My life is currently dominated by boxes, bubblewrap, packing tape and paint brushes. I’m trying to get the upstairs decorated while MIL is in Arizona, since the ever flexible FIL is seemingly content to be moved around from room to room as I rearrange furniture and paint walls and woodwork. Its exhausting, but necessary, and it feels good to be making visible progress towards getting the house on the market. The casualty is gardening. With all this mild weather there is loads I could/should be doing outside, I would love to be outside, but instead I am inside snatching glimpses of autumn through the windows. I did rush out the other day to take some photos of the acer, since I realised it was beginning to look a little naked, weeping scarlet leaves on the ground.

Blazing Acer
Acer Leaf
Acer Leaf

The thing is, I get really grumpy when I don’t get a regular dose of gardening. Something TNG understands, so with his blessing I took some time out from the endless job list last week to get dirt under my fingernails again. The first task was to pot up the bulbs that were supposed to go in the ground but now can’t, either because the dahlias are still flowering and I refuse to dig them up before they are properly frosted, or because we are going to move so many plants around to make it look family-friendly. I like planting bulbs in pots, so much easier than digging in cold heavy clay! That done, I turned my attentition to my “plant nursery”.

I have something of a dirty little secret. I’m not very good at nurturing plants. I will happily lavish attention on seedlings in Spring and Autumn, and really enjoy pricking out and potting on. But once they are in their first proper pots, I have a dreadful tendency to start neglecting them. I move on to “more exciting things”. I’ve had loads of aquilegias, campanulas, monardas languishing in too-small pots for months now, and haven’t noticed or done anything about it. I’ve occasionally lifted up a pot and looked for white roots poking through the bottom and, not seeing any, have happily moved on to the next task. In theory I know that not all plants have nice obvious white roots, heaven knows I have planted and divided enough plants that don’t. So there is little excuse for the fact that it turns out that my campanulas were totally root-bound but have such fine brown roots I just didn’t notice. Note to self – tip a plant out of its pot every now and again, just to check. Anyway, all is now sorted, perennials potted on, herbs divided and replanted, all pots off the patio ready for the Great Autumn Pressure-washing Adventure. I call it an adventure in the hope that it will encourage me to get out and do it before I slip over and break something on the slimy surfaces…

Plant Nursery

On Friday I finally snatched a couple of hours to go up to the allotment, hoping to still be able to see the outline of the beds amongst the weeds and over grown grass. It wasn’t actually as bad as I had feared, and I managed to clear a small bed to sow broad beans, and pick a load of lovely “Trail of Tears” beans. I am going to leave the rest to mature and try drying them and using them in soups and casseroles. However, my main reason for vistiting was to harvest the first of my Jerusalem Artichokes. I was expecting maybe a dozen or so of those little knobbly things I am used to getting in veg boxes, and I thought I would have to dig quite deeply for them. I was wrong on both counts, the tubers seemed to have spread out more horozontally than vertically, sneaking under the strawbewrries which made life interesting. But the biggest surprise was the size and number from just one plant.

Jerusalem Artichoke Harvest

I don’t often bother to weight my harvests, but I was curious, so after scrubbing all the dirt off I put them on the kitchen scales – 1.4kg from just one plant! I was amazed, and some of them are enormous, compared to those I am used to seeing.

Surprising Artichokes

Some have been put aside for roasting, and I made soup with the rest.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

It doesn’t look terribly appetising, I managed to forget to harvest any parsely, and a sprinkling of green leaves on top would cheer it up no end, but it tasted delicious – I added a little Garam Masala to complement the nuttiness of the roots. That, together with a large salad and crusty bread, will be the basis of lunch with gardening-Sil and BIL today. Then we will be wrestling with the irises in the pond to give them a new home before I dismantle the whole thing. Once I’ve finished painting.

I don’t like being away from the plot for weeks at a time, I always fear what will greet me when I get back up there, but this time I did at least see some signs that I might get a (small) sprout harvest after all. The lovely purple ‘Red Delicious’ is stuttering into stunted life…

Possible Purple Sprouts

…it won’t exactly be a feast, but it looks as if I should get something. The more robust ‘Maximus’ plants, though still small compared to my neighbours’, are more promising. Sorry about the poor photos, I was in a rush.

Green Sprouts

I’m off to wander around the garden with gardening-SIL and talk about what plants she fancies having for her own garden. It is warm, sunny, the dahlias are blooming, and the patio is tidy, if a little green. I really must try to remember to give myself regular doses of horticulture to balance the mad painting and packing activities! And apologies for being way behind on the blog reading, I’m working on it…

46 thoughts on “Guilty Gardening

  1. Those Jerusalem artichokes are thugs – we once planted a few on our plot and ended up with a thicket over a metre wide. We ended up digging them all out which took a while as there were masses of tubers – we should have set up a stall!

    1. Hi Sue, they do seem to be one of those “very well adapted” plants, I think my clump will soon be someone else’s problem, but I am not trying to leave tubers in.

  2. How nice that your NGH encourages you to get out into the dirt before you get too grumpy! Smart man. Your acer is looking gorgeous. Ours not so good this year…lots of burnt tips even in full shade. It was just too dang hot and dry this year. They are tough though; hopefully they will hang on until La Nina loosens her grip.

    1. HI Cat, I’m not surprised your acer has suffered a little in the crazy heat you have had this year, but I’m sure it will be back and even more beautiful next year. TNG knows that encouraging me to go out and play is just self preservation ;-)

  3. Looks as if you will get a worthwhile harvest after all! How long can you store Jerusalem Artichokes once you have dug them up? Are they as long-lived as potatoes? Your soup looks lovely, despite the lack of parsley – needs one of your home-made loaves in the picture though! :)

    1. Hi Mark, I’m not sure on the storage front, I am intending to use all mine within a few days and dig them up as and when I want them, something I may well regret if we get another really long hard spell of frozen ground. The slices of bread lurking by the bowl and from one of my seedy spelt loaves.

  4. So its not just me. I do exactly the same thing with my plants in pots. In fact I deliberately didn’t make up any containers this last summer because I knew with having the allotment I would be even more distracted and forget to look after them. I’m a little like that with houseplants, although I am improving. I really should pressure wash my path. I nearly went over the other day going out to feed the birds but it is a reclaimed brick path so the mosses and everything are part of its look. I know what you mean about needing a gardening fix. I think that is what makes my SAD at this time of year worse, because I love being outdoors but its getting to the point now where there is little to do even if the weather is good. Oh well only 6 weeks to the shortest day and then we’re turning back to Spring again.

    1. Hurrah, I am not alone! I am a total disaster with house plants, even herbs on the kitchen windowsill suffer from neglect, which is mad given that not only am I supposedly a keen gardener, I am also a really keen cook. On the SAD front, are there any building projects you could tackle outdoors, edging beds or building compost bins? I’m lucky, I don’t suffer from it, but on days like today, with low heavy cloud cover, even I feel my spirits drop. Thank goodness for six weeks and counting.

  5. Goodness you are a busy girl – I hate being cooped up all day but also hate damp drizzley weather – managed to get to the allotment today and do a bit, felt much better for it.

    1. I agree about damp and drizzly, though I do find that if I make myself get out there anyway I am soon much happier than I was grousing about it indoors. Right now I am longing for those classic cold crisp clear autumn days, but still not frosts here. Crazy. Happy dahlias though!

  6. Hi Janet,
    I am sure you’re not the first nor the last to have your dirty little secret… I know I do exactly the same. This year I’ve forced myself to plant things just because I’m fed up of having plastic pots all over the decking with small plants in them that I then ignore and end up throwing the whole lot away instead.
    My Rudbekia I grew from seed are still in their plastic pot on the decking… Most things, however I did manage to get in the ground – most probably in completely unsuitable spots because I planted them in haste, simply planting them because otherwise they’d be ignored.

    I’m glad to see you do have some sprouts coming – although I don’t think I’ll be tempted to steal any off you :P

    Good luck with the painting; we’ve done some DIY today, new blinds and curtains. As well as having bought a storage tub to pack away all my Uni ‘stuff’ as it’s cluttering up the living room and looks a real eyesore. Jobs for the spring here are: painting outside walls, oiling the kitchen worktop, painting internal doors and getting new kitchen cupboard doors (the doors we have are way too heavy and coming off their hinges. Two doors aren’t on and looks an awful mess)

    1. Hi Liz, you have no idea how comforting it is to hear that other people similarly neglect plants in pots. I too have be known to do emergency planting when the guilt gets to me – fortunately I am always happy to move plants around that I think are in the wrong place… Your DIY schedule sounds almost as bad as mine! I have to paint the side of the garage at some point, but the job I am really dreading is painting the kitchen. So much stuff to move, so much filling and sanding to around sockets, which I am really bad at. As to the sprouts, I don’t think I need to worry about anyone stealing them, only the grower could love such a sparse harvest!!

      1. Hi Janet,

        Ah, well my problem is that I then don’t move said plants! Lol, although as I gain more experience I am getting better at moving plants just as I am with actually planting things. Often when I buy new plants they can sit weeks if not months waiting to be planted, too! I’m beginning to wonder whether I enjoy the thrill of buying new plants more than actually doing the work.

        I really need to paint the rooms and such, but that’s a job that’s going to have to wait a little longer. You know how it is; the paint begins to look tired, and you get scuff marks in random places. So nothing looks terrible… Just a little shabby after a few years. I’m also dreading doing the kitchen doors; in case I end up having an entire new kitchen – that’s allowing for problems to crop up, I just know my bad luck! I had intended on getting a new kitchen, but as it becomes increasingly likely that I’ll move, I’ll just go for the quicker and less hassle option.

        1. I had a bad moment yesterday when I thought I was going to have to paint all the woodwork as well – fortunately a bit of elbow grease solved the problem. Then I discovered that the paint had gone off… Not a good day, yesterday. There is something about DIY, whatever project you tackle , and howver organised you think you are, something always jumps up and bites you on the bum. Good luck with your kitchen…

  7. goodness Janet, for a ‘gardening is the casualty’ post that’s a lot of gardening outcomes you achieved there! And made soup. And wrote a post about it. You’re bionic woman in my book :o)

  8. Congratulations on your astounding harvest! Definitely not a sign of any gardening deficiencies. I suffer the same condition of losing enthusiasm later in the season, often partly a function of ending up with far more seedlings than I have space for. What to do, what to do with all those seedlings? Often, unfortunately, “nothing” wins out. There is a finite amount of energy in the universe. I’m glad to see that you’re channeling your supply to accomplish all that you have!

    1. Hi James, I do struggle with the seedlings issue. I was confronted with a huge number of hellebore seedlings recently. I decided to pot up “just a few” and put the rest on the compost heap. But while I was teasing them apart I was haunted by the thought that the ones I chucked might be the very ones with the most interesting flowers. I now have a large number of hellebore seedlings lurking in the coldframe. Ridiculous.

  9. You deserve that gardening break Janet! There is loads to do indeed but now and again you have to take it easy and do what you really enjoy doing :)

    1. Thank you, yes, so true. Though on a dark dank day like today I am quite happy to be indoors procrastinating about the painting I need to get down to!

  10. You shouldn’t feel guilty Janet, we all have other pressures on our time and sadly gardening can’t always be top of the priorities. I admit to sharing your guilty secret about plants I grow – the problem is I find it hard to just let seedlings die so I prick out far too many, then I leave them in pots that are too small and they either die or are stunted, but I wasted huge amounts of time and worse too much water growing them. I intend being more hard hearted when I have a tray of seedlings but I know know if I’ll be strong willed enough to stick to this. Your images of the Acer are beautiful, enjoy! Christina

    1. Hi Christina, I am so heartened to learn that so many others do the same with plants. I always end up pricking out too many seedlings too, though if I was tougher then I wouldn’t kill so many plants off through neglect later! I am glad I got the images of the acer when I did, two days later all the leaves are brown and shrivelled, and most are on the ground.

  11. Goodness you’ve been busy! It’s been ideal gardening weather, but then it’s also been surprisingly ideal for decorating too. It sounds like you’ve managed to get the balance between what you feel you ‘should’ be doing and what you want to do just right.

    I smiled in recognition at the way you treat your plants. I have a similar ‘nursery’ area in my side garden where it’s all too easy to plonk a plant and ‘forget’ it’s there ;)

    1. Hi VP, it felt good to get some garden jobs done. Even better to learn that we are all pretty much the same when it comes to plant neglect! I am greatly comforted to know that I am just one of many slightly guilty plant neglecters.

  12. Hi Janet, I feel your pain, having just gone through moving house and missing gardening terribly. Didn’t really feel like myself again until I had time to root around the soil at the new place. Those acer photos are superb!

    1. Hi Cyndy, it has been really good watching you get to know your new garden, it makes me feel so much more positive about my own upcoming move, though until I know what kind of garden I am going to it is hard to get excited.

  13. Some people move house every seven years or so, oh my what a hassle. You seem very organised I am sure it will all go well with yourselves. Certainly did catch your Acer in time, looks terrific. As a child I hated all vegetables except for sprouts, told you I was a bit weird. Myra lets get out the soup pot, artichokes! naw, never tasted them before. alistair

    1. Hi Alistair, I am hoping that home grown sprouts will convince FIL that they are not an evil vegetable. I can’t imagine moving every 7 years, though when I was younger I moved every year for 10 years! By the end I needed a small hire van, but most of those it was just a car with a decent boot. Standing looking at the garage, which is packed to the roof with stuff, my brother-in-law suggested we needed to chuck some stuff out before we discover we will need two removal lorries to move all our clobber. How times change…

  14. As always an enjoyable post to read with lots of good photos. Acers are great for providing some much welcome colour at this time of year.
    I recently dug up some unwanted Jerusalem artichokes and was surprised at the size, and quantity, of the tubers. I don’t eat them but all were passed on to people who do. xx

    1. Thanks Flighty – and lucky friends and neighbours getting your unwanted Jerusalem Artichokes! I am already planning my next meal with them…

  15. Hello bionic lady, goddess of garden, family soup and bread. Do me a big favour, give yourself a wee break. Lie on you tummy and weed if you must of wield a paintbrush or something to reduce the guilt. So far I hear, nurturing partner/daughterinlaw, painter decorator extraordianaire, house removal service, cook, baker, garden designer, propagator, nursery woman, gardener, partner, woman.

    I prescribe, a dose of gardening regularly, and a lovely hot bowl soup, bath/shower and a garden mag/seed catalogue, to plan a few new delights. if only I’d really got o be a Dr of flowers…….look after yourself.

    So you like raising seedlings, so do I, before I kill them all, by moving onto more exciting things, I tend to resell them! If it’s not too crazy maybe u can to, or when u get settled.Xx

    You’re doing fab lady

    1. Thank you Fay, I think I needed to hear that, I get myself into a weird and unhelpful mind space where I completely lose all sense of perspective. I think I need some serious down time once I have these bedrooms decorated, before I go ‘pop’…

      Not sure about selling seedlings, though might think about it once we are settled in whatever new place we go to.

  16. Despite not getting much gardening done, it seems you’ve done quite a good lot of gardening! I’m impressed by your resolve to keep the allotment going even while you’re elbow deep in moving chores. I think I would be tempted to just forget it but then I suppose that lovely home grown, home made soup makes up for the hard work.

    1. Hi Marguerite, I think the saving grace on the allotment front is that it is the quiet season, so just the occasional trip up there should be enough. It will have to be!

  17. I can’t resist potting up every seed that germinates ( for plant sales and friends I tell myself). They look fine all lined up along the wall until I try to move them. Astrantias are the worst and have their roots firmly in the soil by the time I get to them. I sometimes have to cut them out of their pots, divide them and end up with even more. I think it’s a case of self control….I’m working on it.
    In the meantime be kind to yourself and have a break!
    Oh and by the way, I stopped growing artichokes of the knobbly variety because everyone complained about the after effects of eating them, especially in soup. And it was very flavoursome soup too!

    1. Hi Janet, I must admit that the after effects of the soup were the source of much mirth last night… Worth it though, so very tasty. I know exactly what you mean about plants rooting into the ground and having to cut them out, it happens to me too! Like you, I am working on developing enough self control to only grow what I actually need. But what if some die and then you don’t have enough?! I was really careful not to grow too many Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’ this year, and then because the knautia died I needed extra fillers and had to beg extra plants from a friend!

  18. Gosh, no need to apologize–you are busy, busy! That Maple is beautiful! And you have an impressive harvest of Brussels Sprouts and Artichokes! Yum! I know what you mean about needing a gardening fix, though. That’s how I feel in January and February here–or like you when life gets too busy.

    1. I think that is why Spring is so very welcome to us gardeners, we have all started to go a little stir crazy in the down season, there is only so much planning and seed catalogue reading you can do…

  19. Have to say I agree with Janet, Janet (!). The after effects of artichoke soup were such as to put me off them. And the quantities – good lord. We ended up giving them to a neighbours pigs, who adored them. Trugs and trugs of them. (They’ll be fine left in the ground for some weeks, by the way). And I never, ever, ever forget to repot things! Please try harder …

    1. Nope, the soup is worth the mirth-inducing after effects!! And I couldn’t possibly seek to emulate your level of perfection when it comes to plant care, I need you there as a shining beacon of what is possible, to urge me on to greater efforts but without ever reaching your level. So I will try harder, but not much harder ;-)

  20. Beautiful photos of the Acer, they are so wonderful at this time of year. I think you need a rest, you are doing far too much, but then moving house is supposed to be one of the most stressful times, don’t forget to give yourself a bit of “me” time !

    1. Hi Pauline, it’s funny, but writing this post and then reading all the comments has brought home to me how daft I am being! You are right, I need a break.

  21. Janet, do, do make sure that you give yourself some “regular doses of horticulture” and do not feel guilty about it! It will help you achieve those other tasks more quickly and efficiently if you are reinvigorated by fresh air and by having time to yourself. Vital for your well being and sanity I would say :) I have a similar habit of leaving plants in pots too long – some of my cold frame occupants have rooted into the ground below the pots :(

    1. Hi Anna, sound advice that I will do my best to remember – and follow! I hate it when you have to rip pots out of the coldframe – or off the capillary matting. It makes me feel mean!!

  22. Hi Janet

    I’ve been doing exactly the same as you, painting the house upstairs, downstairs, then having new flooring put right through. It’s made me a grumpy so & so not being able to do as much in the garden as I would have liked! We are putting our place on the market in the new year too. Gah!

    Best of luck to you and Merry Christmas x

    1. Hi Karen, all that painting – and worst of all, all that brush cleaning – is pretty much guaranteed to make you grumpy! Hope you had a restful and non grumpy Christmas. Good luck with your move, the whole process is all rather stressful. We still have lots of painting to do, and a lawn to lay before we get as far as estate agents. Gah indeed!

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