Hardwick Squash and Pumpkin Festival

Welcome banner - Squash and Pumpkin FestivalAfter what felt like weeks of constant rain, the sun broke through and we made our way across the other side of the Thames Valley to feel the warmth on our faces and to visit Tolhurst Organic Produce’s annual Squash and Pumpkin Festival, set in their farm in the Victorian Walled Gardens of the Hardwick Estate.

Thames ValleyWe sat in the sun on the valley sides and drank locally brewed beer, ate locally grown foods, admired the most magnificent array of squashes and enjoyed some local bands.

Local beerThe Tiny Overlord practiced some serious toddling.

Toddling on the farmAnd we explored the farm. I often underestimate how much food is frown locally. Maybe I often mistakenly (or lazily) assume that we must rely on big supermarkets for our food. But these fields were bustling with tasty things to eat. I really want us to try to eat more seasonally, at least, and support more local growers like Tolhurst. Fresh, tasty and surely better for all of us? I am inspired.

Tolhurst Organic FarmThe festival was a real joy. I’m not too fond of commercial Halloween, but this festival felt like a proper celebration of the seasons – of truly appreciating what comes from the ground and the passing of that growing season to the winter. Do I sound like a hippy? Maybe. But good food, beer and music in a beautiful setting floats my boat far more than ‘trick or treat’.

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The Veggie Patch Diaries: June & July

Strawberries from the Veggie PatchOur 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 with 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