Sunday, June 08, 2008

I am full of joy and hope on the political front, and knitting is going well too, but today’s blog is about vegetable-growing.

The ratio of Good News to Disappointment has never been so high at this stage. There is disappointment: something didn’t come up, there are gaps in another row, something came up all right and is now standing there with its hands in its pockets, whistling, instead of moving forward.

But in general, things are looking good. And the rabbits haven’t got into the enclosure (yet) – it was just about this time last year that Peter and his cousin Benjamin tunnelled in and made off with the ’07 pea crop.

Three of the four courgettes I hand-reared in Edinburgh are going great guns. (The fourth has disappeared entirely.) I even think I can detect flower buds forming. The seeds planted in the open ground in mid-May have come up, and are working on their first true leaves. Maybe I’ll have a glut this year, like a real grown-up vegetable gardener! The Fishwife has given me Elaine Borish’s book “What Will I Do with All Those Courgettes?” I took it down from the shelf for some happy moments of anticipation.

My courgettes are called “Striato di Napoli” and will accordingly be striped. They should show up well in the Collection of Four Vegetables I hope to enter in the Games.

And look at the orach!

The packet said to sow thickly as germination was uncertain. I took that as a polite way of warning me that it wouldn’t come up. I don’t expect much in the way of taste – I found a book that says it was much eaten in the Olden Days, but as soon as proper spinach was introduced, everybody switched to that. It’s a big plant: it’ll need more thinning soon. It, too, should show up well in the Collection of Four Vegetables. My brother-in-law has persuaded me that the judges like colour contrasts.

And sorrel! I put in three plants at the end of April, as you remember. They flourish, but they’re delicious – I need more. So I planted some seed, expecting failure because sorrel is perennial and perennial seeds tend not to come up for me. But they have: I’ve got two little rows of sorrel.

Here are the herbs:

And the climbing beans, interspersed with nasturtiums, a salad ingredient and a useful source of mock-capers in their seeds. Last year I couldn't even grow nasturtiums.

Here’s a general view.

There are three possibilities – apart from the absence of rabbits – why things might be going so comparatively well:

1) I tested the soil last autumn and decided we needed lime, so I applied some.

2) Slugs are a mostly unseen and terrible enemy. My notes from previous years are full of references to salad things that never appeared at all. This year, I went at the slugs with nematodes. They are microscopic somethings-or-other which one buys – and they’re rather expensive – in the form of a beige powder to be mixed with water and watered in. The nematodes then burrow into the soil (it is said) and attack the slugs. Sounds awful, but it’s regarded as organic. I did that in mid-May.

3) Maybe we’re just having a good year – so far.


  1. The garden looks lovely. Who would imagine that the nematodes are doing such deadly business under the ground?
    Do you like lovage? I don't see any in the herb garden.

  2. Everything looks great! Tidier than my patch anyway. But it's definately a good year and everything is growing really well for the season.

  3. I'm excited for your gardening success. I know you'll enjoy the results on subsequent visits.


  4. After a late order delivery and forgetting the seeds I had bought as replacement to plant nasturtiums at my grandmother's childhood home this weekend, I now find myself with several packets of seeds which I expect I shall plant here at home. I had actually thought to plant some in among the beans - great minds thinking alike, apparently.

    Because my little garden is a trio of raised beds filled with layers of mulch, peat and composted manure, I didn't think to do any testing. Given the generally acidic nature of the components, however, and the preference of most garden vegetables for more neutral soils (and calcium to prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes), I applied lime fairly liberally at the outset. As the beds mature, I may decide to test to see if anything else needs to be amended.

  5. Anonymous1:05 AM

    Sorry if you've already seen these, but I don't think I've seen them mentioned on your blog yet -

    It seems Mr Obama just inspires knitting!