Squash results 2012…

This post feels like a continuation of the last one, in both colours and theme, we are still very much in Autumn mode around here, despite the recent drop in temperature.

We all walked up to the farmers market today, via the local wood.  I often feel disappointed by woods around here, I have a preference for old woods with mixed trees and in this area of Kent, they are nearly all coppiced.  I felt like this view was very unfair today as we had a lovely walk, my oldest (7) even said, “Mummy, I hadn’t realised how magical the woods look in Autumn”, which nearly blew me away for a boy who is usually more interested in plastic toys than nature.  Obviously, I must be wearing them down 😉

The plus side of our local wood is that it is almost entirely made up of sweet chestnuts, it’s impossible to walk without stepping on them and the boys love packing their pockets full to bring back for our ‘nature’ window ledge – see, I AM wearing them down!

I have put a little time into the garden this week.  I felt there was one last mow to go, but it’s been too wet and is now leaf strewn, so the grass will be left in peace until next Spring.  I have planted all the new bulbs into my small side border and as mentioned on earlier posts, rabbit proofed it.  This involves a pretty unglamorous wire ‘fence’ being held in place with canes, it looks fairy ugly but it’s a small price to pay to stop the rabbits from eating any foliage that comes early next Spring.  Come Winter, they will eat everything in site and once they get going they don’t stop.

Although I’ve pulled up most stray seedlings in the vegetable patch, some get to stay.  I find that the herb Parcel self-seeds into every crack it can find, to a degree that’s really quite annoying, but I also know that its fabulous celery + parsley taste is invaluable for stews and stocks so I just leave it be and cut it back when needed for the pot.

I found time to clear out the greenhouse and bring all the squash indoors, they are now sitting decoratively on our long bay windowsill, looking rather lovely.

Back in April I planted:

  • Dill’s Atlantic Giant
  • Marina di Chioggia
  • Crown Prince
  • Turk’s Turban
  • Queensland Blue
  • Gem/Rolet
  • Hooligan
  • Sweet Dumpling

I completely lost track of what was what so just planted everything out, some were munched early by the huge amount of slugs we had this year, but I did manage to grow:

  • Dill’s Atlantic Giant x 1 – more of a ‘mini’ than giant, sadly
  • Marina di Chioggia x 1 – not nearly as warty looking as I was hoping
  • Crown Prince/Queensland Blue x 3 – and really big ones, total winner here!
  • Turk’s Turban x 4 – again, a really good size and by far my favourite squash
  • Gem/Rolet – None 😦
  • Hooligan x 5 – these are super cute mini stripped squash and will be on next year’s list
  • Sweet Dumpling – None 😦

Not a bad haul really, especially considering how erratic the weather has been this last year.  I am determined to cook some really nice recipes with them, and have been collecting any I find so I’ll let you know how I get along.

Right, whilst I remember, I’m off the empty the boys’ coat pockets of sweet chestnuts 🙂

Autumn is here…

Autumn is truly here, which is great as I do love Autumn.  The woolly tights have come out and I’m thinking hot chocolate and attempting (yet again) to try to make some treacle toffee.  the boys are thinking of the elaborate Halloween costumes I might make them if they ask nicely enough.

I have lots of random photos piling up so I’m just going to throw them all in this post together.

A couple of weeks ago, we took the last ready summer vegetables out of the garden.  We ate the corn, which was very late (due to a repeat failure of germination) but still delicious.  Only 6 plants ever grew and everything I read says you need a block of at least 9 for the wind pollination to work.  I did my best ‘wind’ impression every time I walked past, by gently removing some of pollen from the tassels at the tops of the plants (the male parts) and gently rubbing them onto the silks at the ear tips of the forming cobs (the girly bits).  It must have worked because we got lovely full cobs that tasted amazingly sweet and worth all that effort repeatedly re-sowing the grains.

The Horse Chestnut trees that along with Sweet Chestnut are everywhere around here, have turned early due to their all having Leaf Minor months.  They still provide abundant amounts of ‘conkers’ which the boys and myself love.  I am slightly addicted to gently rubbing the waxy skins, I cannot resist picking one up if I see one and popping it into my pocket, solely for this purpose.  I sulk rather a lot when they dry out and lose their sheen, which sadly, happens far too quickly.

The squash have been happily drying out in the greenhouse since being lifted a few weeks ago.  I cut them with quite a lot of stem attached to make sure it didn’t rot back into the fruit.  I need to trim these stems back a bit more, now they have dried and bring them indoors to decorate the house before eating.  I’ll write a proper post of the successes/failures at another time.

The boys have had their Harvest Festival service at school.  They each made the usual ‘meal-in-a-box’ which seems to be the charity of choice for our school at this time of year.  You basically make up a shoe box full of food, all long life and ideally a complete ‘meal’ which is then donated to the elderly.  The kids are encouraged to include a note and to decorate the box if they have time.

I have planted up sweet peas this weekend.  I’ve opted for dark colours (Blue Velvet, Midnight & Matucana) after seeing an old photo in my ‘library’ and realising how much I loved them when I last grew them.  The seeds were soaked overnight, to soften the coating, and then they were pushed about 1 cm into damp compost and left in front of the window in our kitchen.  Once they get going I’ll probably keep then in the greenhouse over winter as that way they get maximum light and in the past they have coped well with the cool temperatures there.

This is the photo that pushed me to remember to sow my sweet pea seeds, I mean, how yummy do they look?  Lovely and velvety….and why is my work desk so clean and tidy?  I can barely see over the piles of paper and fabric these days.

I am overly excited by the new addition to my weekly Graze box.  They have added ‘afternoon cake and tea’ to their already delicious nuts, seeds and fruit options and it really has brightened my day.  For those who don’t know, Graze deliver a little box with a selection of tasty treats to your door, as often as you can afford (for me, once a week).  As I eat from my fridge (the down side of working from home) every day, I think I deserve this weekly treat and it does make me happily.  I’m easily pleased.

Finally, I have been busy updating my shop with all the new stock.  It’s one of the reasons my poor gardening blog gets neglected, I just get so busy at this time of year sewing but I am finally catching up and after an entire weekend working in the garden, I have lots to blog about, I just need to find the time 🙂

The Side Border…

Back at the end of August I decided to stop wasting time and get our small side border sorted out.  It has always been rather neglected.  In the past I have favoured hardy annuals as the plants of choice, with a few perennials thrown in for structure but it’s just not working out, the border is so messy, reaching an all time low this summer.

As well as the overgrown lawn, and the geranium that is threatening to take over the bed, there is little the say.  The pot in the background is a blueberry bush that lives over a sewer manhole as I quite like the flowers and autumn leaf colour and something needs to go on there.  Along the back fence is a rather lovely orange honeysuckle, which sadly has no perfume but that is easily made up for by the wonderful flowers.

There is a rather beautiful tree peony, that produces lovely pink blooms in June (as above), a rose attempting to survive but still very small, a medlar tree, which I LOVE, some alchemilla mollis/lady’s mantle, dotted around the front and a couple of euphorbias that give a nice acid green all year around but there wasn’t a lot else worth saving.  Any bulbs appear to have been eaten over recent years (we have a lot of garden ‘pests’ and bulbs have become a favourite, I have noticed, I often see the little holes where they have been dung up!).

I saved many of the poppy seed heads and have sown them over our fence, along the drive side, to self seed away next year.

This is how things were looking by the end of August, after a harsh dig over.  I mainly had to remove lots of pathetic self seeded hardy annual’s such as briza grass, which I love but it seeds EVERYWHERE so I’ve decided to stop growing it here, tagetes/marigolds and nigella hispanica/love-in-a-mist both of which I like for cut flowers, so I’ll have to add them back to the cutting bed lists next year.

I can see a few new things already added by the time I took the photos, but here’s the full list:

bearded iris
‘Iris Black Swan’

3 x Lenten rose hellebore
‘Helleborus × hybridus Harvington – picotee, double chocolate, double red’

granny’s bonnet
‘Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata Ruby Port’

‘Lupinus The Page (Band of Nobles Series)’

round-headed leek
‘Allium sphaerocephalon ’

‘Sanguisorba Tanna’

‘Verbena rigida ’

dutch iris
‘Iris Eye of the Tiger’

‘Anemone hupehensis var. japonica Pamina’

‘Astrantia major Venice’

All the above were bought from Crocus, and mostly on offer as plant buying is an expensive business and one I don’t do very often, preferring to raise plants from seed myself.  On arrival the verbena was giving a lovely show.

I also ordered some bulbs from Sara Raven:

Muscari ‘Golden Fragrance’

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’

and some mixed dark tulips.


Pretty much everything I have picked is from the pink/red/purple range and includes lots of my favourite dark reds.  I do try to plan things out.  I create sheets with the plants, their eventual heights and details so I can figure where best to put them and when they will flower and to have a record of what I’ve planted.  I find having an image, even for plants I know well, helps me a lot.

I hope to have a this one border colourful and full for next year.  I just have to be really good at rabbit proofing it in the next few days or it won’t stand a chance over winter and spring.

It’ll be interesting to see how it all turns out 🙂