I have a feeling we might be at peak-harvest stage now, with baskets and baskets of vegetables coming up from the garden on a weekly basis. In fact, I’m working overdrive to cook, freeze, and preserve everything I can so as not to waste our precious homegrown produce!

The freezer is filling up with ratatouille, courgette fritters (this Guardian recipe is my favourite!), and bags so full of French beans, runner beans, and blackberries that they’re a struggle to zip closed. Our cupboards are becoming more crowded by the day with jars of preserves, chutneys, and pickles, though with our family’s obsession with toast slathered thickly with butter and jam, I’ll need to keep making batch after batch just to keep up our supply!

I’ll be honest, I’m finding it much harder these days to stay on top of any upkeep of the vegetable patch, so am incredibly grateful that, aside from the ever-present weeding and picking of vegetables and fruit, it’s basically taking care of itself these days. I hugely underestimated how exhausted I’d be towards the end of this pregnancy, and am just so glad that I was able to keep up with the constant sowing, planting, and maintenance that the garden needed earlier in the year when I still had lots of energy!

Being able to do essential things like crouch down and bend over without making groaning noises as a certain little baby sticks its feet under my ribs now seems like a distant memory!!

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August has been the month of the bean so far, with the runner and dwarf French beans suddenly producing more than we can eat!

I love seeing them form on the plants, going from tiny, spindly little bean-babies to fully grown and ready to pick within just a few days! In fact, I keep finding runner beans hiding on the plants that I’ve missed whilst picking that are a foot long, an inch thick, and no good for cooking any longer. Those get sent straight off to the compost heap, though I’ll let a few pods mature and dry on the canes at the end of the season to save for next year’s plants.

Picked young though, they’re just delicious. Sliced thinly and tossed into pasta sauces, or dressed with vinaigrette and mixed into salads, I can’t get enough. Which is a good thing, really…

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My tiny gardener’s assistant is very, very pleased to inform you that the strawberry bed is still producing the odd berry here and there, and that they’re delicious eaten straight from the plants!

I’m hoping that the plants are using all the well-rotted horse manure I carted over from the yard and laid in the bed to create strong roots, so that next summer we get a really good crop. Though Ottie does seem to think that any and all strawberries that pass through our house belong exclusively to her, so I’ll be lucky to eat a single berry no matter how much of a crop we might have next year…

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Oh and joy of joys, my cucumbers have finally taken off! It took  F O R E V E R  to get them going, but they’re finally away and completely delicious! I’m too impatient to let them grow much bigger than this, but who cares when picking them young means they’re extra sweet and tasty?

Strangely, it’s been the outdoor plants that’ve done better than those in the greenhouse. The two plants that’re outside were raggedy-looking spares that I popped up against the sugar snap pea netting a couple of months ago and then completely ignored, and they’ve rewarded my neglect with dozens of fruits!

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And finally, let’s talk root veg! I finally got round to thinning the carrots, and I maaaay have left that particular job a bit on the late side! They were the most tangled, knotted clumps of carrot babies you’ve ever seen, and I had a hard time separating them out enough to leave a few in the soil to grow bigger over the months ahead.

Ted and Elsie sat dutifully by my side whilst I got to work, hoovering up all the thinnings that were too tiny or bizarrely shaped to bother saving. The bigger ones had a quick scrub-clean, and then made the perfect accompaniment to a pot of hummus a couple of days later.

Waste not want not!

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As we’re taking our final pick of the spring beetroots (I’ve got a load sat in the fridge that I’m planning to roast and stir into risotto later this evening…), the next sowing has been planted out and is growing well! And I’m glad, because as I’ve said approximately 500 times over the past few months, they’ve been my favourite things to grow so far this year! Why is it that pulling something edible from the soil is so very satisying?

Speaking of which, the maincrop potatoes are starting to come up! I pulled up one plant earlier this week to check (and photograph…), and though one or two have clearly been nibbled on by mice (I can’t be mad, the teethmarks are kind of adorable!), they look fantastic! Huge and with a decent yield per plant, and the one lone potato we’ve cooked so far has been delicious too! The variety is ‘Sarpo Mira’ which is supposedly very blight-resistant, not that we’ve had that to worry about during this arid summer…

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^^ The courgette jungle. ^^

Finally, a quick note on my least successful venture of the year- the allium family!

From three full rows of onions I’ve had just eight or so puny specimens, which isn’t quite the winter-long supply I had in mind! The leeks I sowed and planted back in spring have been hit and miss (they’re not ready until October, and the harvest will be scant to say the least!), and I’ve even failed at growing supposedly idiot-proof spring onions! I’m not sure if perhaps I’ve under-watered them all, but I guess I’ll just have to try again next year.

You win some, you lose some!


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If there’s any one vegetable you can always count on to be plentiful when growing your own, it’s the courgette. Last year I had three plants growing in the tiny garden of our old house, and such a bountiful supply I promised myself that in 2018 I’d cut back to just two plants.

But in reality? I’ve somehow managed to end up with five, yes, FIVE plants of differing varieties, and we’re picking an average of two courgettes a day. Last weekend we picked NINE. It’s madness, madness I tell you!

So what to do with them all? Well, we’re cramming them into just about every savoury recipe going (from risottos and pastas, to fritters and salads), I’ve made batches of pickles and chutneys, but my current favourite way to use these sweet summer squashes up is to bake them into a loaf cake.

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The cake itself is the simplest thing to knock up (even with the help, or hindrance, of a toddler), and is absolutely delicious too.

It doesn’t taste exactly of courgettes, in the way that carrot cake doesn’t taste exactly of carrots, but it does have a certain undefinably ‘green’ flavour that works so well alongside the freshness of berries or some citrus zest. I’ve been topping it off a simple lemon glaze more often than not, but this time, thanks to a distinct lack of lemons available in the house, I had to get creative with a few of the first blackberries of the season instead.

Simply warmed through, crushed, and then mixed with a small mound of icing sugar, it made the most delicious topping for the cake. And oh so seasonal, too!

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The recipe is one I’ve adapted from BBC Good Food, though minimally it must be said. Mainly through laziness (I didn’t have self raising flour first time I made it and so replaced with plain flour and just doubled up the baking powder), and also I’ve removed the sultanas because does anyone really want sultanas in a sponge cake? I think not.

Makes one loaf cake.

350g courgettes
250g light brown sugar
125ml sunflower oil
3 large eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon
300g plain flour
2tsps baking powder

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, and grease and line a loaf tin with parchment paper.

- Grate the courgettes, then put them all into a tea towel and wring out as much of the moisture as you can.

- Add the courgettes to a large bowl, and add in the sugar, oil, eggs, lemon zest (if using), and vanilla extract. Mix together. Tip in the flour and baking powder, mix thoroughly, and then pour the batter into the lined cake tin.

- Bake for 50minutes-1 hour, and then allow to cool slightly before turning out onto a wire rack.

- A simple and delicious glaze can be made by mixing icing sugar into fruit juice (lemon, orange, grapefruit, mashed berries…) until a smooth runny consistency is achieved. Allow the cake to cool completely before icing.

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If you have a go and make it yourself, do tag me in a photo on Instagram! I’d love to know how you get on!


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And all of a sudden, the vegetable patch is bearing fruit!

Well, it’s bearing vegetables, and that’s good enough for me right now. In fact, I don’t think I’ve bought a single vegetable from the supermarket in a good month now! We’ve had three kilos of Charlotte potatoes from just six plants (I forgot to weigh the harvest from the first row!), an endless supply of courgettes, the first of the runner beans and our sweet, earthy beetroots (my new favourite crop to grow, they’re delicious!), a slow but steady trickle of sugar snap peas, and more than a few ample handfuls crisp, peppery radishes.

And the lettuces have finally taken off! I think Jason and I might actually start turning green and leafy any day now, because we’ve been eating lettuce every day for weeks and still have masses of plants growing down in the vegetable beds. You won’t catch me complaining though, especially since it took them a while to get going!

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The radicchio plants that were just tiny seedlings in my last garden diary post are now planted out and thriving, and will turn deep red and deliciously bitter once the weather turns cold later this year. They’re destined to be turned into winter salads, perhaps with honey and balsamic-roasted beetroots   and some walnuts from the tree growing just down the lane from our house…

Meanwhile in the brassica bed, I’m just days away from taking a knife to my prize Savoy cabbage! It’s now got a lovely firm heart and looks just perfect with not a bit of pest damage to it, which is truly a miracle what with an army of cabbage white butterflies now on the march! Thank goodness for Enviromesh, is all I can say. And its bedfellows, the ‘Beaumont’ broccoli plants, are  F I N A L L Y forming lovely green heads, the first of which will be ready by the end of the month, I hope.

Who knew it was possible to get so very excited over cabbage and broccoli, hey?! But I’ve been tending to these brassicas since February you see, and so the anticipation has grown and grown over the last six months!

Now that the summer vegetable plants are all away and thriving, I’m turning my attention to planning, sowing, and growing winter vegetables that will take us through the colder months. I’m challenging myself to grow enough food that we’ve something to harvest each month right through to next spring, so we’ll see how I get on!

The butternut squash plants that went in immediately following the First Early potatoes have begun to romp away, and though one is looking decidedly healthier than the other, if I get a couple of decent squashes from them to store for winter I’ll be chuffed to bits!


Purple sprouting broccoli above, and below a main crop ‘Sarpo Mira’ potato below that decided to pop out of the soil a few weeks early plus the first ‘Lingua di Fuoco’ borlotti beans that I’m letting dry on the plants ready for winter soups and stews! Yum!

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But as ever at this time of year, there’s still lots to sow! So if you’re keen to get outside and grow some food, there’s a plethora of seeds you can be sowing during the next few weeks to provide harvests in the months to come.

Here’s what’s on my own ‘to-sow’ list from now until the end of August…

- Pak choi.

- Spring cabbages: a variety called ‘Jewel’, for overwintering and enjoying early next year.

- Winter lettuces and leaves: ‘Winter Density’ lettuce (a ‘gem’ type that copes with frost and can last through winter!), Mizuna and mustard leaves, and wild rocket.

- Spinach: ‘Medania’ is supposed to be an amazing variety for both cooking and salads that gets sweeter in cold, frosty weather!

- Beetroot: ‘Chioggia’ + ‘Boltardy’ varieties both can be sown up until the end of July, for picking in October. I’ve read that they can store in a cool, well-ventilated place for a couple of months too so we could have enough to last until Christmas!

- Turnips: I’ve never even eaten turnips before I don’t think but they’re supposed to be delicious, so I’m planning on sowing a tray and giving them a go!

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I’ve been busy in the garden this month, not just harvesting, planting, and watering, but creating new growing space too! Jason’s built two new beds in the last few weeks, one for strawberries (which I’ll be netting against toddlers and birds next year!!) and the other that’s currently got swede and kale in, but next spring I plan on using for peas! With a couple of barrowloads of well-rotted horse manure in from the yard plus a few bags of compost, they’re away and earning their keep already!

On the bed-building agenda for the rest of the summer (read: before this growing bump of mine gets so ginormous I can’t do much any more…) are a couple of long beds for the raspberry canes I just ordered from Marshall’s that arrive for planting in November, and two smaller, square beds for next year’s squashes and carrots.

Maybe one day I’ll get round to bark-chipping all the pathways around the beds…

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Oh, and I can’t round off this post without a quick trip to the greenhouse! Still just as jungle-like, but beginning to offer up a promise of fruit to come…

The tomatoes have been forming a little patchily thanks to my slightly shoddy watering schedule, but the cucumber vines are covered in baby fruits which makes me so excited! The ‘Crystal Lemon’ variety are my most-eagerly anticipated, with promise of rounded cucumbers that have a lemony tang.

It took me two rounds of failed seedlings to get these babies on their way, so the very first taste of homegrown cucumber this year will taste like pure determination I’m sure!


On final recommendation before I go, for anyone looking ahead to next year already (I know I am!) and planning what to grow- James Wong’s wonderful book ‘Grow for Flavour‘!

Jason bought it for me a couple of weeks ago on a whim, and it’s absolutely brilliant. It breaks vegetables and fruits down into categories, explaining about the varying flavour and nutritional characteristics of different varieties, and how to get improved flavour from the crops you grow. It’s been the most fascinating read, and I’ve taken so much away from it in terms of what I want to grow myself next year!

It would be a brilliant read for anyone looking to get started with a veg patch, allotment or just some container gardening next year, alongside Hollie Newton’s ‘How to Grow‘ which I always recommend to beginner veg-growers.

~ ~ ~

What’s growing for you, this month? And is anyone else dealing with an army of aphids and cabbage white caterpillars trying to eat your brassicas down to stumps before they even get going?!


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T H E   S E A S O N   O F   G R O W T H

Oh, June. The dreamiest of months, where the plants seem in a race against one another to show off who can grow the tallest, climb fastest, sprawl widest. I’m utterly obsessive about my daily (okay twice, or sometimes thrice daily) wander down to the vegetable patch to observe, tend, harvest, and water, and now that there’s often a pod of peas or two to snack on whilst I’m down there, all the better.

The jobs seem as constant as ever this month, with successional rounds of seeds to sow, the first row of potatoes to harvest, and a jungle of tomatoes to support in the greenhouse. My most-used phrase these days seems to be ‘I’m just popping outside to do X/Y/Z, be back in 5′, and half an hour later I’m still outside, with hands caked in soil and half a dozen jobs ticked off my endlessly updated to-do list.


Like peas in a pod…

If there’s one most important thing I’ve learnt so far this growing year (and there’s been many things I’ve learnt), it’s that I can afford to sow three, four, five times as many pea and bean seeds and still have plenty of space to spare! In fact, that’s been my lesson in general this year, that it’s much better to have spares, extra spares, and a few more as backups rather than too few and risk being left with gaps in the beds and a sparse crop!

Especially since things like peas and beans ripen just a few at a time on each plant, I’m learning that to gather a really decent harvest in one go you need a LOT of plants! They really are so delicious though, sweet and tender straight from the pod and wonderful cooked into a pasta or risotto dish.

I’ve just sowed a new batch of petit pots peas (the variety is ‘Calibra’) to take over when the ‘Kelvedon Wonder’ main crop peas are done, and will be sowing some broad beans to overwinter in late autumn this year ready for the following spring.

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(Between Ottilie and the dogs, who all are more than partial to a pea pod or two, it’s a wonder I’ve even managed to get a look in this year. Roll on the sugar snaps!)

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Flowers flowers everywhere… 

…some bringing the promise of food, and others merely for show!

It was actually Ottilie who put the ‘Lady Salisbury’ sweet pea seeds into a little tray of compost back in January of this year, with more care and dexterity than I ever expected from her tiny, then-16 month old fingers. And now look at them! They’re the most gorgeous variety, with each bloom having a unique pattern of lilac tinging around its white petals. I cut the first little bunch today, actually, and Ottilie was so proud to carry the tiny vase I’ve put them in into her bedroom and up on the mantlepiece.

And much less delicate, but equally as exciting for the promise they bring, are the courgette flowers! Big, bold, blousy- a screaming yellow beacon amongst the muted green and brown tones of the vegetable patch. It’s the ‘Soleil’ courgettes that are first to flower, two plants ready and raring to go with at least five little courgette babies on each and a couple of fruits already a few inches long and only a week or so away from harvesting I should think.

I’m sure I’ve said before but growing my own courgettes last year absolutely ruined all shop-bought varieties for me, in fact, I’ve not bought a single one single before last summer’s glut began! I’ve got three varieties all romping away in the garden right now, and am already dreaming of the light summer pastas, ratatouilles, risottos, curries, pickles, and even cakes I plan on making with their fruits this season.

 ^^ Always and forever tending to trays of seedlings- above are purple sprouting broccoli and winter savoys on the left, mixed radicchio on the right, and just out of shot is my next tray of lettuces ready to go…

In the greenhouse are trays of swedes, winter carrots (attempting multi-sowing in cells!), kales, cabbages, and some more runner beans all sown just this weekend, because I promised my mother-in-law an ample summer supply of her favourite runner beans and so must deliver! ^^


Now, I like to think that so far this year I’ve done okay. Most things have germinated, I’ve overcome issues with imbalanced soil and still-unidentified diseases in my broad beans and a courgette plant that sulked for weeks after planting out, but lettuces? That most easy, foolproof of crops? It’s been a nightmare!

One variety of seeds just would NOT germinate, despite me trying another packet of the exact same type, and all those I’ve got to planting-out stage have grown so very slowly I’ve only just begun picking the odd leaf here and there! In fact, most have stubbornly refused to grow at all ever since planting out…except the ones that were munched to the ground by rabbits, and now have come back as full, beautiful lettuce heads.

Nature, eh. I don’t know, sometimes!

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And lastly, happy and flourishing are the ‘Chioggia’ beets, a pink and white striped variety I just can’t wait to cut into and taste, the ‘Swift’ first early potatoes are up and mostly eaten and all completely delicious, and a supposedly mini, two-foot wide Savoy cabbage that is just beginning to heart up and is my pride and joy!

What’s growing for you, this month?

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