Saturday, 17 July 2010

Picking Vegetables in the Rain

There's a kind of grim inevitability of being under water restrictions - the day after they are announced, the heavens open and it doesn't stop for weeks. So it has been this week - hardly a day without heavy rain showers, lots of thunder and the cat hiding behind the sofa so often she's started to sleep there. So this morning we went out to do our gardening in the rain which was supposed to clear up but didn't. While the downside of the rain is that the weeds and grass have zoomed up this week, the upside is the vegetables have loved it. Here is my first ever marrow, and very tasty it was too - picked at this size the skin is still soft and doesn't need peeling.
Here's a snap of the spinach (right), chard (left) and lettuce (extreme right) bed. I tried for years and years to grow spinach, but it always ran to seed immediately. I tried so-called non-bolting varieties with no success, but in my research it was suggested that perpetual spinach would do better. So last year I bought a few perpetual spinach (also known as spinach beet) plants which did well and I took the plunge with a packet of seed this year. A great success, on two counts - an excellent crop and this bed was fully reclaimed this year, so increasing our croppable area.
After the very cold winter and slow start to spring, it's amazing how well things have done. Over the last few years we have been working to reclaim land from weeds and build it up so we could become more self-sufficient and this year we are seeing the fruits of our labours. This area here hosts broad beans (foreground, a little disappointing due to the dryness), courgettes (right), runner beans (left) and two rows of peas (back) plus a little lettuce and spring onions in the corners. It's around 16 square metres/yards in size so there's a lot in here. The peas are at peak production at the moment, with picking every few days, half of which goes straight into the freezer for the winter. The courgettes are just getting going, while the runner beans are flowering and I hope the rain will encourage the beans to set.
This is another successful bed - the cucumbers are just out of shot, but you can see a marrow (one of the two that pretended to be a cucumber when I was planting out) from which the vegetable above came, with the pumpkins further up the slope (three set so far) and the parsnips on the right, which are having a storming year. Parsnips and beetroot are very vulnerable to changes in the weather; our later but warm and dry spring was good for them.
Here are the rest of the marrows and some more lettuce, with some salad leaves flowering behind. These marrows have started flowering and fruiting now, so we should have some to keep in the autumn/winter, with the pumpkins.
The cabbages are better than they have ever been - this is one of the two cabbage beds, and you can see how the grass has grown in the last week.
The purple sprouting broccoli next door is also growing very well - we've been trying to figure out why the brassicas are so good this year. The soil here is very good now, it's where we started 10 years ago so it's had a lot of manure and compost and that may be a reason, but the other one may simply be the amount of sunlight we had during the longest days of the year, which fueled monster growth.
So here's this morning's haul - spinach, marrow, peas, broad beans, shallots, strawberries (thankfully past their peak now) and summer raspberries (just starting).
And here's yesterday's white currants, in my jam pan ready for jelly making. I'm spending a couple of hours a day at the moment processing whatever we pick, freezing, cooking, preparing. It's a busy time of year but we have a fridge bursting with produce, which is kind of the point, isn't it?
And my Other Half has made good progress in his mission, uncovering the flags by the shed. The soil you see is full of bits of brick, stones and stuff cleared from the plot decades ago. I need to think what to do with this sloping area - there's an old tree trunk behind, and a lot of brambles, but if I could get them under some sort of control, I could grow things over this, with the help of some compost. Something to think about for the autumn. Any ideas?
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