Life in the Countryside

What a difference a week makes

So C and I have been away for a week and J has been keeping an eye on things at home. The weather whilst we have been away has been very poor. Lots of rain and cloud and little sunshine. Now I want to preface this next sentence by saying I do love J. But he has kept an eye on the garden rather than tend to it. Not that I asked him to do any different or expected him to, after all he has been working all week too. Not that I would have done anything different to him but I know myself enough to acknowledge that I often think I would do things better. When I got back and went to have a look at how things had progressed then I was amazed at how much things had grown. I mentioned to J how large the pumpkins had gotten and he said he hadn’t noticed! Anyway, I digress. The garden has really bloomed with the much needed rain. Sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a bad way. 

So we have three pumpkins (one is quite a way behind the others) and they have grown so much. I need to work out some way to support them.


Some of our herbs and salad have unfortunately gone to seed with the weather.


Our baby corn is so tall now.


We have our first broad beans ready to harvest


The caterpillars have had a field day with our cauliflowers and some of them have bolted in the weather (more on that another time). 


We were able to harvest more of our beetroot as it had reached monster size.



Some of the potatoes are ready for harvest (see here to read about the excitement of harvesting). 


And the blackberries are starting to ripen. 


It really is reaching that amazing time of year when everything starts happening in the garden and our bellies are filled with homegrown goodness. 

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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!

Life in the Countryside

Caterpillars

I was so proud the other day to have a sign of my first cauliflower head. However, today it is quite the opposite as my cauliflower has been savaged by caterpillars. I had seen some sign of leaves being nibbled before but now they have gone into overdrive. 


This is the much nibbled cauliflower.


These are the eggs which have been laid right around the cauliflower head along with a baby caterpillar.


And this is a full size grown up caterpillar.

C spent some time working on the hungry caterpillar book the other week so absolutely loved finding the caterpillar. I on the other hand was less than impressed! I’ve picked off all the ones I could find but what is the best way to rid myself of them and prevent future infestations? Looks like I need to do some more research (again), there is so much to learn about growing your own that I’m not sure I will ever know everything!

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

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.