Back to School… Almost

Leeks planted in the potager in August

Well here we are in mid August and it’s been a busy one for me. Just over a week ago I returned to work after maternity leave and have been getting back into the swing of working life, albeit in a very reduced capacity (next month’s pay cheque will be interesting,  as I readjust to getting by on less than half the hours I was on before. Childcare costs are just so prohibitive… life is expensive yada yada…). Mum has been recovering well after major surgery but still needs help around the house for simple but more labour-intensive tasks – and is still waiting to be able to drive again – and we’re currently in the throes of finally laying down the last of the flooring in the kitchen and utility room. It’s only been 11 years since I ripped up the old flooring and 2 years since we bought all the replacement flooring…

I think we will have to actually go out and buy some celebratory fizz once the last piece of flooring is in place. Seriously.

As predicted, I’ve lost my not-so-firm grip on all things horticultural and agricultural. We were subjected to a fortnight of deluge after deluge, and with all the aforementioned distractions, I’ve had to watch from the sidelines as the grass grows out of control, the hedges explode, the borders go over and the bindweed swamps and romps away.

But if motherhood as taught me anything, it’s the art of ‘f**k it, let’s just get on it now whilst we have the chance’. So one afternoon as E took her afternoon nap, I leapt into action.

My plot is small, but it’s enough to keep me busy for now. Out came the garlic, which was distributed on drying racks before it goes into storage. I mulched with a generous layer of organic compost before setting my new Musselburgh leeks into place. They’ll hopefully be big enough to harvest over the winter, when steaming bowls of homemade leek and potato soup will keep our bellies warm and full.

I worked quickly, and weeded and heavily mulched a small strip of the plot that had been unoccupied so far this year, and threw in a few seed potatoes that had been soaking up the sun on my kitchen windowsill since about January. I’ve been told on good authority that it’s still fine to get potatoes growing now… maybe we’ll have some fine freshly dug spuds ready for roasting at Christmas?

Lastly, I’ve managed to start thinning out my wonky rows of Autumn King carrots, which have been thriving alongside my nasturtiums, chives and shallots. And what a delight… the baby and I both enjoyed freshly cooked baby carrots for dinner that night. Already bursting with flavour, they’ll be ripe for pulling for the table from September.

I won’t lie; I’ve been having a really tough time recently, probably mostly self-perpetuated but nevertheless it’s left me feeling like I’m struggling to tread water. The garden has helped me get back on more of an even keel. I’m very much aware of still how much I need this in my life – the pottering, the planting, the harvesting. Perspective.

Cambridge Favourite strawberries

The little patch of strawberries are starting to ripen and I’ve got my very first crop of strawberries to enjoy this year.

Cambridge Favourite strawberry crop

I started off with four little Cambridge Favourite strawberry plants, bought for about £1.29 each from my local independent plant nursery. I added a couple more freebies that were sent with a plant order earlier this year, and with a little (and I mean, minimal) TLC, the plants have thrived, flowered and fruited. We now have a small but vigorous strawberry patch that has endured despite the late April frosts earlier this last spring.

It seems Cambridge Favourite have proven to be a successful strawberry variety, which need only a little love and attention to produce a decent yield. I’ve given mine a couple of liquid seaweed feeds, and an initial mulch of general peat-free organic compost at the beginning of the year, when I divided the plants and runners. Our sandy soil also helps with drainage, and with a regular water every few days the plants seem happy and healthy.

It’s now a question of beating the birds and woodlice in a race to see who can enjoy the ruby-red spoils this summer!

Pink Lemonade Blueberry

If you like something a bit different, and enjoy experimenting with new varieties of fruit and veg, then you’ll like this. I recently posted about bringing a taste of the exotic to my little English cottage garden potager patch, with my Valentina raspberries. And now I’ve added another interesting and unusual variety into the mix; a Pink Lemonade blueberry. I got mine from Marshalls Seeds but you can get them easily online pretty much anywhere!

Pink Lemonade Blueberry

© Marshalls Seeds 2017

Apparently this variety of blueberry is much sweeter than its blue-hued counterparts, and flowers with delicate pinkish to white blooms in spring. The hardy plant then produces a large crop of bright pink berries mid-summer, followed by a steady harvest through to early autumn.

Sounds good to me.

If you know blueberries, then you know that they need ericaceous soil and love full sun. Whilst there’s not a lot I can do about the abundance of lack of sunlight in summer, I can control soil conditions. We might have sandy soil in this part of Mid Bedfordshire, but it’s not really acidic enough (between pH 4.0 – 5.5) for these fruit bushes to thrive planted out in the borders. So I’ll be starting my Pink Lemonade blueberry plant off in a large well-draining container (the plant could grow up to 4-5ft) with ericaceous soil, and giving it a regular top up with diluted tomato feed each month. In spring, a liberal mulch of leafmould will also help to keep the plant balanced, fed and healthy.

Apparently Pink Lemonade blueberry plants are self-pollinating, which means they’ll produce fruit with just one plant. That’s all I’ve got for now, but if I choose to buy one or more blueberry plants, it’s said I’ll get a bigger, better crop. To be honest, I’ve got about three years until the plants will produce those juicy, jewelled berries, so I’ve got time to grow my blueberry collection before then. Perhaps a couple of heritage varieties will do…

*This is not a sponsored post. I have not been asked to mention/promote/link to Marshalls Seeds!