I promised myself a while ago that I wouldn’t post about gardening and growing mostly because of my street cred. But of course as I no longer have any street cred, in fact I have bailiffs knocking the door for the repayments on the street cred I borrowed from a loan shark in 2006 and still haven’t paid off despite using all of the street cred within 6 months with an APR of 1,458%.
About ten years ago or so when I first caught the gardening bug the spring and summer months seemed to go on for ever in the same way that the school summer holidays seemed to flow out in front of me like a never ending weekend back when I had nice white teeth and nothing better to do than fuck about on a Commodore Amiga and watch Vids at 2.30am on channel 4 (remember Vids? It was cool as fuck! My favourite was that loud shouty welsh guy… anyway.)
These days the months flash past, I mean its July for god sake. We’ve already had the longest day of the year, its getting darker out there every day folks and it feels like I’ve barely started out there and I’m assuming this year that I won’t get everything done as I’d hoped and planned back when the long cold evenings of January gave me time to just sit and plan the year ahead as far as the growing season went (yes I do that too, and I know owe more street cred to that loan shark, dammit!)
The strawberry bed that I so carefully and lovingly constructed about 5 years ago has now become the wild wild west of strawberry beds. The neatly constructed, well spaced plants have seen season after season and vine after vine produced that now the strawberries themselves compete with themselves for space and only the strong plants survive, the surrounding area including the lawn has not been spared this half decade slow invasion across one corner of my garden and I think it may be time once the current fruiting season is finally over to start digging up the plants, extending the bed and starting again but I can’t fault the crop. I wish I was less lazy (and less busy, yes I’m moaning about writing a book again!) and I’d make three ton of jam or freeze them or do something. Weirdly I’ve tried my damnedest give them away but can’t seem to shift them fast enough, it’s sad but I do throw away a lot of strawberries. Maybe I should punnet them up and get down the car boot sale ay?
The other ever present is the rhubarb which again grows for fun, you can’t really kill them I don’t think. I just cut it all back at the end of the year and bury it in compost and the next year there it appears again bigger and better than ever. Very tasty indeed but again a cropping plant that produces much more than I could ever entertain eating, but its better to have your cup runneth over I suppose.
The tomatoes were very slow starters for me this year, it took them weeks and weeks to germinate and so they are not as well established as they usually are for this time of the year, a couple of tiny tomatoes appearing but nothing much. I’m very disappointed as they are the first cropping fruit that I ever grew. I grow them in a weird way in memory of my dad who died in 2002. He loved gardening, and would be amazed to see me making any effort gardening, but the only edible he grew was tomatoes. He bloody loved them! I’ve 6 plants growing 3 tomato and 3 cherry tomato. Fingers crossed they all come at once but again at the end of the year laziness will see me throwing away buckets of green once rather than making chutney. When I’m retired I will, if I don’t die trying to earn a pension which is what is more likely these days.
The peppers are looking good, they too, like the tomatoes, took their time in appearing and so are not as big as I’d like but the last few weeks of sunshine with some over enthusiastic watering, have grown and bushed and are showing already a good crop is upon me there. They have dozens of fruit buds and I’ve got 6 plants so I’m hoping for many a nice pepper stuffed with cottage cheese on my salads come August and September.
The two cucumber plants I have managed to grow are a miracle. I planted about a dozen seeds and none of them appeared and I actually retrieved all of the seeds from the pots and then replanted them after drying them out and somehow 2 grew. They are vining like triffids and 1 of them has a nice large (if nobbly) cucumber appearing. I can’t remember the variety so I dunno if they will be small and abundant or large and few but either way I’m looking forward to chucking those, sliced naturally, on the plate with the stuffed peppers.
Spuds, my favourite thing to grow just because they are 100% carbohydrate so it’s like making your own chips! And you can do a hundred things with them. They really do fill you up and the ones I’ve put in this year are going really well. I got 10 seeds from Aldi for a quid and put them in pairs into 5 large tubs and they are going great. When digging over my compost in March I found a Rooster spud from last year too that had survived a mild winter in a compost bin almost perfectly intact and it had started to sprout so I made room for that in an old Belfast sink that has been left upside down and largely empty and unused in my garden since I first started daring to go out there and try any of this stuff. That rooster plant now stands at 3 feet tall as I type this and is flowering. I dunno if it’ll produce anything as I’ve never grown my own spuds from a previous year, in fact I wasn’t sure you could. I always understood that seed potatos were produced at great altitude to avoid diseases and give them the best chance, maybe I was wrong. But I’ll be digging that plant up in the next week or two and see what I’ve got. I might cut the plant down in the next couple of days and let any potential spuds harden off in the soil as this keeps the skins on when you boil them. If they taste nice I might keep one back (hidden beneath soil as its father spud) and grow them again next year.
I’ve grown peas this year for the very first time, and considering how easy and common a plant they are for gardeners I’m surprised I’ve never done it before. I’ve already had many pods off and shelled the goodness from within and they have been the most fantastic peas I’ve ever tasted. I still have plenty left to harvest but they are being attacked very badly from slugs and moths and are struggling to cope. I may be cropping the lot in the next week too and take the plants out and composting them. I dunno what I’ve learned from my first year other than moths and slugs like to eat them, I need to find a better position to grow them in to avoid such attacks or find other plants I can grow nearby to draw the attentions of such pests. To be continued in 2015.
The dwarf French beans are doing terrible. I dunno why. The plants look healthy and very green but they aren’t showing any signs of beans yet. I’m not very hopeful but one good handful of beans to stick on a plate alongside some carrots, peas and spuds for one lunch in late September will do for me.
And of course as I just mentioned, I have carrots growing too. I’ve had reasonable success with this crop every time I’ve tried to grow them. This year I have sieved the soil to an unbelievably friable condition before growing them. I was considering adding a lot of sand but had none to hand when I put the seeds in and so just used heavily powdered soil. So far so good they are growing very well and I expect at least one (maybe two) monster carrots. But ultimately if I can get a fair few normal sized ones I’ll be happy. Cooked or grated up on a salad they are great. Organic carrots are an absolute treasure and again are so easily grown with a little care and thought. Hopefully the height I’ve planted them at will foil the low flying carrot fly but I guess we’ll see.
Last years yellow onion bulbs which never appeared and survived my clear up of the garden in November have this year grown. I was hoping they’d bulb up nice and fat having weathered the winter but instead they are all going to seed. So I’ll just collect the seeds. I am a big saver of seeds and I will be saving anything that I can be it edible or just flowering but I have no idea what to do with the little black seeds that you get from onions. I had an onion flower a few years ago and I saved the seeds and planted them and had no joy at all. If anyone can share any advice about that I’d be more than happy to listen.
I’ve managed to nurture a poppy plant to nearly 4 feet tall, it produced five flower heads, two have flowered one after the other. Its like they are taking it in turns to appear. The 2 flowers have now become those seed pot pepper pot heads that again I’ll be saving as seeds but I’ve had no luck with propagating wild flower seeds. It appears to me that nature is the best propagator for some things and poppies are certainly one of them.
Anyway, I’ve gone on longer than I had anticipated but it’s been nice sharing this one gardening post of 2014 with you. I’ve enjoyed it so much though I cannot rule out others.