Grow Your Own- A Meagre Harvest

a small harvest of carrots, second round beets and baby yellow tomatoes

It has been a funny old year for this home grower, and not one riddled with successes. Blame the Beast From The East. Blame the ridiculously hot summer dry spell. Blame it on the Boogie whilst yumming up the last of the rhubarb and gooseberry jam. That was bloody good jam, and before I get too bogged down in the wailing lament of my edibles I must again remember that it wasn’t all bad. I’m edging into my autumn spiral today, punctuating a slow Saturday of cake baking with extended tea breaks and garden tidy up jobs. It might be the official start of Long Sleeves Season but there’s still plenty of growth to encourage and, indeed also to curb.

my first butternut!

We’ll start with the squash patch, which came slowly into life from seeds I salvaged from a supermarket butternut last year. I washed the seeds in cold water and spread them out in a single layer on a warm windowsill to dry out. I then literally forgot about them until the spring, when they went into nursery pots in the conservatory to establish, then into the ground a month later. I think three of six survived and completely took over the patch they have by the end of July with masses of sprawling leaves but only a couple of sad flowers. On hacking back said sprawling leaves from their path invasion recently I stumbled across a single and not insignificant fruit. Hurrah! He is now resting on the edge of the pathway (so as not to rot on the ground) and will hopefully make a decent tagine at some point in the near winter. Since finding him I have had a good rifle through and discovered a couple of other very small buds which are probably too late to grow significantly but are receiving extra care for as long as it appears to be making any difference. Technically it is only the start of squash season so they should carry on growing through to November but then, of course, that does depend on our ever contrary weather.

The tomatoes have been a bit disappointing and are evidence that I need to read up on my horticultural practice. All the plants that lived have put out quite a lot of fruit but they are small and most are failing to ripen- though I’m informed that the hot flash of late summer will have put them off of this. Some of the plants are even flowering again for reasons unfathomed.  Stay tuned for some green tomato chutney.

Skanky pear rust fungus. Eeeeeew. Pic from 15 Minutes of Green.

The pears are fucked. Please excuse my expletives but this is a sensitive issue. Both of my trees are riddled with rust fungus, a gross leaf invading parasite that leaves splotchy orange lesions on the leaves before breaking into reaaaaaaaaaaaaally grim looking little alien-like growth things. It’s minging. And has really slowed down the pear crop to the point that I struggled to find three, yes, three, healthyish pears for a crumble last weekend. The ones large enough to harvest are pretty hard and not that tasty. I have learned from this invasion that pear rust is an every-other-year problem as the life cycle of this gross bastard needs a year on a juniper of some sort before maturing for a year on a pear tree. Don’t ask me how/why, I’m no botanist, but this has truly put the death sentence on the two conifers I have been threatening to take out since we moved in. Poor old pears.

Late potatoes I planted in August shot up very quickly and seem to be doing well, thanks to the Step Father for giving me some pointers last weekend and helping me build them up with some extra compost in hopes of a higher yield. We hope for Christmas day spuds from these.  My chard tub is also keeping on at the keeping on and *should* make it through the winter with regular snipping. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, chard is very low maintenance to grow, really good for you and lovely shredded into some scrambled eggs.

heheheheheh, nob carrot.

Carrots and second round beets came out a couple of weeks ago and frankly there was next to nothing. The carrots were a late sow after the first batch of seedlings got killed off. Two of the rainbow types made it but were only purple skinned and orange within and the usual nantes 5 variety from my trusty seed stock did ok, but only ok. I made a small and not devastatingly tasty coleslaw.  What they lacked in bulk they did make up for in comedy, however.

Today, after some sweary weeding, the garlic is going in. It’s a funny red variety that I’ve forgotten the name of and took three bloody weeks to arrive by post as I made the mistake of clicking a cheap amazon listing then realising too late it was being shipped from bloody China. Lesson learned, kids, shop local! Once this job is done we descend into the muck. Quite literally.
It will soon be time to hack back the rhubarb and smother the crown with fertilizer for a good winter feed. I wonder if this year I will have the nerve to go up to the local stables and ask for some spare poo for this. Given the disasters of last year I can’t be bothered to faff about with winter beans and after three summers of constant growth attempts I think it might be time to give my little patch a rest and a feed.

One bonus to the screwy weather is that we have lots of late flowers in the garden, which aren’t spectacular but are giving the bees plenty of sustenance. They are still buzzing merrily to accompany my outdoor efforts which is a rather marvellous pleasure to listen to. So let’s end on that positive note.


nasturtiums planted as sacrificials in my squash patch, still flowering. 



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