Let’s check in on the veg garden, shall we? Because I realise I’ve hardly mentioned it since April, which is not very Gardening Bore of me at all.
It’s been our best year yet for the veg garden. After we expanded it last year to make some extra new beds in front of the greenhouse, we’re able to grow so much more stuff, especially fruit. We’ve had tons of raspberries and strawberries this year. As well as plums and sour cherries from the trees.
But – shock horror – no apples. Not sure what’s up with our old faithful apple tree this year, but it’s devoid of fruit. Not a single apple in sight. At first we thought maybe a late frost had killed off the blossom (we did have some hard frosts in April), but looking at other apple trees around us, they’re smothered in fruits. Maybe ours is just having a year off after providing a big bounty last year, and it’ll be back on good form next year. Pray for us, because it’s our cider-giving tree, and a winter without cider is like … I can’t even come up with a simile, it’s that unimaginable. I suspect we’ll end up getting some apples from elsewhere for this year. Ya girl gotta have her cider.
Back to the veg garden and, my word, it’s gorgeous this year. I’ve never seen it so full and abundant and pretty. We’re really nailing that balance between organised order (which my brain needs) and cottage garden charm (which my eyes appreciate) – we have our neat beds and rows of crops, but intermingled with flowers like nasturtium (we eat the leaves and flowers in salads), poppies (just to look at), calendula (we also eat the petals in salads) and gladioli (which I grow as a cut flower crop in with the veg because Rob finds them a bit ‘much’ in the flower beds). And dill of course, which I let flower and run wild across the beds. It’s the romantic, overblown, blowsy veg garden of my dreams – if that’s not being too dramatic. (Don’t we all have a veg garden of our dreams? No? Just me?)
In terms of new stuff, we grew broad beans for the first time, which were easy and delicious. If only I’d planted double the amount and really packed the bed (looking online at how other people do it, I was allowing far too much space between the plants). We’ll definitely grow them again next year and pack those suckers in to get more beans.
The dwarf green beans have just finished producing. Luckily, I did a second sowing a few weeks ago and those new plants are almost ready to flower, so we’ll have more beans soon. (I almost always mis-time succession sowing by a mile, so this is satisfying.) Although we have loads of space, I like growing dwarf bean plants because they never need staking, they’re easy to harvest and they still produce a decent crop. But I got different seeds for this year and, boy, they were DWARF. The plants were only a foot tall! I wasn’t expecting much from them, but they were amazing. I was able to pick a big bowl of beans every few days. Surprisingly productive little dudes.
We’ve also been harvesting some lovely beetroot and munched our way through most of that bed already. I’ve sown more seeds but they’re struggling in this heat, so whether we’ll get a second crop in September remains to be seen. Hopefully, at the very least we’ll have some beet leaves to eat, even if they don’t produce much of a root.
What else? Courgettes and kale, obviously. Both doing well, as always. (If anyone needs any courgettes…!) Butternut squash coming along nicely (I reckon we’ll have about 25 squashes, all being well). Our asparagus and rhubarb were both splendid in spring.
There were the usual seedling failures – this year, my chillies and basil germinated but refused to grow beyond the seed leaf stage. Weird. But we just went to the market in May and bought a load of plants. Literally, a load. We bought two bunches of chilli seedlings, and it turned out there were 25 plants in each bunch. So we have lots of chillies coming through! (We did a cool thing with some chillies the other weekend – we barbecued them whole to get them nice and charred, then we packed them into a jar and poured over a hot mixture of water, vinegar, sugar and salt, then stored in the fridge. And now we’re enjoying a pickled chilli or two with every meal. Yum!)
And let’s not forget the tomatoes. They’re tardy this year because April was freezing, so they got a bit of a late start. We’ve harvested some cherry tomatoes already, but the bigger boys are still a way off ripening. There’s loads of tomatoes to come – just probably not until August. (This time last year we had so many ripe tomatoes we were already processing them for the winter.) On the plus side, they seem to be loving life in the rustic greenhouse, where they have much more room and airflow than they ever did in the wonky polytunnel. RIP wonky polytunnel, thank you for your service.
Also, we moved most of our houseplants out into the partial shade of the summer kitchen/lounge. And they’re loving their summer holiday. So if you’ve got a (not harshly sunny) corner of your garden, bung your houseplants out there. It feels very glamorous, lounging and drinking a cocktail surrounded by all my green girlies from indoors. Very Princess Margaret in her Caribbean days. You know, if Princess Margaret lived in the same skanky pair of denim shorts, sliders and a Led Zeppelin T-shirt all summer. What can I say, it’s a vibe.
The flower garden is, to be honest, a horror show. We’ve been neglecting it since last summer as that whole area is a bit of a building site – Rob has been digging back into the hill to increase the amount of flat growing space we have, and building a stone retaining wall with steps up onto the hill. That wall is mostly finished now so next spring we can start planting up in front of it, rejuvenating the existing beds and – hopefully – building a nice big wildlife pond. I can’t wait to get stuck into the flower garden next year. Looking at sad, neglected flower beds surrounded by piles of stone and earth got old, oh, about 13 months ago.
So that’s it. Consider yourselves updated on our Gardening Bore antics. At this time of year there’s not much to do out there, other than the odd bit of weeding and watering. We’re mostly spending our spare time lounging in the hammock (which we finally put up, eight years after buying it), cooing over our holidaying houseplants and dreaming of all the future projects to come.
How’s your garden growing?