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.

Raised beds · Vegetable growing

Preparing the raised beds for planting season

As you know last year my husband and I designed and built our own raised beds which proved to be a really great way for us to grow our vegetables. At the end of last years growing season we covered the empty beds with cardboard (to prevent weed growth) and just left them alone for the winter. So when it looked like it might be actually getting warm enough to plant some seeds I started to ready the beds for the season.

Two out of our six beds are occupied already with perennial crops (asparagus in one, strawberries in the other) so they need slightly different treatment but I’ll save that for another day. A good amount of the cardboard cover had began to compost down so I started by removing any large remaining pieces and then used a hand fork to thoroughly turn over all the compost to ensure it was lump free and crumbly. I’ve not added any extra nutrients to our beds this year but will probably give the crops some appropriate boosts once they have begun growing. I tried to plan out what to grow in the beds but have kept dithering about exactly what to go for so I’ve ended up starting with what we really enjoyed from our crops last year.

We’ve planted one bed so far. Just with seeds directly sown into the ground rather than trying to grow seedlings and then transplanting them. We’ll thin as required, the chickens really enjoy seedlings and we have loads of free seeds from gardening magazines. Two of our stand out crops from last year were turnips and carrots. We only planted one row of turnips last year and we found they grew really well and were delicious. We really enjoyed turnip in soups and it is a great staple roast dinner side dish. Not only that but they grow relatively quickly, freeing up the ground for more crops. The second crop was a relatively late addition to our vegetable garden last year but became a firm favourite. As a late addition (we actually planted some in the space left by the turnips last year) we only had a small crop but they were probably the vegetable where we noticed the biggest taste difference with shop bought varieties. Carrots too are a relatively quick growing crop so the pair are well matched.

So our first raised bed has two rows each of carrots (Nantes variety) and turnips (Purple Top Milan variety). If it turns out to be too early and too cold to have planted them then we haven’t really lost much more than a few seeds. Let’s wait and see in a few weeks if we have any sign of life, fingers crossed. Next week I’ll have a go at planting one of our other beds up though with what I haven’t quite decided yet.

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

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

Thinning seedlings

Yesterday I did my first thinning of the turnip seedlings. When I planted the seeds I did so rather thickly thinking that with my success rate of growing then I would be lucky to get any to sprout. However as luck would have it we have had a good number sprout and now they need to be thinned. Thinning just involves picking out seedlings to give the required gap between plants. C was very helpful in pulling out seedlings although needed some guidance about actually leaving some to grow. I will probably need to thin some more but it’s enough for a start to give the little turnips more room to grow. As an added bonus the thinned seedlings make a great treat for the chickens. The photo shows one row thinned and they other still to do.

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