Friday, July 29, 2011

Here’s the news from central Perthshire:

Garden pests

Runner beans are not immune from rabbits, as courgettes and broad beans are, but they’re not a top favourite either. Two of the six in my tepee have suffered; the other four are doing rather well. The first flowers are open. (In southern England, the quantity of the runner bean harvest begins to get embarrassing, this time of year. I’m doing well to have a crop in September.)

Rabbits don’t even look at Good King Henry. I expected that.

When I did my day-trip on July 16, the Summer Pudding bush was laden with fruit. I was anxious that it might be a bit over-ripe when we got back. I needn’t have worried. By July 24 birds had got underneath the netting and stripped the bush clean. I was able to buy red currants from a local grower who doesn’t grow under plastic and we had our pudding, but it was a disappointment. The birds are at work on the white currants – in previous years, they have left those untouched.

Other results

The mange-tout peas are on stream, and rather tasty. They are one of the three vegetables I can actually grow. All the rest of this fine talk is piffle before the wind. (The other two vegetables are broad beans and potatoes. Fortunately we love all three.)

I am much afflicted – perhaps all vegetable-growers are – with things that come up and Then Just Sit There. This is a picture of a row of Swiss chard. It looks perfectly cheerful, but this represents three months’ growth and we’ve only got about six weeks to go. The same has happened, this year, with beetroot – I tried four different varieties; radishes; perpetual spinach.

Bought-in plants, on the other hand, have done surprisingly well. Maybe that’s the answer? Rachel's husband Ed, in south London, buys in a lot of plug plants. It would restrict one's choice of varieties, but that's a fair trade-off if it results in an actual crop. Here are Brussels sprouts and (in the background) cabbages of some sort. And a bought-in lettuce, in front. The surprising thing, apart from the fact that they are growing, is that there are no cabbage white caterpillars yet. Speaking of pests.

Here is my fruit hedge. The idea is a row of black currants, white currants, and gooseberries to the left – gooseberries, so far, a total failure – and a row of autumn raspberries to the right. I sprinkle wild flower seed in the gap in between. The raspberries, as you see, are ambitious to take over the world. They are not allowed to spread in any other direction, but I have let them overrun the wildflower section.

And here are my artichokes, surrounded by their Stout mulch. They are growing, although not much. All they have got to do this year is get big enough and strong enough to get through the winter.

As for knitting, I had a lovely time with the Japanese shirt while we were away, and back here, last night, I reached round 77 of the Mourning Shawl border.


  1. Alison (in Australia)8:18 AM

    Hi Jean,

    Lovely to have you back, and to hear about green gardens & growing (even if slowly) things. We had a hard frost of -8oC last night; I've seen some very early daffodils poking up, but spring seems a long way away. Your gardening is a great distraction!

  2. You'd think the long days would compensate for the late start, but our runner beans (in Edinburgh) are also yet to bear fruit, and we have only just started to eat this year's broad beans which are delicious, but tiny. Last week or the week before Monty Don (on gardeners world) was exhorting people to clear the 'first' wave of broad beans and peas as they go over! Ha. Anyway, glad to hear things are growing and not all being sacrificed to the rabbits/birds.

  3. If you can grow peas, beans and potatoes you have the beginnings of several feasts :) Spending so much time with my head in the 18thC I'm really aware how much at that time a few salad leaves, beans and peas were pretty much the vegetable staples.

    Good to have you back :)

  4. My father sends his sympathy with respect to both rabbits and plants which just sit there. Of course nothing much grows right now Downunder!

  5. Gardens are always a bit of a gamble, I think. I'm on my second go 'round with courgettes, which are notorious for producing to excess. We had such a wet May that the first planting never even sprouted. The second attempt did, but they're still ridiculously small for this point in the season.

  6. A friend and I were just talking about the mystery of plants that don't want to become adults. My theory is that if the weather is too cold they simply stop growing. It isn't cold enough to actually kill them, but they just can't seem to continue on.

    I think as gardeners we are never fully satisfied with our attempts at growing things. It sounds like you have had more successes than failures, and if it wasn't for the rabbits and the birds things would have been even better! I have had multiple failures this year and I don't have rabbits to contend with.

  7. Oh so it's not just me! I have had a year of seeds growing to about 2 inches and then Just Sitting There. This has never happened before. Usually they get eaten by birds or rodents before they get to 2 inches, or go to seed when I turn my back.
    Good to hear that rabbits don't like broad beans! I will sow some more in my endangered garden!