It is ages since I showed you the raised veg beds which the Pianist made last year. As I said at the time, I filled them using the lasagne method of layering organic material. This year I found the soil had settled and the level had fallen drastically, so clearly more organic matter had to be found. Luckily, I had the turf which my lovely two helpers took off to make the new winter- flowering beds. You may remember I got help with this project, as I thought I might die after digging up the front lawns when we moved in here. I couldn’t face doing it again.
I put in a layer of newspaper and leaves. Then for a Valentine’s Day gift the Pianist gave me several loads of lovely, well rotted manure. He tried to take all the credit for it, but actually it was produced by my friend Francescas’ lovely two boys; Shannon and Pickle.
But still, the pianist shovelled and delivered it to me which I think is a really romantic gesture, not many girls get a couple of tons of poo for a Valentine’s Day gift. Here he is, my hero in a red boiler suit and a silly hat.
I managed to dig around and find some compost to fill the boxes up. When you are filling them up, you can use anything organic as long as you layer with dead leaves or newspaper.
My scarecrow who has been named Chloris, has a new set of clothes this year, but nevertheless she is beginning to look the worse for wear.
I understand why the garden writer Eleanor Perenyi removed her scarecrow. In her marvellous book, ‘Green Thoughts’ she said: ‘Dressed in my cast off -clothes, this figure had become an increasingly derelict version of myself, and though it didn’t really keep off the birds, it had begun to frighten me to death’. I feel the same; the scarecrow is ageing faster than I am, and looking ever more dissolute and weirdly androgynous. Despite her new, pink flowery vest, people at a recent garden opening kept calling her ‘he’ which is worrying. I have given her some cottonwool breasts. But still…perhaps a flowery hat might help.
I am growing just Charlotte potatoes this year, as when I try new varieties they often get rejected by the chef as being too floury. I started harvesting them last week and we had a lovely meal of new potatoes and the first broad beans.
So here is the potager at the moment. I am going to call it my ‘potager’ from now on, it sounds very grand and Villandry-ish.
In the centre where I grew runner beans last year I have planted a standard gooseberry bush with nasturtiums and bits of chamomile round its feet to make a chamomile lawn.
Running down the side of the boxes are raspberries, currants and gooseberries. The first ripe raspberrries are appearing.
Ok, calling it a potager is stretching the point, the effect is botched boxes rather than Villandry, but nevertheless it is very productive. Planting in layers of good, organic matter is rather like growing things in a series of composts heaps.
I increase the fertility with nice regular doses of nettle and comfrey tea. I found an old, galvanised water tank in the garden which is very useful. Comfrey is very high in potassium. It is quite invasive, but I grow the variety ‘Bocking 14’ which is sterile. Unfortunately, it smells appalling as it rots down in the water which is a bit of a drawback.
Something else delicious to eat has ripened in the greenhouse. It is the first apricot on the tree I planted a couple of years ago.
And whilst we are on the subject of things to eat or drink I made my Elderflower cordial today from flowers growing on Sambucus nigra. It has a nice pinkish tinge to it.
I know a lot of bloggers make it, but in case you would like to and don’t have a recipe, here it is.
40 flower heads.
3 litres water.
4 kg sugar.
4 lemons, juice and zest.
100 g. citric acid.
Rinse flowers. Boil water, add sugar and dissolve. Dissolve citric acid in a bit of the boiling water, add to the syrup and pour over the flowers. Add the juice and peel of lemons and leave 5-7 days. Strain and bottle.
I do it in 2 batches as it makes 4-5 litres. It doesn’t keep a long time so I freeze it in pint batches.
If you want to have a go, hurry up, the elder flowers are beginning to go over.
what a nice bounty you have, I like your raised beds, it all sounds very good, Frances
My veg garden always used to be such a mess. Growing them like this in raised beds makes maintenance so easy.
Maybe you should rename the scarecrow Lady Bountiful. Your veg garden is doing remarkably well – if mine had performed half as well, I’d still have fruit and vegetable growing there rather than sunflowers. Maybe I’ll ask for horse manure for Christmas.
Growing veg in boxes full of compost and manure makes everything grow so well and they are easy to look after.
The vege patch (I mean potager) looks increadibly lush and bountiful and the lasagne method works very well. I’ve never thought of horse poo as a romantic gift, perhaps I need to rethink my methods 🙂
I’ m sure you can win any girl’ s heart with a gift of manure. Well, if she is a gardener you can, otherwise it might not go down too well. I suppose the world is divided between those who gratefully receive a gift of manure and those who don’ t. Best to make sure which sort you are dealing with before you deliver a couple of steaming tons of it.
I very much like the concept of a Potager for growing vegetables, yours looks wonderful and prolific.
Have you read the no dig king Charles Dowding garden blog?
I have indeed read Charles Dowding and in fact I studied his advice before starting on my raised beds. Thanks for the link.
I forgot to add there is a link to it on my blog.
lol-too funny had to add “cottonwool breasts”….+ a poo valentine gift! Your life is so abundant!
I put in a few more currant bushes this year:-) Love them in my greek- honey-yogurt. I wish I had the room you have for this year, I am finding food is taking more space on our city lot than my flowers….but I am not moving will just have to adjust:-)
I had no idea you could eat the berries from the nigra elderberry-I thought it was just a designer plant-lol
It is the flowers you use for the cordial not the berries, Robbie. You can cook the berries or make jam from them. The berries are supposed to be good for influenza. The leaves and bark are toxic.
I love blackcurrants too. Delicious with yoghurt.
What a good chuckle I had reading about your trials and tribulations and many successes. I hope to track down a gooseberry this summer to learn what it’s all about.
Giggling here, too. 🙂 About the Chloris scarecrow, and the Valentine’s Day gift, and the potager. I so enjoy your approach with these things. My “potager” is a stretch, as well! 😉
Thank you Beth, I am glad you enjoyed it.
You have great looking veg there with lots of produce to keep you going for the rest of the summer. I’m quite jealous as my tIny plot is a wasteland this year, due to the early freezing cold weather, nowhere to raise seeds, & having to be away regularly. Hopefully next year!
I too got a birthday present once of a trailer load of horse manure. Best present I ever got! I had a party on the weekend of my birthday, keeping that fact under my hat, but someone let the cat out of the bag! A few days later a trailer complete with strong man to offload arrived. A woman at the party, who owns a riding stables, was the kind donor!
Ah another girl who appreciates wonderful horse muck. How sad that you haven’ t managed to get your veg going this year. Still, there is always another year.
I know how cold it has been in Ireland. We were there in May and it was freezing.
Lovely post and your veg plot does look like a Pottager! My sister once gave me a pile of poo for a birthday present, one of the best I have ever had, sadly for me she doesn’t keep horses any more. My raspberries are a way off yet, like you I use a comfrey tea, the smell is disgusting even a few days later the soil still has that ghastly aroma.
I have a wonderful crop of raspberries this year, I am wondering if I got good pollination because of my Tree Bumble Bees.
Indeed the smell of Comfrey tea is truly disgusting . But just think of all that goodness and it is free.
It’s all looking good. Lucky you with the broad beans as mine have succumbed to blackfly so the plants will be pulled up then added to the compost heap. Charlottes are my favourite potatoes but I’ve not yet lifted any of them. xx
How sad to lose your broad bean crop. It’ s funny I have not got a trace of blackfly this year and yet I normally do. I wonder why. I didn’ t pinch out the tips or anything.
Charlottes have a really wonderful flavour don’ t they?
Wow, how organised. It looks great. Your Charlottes and beans look so tasty. I dug a couple of roots of ‘missed’ potatoes from last year at the weekend (probably Lady Christl) and they were devoured in a flash.
I grew Lady Christl last year, it is a great potato. Growing veg like this makes life so much easier. Maintenance is a doddle.
Your pianist is a good man if he gave you poo for Valentine’s Day. My favorite Christmas gift was a rain barrel. Call your vegetable garden what ever you want. I’d call it breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 🙂
A rain barrel is what every girl needs.
I think I will stick with potager, it makes me feel grand as if I had rolling acres and teams of gardeners tugging their forelocks.
Gottta love a man who gives you poop for V-day. Mine once gave me a gift certificate for my favorite nursery, with the stipulation that I couldn’t use it for mulch. The nursery like that! Your veggies look so good and as I’m writing this before breakfast, especially so. Love your scarecrow!
Yes indeed, no one can say that the Pianist isn’ t a romantic. It was just what I wanted. And it has certainly helped my veggies grow well.
Thank you so much for the laughs. I was feeling a bit down today but not anymore. I’ll bet that apricot smells fantastic. And there is nothing quite like reshly picked raspberries. mmmmm I have heard so many good thing about that particular comfrey but nobody ever mentioned the smell …
We tasted the apricots today and ate them all warmed by the sun. They were delicious, a pity there were only 4, but it is a start.
Comfrey is brilliant but once it has been sitting in the water for 4 weeks or so, the smell is vile.
Hi Chloris, I am fairly new to following your website, but from what I’ve seen it’s as wonderful as your garden. What a lot of work you have done! I love fresh apricots, so hard to find good ones in the shops where we live – once a year, if we’re lucky, a local grocer has imported French ones that are delicious. You’re so lucky to have the space/right spot to grow them in. Enjoy the fruits of your labour!
Thank you for following my blog Kate and for your lovely comment.
The apricot has actually produced 4 fruits this year and they are delicious. I hope next year there will be lots more.
Well rotted manure must be the mother of all Valentine’s gifts! And you call ME quirky???? ‘Nuff said!
It was great seeing your raised beds, I have some being built as I type, so good to know what to put in them, and I have lots of cut out turf so that saves me a job re getting rid!
Awwwww….love Shannon and Pickle, and LOVE the pianist’s hat, once a scouser, always a scouser!
Potager….I shall adopt that immediately, what a wonderful word…
Now….the jewel in the post….scarecrow Chloris…..cottonwool breasts….aging…..OMG…..I am ROLLING around laughing here!!!! Brilliant! Bloody BRILLIANT!!!! xxx
How exciting that you are making raised beds too Dina, you will love them. And will you have a scarecrow? You are artistic so you won’ t need to have a scary version of yourself getting ever more disreputable. Or you could use your skeleton.
BTW. The Pianist’ s hat isn’ t supposed to have ears and indeed he is unaware of the fact that it arranges itself into ears once on the head. I don’ t think he has seen this post so he still doesn’ t know. So it will remain a quiet source of pleasure for me once the winter comes round. I am easily entertained.
Oh, OH…..you’ve set me off laughing again….I hadn’t noticed the ears on the hat….!!! xxx
Oh those beds are looking most productive Chloris. Looking at the size of the courgettes leaves that manure has certainly been effective. I think that I would scarper if I met the other Chloris – she looks most formidable 🙂
Yes, she scares me too, my alter ego. Clearly she spends too much time outside. And you should see the state of her hands, they are disintegrating.
Raised beds stuffed full of compost and manure really are a great way to grow things.
HI Liz, what a fab potager! Raised beds are great, I wouldn’t want to be without them. You seem to produce an aweful lot of vegetables – do you give a lot away? We have far too much to eat at the moment so I put quite a bit in the freezer. You’re lucky to have the pianist – he seems a bit like Monsieur actually. I made lots of cordial this year as it’s the ultimate summer drink. One batch with ginger and elderflower – bliss!
Hello Annette, we do eat a lot of of veg, and I freeze stuff too. Today I have been freezing broad beans and raspberries. The Pianist groans when each day there are yet more courgettes, but he is very inventive at finding different ways to cook them.
my favourite is courgette-pineapple-cake, a real winner 🙂
I’m very inspired by your productivity; it looks as though you have enough to feed a small nation. I grew three containers of early greens this year and we couldn’t eat them all. I have to agree, Chloris looks rather alarming. Maybe you should call her Caitlyn.
We do eat a lot of of veg, so we will munch our way through it all. Yes Chloris is scary but I am working on making her more feminine.
Yes, Chloris needs a little more lifting and perking. Gravity is taking its toll!
As usual your post is a wonderfully entertaining and informative read, and the potager looks particularly productive and neat. I’m slightly jealous. Mine tends to go to flowers and although colorful it doesn’t do much for the kitchen!
What does one do with elderflower cordial? I’m sure drink it, but on what occasions and would it be completely classless to spike it with something more potent?
Thank you Frank. Indeed, Chloris is going to have to get some corsetry and a better hairstyle.
Elder flower cordial has to be diluted with water, it is good with fizzy water or maybe champagne? Or something to give it a bit of zing. Why not?
It’s definitely the hat. The boobs aren’t cutting it. And perhaps longer hair? 😉
OK, I’ ll ditch the hat and get her a wig, a bra and some nail varnish.
Had a laugh at this article. I think the left boob might need a bit of a hitch up! Got any old Wonder Bras?
A Wonderbra! Just the thing, it will give her a nice bit of cleavage. I’ m thinking about a curly blonde wig too.
Please post photos after the makeover.
What a fabulous post! It’s so good to see a lovely productive vegetable garden complete with glamorous scarecrow and a recipe for elderflower cordial. Thank you for an entertaining and informative post- I’m on the right lines with ours after reading this.
It’ s nice of you to call my scarecrow glamorous but really she looks quite scary these days. I’ m going to get her a wig and a new bra.
Ha! A scarecrow in a bra! That will be something!
I suspect there is a bottle of gin in the jacket pocket – there is definitely a certain dissolute look about you – oops sorry – her.. 😉 A wig would definitely help the sexual orienatation and perhaps some long eyelashes (I have them on car headlights)…. 😉
ps it is certainly looking as if it will be a good year for raspberries, although a later start than last year here
Chloris has a new look now and looks a bit better. She has a new hairdo, very glamorous. She still manages to look both dissolute and disapproving though.
The yellow raspberries are particularly productive this year and the birds don’ t bother with them.
The potager looks wonderful and the organic matter is definitely the key….I will have to make the cordial someday when I get 40 flower heads.