Garden Project Update

Its been some time since I mentioned this rather overgrown suburban garden that is now a veg factory and insect feeder.

 

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The furthest bed was planted with three types of Kale and boy no matter how fast I eat it it just keeps growing and will provide me with fresh greens right through the winter, its just an amazing vegetable and looks rather nice to.

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The central bed again with Kale and Broccoli and finally the experimental way to over crowded third bed planted with two potatoes just to see how they would grow in the front garden (going by the foliage pretty good so far) Swiss chard around the edges (did not expect them to get so big) some beetroot and doing really well, a few Fennel just as I have never eaten or grown it and acquired some free seeds and finally completely swamped some radish, but I did see the flowers as they bolted.

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The first two beds have done exceptionally well apart from the broccoli as that bolted rather early and although I managed to eat some before turning to flowers it was nevertheless a bit disappointing, but not to the hover flies and bees as I let them have the flowers rather than pull up the plants. I also have the option of letting the seeds develop for next year or cut them down before setting seeds to encourage new growth.

The third bed has  also done extremely well, but I planted way too much and it was cramped. I perhaps should not have planted so much swiss chard as in this partial shady spot it has grown very big and encroached onto the other plants. It does say it likes partial shade and these plants show that as they are much bigger than the ones I have grown in the past in full sun, so next year perhaps just one plant in each corner will be enough. Also, perhaps down to the cramped conditions, some of the plants bolted and flowered, but no great problem as they provided forage for bees and hover flies. After the flowers started to die back I removed the plants and the remaining plants seemed  happier with the extra room and have probably provided more greens to eat, so a lesson learnt give swiss chard room to grow.

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The two front flower beds have done ok with poppies been the dominant flower this season along with the a mix of other wild flowers that have given a hint of the potential to come. I think the two flower beds have had too much shade this year to let the flowers fully establish and I am hoping for a better show next year and if they become dominated by the poppies then I would not mind one bit as they are very nice and although short lived the bees and hover flies love them. I have removed bucket loads of the most common and persistent weeds from these two beds so as to give the wild flower seeds their best chance to take and establish. I removed some weeds from the rest of the garden, but left the weeds I know are good for insects.

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Its surprising what pops up once a patch of land is cleared and I was surprised to see so much ragwort appear in the garden, thankfully not in the veg beds, but along the fence and paths. So along with other beneficial weeds such as michaelmas daisies and one or two I have no idea what they are called I simply left them to grow and again the insects have benefited although I have removed most of the plants before they set seed.

I have spotted this yellow and black caterpillar on ragwort before and thought it was interesting, but never gave it any great thought so when I spotted it on the ragwort in the garden I did a bit of googling and its the caterpillar of the Cinnabar moth and is a specialist eater of ragwort and as ragwort is toxic the caterpillar absorbs the toxins and therefore becomes unpalatable to be eaten  and sends out a bright yellow and black striped signal to advertise this. Sometimes there are so many caterpillars on the ragwort it is reduced to a small stump and presumably the caterpillars move onto the next plant.

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I know that bees forage on ragwort and at this time of year there can be lots of it about. I have been told it produces a nasty smelly nectar that can make honey unpleasant and rather smelly but this small amount in this garden would not be a problem and I rather like the idea of the hover flies and bees having a good feed on this plant.

The garden is starting to wind down now the Kale will continue to provide but as the days shorten the beds will be cleared of their produce and shut down until next year.

I still have the last bit of the garden to sort out and something I can sort out over the next few months when the mood takes me. Once cleared I  think I can get one more raised bed in once cleared so as to provide more lovely veg for next year.

The rear garden has been equally productive if not more so this year as it has been an almost perfect year for the garden and the bees come to that.

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12 Responses to Garden Project Update

  1. solarbeez says:

    Congratulations on getting so much produce out of your garden. Kale is one of those super foods with all kinds of good healthy properties including fighting cancer qualities. The bees will benefit when it flowers in early spring.
    When you are around the fennel, look for the green caterpillar with black stripes. I spotted a couple in our fennel for the first time ever. They are caterpillars for the Black Swallowtail butterfly. I saw them a couple of days ago and then they disappeared…I hope a bird didn’t pick them off. http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/eastern_black_swallowtail.htm
    Did you have a post about growing coneflowers? They sip the nectar from them.

    • thomas73640 says:

      Thanks for the comment and good news on kale and its cancer fighting properties as we have way too much cancer in our family history. It is without doubt a wonderful plant and its hard to think it’s taken me this long to get round to growing it. I think in the UK it has the stigma of being an animal feed and as a result often overlooked, but its almost a perfect green leafy vegetable and looking forward to seeing it flower in the spring. I will be growing some more Fennel next year, so will look out for the caterpillars. Sorry that post was not one of mine.

  2. Emily Scott says:

    Wonderful transformation from the first photo. Elthorne Park is full of ragwort in the wilder parts and I like to watch the bees on it. I hadn’t known about the caterpillars absorbing the toxins, that’s interesting. Ragwort is apparently toxic to horses so it must be pretty strong stuff.

    I would have gone down to the allotment yesterday but have lost my purse and the allotment keys with it, what a bummer. Sorry about not being able to give you the keys for the padlock yet, I’m planning to buy another one this week to replace it.

    • thomas73640 says:

      Ouch lost keys, does that include the key for the big security gate? If so let me know and I can get one cut from my key. I went back and strimmed the plot yesterday after moving my hive there the following evening, did a bit round the hives, but left some for another day. Your bees seemed happy with their new neighbors and both hives busy collecting pollen. Its quite amazing how fast the bees adapt to a new area, I move my hive the previous evening and within a few hours the next day they are foraging as though they have been on that site many weeks.
      Ps any plans to do something with the apples 🙂

      • Emily Scott says:

        It does, but I’ve asked Christina about getting a new key. Thanks for doing the strumming! Great to hear your bees are enjoying themselves already.

        The West Ealing Neighbours Abundance people contacted me about using some of the apples so I let them come and pick some last Wed. They have telescopic pickers so could reach the ones I couldn’t. If you can make use of any you’re very welcome to them 🙂

  3. thomas73640 says:

    I may just do that Emily there seems to still be plenty, perhaps some apple wine.

  4. Your modee of describing the whole thing in this post is truly pleasant,
    all be capable of easily know it, Thanks a lot.

  5. What a beautiful garden. Nature is really flourishing there as well as your greens!

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