Potager Garden: May 2020

The first three weeks of May test a gardener’s willpower. It seems so warm and sunny yet you must try and hold your nerve against a surprise last minute frost. I continue the ritual of gathering up my seedling pots and placing them inside the kitchen every night. Just in case.

I enjoy the allium buds, knowing that the moment they transform into a stunning starry cluster they will not last very long in the garden. To my younger children, they are magical swords and fairy wands. Long afternoons of adventure await these delicate ornamental beauties.

Then, to my unexpected joy, a bulb has been displaced by winter landscaping and a rogue allium pops up by the end of the stream in the foxglove corner, safely out of the reach of tiny hands.

The evenings are light. The moon is out and yet I still can garden until gone 8pm. When everything is tidied away, I bring my cup of tea out to the vegetable plot. House martins swoop overhead whilst the goldfinches wait on the fence for the magpies, pigeons and starlings to leave a space for them near the feeders. As night falls, the birds return to roost and bats dart over from the lightning-struck oak tree on the field boundary.

I spend time shaping the giant fuchsias, with the aim that they should look like child-sized trees that my toddler daughter can hide under. The “trunks” look twisted and gnarled once they are revealed – perfect. The flowers are now suspended above thin air like little Christmas ornaments.

The rhubarb grows steadily on the stream bank. However, its twin is too close to our resident pigeon’s favourite sunbathing spot and is pecked to pieces. The rogue allium sneakily bursts into flower.

We find an old packet of beans, “best before” a year ago. We decide to give them a chance and plant them everywhere. We sow cosmos, calendula, chives, mint and parsley into pots and planters, wall hangers and baskets. Our pumpkin seeds start their days in old egg boxes. No residents yet in the solitary bee hive, but a plump spider the span of my hand has moved in underneath.

One night we light a wood fire, and dine on toasted marshmallows squished between chocolate digestives. I make hot chocolate for my eldest two sons to sip as the stars come out. They chat companionably for an hour as they watch the fire embers, and I am glad that even as they reach their teens, they remain best friends.

As we reach the end of May, there is a change in the light. It is brighter, yellower in tone. Summer is almost here. My daughter loves the raised beds, which are the perfect height for her toys. She feeds the wooden creatures fallen leaves and pretends the vegetable stalks are a dense forest.

One day, I discover I have a slight deer problem in the potato patch.

Several onions are about to bolt and I spot that two more have suddenly started to form flower shoots. I will need to harvest them all very soon.

I practise summer recipes on rare rainy days. After several attempts I am finally satisfied with my version of a raspberry and apple sponge cake. The next day is glorious and we eat thick-cut slices out in the garden; the children have scarlet-stained fingers and delighted jammy faces.

With June only a day away, our very first rose of the year bursts into bloom by the arbour. A new season awaits.

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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: Raised bed building, courgette flower buds and maple-pickled shallots

News from our garden is that yesterday the weather was beautiful so my husband and children built our first raised bed for the garden, ready to be put in place this weekend…

… the parsnips have all germinated this morning, the carrot seedlings are just starting to show and the peppers continue to thrive.

Our nine year old son’s courgette plants have now got little flower buds on them…

… and it was two weeks from preserving the shallots so we finally got to try them, and they were delicious!  I’ll try and get the recipe for “chilli and maple pickled shallots” up on the website really soon.

I hope everyone else’s gardens are going well now spring is very much underway 🙂

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