It’s hard to know where to start here. I have a bunch of recipes I’m desperate to try out inspired by some of the Brazilian and Virginian delights that James and I encountered. At the same time, our garden has gone mental in our absence and there’s more growing going on than I can really comprehend. My brother made the particularly kind point that perhaps my being away and our amazing neighbour, Carole, looking after it all could be the sole reason for the growth spurt. Charming. We’ll have to see what happens now we’re back to know if he’s right or not.
So, this post will be about the garden but in the meantime, here are a few pictures taken of some of the deliciousness we experienced. We got mugged and our camera pinched on our first night so they’re taken with the hipstamatic app on my phone and in the not too dim distant future, when the garden’s under control, I’ll have a go at cooking some of them myself. There were many other dishes (un-photographed) that I’m keen to have a go at, so watch this space…
Right. Back to London. To get an idea of how much the garden grew in a month, compare the photos below to the ones on this post (A Small Garden Explosion)
Firstly I need to regain control of the growth – there is so much going on it’s making my head spin. I need order. The other thing that needs controlling is the damage being done by a variety of beasties, large and small.
Over the winter I took to feeding the birds from a little feeder in the corner of the garden. Now they love it here. However, it’s not the seeds they want any more – it’s the strawberries and, as my mum pointed out, who’d blame them. So rather than coming back to juicy succulent berries like this (photo taken and berry eaten before going away):
We came back to something more like this:
So I set to work on creating a protective ‘cage’ for my berries. I lived with a few architects at university and quite frankly I think they’d be intimidated by the sheer genius of this wire mesh contraction – it even has a door locked with string that you can open to pick the fruit. I drew inspiration from a witches hat I was given for my fourth birthday, my best present ever. Anyway, here’s a picture of the ridiculous cage.
The wild Italian sweet peas that the lovely Molly gave me for my birthday were falling all over the place as apparently a few wooden skewers sellotaped together don’t quite offer them enough support – I just wasn’t aware they would grow so much. So the wire mesh was put to use again and I created a form of support with two bamboo canes that were left over from my runner bean wigwam. They seem to be growing up there pretty happily now. Molly said her granny’s got as tall as her (she’s not very tall though and I’m not sure if she meant now or when she was a child).
Next was to protect the beetroot, which seemed to be undergoing attack from two things. One small beast and I think something larger aswell. The smaller one I identified as the Mangold Fly which blisters the leaf and basically seems to turn it grey and dehydrate it. The parts of the leaves that weren’t affected by this seemed to just be being nibbled at. There is nothing you can do about the Mangold Fly except for picking off the infected leaves and destroying them, so with sadness I did that. The larger beast is now being deterred by my interpretation of a cloche, using the trusty coat hangers from last years lettuces, but this year I progressed from the clingfilm to some netting.
Also, in the photo above you can see that my onions to the right of the beetroot are a bit droopy. Apparently when they’re like this you should feed them with a potash-rich fertilizer. So I gave them some of my tomato feed and that seems to have cheered them up a bit.
The Kale, Cabbage, Cauliflower and Broccoli all seemed to be being attacked by the same pesky little 1/2″ green caterpillars which were all over the back of their leaves. It’s called diamond-black moth and they leave skin-covered holes, like the ones above. The treatment that my excellent book (The Vegetable and Herb Expert – I think my sister thought it was funny to give me a book with this title) was bifenthrin – which as far as I can work out seems to be a miracle worker and is found in Bug Clear. I sprayed them a few days ago and have been checking frequently and I haven’t seen any more caterpillars, yet…
It’s not all combat and trial though. There’s some pretty exciting things going on as well. We’ve been eating plenty of lettuce, rocket and mustard leaf which has all been incredibly delicious and I can’t even begin to stress enough how amazing it is to be able to just go outside (or to the window box) and get super fresh and hugely tasty lettuce whenever you need it. Also, I can see the beginnings of both tomatoes and courgettes:
I was about to pick, stuff, fry and eat this courgette flower. Luckily I decided to do a bit of research – apparently it’s the male one and is needed for pollination so I’d best leave it where it is. Does anyone know any better?
And now to find out and deal with the culprit who dug this up: