After last year’s club root disaster (see Club foot! Aug 24, 2013 ) Ed bought resistant strains and this year brilliantly all the brassicas have come through.
The onions were kept in pots too long before they were planted out so ours didn’t do well at all. Luckily we are sharing everything and Mr C planted his out at the right time…
We’ve had a glut of courgettes (we have 3 kinds) and tomatoes – they just keep on coming. So I’ve been making batches of soup to freeze and tried my hand at ketchup as it uses up nearly a kilo of tomatoes per bottle (it turned out a bit runny for ketchup – I blame the sieve – so I’m calling it relish).
We’ve discovered that runner beans and peas need to be picked at just the right time – otherwise the beans are stringy and the peas go powdery.
We have curly kale and cavalo nero – the curly kale tastes a bit earthy but the cavalo nero is delicious.
We also have house stores. We pulled up all the beetroot which are now buried in a bucket of sand – and all the carrots which are now buried in a box of compost. All the potatoes – we have 2 kinds – are sorted and in sacks for the winter.
We have more lettuces and parsley than we know what to do with. The spinach is now coming through, as are the leeks – and the parsnips will be next. It’s been a bumper year and now we know what grows really well the next skill to master is ‘succession’ – so we have year-round veg.
We are putting my nephews to good use while they are here. They’re working through a list of jobs with Ed that I’ve been compiling for some time. There’s always a list.
Today it’s clearing out the tumble-down sheds behind the walled garden. They’re full of junk; cages, bins, broken furniture, bits of old wood and metal.
The long term plan is to use them as potting sheds and garden storage but before we get that far, the back wall will need some attention – particularly above the corrugated roof (see the dark holes in the photos). Like a lot of work here we just have to keep our fingers crossed that the hole/leak/crack doesn’t get too much worse before we get round to fixing it / can afford to do it…
The sheds are already quite beautiful – but in time we intend to add salvaged windows, doors and make-shift skylights; a collection of different pieces that we’ll pick up whenever we can from local salvage yards.
For now though the boys are helping us to move things on and because they’re involved I can see that their connection to the place gets stronger with each visit. They are becoming part of the shape of things here. Slow progress I’m discovering has its own kind of rewards.
When we first moved here just thinking about the amount of work that needed doing to the walled garden was overwhelming. See – The Walled Garden (Easter Weekend – Mar 30, 2013). The old vegetable patches hadn’t been tended for years, the green house was filthy and many of the glass planes broken, the orchard looked like it had never been pruned and that winter, before we arrived, the north wall had been seriously damaged in a storm.
Below – the back of the north wall. The repairs were meant to have been carried out by the previous owners…
Nearly all the garden was rough grass
April – and Ed gets started on one of the 2 overgrown vegetable patches…
The unloved orchard surrounded by mole hills
Despite the daunting task ahead, we were smitten – and one step at a time, our secret garden is starting to bloom. Ed has worked a year of magic on it and walking up the winding path to the garden door is now more exciting than ever as there’s such a treat in store…
We now have 4 impressive plots of burgeoning green; fruit as well as vegetable patches. This is our main veggie patch
The green house has had a total make-over and is currently the happy home to 5 tomato vines
At long last the north wall has been properly fixed with stone and lime mortar; a massive job that the previous owners eventually paid for…
The moles hills have also gone, the apple trees have been fed and pruned, and the meadow patches are underway – and there’s so much more to come; hedges and paths, flower borders and a DIY summer house, restored railings and replacing a section of ancient tumble-down wall with old barn doors as gates (the search is on…). It’s a vision of loveliness. We are one year in and it’s already taking shape.
Hot off the plane from our holiday… I go straight up to the walled garden to check on the progress of our wildflower patch. Visions of poppies and cornflowers dance in my head – but I’m sad to say it’s not good news.
Something – mouse? rabbit? dog? – has dug up nearly all of my lovingly planted seed beds. Now just 3 out of the 18 perfectly formed little plots remain. Oh dear…
“That’s gardening for you!” is Ed’s reaction which is wonderfully encouraging.
He’s suggesting that I plant some knapweed (thistle family) seedlings he’s been nurturing in the greenhouse instead – but right now I haven’t the heart. I’m downing all tools while I reconsider my fledgling gardening career.
We dream of a wild flower meadow in the paddock (see last year’s The Paddock – May 20) but as this is going to take some time, I’m getting started on a beginner’s patch in the walled garden instead.
Last year we let a lot of the grass grow unchecked – partly to cut down mowing duties and partly to see what would happen. Unlike the paddock the walled garden has no brambles, docks or nettles to deal with – so we left 3 sections of grass to grow wild this year. It’s a daily treat to open the garden door and see the pretty long stems swaying in the wind.
Now all we need is flowers…
So I’ve taken on one patch as my first real garden project. I’ve been keen to take ownership of something outside, but so far the house has taken priority. I’m also not naturally green-fingered but I’m keen to improve so I’m hoping this will kick-start me into action.
This weekend was my last chance to get going as we are away for most of June and then it will be too late to plant seeds.
I picked out blue cornflowers and red poppies (both grow wild here) from the packets Ed bought me for my birthday last year. He also found a strange implement in the gardening shed which looks like it might have been used for cutting holes in a golf course – it has a tall handle that sits on a hollow cylinder about 5 inches wide and 3 inches deep and as you twist the handle bar it cuts out round sections of earth. Armed with this and a bucket of soil and compost – I planted 18 random holes in amongst the grass – it seemed like a fitting number.
It’s a bit of an experiment. A more fool proof method might have been to plough up the earth and spread seeds mixed with sand (the gardening programmes I’m watching with Ed are starting to have the desired effect) – but the golf course version requires much less effort. Soon after we get home we should see if it’s paid off . If it has, then this could also be the answer to turning our 2 acre paddock into a meadow – as well as the beginning of my gardening career…
The weather is good and the bees are busy – so Neil ‘The Bee Man’ is here to split one of his hives and get us started on one of our own. Catching a swarm is one way to start a new colony (see Busy Bees – Mar 1) and ‘splitting a hive’ is apparently another.
So Ed and Neil transplant the queen with a load of her followers into our new hive…while I keep my distance. The rest of the bees are left behind. These will now create a new queen by fattening up a female larva with loads of royal jelly. I’m learning the ABC of bee-keeping through Ed – it’s totally captivating and slowly drawing me in. Although my bee-suit’s still on order…
Up in the walled garden we also have a swarm-catching plan. It’s less whimsical than a scented ‘bee-catcher’ in the yew tree, as described by Mr C – apparently the yew tree is too close to the house. Instead it’s a box with some old honeycomb inside perched on top of the wall – but the fact that ‘scout’ bees might locate it and then guide a swarm there to start a new colony is still a pretty enchanting idea.
So we have our first hive in the paddock and a hive-in-waiting in the walled garden. If all goes to plan we should have our first honey by the end of the summer.