A promising start

I love this time of year. Increasing temperatures and light levels mean everything is shooting up, and finally the kitchen garden is really springing in to life again.

The kitchen garden in early May

I am still not entirely sure how the L-shaped bed in the foreground came to be proudly sprouting Jerusalem Artichokes (Fuseau) and First Early Potatoes (Cherie). Well, OK, that’s a lie, I know exactly how, I fell for yet another mouth-watering description of an edible (Mark Diacono writing in the Guardian about how tasty French potatoes are in this case). Yes, I had decided not to grow potatoes in this kitchen garden. Its too small, there are too many other things I want to grow in it, I had lots of good reasons. But the article hooked me and before I knew it there I was, wondering what to add to my basket in the Otter Farm shop to make the delivery charge worth it. So of course I chose Jerusalem Artichokes, which I love, but which don’t love me. Well, they have very pretty flowers, and perhaps if I only eat a few at a time…

chives and sorrel

I love to try new things, and this year I have added both buckler leaf and red sorrel to this bed, which is also home to the chives, an Eqyptian Walking Onion (Otter Farm again, drat them), parsley, coriander, red mizuna and some mustard. Once the potatoes have been harvested I will grow dwarf French beans and more salads. I think this bed could look quite pretty, assuming the slugs stay away. I have already been nibbling sorrel leaves, and really like them, so that is a win.

over enthusiastic alpine strawberries crowing out a veg bed

The next bed over has fallen victim to one of my spontaneous Good Ideas. You know, the ones that suddenly hit you when you are slowly spinning on the spot, wondering what on earth to do with some plants that are in desperate need of a proper home. I had originally planned to edge the raspberry bed with the alpine strawberries I grew from seed last year. I quickly realised they would get swamped, so I edged one of the veg beds with them. They love it. But they are beginning to crowd out the lettuce and beetroot that are also flourishing in the bed. So of course it is at this point that I remember that I had decided to plant them around the fruit in the Park border. Which makes perfect sense, since the whole point of that border was to mix up edibles and ornamentals, and edible ornamentals. I really must get on and move them before I plant up the Park border with other things…

Veg bed full of self seeded plants and shrubs needing a home

The last bed in the row also fell victim to one of these good ideas I keep having. Because of course we would have the fence in the front garden finished and the ground along it cleared, long before I needed to use this bed for edibles, so of course it made sense to “store” the myrtle plants that I was going to use as a hedge along the new fence here. No problem. Humph. Now I have to dig up the myrtle plants and put them in pots, which I will then have to keep watering. And I will need to thin out or possibly remove the self seeded phacelia, because otherwise the sweetcorn happily growing away in the greenhouse will have nowhere to go. Neither will the courgettes. Strike two.

sweet pea bed

I planted the sweet peas out too early, they stalled, but are just starting to kick in to high gear, so I’d best get on with wrapping string around the canes and tying them in. Otherwise this bed is rather promising. The first sowing of “Stereo” broad beans are flowering away. I am quite excited by these, I am trying them on Sara’s recommendation, as she says they are prolific and don’t need support. I am already entranced, because the flowers are pure white:

broad bean stereo flowers

Beautiful. In fact I seem to have accidentally colour-themed this bed, because the early sowing of the dwarf pea “Oskar” is flowering away, and it too has pure white flowers. It has also started to produce pods, and yes, I admit it, some just might have been nibbled as mangetout. Patience isn’t always possible…

This bed also plays host to the remaining Purple Sprouting Broccoli. I lost most of it last year, either to the wretched cabbage whites or later to the slugs, but three plants survived and have been delighting us with delicious spears for weeks. I have no idea what kind they are, two different types at least, the labels long since got re-distributed by the blackbirds. One kind is about to be more flower than spear, but the other is still going strong. I may have to break another promise to myself and try again this year…

new support system

The final bed is home to my latest experiment in plant supports. It seems my habit of dreaming up new ways to cram more plants in and yet offer them something to cling to did not turn up its toes and die when I moved away from the allotment. The wooden frames are covered in chicken wire and securely screwed to supporting struts which are in turn screwed into the raised beds. The theory is that we will have supporting struts in place on all four of the rectangular beds, and will then be able to move large and small frames around as necessary. So far so good, they certainly stood up to the strong winds of the past few days, and the tall one is currently playing host to my first sowing of the yellow mange tout “Golden Sweet”. The shorter frame will soon have peas and beans planted against it, once the parsley has flowered and been turned into pesto. The second sowing of broad beans is growing away well too, so fingers crossed, lots to look forward to. provided I manage to deal with the aphid infestation currently taking over the greenhouse.

aphid attack

The garlic spray is stewing as I type. Now all I have to do is work out where on earth I am going to plant the oka… Are you growing anything new this year? Please comfort me by telling me that I am not alone in having “good ideas”.

In the mean time I am trying out yet another gallery plugin, still searching for one that works well on both desktops and tablets. Click on any image to see the big version. What do you think?

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45 comments on “A promising start

  1. Admiring your vegetable beds Janet, they all look so neat and tidy, ornamental even with their neat arrangements! Nevermind the little glitches, all part of the fun! Hopefully the garlic spray will do its magic to keep the aphids at bay.

    The gallery looks good btw and a good idea!
    Mark and Gaz recently posted From Australia With Love

    • Hi guys, thank you, I rather like it all at the moment, and it wouldn’t be me if there weren’t a few me-made glitches!! Glad you like the gallery, if I can get it working on a flicker feed too then I’m sold.

  2. I am having the same problem as you Janet – trying to find space to fit everything in and like you I keep having little brainwaves. It’s amazing how quickly your beds have come on since you last showed them – looks like it’s going to be a good edibles year.
    elaine recently posted a day in the life of a garden

    • Hello Elaine, I think its inevitable, wanting to grow more than there is room for. I wonder if the same happens to those with enormous walled kitchen gardens? I’m pleased with how the beds work, and not having the kitchen in the middle of being rebuilt doesn’t hurt!

  3. That certainly is a promising start! Just looking at your health veggies makes me hungry! Will you be canning a lot of food this year? Long ago, when I had a large vegetable garden, I did a lot of freezing. Now I only grow a few because of my shady lot (and get a share with a cooperative for more fresh veggies. Nothing tastes better than fresh-picked vegetables! (Well, maybe chocolate cake. ;-)
    PlantPostings recently posted Plant of the month: Claytonia virginica

    • Canning isn’t very common in the UK, I might have enough beans to freeze, though I’d like to try pickling some too. Most of it will just get eaten! Its not a huge area, but I do love being able to grow, pick and eat so conveniently.

  4. It looks really great, Janet. I wish our garden was big enough ti have the vegetables and fruit in the garden and not an allotment. Do the white broad bean flowers have a perfume? I would have thought the lack of markings would make them less attractive to bees.
    Sue@GLAllotments recently posted Feathery Friends and Slimy Foes?

    • Thank you Sue, that means a lot coming from you. I do love the convenience of growing in the back garden, but unless you had a very big garden I think you would be frustrated at how little you could grow compared to in your allotment? I have a terrible sense of smell so I have no idea if “stereo” is fragrant, they are beautiful though, and if they are prolific then I am happy. If not, I will be having words with Sara…

  5. It’s certainly all looking good, and I guess that you’re well pleased with it.
    I’ve seen a mention of ‘Stereo’ broad beans in the past day or so where the comment was about the all white flowers, it’ll be interesting to see what the beans are like.
    I like the photo gallery. Flighty xx
    Flighty recently posted Tree following – May 2014

    • I am, Flighty, I’m really enjoying it at the moment. I too am intrigued to see what kind of pods “stereo” produces, not to mention how many and how tasty the beans are. I am also planting some witkiem later, so hopefully I will be able to compare the two. Do you sow any in autumn for over wintering?

        • That’s what I’ve always thought, particularly when the plants can get so ravaged by winter storms and early pests, but I wondered if I was just being defeatist.

    • Thank you Pat, the nice thing is that the raised beds are very little work, I just have to top them up and dig out the dandelions that try to invade. Famous last words…

  6. Isn’t all this new growth amazing? Hopefully it will all be super-productive in due course. We have alpine strawberries which came from nowhere and pop up here and there too, suggesting they could become invasive in time so not necessarily a good thing. Shame about your greenfly – is it just in your greenhouse? I have noted them on roses here but have no garlic – any other homespun suggestions other than brushing off with thumb and fingers?!
    Cathy recently posted As Good as a Rest

    • Isn’t it just, I swear things grow perceptibly in the course of a single day. Can’t believe I am already picking peas. No garlic?! The woman who introduced me to the joys of growing things from seed used to use eco washing up liquid diluted and sprayed it, she certainly thought it worked. Not as good as ladybirds though, I need to move a marigold into the entrance of the greenhouse to see if it lures any aphid loving predators in. Haven’t spotted them on the roses yet, just blackspot. Am yet to be convinced I am a rose growing type of gardener. Though I do love rugosa and have happily planted a white one. Good luck!

        • Hi Caro, I think I left a comment about fennel, thanks for the suggestion, I am planting one in the new herb bed which is right outside the greenhouse, so hopefully that will help! I’ve seen loads of ladybirds in the front garden, not nearly as many out the back. No idea why.

  7. You seem so well-organized Janet – I do envy you those raised beds and the supports look nice and strong too. Your veg photos are great – by the way, the gallery is nice and big – tested on the normal computer and the iPad too. :D The wild strawberries are quite invasive but don’t they taste good! I let them spread all through the rockery as ground cover.
    Cathy recently posted Beyond the Garden Gate in May

    • Hi Cathy, a tad more organised than last year, that’s for sure! Last year was pretty chaotic and I completely failed to grow any French or runner beans. Thank you for checking out the gallery, good to know it is iPad friendly! The strawberries are an alpine variety that don’t put out runners, so I’m hoping they won’t spread beyond growing into surprisingly big plants, really must try transplanting at least some, I’ve just down more salads…

    • That is so true Christina, not least because there are always interesting new things to try. I did smile, reading about your peas and beans nearly being over, when here I am, excited by broad bean flowers and the first pea pods. Really brings home the difference in our two climates. It was the total failure of last year’s twiggy supports that prompted me to come up with the chicken wire frames, so far I am really pleased with them, though the real test will be the first gale when they are heavily laden with beans and peas.

  8. Oh this did make me chuckle. We too have fallen victim to the charms of Mr Diacono. We saw one of his cocktail making talks at Hampton Court and came away with several plants I didn’t have the space for. ;) I will be posting this week about my extra seed sowing and greenhouse rejigging to accommodate my plans. And I frequently stand at the allotment, plants in hands without the faintest idea where they are going to go whilst Wellyman looks on with raised eyebrows. You’d think he’d be used to it by now. Loving the kitchen garden – it looks fab and those chicken wire screens are such a great idea. I may have to pinch it. :)
    wellywoman recently posted Scone Scoffing

    • Oh good, not just me then! And yes, that’s it exactly, standing there, looking from plants to full beds and back again, wondering what the plan was. Except that the plan rarely seems to last past the first month of the new season. Look forward to seeing chicken wire screens feature on your blog, I’m sure you will come up with good improvements.

  9. I’m glad that’s it not just me who is wondering where her sweetcorn and courgettes will go Janet :) The flowers of ‘Stereo’ look so attractive and anything that does not require staking gets even more brownie points from me. Will be interested in your verdict on taste likewise with the ‘Oskar’ pea. I was seduced by those French potatoes too so we will have to compare notes on ‘Cherie’. I was nearly tempted by ‘Indigo Rose’ too but resisted – did not realise that the foliage would be suffused with colour too. The gallery worked fine on my Mac. Will try it out on iPad later
    Anna recently posted Drip

    • It is imeasureably comforting to know that a seasoned allotment holder like yourself has the same problem Anna, thank you! Will be glad to share notes at the end of the season, we definitely preferred witkiem to super aquadulce last year, so stereo need to be good as well as pretty. Sounds as if the gallery is a winner, excellent.

  10. It’s looking fabulous Janet. Your hard work is really paying off.

    Your Gallery looks fine on my laptop, though I’m itching to add 2 more photos to even up your last line. I expect that aspect will look quite different on other devices though, I’ll check out my tablet later.
    VP recently posted Evolution Plants Open Day

    • Thanks VP, sorry about the ragged last row, irritating isn’t it. I’m looking forward to trying it with different sizes of photos too, could be good.

  11. But Janet, your good ideas are good ideas ! Sometimes you just have to kiss a lot of frogs … Some of the most creative things come out of those spur of the moment decisions ! Everything is looking lush and healthy and gorgeous and I wish I had flowering peas, because that would mean I was getting closer to eating peas fresh from the pod, warmed by the sun ! Enjoy…
    Jane Scorer recently posted Tree following – a tale with a tragic ending ?

    • Hello Jane, thank you! Though I’m not sure about all that frog kissing… The early peas are a revelation, I will definitely be growing them again, although I have yet to allow any to mature fully. I really must, we have a large family gathering soon, the kids will love picking and eating fresh peas. Must save the peas for the kids, must save…

  12. You have done an excellent job with your raised beds. Everything looks so healthy. I think you have some very good ideas! I planted sorrel, I think it was the common variety, in my little square foot garden plot a few years ago. It grew vigorously, and in fact is still growing vigorously in an out of the way area of the yard where I transplanted it, since I no longer have the square foot garden plot. I always intended to make a French sorrel soup, but have yet to do so. I hear it is delcious.
    Dorothy recently posted GoodBye April/Hello May

    • Thank you Dorothy, I am really happy with how they have turned out. French Sorrel Soup sounds interesting, I may have to look that up, the sorrel is slow getting off the mark but I fully expect to be reducing it by mid summer, you can have too much of a good thing.

  13. Janet your veg beds look very lush and productive, I like the supports idea, I hope the aphids are now under control, I am prone to ‘good’ ideas which turn out as bad ideas so I am trying to learn to ‘sleep on it’ before actually doing the idea, Frances
    Island Threads recently posted tree following, alnus incana ~ May

    • Hello Frances, I am happy to say that the spray seems to have worked its usual magic, and all seems well in the greenhouses now. I agree with you about sleeping on things, generally a very good idea, but for some reason I don’t seem to be able to follow this when it comes to the veg garden. Which is curious. I’m glad I have worked out where I can move the strawberries to though!

  14. Wow everything is really growing…my peas are just finally getting going but no beans, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers or okra as it is going to cool off again and I will have to wait 2-3 weeks until after surgery. I have potatoes started in bags and they seem to be doing well….I love seeing all that you are growing.

    And soon I will be putting in arches to plant squashes and melons…
    Donna@GardensEyeView recently posted Many May Flowers

    • Hi Donna, I hope things have started really growing away for you now, it is always amazing how, after weeks of apparent inertia, everything suddenly takes off. I really must remember how much the night time temperature drops even when the days are warm in early/mid spring, I think I could do with making better use of fleece. I need to earth up my potatoes, I’m excited about eating home grown this year, and glad I decided to cram some in.

  15. Your back garden is looking truly lush, Janet. It’s making me long for ready access to water for my garden. I actually enjoy the rain because the garden never gets watered otherwise! All my lettuces and salad leaves are bolting but luckily I have the next round languishing on my balcony. I can relate to your phaecelia dilemma as I left the smallest of last year’s white onions in the ground and they now all have scapes about to bloom which I’m leaving for the bees. However, I kind of need the bed for my other plants …. oh dear, what to do?
    Love the gallery – did you create it or are you using branded software? I used to like using my Flickr feed for photos but now one picture links to a slideshow of everything I ever put there! Have got to find the time to reorganise my entire Flickr account in order to use it for my blog now – tedious!!
    Caro recently posted Tree Following: Plums, aphids and nature lending a hand

    • Hi Caro, watering must be a bit of a nightmare for you, I am so lucky having all the veg beds right outside my back door, with the added advantage of a couple of waterbutts close by. I had to clear some flowering pak choi the other day to allow us to build a new path, it made me really sad as the bees had been loving it.

      The gallery is one I paid for from CodeCanyon, I can send you the link if you like, I was test-driving it for a client, but it is so good I am going to use it myself. it is mobile-friendly, so when I manage to grab enough time to build myself a new theme for the blog I will be able to make it mobile-friendly too. Sorry about your flickr woes, I must admit I am appalling at tagging, and rely on creating endless albums to organise things, which doesn’t actually work nearly as well, but is much faster…

  16. Wow, your kitchen garden is looking prolific already. I love that you are utilising every square centimetre – at least once :). I have a pack of sorrel seeds that I must sow, as I’d love to add its lemony freshness to the other leaves we have coming up.
    hillwards recently posted Spring Bonnets

    • Hi Sara, I only hope I can keep on top of my succession planning this year, and thank goodness I have loads of manure left, the beds will need a boost I am asking so much of them all this year! I have already loved picking the occasional sorrel leaf for a sandwich, I’d never eaten it before, another thing I love about growing my own, eating new things without having to shop at Waitrose and take out a mortgage!

  17. Your garden looks incredible! I didn’t realize you were growing so many veggies! I love your layout. It will make maintaining the beds easier than having to climb over loads of plants and worry about crushing something.
    Casa Mariposa recently posted The End of the Affair

    • Thank you! Sorry, this is probably a little strange, finally getting a response from me after all this time! The beds work really well, so easy to look after, it makes a huge difference. Plus I find I can cram things in close together which means I don’t think I even miss out very much in terms of how much I can grow in the space available.

  18. Hi Janet; I just re-discovered your blog while searching for advice on “Stereo” Broad Beans. Your garden looks fantastic! I love the support frame things.
    Have you harvested any of the Stereo beans yet? Mine look as if they are ready, but the pods are very small. I think this is how they are supposed to be, but I’m seeking re-assurance. I don’t want to harvest too soon if they are likely to keep getting bigger. Mine are about 10cm long.
    Mark Willis recently posted Bragging Rights – Lettuces

    • Hi Mark, sorry, I completely missed your comment, lovely to hear from you again! We are loving ‘Stero’, the pods are shorter than ‘Witikiem’ or ‘Super Aquadulce’, but the they are crammed with beans, and the taste is exceptional. I tend to harvest them small anyway as I like them super sweet and barely cooked. I won’t be bothering with any other kinds next year, ‘Stereo’ is so pretty, robust and tasty.

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