Grow Your Own! A Welcome Return

cabbage

January King Cabbage in full, royal glory!

I am almost too eager to get out and tackle the rising Essex jungle at the back of my house to pen this bank holiday entry. Almost.

It is all going on, in a borderline ferocious fashion thanks to all the recent bouts of downpour punctuated sunshine. Like so many areas of this blogger’s life, it’s a bloody mess out there, but not beyond rescue. The greens are growing. The flowers are opening. The herbs are thriving and my daily evening walk up the borders has a wonderful buzzing theme tune provided by all the bees hanging out with me as a I water the pots and curse next door’s cat.

The Pretties: The daffs came up very early this year and survived that extra couple of late frosty weeks in April but have since died back and the tulips are just about catching them up now. I have to endorse the yellow-sticker shopper in me which got a shockingly late bag of 50 black tulip bulbs for a pound in February- they all came out beautifully despite my haphazard and tardy planting plan.
One of the Erysimum plants has randomly died which is a shame as it was a very bee happy place so I will seek something out later in the summer to replace that. I am somewhat confused on what has happened here as the other identical plant a few feet away is doing really well and nothing else in the soil area seems to be suffering so this is my mystery to research of a quiet evening when such a thing is available to me.
The Sunflower battle currently has me beating the Mr with three solid, two-foot tall specimens towering over his team of six distinctly shorter players.
I dug out the dead French Lavender and have replanted those from seeds (the first lot came in a plugs). These came with the warning of up to 90 days germination time but they are coming through now as seedlings after just two weeks without too much specialist attention beyond a good dollop of bonemeal and committed watering every evening when it hasn’t rained.
The roses are looking healthy but not flowering as yet and the astromelia have just started to show their beautiful peach and pink blooms. The dhalia is making a slow emergence in need of snail protection.

The Edibles:
Lettuces: Like most of my seeds this year I started these off in pots in the conservatory in late March and the first crop of lettuces bolted then died from the hot-house environment. I have to say I will go back to just putting them straight outside again next year as they have come up quite well in a huge planter outside after a throw-and-grow approach three weeks ago and look to be doing well.

rotten radish

rotten radish crop

Radishes: I lost all of my radishes last year and put this down to the Flea Beetle, the little bugger. I armed myself against this shiny black enemy this year with an organic-acid based spray. The spray worked in so much as the seeds emerged happily in the conservatory then went great guns as they were moved outside at the end of April with big, lush green tops free of nibble holes. The red bulbs started to show breaking through the soil about ten days ago and were finally harvested to bulk up a pre-payday dinner last Thursday. Well. The bulbs were a good size and the roughly 1/3 of an inch strip of one of them that was edible was crunch and punchy. Yes, 1/3 of an inch that wasn’t brown and holey and generally riddled with yuk. Sad face emoji. It seems that brassicas have more to worry about than the flea beetles and I now need to add the Cabbage Fly to my hit list. The Cabbage fly that lays eggs on the leaves which hatch bastard little grubs who wriggle down into the soil and EAT MY BLOODY RADISHES!!!! It’s just rude really. The solution may be some kind of tar discs to be placed at the bottom of the shoots to block the grubs from getting down into the soil. Or some very small machine gun guards.
Courgettes: Again started out in the conservatory the courgette seedlings went out after 3 weeks and almost all of them died from either frost attack or not enough watering- the jury is out on that one. I have two left which are doing OK in a huge pot in a sunny spot next to the shed. Daily watering for these also.
Pumpkins: Eight pumpkins started out slowly in the conservatory and six of them came up very quickly. One was swapped with a colleague for a fledgling raspberry plant, the other five went out into the garden in late April. I put four in the ground and one in a pot, just for comparison. The pot bound one is doing very well but as expected growing more slowly than the others. The winner at the moment in size and health terms is at the back of the garden beneath my seriously hacked back Red Robin, slightly in the shade. The other three went into that weird dirt patch we have that the Mr has failed to turn into his pond. Two of them have done well. One has literally been eaten down to a stump pretty much overnight which makes me suspect a neighbour might have lost a rabbit or Kevin The Depressed Wood Pigeon is trying out veganism.

chard

chard growing from seed-swap

Chard: Donated by a friend and again began in the conservatory in a long planter with some bonemeal and good watering. Doing ok now outside but not huge however their growth is noticeably slowing where everything else is booming so it might be time to harvest these and maybe start a second crop more thinly sowed.
Gooseberries: Purchased from B&Q for a fiver as starter plants, not grown as much as expected but healthy and putting out a small, shiny green crop of berries. I think I am going to take out the Red Robin at the back and replace this whole area with gooseberries as they are not that high maintenance and I just really like them. After trying it for 18 months, I really don’t like the Red Robin.
Red Onions: Mental. Massive. Showing flower buds now so hopefully ready to harvest in June
Carrots: Doing well in the ground but weirdly failing in pots this year. Feeding due today.
Fruit Trees: Pears and plums just starting to bud with pretty much zero attention from yours truly.
Herbs: The 2016 rosemary plant it still doing well but sharing his pot with too many visitors so it’s a trip to weed heaven for them later on. Basil, coriander and curled parsley were all started in the conservatory in March from some more bargain find 3-for-a-pound seed packets. They were all slow to start then boomed and went outside last weekend. The coriander is exceptionally thirsty and has died down a lot so I might need to replant this one. Once again I have seen nothing from the chives as happened last year so I am putting this down to a bad batch of seeds and will try again with a fresh packet. Bay tree also doing well but not growing very much.

potatoes

spuds!!!!

Potatoes: Well. They took ages to chit to unimpressive black stumps in the conservatory and went out in the ground about 6 weeks ago.  I planted about 20 throughout different experimental points in the ground and pots. The potted ones are growing in a modest and predicable fashion. The ones in the ground have gone berserk. BERSERK. They stand about 2ft high so far and have obliterated 3/4 of the veg patch and destroyed their rhubarb neighbours. If the Triffids are ever coming for us, it will be in the guise of spuds.
Rhubarb: Bullied dead by marauding potatoes.
Cabbage: My January King cabbages were harvested in April and tasted wonderful once they ha a chance to grow without snail assault. I have another 2 out in pots in the moment getting stronger and will go in the ground to go through the winter once the spuds have been thinned out.
Raspberries: A mere two sprigs of leafy goodness, small and potted and to be maintained as such until being planted out next spring, possibly in the hole left by the evicted English lavender or where the dead Erysimum was.
Windowsill Chilli Plant: Indestructible and fruiting as always.

The Pests: The cats are bastards. The snails seem fewer this year, so far. See previous disappointments ref: Cabbage Flies.

Errol The Dead Lemon Tree: Poor old Errol was ravaged by the winter, dropped all his leaves and basically became a sad a dry collection of conjoined twigs. I was just getting ready to arrange his cremation and rehome one of my Aloe Veras into his pot when I noticed a funny thing- a tiny, bright green lump about an inch from where he sprung forth from the soil. Dear Gods of All Dignity I had allowed mould to grow on his corpse!!! Or, no, no wait, that my friends was a bloody leaf! For Errol, he is alive!!!!!!! I moved him to a really inconvenient spot on the floor infront of the patio doors and took to watering him every couple of days and he is now putting out several new, very low leaves but seemingly doing well. I will be cutting back the really dead bit at the top today and moving him out into the conservatory again if that goes well. Long Live Errol!

Well that is more than enough from me today. I have a few hours of dry daylight left to get the weeds up and the lawn down so that will be all for the time being, other than to say I wish you a rewarding bank holiday and hope if you aren’t out working in a sunny garden somewhere you will at least enjoy a beer in one at some point.

gooseberries

First gooseberry crop, labelled in store as Hinnomali Red so not sure if the berries will darken over time. 

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