Fruit growing · Life in the Countryside · Raised beds

Just look how crazy the garden went when I was away…

We recently came back from being away from the cottage for almost three weeks and I have to say that although I loved our holiday, I was really glad to be home. Our garden was watered whilst we were away but any gardener know that no one looks after your garden as well as you do. It was so lovely to see how the garden has come on whilst I was away, and even better to started tending to it.

We had a courgette that had kept growing and growing, look how big it is compared to a normal sized one!

So now I need to find a good way to use up a marrow.

The plums weren’t quite right when we left for holiday and by the time we came back they had all ripened. We had lost some to insect activity and some had gone over but I managed to harvest a good amount.

Because of how ripe they were, those that weren’t to be eaten straight away were halved, de-stoned, vacuum sealed and frozen. That way when I have some more time I can use them up.

Some of our turnips and beetroot have also grown a bit ginormous. Hopefully they still taste alright.

It also looks as though somebody has been exploring our asparagus bed. Hopefully whoever it was (C suspects Peter Rabbit) hasn’t done any damage to the roots.

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Life in the Countryside · Raised beds · Recreation area · Vegetable growing

Cutting the asparagus back

So our asparagus crowns went in in April and for the first year you are supposed to not harvest them at all and let the foliage grow wild so that the crowns can really develop and establish. It was lovely to see the spears appear from the ground but as they grew into foliage the bed looked a bit messy.


So when it comes to Autumn and the foliage starts to turn brown and die back you can cut the stems back to about one inch above the ground and them mulch the bed. 


The bed now looks so much neater and hopefully we will have a good crop next year. One of the crowns does look a little weaker than the others but fingers crossed it will still produce well. It may seem a pain to have to not harvest it in the first year, but as crowns can typically last for 20 years, leaving one years worth of harvest in order to have 20 years of excellent harvest seems a small sacrifice to make. Hopefully it will pay off next year. 

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

Asparagus foliage 

So when I planted the asparagus I read that for the first year you are supposed to not cut the asparagus and let the foliage grow to build up strong roots. You may remember my debate at the time of our first spears appearing that I just couldn’t wait as I was desperate to try our first home grown asparagus with poached eggs. Well I’m glad I managed to resist as I can now see what asparagus foliage looks like. So what ends up happening as the asparagus is left to grow is that the tips which are so prized for their exquisite taste branch out so that the asparagus looks like miniature trees. So this is what asparagus being left to go to foliage looks like. It looks like every crown we planted has taken so hopefully we will have asparagus for years to come. 

Raised beds

Asparagus

So today I had a nice surprise when I went to water the raised beds. Our first tiny tip of asparagus peeping through the soil. Now apparently you’re not supposed to pick asparagus the first year, you should just let the folliage grow and the roots establish. Which is all very well and good but the idea of homegrown asparagus with home laid poached eggs is awfully tempting. I mean how much harm could picking the odd spear do? Maybe I’ll just wait and decide once some more have appeared.

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Raised beds

Planting asparagus crowns

This weekend the post brought a nice surprise, the asparagus crowns we ordered last year. We ordered from Suttons and they deliver them ready at the optimum time for planting. Now both J and I love asparagus but at the price it is in the supermarket it ends up being a luxury treat vegetable rather than a weekly pleasure. So when we decided to start growing some vegetables asparagus was high on my list to try. Now asparagus has a great advantage in that once planted and established it will produce annually for somewhere between 10 and 20 years. So after a bit of research we ordered ten asparagus crowns of the Mondeo variety (a crown is essentially a year old set of roots which is ready for immediate planting). This weekend they arrived and I was able to plant them straight into one of our raised beds. Raised beds are ideal for growing asparagus as they appreciate lots of good drainage, they hate sitting with wet roots (to be fair I hate sitting with wet feet too).

Asparagus is quite unusual to plant compared to many other vegetables. First you need to dig a trench about 6 to 12 inches deep and six inches wide. You can pile your soil to the side as you will need it later. If you haven’t already done so, then you need to ensure that there are some nutrient rich material added here to the bottom of the trench such a well rotten manure, compost of leaf mulch. Then in the middle of your trench create a small mound running down the centre, see picture below. It is on this mound that your crowns will sit.

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Asparagus crowns need to be planted about 30cm apart. To plant put the crown on top of the mound in the middle of your trench and spread out the roots as much as possible, see picture below.

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You can then cover them back up with the soil that you removed earlier and water well. Asparagus should not be harvested in its first year so for us this particular raised bed will need weeding and watering but no harvesting this summer. However, our efforts should pay off with a good supply of asparagus next year, hopefully. To make sure that this bed is not totally unproductive this year we are planning on adding some salad to the bed in the summer. It’s also the closest one to the house so easiest to pick fresh for dinner.