Back to The Garden

Hi everyone!

It’s been so long – almost a year since I last posted  – and so much has happened I don’t know quite where to begin.

It feels like we’ve suddenly been catapulted into a dystopian future from which there is no immediate escape.

The country’s in lockdown and it feels frivolous to be talking about growing and cooking.

Yet it’s spring and several friends have been asking my advice about seeds and when to sow.

For me, the exterior threat we’re all facing is mirrored by the internal crisis I’ve been facing over the past nine months.

You’ll see I’ve changed the name of my blog.

I’ll still be posting about growing and cooking your own food but inevitably there’ll be health updates as I come to terms with a secondary breast cancer diagnosis.

I had to have a hip replacement last September after an MRI scan found cancer in the top of my right femur (thigh bone). There’s also evidence of disease in a couple of other places in my pelvis.

It’s been a terrifying time – but, as always, the mind adjusts and the body does too!

I thought I wouldn’t be able to garden again but I’ve proved myself wrong  – with the help of some great contraptions (my oscillating hoe and my “grabbers”) and twice weekly pilates one-to-one sessions (now online).

I’ve also had help from my sister, nephew and friends planting out seeds that I’ve started off indoors.

Overwintered vegetables include  chrysanthemum greens, coriander, chard, treviso chicory, endive, leeks, “Dazzling Blue” kale .

Top left under the fleece is overwintered salad. The tall plants are chrysanthemum greens and in front of them are “Pink Passion” chard and feathery fennel. Some very hardy coriander plants take up the foreground.

Many of the carrots didn’t make it through – mainly because I failed to fleece them to protect them from carrot fly.

I only lost one of my winter squash (Hokkaido or Uchiki Kuri variety) to mould – the rest lasted until the end of February.

And encouraged by this  – I have been busy sowing seeds in modules for the new season.

In the foreground right to left; peas for shoots, beetroot, turnips and radish. The taller root trainers at the back contain sweet peas with self sown lettuce that sprang out of homemade compost.

We have broad beans growing under fleece (thanks Deborah!), weed free fruit bushes (thanks Isaac!), pruned redcurrants, blackcurrants and gooseberries (indebted to Alex!) and fruit trees (thanks Sarah!).

My singing friend, Fynn came over from Germany for a couple of days, before the corona virus outbreak, and turned and spread compost on the beds and helped plant some shallots alongside the garlic (seed cloves saved from last year’s harvest) that was put in before Christmas by Linda and Alex.

And Amanda and Lisa from Cork, Ireland, came for the weekend at the end of January and helped me set up my new hotbin composter which boasts a turnaround of about three months!

The hotbin has reached internal temperatures of more than 60 celsius! It needs shredded cardboard or paper and woodchip mixed with food and garden waste to work effectively.

Other friends (Jenny, Steve and Joyce) have cooked amazing food for and alongside me.

Steve made a memorable trio of desserts that included Quince and Hazelnut Strudel and a damson jelly!

I’ve found with the “no dig” approach that – as long as I clear the weeds with my trusty hoe – “planting out” takes very little time for my more able friends to do.

Although I guess I’m going to have to be more self reliant again from now on  – as there won’t be any visitors for a while.

It may sound cliched but growing and cooking your own food is good for the soul as well as your physical wellbeing.

We need to look after ourselves by nurturing our environment.

Salad of red chicory, calendula petals, landcress and lettuce from the garden.

The next few months are going to be very difficult for us all – but one way of coping could be to start your own veg garden or sow some seeds in containers on your windowsill.

I’m going to try and post regular updates from now on – and I’d love to hear how your garden grows…

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12 thoughts on “Back to The Garden”

  1. So wonderful to read from you again, Cath! Looking forward to your posts. Been thinking of you the past year and singing for you. xxx Caro

    1. Thank you, dear Caro. It’s been great to follow your singing adventures from afar! I also enjoy photos of your two boys…remind me of meeting your whole family in Cork a couple of summers ago. Happy days!

  2. Russell is out sowing our salad crops, and I’m planting seed in the greenhouse. Will look forward to your tips for us, glad you’re back onto a new blog, best of luck with it. xx

  3. Hi Cath I have only just discovered your wonderful blog .Now I have a little vegetable garden the first time in many years I’m having fun and about to plant my potatoes. Yes you are truly inspirational! x

    1. Hi Helen. I’m going to plant my potatoes soon – probably in a couple of weeks. I may have to enlist the help of my 82 year old mother as I find it impossible to bend or squat. Although thanks to Pilates I can now kneel on all fours and get up again!!!

  4. So lovely to read your blog dear Cath, I feel very inspired by you, in awe of your green fingers and touched by your writing about all that’s occurring …thank you sweetie xx

  5. Cath, you are an inspiration…so glad to see this blog back in action (like yourself). The lockdown has been a blessing for nature, and for those of us lucky enough to have gardens.
    You’ve inspired me over the years with my own gardening. I’ve planted a veg garden right outside the doors at the back of the house: the most sheltered, sunny spot and with easy access to water. Potatoes, turnips, carrots, beans, peas. Inside, my living room table is full of pots of courgettes, cucumbers and coriander, waiting for May. Oh, and there’re raspberry and blackcurrant bushes outside as well. I also discovered a forgotten garden clippings compost pit: buried treasure! So, yes, I have much to thank you for, dear Cath, as you’ve always encouraged me. So looking forward to having you here again one day. Keep the blog posts coming! I’m still learning….love, Pauline xx

    1. Dearest Pauline.

      Thank you for your words of encouragement.

      As I write I’m thinking of your beautiful garden and home and the lovely week I spent with you two summers ago.

      I loved walking down to the old family farmhouse with you and later sitting outside yours in front of a fire putting the world to rights.

      I’d love to have a chat on Skype or WhatsApp if you’re up for it.

      Love Cath xxx

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