Strawberries for Summer

About three years ago I planted in four little Cambridge Favourite strawberry plants in a freshly-prepared no-dig bed (as above). 

Cambridge Favourite strawberries

The strawberry plants were tiny, and priced at something like £1.49 each. I just hoped that I’d be able enjoy tending to a mini strawberry patch and maybe a bowl or two of strawberries to enjoy at home. 

Cambridge Favourite strawberry plants

Fast forward to 2018, and my strawberry patch has gone wild! Those four little plants sent out runners, which meant the following year I had a few more plants to tend to. Within 24 months the patch has thrived, so much so that we’re mowing strawberries runners in the lawn to keep them under control. 

With no late frosts this year to kill the strawberry flowers, there are probably a couple of hundred (at the very least) strawberries growing. Some are starting to ripen, and if temperatures pick up a little more, then we could be looking at our first strawberry harvest in time for Wimbledon, the pinnacle of strawberry season here in the UK.

I’m proud of my little strawberry patch (even though they’re threatening to take over the Valentina raspberries that they share a growing space with), and I’m hoping to be able to share my strawberries between eating fresh, freezing, making jam, sharing with friends and family, and maybe even selling a few punnets from the garden gate for a little extra spare change. 

Cambridge Favourite strawberry crop

Starting with growing peas

Early pea flowers

Peas please! I’m starting my new growing season with early peas – in this instance, a variety called Onward. They’re pretty common as far as veg varieties go, but seem to be really popular. In the past I’ve gone for rondo peas, which are great as a freshly picked pea, but have fallen foul of the pea moth (probably my fault) and can go a little powdery if they’re left on the plant too long (again, probably my fault). As a busy mum and part-time worker, time is at a premium, I opted to buy some plug plants from my local independent nursery, rather than growing from seed. I also wanted to try a slightly earlier variety as I’ve yet to get anything in the ground… only the perennials are starting to wake up now.

Podding peas

I’ve found peas to be relatively fuss-free plants, that just need the occasional feed and regular watering in order to thrive – I feed only occasionally through the growing season with a diluted seaweed feed, which seems to do the trick. I’ve not quite got the hang of pinching out yet (for those not in the know, pinching out new growth every now and then promotes bushiness, and gets rid of any straggly or leggy growth), but I’m sure that with a little concentration, I can nail it. But really, for me, peas are great to grow, and a treat to eat raw or cooked when they’re ready for picking in summer.

polyculture potager

I’m also a fan of pea flowers – they seem to attract a lot of attention from pollinators, and they look really pretty in the veg patches too. This year, I’m tempted to let the nasturtiums and more marigolds mix with the peas again, as they seemed to help keep the dreaded blackfly at bay… and the mix of vibrant green foliage, white pea flowers and bright sunshine yellows was really eye-catching. 

Although it’ll probably be a good two or three weeks before I can move the peas out of the greenhouse, I’m excited to finally get going – albeit it in a very modest way – with this year’s growing season.

Rondo Peas

Rondo Peas ready for harvesting

(Wild)Life Through a Lens

As I was driving through a small village in Bedfordshire’s back of beyond this morning, I saw a small flush of blossom and a hint of green… you know, that unmistakably fresh, vibrant green that comes with the first buds of a new season’s growth. Spring is late this year, and although we’ve been busy doing the last of the fruit tree pruning and starting to tidy the long borders, the drab browns and dirty ochres of winter have lingered for too long. 

I’ve struggled to update my blog for a number of reasons, but mostly because spring has been a long time coming and the garden has been slow to wake up. There’s not a lot out there to actually photograph, but I’m hoping in a couple of weeks it’ll be all change. Over the years, I’ve captured the changing of the seasons in the garden through the lens, and it’s given me a whole new perspective on the beauty in the apparently simple plants and trees I grow. This year, we will be growing some spectacular floral specimens, and I would really love to take up more photography this spring and summer… though we have found with a toddler and all the gear that comes with her whenever we travel, Rich’s digital SLR setup is getting a bit bulky to carry around. If you’re thinking about improving your photography, this 4K Wildlife & Sports Camera is a great midpoint between a capable phone camera and a complex professional setup. 

As we’re still teetering on the cusp of spring, I thought I would provide a little inspiration with some of my favourite pictures from the last 11 years here at The Smallest Smallholding. And let’s be honest, I’m in need of some vibrancy and colour in my life right now too… 

I’ve selected a few of my favourite pictures from the years. It’s not an exhaustive collection, but many of the pictures have some wonderful memories attached to them:

Lark Ascending rose

Planting tulip bulbs in Autumn

 

Morning light

 

Bee on Helenium

 

toadstool

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although some of these pictures were lucky “snaps” taken on my long-dead iPhone, and some were on my handy Panasonic Lumix, the closeup shots were courtesy of our digital SLR and a macro lens. I’ve been lucky enough to live with a keen photographer, my partner Rich, who has invested in some pretty decent kit. Over the years it’s meant that we’ve been able to catalogue so many pictures and with the macro lens, see the world in a different way.

I think my favourite picture has to be the bee on the yellow helenium. We set up the tripod and captured the bees just going about their business one sunny afternoon. I just love the colours and the detail, and the green softness in the shallow depth of field in the background. I had never seen a bee in so much detail before and it gave me an entirely new perspective on them.

Let’s hope that spring in full swing isn’t too far off now…  and there’ll be plenty of opportunities to capture the season at it’s best. 

This is a collaborative post.