The back garden is looking verdant, June is probably the prettiest time, at least in my garden. It is of course not the most productive as far as veggies are concerned but the flowers and overwintered perennial vegetables are being productive. The skirret are looking huge, well the greenery up top is, god knows what the edible tubers look like size wise. One unexpected star is the Welsh Onion/Japanese Bunching Onion. The Japanese ones, well varieties, are selections from the humble Welsh Onion and some of them are as big as leeks, but I can’t really tell the difference. I’m really impressed with them. I started growing them last year and I have cropped them several times. They are perennial and propagate by seed or by dividing, much like chives. Unlike chives Welsh Onions are biggish spring onions with thick and tender shanks you can cut fine for sauces and cut long ways for putting into salads. I got a little dismayed this spring when they put up flower stalks – I thought these inedible hard stalks would ruin the onion – but once I had removed the flower heads the plants divided again separating out the hard flower stalk which I felled. I then continued to cut the onion shanks, one centimetre above the ground and already they are growing back. Read More
I had to write a post simply so I could get this photo online. It is another pretty violet artichoke I grew from seed. The picture on the seed packet is much less impressive being a mucky violet and green affair, the variety is violetta di romagna by the way. I have been told that there is quite a lot of variation with artichoke seed and my experience seems to bear this out. Both the very violet artichoke plants are shorter, have vicious barbs, have some less jagged leaves and fruit early in the year (ie, now in May). The other seedlings I grew from the same seed packet last year are looking good but different, taller, more jaggedy leaves and not yet forming buds. Read More
Last time I expressed a little boredom with my ongoing 4 year experiment in keeping a Dwarf Green Curled Kale alive long past its allotted 2 years (as a brassica). Well, the bloody thing was battered by a moderately strong wind and broke in two. It is still alive, just much smaller than it was. This might be serendipitous as I didn’t have the courage to dig it up after so long nurturing it, and this event has given me the chance to back out gracefully. But it may not be the end for our brave curly kale – or at least not its genes. I am going to take a cutting and see whether or not regrowing it each year has better results. Read More
I’m chopping back the luxuriant growth from my grape vine – I cant stop being a snob – sunny south wall, dontchaknow. It has really neatened things up and of course provided masses of biomass for the compost heap. I have of course been wracked with doubt as to whether making your own compost actually does any good, but the simple matter of fact is home made compost works wonders on your plants – you know it, I know it – it’s just the scientists and clever dicks who don’t get it. Read More
My current pile of squashes (not counting courgettes – which are scoffed straight away) are sat on the table in our living room where I can admire them and remind myself just why I am growing vegetables. They have hard skins and some sound hollow. I’m hoping they will last well into winter – here’s hoping.
And there’s more to come. Some frenzied feeding, watering and cosseting that I’ve been doing (because I can feel the onset of autumn and I’m panicking) seem to have had an effect and all the squash plants have started growing more fruit. That is except for one. I have read him the riot act and he knows his days are numbered unless he bucks his ideas up.
I can’t say I’ve had a glut but veggies are definitely trickling into the house and it has made everything worth it. My knowledge is increasing as I do it, so I know it should be even better year after year.I’ve dug up my potato onions which a kind man who specialises in breeding these veggies (you know who you are) sent to me. I have 12, losing 5 to slugs and English weather but the photo to the left shows the results. Some of them are small but I got the seed late in the year and I am very pleased. They show a high variety of characteristics: flask shaped, torpedo shaped, round, white and yellow, even with a touch of red.
If you have never heard of potato onions, you may have heard of multiplier onions, they are just like shallots in that they reproduce by dividing and not by seed. That is they don’t normally set seed: very, very rarely they do and my potato onions are the product of this. The onions shown will be my seed onions for next year, which I will cosset under glass until I am sure of the security of my stock.
I have now stroked the backs of two bumble bees in the garden, a summer hobby taught to me by the missus who has been doing such bonkers things for some time. Are these potentially painful friends actually drunk on nectar as she suggests. Does anyone know?
Talking of ecosystems, as you know I have been controlling slugs and snails not by chemicals but by the force of my size 12 boots. Well the smeared corpses of my gastropodic enemies led to an explosion of blue bottle flies which for three weeks were everywhere and very annoying. We’re talking scores of them.
Well, yesterday I noticed a reduction in the number of bluebottles as well as an explosion in spider webs and spiders. Over the next few hours I watched the spiders eat the bluebottles with a growing sense of horror until today the bluebottles have gone and the spiders have packed up their webs and gone elsewhere.
Not only is this the sort of pest control that organic gardeners have been pointing out works in nature, it is also the sort of existential horror story that I have heard about but never experienced first hand. Not just that I created the feeding frenzy by providing the food for the bluebottle breeding frenzy in the first place. This ghastly story played out thanks to my actions.