Strawberries and garlic and beans, oh my!

It’s accepted that you’re generally a centimetre or two taller in the morning than the evening because of nicely scientific reasons like gravity and how hydrated your vertibrae are, but one day this week I got into the car to drive to work and found myself adjusting the rearview mirror because it was giving me a good view of my car’s roof. On the way home, however, I found myself adjusting it straight back again because it was giving me a good view of the back seats, so I’d like to add a day in the office to the list of excuses 🙂

Life took a turn for the good yesterday when my landlord offered me the use of 2 brand new raised beds to grow some vegetables in a plot he’s building, getting on for 10 metres from my kitchen door which is even closer than the ones I made at my previous house. One major caveat is that I keep it looking neat and tidy because it’s in plain sight and not hidden round the back of the garage. I’ve been looking at a few professionally kept walled gardens (well, I can dream can’t I?) so it’s time to put that into practice.

The beans I planted four weeks ago have had to be pinched out already, left to their own devices they’d be three feet up my kitchen table legs already, so they’ve been potted on from their root trainers into four inch pots and placed in my plastic greenhouse to start to harden off. I’m a little annoyed that I didn’t save more of the willow I cut at the last house to use for bean stakes, I suspect that a pair of bamboo A-frames with plasticised wires won’t be cutting the mustard this year, so I might try to repeat my sweet pea tree idea. More on that in a few weeks time once the beds and beans are ready to be combined.

It’s also a wonderful excuse to go charging through seed catalogues again. With the farm shop at the end of the road, I’m not hugely motivated to grow bulky maincrops that they do so cost effectively, so that leaves plenty of room for fun. I’m going to be planting out the elephant garlic I’ve been keeping alive for a couple of years so it can stretch its legs, brassicas like strawberry spinach, a couple of heritage tomato varieties that stand a faint chance of working in the open, ball courgettes, maybe some chard and definately a main crop of strawberries. The main predators will be the pet chickens, so whilst that should keep some insects at bay it also means I can’t really direct sow.

I can’t neglect the looks, so rigorous rows will be the order of the day to help weeding, but I’ll probably also intersperse a few flowers. If I didn’t fail so completely at maize, I’d attempt the triad of squash, corn and beans, but I haven’t once eaten home grown corn-on-the-cob so I’m giving that up as a bad job. Sweet peas cutting through the beans seem a reasonable start but I’ll likely add some nasturtiums and marigolds to add a dash of colour. I’m definately open to suggestions here, I wonder what styles of companion planting have been developed over the years. Now if only chocolate brownies grew on vines..

Whilst typing this, I’ve got a recording of yesterday’s Saturday Kitchen playing on the TV and there’s a segment of classic Keith Floyd from what could easily be the mid 1970s but I suspect is 1995 where he’s cooking a local sauce called a ‘pesto’. How times have changed. Hands up anybody who doesn’t take supermarket pesto for granted? (and thanks to B for showing me it existed one day in a James College kitchen a year or two ago!)