It seemed like such a good idea at the time. We’d been trying to get a new kitchen fitted since last October. Some things are noteably harder to get sorted living on a relatively remote Island, as compared to living within 6 miles of a major city as we did before. Anyway, having finally found a kitchen we liked that came with all the odd sized units we needed to make the best use of our odd shaped kitchen, they had a sale. So of course we ordered it – the savings were not to be sneezed at. And found people to fit it and do the electrics and plastering. Also not to be sneezed at. The price being that we suddenly had to spend time and energy stripping out the old kitchen to make way for the new. In the middle of the summer, in the best weather we have had for years. When the kitchen garden needed attention.
We removed cabinets, sorted out plumbing, stripped off floor and wall tiles, and painted the artex ceiling in horrid blue gritty stuff ready for the plasterers to work their magic.
We even recycled the old kitchen, it fitted perfectly along the wall in the conservatory and already looks as if it has always been there. It made camping out much easier, providing much needed storage and running water.
The process of fitting the new one had to be halted for a week in the middle to accommodate the first of our summer visitors. Our wonderful kitchen fitter and electrician made sure they left us with a working oven though, and for the first time since we moved here almost a year ago I was able to cook a proper roast dinner. It was wonderful. The chaos all starts up again tomorrow, just as we are recovering some energy. On the plus side I have met some great tradespeople, learnt a lot of new local gossip, found the perfect excuse to buy a lovely new powerful drill, complete with chisel action, and have a wonderful new double oven. On the minus side both blogging and gardening have taken a back seat, and I have barely played in the sea, desptite the perfect weather. But. Despite neglect, despite haphazard watering, despite a proliferation of weeds, the kitchen garden has still been wonderfully productive.
In the greenhouse, tomatoes, chillies and sweet peppers are doing their thing, though the only tomatoes I am picking at the moment are the small sweet yellow “Gold Nugget” cherries. And I have made a note to never plant marigolds in the greenhouse beds, they look lovely and provided early flowers for cutting but I keep tripping over them and they are smothering the basil!
The raised beds, filled with moisture-retaining compost and manure, are producing prolific crops of mange tout and broad beans.
“Witkiem-Manita” have proved prolific and very tasty, though the nettles that have crept in between them have made harvesting them a little more adventurous than I wanted.
The purple podded peas have cropped well too, and are beautiful in their own right. They tend to go tough and stringy if you leave them too long, which is an issue when your attention is taken by tile removal etc, but happily when left even longer, to turn in to proper peas, they taste gorgeous again, so a definite winner.
The mangetout ‘Golden Sweet’ are equally decorative and even more productive, though sadly the peas they form when left too long are not at all tasty, I need to try cooking them, which feels sacreligious but is the only way to avoid wasting the ones I missed picking when perfect. Note to self – sow fewer and at greater intervals next year, the second lot caught up with the first lot and they don’t blanch and freeze well!
The other major lesson is to build more robust supports. It’s funny, I got away with using bamboo and pea netting up at the old allotment site, which was very exposed, but the combination of heavy crops and the way that the south westerly gales howl down the hill from the park mean that everything is collapsing. I plan to build re-usable sturdy supports made of stained wood and chicken wire for future years. And lovely though the phacelia is, I won’t be sowing it in the main veg beds again, picking in such close proximity to hungry bees is not good for the nerves…
Elsewhere I am getting guilty pleasure from watching up to half a dozen Cabbage White butterflies at a time try to gain access to the cabbages and purple sprouting broccoli growing under the netting:
The sweet peas are growing well, though had longer stalks when they were getting more water – the scent floods in to the study when the door is open, pure heaven.
I am pleased with how well the courgettes are producing, but again, the lack of watering – I assume – means they are growing slowly, as is the sweetcorn.
I have been more assiduous with the watering these past couple of weeks, so hopefully things will buck up a little. I really need to collect some seaweed to use as a mulch, but for some reason there isn’t as much on the beach as normal at the moment. Certainly the celeriac will need lots more water and a good mulch if I am to get a good harvest.
Which brings me to the beans. I can handle the fact that the beautiful lettuces went to seed and my failure to sow enough replacements, and I have plenty of beetroot for my needs despite the failure of the yellow variety to thrive, but I was hoping for a goodly harvest of french beans through the summer. We love french beans. I use them in curries and stir fries, steamed with chops or with a roast, raw in salads. But they have stubbornly refused to germinate, even with lots of watering. Some might have been too old, but others were bought new this year. I need to check my notebook. But I am not exactly excited when all I have to look at in the bean department at the moment is this:
I’m stubborn, so I will be sowing some more, along with the oriental leaves and parsely, and really, I am very happy with my first year. Given how distracted I have been, and at a crucial point in the season, the kitchen garden still feels like a success. But the lack of beans really bugs me, far more than my epic lettuce failure.
Above all, though, I treasure the knowledge that we are here for the long term, so I can shrug and move on secure in the knowledge that next year the successes and failures will be different, that the learning I do this year will carry forward, that being able to walk out the back door and pick things works so much better for me than the larger space the allotment provided before we moved, and that above all, I don’t have to listen to a voice in my ear saying “but you’ll be moving soon, is it worth it?”.