Leafyleith's Blog

September 13, 2010

Dwarf bean glut

Filed under: Gardening Year 2 — by leafyleith @ 11:11 pm
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A few weeks ago if you’d asked me what I thought of dwarf beans, I’d have been quite derogatory.

I wasn’t impressed by the spindly, little plants. They didn’t look like they were making much effort and I thought I’d wasted my time on them.

Boy, was I wrong. I am truly amazed by the abundance of produce from six plants. They are tiny – less than 30cm tall – but I’ve had so many beans off them I am having to give them away.

I’ve grown a variety called Purple Queen. It has lovely lilac flowers that produce a dark purple bean which turns green when cooked. And the more you pick, the more they come up with the goods. They are still going strong.

My favourite recipe has been a variation on Salad Nicoise using smoked mackerel instead of tuna. It’s delicious.

Anyway, I’m not sure I’ll grow dwarf beans again next year. I prefer the visual impact of the taller varieties in the garden, so I’ll probably opt for a purple variety of runner bean. But if you’ve got a lack of space or fancy growing some veg in pots, then dwarf beans should be top of your list.

August 8, 2010

Harvesting courgettes

Filed under: Gardening Year 2 — by leafyleith @ 5:50 pm
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At long last things are happening at Leafyleith. My two courgette plants are producing an abundance of fruit.

You can see below that I’ve left some of these a bit too long and they’ve become marrow like. They should really be picked with the courgettes are still quite small and the packet suggested picking when they’re 5cm wide.

The plants are quite large and sprawling. I made the mistake of planting too many plants in a tub last year, so I’ve allowed plenty of space in the raised bed and they’ve made the most of it.

I went for a round variety of courgette – Eight Ball – and this week I picked a few and made this easy courgette soup recipe that I found online. I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter – no chives or oregano in mine and I substituted creme fraiche for the cream.  But the general idea was there and very tasty it was too.

It won’t be long before I’m making this soup again, judging by the number of courgettes in the pipeline…

July 20, 2010

Slow gardening

Filed under: Gardening Year 2 — by leafyleith @ 12:01 am
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Is it just me or does everything seem a bit slow this year?

Had a look back at last year and by now the hydrangea and flame-flower were in full bloom. The hydrangea has flowers coming but they are still green and the flame-flower is a fraction of last year’s size, so am putting this down to the harsh winter.

Not sure what’s going on elsewhere.

We had great weather during May and June, but all the seeds that I’ve sown seem really slow. The sunflowers and sweet peas have been rubbish, whereas last year I had great success with them.

On the veg front all I’ve harvested is rocket, lettuce and pak choi.

The courgettes are on their way – lots of flowers, but the recent
torrential rain and lack of sun is hindering their development.

I had great plans for the new raised bed too. But my original sowing of beetroot failed to show, the bean plants are more Tom Thumb than dwarf and the spring onions look like blades of grass.

Anyway, fingers crossed that the sun comes back out in Scotland, although I heard on the radio that if it rains on St Swithin’s Day, that it will rain for 40 days. Wonderful.

July 19, 2010

Mr Frog

Filed under: Gardening Year 2 — by leafyleith @ 5:59 pm
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Bit of excitement here at Leafyleith recently with the arrival of this little chap. He (or she) was sheltering in the growhouse which had tipped up during the high winds.

Froggy didn’t stay long though (probably due to harassment). We put out a saucer of water where he had a quick dip and then soon disappeared… Not sure where he normally resides, someone nearby must have a pond, so hope he made it home safely.

June 11, 2010

New Best Friend

Filed under: Gardening Year 2 — by leafyleith @ 2:15 pm
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Wow. I think Cat War may have come to an end. And all thanks to this little fellow…

I was a bit sceptical because I’d read mixed reports on the internet about the success of these things, but as soon as the Mega Sonic Cat Repeller was in place the cats seemed to disappear. It’s absolutely amazing.

The pack said it can take up to a fortnight to have an effect. I thought it was just a coincidence but there were no signs of any cats from the moment it went out. Then a couple started appearing again and I thought it was too good to be true, but it turned out the batteries had run out. So I think this may actually work.

And long may it continue because tonight I returned home and there were a whole family of fluffy little chicks having a flying lesson from their parents. We hardly ever get birds at Leafyleith. The cats will have a field-day if they spot them, so have replaced the batteries and My New Best Friend is back in its place.

And into the bargain yellow slugs seem to congregate in the silver cylinder. Bonus!

June 9, 2010

Flower power

Filed under: Gardening Year 2 — by leafyleith @ 9:06 pm
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Ah, it’s been a while… but please don’t think work has ground to a halt at Leafyleith. Flowers have been my focus of late.

Am delighted with these alliums. I planted a selection last autumn out in the front garden. These are ‘Purple Sensation’.  They’re a beautiful violet colour and really tall – about 1 metre high. And there are 10 in a row, growing along the hedge. They’ve all come up at different heights so it looks a bit like a Mexican wave.

They were all fluffy and lovely when I took these pics but sadly, they’ve only lasted a few weeks. The flowers are already fading but there are a few more on the way. I planted about 60 bulbs of four different varieties – Purple Sensation, Christophii, Sphaerocephalon and Caeruleum.

One tip with alliums: because they’re a member of the onion family their leaves are quite ugly and lie around the ground so plant some kind of shrubby plant at their base to disguise this. I planted lavender but they are still very small. Next year am sure it will be lovely.

Other flowers that I’m growing from seed:

  • Calendula – Indian Prince
  • Sunflower – Ruby Sunset
  • Nigella – Miss Jekyll
  • Sweet peas – Tall mixed and Blue Velvet

The sweet peas have been a big disappointment and slow to take. Not sure what’s gone wrong but they are spindly and only about 5 cm tall, so I am not holding out much hope for them.

Same with the sunflowers. I put them in about three weeks ago and only one has appeared – perhaps the birds or mice got them. So have started a second batch in the growhouse.

The rhododendron is in full bloom at the moment. Honeysuckle, jasmine, mock orange and geranium plants are also on their way. We just need a bit more sun to make it happen.

April 12, 2010

Raised bed gardening

Filed under: Gardening Year 2 — by leafyleith @ 10:46 am
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Two tonnes of soil and horse manure delivered? Check.
Soil and manure carried through house? Check. (Thanks JB, Neil and Mel.)
Raised bed built and filled? Check.
Seeds sown? Check.

Raised bed gardening is go at Leafyleith.

Many (mainly JB, Neil and Mel) have asked about the merits of raised beds, so I am hoping for a good harvest this year to prove that raised bed gardening really works.

And what a transformation, don’t you think?

It’s been a glorious weekend – 18 degrees for the last couple of days – which has been rather welcome and a bit unheard of in these parts at this time of year.

I’ve probably been a bit premature but I couldn’t resist sowing a few seeds, just to test out the new arrival.

So down the far end, I’ve sown radish, rocket and lettuce (Lollo Rosso and an Italian mixed leaf selection), just a couple of rows of each, but the sunshine on Leith is set to continue for the rest of the week, so hopefully they will germinate.

Meanwhile, Cat War continues… The chicken wire is working a treat, however they are now using the flower bed on the other side. And they don’t even have the decency to dig a hole.

March 28, 2010

Commando Cat

Filed under: Gardening Year 2 — by leafyleith @ 3:02 pm
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I was feeling rather inspired last week. Spring has sprung, I thought. So I got my seeds out and started planning for the new raised bed.

I started sowing sweet peas, calendula and nigella for my summer pots and window boxes. And I began hardening off my delphiniums and cleaned the copper rings which will protect them from slugs and snails.

And then this happened.

This is Princes Street, Edinburgh at 6pm at the end of March. It’s just not right. And now I’ve just seen a weather forecast and it says it’s going to SNOW.

Another upset are these bleeding cats. There are five regular visitors: Monster Cat, Cagney & Lacey, Scabby Doo and Minging Fluffball Siamese. And at least another three that appear every now and again. They really make my blood boil because they use the veg bed as a giant cat litter tray. It’s truly disgusting.

I have tried lots of things to deter them:

  • citrus peel
  • cat shoo plants
  • cayenne pepper
  • lavender
  • half empty plastic bottles of water
  • throwing glasses of water at them (quite satisfying, but worried a person might be standing over the other side of the wall)
  • chicken wire

The chicken wire is a recent purchase. I’ve covered the veg patch in it. There is nothing in the veg patch at the moment because it will soon be converted into a raised bed, but I thought if I can stop them crapping in it with the chicken wire, they may take the hint and move off elsewhere.

That was my theory.  But a couple of hours after unrolling my new weapon I looked out and Lacey was using it like some kind of Commando Cat, pacing up and down between the holes, like it was in training to go to Afghanistan. Quite funny, really.

I’ve been thinking about getting one of these sonic cat deterrent monitor thingies, but they are about fifty quid and seem to get mixed reports.

If anyone has any suggestions of how to deal with these blighters, I’d love to hear it. Please don’t bother with the dog suggestions though.

February 25, 2010

Ramblings

Filed under: Gardening Year 2 — by leafyleith @ 1:06 pm

It’s pouring. If you’re a Fair Weather Gardener what can you do when it’s raining but plan ahead? So that’s what I’m doing today.

I’d planned to go out and tidy up a bit – weeds are beginning to emerge – but stuff it, a bit of online seed and plant shopping is in order.

This is Rosa Veilchenblau. She’s a rambler and likes a bit of shade, so since we have an east facing front then I’m going to try her out there. Hopefully, she’ll grow up the front wall of the house and then I’ll coax her around the window. Country cottage feel in Leith.

I am not a huge fan of roses. In fact I’ve been trying to murder one out the back for over a year. But I like the sound of Rosa Veilchenblau. She has a rich orange scent and NO thorns. And apparently the flowers can appear almost blue on occasions. I have a bluey/purpley theme going on out front (lavenders, alliums, echinops and – fingers crossed – delphiniums). I don’t like thorns. I like a fragrance. Me and Rosa V were made for each other.

January 9, 2010

2010: a gardening odyssey

Filed under: Gardening Year 2 — by leafyleith @ 6:35 pm
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I’ve been in hibernation for some time now, but I thought a review of my first year of gardening might jog my memory for moving things on in 2010.

Things I learned:

  1. You don’t need to adhere to the seed packet instructions too much when it comes to measurements, but DO leave at least a hoe’s width between rows just so you can keep the weeds down and not break your back in the process. I didn’t do this and wish I had
  2. Don’t be too enthusiastic with your sowing… you don’t need to sow the full seed packet in one go
  3. Successional planting is the key, so that everything isn’t ready at the same time
  4. Don’t believe the weather forecasters if they tell you it’s going to rain. I went off on holiday for a week after being promised rainfall, and came back to a withered up mess. If you are going away for a prolonged period, ask some kindly person to check on your plants
  5. And finally, don’t think people are weird just because they’re not interested in gardening and plants. Well you can think it, but probably best just to keep it to yourself

So that was Gardening Year One. Roll on Gardening Year Two. It’s going to be a busy year.

So far, I’ve got some seed catalogues to flick through, plans for a raised bed (and hopefully some ‘volunteers’ to cart the soil for it through the house), some new pots to fill and some dead delphiniums to try and revive.

Oh and while the weather is so chilly, I’ve been trying to help out Blackbird and Robin with some suet coconut shells, meal-worms and a delicious selection of seeds. Don’t forget our feathered friends during these temperature challenged times.

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