Courgettes are coming!

I’m beginning to drool as the Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants are beginning to flower and form baby courgettes, but the garden pests are queuing up.

Great news! The Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants are busy flowering and they’re beginning to show signs of growing actual courgettes. All plants are doing well, after desperately needing to be planted out and getting into a tangled mess on my windowsills.

This was one of the courgettes in the raised bed on Monday.

Courgette 'Black Beauty' forming courgettes
I can’t wait for these plants to start yielding courgettes.

..and by Wednesday (today), after some sunshine and rain, it’s up to this:

a courgette and flower growing
Some sunshine and rain are all it needs to swell the fruit and open that Courgette flower.

It’s still only about 3cm long, but hopefully this will soon become the first of the courgettes for me to harvest. The first thing to take from my garden and eat. I’m really looking forward to it.

Courgettes have male and female flowers. It’s somewhat of a delicacy to eat these flowers – stuffed or deep fried amongst other ways. However, I like to let them get on with their job, and make me lots of courgettes. Today i bought what is hopefully my final courgettes for the kitchen.

Note the ant on the second courgette plant photo. One of the other courgette plants (straight in the ground, rather than the raised bed) has ands on it, and when I looked closer, I saw that there is also some blackfly. Apparently ants like to feed on blackfly, and will often ‘protect’ the blackfly from other predators like ladybirds in a bid to guarantee their own food source. A quick wash with the watering can removes all, but they’ll come back soon enough to suck the sap of the plant and therefore put it under stress.

I don’t want this, so i’ve looked for a deterrent, and I’ve found two companion plants – Marigolds and Chives. So, on my way home, I popped into my local Tesco to discover their bedding plants in various stages of being killed off – drowned vs baked vs snapped vs shoved in a trolley with too many shelves. I plucked out 12 abused Marigold French (Orange) plants reduced down to a total of £2. I tried growing Marigolds from seed before, but the germination was poor, and they’re so cheap to buy.

Marigold French Orange plants from Tesco.
These abused Tesco Marigold ‘French’ (Orange) plants will soon bounce back.

I came home and planted some of them out near the courgettes, but also near the Tomato Minibel plants, which have begun attracting blackfly too.

 

Peas, Cosmos, Sunflowers and a spot of Archaeology

The bank holiday sees me spend 4.5 hours in the garden playing catch-up with nature.

It’s been a Bank Holiday weekend, and so today (the Bank Holiday Monday), I decided that if the weather was good then I would spend a few hours in the garden, and if it was bad, I’d spend it painting my new house indoors.

The weather has been mostly dry and a warm 20C, so out I went at 9:30am, and I came in for lunch, and then packed up at 3pm when some drizzle began to get annoying.

In that time I planted my first row of peas since the 20-30 foot row ones that I used to grow as a child in the 1980s. This time, I’m only doing 6 foot, but I carefully sowed the climbing Pea ‘Alderman’ seeds from Unwins into the softly hoed trough alongside my re-positioned fence, and carefully covered them over.

A handful of Pea 'Alderman' seeds.
A handful of the Pea ‘Alderman’ seeds that will hopefully be bringing me delicious fresh peas.

The ground was fairly soft, due to the rain overnight, but I still plonked the rose on my watering can and gave them a soak. I love peas, always have, and so I hope to see those little shoots start to emerge.

One thing’s for sure, the Hitchcock-esque situation I’ve induced by adding two bird feeders into the garden, might increase once those peas start to emerge. A few twigs should put them off a bit, but I’m going to have to keep my eye on them.

A row of freshly sown Pea seeds.
The satisfaction of a freshly sown line of Peas. This brings back memories.

Having sown the peas, I decided to start planting out some more plants – my Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ which I sowed back in March, have become quite long and lanky, and have been desperate to go out for some time, whilst also desperate to grow in any direction other than upwards (a bit like my rubbish sunflowers).

Cosmos 'Seashells Mixed' on flower
My Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ seedlings needed flowering and were already flowering, and have no idea where the sun lives.

Also, my Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ seedlings, which are a plant that are completely new to me, were planted alongside them as I dug my new border.

My spade went in, and suddenly DONG!, there was resistance against the spade and a resounding resonance. I’d found something. Something hard.

A little more digging found something metal buried about 5 inches below the lawn. I soon realised that this slight hummock which sat in the area I was turning into a border, contained a drain and this was the manhole cover for it. My Archaeology course with Open University finally paid off, but sadly there were no obligatory Roman brooches or post holes.

Finding a buried manhole cover.
2/3rds of a drain manhole cover is in my garden, part under my fence, and presumably the rest under my neighbours’ decking.

This part of the garden has different soil – it’s more ashy, and had bits of burnt material. I can only guess that this was where previous owners used to tip out the ash from the fireplace before that all got bricked up.

Whilst planting this border, I also popped in a pretty perennial Geranium ‘Himalayense’ that I’d picked up the other day when I went to spend my national gardening vouchers at nearby Parkhall Garden Centre. This will look lovely right by the backdoor when it gets established and comes back on flower with it’s purpley-blue flowers.

A Geranium 'Himalayense' on flower.
The beautiful gentle flower of perennial Geranium ‘Himalayense’.

I’ve just sown some more sunflower seeds. Back in mid-March I sowed some Sunflower Helianthus Annus ‘Autumn Time’ seeds. This gave me three plants – one got stripped overnight by slugs, one has got some black blotchy leaves (although seems otherwise healthy), and one is fine – although none of them could bring themselves to grow more than an inch straight up at any time – they’re not much more than a tangled mess, so I thought it would be good to grow some more, if not to just save me embarrassment when someone spots them.

I’ve also plucked out some older Sunflower ‘Giant Yellow’ seed, which did grow perfectly well a few years back in my old garden. Hopefully these will add to the colour, with their majestic cheery yellow heads, and provide the birds with more food in the winter, perhaps a few seeds for my food, and a load of plants for the next year. Fingers crossed!

There’s so much going on in the garden right now – and I’m digging my garden layout as and when I’m planting out, and when the weather (and soil) allows me to. It’s a race against time though.

Thank you for reading, and happy gardening!

Andrew