The Raised Bed Diaries 2017

When I first started this blog, it was about two things: Dickie, my little blue Subaru, and gardening. I was never much into gardening when I was young – always much more interested in reading and writing and that sort of thing. But when we moved to the farm, I decided I wanted to try my hand at vegetable growing. So my dad made me a pair of raised beds out of old railway sleepers and got me a little greenhouse that every time a storm struck, all the glass blew out of. True to my bookworm roots I bought loads of books on veg growing and started out. The first year was quite successful, the second year somewhat so, and then the third year I had moved into my house and my weekends seemed to get filled up doing other things. Mum kept the beds going, but I hadn’t manured either of them since the beginning and our land is sandy, hungry land that doesn’t do much on its own.

Continue reading “The Raised Bed Diaries 2017”

My summer garden – an update

This summer so far has been a bit of a funny one – I’m quite sure last year we’d had a good long spell of scorching weather, and I’m sure my tomatoes were much further on than they are this year. I’m praying for a late bit of warmth – extend the season into September. Greenhouse growing isn’t maybe going so well… my tomatoes and cucumbers are doing very well at, ah, growing tall and shooting out lots of leaves; not so well on the setting fruit side of things.

An experiment I did this year involved something I found on Pinterest… growing an avocado bush! Bush? Tree? Plant? It started with the core of an avocado, suspended via cocktail sticks over a glass of water, until it showed a root. I then potted it out and left it in the greenhouse where it would hopefully be warm enough for it. And…voila! An avocado shoot! Pretty impressed.

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Another experiment, or maybe aim should I say, of this year was to achieve what I failed to do last year. If you read my last post (see it here) you might have been surprised (as the feedback I got suggested from a few people!) to read about my success… in growing a cauliflower. Just the one! But check it out:

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I spy with my little eye…?

IMG_6760Obviously I failed a little with the zoom capacity on my camera here. But there’s my cauli, about ready to eat! Any suggestions on how to serve him and do him justice?

I seem to be doing well with my brassicas this year! Here’s a humongous Savoy cabbage:

IMG_6761Doesn’t quite look like the store-bought variety but I bet he tastes grand. I’ve already had two of my greyhound cabbages – they are delish! Here’s a third one: 

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I’ve been serving them up a variety of ways: in summer coleslaws (obvs), or fried cabbage and bacon, and yesterday I gently pan-fried some with some grated courgette to accompany my lamb chops I had for tea!

So my garden is going OK outside. Some of my carrots have bolted, maybe because of the confusing weather. Looks like we might have some home-grown potatoes soon!

So all in all, fairly pleased.

How is your garden growing? Are you having better luck with tomatoes than I am?! If you have any pro tips, let me know!

Thanks!

Katy x

 

A Rainy Day Recap – A Break from #summerschoolmadness

It’s been a while since I’ve done much blogging. I work in a company that runs summer schools so naturally we’re entering our busy time! Since I’m in recruitment, this is pretty much the story of my life – getting emails like this:

Activity Leader wants time off

I’ve been in my garden/greenhouse today a bit, though it has been raining on and off all day, which isn’t exactly ideal. I had managed to get quite wet walking Bilbo so I thought I might as well continue as I started.

Can you tell the photos I took on my iPhone and the ones on my DSLR?

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Top marks for anyone who can name everything in all these pictures! We had home grown turnips with tea – and I can’t tell you how pleased I am that I can actually grow cabbages! I’m sure loads of people will think that’s the saddest thing they’ve ever heard, but after last year’s brassica-related incident with horrid beasties, to see hearts forming on my greyhounds makes me rather excited! My potatoes look to be coming on well and I’ve about got everything set up in the position I want it to be.

Just need some sunshine now! I’m sure this time last year it was hot, sunny and dry.

 

An Update from My Garden

It’s been a quiet few weeks; sorry about that! I’ve not been very well – I had an awful cold and mega headaches, and even the thought of looking at a computer screen was enough to send me off to bed!

This weekend I’ve been in my garden a lot! April is past the midway point now so things are definitely coming on. My best friend Amy came to help on Saturday: I was meant to be passing on my wisdom but it was more about sharing the work!

We build my salad planter (see picture below), filled it with compost and planted out the spinach and mixed leaves from the greenhouse, dug in the shredded paper from my Minimalist Challenge into the second bed to retain water, repotted the squashes and pumpkins that were poking the roots out, and the courgettes too; we then sowed four different carrots (Harlequin, Red Samurai, Baby carrots and Chanteray), parsnips and salsify in that bed; we planted out the rest of my potatoes, and finally we sowed my Rosella tomatoes! Amy went away with a little courgette and some spinach in pots.

Sunday I sowed All Year Round lettuce, after discovering that Dad can’t stand mixed leave salads (apparently they’re “the weeds that grow at the side of the road”), and the pak choi from the greenhouse into the planter. I then weeded my caulis and cabbages, and sowed some fresh cabbage and broccoli for later in the year. In the papered bed I also sowed some turnips and shallots.

It’s been a busy weekend! I managed a little time with my camera.

Bought from Yorkshire Trading, this is to be my salad planter. I have spinach (back right), mixed leaves (front right), and have now sown All Year Round lettuce (front left) and Pak Choi (rear left).
Bought from Yorkshire Trading, this is to be my salad planter. I have spinach (back right), mixed leaves (front right), and have now sown All Year Round lettuce (front left) and Pak Choi (rear left).
Rosella Tomatoes (for all I keep calling them "Roselia" like the Pokemon!), these are to be dark red cherry tomatoes.
Rosella Tomatoes (for all I keep calling them “Roselia” like the Pokemon!), these are to be dark red cherry tomatoes.
Look at these bad boys! These are my courgettes (black beauty) and with the lovely warm weather we've had they've come on greatly.
Look at these bad boys! These are my courgettes (black beauty) and with the lovely warm weather we’ve had they’ve come on greatly.
These are my Dutch tomatoes (cherries) at the far back, with some Ailsa Craig tomatoes in the fore. There are some peppers hidden somewhere in between if you can see! These have been inside for about a month, and I've brought them into the greenhouse.
These are my Dutch tomatoes (cherries) at the far back, with some Ailsa Craig tomatoes in the fore. There are some peppers hidden somewhere in between if you can see! These have been inside for about a month, and I’ve brought them into the greenhouse.
Here you can see my cucumbers! 5 for 5! So pleased. There are courgettes as well round the edges, but I'm very pleased with my cucumbers! Fingers crossed I can keep them going.
Here you can see my cucumbers! 5 for 5! So pleased. There are courgettes as well round the edges, but I’m very pleased with my cucumbers! Fingers crossed I can keep them going.
Beans! Look at the size of them! These are runners down the middle, mangetout towards the left, which are lovely and flouncy, and on the right edge, dwarf beans.
Beans! Look at the size of them! These are runners down the middle, mangetout towards the left, which are lovely and flouncy, and on the right edge, dwarf beans.
Mange-touty! Last year I grew mangetout from store-bought plants, but I've started these from seed and they look pretty darn good!
Mange-touty! Last year I grew mangetout from store-bought plants, but I’ve started these from seed and they look pretty darn good!

 

Getting Ready for Spring… The New Raised Bed Diaries

Hello all!

After a weekend away, I’ve been back in my garden. 

It’s nearly March. March is the biggie month – the start of it all! ‘Spring’ is just around the corner, and things start heating up – hopefully figuratively and literally!

I’ve filled my greenhouse up with trays of sown seeds… as yet not much is happening. So far I’ve sown:

  • Various kinds of tomato (moneymaker, Ailsa Craig, sun gold, black cherry)
  • Leeks (I got free with my subscription to Kitchen Garden magazine)
  • Ailsa Craig onions, as recommended by DT Brown
  • Red Baron onions, which as the name suggests, are red onions!
  • All year round cauliflowers
  • And some cayenne peppers from seed, which Nana kindly gave to me, though with a warning that they were a little out of date, and should be sown with a pinch of salt.

So far, not much has happened, except…

I made a vlog! Check it out:

Who knew I had such a strong Yorkshire accent? Looking back at my video, I laughed for about half an hour over how I pronounced ‘greenhouse’. Anyway! This video seems to chiefly be about my cauliflowers. Here’s a pic of them!

I counted 29 little seedlings here - they're going strong!
I counted 29 little seedlings here – they’re going strong!

Whoa! Look at these bad boys! I counted, and I have 29 cauliflower seedlings! These, added to the two strong cauliflower plants that have overwintered on the bed itself, bring me up to 31 of the vegetable! Now, if you read my blog last year, you will recall that I had an issue with cauliflowers…

They all got eaten! They came on great, grew to a couple of inches high, and then I sowed by them some infected radish, or maybe there was already something nasty in the soil. Either way, a whole crop of radish, turnip and my cherished caulis were wiped out by nasty horrid maggotty things. Many tears were shed!

So this year I’m doing things proper. I’ve got my cabbage collars. Those pesky bugs aren’t getting anywhere near my brassicas! I’ve bought netting and all sorts. Last year was a trial run. This year it’s serious stuff!

What have you guys started at the moment? Have you got any seedlings coming up yet?

Katy

x

The Big Allotment Challenge

Has anyone else been watching The Big Allotment Challenge? Already it’s over – it seems to have gone by so soon. I was pleased: one evening I live-tweeted, and The Big Allotment Challenge favourited my tweet! And then all of a sudden I had an influx of twitter followers – I was ever so pleased!

It’s been very useful to watch for me, as an amateur grower. Though personally I did think that more time could have been spent on the how to grow section. Something so very difficult to grow, like a cauliflower, was over and done with in a flash. No mention of cabbage collars – and the little seedlings had them on! And naturally, I have a history with cauliflowers, considering all of last year’s crop was wiped out.

Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed this year’s programme. I do find it a bit of an odd piece of scheduling: on a Friday night? Surely such a programme is more suited to a mid-week, Bake-Off slot? But I suppose I don’t know much about those sorts of things.

This year is my proper growing year in earnest. Last year was my training year: it started a bit late on, and I was greenhouse-less. This year I’m going for it, all guns blazing! I have my greenhouse – with shelves!! – and my two beds, and I have ordered my seeds, and my seed potatoes, and my potato grow bags.

One day I may even be a contender for The Big Allotment Challenge! I wanted Jojo or Rob to win, so I was very pleased for Rob. Poor Jojo did have a bit of a mare in this last episode. I didn’t much like Sandra: I thought she was manipulative, and her cruel remarks about the youngest contestant in the early episodes did stay with me. What utter growing heaven though! Heated greenhouse, a huge plot, and all within the lovely enclosed walls. But I don’t think my garden is too bad.

An Early October Recap

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I’ve been a bad blogger of late! I don’t think I’ve made a post in about a month – but I do have a perfectly legitimate reason! This September I started my teacher training course, and have been commuting to Leeds through the week, so when I’ve not been absolutely exhausted from the drive, I’ve had a huge pile of assignments to plough through. And now that I’ve got a placement school, I’ll soon have teaching to focus on! So not only has my blog been neglected, but so has my garden!

As a quick break though from uni work (lesson planning and progression maps and lesson objectives and differentiation……) I hacked around in my beds for a while, and then took some photos. If you look at the top photo, you can see my two beds in the centre and to the left – but what’s that, to the right? That metal frame? Could it be… the base to a greenhouse?!

To recap! It was our annual village show a couple of weekends ago, and so I abandoned all uni work in order to dig up all my carrots, beetroots, onions and whatever else I could find in order to enter everything. As a first time grower my expectations were not high.

OK, that’s a lie. My expectations were very high, and thus were dashed on the ground like a spilled tray of something small and seedy. Which sounds quite dodgy. But basically, the standards in my village are so high, potentially because most of the other contenders are, ah, how can I say it? ‘More mature’, with many more years’ experience of growing stuff.

As it stands now, my beds are looking a bit bare and unloved. (Hmm, there’s a pun in there somewhere!)

Look how scruffy the edge looks! There’s another job to do…

Mum kindly planted out a load of leeks for me a few weeks ago, and my previously caterpillar-stripped kale have fluffed up again, so they look nice and bountiful again. I then sowed a load of cabbages, cauliflowers (second time’s a charm?), some more kale (because I looove it) and some fancy sprouting broccoli that doesn’t really look like broccoli. So the left hand bed may look a bit sad but it is full of potential!

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This is the “chard” bed – they seem to be HUGE in the left side and not so huge in the right side. Hmmm…

Different story in the right bed. I had let a few chards go to seed and they went out of control, so today I hacked them up and the last of the lettuces. That bed is now full of about three rows of rainbow/rhubarb chard, and a few rangy carrots. Looks like we’ll be living on chard and kale through the winter!

I do have plans for that bed, somewhere, in the back of my mind, when I have a minute. Those plans are in a similar sort of dreamworld that involves revamping my blogs and recolonizing the sewing room as my study once again. Is that a flying pig?!

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Oh no, wait! It’s a snoring Bilbo!

I also discovered some little surprises when I was weeding, and while I know some people will cry “weeds! weeds, dig them out!” I thought they were too lovely, and so have left them in.

August Reflection: Moonlight Gardeners

It’s my last week at work. I finish on Friday, with the intention of spending the next three weeks focusing on finishing my nightmare of a dissertation, before I start my PGCE in September. When I’m meant to read the books I should be teaching I don’t know!

I thought it would be nice, since I’ve been regaling my colleagues with tales of my gardening adventure, to bring in a selection of my own homegrown produce for people to pick out what they want. Ready for harvesting are a variety of things: courgettes, runners, onions, spinach, mangetout, beetroot, Cos lettuce, rainbow and rhubarb chard, and, very recently, carrots and potatoes!

I’ve picked a selection of the above and will try to prep them in the morning, if I get up in time – something which is increasingly becoming more and more difficult as time wears on. I think I’m running out of steam, which I am panicking about as I don’t have much time to breathe before I get thrown into what’s probably going to be the hardest thing I will ever do!

So when things are getting really tough and I start to feel a bit down or snowed under, I like to take a bit of time out to go and look at all my wonderful things that are growing in my beds and dotted around the “manor grounds”. I’m so pleased I had this opportunity to do something like this! When I was at university I used to bake lots of cakes to try and destress, which gives you an immediate sort of buzz, but then it wanes after a while. Because growing vegetables, particularly from seed, is such a gradual process, it extends the feeling of working and producing something quite remarkable. And it is remarkable! As cheesy as that sounds, to plant a tiny seed in some compost or some soil, and then a couple of weeks later to find a little green shoot poking its nose up is one thing. But to actually nurture that one thing into flourishing and then into getting fruit is just a crazy thing! I’ve never thought of myself as much of a ‘nurturer’ – as an only child I’m fairly impatient, and used to finding numerous ways to entertain myself, so that when my attention wanes, which is rather often, it’s normally caught up by the next shiny thing – and so I did approach this whole gardening-vegetable-growing venture hesitantly, thinking I’d never get things to shoot, let alone fruit!

This past week I have been rewarded with two of my trickier crops. I’ve had my fair share of problems: the cauliflower/turnip disaster for one. But I have been quietly concerned about my carrots and my potatoes. I drowned half of my potatoes early on, when the idea of drilling holes into the bottom of my bins never crossed my mind. Two buckets remained; they’re not really buckets, as such: one is a big blue bin, and the other is a potato grow-sack thing. I hacked away at the green tops when they had flowered and were starting to bend. I then left them for two weeks, not really purposefully, but because I’m a busy lady, and have had a lot on my plate of late. Then this afternoon – or rather, this evening, Mamma and I decided to dig them up! For a while nothing much happened… I was pulling out potatoes the size of grapes, which was sad. But then I found a good sized one, who happily sat in my fist! We emptied out the whole bin and I got a plant pot full of potatoes – some new-pot sized, and some a good bit bigger! I’m so dead pleased. I also have started pulling up a few carrots. The soil is quite stony and I have been worried that they might distort – however I’ve pulled a dozen or so, and they are straight as can be! I had a couple with my lunch today, and they are lovely and sweet, so I’m a very happy bunny!

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So here is tonight’s harvest! It was dark when I took this photo in the outside light, hence the interesting shadows. I picked a bunch of carrots, a couple of beetroots, a mix of chard and lettuce leaves, some kale (which I forgot to mention in my list of things ready) plus some mangetout, which you can’t really see. But check out my potatoes! Oh I’m ever so pleased I can actually grow things.

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Look at those potatoes! Aren’t they beauts?

IMG_1764I’m just so pleased with how things are turning out. It’s been pretty tough these past few weeks, juggling work and my uni work, and I maybe haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to play in my garden. But the results I’m getting at the moment are making me feel so much better! If I just keep organised and on top of things, then maybe everything will be OK. But I’ve learnt that I can grow carrots and potatoes!

And that was a very lengthy post!

Accidental Investigating

A couple of days ago I uploaded a post that was quite rage-driven about some of my failed crops. It would appear that I had a bit of an infestation of cabbage root fly. Well today I do believe I have located the source!

Ages ago, I sowed a few radish seeds, despite the fact that I have experienced a few gluts, and am actually not that much of a radish fan. These were left in the cloche while life kicked itself up a notch and I didn’t have as much time to focus on all the goings-on in my garden. Thus, they ended up abandoned, sweating away in the cloche. I had some cos lettuces and such like also growing in the cloche, and these all mysteriously disappeared to nothing. The cloche was getting very hot in the day and did seem to be attracting all sorts of bugs and what have you.

Anyway, these radishes popped up, and sprouted, and then looked a bit ropey. I planted them out, half of them bolted so I pulled them up, and left the others – that as far as I could see looked OK – in the beds. Then I forgot about them. I planted them in between my cauliflowers and turnips, and on the yon side of my turnips as well.

Today, after turnip-gate the other day, I was watering up and wondered what this huge plant was nosing its way up to the sky. I pulled it out, thinking it was a weed that had launched itself skyward overnight, and was rewarded with a bolted radish – full of wiggling maggots! I pulled the rest of the radishes up, and sure enough, they were all nibbled or colonised by horrid white wiggly nasty things.

So I can only assume that they came from the radishes in the cloche! The cloche is empty now so hopefully is bug-free. All the radishes have been drowned.

Here is the Bucket of Disgrace:

I potted up my cauliflowers, which is probably very wrong, but I couldn’t think what else to do. Some look very worse for wear, yet this guy is standing up big and strong, so fingers crossed! It is still extremely hot so I’m hoping it’s a combination of heat and the stress of the transplanting that has them looking sorry for themselves, and not more of the damned cabbage root fly. Bane of my life!

Some sad looking cauliflowers:

The one at the back looks pretty good. The other two… I’m not so sure about. And these are the best examples! I’ll keep you posted on the progress of these cauliflowers…

 

A Raised Bed Disaster!

I should really be essaying, and essaying I shall, but I am in a little bit of a rage…

I have a row of rather fab-looking cauliflowers and a row of slightly lesser-fab-looking turnips in the second bed. Or I did a few days ago, as it has all gone to pot, and all gone wrong, and I am in quite a mood, and have thus been on a rampage around my garden…

At the weekend I noticed two turnips at yon end of the bed were shrivelling up and looking rather dead. I dug one up and saw there was no turnip at the end! I showed Mamma who deduced that ‘something’ was eating it. The most dreaded of words for a gardener to hear… Clearly not for this gardener, as I discarded the turnip and thought no more about it.

Then on Sunday I dug up another one, and this time I saw horrid nasty little white maggotty things squirming around in the remains of a sad turnip! They were fed to father’s fish, and the remains of the turnip thrown as far as my little wimpy arm could manage. I dug around in the soil to see if I could see anymore (surely little white things on brown soil would show up?) and found nothing, so thought no more about it.

Then today I got home to a massacre!

Mother didn’t even notice anything was wrong!

My turnips had gone from being proud and flourishing things to shrivelled up things…

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The cauliflowers are tall on the right, and the turnips – only yesterday – were of a comparable size! Today though they were wilting and dying off. Sure enough, when I dug one up, there were horrid nasty white wiggling things in the turnips!

photo 2

Only about a couple of millimetres in length, and in the very centre of the above image, there were a few on all of the turnips. All got pulled up and mercilessly (though with a heavy heart) thrown into a bucket of water. Then I started to panic. I read in one of my gardening books (The Complete Vegetable Grower, if I recall correctly) that turnips are susceptible to cabbage root fly… which also likes to target cauliflowers. What did I have growing next to my turnips??

Damage limitation was in full flow. I dug up all my cauliflowers and thoroughly checked them. I felt sick having to throw half of them away – out of twelve plants, I have seven which I hope, hope, hope I have saved. Probably against all instruction, I potted them up separately. I didn’t want to leave them in the soil – which I am now stressing about being infested with this horrid things and am tempted to dig the entire section up and chuck it away – and I wasn’t about to plant potentially infected cauliflowers near my broccolis and squashes. I will leave them in pots and see how they fare. If they start to go downhill, I think I may cry.

I’ve since read that I should put felt discs around the stems of the plants. Oh yes, I’ll just go the felt from the shed!! I suppose I shouldn’t be angry: it is a learning curve, after all. I’m not even a big fan of cauliflower. Nor do I even think I like turnips. However I feel especially victimised now! And they’re horrible squirmy things and I feel quite sick thinking about them. I just hope it doesn’t ruin the rest of the bed! I have a bumper crop of beetroot to the side and then my lettuces, swiss and rainbow chard, kale, and then two rows of carrots. Hopefully cabbage root fly doesn’t morph into carrot root fly!

Such Monday rage. I had a nice day at work – obviously a nice day at work and a nice garden don’t go hand in hand!