Raised beds · Vegetable growing

When to pick a pumpkin

Now as I’m sure I’ve said before, pumpkins were very much a novelty item for us. J doesn’t really like them, neither does C (I think, I haven’t really tried her with them since she was weaning) but I do like pumpkin soup as a nice winter warmer. But I had some seeds free from a magazine so I’d planted two next to each other and then once the seedlings had appeared removed the weaker seedling. The pumpkins had been planted in a raised bed with the cauliflowers (naively I had thought the cauliflowers would be out by the time the pumpkin got to any size, how wrong that was). We’ve had moments when they started to invade the rest of the garden and had to be cut back. 


I ended up cutting it back to leave us with a total of two good pumpkins. It has been quite fascinating to watch not only as they grew in size but also slowly changed in colour.




So you can see they have grown quite a bit and slowly changed colour as they’ve ripened. So after a little bit of research about when to pick them (tap them and a hollow sound is a good indication) as the vine was starting to die back by itself I decided to bite the bullet and cut them. 


You can see that the stem has already started to darken to the traditional look that you see in shops. So now we are going to leave them for a few weeks to finish the hardening. Apparently if stored in a cool and dry place they can last for a good six months so even though they have been picked now they should still be good until Halloween when we can try our first carving! Now I have about a month to find some good pumpkin recipes. Any suggestions? 

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. 

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!