Raised beds · Vegetable growing

Baby corn harvest

This year we were very late in getting our raised beds built and filled, so we ended up being too late in the Spring to plant some of the seeds we’d originally hoped for. So on one of our frequent weekend trips to the garden centre we picked up some seedlings  that they had leftover. We went for mini pop sweetcorn. It is a baby corn variety, designed to be picked and consumed when the cobs are about 10-15cm long. Sweetcorn is a big favourite with C although she does tend to prefer the ‘normal sized’ variety. However, babycorn holds a special place in J’s heart. J lost his mum when he was very young to cancer and one of his memories of her is when he visited her in hospital and she gave him her babycorn from her dinner plate. He’d never seen babycorn before and it always reminds him of his mum now. So growing our own babycorn is something quite special for us. 

Now whilst normal corn is fairly easy to determine when to harvest (the tassels turn brown) for babycorn it seems to be a little bit more vague.  

These are the male parts of the plant, which some seem to suggest aren’t needed for mini pop but others imply are still necessary. 


And these are the tassels and indicate where each cob is.

Now all my research has said that if the tassels turn brown then they will be too far gone and will taste bad. So you have to harvest them when the tassel are still pale and you are aiming for the corn to be about 10-15cm long. Which is all very well and good, but how on earth are you supposed to know when they are that length without harvesting some? Well we decided to test one out today. We slowly peeled back the leaves (well it wasn’t really a peeling but a tearing) to reveal this.



My daughter was so excited to discover it, that is what has really made growing our own vegetables enjoyable giving her these wonderful childhood experiences. So tomorrows job is to harvest some more and then blanch and freeze them as they are best enjoyed when picked fresh on the day. I’ll be interested to see how many we get, as one doesn’t really give a meal!


Raised beds

Protecting the cauliflowers

So finally our cauliflowers have started to grow their beautiful white heads despite their foliage being ravaged by the caterpillars. Now in order to keep the heads white they need to be protected from the sun. So now I finally have a use for all those elastic bands I’ve been keeping (our post tends to come wrapped up in one each day and J keeps trying to throw them out but I have insisted on keeping them as they were bound to come in handy, how nice it is to be proved right). 

This one has already started to lose it’s bright whiteness

It may not look pretty but it serves a purpose!

Raised beds

Taming the pumpkin

So as I’ve said recently our one pumpkin has started to reach out from the raised bed that it’s in and try and take over the whole garden! Somewhat ironic that is seems to be the most prosperous of our produce given that we were only really trying to grow one pumpkin for fun!

Anyway it needed restricting so today I cut back some of it’s ‘arms’. Pumpkin plants tend to carry water through their arms so when you cut one off then you need to bury the cut stem into the soil to allow it a chance to seal over and prevent too much water and nutrient loss. So the below pictures show how it was before trimming. 

I had expected the thick stems to be quite difficult to cut through but actually my secateurs cut through it remarkably easily and the stem surprised me by being hollow. So far I have cut back a couple of the stems and will probably cut some more once I’ve seen how the flowers (and hence pumpkins) grow. I guess only time will tell if I’ve done any harm by my trimming!

Raised beds

Cauliflower head

So we finally have a sign that our cauliflowers are more than just leaves! Whilst they have healthy green leaves they are lacking that all important head. I was perfectly fine with waiting until I saw someone else’s picture of harvesting their first cauliflowers on Facebook and since then I’ve been obsessively checking them. Finally today I spotted the first sign of one. 


Small but it’s a start. I need to give them some feed to ensure they keep growing well as hopefully they will give us a really good supply of cauliflower cheese through the winter. The head is on one of the cauliflowers that I transferred to bed 2 where we had pulled up the turnips from which is positive that they have done well as they initially looked very weak. However, I’m concerned that the cauli’s in the other bed are being overpowered by the pumpkin. I think a job for the weekend is to cut it back a bit and give it a really good feed and hope that they can both manage to grow together in harmony (I had naively thought that the cauli’s would be out before the pumpkin got large – how wrong I was!)

Raised beds

Pumpkin invasion

So I planted one pumpkin seed really for the novelty factor and have been excited to watch it develop. The idea was that it could share a bed with the cauliflowers and by the time they came out it would be perfect timing to give it the extra space it needed. However, our cauliflowers have plenty of leaves but no sign of any actual heads of cauliflower yet. And the pumpkin has shoots going off as far as the end of the raised bed.


It has a few buds that have started to open up into beautiful flowers which will eventually form the pumpkins themselves. Although I do think I remember reading about male and female flowers in pumpkins so maybe I need to remove some? And as the leaves as somewhat overshadowing the bed and the flowers I’m not sure whether to cut some back? 


Also what on earth are those stringy bits? (For anyone not familiar with pumpkin growing they are the things which form the carriage wheels on Disney’s Cinderella but what other purpose they have I don’t know!) 

Raised beds

Raised beds update

So whilst giving a FaceTime tour of the garden earlier today I realised it might be time for an update on how our crops are doing. We have six raised beds so I’ll go through each one in turn.

Raised bed 1:

6 asparagus planted back in April. For the first year in order to maximise harvests in future years you are supposed to avoid cutting it and instead leave the foliage to grow. This helps to strengthen the crowns and ensure a productive crop for years to come (approximately 20 years apparently).


Raised bed 2: 

Two rows of turnips planted (purple top Milan)and two rows of beetroot (Boltardy from seed tape). The turnips thrived and have now all been harvested. We’ve eaten some (lots) and have cooked and mashed the rest for the freezer for our autumn and winter roast dinners. Yum! 


I’ve not been that impressed with the seed tape if I’m honest. The idea behind it is that the tape has seeds spaces out evenly so thinning is not required and all seeds should sprout. This has not been the case for us. We’ve found that some of the seeds have not sprouted at all and some appear to have moved so they are growing very close together. We do have the very first of these ready to pull I think, although I need to work out how we’re going to use them before we pull them. At the end of one of the rows where no seeds sprouted I threw in some carrot seeds just for fun so the space wasn’t wasted. 


Now the turnips have been pulled we’ve transported some cauliflower from bed number 4 which need to be thinned. Now sure how well they’ll fair long term but they seem to be hanging on just about for now. We’ve also put a final row of beetroot down the middle with some carrot seeds at the end where the tape ran out, just to use it up. 

Raised bed 3: 

12 strawberry plants. We have 8 plants of the variety Elsanta planted down either side of the bed and have four different varieties down the middle: Delizz, Vibrant, Fruitful Summer and Cambridge Favourite. They were really all bought on impulse with wanting to get something into the soil so there is no special reason for these varieties it was just what happened to be in the garden centre when we were buying! They are doing alright and are giving us a good bit of fruit so far, though yesterday C ate all our of pickings straight away so I’m not sure I’ll manage to preserve any. They’ll stay in this bed for about 3 years until they’ll need replacing/a new home. I need to do a bit more research into the different varieties and their needs/timings but for now they have some straw underneath them to protect the fruit and they seem to be managing ok. 


Raised bed 4: 

This bed is our cauliflower and pumpkin bed. We have two rows of cauliflower down either side, again we threw in a good number of seeds and have done some thinning. They are still fairly closely packed but they seem to be managing so far. No sign of anything apart from massive leaved yet though.


The pumpkin was originally two seeds planted next to each other and thinned to one. It’s in the middle of the bed on one end and was only really planted for novelty value as C loved seeing pumpkins around Halloween, even though we didn’t have one and J doesn’t really like the taste but I do. It has done really well and is starting to take over the bed a bit with its massive leaves and the starting of flowers have appeared.


Raised bed 5: 

This bed is still not completely filled yet. In half we have salad leaves, four different varieties of which three seem to be doing well. This last weekend we’ve also added in one row of swede seeds and will add in at least one more in a couple of weeks. These should be out in late autumn/early winter hopefully.


Raised bed 6: 

This bed has been entirely J’s choice. He was really keen on planting some beans so has half a bed of broad beans and half of baby sweet corn. All bought as plants from the garden centre as we were too late to use seeds. Long term we plan for beans and anything else needing canes to go into the field. 


So that’s our six beds so far. Not bad for our first year I think and certainly good to have them all filled with crops considering we were quite late in the day getting them built and filled. Planning for next year will be key I feel and I’m already getting excited about it!

Raised beds

Filling a gap

So with harvesting the turnips we now have half a raised bed empty, the other half still has beetroot in. I had thought about planting some more carrots but J suggested that I kill two birds with one stone and transplant some of the cauliflowers that I needed to thin into the space. We will always use cauliflowers and they have the advantage of not needing to be picked straight away (you can cover the head over with the leaves and keep them in the ground for a while) so it seemed like a sensible decision. So this morning C and I dug some holes in our empty space, only about 7 along the row.


Then we watered the ground well and pulled up a few cauliflower plants from our existing over crowded bed and planted them soil all into their new homes.


I then gave them another quick water. C and I were then out for the rest of the day and I didn’t get to revisit the raised beds until gone 7:30pm. This was the sight which I found.


Not a good look. There has been a big heatwave in the UK this week so I’m guessing (hoping) they just need more water as they settle into their new home. Worst case scenario and they don’t take I can always pull them and plant some seeds before it gets too late. The heatwave is supposed to be ending tomorrow so maybe they’ll fair better then. Fingers crossed.

Raised beds

Pulling up the turnips

So unfortunately my excitement about planting turnips (and hence my sowing all the seeds at once) has come back to bite me squarely in the backside. For now all of my turnips are ready to harvest. At the same time. Unfortunately turnips aren’t the type of crop you can leave in the ground until ready as if they keep growing they end up rather woody and unpleasant to eat. So we have had to pick them. We’d already had about half a dozen picked the other week for when we had some friends come round for dinner. And have picked another 30+ now.

Now there are only so many turnips you can eat at once. Especially when the weather is as hot as it has been recently. So last night I peeled, diced and boiled a big pan full of them and mashed them up to freeze for future roast dinners when the weather cools down again. However, that still leaves me with about 20 to use. For the moment they are sitting in a bowl in my kitchen but I know that should only really be a short term home for them. I guess my afternoon will have to be spent googling “ways to cook and use up turnip”. One major plus point is that they do have a lovely delicate sweet flavour and I do really adore the taste. And if nothing else this abundance has taught me the importance of planting rows in succession to spread out the harvest!

Raised beds

Turnip seedling review 

So we are finally able to harvest our first crops of the season. We’ve just started to pull up our first crops from the raised beds – our turnips. The variety we planted was called ‘Purple Top Milan’ and we originally received the seeds from Grow Your Own magazine, which we subscribe to. I love turnip and reading the seed packet they seemed fairly easy to grow so they seemed ideal for a first time veggie grower. I was so sure that none of the seeds would take so I did end up sowing them rather thickly directly into the raised bed. The plan was to have two rows sown two weeks apart but as both C and I were a little over enthusiastic in our sowing we ended up planting both rows at once. 

A couple of weeks after they had started to sprout I thinned them. The above picture shows one row thinned and one row still to thin. The thinned seedlings went to the chickens as a lovely treat. On reflection, next year with more confidence in my ability I would try and sow my seeds less densely. 

I have sprinkled crushed egg shells around them as I have with most of our seedlings as a deterrent to slugs. Apart from that we have just watered them. We did a little weeding in the early days but very soon the foliage grew enough to prevent weed growth. 


This is them on the right, you can see how much their leaves have grown, this was a couple of weeks before we started picking.

Now turnips are best consumed when small and sweet – too large and they have a woody taste. So today we picked our first ones to serve with Sunday lunch as we had some friends over. They were delicious. We tried to pick fairly spaced out to give more room for the remaining ones to grow. We will get the rest of the harvest out in the next few weeks and then I’ll need to find something else to put in where they were. No idea what though. The turnips are definitely down on my to grow list for next year again!

Raised beds

Netting crops

As I’m sure I’ve already mentioned J spent lots of time planning the design of the raised beds. So as we have some strawberries now which are looking close to ripe, it has become essential to protect them from the birds. This is where J’s forward planning has really come into its own. When constructing the raised beds he attached these black quickcrop cormer brackets at each corner and halfway down the longest side as shown below. 

Then into these he inserted cut lengths of black 25mm water pipe in semicircles as shown below.


Then the net can be draped over these and secured to soil using pegs. That should keep the crops safe from birds but still easy enough to access for picking and weeding as required.