Rhubarb in april!

5 Apr

I think that’s a first. It’ll only be a couple of meals worth but still….

The weather recently has been variable. Apart from the wind, that’s constant.  Things are starting to grow in the polytunnel (see garden diary) and daffodils abound in the garden as well as loads of primroses and primulas and the russian snowdrops I got last year. No sign of the ground cover lilies though.

The indoor magnolia tree is flourishing. The outdoor one looks decidedly unhappy, not quite dead but nothing as committed as leaves or obvious buds!

Bamboos and privet are all still looking like they need a break from the wind and some decent sun. 

Compost came recently and so a jolly two days spent shifting that, now raised beds are all ready for crop and polytunnel also.  New potato bed is dug and ready and waiting for the potatoes. The empire expands! 

Haven’t had to think about cutting grass yet, but after my sojourn to Dumfries for the rest of this week, I think I’ll have to stop relying on the dogs to wear down the grass and get the lawnmower out for the first time.


First Harvest

3 Mar

2nd March and we got the first meal from the polytunnel! This may not look like much but it is a pretty impressive feat of nature when you consider how long the polytunnel spent as an igloo this winter.

The taste…. so much deeper and more GREEN than anything you’ll buy in the shops. And it went very well with a roast chicken dinner thanks!

If it’s March it must be summer

1 Mar

At least today is a better day than many we experienced in the so called summer months last year. I am sitting outside working (soon to be moving around doing garden work of course!) and things are starting to bud/enjoy the light and the sunshine.  (of course we know frost will return, but it’s nice while it lasts)

 And I have a new gardening philosophy. If I can’t grow it outside, I grow it in the polytunnel. If  Ican’t grow it in the polytunnel I grow it in the house! 

And today the magnolia (my latest indoor effort as the outdoor one I planted 2 years ago is looking decidely unhappy) has put out it’s first leaf…..

It may not look like much to you, but to me, and the magnolia itself, it is a great achievement.

This will join the two avocado’s I planted yesterday and the coffee

 (oops. sorry, sideways, I’ll need to fix that) and

lemon trees that are burgeoning on the windowsills (3 years old now) And hopefully when all are too big to fit the windowsills we’ll have a conservatory for them to reside in! We live in hope.

Has spring finally sprung?

25 Feb

Oh, I know I’m going to live to regret this. And that in the same way that as one swallow does not a summer make,  just getting your washing out on the line twice in a week and seeing crocuses, snowdrops and primulas in the garden DOES NOT MEAN IT WON’T SNOW AGAIN.  And dreaming of turning off the central heating and NOT cleaning the grate out every day and lighting the fire out every night, and congratulating myself on getting through only ONE coal bunker of coal this year….. but the days are getting longer (light from just after 7am till nearly 6pm at the moment)  makes me think that yes, it’s becoming spring.

However, this is NOT going to lull me into a false sense of security.  I am NOT sowing seeds yet. Maybe the first lot will get a trial next weekend but NOTHING before the beginning of March.  I sowed some sweet peas in the potting shed and they are NOT germinating. It’s just NOT warm enough in there.  It’s been 60 in the polytunnel over the last couple of days by day, but down considerably at night.  However, I’ve removed some of the fleecing and it looks like there MIGHT be if not some real spinach and kale then at least some micro-greens before the new compost goes in.   Despite all, one cannot avoid a feeling of optimism that this will be THE BEST GROWING SEASON YET! 

snow stops gardening

26 Nov

Well, how much can you do when the polytunnel is an igloo?


Frozen leeks anyone?  or maybe strawberry:

Fleece is my new best friend

23 Oct

The weather has taken a decided winter feel (we’ve had the first snow and frosts are becoming regular) All seedlings were moved into the polytunnel and have been covered in fleece, I have to admit to being sceptical about this, but a week on, they seem to be flourishing (apart from the row of kale which MIGHT be being munched from underneath the fleece, but they might have been munched before the fleece went on – I’ll hav to keep an eye on them)

Not sure that the fleece will actually protect enough to get a winter crop in the polytunnel, but it’s an experiment worth making with the old seeds.

And now I can turn my mind to ordering up NEXT season’s seeds. And you can be sure it will be seed packets this time NOT plug plants. I’ve learned my lesson there and I will be more in control of the whole process next year (so it will only be my fault if things don’t grow)  I’m already relishing the challenge of getting my own cauliflowers to the table from seedlings and having parsnips again and I will NOT have any tomato plants (well, not more than 2)

October already

3 Oct

I can’t believe it. Although the inside of the polytunnel tells me that the notion of a harvest festival in October in NE Scotland is just a fiction.  After a particularly vicious aphid attack mid September I lost a lot of young kale, cabbage and spinach. I’m trying to restock but I think it’s probably too late. However, in the spirit of discovery I’ve taken a two pronged attack. 1) Potted up beetroot, spinach and kale seeds in the potting shed (where there seems to be more consistent heat at the moment than the polytunnel) and emptied the rest of my seed packets into the polytunnel…. we’ll see what comes up if anything.  I’m not confident because the temperature sways there between under 40 degrees and up to nearly 70 degrees if we get a bit of sun. But in the last week it’s been mostly rain.

As far as orchard harvests goes… earlier in the season we got a whole 2 cherries from the 2 cherry trees. And then we discovered ONE apple growing so we watched its progress with awe. However, the recent winds brought it off the branch and so THAT was our harvest. Nature dictates…..  You can see the size of a normal apple on the left and our first apple on the right. Not that impressive, but the trees have only been in 2 seasons so hopefully next year they may fruit better. I hope so, because 2 cherries and 1 apple isn’t exactly what I expected from an orchard of 12 trees!!!   I must get out and feed them before winter, but the problems of bonemeal and dogs was addressed on Beechgrove potting shed last week and NO ONE had a sensible solution.

Squash – the clues in the name

16 Sep

I tried to put TOO MANY plants in TOO SMALL AN AREA.  It just doesn’t pay off. The time I’ve spent trying to follow back the tendrils (what else can I call them?) to see where the actual fruits link up, and the amount of stuff I’ve had to cut off (often including little fruits because I can’t see what I’m doing) has meant that I’m going to end up with only about 10 fruits off about 10 plants. Next year I’m going to grow them in LARGE pots, ONE per pot and take a lot more care of them. (The downside to this is that they will need to grow outside and thus take longer/ need more heat than they’ll get, so maybe I’ll do a COUPLE inside just for safety.) 

That said, I cropped the first 2 (well, 3 because one got pulled off by mistake in a pruning back exercise) and they look good.

The slightly weird thing is that I thought I’d only planted Butternut squash, so what that big green thing is I’m sure I don’t know.

 I’d better find out what it is before I cook it.  But I’m really looking forward to a nice meal with the Butternut squash…. risotto or tagliatelle?????  I’ll let it ripen for a few days while I make my choice and then try to remember to put it up on the recipe page for September.

The Gr8 potato harvest – part one

4 Sep

Well, actually it’s part two if you take into account the test harvest I did of a couple of plants last week.  I got 3lb’s off one plant! So much for fears of the blight eh?  I have 9 rows to harvest and through the last week managed to get through most of one row. So today I decided to do a ‘proper’ harvest and dug up 2 rows (plus one plant)

That’s about 9 or 10 plants (you can see my maths is a bit wonky right now, too much time spent trying to work out unit costs of book publishing!)  Anyway, I haven’t weighed what I got but I’m pretty happy with the result. Virtually NO spoiled potatoes and only a few that have some dodgy looking cankers on the surface. 

So, now there are 60 odd potatoes in the ‘processing plant’ (aka the double garage) getting their dirt dry and waiting to get stacked into old dog food bags, and another 50 or so smaller and less beautiful ones in the kitchen doing the same thing – for more immediate eating. 

 The plan is when we’ve finished these I’ll dig up the other 5 rows and get the rest of them ‘processed’ and stored. And then I just need to remember that there’s a difference between a ‘cool’ place and letting them freeze to death in the midwinter in the garage when it’s down to minus 15!

The great potato debate

29 Aug

On 9th May (I know because I checked back here in my handy garden diary!!) I planted out the main crop potatoes. It was the day before Hector the puppy was born (not that I knew that then of course) and that makes it 16 weeks tomorrow.  The weather hasn’t been great in July and August, far too much rain, and I’ve been worrying for a couple of weeks in a non-specific way whether I’ll get hit by blight (which hasn’t happened in 10 years but it was such a depressing experience that I swore off planting potatoes for about 5 years after it) My  worrying didn’t actually extend to my CHECKING the plants of course. That’s the lesson I should learn maybe.

Well, yesterday I decided that I really had to take some action. Went to look at the plants

 which don’t look too bad from here of course, but get closer and the leaves were all brown and blotchy and the stems getting sort of squishy. (Forgot to take a picture of that stage of course) so I decided I’d best take the haulms off (after copious internet research – no book I has gives you the kind of detail you need – they all seem to make out like you just grow the things and then harvest, job done, they don’t deal with what happens if something goes wrong!)   So, still not totally convinced it’s blight, but hoping against hope it just meant that the potatoes were ready (16 weeks to the day, seems a little bit unlikely… I like to keep them in for 20 weeks)  I got hacking.

Result. Then a fair amount of time spent removing the debris, especially all those highly toxic little apple type things which would just be heaven(literally) for a puppy who likes to eat ANYTHING including concrete.. but favouring rosehips and raspberries at the moment.

I dug up a couple of test plants with this result. THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY

 Let’s focus on the bad and ugly….

 Admittedly the worst of these is the one the spade (inevitably) went through.  Is this blight? If I leave the rest in the ground for a fortnight will they all go squishy? Should I lift them NOW or leave a week or am I alright to leave for a fortnight….. should I contact Beechgrove Potting Shed?  Should I just stop worrying about potatoes.

 After all, these ugly ones were okay under the surface, we ate them as chips with some steak last night and very good they were too.  I want to be able to store them for as long as possible so I don’t want to dig them up too early, but I don’t want to leave them to rot in the ground if they are okay now but won’t be in a couple of weeks time. WHY DIDN”T THEY TEACH US ABOUT THIS IN SCHOOL. And why do we have 2 weeks off in October of Tatty howking when I’m going to have to howk mine a month earlier??????   I am very glad that after achieving a degree in moral philosophy in the 80’s I’ve managed to raise myself to the spiritual level where the greatest questions left to answer are those about potato harvesting! That’s something at least.

But any help gratefully received on this topic.