The Cottage Smallholder

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Growing vegetables all year round: October 2009 kitchen garden update


Photo: view towards the cottage

Photo: view towards the cottage

I thought that you might like to take a peek at our extended kitchen garden. Some of the paths are new and no rain for weeks has taken its toll but over the winter they will perk up.

The layout is nine 12’x12’ beds and we are planning an 8’x 8’ asparagus bed. I traded some decorating for the wood (it’s going to be a raised bed with new top soil from the Fens).  This means removing the last of the roses and it’s a project earmarked for next Spring. We’ve discovered that the old kitchen garden – the part enclosed by the blue picket fence – is not nearly as fertile as the new kitchen garden.  It is much stonier too. The latter was the kitchen garden tended by the basket makers all those years ago. We noticed that the roses in the rose walk grew so well and the lawn was greener in this area. So this Spring we dug up the lawn and Danny planted Maris Piper potatoes – lovely flowery spuds that the Irish adore.

When I realised how great the soil was in this area I made the hard decision to ditch the rose walk border and double the size of our patch. We struggled to clear it. John had retired and it took us days to remove the roses. There are still rose babies trying to become part of the action.


Photo: New veg patch looking down the garden

Photo: New veg patch looking down the garden

Now I reckon that we have a big enough area to provide most of the vegetables that we need each year. Admittedly some have to be frozen but a lot can be dried in the dehydrator and added to soups, casseroles and stews in the slow cooker.

Until this year growing vegetables has just been a February to October project. Now like the mouse farmer I survey our October garden with delight. We have Brussels Sprouts at all stages of growth – mainly Bedford Fillbasket. Next week we can harvest some but we’ll have some for Christmas and well into the new year. We can harvest young kale – Frosty and Black Tuscany now but have enough plants at various stages of growth to last us all through the winter. Other varieties include Cavolo de Nero and Redbor. We have greyhound cabbage ready to harvest but will happily sit in the ground for weeks. Our baby and half grown specimens include an unknown Savoy cabbage that we’ll harvest before Christmas, Savoy cabbage Wintessa (harvested January), cabbage January King, Excel and Wintergreen. The latter three will be harvested from December onwards. Danny loves cabbage and I do too if it’s really fresh.

We are still harvesting small summer caulis – Cauliflower Lateman and have a row of Cauliflower Alpen which we will harvest from January.

We have about 10 calabrese plants (again an unknown variety donated by a client) – I definitely will be planting more next year as they are prolific and much tastier than the supermarket stuff. We are starting to harvest the younger ones now.

We also have salad and stir fry leaves. I bought a collection of seed packets knocked down from 17 quid to a fiver at the Marshalls Seeds stand at Hampton Court. These include Spicy greens mix, Pak Choi (Ruby shine), Baby Chinese cabbage, Pak Choi (Ivory), spring onion (Gaurdsman), Shungiku (Chop Suey Greens), radish (purple plum), rocket Oakley, lettuce Dazzle and mustard Red Zest. I have Land Cress and Mizuna to sow in the big kitchen garden pots now the courgettes have finished. I’ve invested in yards of fleece for when it gets frosty. As I harvest I’m planting more spring onions, salad and stir fry leaves in the ground.


Photo: A gate to the old kitchen garden

Photo: A gate to the old kitchen garden

We still have the last of the runner beans – White Lady and an unknown but tastier variety donated by John. I’m going to dry these seeds by leaving the beans on the posts until February.  The leeks – Musselburgh Improved – are at different stages of growth from biro to ultra slim rolling pin. We have a row of Swiss Chard that we’ll start to harvest in about a months time. The parsnips – Improved Hollow Crown – are looking strong

Meanwhile we have 46 purple broccoli plants (unknown variety from John) and a row of white sprouting broccoli plants – White Star. Hopefully we’ll be harvesting these in March and April 2010.

Today I’m planting 3 different types of garlic (bought from The Garlic Farm stand at Hampton Court), a row of early carrots – Nantes 2, early peas – Douce Provence and broad beans – Aquadulce Claudia. I’ve ordered shallots – Eschalote Grise and am still waiting for these to arrive.


Photo: Broccoli and greenhouse

Photo: Broccoli and greenhouse

In the greenhouse, we are hoping that with some gentle heat our chilli and pepper plants will ripen and flourish as they went in very late this year. I have harvested about 20 kilos of tomatoes (from the greenhouse and outdoors). There are at least 10 kilos still ripening. The cucumbers are doing well and we have one melon – small but perfectly formed.

The summer squash have been brilliant but are now slowly coming to a standstill. Our butternut squash was a disaster – producing just one lonely baby that is now drying for the winter.

And best of all the Autumn Raspberries are being guzzled daily, we are still plucking rhubarb and there are grapes on the vine behind the pond.

Of course a lot of our plans are hopeful projects – I tried sowing salad leaves under fleece last year. Even though they were put in late, they germinated but just became a wonderful slug restaurant. This year I’m going to be super vigilant as I have so much more invested.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Domestic Executive

    I love working in the kitchen garden – it’s great therapy and as I am at home 24/7 ATM it has become far more important to me. I sow and tend and we eat – a good cycle.

    I do like working on my herbacious borders but generally so that I have a pretty walk to the kitchen garden 🙂

    Good luck with yours this summer (for you!).

    Tonight we are eating spuds, calabrese, Brussels Sprouts and cabbage all from the garden. I’m delighted.

  2. Domestic Executive

    This is a great post to keep me focused and inspired. It’s rained pretty much constantly for the last two weeks setting back my plans for getting my potager in order and plans to build the new kitchen garden. You have worked so hard at yours I am full of admiration. Well done and keep sharing it makes such a difference to learn from others.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi KarenO

    We’ll easily eat these vegetables. Danny is a vegetable lover and soon we’ll be having veg soup for lunch as well. Also my mum will enjoy them too. The dehydrator is great as it will preserve any gluts.

    Every year I learn so many new things. In a way I’m lucky to have been at home these past few months as we’ve had time to extend our kitchen garden, plan and carry out our dream of all round vegetables.

    Hello Belinda

    I’m thrilled with our winter vegetable garden. I love sliverbeet but D is not so keen, in fact I’m going to put in another row as it’s a good change from the brassicas. Home grown cauliflowers are wonderful – so sweet and tender.

    Re Rhubarb. We were given three big plants by an old guy in the village. We pick on and off from Spring to Autumn. The smaller stalks are the sweetest. The chunky stalks can be quite tough but are fine for jam or chutney or even wine.

    Yes that’s the right thing to do with strawberry plants. The older they get, the less they produce so they need to be replaced with their babies. Thanks for the nudge, I need to split mine up.

    I love Staffs. I have the same problem with our 3 year old Min Pin, Inca. If I’m digging she likes to dig in the paths!

    I bartered some decorating for a huge roll of chicken wire so I can cover the beds and protect the plants from Min Pin feet.

    Have a great summer!

  4. Belinda

    Im soo jealous Fi! Next year I want to grow over winter – cauli, cabbage & broccoli as well as the ever present chard – we ALWAYS have “silverbeet” as it is called down here.

    Your comment on rhubabr caught my attention. I have 3 rhubarb clumps here – but Im not sure when to pick, what to & for how long. Do I pick the biggest chunkiest stalks? Or the thinner newer ones? In Spring, Summer, Autumn?

    Today I split 2 of my 4 year old strawberry plants into 19 new baby plants – most of which already have a good root system – lets hope at least half survive – this was new to me & Im just guessing really. Any ideas?

    Right now everything is either just seeds in punnets of dirt or small plants in pots as Im too scared to plant out intot he yard as Loki our 5 month old Staffy pup is living up to his name at the moment. He cannot stop digging & chewing.

    Wish me luck. LOL

  5. Wow that’s an enormous amount of growing! Will you ever eat it all? We love veg and were quite successful in lots of things but weren’t around enough in August when we needed to be vigilant to grow organically. Our runner beans were amazing they obviously liked the warm start when the slugs were dormant, giving them chance to establish. Never mind, the whole summer was a good learning curve and we are fairly new to growing on a larger scale. I’ve never cut such crisp peppers though even from my organic bag – you can’t beat it.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Joanna

    I do hope that your joiner friend can construct at least one polytunnel before the really cold weather sets in.

    The weather is slowly turning here. Am thinking of bringing all the outdoor tomatoes into the kitchen to ripen inside.

    Hi LindaM

    Our brassicas and chard can survive our UK frosts and snow. I have baby poly tunnels for the salad leaves, lots of fleece and sturdy cloches for them. I’m also sowing salad leaves in the greenhouse this winter.

    Good luck with your endeavours.

    Hi Michelle

    what a shame that you can’t eat brassicas – we love them and they are expensive to buy in the UK. In fact all vegetables are pricey these days.

    I love sugar snap peas and asparagus. Can you eat Mangetout peas – we grow these in a large pot some summers.

    Hello Catalina

    Wow -30 is cold.

    Yes we are lucky here, weather wise. We don’t get very hot summers but our winters are much milder than yours.

    I keep the grass out of the beds but cutting the edges with an old fashioned edging tool and then trimming the edges regularly with edging shears. It’s important to pick up the grass clippings or they will self seed. I try and keep a 4” gap/trough between the edge of the path and the start of the border and this makes the path edges much easier to maintain.

  7. Catalina

    O you have a beautiful garden!
    It looks like Eden to me.
    Everything is on the cusp of freezing here – it’s hovering around 40F.
    *sigh* If only I could garden year round, but
    -30F kind of kills everything.

    How do you keep the grass out of your beds?
    I had grass paths, but the grass invaded everything (I’m still fighting it) and now I’m working on putting in strawberry paths with big stepping stones.
    But grass would look nicer.

  8. Very good post. I am also continuing through winter (under either a low hoop house or cold frame, neither of which have been built yet). Its very exciting to read that others are also going to give it a try.

  9. Michelle in NZ

    Dear Fiona – so this is how you recooperate!

    Do enjoy cooking and eating all those brassicas. Way to fiberous for Mickle innards,, and I so don’t miss brussle sprouts, not ever. Our Xmas green veggie will be asparagus – seasons end here then. For many NZ families it is freshly picked and shelled peas. My folks would love these but I can’t eat them anymore (the skins are the problem for me).

    Happily I turned dear Dad to sugar snap peas. They grow very well up at my Folks place and we all love them. Am even going to try growing them in a container down here.

    And darling Zebbycat isn’t a veggie eater!!!

    caring love to you, Danny and those huggly Min Pins (once more an extra huge huggle for Dr Q),

    Michelle and carnivore Zebbycat, xxxxx and purrrrrrumbles (is cold here)

  10. Well we had the first heavy frost of the year this week and boy has it rained the ground is soaked and small ponds appearing everywhere on our land so I think it is time to take a winter break, unless our joiner friend can pull a miracle and get the poly tunnel erected.

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