Monday, 18 August 2008

Scottish Garden Show, sun and rain

Looking back at the summer, I see that it started fairly promisingly. June was warm; the photos Mum took at the Edinburgh Garden Show look very nice and sunny. We had a lovely day there and I came back loaded with plants (a passionflower, a doronicum, some scented pinks and a heuchera).

The passionflower was for the front garden, to train over our fence, which is basically some welded scaffolding poles set into a brick wall, and therefore a trifle post-industrial for our tastes. I have also lately acquired two Japanese maple trees for the front. Or one day they'll be trees.

I originally went looking for one at a big garden centre and couldn't find any for less than £120, which seemed a lot of money, especially given that we will probably move to a bigger house at some point in the next few years. So when Mum told me that they had them at Tesco (supermarket) for a tenner each, I speedily acquired one. I spent some time picking out the largest and healthiest.

Once planted, it looked absolutely minute. It's actually less than a foot high - it looked bigger in the shop because it was in a pot. Mum took pity on me and bought me a larger specimen for £30ish at a different garden centre. It's a different colour, so it now looks as though I have two of different sizes on purpose. I hope.

The vegetable garden got off to a fairly good start, although all of my courgette plants got eaten by slugs AGAIN. I don't have any luck with courgettes. Probably I planted them out too early again. I didn't have any more courgette seeds, but I did have butternut squash, so I planted a couple of those and they are still alive and producing leaves and buds.

The sugar snap peas produced for about three months, though they're now almost finished by the look of things; I feel I should have planted more of them, but I felt that last year. One year I'll get it right. Coming along to replace them we have green beans and ordinary peas, although the beans have taken a while to flower and the current pods are very tiny. The ordinary peas don't seem as hardy or slug-resistant as the sugar snaps; it's taken them a while to get going too.

The spinach was a runaway success, so much so that the veg plot became a huge spinach thicket and the rocket which was growing alongside got totally choked. We ate it every other day for a couple of months, after which the plants were going to seed. Towards the end of July I picked every usable leaf, washed it and froze it (that was a fun job), and then yanked out the stringy stalks and replanted with more spinach (a smaller quantity) and French salad mix. I have more rocket and salad mix in trays; we'll see how it does. The original planting of spinach took a lot longer to get going than advertised, so although everything is still tiny, I'm not too concerned.

Since the grand spinach harvest, the weather has been distinctly soggy. Again. And not very warm. My tomato plants have lots of little tomatoes, but I'm not sure how quickly they'll ripen if we don't get any sun. Still, last year the tomatoes didn't get picked until December, and were tiny in the extreme.

These ones are bigger and there are a lot more of them, though hardly a glut yet. I'm holding out some hope for an Indian summer.

The biggest success story has been the potatoes, in a large container outside the back door. They've been no trouble whatsoever, and have produced delicious new potatoes about as often as we wanted to eat them*. Admittedly there are only two of us; if you have a bigger family you might want two containers or more. I am going to try replanting with a late variety if I can get them.

I am also going to try some winter vegetables: calabrese, cabbage and kale (the guinea pigs adore this.) We'll see how it goes.

*We did have to relearn how to cook them. Really fresh new potatoes need a very short cooking time indeed, and tend to dissolve if boiled. We've had much better luck doing them in the microwave, in a Pyrex lidded container with a little water for five minutes or so.

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