Garden Produce

This year I have tried to be more organised with regard to my productive garden (as well as my flower garden).  I even tried to think about succession planting for once – I know that anyone with an interest in growing their own should do this as a matter of course, but I am not the most organised person and I leave the planning for my day job (or so I tell myself).

This year’s master plan was to sow some dwarf broad beans (var. Sutton) early in the year and hope to harvest them in June.  The idea being that this would then make room for my French beans in the small bed at the bottom of the garden.  I started them off in February and planted them out at the end of March.  They grew quite well (some in the bed, some in a tub) and flowered a lot – as shown in the photo.  However, the beans themselves seemed to take an age to grow – I harvested some in the middle of the month, but these were in the tub which still remains empty in the vain hope that I can get a courgette to grow and get a late crop; and the bed remained quite full – see picture below.  I finally pulled the rest out last weekend – they were taking over and all of the salad leaves I had planted had gone quite leggy and had mainly been eaten during the damp weather.  I planted out some more French beans as I think the prolific foliage of the broad beans had held some of them back, but I had already planted out my aubergines (new for this year for me), tomatoes and courgettes.  Therefore,  other than the aforementioned beans and some very healthy-looking (i.e. not yet ready to harvest) garlic, I think that it will be some more salad crops for the next month or two in this bed.  The sad thing is that the crop of beans was nothing to shout about – there were on average 3 beans per pod and about 4-8 pods per plant – hardly an abundance.  I have decided to give broad beans a miss next year.

As you can see from the photo of the bed at the bottom of the garden, my mizuna bolted in the warm May sun (as did the rocket), but I got several salads out of them before I pulled them up.  I am not sure if pulling the mizuna up was a cunning plan as it was growing quite well, but was getting leggy.  I have some more in pots amongst the tomatoes and courgettes, and some in modules waiting to replace them, so, for the first year ever I think I have had a modicum of success in the realm of salad leaves.  I know they are supposed to be easy to grow, but I always seem to kill them off – usually by forgetting to water them.

On the positive side the soft fruits are having a better year this year.  Due to some mis-timed pruning last year we had zero blackcurrants – a fact that James is eternally ashamed of.  However, he resisted the temptation to get the secateurs out this year and we were rewarded with about a pound of currants harvested a couple of weeks ago.  This is also the second year that we have had the gooseberry (var. Invicta) in the front garden and it is the second year that it appears to have avoided the attentions of sawfly.  It seems to enjoy the extra sun and warmth of the front of the house, the crop this year (again harvested a couple of weeks ago) was about 3lb – about three times larger than last year.  Not bad considering that when it was in the back garden we never got more than 6 berries!



Insects, insects, and some flowers

No nature notes for two weeks, it is not due to a lack of things to see, just a time issue.  Where to start – probably insects.  The weather has been pretty variable, some sun, rain, thunder, lightning, it was just hail and snow that were missing.  This seems to have had a different effect on insects.  I don’t know what is happening where you are, but I don’t think I have seen a single butterfly in the last two weeks.  I am not sure if it is just a natural hiatus, some are in caterpillar form, others are waiting for the correct plants, but it does seem odd.

What are about in abundance are damselflies.  A walk round a lake on a sunny day reveals them in numbers.  I managed to take some of my best pictures ever. This was taken along the path, and is my first bit of insect porn.  I love the colours of the damselflies against the green of the leaf.  I think that these are common blue damselflies, but they are apparently very similar to the azure and variable blue damselflies and I am just not good enough yet.  There were also lots of large red damselflies about.  Last week I also saw a lot of Blue Tailed damselflies which flew up whenever I brushed past some grass by the lake.

The sage is flowering now, and is bringing a lot of honey and bumble bees to the garden whilst the birds foot trefoil is attracting them to the back which is good because that is where my broad beans (the first time I have tried growing them) are flowering.

Wild flowers are still in abundance, although lots have gone to seed.  The grasses, for those not attacked by their pollen, are looking pretty in both the sun and the rain an around the lake there are a lot of flag iris about, looking bright amongst the green.

The garden is covered in birds every morning.  The finches, green, gold and bullfinches turn up every day, making a lot of noise and getting through a lot of sunflower hearts.  We also had the first baby great tits last weekend.  In recent years they have always appeared over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May.  This year they are a week late.  They usually turn up at the same time as the baby blue tits, both can be distinguished from their parents by the more squeaky noise they make and the fact that they look as though they have faded in the wash.  However, I haven’t seen any blue tits yet, even though the ones on Springwatch have fledged.