End of July - Notes from the potager garden July 28, 2017 18:00
After months of wall to wall sunshine, last week, the kids broke up from school and, inevitably rain descended. Boo. However, at least it's meant a little less time spent watering, and a little more time sampling the fruits of our labour.
The runner beans are in full swing, and this week I've been out picking them for dinner. I can't lie, there is a definite sense of pride / smugness to the occasion. Alongside the beans, the rhubarb is back for a second harvest while the gooseberries and blackcurrants are a dim and distant memory, having been picked and safely deposited in the freezer, the next stage of their transformation is the exciting part... wine. We're just waiting for a good crop of blackberries to blend with the currants, to create a rich, warming red wine. Oooh lovely, salivating as I type.
My onions have had a slightly tougher time. The nasturtiums have taken over the beds, reducing the light that the onions really need to mature and build up in size. But to be honest, I'm happy with onions the size of gobstoppers. They look and taste great, bobbing about whole in a stew. Importantly, they still have that enormous kick and flavour that you get with homegrown veg. Meanwhile the nasturtiums are providing so much for the bugs and beasties around the garden, it feels mean to reduce them down too much. Caterpillars steadily munch their way through the leaves; frogs are enjoying the damp, darker confines the foliage creates and the bees merrily pootle from flower to flower, drinking up the nectar. A few smallish onions seems a small price to pay for the goodness and general sense of cheerfulness they create in the veggie patch.
Having harvested the red cabbage, I've gained a little slither of bed back, and reused the space to sow beetroot seed. With the veggie patch so close to the house, once the beetroot gets to a useful size, I'll just pop out and pull up what I need on an as and when basis. This is my alternative to 'thinning out' - My selection of beetroot should free up room for the remaining crop to grow. So, biggies first please, form an orderly queue, allowing others to grow, producing a continuous crop over the next few weeks. Perfect for salads and sarnies. Any remaining crop will get pickled, to enjoy over the autumn and winter months.
Living a hybrid life, between indoors and outside, is part and parcel of what Denys & Fielding is all about. But it goes beyond trying to make beautiful home and garden wares that you can enjoy indoors or outside.
Blurring the boundary between house and garden has definitely helped efforts to grow our own veg. It literally feels like I'm walking into another room - a living larder, where I can just go and help myself. Dare I say it, it's also extended our cooking repertoire. We're guilty for dishing out the same old tried and tested dishes, safe in the knowledge that the kids will eat it and it's easy to do. But growing your own makes you experiment a little more. After all, there is only so much rhubarb crumble any human can take. It forces you to think creatively about how to use the rest of your crop - making jams and preserves for cheese, looking up recipes for home brew concoctions or just meeting up with the neighbours and sharing your spoils.
On a deeper level, removing the boundaries between home and garden has also helped me to enjoy it more at all times of day and night, in all seasons. Mary Reynolds talks about the importance and value of sitting in a garden at night in her book 'Dare to be wild' and for me, she's spot on about the sense of connection and feeling more centred, grounded somehow. Mixing it up and making a conscious effort to ignore the threshold (and, in fact, skip right over it) also has helped me switch off a little. You find yourself noticing the small things; new growth, insects you've never come across before, the quietening that happens just before a good bout of rain. It's addictive, intoxicating stuff. It'll have you padding out in your slippers with a cup of tea, before anyone else in the house is up. Come evening, it will have you soaking up the last of the day's sunlight and enjoying the whole new lease of life that comes out at night.
So, go on. Grow something green. It doesn't matter if it's a pot of your favourite herbs, or acres of flowers and veg. For me, the result is the same. Life affirming.