mother of hubbards

turks turban gardening blogAfter months of dominating the veg patch with their vicious vines, all the winter squash plants have yellowed, shriveled or succumbed to mildew. There are still a few valiant flowers and newly formed gourds that must have been brought on by this warm spell. But today I decided it was time to brandish the kitchen knife and go for the chop.

Considering my utter lack of common sense when planting them, and the way the Blue Hubbards overpowered the bed, I was pleased with our harvest.

barrow of squash gardening blog

pumpkin harvest

Butternut Ponca and Acorn Table Ace were almost annihilated by the blue brutes, but managed to produce one gourd each. We have two Marina di Chioggia, which look fantastic with their deep green skins, and three orange-green Turks Turbans.

The Blue Hubbard yield is six. They are so huge I feel quite overwhelmed at the thought of cooking them. When I tried to weigh the biggest one I got an error message on the scales.

The hubbards have been consigned to the garden shed until I can work up the courage to deal with them. But the others look quite pretty in the window.

squash in the window gardening blog


All the winter squash we grew this year are heirloom varieties from Pennard Plants

tattie harvest

gardening blogOne of my most vivid childhood memories is harvesting potatoes with my parents.

Dad would drive his old red Massey Ferguson up and down rows which seemed to stretch on forever. He had a strange clawed contraption on the back of the tractor that would lift and turn the plants leaving furrows of soft soil. Then my mum, my middle sister and I would scrabble around for the spuds.

I can’t recall if we just lifted and sorted them, or if we bagged them up. But I do remember  the smooth round firmness of the potatoes and how perfectly they seemed to fit my hands. The sun was always warm on the backs of our necks and the soil was cool. I must have been eight or younger as my little sister was never there. But even as a young child the experience felt somehow calming and restorative. Perhaps there is something about being outdoors with your hands in the soil that appeals to people at a primal level.  potatoes gardening blog

That was almost 30 years ago. Soon after, my parents were forced to give up market gardening and focus on growing ornamental plants as the UK began importing cheap mass-produced veg from overseas. Funny how things have gone full circle now.

Last weekend, we harvested the remaining bed of potatoes in our garden. Watching M enthusiastically joining in made me feel glad that we may be creating similar memories for her, albeit on a smaller scale.

potatoes gardening blog

if you’re wondering what the pink spiral is for, earlier on she’d been pretending to be a pig…

a tangled bed

gardening blog turks turban

apparently this is what Turk’s Turban will look like

Blue Hubbard, Turk’s Turban, Marina Di Chioggia…

With their evocative names, I couldn’t resist these squash seeds from Pennards at last year’s Malvern Autumn Show.

I also picked up some slightly less exotic sounding varieties like Acorn Table Ace and Butternut Ponca.

I knew at the time that we would never have room for them all. But following my paltry attempts at growing squash from seed last spring, I figured I should spread my bets.

Sure enough, the first sowing (late March) resulted in zero germination. Luckily I’d learnt something from last year’s efforts and had only used half the seeds in each pack. It must simply have been too cold. When I tried again a month later, it seemed only a matter of days before the hard little husks were shooting out of the compost perched on top of robust seedlings.

Each one grew into such a strong plant that I couldn’t bear to relegate any to the compost bin. So Steve dug a whole new bed for them. Space was still tight but I squeezed in as many as seemed sensible, and dotted a few  among the raspberry canes, alongside the garlic… anywhere I could find a spot.

Then the weather warmed up a few more notches and they started to GROW.

gardening blog escaping squashNow I can’t tell where one plant ends and the next begins. There is something almost sinister about the way they are reaching out to the next bed, latching on with their tendrils, and heaving themselves across. Some are even climbing the fence and making a bid for the freedom of the main garden.

I’ve watched in awe over the past couple of weeks as their  leaves have created a dense green canopy. Today I finally braved the rough, scratchy beasts and took a look beneath.

gardening blog under the squash

mouse-eye view under the squash leaves

Over-planted they may be, but they seem to be thriving. Lots of flowers and a few baby squash starting to appear.

gardening blog tangle of squash

looks promising – if any insects can fight their way through to pollinate…

Unfortunately I’m the only person in the family who really likes eating them. My vegetarian friends may be receiving a basket or three in a couple of months.

[You can read about our daughter helping to sow the squash in ‘helping hand‘]

peas at last

peas in pods Mice had most of our peas last year.

Just as the pods were starting to fatten up, we went away for a couple of days. When we came back each one had been systematically robbed.

At first we blamed the pigeons, because it looked like the peas had been pecked out. Then we looked closer and saw the tiny teeth marks.

This year’s crop is a bit later, but so far the mice haven’t found it. Or perhaps there are fewer mice around, now that a local farm cat has taken to visiting the garden in the evenings. (Our own cats are terrible hunters – they miaow with pride if they manage to catch a feather).

However, we have a new pea predator. Our almost-three-year-old adores the frozen variety and has discovered they are even better freshly picked.


M has discovered there is nothing quite like freshly picked peas

None of our peas ever seems to make it out of the veg patch and into the kitchen.

peas brookend cottage garden

peas, anyone?