The lovely OH and Ron starting on the groundworks a few days ago.
They had to move a bit of earth to even out the slope and undulations…
Then it rained. So Ron went home and we put down scaffolding planks cum duckboards. Work will start up again once the deluge stops.
Following on from the excavation and levelling we’ll start on the structural hardworks (horizontal and vertical), come autumn the structural planting will go in, (bare root is always miles cheaper). So you’d think I would have a while before I need to finalise the infill planting – all the pretty stuff. Except I don’t, as the spring bulb catalogues are with us, and I haven’t quite sorted out the colour palette. The house and piggery, topping and tailing the garden, are made from a soft orange brick so I’ll be looking at harmonising with that. I find Sarah Raven to be very sound when it comes to colour, and whilst I love strong baroque colours, I too am falling for the softer pastel palette such as this. I’ll be dipping into her website over the next few weeks…
I’m very pleased with the progress of the wild flower verge.
The seed came from the Grow Wild campaign. The Corn Camomile, Anthemis arvensis, and Corn Marigold, Glebionis segotum, are doing particularly well.
but we also have smatterings of the Corn Poppy, Papaver rhoeas, Cornflower, Centaurea cyanus, and Autumn Hawkbit, Scorzoneroides autumnalis.
Waiting in the wings to flower is the Corncockle, Agrostemma githago, and I have the odd specimen of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum.
As well as introducing native species, the clearing of the verge of the grass enables other, home grown wildflowers to establish. We have speedwells, shepherd’s purse, dandelions, fat hen, chickweed, hedge mustard and more. Of course, this is all in aid of the pollinators…
Later this year I’ll collect seed and also cut the verge. We will strew the hay on the orchard and adjacent paddock.
Following on with the wild theme, the lovely OH made a rabbit stew; it was delicious!
We have been turning over the mypex. If it is left down for too long, it starts to meld to the earth, pinned through by coarse grass and dock.
We know this from experience.
On turning a piece in the growing area next to the polytunnel, we chanced upon a common toad, Bufo bufo.
The OH picked him/her up and relocated to the compost heap area.
In my humble opinion, I think the toad has been a bit slack on the slug devouring front. Whilst I have managed to coax the new artichoke plants to come through – on the second attempt, the squashes have been wiped out by marauding molluscs. Although I do have squashes planted in the main vegetable plot, more toad dining activity wouldn’t go amiss.
Less troubled by slugs are the strawberries. We are picking the early variety which is planted beneath the pear trees next to the outer piggery pen wall. The soil is dryer here and probably deters the slug invasion.
These are salad days – crisp Little Gem lettuces, nutty artichoke hearts and tiny peas and broad beans. I pick bunches of sweet peas every day…
The lovely OH has set the strings for the melons and cucumbers in the polytunnel. As we are pushed for space we grow the cucurbits in pots and train the vines up canes attached to the cross bars.
This year, alongside the honeydew and cantaloupe melon varieties, I’m trying out a dwarf watermelon, a ‘Sugar Baby’ type.
The fruits are small, around 8inches in diameter, handy for a single serving. Even better, Sugar Baby are, reputedly, one of the sweetest watermelons.
I’ve cleared away the early peas and have thinned out the leaves on the cordon tomatoes to ensure good ventilation around the vine. Along with not getting water on the plant, I think leaf thinning helps to keep blight at bay.
The lettuces, Little Gem, are plumping up, the chillies are setting fruit; Loco is looking a treat ….
and the lovely OH has finished topdressing an old shed brick base, next to the house, with gravel. This side gets the late afternoon sunshine – a perfect place to have a glass of chilled rose and watch the sun go down.
In the heat, the herbs in the polytunnel have bolted and are in flower. The dill, parsley and coriander have pretty umbellifers and are attracting a myriad of beneficial insects. I’m not going to cut back the flowering stems as I want the plants to produce seed. As I have never harvested herb seed for the kitchen before this is a bit of an experiment. For future leaf pickings, I’ll continue sowing outdoors.
However, I did cut back the greek basil to encourage the plants to bush out. I’m a big fan of this form of basil as the plant makes a lovely tight mound of small, bright green leaves. It looks good planted in a terracotta pot placed on the table; if dining al fresco, the basil helps to deter flies.
So not wanting to waste the trimmings, I decided to make herb ice cubes. After rinsing and patting dry,
I roughly chopped the leaves, packed them into an ice cube tray and then topped up with olive oil. Basil doesn’t freeze well so I’m hoping that the oil will stop the herb from blackening.
Next time I make a pasta dish, perhaps puttanesca, I’ll use one of my frozen basil cubes.
Ron has left his digger on site. Next week he will start the excavation and levelling for the ‘to-be’ ornamental garden.The layout is simple, loosely based on the ‘Char Bagh’, having 4 quadrants and a central path linking the house to the piggery. We will surround the garden by hedges linking buildings. The native hedgerow forms one boundary and we will plant a new hornbeam, (Carpinus betulus), hedge parallel to the drive and along the rabbit-proof fence to the vegetable garden. I’m with Monty Don in thinking that hornbeam is ‘best deciduous hedging plant’.
Last year I ordered some bare root hornbeam whips through the council’s free tree scheme and will do so again this autumn. I’ve heeled in this year’s bundle in the vegetable garden until we are ready for the planting out.
On the holding, roses are blooming, strawberries are ripening ….
…must be June!
Reading this week: Waterlog by Roger Deakin