Keeping the rabbits out

There’s never enough time for all the possible jobs on our smallholding so there’s an element of prioritising the available time. However, growing and eating some of our own produce will always be a high priority for me.

The growing season starts a little later in the year for us as demonstrated by the last growing update that was posted in April and featured very little plant growth. I still enjoy growing some fresh, healthy food from just a few small seeds though and maybe one day when I have more spare time I’ll advance to a greenhouse or polytunnel as well.

It can be tricky to keep on top of the weeding, watering and general care along with all the other jobs – especially in the summer months. This is made even harder if the rabbits are happily sneaking in to the raised beds whenever they want.

Good growth from the dwarf beans and swedes

For the moment we have a combination of green, plastic coated wire fencing in place with added chicken wire because the baby rabbits kept squeezing through the small holes.

This seems to have been working well recently, especially now that I’ve started regular detailed examinations and made minor repairs as needed. Earlier this year there was a major set back by about 2-3 weeks after one or more intruders nibbled the tops off just about everything.

Eventually I must get around to replace this ramshackle fencing with something more presentable but for the moment it’s just important that the one task is handled properly – keeping my veg safe from the rabbits!

Nice straight lines for chard, parsnips, courgettes, leeks, dwarf beans and onions

The raised beds are really starting to come good now after the additions from our compost bins, some well rotted leaves from a couple of years ago and also the ash from our biomass pellet boiler every month or so.

Mixed results from the carrots and leeks

With just one bed (carrots and leeks) giving me cause for concern at this stage, I have high hopes for an ever increasing harvest in the coming weeks.

So far we’ve only had some chard (very nice as always) but I’m hoping for some decent small carrots when I get around to thinning those out.

First courgette on the way

The first few courgettes are always exciting of course but I also remember that they are soon followed by a glut despite my best efforts at succession sowing.

Some beetroot seedlings doing well

While I’m not a big fan of beetroot, it’s so easy to grow that I can’t stop myself sowing some seeds most years. Usually it goes nicely with some salad or occasionally we roast some with other root veg. This year I’m also planning to freeze some for use later so I’m hoping that I’ve sown about the right amount.

Successes and failures in the raised beds

With so much attention focussed on the livestock over the last few months, it made a pleasant change to spend some time on the raised beds were put in place after we moved here.  Even though some of the results this year are not as good as hoped, the simple fact that we can eat fresh produce from the garden is still very rewarding.

This will hopefully be the last year of significant experimentation with vegetables in the raised beds. Over the past 2-3 years I’ve tried a selection of different crops and different varieties of our favourites with the idea of identifying what works best in our location.

For the second year in a row, the dwarf beans have been unimpressive and I suspect that any success in the first year was purely luck. Mostly the problem was down to poor germination but even those I’ve planted out are now looking too impressive. I think it’s likely that I’ll give these a miss for a year or two now in favour of something more reliable.

Dwarf beans and extra carrots
Dwarf beans and extra carrots

As reliable as ever, the leeks always seem to do well here and this year is the third different area I’ve tried them in so they must like the general location.

These will definitely be on the regular list for vegetables to grow and hopefully this year I’ve got the quantity right as there were far too many last year!


Despite a slow start with the carrots there are now quite a few growing on in the raised beds. It was a battle early on when sowing seeds direct and as a result there aren’t as many as I’d hoped now.

However, compared to the difficulties with just germinating parsnip seeds, the carrots could be counted as a comparative success. Even though we love eating fresh, home-grown parsnip in the winter the problems with getting them started means that I may not bother with them next year.

Carrots and parsnips
Carrots and parsnips

After an unexpected success last year with my first attempts at growing chard, this got another chance again this year and yet again is doing really well.

Easy to grow with a cut and come again approach to harvesting plus it’s really tasty when cooked – this is sure to be on the list for future years.

Chard and self-seeded nasturtiums
Chard and self-seeded nasturtiums

As usual for me, I think I planted the first batch of courgette seeds too soon so they were never going to do well. However the second batch benefitted from my first attempts at using a heated propagator. Of course I now have too many courgette plants again this year but isn’t that obligatory if you grow courgettes?

The 2 onions in this picture were actually planted elsewhere last year but came to nothing so I moved them to an empty this spring. After a few months they’ve developed quite well – perhaps better than last years onions did – so that’s a bit of a bonus and perhaps an indication that they would do well in this bed?


Every year so far swedes have been the most reliable crop I’ve grown here and this year looks to be no different. I seems that nothing I do will stop the swede seeds from germinating and growing into a tasty crop!

Luckily it’s become a favourite in the kitchen too so there’s always a place for swedes in the raised beds.


Vegetable raised bed update

Despite holding off a little longer this year before starting with veg growing, it seems that I was still far too keen even though some of the seeds were initially planted inside to germinate. Eventually they still needed to be planted out but the weather in our part of the world just hasn’t warmed up as quickly as I’d hoped.

After a slow start there is finally something to show for all the efforts now that the red cabbage and red brussels sprouts have been transplanted in the raised beds last weekend.

Red cabbage and red brussels sprouts
Red cabbage and red brussels sprouts

Unfortunately things don’t look quite so good where I’ve been planting seed directly into their final growing positions. The raised bed that was set aside for carrots and parsnips this year looks distinctly unimpressive and I may need to investigate a backup plan if nothing happens soon.

Carrots and parsnips supposedly
Carrots and parsnips supposedly

After last years successful crop, there was no reason not to grow swede again and at least this has proved to be more resilient. The netting is already up to protect from the expected rush of pests even though the plants themselves aren’t yet of a size to make much of a meal for the bugs!

Red cabbage and red brussels sprouts
The swedes are covered

On the bright side though, the soft fruit is doing well in the temporary home of a raised bed. Eventually this will be moved to a permanent home but I’m taking my time with that after learning a hard lesson when planting fruit trees in what turned out to be an underground pond in winter!

Black and Red Currants doing well
Black and Red Currants doing well

Planning seems to be paying off

I’ll probably change my mind when summer gets here but at the moment this is definitely my favourite time of year. The first swallow arrived yesterday – only 5 days later than last year – which I’m definitely taking as a good sign even though it was only one bird so far.

There is so much happening right now with the seeds starting to put on some impressive growth and the effort put in through the winter with the planting plans starting to pay off.

I’ve even managed to resist the urge to plant too much too soon this year which is a first for me. Having said that I think I might still have planted a little too much but at least it wasn’t too soon!

Original raised bed plan
Original raised bed plan

The only minor change to the original plans I’d made during the winter was to also plant a selection of flower seeds as well as vegetable and herb seeds. I suspect that this helped to ease my excessive planting urge because I could plant other seeds instead.

Actually, I now remember that there was another “minor” change when I added the new 20ft long raised bed a few weeks ago. However in my mind that doesn’t really count as breaking the plans because I’m simply adding more growing space for the courgettes which went so well last year.

Next year will certainly be a little different though as there are grand plans in my head for a polytunnel (maybe 10ft x 20ft) and even a greenhouse but I may need to seek approval from my better half before going ahead with all of that!

Let’s hear it for wonky veg

Why should your carrots all look the same shape or colour? I grew purple carrots last year and they tasted just fine but I still prefer the orange ones for some reason… Whatever the colour they never grow as straight as you see them in the shops

Why should a parsnip be straight and pointy? This year is my first attempt with parsnips and I was quite impressed with this first one. Very tasty and really easy to grow once you can get the seeds to germinate!

Do all swedes have to be round and look the same? Another relative success story in my first year with growing them. Why would I be bothered what shape they are if I’m going to boil and mash them?

So let’s hear it for home-grown, wonky veg …

There's nothing wrong with wonky!
There’s nothing wrong with wonky!

Where did September go?

Almost without my noticing, the time has just shot by with no blog updates for quite some time. The various demands of the day job and the associated travel have become more of a priority. On top of that, more time is needed to process the pork from our pigs into bacon and sausage then distribute the results to friends and family.

It’s already October and autumn is well underway – at least it is in our part of the world. The success from the relatively small collection of leaves last year has provided some lovely leaf mould so there are plans to increase these efforts this year.

Given the lack of updates recently, this seemed a good time to bring together a few pictures to illustrate the recent results of this years growing season.

The purple podded peas proved to be very productive but for some reason the dwarf beans didn’t do as well as last year. The leeks and carrots were slow to get established but the beetroot performed well as usual. The biggest surprise for me – apart from the crop from the existing strawberry plants – was the swede which I grew for the first time this year. It’s doing very well and proving to be very tasty!

There are hopes for more to come over the next few weeks particularly from the new raised beds. But it won’t be long before thoughts will have to turn to planning for next year!