Trials and Tribulations in the Vegetable Patch

Mid-August, and time for reflection. This year was to be the year of the garden, and I was going to give it all a momentous amount of effort, and become something of a Grow Your Own Queen. Then the weather stepped in, and it all went wrong! Here are my midpoint thoughts on my successes, and not successes, in my vegetable growing endeavours. I will make an additional post about flowers, which was the big focus of this year.


I must have had about sixty tomato plants at one point. I grew three varieties – Gardener’s Delight, Moneymaker and Alicante. I sold as many surplus as I could, at the Society stall or at my drive end, and potted the rest up. I have a mix in tall pots at home, under the cover of the summer house, and the rest in grow bags in the greenhouse. Those in the greenhouse have a fair bit of fruit on and are ripening quite quickly now. The ones outside the summer house are a little behind, with being outside, but a couple of fruit are reddening, so that’s all exciting.

I was given a few small pumpkin plants from the stall and after giving a couple to my friend, the rest I planted out just in my borders. Most are throwing up plenty of male flowers, however one plant has got a big pumpkin growing on him, so I will have to take a lot of care of him.

Beetroots have done well in the raised beds, as they usually do, and Mum sowed some radishes as well. To be honest I think something on the scale of armageddon needs to happen for radishes to not grow! I’ve had a bumper crop of lettuces, too. I sowed All the Year Round for green and Edox for red. I have some small plants that want planting out asap at home somewhere, though I’m not sure how to keep them out of the way of trampling paws.

Things To Learn From

I was going to call this section ‘Failures’ but nothing is a failure if you can take something from it. I had loads and loads of brassicas all growing nicely in the other raised bed at my mum and dad’s. I netted them, put cabbage collars round them, and kept an eye out for little pests. Then the drought happened. The plants are in direct sunlight all day, in a crowded space. I got broccolis and cauliflowers, but they never got any bigger than a fifty pence piece, and then started flowering. Then the caterpillars moved in, and overnight everything was decimated. So I’ve given up on that crop entirely. I had several problems, the main one being space. I sowed lots and lots of seeds, thinking nothing would come up, and all of them did. Suddenly I had all these tiny little plants and nowhere to put them. I thinned them out, but I wasn’t hard enough. I should have reduced them to two plants of each variety and left it at that. Then I could have paid them more attention and I think we would have been on to a winner. So I have learned, and will try again.

I sowed a rake of seeds in the other raised bed: carrots, parsnips, onions, beetroot, and even some flowers, cornflower and cosmos. A few carrots came up, and then one morning I went for a look and they’d all been dug up! My parents live on a very sandy farm which prior to us moving in, had become rabbit nirvana. My mum has six cats and even with them catching a couple of rabbits between them a day, the place is overrun. But I don’t think that is the principle issue here. The main problem I have is poor soil. I sowed a variety of onion/shallot hybrid seeds, and got zilch. Nada. Not a peep. I got one parsnip, who granted is putting on a valiant display. The cornflowers and cosmos were a bit patchy, though they have started putting in a late show, so all is not lost. I’m also never sure about growing onions from seed, and so have ordered a mix of sets from Dobies to try again.

I sowed courgette and butternut squashes one day, and realised I had sown more seeds than I had labels for. I grouped them together, kept them at separate ends of the windowsill, and then one day the chaos fairy must have come and muddled them all back up again. It made very little difference, as all the courgettes bar two rotted in their pots. I saved one piddly plant at home, popped it in a grow bag expecting nothing but disappointment, and I have one, albeit curved, courgette growing. But I won’t use that variety again. And while I have five butternut squash plants taking over the entire garden, I thought I had yet to see any fruit – until today, when I spied a small but very definite squash coming!



February seedlings

In January you will remember I was exceedingly over-excited because I bought a heated propagator and sowed seven lots of seeds inside.

All in a row

I should have popped it on a south-facing windowsill for maximum light however while the little bedroom window is south-facing the room is in constant use and I have a pair of cats that just love jumping in windows and knocking things off. I had visions of soil being splattered all over washing drying on the airer, so instead I used the back bedroom. This room is a bit of a building site however it is a warm room and relatively light.

I’ve only turned the propagator on for the coldest of nights. We’ve had a couple of nights below freezing. Otherwise the ambient temperature in the room is decent enough that I’ve saved my electricity bill.

Tomato – Moneymaker
Little seedlings

I’ve been rewarded so far! The only thing that isn’t coming yet are the fuchsia. I’ve never grown fuchsia from seed before so not sure what to expect. The antirrhinum are taking their time too; there’s one seedling thus far.

I’m quite impressed with the tomatoes, considering they were a packet of seeds I just found, lying around, barely in date. They are going to get a bit leggy if I’m not careful.

I found a fab blog here which has some wonderful hints and tips for solving problems with seedlings. I’ve subscribed to Family Food Garden email updates and have learnt a lot!

This is my first year growing flowers from seed – I’ve done it lots of times with vegetables but not with flowers. If it doesn’t work out, I know I can buy plug plants relatively cheaply, but I just need to keep an eye on things. I would feel a lot of pride knowing I made a hanging basket that was 100% filled with plants I grew from seed. Even better if I sold them to people!

Yesterday Scott said the cats had got into the back bedroom and had a right time of it. They’re obsessed with a shut door and because I pop in and out of there to check on my seedlings they’re then very interested. Luckily they haven’t wrecked my seedlings or I think I’d be screaming.

I’ve done another order with Sarah Raven and have finally started getting my vegetable seeds ordered. I need to complete my Dobies order as well and then hopefully that will be it for seeds for this year. Then the fun growing part can start!

January seemed to drag and it’s still cold and frosty in February. My sweet peas haven’t done anything in the summer house yet and I’m wondering if they’re too cold. I have a few more seeds to sow and pop on a warm windowsill too, including successional sowings of all that’s in my propagator currently, so I’ll have to go to my mum and dad’s to fetch some of the propagators from there. I’m far too impatient at this time of year! I just want things to get started! I’m sure I’m not alone with gardener’s impatience?

Happy growing chaps! How are your seeds coming along?

January Sowings

I’m so excited! Garden season is finally getting underway. The mornings are getting a little bit lighter, the days that bit longer, and hopefully we’ve seen the last of the snow.

Last week both of my seed orders arrived and I bought myself a little treat – an electric propagator! The temperature in the summer house isn’t enough for my little seedlings and I worried about putting my seedlings on the south-facing windowsill in the little bedroom because I have a cat that just has to jump in windows.

This is my propogator.

I had seen it in the DT Browns/Mr Fothergills catalogues at £37.95 + P&P. Mum had mentioned she’d seen them in our local mecca, Steam and Moorland near Pickering. I called in at Yates’s instead for a rekkie, and would you believe it, I found it – for only £29.95! Still £29.95 more than I really had since it’s three days before pay day and I’m still suffering from Christmas, but if I’m really going to make a go of this, it’s a necessary buy.

It has seven mini-propogators. You could buy some with four, or with just one great big one, but this way I can sow seven different seeds and keep them separate. Most of my seeds need to be in the 15 – 20C or 20 – 23C range, barring two, my dichondra (which was the most expensive set of seeds) and my impatiens which need to be kept at 21 – 23C. The propogator doesn’t have a temperature control, however it will increase the ambient temperature. My idea is that during the day, on warmer days, I won’t have it on, but during the night when it can be a bit colder, I’ll turn it on. This way it hopefully won’t hit my electricity bill as much either.

On Sunday afternoon, I spent a couple of hours in the summerhouse and have started sowing things. I filled all seven mini propogators and have placed it upstairs in its new home.

I’ve started:

  • Lobelia Fountains Mixed
  • Petunia DTB Special Mix Grandiflora
  • Pansy Cool Summer Breeze
  • Antirrhinum Magic Lanterns
  • Fuchsia Foxtrot
  • Gaura The Bride
  • And Moneymaker tomato, as I found a packet still in date (just).

My gaura is for the cut flowers, the rest are for baskets and planters. I really like gaura and bought a potted plant from the market last year and it bloomed all summer. The seeds were free on the Mr Fothergill’s buy 5 get the cheapest free option. My idea is to grow what I can, mainly for my baskets, but if I have an abundance to then sell them on as bedding plants, keeping some back to make up premade baskets and planters to sell.

In the summerhouse I have sweet peas as well.

I will keep you updated with how they get on – if they germinate!

Have you started sowing anything yet? Let me know in the comments!


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.


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:

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: 


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!


Katy x


My Apple Trees

For my birthday last year I got two apple trees (I think you might be able to see it here), a Katy (obviously!) and a Bramley. This year the Bramley has had an infestation of aphids – and they’re proper making my skin crawl. I’ve dosed the tree with soap and water and will see what it’s like tomorrow.

My Katy tree however appears to be unscathed! Possibly Katys aren’t very tasty. I don’t know. But while messing around with my camera I found some cool pictures showing a nice development of the tree:

IMG_6107 IMG_6104IMG_6448IMG_6449IMG_6450IMG_6621I’m gonna have some Katy apples! I’m very excited – even though I’m not entirely sure how tasty they will be. Katy apples are best known for making cider. Hmmm.

But we’ll see!

Until next time.

Katy x

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!


A Mysterious Order…

Hello gardening and blogging friends!

I received a mysterious parcel the other day. It was a cardboard box and this is what it looked like:

Live plants?! Whatever could be in here...?
Live plants?! Whatever could be in here…?

How mysterious!

I quickly tore into the box to reveal:


These are my extra earlies, from DT Brown. They are called Casablanca and there’s about thirty of them in here! I got a big box, lined it with lots of shredded paper (utilising my shredder, which is my favourite gadget at the moment, shredding all my documents from uni), and put them in that, and put the box in the shower room, where it’s cool but dry and light (as no one uses the shower in there, and it’s basically now turned into a potato chitting factory and is the place where my riding hat languishes, unused and unloved).

Now a few weeks later, they’re chitting away, so I shall have to think about getting some soil and getting ’em planted out.

Top tip! Ideal soil for potatoes to be grown in containers or potato sacks – mole hills! Mr Mole has kindly done a lot of the work for you: mole hills are good loamy soil. Just make sure a well-intentioned dog-walker hasn’t used said mole hill as a clever hiding place for a doggy bag! We have lots of hills on our fields that the dog walkers *shouldn’t* get to, so I might get the quad and trailer out, and go get a load of soil. That’ll possibly be next weekend’s job.

Happy gardening!

Katy x

Other Exciting Things This Month…

OK maybe not exciting if you get your kicks outside of the garden. I live a fairly quiet life (I’m always working, working, working) so my excitement levels definitely peak if I dig something up out of one of my beds and it’s got something it’s supposed to have at the end of it! I.e. not a maggot-infested root, which is definitely soul-destroying.

Recently I’ve discovered I can actually grow carrots! The soil in the beds is sandy and free-draining, which is meant to be good for carrots, however it is unfortunately stony, and I’ve heard from innumerable sources that when a carrot hits a stone, it splits into a fork and grows around it, hence why many people end up with carrots which look like they could act out various forms of the karma sutra.

I was fully expecting all sorts of ‘obscene’ shapes, but we pulled up some very straight looking baby carrots! I’m ever so pleased, and ever so proud. They’re only little, but I had some for lunch today and they were excellent, if I do say so myself!

IMG_1760Granted, the red mat sort of takes away their orangeness, as they are quite vibrant, but I am definitely pleased as punch. I’ve pulled up a few more, but there are plenty left in the bed, so we should have a steady supply of good straight carrots!

I also pulled up a load of beetroot. Now I realise that I have planted the beets far too close together, and so have been gradually thinning them out. I also discovered that I had a few plants that didn’t have the characteristic red and green foliage: they were mainly pale green, and kind of looked a bit like celery. Well, Mamma and I pulled some up – look what we found!

IMG_1756So we have some normal red beetroots, fine and dandy, and even that white on in the middle looks just like an albino beet, and fairly normal. But that dude, second from left! He looks like a monster, like Chthulu or Davey Jones! His roots have gone mental. We argued about what they could be for a while – white beetroot, celeriac, kohl rabi – but I think they are just a couple of white beet seeds that got in the packet.

I do love things like this – nothing’s ever the same!



The Raised Bed Diaries #12 – Out of Control Spinach



It’s been a while since I’ve posted so I now have a backlog of drafts and photos to plough through! I seem to be doing them on a crop rotation at the moment, so today’s Veg in the Spotlight appears to be… SPINACH!

I don’t understand why people don’t like spinach… maybe the Popeye marketing campaign backfired. Anyway, spinach was amongst the first seeds I got. I started it out in the cloche and then when I had an abundance of it, I put half of it into a bunch of small pots in groups of three or four plants, and the other half I sowed out into the raised bed.

Initially the pots flourished and were top notch. Then they seeded and went not good and were thus condemned to the compost heap. However the sown-out spinach, a bit of a slow-starter, soon grew out of control, and began to take over my plot! I like spinach and pick the young leaves to have in salads or sandwiches, and then grab loads of the big leaves and wilt them down like mad in a pan with garlic and butter. But we have far too much for just me and my mum to snaffle.

On the left is a picture of the spinach wildly out of control. I have hacked it back a bit at the front as it grew over the kale I had sown and about killed it before it had even begun.



The spinach was madly out of control, so in a fit of madness last Sunday, when I had been in energy-conservation mode all morning after being at York Races the day before, I got out my scissors and violently hacked away at the spinach, resulting in the below shot of my bounty!


Think it’s safe to say I can grow me some spinach!

I then went through it all and bagged up the baby leaves to have in salads. Mum and I then had the big leaves, wilted down to about nothingness with tea. Mum then also did an Allanby version of saag aloo with some leftover potatoes (not home grown sadly). Hopefully now the spinach will be easier to control!

But now that I’ve cut back the spinach, as a bonus, I’ve discovered some mangetout!



The Not-the-Raised-Bed Diaries

As my vegetables grow bigger and take over more of the garden, I realise they are bloating the limits of the Raised Bed Diaries, and so I have carefully decided to create a sister series – the Non-Raised Bed Diaries!


This is alongside the wooden garage (my beds are to the right of this picture). Here I have five runner bean plants (two in pots which are a bit small, and three more in a grow bag, one of which is the monster climbing up the garage); I have three courgette plants in a grow bag and two more in smaller pots; then three tomato plants in the end grow bag. Dotted amongst all of these are a few more of Mum’s sweet peas, just poking their noses up. The courgettes and runner beans are definitely better in the grow bags than in the pots, though I’ve had courgettes off the potted ones, and there are flowers on the beans.



This is to the rear of my beds, and is behind and to the right of the picture above. Edging our lawn are trees and quite a bit of bare soil. This spot was where I kept my leftover top soil from finishing my beds and was where the muck heap was left.It got quite overgrown with weeds, and so I spent a day digging it up and digging in the remainder of the manure and covering it with the topsoil. This has now turned into my ‘brassica’ garden! My six broccolis have moved in here, and I think were glad for some space. I do have plans to move out my cauliflowers into this new space, but as you can see, my squashes have taken up residence, and if you look closely you might be able to spy some sweetcorn! I think my caulis are a way off yet, but they are starting to jostle a bit for space in my bed.

IMG_1644 IMG_1642These are my potatoes! Originally I planted out our mystery chitted potatoes into three tubs and a potato compost bag. Then it rained and rained, and we realised there weren’t holes in the tubs, and then two lots of potatoes carried on growing, and the other two sank without a trace! So I drowned my potatoes. But these two look grand. Well, I say grand… The ones in the top picture look good, but the ones in the bottom picture look very sorry for themselves! There wasn’t enough soil in the bag and they fell over due to their own weight. While Dad was digging up the space under the pond to make it a bit deeper, he kindly donated some soil and I have them propped up again! They have flowered but there weren’t many flowers… I’m waiting to have time/for the foliage to yellow and die down a bit before digging around for some tatties!