Friday, 31 October 2014

End of month view: October 2014

As I mentioned in my post Gardening with ME: weather and energy the other day, I don't have a lot to report. After travelling in September I have spent most of October with little energy to really be able to get up to much in the garden. So this will be a shorter EOMV post than usual.

In the kitchen garden, the green manure Phacelia tanacetifolia, sown after the potatoes were dug up, have grown with gusto. This was only a short-term sowing and I'll be uprooting these to make way for planting the garlic that will be going in here in November.

Once I've pulled up the climbing bean canes, I'll throw the Phacelia tanacetifolia plants onto this part of the veg bed, along with the dying bean plants, before adding leafmold, in order to help improve the structure of the soil. I'll be then sowing over-winter broad beans in part of the bed, and will add manure to the other part to help bulk it up and add more nutrition for the planned potatoes that will be growing in there next year.

As mentioned last month, I did manage to collect some of the Dwarf French Bean Ice Crystal Wax seeds for saving and these are now drying out. I don't think the lettuce 'Bronze Arrow' is going to flower and set seed in time, so I'm hoping I'll be able to get more seed from the Heritage Seed Library and try again next year. We are still eating quite a bit from the garden: fennel (incredibly delicious) & kohl rabi, carrots, kale, spinach and chard, the last few beetroots and I have some cauliflowers that I'll be picking in the next week or so.

The shadier end of the Shady Border

Elsewhere in the garden, autumn is showing, though I feel I maybe need to add more to bring interest to the garden at this time of year. The yellowing leaves are from my Morello Cherry tree, and the red is Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'. It's kind of hard given the size of the garden and how much of it is given over to vegetables (which I don't regret, btw!), but I'm sure I could add something to the shady border to give it more height and colour in autumn, particularly as it will take several years for the cherry and acer to really grow and fill out the space. Something to think about.

Damp and moss growing

I have discovered a problem in the Shady Border, shadier end, with quite a lot of moss starting to grow here. A combination of the recent wet weather and the fact that from mid-September onwards this area doesn't get any direct sun, I believe has led to this. As the plants grow more and fill out the border this won't be so obvious, but I'm not sure if I should try and get rid of the moss and add something, such as woodchips, in the meantime? Or would woodchips only make it damper and more likely to let moss develop? Or should I not worry about the moss? I'd appreciate any suggestions you have please!

One surprise has been my sweet peas, which suddenly have taken off again. In fact the plants look healthier now than they did in summer. I'm making the most of them whilst they last.

I haven't got any bulbs planted as hoped at the end of last month, so with luck I'll be feeling a bit better in November and will get these planted. October was quiet in the garden, and whilst I couldn't be out there much, I have enjoyed viewing the garden from the study. When you cannot garden physically, you can still garden in your head.

Overview from study

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End of month view is hosted by Helen Johnstone, aka @patientgardener. Visit Helen's blog for her October 2014 EOMV and links to other bloggers EOMV posts.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Gardening with ME: weather and energy

You could say I've been missing presumed tired in the garden this month. I'm aware that End of Month View is coming up and I feel I have little to report.

As mentioned in a previous post, I was travelling for much of September and this has meant I've had to spend much of October resting. Whilst I've started to recover mental energies, physically I still am exhausted. For example, after having a shower I need a hour of rest just to get back from complete exhaustion to general exhaustion.

In the last few days I have felt like I could do a little bit in the garden. I did manage to pick some of the beans I spoke about in the French Beans post, picking for 10 minutes, resting for 20 minutes, picking for another 10 minutes and so forth, over the space of 1.5 hours. They aren't all picked, and I know I need, and want to pick them, but I've been holding off. I've finally worked out why. It's the weather.

I wouldn't consider myself a fair weather gardener. In the past (pre ME) I've definitely been out there in freezing weather and downpours. Gardening in colder weather uses more energy, and this is the case for people who are well, let alone people who have ME/a chronic illness. Battling the elements and the temperature slows you down, and you have to put more physical, and mental, energy, into getting any task done in these conditions. When you have a chronic illness you only have so much energy, and using some of your energy to deal with the weather means a lot less remains for gardening.

The cold wind and grey skies have been putting me off. Part of me has hoped that the next day might at least be sunny, even if cool. Sunshine always makes it easier to garden! But the next day arrives and it's the same as the day before.

So tomorrow, as long as I feel I have a bit of energy, I'm going to bite the trowel and get myself out in the garden, regardless of the sky being blue or grey. I might only be out there for two 10-minute sessions with 20 minute breaks inbetween, but at least I will have got out there and gardened. Because I've remembered that even if it is cold and grey, and this sucks up quite a bit of the little energy I have, I will enjoy having been in the garden. And I'll feel good about it after when I'm back in bed having a recovery nap.

UPDATE Monday 27th October: Despite another grey cloudy day, I encouraged myself to get out there and in a short time I got the beans picked. It was worth it. Happiness. Now for a rest :)

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I welcome your comments and thoughts. And if you blog about gardening with ME/a chronic illness, link to this post in your blog, and leave a comment below with a link to your post, so we can all find each other.

About Gardening with ME

Twitter hashtag: #GardeningWithME

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Gardening with ME: French beans

The growing season of 2014 has been one of the best years I've had for some time in growing climbing French beans. I've often done well with dwarf French beans and this year was no exception, but climbers have been more sporadic. However, this year, lots and lots of climbing French beans!

Which is great, isn't it? Just splendid. I had lots of plans for those French beans. Many meals, including making 'frozen meals' for winter, to give me a burst of summer sun in the grey of winter. Sounds good. But when you are gardening with ME, harvesting and cooking is never that simple.

Climbing French Bean 'Cobra'

Until about June, I hadn't done too badly with growing, harvesting and eating my crops this year. I had bad ME days that left me in bed, and plenty of days where I could only do one small gardening task over the space of a week. But until June I had managed my ME and energy levels reasonably well, and had got all the seeds I wanted into the ground and off to a good start.

By late June the ME started getting bad again. A mix of travel and visits that were wonderful, but where I didn't manage my energy levels well enough and ended up with payback. That's the ME monster saying 'ha ha, just when you thought it was getting better'.

Climbing French Bean 'Borlotto' - this was the only one I deliberately grew for the seeds

The climbing French beans started cropping from late July, when I had another brief period of feeling a little better and I got my first couple of meals out of them. But things fell apart again in August and were no better at the start of September. Here I faced a dilemma.

For much of September I would be travelling with my best friend Kerri, who was coming over from Australia for a few weeks. I needed, and wanted, energy to make the most of enjoying her visit. Something had to give. The climbing French Beans had to give.

By early September, my energy levels were pretty low, and as wonderful as those beans were all looking, they had to stay on the plants, unpicked. I made the conscious decision to not pick them, because spending time with Kerri was more important. When you have ME, you have to make decisions like this pretty regularly. It's frustrating. But it is how it is.

Climbing French Bean 'Dianah Blue'

So the climbing French Beans, as you can see from the pictures, have gone to seed. But all is not lost. I couldn't eat the delicious young pods, but I can eat the seeds - yes! I can dry the beans out and they can then go into winter soups and stews. Happiness.

I'm going to break the harvesting and collecting seed down into small tasks. Picking the beans over a couple of weeks, then drying them out. Once dry, I can start shelling them whilst sitting on the couch, a bit at a time over the space of days, even weeks.

Thanks to ME, things haven't worked out on the climbing French bean front as I originally planned. But I will still get a burst of summer in my winter meals, only in a different form. That's rather splendid.

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I welcome your comments and thoughts. And if you blog about gardening with ME/a chronic illness, link to this post in your blog, and leave a comment below with a link to your post, so we can all find each other.

About Gardening with ME

Twitter hashtag: #GardeningWithME

Other posts.... Gardening with ME: an introduction to a new meme

Gardening with ME: an introduction to a new meme

In a recent conversation on Twitter (late September) between myself, Harriet ThomasPhilippa Burrough and Arabella Sock, we discussed following other people who garden with chronic illness, in particular, ME. ME is Myalgic Encephalopathy, and depending on the person may also be called neuro-ME or CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), and several other names. Whatever you call it, it is a chronic illness that can go on for years, for some people a lifetime, and it effects every area of your life.

Although I blogged about ME In December 2013, that was a one-off post. But after the aforementioned Twitter discussion I started thinking about how many people with ME, and other chronic illnesses, garden, and find gardening either helpful or an important part of coping with ME. I gardened before I got ME and the idea of giving it up was impossible. Gardening, of both ornamental and vegetables, wasn't just a hobby of a keen amateur, but an essential part of who I was. Since having ME, gardening hasn't always been easy, but it has always been a joy, and on some occasions, gardening is one of the few things that helps me through the dark and painful days.

Prompted by the Twitter discussion and these thoughts, I've decided to start a new meme: Gardening with ME. These will be occasional posts focusing around the issue of trying to garden when you have a chronic illness. In part I am blogging for myself, to remind myself of both the problems and delights. But I am also blogging to share these experiences, in the hope that other people, whether gardeners or not, find them useful and/or informative. And I hope to find other gardeners who are gardening with ME, or another chronic illness, and who are willing to share their experiences.

My first post for this new meme follows. My idea is to keep the posts short, occasional (since ME doesn't always allow you to keep appointments...) and reveal the challenges and successes that are involved when you garden with a chronic illness such as ME.

Twitter hashtag: #GardeningWithME

Now, for my first post...  Gardening with ME: French Beans

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Want to take part? Please do! If you blog about gardening with ME/a chronic illness, link to this post in yours, and leave a comment below with a link to your post, so we can all find each other.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

End of month view: September 2014

September in the garden. Actually, I wasn't in the garden, as I was mainly off travelling with my best friend Kerri who was over from Oz for her 50th birthday. When I was around, I was too ME tired to do any gardening. This didn't seem to bother the garden too much...

In the Kitchen Garden, quite a few things have gone to seed. Some were intentional, such as the heritage varieties of peas, lettuce and dwarf french beans.
Saving seeds: Dwarf French Bean Ice Crystal Wax, plus Lettuce 'Bronze Arrow'
and Pea 'Lativan', the latter two from Heritage Seed Library.

I love the colour changes of Ice Crystal Wax - the drying pods on the right.

Others weren't intentional, such as my climbing french beans which weren't picked. However, it doesn't matter as I can use the beans in the pods in winter soups, so not really a problem!

I was rather excited to see that by the end of September the Kohl Rabi was really growing well. Am hoping to start cropping it by the end of October. I haven't covered these with netting to stop white cabbage moth as I have with other brassicas. This seems to have worked out ok. Am I lucky, or do white cabbage moth not have a taste for Kohl Rabi?!

My first fennel bulbs are almost ready to eat too. Mmmmmm.

And the Perennial Kale is growing for England (bottom right). I also haven't netted these. They have been chewed on a bit, but largely survive the depredations of white cabbage moth.

On the negative side, the tomatoes had barely started FINALLY going red or yellow before they got hit by blight. I had hoped to save seed from my Estonian Yellow Cherry tomatoes, but that's not going to happen after all. I'm starting to wonder why I bother with tomatoes.

Flowering in the garden in September has brought one surprise - Digitalis! Do other people get their foxgloves flowering later too, or is this just an odd occurrence?

So far no sight of any saffron crocus in the Strawberry Border, where I planted them. But the autumn Crocus, pulchellus, are flowering beautifully in the Cornus Border.
Crocus pulchellus (not sativis as originally listed. Thanks to @emmathegardener for advice.)

Slightly late to the party, but no less welcome, is Anemone hupehensis 'Splendens'. It is planted in the shadier end of the Shady Border so this may be why it didn't flower until the end of September, rather than from August as I expected.

Along the back fence, the nasturtiums and Salvia uliginosa continue to march towards domination.

As does the Helianthus 'Lemon Queen', growing almost over the young greengage tree.

To my great delight, Actaea simplex 'Brunette' finally flowered. It was worth the wait.

Signs of autumn have arrived in the Cornus Border. The leaves of the cornus shrubs are changing colour, and the colour on the red stems of Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' are stronger.

Going into October, the key tasks will be collecting the vegetable seeds that I'm saving, getting some weeding done, and planting out bulbs and corms. This will be done slowly, as the ME isn't great at the moment so I have little energy. But despite that, the fact I was away for much of the month, and doing a mind-wipe of the blighted tomatoes, I'm rather pleased how the garden was flowering and producing during September.

Overview from study

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End of month view is hosted by Helen Johnstone, aka @patientgardener. Visit Helen's blog for her September 2014 EOMV and links to other bloggers EOMV posts.