The Veggie Patch Diaries: June & July

Strawberries from the Veggie PatchOurΒ last installment left the veggie patch in the midst of a mollusc-related crisis. I’m going to be honest with you from the outset, we haven’t really recovered. Despite really helpful advice from readers (thank you so much!) something about all the plants being eaten seriously dented my grow-your-own mojo. I want to grow these veggies with love and care for my family to eat, not for the benefit of the chunky slugs and snails of the Thames Valley…

Armed withΒ this feature from Gardener’s World (Hello there middle age!) and really rather inspired by Artemis from Junkaholique’s gardening endeavours, I’ve been putting a lot of work in to bolstering our flower bed with mollusc-proof hard perennials. In the hope that, 1, they will be pretty, 2, they will not get eaten, and 3, that they will pretty much look after themselves, so I can get on with the serious business of the veggie patch.

Which is really the point, that I do so so want to make the veggie patch succeed. It is so important to me. I love the idea of the Tiny Overlord being able to eat food fresh from the ground, packed with vitamins and antioxidants, with, literally, metres between patch and plate. I really want him to understand where food comes from – that his food doesn’t come from the supermarket, it comes from the soil. And I know gardening is good for me, and far more interesting and rewarding than going to the gym. I just need to re-find my spark, to overcome my slithery shelled oppressors and get stuck back in to the earth.

In the Ground:
Beetroot
Courgettes
Plums
Rhubarb
Salsify
Sweetcorn

In The Growhouse:
Nothing…

 

The Veggie Patch Diaries: May

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Help. We are under attack from dark forces. When I started drafting this blog post, things in the veggie patch were going so well. The wet winter had nourished our clay soil, while the late spring/ early summer sun was encouraging things to bloom. Seedlings sprouted. Fruit plumped. Flowers blossomed. Peas climbed to the sky up the pyramid I’d lovingly constructed from coppiced hazel and string saved from vegetable boxes. But then the rain returned. And with the resurgence of the non-stop Thames Valley drizzle came the mollusc menace.

So far the snails have eaten fledgling French beans, courgettes, tomatoes and marigolds. They’ve taken a good chomp out of most of the leaves on the broad beans and sweetcorn. Even ornamental plants are not safe, it appears, as they have stripped the leaves on my brand new lupins and the phlox I bought back from my beloved Dungeness.

But what can we do? Being rather organically minded, a bit of a pacifist hippy plus concerned about cats, hedgehogs and small people that roam our garden, I am resistant to reaching for the pellets. Last year I tried copper tape, to no great effect. The Aussie has bravely offered to donate some of his beer stash to make some traps, though I’m not fond of the idea of drowning the poor slithery guys, however delicious a substance it may be in. Part of me wonders if I should just let them be? Is this not nature is action after all? Maybe I should just live and let live? Maybe I could negotiate with their shelled leader about them beating a hasty retreat to next door’s rather neglected patch of land and leaving my treasured veggie patch alone? All I know is that we are not going to get anywhere near my ‘Good Life’ dream with these fellas around.

Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with slugs and snails? I’d really love to hear them. Help me, you’re my only hope.

In the Ground:
Apples
Broad Beans
Beetroot
Courgettes
French Beans
Gooseberries
Peas
Plums
Raspberries
Redcurrants
Rhubarb
Salad Leaves (California Mix)
Salsify
Strawberries
Sweetcorn
Tomatoes

In The Growhouse:
Half eaten marigolds
More courgettes
Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Grow

Looking at the veggie patch, this year’s big plans for growing haven’t quite panned out as I thought they might back in January, I wanted to grow our Christmas dinner, instead I grew a baby. The only people that have been dining out on the content of our garden are the Thames Valley’s slugs and snails.

Purple Brussel Sprout

Thames Valley Snails – Very fond of sprouts

I’ve always had plans for our outdoors space – daydreams of an urban very very small holding. Being self sufficient. Ish… But the arrival of Tiny Overlord has made me even more determined to make our garden a positive place. He might only be six weeks old but I want to try a create somewhere where he can forge a good relationship with nature, where he can see food grow, where we can all grow, as a family.

Rainbow Chard

Proof that Rainbow Chard will survive anywhere

So we are starting small, doing some tidying and mulching, planting daffs and getting ready for the spring. Next year, 2014, our little patch of land might be the place to manifest some little dreams.

Belatedly Christmas

The peculiar thing about keep a crafty blog is the difficultly sharing many of your crafty endeavours, with the risk that people will see what you are making for their present. So here, in late January, I am proud to present a Christmas post. Via some instagram photos, here’s what I was making in December…

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Stacks of christmas loot: Jams, chutneys, felt decorations and rosemary bags. The rosemary was harvested (with permission) from a nature reserve where I often run a project for work but I’m kicking myself for not also foraging some lavender. Next year, next year… The rather appropriate fabric is by Alexander Henry

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Everyone got their Christmas loot in these hand embroidered gift bags. The small hessian bags came from eBay and the crossstitch font and the idea for the bags came from Perri Lewis’s Material World book. I was also inspired by the famous Bloomingdales ‘Little Brown Bags’. Hessian is brilliant for cross stitch, I’ll definitely be using it again. The balsa wood decorations, which finished off the bags, were from Tescos.

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In the jars are Squash Chutney, made from homegrown squash (I swear by this chutney recipe from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall). The beetroots were local and pickled at home and I also made delicious (trust me!) Tomato Jam, using this recipe from the Craftivist Collective.

And what did I learn about ‘making christmas’? Firstly, that next year I will start earlier. A lot earlier. I completely underestimated how long it would take me to embroider 9 bags and I was pulling late nights right up to Christmas eve. Secondly, that I will (if I can hide them from the Aussie) start putting jams and chutneys aside from summer onwards. As this will give me more variety to fill up people’s little gift bags with.

So over to you – What did you make at Christmas? Got any ideas I can steal for this year? I will start early, I will…