Garden


It’s now our second year with our little vegetable garden. The 10-12 square metres that we have to cultivate plus numerous pots seems to be the right amount for us to tend to during our busy week but there is an itch to rip up some of our lawn and grow more! What have we got this year so far? Five kinds of tomatoes, two kinds of hanging tomatoes (the Catalan tomacons), five bean varieties, broad beans, mangetout, three kinds of onions, leeks, three kinds of courgettes, two kinds of peppers, three lettuces, agretti, rocket, carrots, salsify, two kinds of chard, two cabbages, cavolo nero, kale, friarielli, mizuna, radicchio, sweetcorn, radishes. As you can see, I love variety! It means we get a little less a harvest from each type but that suits us just fine. And that’s in addition to our various herbs and our little fig tree in a pot.

Actually, seeing the list all typed out has me wondering how I managed to squash them all into our tiny garden.

Our mangetout and broadbeans have already come and gone but we got a good harvest from both from a very small space.

Today's harvest was, I think, our first proper one from this year's garden!

The plants have already been pulled up and have been replaced with purple climbing beans and dwarf borlotti beans, respectively.

A first for me this year are proper lettuces, not the cut and come again baby lettuce leaves that I find so limp. Give me a crunchy heading lettuce anytime! We’ve had lots of salads for a few weeks now, made from various mixes of Little Gem, Lollo Rosso, Tom Thumb, and wild rocket.

I'm loving our homegrown salads. Today we've got a mixture of little gem, lollo rosso, and rocket.

And there are additions to the salads in the form of sliced radishes or (our favourite while it lasted) sauteed mangetout.

A salad from our garden! I pulled a few small lettuces that were too close together - Tom Thumb and Lolla Rossa - and there were a few leaves of spinach too. And sautéed mangetout.

I should have been a little more disciplined with successional sowing to extend my harvest time but I did use up every spare space for radishes here and there!

I will soon be harvesting more of these sweet Walla Walla onions too. These onions are from the town of Walla Walla in Washington State and I remember hearing lots about them when I lived in Vancouver. They’re advertised as being so mild and sweet that you can eat them like an apple. I’m unlikely to ever go with that approach but we pulled up a small onion to slice into a salad and it is indeed oniony but without the horrific burn raw regular onions can have. I like them!

I'm very excited about my onions! These are the famous Walla Walla sweet onions, from Walla Walla in Washington state, grown from seed that was brought to me from Vancouver. I can't wait to try them - they're bulbing nicely so far.

Anyway, scenes from our garden in July:

The current state of one corner of our vegetable garden. I love the height and structure of the seeding spring onions (last year's).

Our back garden, mid-July 2016.

Our back garden, mid-July 2016.

There’s still a lot to wait for. I can see the beginnings of fruits and flowers on my tomatoes, peppers and courgettes.

Our back garden, mid-July 2016.

The beans are starting to produce.

Our first green beans!

The sweetcorn still has a lot of growing to do and I’m not sure the weather earlier this year has done it any favours. Of all the salsify I sowed, only three plants came out; oh well, it’ll be our first taste of the root! And despite being promised that it grows like a week, our pots of agretti aren’t doing very well, look a little stunted and have been attacked by aphids.

One thing I did add a lot of this year is flowers. I scattered seed here and there back in April and now we have been rewarded with violas, nasturtiums, cornflowers, marigolds, and cosmos (the last are yet to flower). Some calendula and my mystery tall flowers have also self seeded from last year. With the recent hot weather this month, they’re bringing the bees to the yard but unfortunately I’ve been seeing fewer bees than last year. Again perhaps the weather?

I’m quite chuffed with it all again overall. Things started off a little slow with the bad weather we’ve been having but eventually things got a little warmer and a little sunnier and the plants all took off. All of it has been planted from seeds and I’ll be going nuts buying even more varieties of seeds this year (for next year) too. Are you growing your own vegetables this year?

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Happy new year! This is an end-of-year update from our vegetable garden! Since my introduction to our vegetable garden, we’ve had quite a good summer and autumn of harvests. Of course, things are relatively dormant now but with the current mild winter we still have some chard going strong as well as a few carrots still in the ground. The cavolo nero still looks good and the rocket keeps putting up new leaves. The broad beans I’ve planted for overwintering are already almost 30cm tall!

Let’s see what’s been harvested! Chard. Lots of it and of the rainbow sort so that still tickles me.

I ran out in the rain to gather my first harvest of rainbow chard for brunch

Cherry tomatoes. A million.

I'm still in shock at how many cherry tomatoes can be produced from two plants.

Carrots. I planted way too many but they’re good to have around.

Pulled out these carrots this morning...

Cucamelons. I also planted way too many of these.

First harvest: 1 cucamelon. Second: 2. Today: 4. I see where this is going.

Near daily harvests.

This morning's harvest. The courgettes are winding down but everything else is going strong!

Even friends come over and help you harvest!

Hold a barbecue and your friends will do the harvesting for you!

Cavolo nero! Well, my plants are a little on the small side but they taste good.

Cavolo nero from the garden!

Then of course there was all the cooking with the vegetables. Most of it went into every day cooking and eating. There was a brief stint of bringing couscous-based salads to work.

Alright, let's see how long this packing lunch for work thing lasts. Probably until the veggies stop.

There were vegetables aplenty for having on the side with everything.

Steak and homegrown vegetables. This was our first proper green/runner bean harvest!

Most of the time the vegetables became the focus of our dinner. We made lots of truites (Catalan for tortillas) and soups.

Our garden has fed us and continues to feed us well. Swiss chard truita (omelette) with courgette soup.

Courgette carbonara.

The courgettes keep giving! They are monster plants now. Courgette carbonara tonight.

More vegetables, this time served with eggs.

Sautéed courgettes, fresh tomatoes, and sobrassada eggs for brunch! 🍳🍞🍅

This was one of our favourite meals which we called pasta de l’hort (garden pasta). This was hot pasta tossed with a chopped salad with many things from the garden: tomatoes, rocket, cucamelons, etc. Oh, and we’d toss in an avocado too and maybe some cheese.

Pasta de l'hort / garden pasta

Baby courgettes are good in instant noodles.

My favourite vegetables in our garden are those that pass the 'can I throw them into my instant noodles' test.

Some of those endless carrots were turned into a salad.

... And turned most of the carrots into this salad.

I’ve now learned to freeze some of the vegetables but lots were cooked as soon as we harvested them. Lots of things were cooked into various dishes here that we had with rice: runner beans with miso butter, egg and tomato, courgettes with Lao Gan Ma sauce, and purple bean omelette.

We used up the vegetables (and random stuff in the fridge) at dinnertime. Clockwise from top left: runner beans with miso butter, egg and tomato, courgettes with Lao Gan Ma sauce, purple bean omelette. All served with rice.

I’ve learned a few things along the way. When we returned from our summer holiday, we found our purple beans had fallen over – the supports we had used for them had got soaked in the rain and then the winds blew them over. The runner beans succumbed to the same a month later – lesson learned, never use these supports again! And then our tomatoes were struck down by blight – argh, what a terrible stupid disease! We had to pick lots for them to ripen indoors but some of the larger ones were turned into fried green tomatoes. They’ve all been eaten now except for a few Catalan hanging tomatoes that can keep all winter – I’ve been meaning to write about them in a separate post.

This is our tomato ripening station - and it's working!

Uh oh. Our green tomatoes are looking a touch blight-y. 😩

Our sunflowers were brilliant. We grew three and one flower head fell off after a fat bird or squirrel got to it. The other flowers survived though their seeds were attacked by pigeons, squirrels, parakeets, etc. We just managed to save most of the two remaining heads, enough to toast and snack on. They were fabulous!

Tonight's in-front-of-the-telly activity

Anyway, it’s time to start planning for next year. Things I’ll change? Perhaps not so many cucamelon plants. More green beans – I love them. Maybe I’ll try corn and maybe melons. The broad beans are already new.

One thing that’s been driving me stir-crazy all year are the stupid cats that come along and dig up my poor seedlings – it’s very difficult to raise any winter lettuces and cabbages if the young plants keep getting buried! Does anyone have any tips for detracting cats please? Should I just get garden hoops and cover everything with fleece/netting? Is there a cat repellent spray you can recommend?

My garden! I never thought that I’d have my very own garden! Of course, it’s Blai’s too but he’ll be the first to admit that I’m the crazy one who insisted on growing almost all our vegetable plants from seed (our living room is south facing with lots of light and I’ve been treating it like a greenhouse). It’s a modest little patch (about 10 square metres plus a number of pots – the rest of the garden is lawn and herb/flower bedding) but so far I’m quite pleased with what I’ve managed to harvest from it, even this early in the season.

The tally so far in our garden is: 9 tomato plants, 2 courgette plants, 8 cucamelon plants, a small patch of carrots, 3 purple bean vines, 3 runner bean vines, a tiny patch of wild rocket, a small patch of cime di rapa, countless radishes dotted everywhere, a few spring onions looking like string, 2 little cavolo nero plants, 5 rainbow chard plants, 1 pot of pea shoots, 2 pots of cut and come again lettuces, 1 pot of strawberries, and 1 small potted fig tree. As you might be able to tell, I’ve aimed for variety and experimentation with yields in this first year and we’re not in any way looking to be self sustained from this little plot.

We’ve had a few great salads, radishes with butter, cime di rapa pasta, and quite a few strawberries. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

And the courgette flower this morning!

Our first itty bitty (unfertilised, I think, as there were no male flowers alongside) courgette and we ate it!

Yesterday's bowl of homegrown salad leaves!

Our first cima di rapa harvest!

And our little patch of wild rocket always seems to look full, even after picking lots for salads

Pre-breakfast radishes in the garden

🍓🍓🍓

Of course, not everything has gone to plan. My aubergine seeds didn’t germinate earlier this year and now I suspect that some of my tomatoes in pots are damaged by possible herbicide in the compost I purchased. But what really surprised me was how much I’m enjoying gardening and how happy the garden is making me. And the bees! I love seeing the bees do their thing with the flowers. I do know, of course, how lucky we are to have some green space (we have had no green space whatsoever prior to this), especially in London…

I should say that I really had nearly no experience whatsoever before embarking on this wild and crazy sowing scheme! Books that have been helpful include The New Vegetable and Herb Expert, the same in the series for fruit, and Alys Fowler’s The Edible Garden. The last book has an accompanying television series that’s watchable on YouTube. Useful websites and blogs are You Grow Girl (I’ve been reading this one for years!), Mark’s Veg Plot, Grow Your Own, the gardening section of the Guardian, and the Royal Horticultural Society.

If you have any tips/suggestions on what I ought to grow, do let me know!