Time to Harvest

The vegetable garden is doing well despite the whole month of May being a bit of a wintry wash out, but looking around everything is catching up and we’re harvesting things for dinner.

One of my favourite vegetables to eat in summer is kohl rabi because they’re simple to prepare and great in a slaw. They’re odd-looking but rather beautiful at the same time, especially the purple variety. A member of the brassica family they need some protection from pecky pigeons and cabbage white butterflies which lay eggs on the leaves, but the bit you actually eat is the stem which swells as it grows. They taste just like cabbage but take up little room, pick them small, somewhere between a golf ball/tennis ball size is ideal otherwise they go woody. There are many ways to eat them but we love them raw, simply grated with carrot and other root veg (try it with celeriac, yum!) with a squeeze of lemon juice and blob of homemade mayo. The leaves are edible but I usually give them to the chickens as a treat.

I mentioned in a blog post in May the pea plants were being targeted by pigeons. I surrounded them in fleece which worked well for a short while, but as they grew taller the pigeons found other ways to get at them which involved fly diving from the fence with belly flop landings which caused much squashing, then the pecking action commenced. I witnessed all of this and wasn’t impressed, even though it was quite a clever strategy. I resorted to throwing netting over them (the peas, not the pigeons) and that worked too and now we have a lovely pea harvest to enjoy.

The first sowing of beets that I was concerned about are swelling nicely now, I’m pulling them small and sweet, just how I like them. I like to keep sowing beets throughout the year, we get through a lot during summer and autumn and I like to have some in the ground to see us through winter and early spring. I find Boltardy overwinter well.

One of the carrot varieties we’re growing this year is Rainbow Mix, which is a mix of purple, orange and yellow carrot varieties. It’s great fun not knowing which colour will appear when pulling them up, although I worked out quickly which ones will be purple. Can you see a clue in the photo below?

Strawberries are very good this year, I suspect the wet weather of May and scorching start to June played a key role.

Some of them are huge!

Apart from snacking on them as I work in the garden (head gardener perks), we’re picking plenty for our needs and giving some away. They’re so prolific this year as well as the slugs who are also enjoying them for late supper and early breakfast, any damaged ones we find get tossed to the chickens. Some are rotting already due to plenty of damp weather again.

Immature onions multi sown from seed are being used as salad onions, I planted them out in clumps to maximise yield. As we pull the smaller ones it creates more space for the stronger onions to bulb up. This worked really well last year but this year is very different in terms of weather, also, I planted them out much later so I don’t think they will be as big as last years onions.

Spring sown broad beans are ready to be picked, we had a good crop of autumn sown broad beans from the allotment so I will blanch some for the freezer. Second early potatoes have finished flowering and the foliage is just starting to go over, I might have a little poke around in the soil this week to see if they’re ready. Exciting!

Pardon the Weeds, We’re Feeding the Bees

The bottom of our vegetable garden has always been a difficult weedy spot, the usual suspects such as nettles and docks with some rather beautiful cow parsley. For a couple of years we tried to tame this area to turn it over to growing food, but over time we realised it wasn’t going to happen.

The first year we tried digging it all out removing as much root as we could. They came back. The second year we tried covering with cardboard to block out light and nutrients. They came back again. Weed killer is a big NO in our garden, so this left us with one option – leave it be and let it go wild. And you know what, I’m so glad we did! Alive with bees and other wildlife, this has quickly become our favourite part of the garden.

A log pile in the garden can be home to many types of garden wildlife. How cute is this mouse?! I probably won’t think so when she steals my peas!!

The nettle patches and docks are flowering now and attracting small moths we have never seen in the garden before. Bees and hoverflies flock to the cow parsley flowers which are just starting to go over. We added a little pond at the beginning of the year which has blended in beautifully and already home to some rather fat tadpoles, the frog and newt population in our garden has grown from strength to strength since putting in numerous wildlife ponds over the years, the total count now is 3 wildlife ponds (no fish) with one large fish pond near the house. It’s so lovely to watch bees and birds drinking from them too.

We planted buddleia which are very attractive to butterflies when in flower and sown numerous wildflower seed mixes.

The wood forget-me-not further down the border were already well established and such a welcome sight in spring, we have enjoyed the flowers for much longer this year due to the prolonged cold/wet weather in May. On the far side of the garden near the compost bins we decided to leave a section of grass to grow, just a wide strip which has become a refuge for frogs during the hot weather we’ve been having lately.

If you can, allow a section of your garden or allotment to grow wild. It doesn’t have to be large, just a small area can be a safe haven or source of food for garden visitors.