Garden Plans ……..

I’ve come across the original copy of my Kitchen Garden plans and they’ve made me smile….. because they’re embarrassingly basic!! In my imagination the Kitchen Garden is always full of healthy herbs, climbing plants, seasonal produce and plenty of flowers for the bees and butterflies. Mmm, I should have paid full attention in Art class at school as my sketch is rather primitive! My lovely husband used CAD to make it a workable diagram for the builder….. everything else is in my head (no hope for anyone but me then)! 

Kitchen Garden Plans

Fortunately, the work in progress looks more like my vision than the sketch does!! The raised beds are now complete, the new hedges have been laid and all we’ve now got to complete the French drains, put some stone down and wait for Spring! There are new changes every week and I want to capture what happens and, hopefully, look back with happiness. All I see at the moment, however, is a huge amount of bare brickwork that is crying out to be covered with plants!

The garden has 7 raised beds in total and a central island that can be used for a fountain/birdbath. The Nectar Bar will be planted to attract bees and butterflies and there is a secluded area behind this bar where we’ll be able to relax (or hide!).

The perennial vegetable bed contains asparagus and rhubarb and I keep excitedly rushing home from work to looking for signs of life before it gets dark!

Perennial Bed

I’m pleased to say that I’ve found the cutest baby asparagus spear! It’s smaller than a matchstick but looks perfectly formed already… As I’ve already mentioned, I’m usually too impatient to get dressed before dashing outside so it will be torture for me to wait a couple more years before harvesting.

Tiny Asparagus shoot

I’ve always felt drawn to Victorian walled gardens and love visiting stately homes to see them. I’m off to Chatsworth House next week and will hopefully come back with even more inspiration… only on a much smaller scale!

For the Love of Dahlias

There are certain things in life that I would happily collect indiscriminately  (herbs, pots, seed catalogues etc) but thankfully there is a little voice in my head that says “Enough! You don’t need anymore!”. I’m not generally known for doing as I’m told but I usually listen to this advice.

Just recently, however,  my thoughts have turned increasingly towards Dahlias and the strange thing is, the little voice has deserted me! I usually prefer my plants to be subtle, frothy perennials, understated and pretty, but all of a sudden I need a fix of acid brights and in your face brashness! Is this me intuitively knowing what will work well in my south facing plot… or have I simply lost the plot? 

My family bought me a great present from Sarah Raven’s Dahlia Collection  and the parcel arrived yesterday. Hooray! I know that Sarah Raven’s seeds and plants seem fairly expensive but in my experience the quality is excellent and the service is outstanding.

Dahlias

Unfortunately, this little bag of tubers is doing nothing to help my obsession – especially as it arrived so beautifully wrapped with two additional plant catalogues… full of dahlia pictures!! I’m already wondering how to recycle the hessian and ribbon as I love to re-use things. I can’t stop looking at the beautiful Dahlias!

This is what they could look like this Summer!

I’ve only grown Dahlias once before and I didn’t get to enjoy them properly before the slugs had a feast. It was a sad day and I vowed to grow only slug repellant plants after that, especially as I don’t use slug pellets or chemicals. So much for garden vows, eh?

Okay, I must go and order some more Dhalia tubers before the bossy voice comes back. I’ve seen a lovely magenta variety that the bees will simply love!

Daffodils Aren’t Herbs

The old lady who lived in the house before us absolutely loved daffodils. She planted them throughout the garden and hedgerows and looked forward each winter to seeing them in Spring. I wanted to continue this tradition, especially as we had to unceremoniously uproot many bulbs during the building work, so I have re-planted some in the Kitchen Garden. The Victorians believed that daffodils were a symbol of regard so this somehow seems appropriate.

Narcissus Tete a Tete

Flowers and vegetables have always loved working together to encourage the bees and butterflies but I’m always careful to keep daffodils and other toxic plants away from edible produce…. if someone poisons me I want to know it was deliberate!!

Are Broad Beans really evil?

I’ve never been a fussy eater and I’ve always enjoyed a wide variety of fruit and veg. I’ve never even had a problem with Brussel Sprouts (despite many being the large, slimy, overcooked variety – sorry Mum!). Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Broad Beans… even typing the words makes me screw my nose up and almost taste the strange, ugly little bean in my mouth. Yuck.

When I was a little girl I tried all sorts of things to escape having to eat broad beans – hiding them under the mashed potatoes, putting them onto my sisters plate when they weren’t looking or simply hiding them in my pocket (the latter was less successful due to copious servings of parsley sauce).

When I was old enough to figure out that there may be an alternative way to experience broad beans Silence of the Lambs was released and Hannibal Lecter managed to reinforce all that was evil about these vile little beans. If only I hadn’t asked my friend what Fava Beans were….

Now, many years later, I am open to the idea of trying to grow my own beans. It may even be within the realms of possibility that I eat one!!

Broad Beans planted

I ♥ Garlic

Garlic is one of my all time favourite herbs and an essential part of our kitchen garden. It may not be the prettiest plant but it certainly knows how to charm! It’s flavour and aroma are unlike any other and garlic has some interesting medicinal uses that include anti-bacterial, cholesterol lowering & blood thinning properties. The only down side is the smelly breath but it even  keeps the vampires away so what’s not to love??

New Shoots of Garlic

Garlic is a wonderful companion plant for many vegetables as it confuses the pests that rely on their sensitive noses to seek-and-destroy. It is particularly good friends with carrots, cabbages, beetroot and roses… but not so good with beans or peas so I’ve heard…… 

I should have planted the garlic in Autumn to ensure large, juicy bulbs – sadly, I couldn’t do this due to all the ongoing building work so I’ve started a few cloves of “Solent Wight” indoors and I’ll put the other cloves directly in the ground as soon as the soil is workable.

Maybe it should say plants!!

Help! The Utility Room has become a potting shed and greenhouse! There are trays, plants, fruit trees and packets of seeds everywhere… in fact, I vaguely remember a washing machine being in there somewhere! Another excuse to have to wear my pyjamas methinks x

A Simple Valentine’s Day!

We celebrate in spirit rather than in practice… to me it’s always seemed wrong to buy roses in February (especially when the roses have more air miles than I do!).  We enjoy romantic gestures and being spoilt but that should be in little ways every day of the year rather than waiting for one or two days. 

Baby Aloe Vera

Baby Aloe Vera

These baby Aloe Vera are a perfect idea for a fuss free pyjama girl… as well as a lovely home cooked meal and sharing a glass of wine or two. Besides, the money saved by foregoing roses, chocolates & champagne will buy enough pretty flowers to plant in spring and fill the house with scent until Autumn. This just proves that gardeners are not tight with money – just extremely practical!!!

Quick Lunch

Twice baked stilton potatoes

The fridge is bare and I don’t plan to venture out in the cold until tomorrow. So with a couple of potatoes, a wedge of stilton and a handful of fresh thyme I prepared lunch.

I’m not the biggest fan of Stilton cheese – anything that smells like old socks and looks mouldy just seems wrong to me…. However, what I’ve discovered over time is that something wonderful happens to this cheese when it melts and many plain sauces, pasta dishes, quiches and vegetables have been magically transformed from the mundane to scrummy! In addition, for the blue cheese doubters like  myself, a good handful of chopped thyme disguised all the little flecks of blue! This lunch was lovely served with baby salad leaves and a simple lemon & garlic dressing. It would have been lovely with a crisp, cold, white wine… but unfortunately my wine rack is empty too!

Kitchen Garden in the snow

It’s hard to believe that in a few months this part of the garden will be colourful and productive! We have seven raised beds in total (excluding the central island). The long bed at the back is the Nectar Bar which will attract and the bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

There will be three beds for crop rotation, one for fruit, one for herbs and a perennial bed for asparagus and rhubarb. I have a cooking apple tree to grow as an espalier against the south facing wall and two eating apple trees to train over an arch. That’s the plan anyway!

It’s cold out there…

It’s too cold to do anything in the garden so I have the perfect  excuse to spend the evening warming my toes in front of the fire, looking at seed catalogues and dreaming of the vegetable heaven to come. So tonight seems as good a time as any to get blogging!

In the New Year I found an old tin of seeds in the shed and it was like finding hidden treasure! Most seeds have passed their expiry dates but I haven’t got the heart to throw them away so I’ll give them a chance. Now, I know there will be folks out there who think that this is probably a very bad idea but I’m optimistic. There are plenty of new varieties to try as well - I now have so many packets of seeds and good intentions that it will be interesting to see the results. 

“The love of Gardening is a seed once sown that never dies”.    Gertrude Jekyll