Potager Garden: June 2020

The heatwave of spring has made way for rolling thunder storms.

A bright lit early evening was swallowed by a swirling mass of darkening clouds gathered directly above our garden. It was one of those heart racing moments when my count between the lightning and thunder is zero. (The photograph below is not monochrome.)

After one of June’s many sudden downpours had slowed to a drizzle, I spotted this fellow crossing the path. From my normal perspective, snails can be something of a greyish-brown nuisance. We often find ourselves having to collect them at dusk from our vulnerable seedlings, or otherwise sigh as we spot tell tale trails across our raised beds. Up close, they can be fascinating to watch as they carefully choose their route and their shells have tinges of shiny gold. A little biodiversity goes a long way, so I let this chap, who was a fair distance away from the veg plot, continue on his journey.

My onions are equally puzzled by the drastic changes in weather and have started to bolt, putting forth long flower stems before they have had time to fully fatten the bulb. They are therefore a touch smaller than last year but we do not mind. There are always changes from one summer to the next, depending on the weather. I am just so glad they made it through a winter of constant flooding and the unrelenting dry heat of early spring.

I spend an afternoon going through recipes and counting how many glass jars I have free. On Sunday the kitchen will smell like the ocean, whilst half of the onions sit in brine before pickling. The remainder are destined for salads and large batches of sauce.

As the weather clears, we start to prep what was the over-wintered onion bed for what will become our pumpkin patch. The sudden bolt of the onions is good timing after all, as the Jack o Lantern and squash seedlings, spurred on by the soggy conditions, are starting to outgrow their cardboard egg boxes.

Artichokes are included in our local vegetable box delivery this week. I love my veggies – how have I never tried them from fresh before? I soon discover that raw artichokes do not want to be eaten. These pangolin-like oddities have armour plating and spikes. A curious crowd gathers in the kitchen to watch. De-barbed and steamed, the leaves are then snapped off and dipped into garlic mayonnaise.* Later, when I peel the carrots for dinner, it feels as quick and easy as a ready meal.

A much simpler kitchen experiment this week was our first attempt at making our own bird feeders, complete with little perches of homegrown bamboo. We saved the coconut shells from shop-bought versions and refilled them with mixed seeds and melted vegetable suet.

After a few wary days of hopping gradually closer, the local wild bird population and our resident pigeon family give them a seal of approval.

The sunshine is due return next week and the forest pathways have reopened after the lockdown. Early morning woodland walks through the dawn mist? Soon it will really feel like summer.

*All artichoke recipe and preparation suggestions very much welcomed 🙂


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Potager Garden: Late winter in the garden with a little helper

It is very cold today, but the bright sunshine and clear skies make the garden irresistable. Warmed by cups of hot tomato soup, we check the vegetable plot’s progress.

All of our onion sets are now sprouting. The seed company have just sent through a delayed order of giant garlic bulbs and, as I usually plant my onions in November, I am wondering whether it is too late for them to go in?

I have an eager helper with me today. I show her how to pluck out small weeds from the raised beds and she places them in her wheelbarrow.

I keep a weather-worn gnome, bought for me when I was little by my late grandparents, tucked safely into a sheltered corner of the vegetable garden. My daughter thinks he is a real elf, and always pauses for a chat. His hat was chipped off long ago, as she is the fifth of our children to play with him.

The first of our primroses are flowering. Tomorrow, if the promised rain does not appear, we will put them into a terracotta pot beside the playhouse porch.

Whilst I work on the bedding plants, my little one watches the birds in the tree. Our most regular visitors, a couple of gold finches and a robin, are still trying to work out if they are safe to hop down onto feeders when she is near.

My third son was playing in the stream this morning and I go over to “fix” it. As I start to put stones back, I realise that actually, it looks more natural, and the reflections and sounds of the water are far better now with the stones that he has dropped in. I leave it just as it is 🙂

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Potager Garden: Beetroot, chives, carrots, onions and a helpful ladybird

We spent Sunday building our second large raised bed, which involved moving a lot of bedding plants around to create the space, and then we started to transplant the larger of our seedlings into pots and borders.   This is when having a big family of enthusiastic children really helps!   Just two more raised beds to build now before summer.

This morning the bright sunshine had woken up all of the beetroot and chamomile seeds …

… and the chives have started to flower in the garden.  This large, thriving plant was last year’s tiny seedling.

I am so pleased to see the little maple that we planted last year back in leaf.

The pickling onions, which have been growing outside from seed in a large pot, are looking promising …

… and we can now see the tops of our container-grown carrots.

Last week, I took our french beans out of the kitchen, and placed them on the patio.  The next morning I was dismayed to find that they were covered in flies, swarming over the leaves.  As we are organic gardeners, I started to search the internet for solutions but I needn’t have worried; within hours a large fat ladybird was taking care of the problem for us!

Happily, fresh new leaves are now starting to grow.

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