Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

In which my garden is saved by sunshine and friendship

Honestly, I thought I’d never get back into the garden. The weather has been miserable, the weeds had grown high, and Mr Gorgeous has been too busy to be of any moral or practical support.
I’ve been dashing past on the way to the chickens, trying not to look at my weed strangled vegetables, or the rabbit damage.
Fast forward to last week, when my lovely friend Jenny came and weeded with me for the day. She and I spend occasional days in each others’ gardens, chatting about books and children and life in general, while we prune, or weed, or plant, or whatever needs doing. Never has it been more appreciated than this week, when we cleaned out no fewer than five vegetable beds in need of weeding. I’m so grateful I could weep, as it then gave me the push I needed to get into another two beds, one of which is now planted with strawberries which have been moved from where they were last year.

Then, to my great joy, my Gorgeous got a free afternoon, and spent it digging with me and moving strawberries. I love that man!
For the last three years I have dug, separated and replanted my strawberries, and the yields have been way up. Last year I had two picks of 1.5kg each, and many more on the other days. I’m much later moving them this year. I know I should have done it a month or two ago, but better late than never, I hope.
The daffodils are blooming along the old fence line, so it must be spring!

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Here’s one of the beds Jenny helped me weed. The onions underneath are thriving, and the brassicas are coming along, but not ready to pick yet.

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I’m trying to decide what to do with these capsicums. In Perth I would have cut them off for another year’s crop. So far they’ve never survived this long here, so I don’t know whether to pull them out, or prune them hard and see. Does anyone else have success in Victoria with keeping capsicums over winter?

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No matter what state the garden is in, the view is always beautiful.

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The citrus are in full fruit. Here’s the grapefruit which sadly lost a couple of limbs thanks to the weight of the fruit, and my lack of diligence. If anybody wants a grapefruit, let me know!

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This bed looks great after weeding. The rabbits haven’t eaten the kale yet, but I was worried that now that the weeds are gone, they’d been able to find them, so I’ve sprinkled lots of blood and bone around just in case.

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The rabbits definitely HAVE been in the parsley. What a chomp they’ve had. Blood and bone has been sprinkled here also, so I’ll see if the damage stops.

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Yay! Asparagus season is just beginning, and with all the eggs we’re getting, I think there will be a lot of asparagus soufflé on the menu, and steamed asparagus with our lamb. Yum. (Plenty of blood and bone here too!)

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I’ve finally pruned my fruit trees, after a talk in church in which the speaker mentioned in passing that he had done his pruning VERY LATE, and since mine wasn’t even done yet, I went straight home and did it. Now I know that wasn’t his point, but I take inspiration where I can!

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Our satsuma plum is absolutely COVERED in blossom. We’ll have either lots of plums or lots of broken limbs if I’m not careful.

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PLANTING
I’ve been busy in the sunshine planting seeds. I’ve planted up 60 punnets of summer vegetables including tomatoes, pumpkins and melons, capsicum and chilli, as well as lettuce and other salad greens. I haven’t put any seeds in the soil yet, but I’d like to put in one more lot of peas while there’s some cool weather left. Is it too late for potatoes?

HARVESTING
Little Miss Sunny, who is 18, has discovered kale chips, so the kale harvest is going full speed, and they being cooked and consumed by the teenagers (and us when we can get our hands on them) at all hours of the day.
We have buckets of citrus -lemons, grapefruit, oranges, limes and mandarins.

TO DO
Still five beds to be weeded. About 400 strawberry plants to dig up and hopefully give away. (Any takers?) lots more manure to add to the garden. That will do for now!
Thanks to Lizzie from the Garden Share Collective for hosting a garden round up. Pop over and have a look at some other gardens if you’re interested.
http://www.strayedtable.com/2014/09/01/garden-share-collective-september-2014/

In which I struggle to regain my gardening spark

We have decided not to enter our garden in the local open garden this year. The decision has left me a little short for inspiration in the garden, especially with a lot of digging due to be done. Mr Gorgeous came to the rescue yesterday and dug two beds for me, so I have finally planted some winter crops.

I have however been busy dealing with the harvest, and for those who are interested in what happens to it all, I’m blogging at Donnaisplayinghouse where this month I’m going to have a red hot go at not buying any food for all of May. This is the second time I’ve done this challenge, and it’s been a great way to get towards the bottom of the cupboard, fridge and freezer, and to really be frugal with my resources.

I have been most encouraged though by a visit from Linda from Chloe’s Garden who popped in for a look at the garden, and within a week managed to solve my two biggest garden searches. I have been looking for a small capsicum to stuff like they do at the supermarket, and have been growing different varieties for a couple of years in the hope of finding the perfect one. Well, thanks to Linda, I now have seeds! Also, I’ve been wanting to grow tree onions, and again thanks to Linda I have a supply to get me started. What a treasure she is!

Thanks (and congratulations on the new bub) to Lizzie from the Garden share collective for hosting this blog share, and getting me off my backside and into the garden so I wouldn’t be completely ashamed of myself.

What I’m picking
Tomatoes, still, but the quality and quantity are both way down. I got enough for two meals with yesterday, but only a handful were nice enough to eat raw. I oven roasted the rest, half for tea, half for the freezer.

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Pumpkins, all at once.

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Capsicums and chillis. These have been very late bloomers and I hope I get a few more to turn red before the cold weather really hits.

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The last of the apples and pears. The pears will mostly be cooked, as the kids don’t especially like this variety raw in their lunch boxes.

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Beets. Now cooked and ready to bottle, as that’s Mr Gorgeous’s favourite.

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What I’m planting
Lots of brassicas, greens like mizuna and lettuce and chicory and Pak Choy, onions, late beets, garlic, hopefully soon some peas and broad beans.

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What I need to do
Get enthused.
Dig.
Plant.
Compost.
Just do it.

In which I harvest like a crazy woman

March has been a big month for harvesting in the garden. My kitchen bench seems to be permanently covered in produce which needs to be dealt with urgently. Some days it seems to take all day! Cucumbers have been compulsory at every meal, and lots is being put aside for leaner days.

Other than a hand of bananas for some lovely guests, we didn’t buy any fruit or vegetables in March. We have eaten watermelon, rockmelon, apples and pears – two kinds of each. There are also grapefruit on the tree, but they will wait until the apples are all done. On occasion, the kids still look blankly into the crisper of the fridge and have to be told that the apples are still on the trees; such is the power of habit. I try to get them to bring in an armful when they go down to get one.

For this month’s blog, I thought I’d do a tour of the vegetable beds, and look at what I’m harvesting, what I’m planting, and what I need to do. It is quite long, sorry, as I have a lot of beds. At least looking at them all doesn’t take as long as weeding them! The first bed pictured here has some blueberries and artichoke at the back, and has had potatoes and zucchini this year. I took a before photo…

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Then went through and harvested the zucchinis and potatoes and took an after photo. I’ll plant some peas in here I think, because the soil looks a bit tired, and I think it could do with some extra nitrogen.

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Here’s the harvest. The potatoes, mostly kippflers, and some desiree came to the level top of my basket, and the zucchini, including the one that got away are on the top. We had a great meal of the potatoes last night. We picked up a BBQ with a lid for $40 at a garage sale, so I wrapped the spuds in alfoil with butter, chilli and rosemary, and roasted them in the BBQ. Very nice indeed.

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The next bed along has had beans, eggplant and capsicums and chillies. The eggplant is nearly all done, the capsicums are still going strong – just hitting their straps really, but the beans have all died really suddenly. The leaves went yellow and mottled, and they just stopped producing. I found quite a few juvenile vegetable bugs on the beans, but I suspect that wasn’t the whole story. Anyway, I grabbed what I could and pulled them all out. I think that I’ve neglected the soil a bit this year, and that could be the cause of my issues. I’m predicting a big manure week.
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Still, the view as the Aunty Collector and I worked, and the lovely weather this weekend made for a pleasant afternoon. When we had finished our work, the Aunty Collector grabbed the stakes and corn stalks, and had a great time making a tepee of sorts, and then trying to keep the dog out of it.(Unsuccessfully)

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The strawberry patch is a weedy disaster. I left the netting on too long so instead of grabbing a weed or two, or throwing on some mulch as I went past, things just grew like topsy under the netting. It’s a mess of runners, weeds, and I don’t know what else. Last year, I pulled everything up at the start of winter and just replaced the strawberry plants, and I got kilos of strawberries, so I think I’ll do the same again this year. Only with more mulch. And with remembering to take the netting off. And with more vigilance.

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This next bed is mostly clover since I pulled the onions and leeks. There are a few eggplants at the back, but although they have flowers, I may have put them in too late to get fruit. We’ll see.
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The corn and beans at the back are all done. Same bean problem here too. The silverbeet in the middle is THRIVING, and the beets are coming on well.
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Photo Credit: The Aunty Collector

The next three beds are where the rockmelons were. For the first time this year I’ve separated them from the pumpkins, and they’ve produced fruit. I can’t believe it took six years of swamped melons and no fruit to come up with that brainwave! There are still beans (fairly healthy) and cucumbers producing here.
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The asparagus is growing large and will be feeding the roots. I’ll need to get some manure here too.
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I planted some painted mountain corn. The ears are so beautiful. I’m drying it to see if I can make popcorn, but I have to admit I don’t know what I’m doing, and early experiments are NOT promising. Still, it’s giving me a great deal of pleasure as it graces the kitchen bench.
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Lastly the tomatoes and pumpkins are providing lots of colour and lots of meals. I’m roasting and freezing the tomatoes in Chinese food containers for winter meals. Between that, the lamb and the grated zucchini, the freezer is groaning. The purple ties you see here are an old pair of thermals!

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This poor tomato must have missed out on water. What a sorry specimen

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PLANTING
When my mum was here last year, she sorted my seeds so I could see what I should be (could get away with…) buying. Last week I finished the sort, and labelled the bags, and the resulting tidiness makes me happy.

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I’ve planted brassicas, leafy greens some late beets, and some onions. They’re happily residing in the little greenhouse.
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Thanks to Lizzie from the Garden Share Collective for hosting the garden blog share. If you’ve enjoyed reading about this, you’ll probably enjoy the other gardens there too. There are lots of ideas and lots of great gardens.

The Garden Share Collective

 

In which the show comes to town!

Every year on the first Saturday in March, our local town has a show. One of the men in charge in the exhibition hall goes to our church, and one year when he was visiting us, he showed me how to pick rhubarb and prepare it for the show. Thus began my association with the show, which now sees me acting as a steward, as well as showing vegetables and cooking.
It’s one of those daggy things to do that make the show a really fun outing. Because I’m a steward, I get there really early, so my entries look very lonely for a while. Soon however the shelves fill up. From that point on though, I don’t know what’s happening with my entries, because my area of responsibility is the art section.

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At the end of the day, once all the artwork is judged and displayed, I get to rush back and see how my babies have done. This year, despite terrible weather, and me being away, the babies did very well, thank you. My highlights were my zucchinis and pink cordial which both won best in section, something I’ve never managed even once until this year. Also bringing home the bacon were beans, pumpkin (already in today’s soup for lunch) beans, tomatoes, strawberry chilli sauce, watermelon, tomatillos and cucumbers, (although the cucumbers managed to come second in a class where they were the only entry, so don’t be too effusive in your congratulations!)
So, in my acceptance speech, I’d like to thank Mr Gorgeous for his tireless watering efforts in 40 degree heat while I was away.

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Now, to what’s going on in my garden at the moment. Thanks to Lizzie at the Garden Share Collective for keeping me regularly blogging.

The Garden Share Collective

There are beans everywhere. Despite losing all their flowers in the hot weather, the plants have lived on, and are now blooming and producing lots of beans.

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The tomatoes are very late this year. I’m only just starting to get good crops now

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I’ve separated my melons from my pumpkins, thanks to some extra room this year, and finally I’m getting melons. This watermelon (sugar baby, I believe) plant died suddenly, so I’ve been bringing the melons in to eat. They were underripe, but still delicious and refreshing.

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I haven’t planted anything this month. This will almost certainly leave me with a gap in my produce, but I’ll try and plant a few brassica seeds this week, and some tomatoes and carrots. If it’s not too late, I’d like to put a few more beets in. I get a monthly email from gardenate which tells me what I can plant, although I’m never sure whether I’m temperate or cool climate here.

As soon as we get some rain, I need to start some weeding, especially of paspalum and of the strawberry patch. Also, there’s an orange winged bug I need to research to see whether it’s friend or foe.

Just as soon as I finish basking in glory…..

In which I garden long distance

Well, this will be a funny old post. I’m writing this from the top room at my mum and dad’s house in Perth. I’m here, thousands of kilometres from my home for my grandmother’s funeral tomorrow, and so I’ll be posting without the usual stream of consciousness flow of photos.
First I’d like to do a shout out about my grandma, who was a gardener. Some of my early memories are of happy childhood days spent in her backyard, eating cape gooseberries, pulling apart an old TV in the back shed, cooking jam tarts, sorting the button tin, and answering the dreaded question, “Have you opened your bowels today?” at least once a day, more often if we dared answer in the negative! No wonder we spent so much time eating the cape gooseberries.
Although she had Alzheimer’s disease of late, and was no longer the cryptic crossword loving quick wit that I grew up with, that lady had been replaced with another lovely gentle lady whom we also loved. So thanks, grandma for the legacy you’ve left our family.

And now on to what’s happening in my garden. You can read what other gardeners are up to in February here at Strayed from the table.

HARVEST
Being February I have mountains of zucchini. I’m making family favourites like zucchini quiche, creating new recipes, and grating and freezing the rest, which is lots. I’ve harvested all the kohlrabi, swedes and parsnips, which I’ve cubed, blanched and frozen for soups.
We’re eating beans, kale, and lots of herbs too. The herbs have taken off, and I’m pruning them back to keep them in check.
We’ve had quite a bit of hot weather here. The veggies don’t seem to have minded, but many of my flowers have been cooked to a crisp. At least the Jacaranda seems happy.

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We’re getting some autumn raspberries too. I think we’d be getting lots more if we watered them more, but we’re a bit stingy on the water, giving everything only enough to keep it alive. The plums are in full fruit. We’re eating Satsumas this week, with juice dripping down our chins.
The strawberries are still fruiting, but have slowed down a lot since they started putting out runners. I never know whether removing the runners will help them to keep fruiting or not. Does anyone know?

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PLANTING
I had a flurry of planting before I flew out to Perth. I put in seedlings of lettuce, eggplant (too late, perhaps) basil, and lots of flowers which will hopefully bloom in time for an upcoming party. I also planted three rows of beet seeds with the Aunty Collector. Mr Gorgeous loves beetroot so I hope to be able to present him with lots.

TO DO
Keep everything alive. Mr Gorgeous is doing a great job of watering in my absence. It was 41 degrees yesterday, so it will be quite a job, especially with new seedlings. He is even texting through updates on the watering!
While I’m in Perth, I’ve got two permaculture and self sufficiency books that I’d like to read.
Also, I’d like to tidy my mum’s veggie patch up, as her back is giving her grief, and it’s getting away. Mum’s a great gardener, even coaxing vegetables out of the coastal sand they have here. The veggie patch isn’t big, but it’s productive. I’ll try and post before and after shots.

January, in which I chronicle the ups and downs

Firstly, Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. May this be a wonderful year full of blessings.

As I write this, it is pouring outside. I was just thinking I’d have to water the garden, but all is well. I grew up on the other side of the country, outside Perth where it seemed we were always on water restrictions, and waiting for rain. Rain was always a relief, and even now, after 10 years living in rainy Gippsland, I still feel safe when it rains. Even at the end of winter, I’m not sick of it. Even when it’s boggy outside, rain still makes me happy. Especially today, when the garden was just starting to look thirsty.

One of the best things about having a big garden is having lots of people in it. We were able to have an open house on Boxing Day, and the weather was perfect. We played our new Christmas games, Finska (like 10 pin bowling meets darts) and my fabulous new backyard Scrabble game made by Missy Moo and the Aunty Collector, with some help from Mr Gorgeous. Yay kids, I love it!
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The first sunflower has just opened. I think last year’s flowers cross pollinated. I had a sunflower called Lilac Spray from Diggers’ Club and this flower seems to be half Lilac spray and half Giant Russian, judging by the height of the flower.Does anybody else have problems with their sunflowers leaning over. Mine seem to start lurching from a very young age. This year, and last, I have planted them near the back verandah, and have strapped them up with a maze of strings. The bottom isn’t so pretty, but my flowers are all standing to attention….except the ones down the back that I haven’t quite got to yet. These sunflowers are also just near the kennel of Mollie the Collie so hopefully she’ll stop them getting in too early. The seeds will go to our chickens once they’re ready.

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The herb garden is now a real riot of herbs, and is ready for another clean out. We’ve been eating lots of herbs in a happy accidental recipe discovery. We were given a sandwich press a few years ago, by some friends who stay with us when they go to the Phillip Island Grand Prix, and have discovered it makes great omelettes, cooking the top and bottom at the same time. So with our chickens giving us 5 eggs a day, it’s the perfect meal. I chop 5 or so herbs into individual dishes, then each family member can choose what herbs they want with their 2 egg omelette. Quick, easy, and the kids reckon they could eat it every day. Not to mention the fact that they feel like they’re ordering their meals a la carte.

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The tomatoes are a riot of leaves, and finally some fruit setting. I’m always late getting fruit, perhaps because I grow from seed, perhaps because I’m always late getting things into the ground. In amongst the tomatoes, (which are planted too close, but I’m quite thin, and I’m tying them up, and anyway I have a skinny kid if I get desperate) are a bit of calendula, and lots of borage. I’m pulling the borage out in succession to make way for tomatoes and putting it into the compost. We gave away an oven a few months ago to someone who turned out to be a permaculture teacher, and she told me borage was a compost activator. So far I’d only used comfrey. Are there any other plants that do the same thing? Anyway I’m happily pulling out borage. I’ll just leave a few to bring the bees.

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This year I’m trying tomatillos. Last year I picked up a few at the West Gippsland Permaculture Group’s Swap table. (They are so kind…I didn’t even have anything to swap in) I made salsa which was delicious, even though I can’t remember what a tomatillo tastes like. So this year I’m growing my own. Maybe I’ll even take some up to the Rokeby Market and sneak them onto the WGPG Swap table!

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I know I say this every year, but I’m giving melons ONE LAST TRY. My excuse other years is that they were crowded by the pumpkins, and that’s why in the last three years I’ve had one measly rockmelon and not a single watermelon. I grow varieties that are designed for short summers (though perhaps not for the wintery conditions outside at the moment), so hopefully an improvement in their living conditions will encourage them to fruit.

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This bed is the site of the latest rampage by the chickens. The gate has dropped, and the wind blew it open I think. Then in marched the chickens. They dug for potatoes, scratched around the melons, and dug up quite a few of the capsicums, chillis and eggplants in this photo. I replanted those I found and gave the bed a good water and apart from a few that disappeared completely, they will almost certainly recover. No real harm done, despite first appearances. Some of the plants had been buried 4 inches deep.
At the back of the bed are the scarlet runner beans. They are just showing a few small beans now, so probably 10 days or so until our first beans. My other beans got completely waterlogged, and so I replanted them yesterday. Perhaps it will work out for the best, and they’ll be ready after these scarlet runners are finished. Who knows?

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The potatoes are being dug up bit by bit as we need them. This end is the Kipflers which have been doing overtime in potato salads. The sweet peas behind are well and truly finished but have been beautiful enough for us to bring them inside despite the allergies.
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The zucchini glut is, I suspect, just beginning. All seven plants have thrived, and that is too many. Let me know if you need one!

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The corn is up and doing well. Oh, and more beans! I forgot about those!
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So, what to do next?
I’ve got a small time window in which I can plant a few last summer crops.
I still haven’t pruned the lemon tree.
Also, I need to rethink how I do the chickens’ roosts. Every month or so, they all get a big fright as the roost collapses, and I rig it up again using wire loops and nails. There has to be a better way.
That should keep me busy…

In which November has rushed by

December already?
What happened? All month I’ve been taking photos of interesting things in the garden,ready to blog, and life has taken over. It’s been a month full of happenings for the children, with our boarder “daughter” moving out, our eldest finishing school, with the associated exams and end of school functions, and our son getting ready for an overseas exchange.
The gardening has been done in very small bursts in between all this. Firstly, I’ve harvested all the broad beans. I’ve been harvesting for over a month taking some here and there as we’ve wanted them, but now I needed the space for summer vegetables, so they all came out at once. (6.5kg of pods to be exact). They were very lush, and produced really well.

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Of course I have had the help of Mollie the Collie, who has had the decency to leave the beans alone. She loves most other vegetables though, happily sticking her nose into the basket to pinch peas, asparagus and strawberries if I let her.
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Some of the beans have been pilfered by birds. I’m always impressed with the way they cut straight to the chase, taking only the sweet beans, and leaving the pod. (not impressed enough to let them get away with it if I spot them though)
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The family all like broad beans, but I suspect they’re not their favourite, as all the ways they like them best have the beans well disguised with garlic, soy or other flavours. I still grow heaps of them though because they add nitrogen to the soil. I took a photo of the roots to show the white beads of nitrogen. I scrape most of these off back into the soil before I compost the rest.
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The long awaited berry harvest has begun. First the strawberries, then red currants, and now the raspberries are fruiting. The raspberries in particular need picking every 48 hours, and freezing on trays before putting them in zip lock bags. My stash last the whole year of raspberry cordial, jam and desserts.
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I thought I’d include a pic of one day’s harvest to show what’s coming in at the moment. Picking is most of what I’m doing in the garden at the moment, and our evening meals are structured around what I’m getting. A recent cold snap has helped with using up the root vegetables, but I think that next weekend I’ll do a big pick and freeze of Swedes, Kohlrabi and parsnips.
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Even the flowers are in full bloom (just a month too late for open garden) We received this lovely vase from visitors a few years ago, and it’s perfect for this time of year.
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There’s a lot that’s ready. The onions, root crops and peas are all giving us food at the moment.
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The potatoes are completely taking over this bed, but they’re flowering, so it won’t be long now til I can start burrowing.

With the netting over the raspberries, we’re now getting good crops.
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The netting on the strawberries is about 10 times what we need, but the netting that was the right size got completely mauled by the dog when a bird got stuck in it. This, although completely over the top, is doing the job nicely.
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They cherries are so close! We tried a couple today that had turned pink and fallen off, but they were still a couple of days away.
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So, finally, the to do list. Still on the list sadly is sit and enjoy the garden, which I haven’t had time to do. Not on the list, thankfully, is mow the grass in the picture above, as that got done today. (thank you Mr Gorgeous)

I still have a few last seedlings to put in, and I need to reseed some more beans which I think probably rotted in a fortnight of rain after I planted them. I want to learn how to prune the lemon tree hard, as it’s become too rangy.

I also need to work out how to keep swede do that I can use it later, so that’s a research job for me.

Also, try new egg recipes. We’re up to three dozen in the cupboard, and nobody’s let the chickens know we have enough. We have three sheep to pick up from the butchers this week, so I think lamb chops will also be on the menu.

Perhaps also, I want to blog once during December, just to show I can do it without a deadline looming.

Thanks to Lizzie from the Garden Share Collective for getting me going to share now. You can have a look at other gardens here: