Saturday, 6 July 2013


Really must get more organised and sow fortnightly and judiciously my radishes. I can't seem to resist the temptation to sow into every possible space and end up wasting so much seed that ends up growing to the size of hens eggs!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


Who can resist a mound of fluffy buttery mash? I love it! Particularly atop a Shepherds Pie, but not unheard of eaten all by itself with thickly buttered toast - a carb frenzy!

Potatoes are said to be easy to grow, but not so in my experience, I try every year, though, come what may. My issue is the clay soil I garden on and the accompanying slugs, and the wireworm, potato cyst nematode, oh, and potato blight. Not impossible to grow but certainly needing some thought and trial and error.

Having said that, here is a picture of some potatoes I left for dead last year! The potatoes were dug up from a 4 metre x 1metre raised bed, that had overwintered and I was propping the bed for this year's sowings. I always grow 2 raised beds worth of spuds, and the other bed had been an unmitigated disaster. The blight struck early last summer probabaly because of the extreme rain and before I could take preventative action all the leaves were raised to the ground, and any potatoes found reduced to a slimy smelly blob. So I gave up on the other bed. Foolishly.

Pentland Dell and Charlotte potatoes 2012
These potatoes are a mix of last year's (2012) Pentland Dell and Charlotte. Both had no slug damage or potato cyst damage and were clearly not affected by last year's blight.
So how (and why?!) do I grow potatoes given the problems I face?
Why is simple, they are so utterly delicious and even more so straight from the plot. One word of warning when cooking home grown spuds though. Salad varieties, often yellow fleshed, such as Charlotte or Pink Fir Apple are perfect for cooking directly on harvesting, needing nothing more than tossing in butter and salt. Whereas the white fleshed floury varieties like King Edward will cook MUCH quicker than you are used to with supermarket varieies and will disitegrate to nothing if you take your eye off of them whilst cooking, ceratin varieties are also particularly prone to this like Pentland Dell.
As for how. It has been 5 years of trialling different varieties, carefully choosing varieties from seed catalogues that are bred to be resistant to my pests and diseases and soil. A helpful resource is The British Potato Variety Database
In one bed I grow varieties I now know will do well and in the other bed I try something different each year. I then keep records of what I grow and how well it has done (it is so easy to forget from one year to another).
So far on my clay soil, I have grown with success:
King Edward - a good allrounder and always gives me a lovely crop, although I lose about a quarter to slug, wireworm and potato cyst damage
Pink Fir Apple - my favourite! Knobbly salad variety, quite delicious with a buttery firm texture
Pentland Dell - Wonderful big allrounder crop that overwintered in the ground. Good mix of large and smller potatoes with no damage at all!
Charlotte - salad potato with little damage slightly smaller crop
Less successful:
Cara - too much wireworm damage and small crop
Irish Sceptre - Not as tasty as King Edwards and a smaller crop, with some slug damage
Duke of York - A red skinned variety large potatoes great baked, but only a tiny crop
Belle de Fontanay - useless! Loads of wireworm damage.
Lady Christl (chosen simply because it's name was so similar to mine!) - tiny crop, and lots of wireworm and slug damage
I garden organically and a helpful resource is Garden Organic. They do a Potato Factsheet more on how to grow in my next blog.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Blog name change

I have decided to change the blog name to The Hairy Gooseberry from The Barefoot Gardener as I now realise that there is a rather popular blog in America with the same name - and want to avoid confusion. I am pretty sure there isn't another blog with this name - so named because my lovely Dad often quotes: "It's only the hairs on a gooseberry that stop it from being a grape" as a humorous antidote to heavier sayings that are now so prevalent on social media. It also suits the blog change, which is moving from purely gardening to gardening AND recipes made from produce from the veggie and fruit patch, with a sprinkling of life's musings, some thought provoking but mostly plain silly!

Thursday, 26 April 2012


Tulips in the garden April 2012

Tulipa Golden Apeldoorn with the darker Tulipa Apeldoorn Elite.

Tulipa Angelique with the taller Tulipa Pink Impresion in front of some roses.

Tulipa Golden Apeldoorn with the lower Tulipa Helmar in fornt of Viburnum opulus.

Tulipa Montreaux in front with Tulipa Spring Green behind and Calamagrostis Overdam and the mounds of Geranium magnificum.

The stripey Tulipa Rems Favourite with Tulipa Negrita, some hellebores, the blue haze of Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' and a Sambacus nigra just coming into leaf.

Tulipa Queen of the Night and Tulipa Shirley.

Tulipa White Triumphator backed by some Narcissus Cheerfulness.

Tulips herald the beginning of spring, their many vibrant colours breaking the yellow, white and blue that seems to dominate in the preceeding few months. I try to pair them up with another tulip that flowers at the same time and compliments one another and yet contrasts (beware there are early, mid and late flowering varieties covering 3 months!). Another lovely touch is to pick out the colour of a nearby plant in the tulip, At this time of year I like to wander around the garden and take note of bare patches and plan what type of tulip to plant next atumn to fill the gap. I have a spot where I am going to plant some purple tulips near to some purple aubretia and the Tulipa White Triumphator. If I can find it Tulipa Dreaming Maid will pick out the purple of the aubretia and tone with the white tulips:

I am on very heavy clay soil and all wise gardening lore will advise to give up on most bulbs. I hope my pictures proove that it is possible! I have one patch behind one of the benches where all the bulbs seem to vanish, it is extremely wet there, I think they rot away, but everywhere else they seem to thrive and come back year after year building up their numbers too, and that without the addition of any grit, just copious amounts of garden compost on planting and a feed with Chicken Manure and a mulch of garden or mushroom compost in late winter every year. I have never had any success with parrot style tulips - not sure why, but I don't mind that as there is so much choice I don't think I will run out of colour combinations! They began flowering in early April and are still going strong as we are about to enter May when the oriental poppies, alliums and aqualegias will take over the display, and so the flowering year joyously continues.