Tuesday, 28 July 2009


OK, so it's not much and it's soft fruit, but it's a start. And not a bad one, considering this is the first year I've had the soft fruit in my garden. This morning I pulled a couple of strawberries off the strawberry planter, and the rest of the blackcurrants off the one bush fruiting this year. These are now happily residing in my fruit box for lunch today.

I'm in a bit of a lull in the veggie garden at the moment, because of my haphazard planting this year. I pulled the last of the broad beans out last week, and the first lot of peas are done. The leeks are all in seed at the moment, and the spinach is finished. The cauliflower I planted last summer aren't yet ready. Because I was so late getting things planted this year, the french beans, courgettes and tomatoes aren't quite ready, so all that's coming out of the garden is a few salad greens, the garlic and the leek ramps. I could pluck the cabbage early if I were really desperate, but I'm fortunate that I'm not entirely reliant on the garden this year and don't have to worry about the 'hungry gap'.

Soon we'll be drowning in tomatoes, potatoes, courgettes, squash and french beans; and there are lots of seedlings in the greenhouse to follow up the veg coming into season though: more courgettes to follow the early ones, in case they catch powdery mildew, lots more beans and lots of salad greens, pak choi and spinach to settle into autumn and winter, more cauliflower and broccoli for next spring, and salad onions and herbs requiring heat to germinate. I'm also taking lots of cuttings of clematis, herbs and lavender at the moment so I can propagate those around. And this weekend I'll be planting lots of autumn root veg: more radish as well as turnips, swedes and parsnip.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Small holding in miniature, part 2.

These little creatures are the reason I can justify calling my small rented backyard a smallholding:

Because all smallholdings need some form of livestock! These are my girls. They're very young pure Araucana chickens. I got them as chicks, and they've doubled in weight in the last fortnight. They've not had a lot of human interaction, but I've started to bring them around. They love aphids, and this photo shows them coming to the end of the run to make sure I don't have anything yummy for them. They don't really have names, but as they're different colour breeds, they're called by their colour. From left to right: blue, black and lavender. I've not decided what their pecking order is yet - but neither, I think, do they. At the moment I'm moving their coop and run around the lawn on a weekly basis, but in the long term they'll rotate around veg beds to clear pests and fertilise the soil, and provide eggs of course. I don't expect any eggs until autumn or so. They won't be used for meat, as we're a vegetarian household.

Just past the chicken coop is the rest of the soft fruit area, tucked under some trees. These are white and black currants, and I have a red currant tucked off with the figs. I have a few black currants this year but expect a lot more next year. Next year I plan to also buy a gooseberry bush. I'd absolutely love to have raspberries, but they're not really feasible in pots.
The front of the house is slightly less productive. We're on a well-frequented lane with a lot of young by-passers, so we try hard to cultivate the 'poor and not worth robbing or vandalising' look. That's a pity, because the front of the house faces east and gets a lovely morning sun. But I do have a couple of low tubs of cascading begonias and in the large metal tubs, four artichoke plants on the theory that they're not going to recognise those. And a lovely tub of dahlias and chocolate cosmos, because flowers are good for the soul!

Small holding in miniature, part 1.

All those intentions to blog regularly fall by the wayside when you want to be out in the garden. The veg plot, however, is coming along nicely:

It's the second year for this plot, and I'm still enjoying things that I planted last year, such as leeks, broccoli and garlic, as well as spinach and salad greens nursed through winter. We've been eating a lot of peas and broad beans from spring plantings as well, in addition to early asparagus. Unfortunately I had a drying-out incident in the heated propagator while on holiday in May, so the tomatoes and pole beans aren't as advanced as I'd like them to be at this time of year: but I had my first courgette flowers in a frittata for lunch yesterday. The small greenhouse on the right of the picture is where I raise my seedlings in summer.

I've been renting for the last four years because I've not yet found the house I want to buy. I couldn't wait to start my food orchard though, so this is the stone fruit section. They line the herb garden outside the kitchen at the back of the house. I call it 'the orchard in pots'! From front to back, there's an olive, a Victoria plum, a dual plum tree, a dual cherry tree, a morello cherry, three avocado trees and a standard bay tree. Except for the bay and the olive these are all this year's trees, so none of these have fruit this year aside from the olive, but next year I expect some treats. Behind that is the strawberry barrel and the patio.This is the first year I've grown the strawberry barrel as well. It had a bit of a setback early on, because the moment I planted it I went on holiday for three weeks, relying on the rain to settle in the crowns: and it didn't rain. I lost 2/3 of the 25 crowns I planted the first time, but a quick replant worked. The first strawberries are just coming on.

To the left of that, the patio is a real boon. The sofa there is an old sofa bed, which we sometimes roll out to sleep partially covered and partially under the stars. Beside it is a foling outdoor table and chairs, as we eat most of out meals including breakfast out here in summer. In front of it, around the chiminea (which is often lit for twilight relaxing), is the 'nursery bed', in which I raise seedlings in pots. There I have six types of blueberries, some seedling citrus and a couple of figs, And some flowers in the chimney pots, because flowers are pretty. It's taken me a long time to spare the energy from functional gardening to decorative, but I am finding that taking the time to make things pretty is good for the soul. The recent purchase of a clematis will give something to twine through the lattice on the right of the patio.
The corner beside the patio is the 'vineyard'. In there are two vines each of cabernet sauvignon, Sauvignon blanc and black traub eating grapes. The wine grapes are this year's, the eating grapes are now two years old so I should get some off them later in the summer.

I've never had so much of a pot garden before. But the bounty of summer is so rewarding, even if you're forced to gardenmostly in pots. More in another post.