Foraging in the garden

Whilst I’m not well-adapted to very hot weather, I do like this time of year for the opportunities it provides to pick my own food from the garden – fruit herbs and vegetables. I’m very fond of soft fruit, and it has been extremely satisfying in recent weeks to wander outside and pick berries for my breakfast. Eighteen months ago I planted new raspberry canes and this is the first time they have produced any quantity of fruit. This morning, in addition, I was able to harvest blueberries – such a delight. On the berry front, the red currants are also producing like mad and the harvest has begun. In fact, I still have frozen red currants from last year, but I have decided to bottle those and most of this year’s crop, only freezing a small proportion to use in baking. Fortunately the weather has cooled somewhat and so bottling fruit is no longer out of the question.

The other big foraging opportunity at the moment is the courgettes and summer squashes. This year, I planted these in the raised bed that was built at the same time as the limery. In the past six years, we have filled this bed with all manner of material: cardboard, paper, grass clippings, spent compost from pots, soil washed off the field behind the garden, chippings from the willow hedge, a variety of home-made compost, as well as the layer of old teaching notes and handouts that formed the base of it. The curcurbit family love compost to grow in and so this year they are going mad (it took a while with the cold spring). The result is huge abundant leaves. Somewhere under the jungle there are courgettes and squashes to be had (not many yet, but they are growing), but they are difficult to find. I have the distinct feeling that a bit later in the summer I’m going to come across some enormous fruits that I had simply missed under all the foliage, but for now we are just enjoying the hunt.

Blooming food

Some time ago a friend accused me of not liking flowers because I mainly grow food plants. I was a bit surprised that he should think this, especially looking round my garden at the moment at the amazing range of blooms that are in evidence. If you are ever concerned that planting fruit, herbsĀ and vegetables will mean you can’t have a beautiful garden, think again…

And those are only a selection taken in about 10 minutes… there are also (or have been or will be) passion flowers, nasturtiums, pot marigolds, climbing French beans, potatoes, raspberries, comfrey, red currants, blueberries, squashes, mint, chokeberries and more. I don’t really select for the flowers, but if you do, you can ensure an amazing variety of colours and forms and still enjoy a delicious harvest.

Living in an orchard

My sister moved house earlier this year and has been working really hard in her garden, with me giving encouragement by telephone. It’s been lovely to have someone to share seeds and plants with, and it was particularly lovely to visit this week, deliver some plants and see the progress she has been making.

The house she moved into had a garden with quite a lot of lawn, a vegetable patch, a filthy chicken house, dilapidated greenhouse and a tatty plastic pond. In three months she has transformed it into an orchard with a productive vegetable garden (boosted by all that chicken poo she shovelled out of the coop) and herb beds. I am always inspired by other people’s achievements; I thought you might like to be inspired too and see what she has been up to.

There’s lots of fruit

As well as herbs and vegetables:

And there’s still room for ornamentals and the relocated pond:

Plus some practical features:

What a brilliantly productive garden it’s going to be… with hens and a fruit cage planned for the future too. She only started doing any serious gardening a few years ago, but there’s no stopping her now.

The right to garden

Do you think that we have a right to grow our own food? Well, apparently not all countries do…

I have just read two astonishing stories about Americans being prevented from growing herbs, vegetables and fruits in their front gardens: one in Ferguson Missouri and one in Tulsa Oklahoma. In a country where residents have a right to bear arms, they appear not to have a right to bear spades.

Suddenly the UK seems like a very liberal place to live.

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