Beans, Brambles and Barbecues

This weekend I tackled what has become an annual job for me: wrestling with and hacking back the brambles that grow along the field boundary behind the greenhouse running down to the shed.

When we came here two years ago, this was one of the first big jobs that I took on in the garden. The brambles had run riot for years, and formed a high hedge, with some brambles twelve foot long or more, growing up through the wild plum trees in the boundary, and dangling back down to touch the ground. After clearing them that first spring, light flooded through the denuded plum trees for the first time in years. Last year, we took our work further and once the brambles (much less advanced this time) were again cut back to the ground, we heavily pruned the plum trees.

The plum trees rewarded us this spring with lots of fresh foliage growing up their trunks, and tumbles of white blossom floating along their branches. Clearing the brambles was much quicker work this time, and we’re hoping to dig out their roots once and for all in the next few weeks, and replace them with leftover rosa rubrifolia hedging which is still heeled in after our recent hedge-planting. Old bits of rotten fencing were pulled out as well, and the debris temporarily piled on the black plastic sheeting that is still warming this patch of ground before we plant brassicas here this year. This stretch of the boundary has not been cow-proofed though, so whatever hedging we grow here will have to take its chances against foraging cattle.

If you had seen me this weekend, besides a few scratches and a slight sense of triumph over the brambles, you may have noticed a deeper sense of self-satisfaction. For the first time, I have actually corralled myself into pricking out seedlings in the proper manner in the greenhouse: carefully easing out the young seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle, holding them gently by the seed leaves, and planting each into a separate module.

It amazed me what a simple and satisfying job this was: so much easier than trying to pull apart a sheet of matting that has been formed by the roots of the plants knitting together while I left them unattended! I consider myself suitably rebuked for my previous… well not quite neglect, but something akin…

Celeriac and cosmos seedlings are now pricked out into their own modules, hopefully making it much easier to pot them on later than it would be straight from their then-outgrown seed trays…

It was also a marathon seed-sowing weekend, with dozens of edibles and ornamentals sown into tray/modules and pots. The various peas that germinated some weeks ago in the greenhouse went out into the bottom border last weekend (Excellenz, as well as some purple podded peas, and some heritage salmon flowered peas that Matron kindly sent me last year – I really look forward to trying these) and the potatoes were planted out, some earlies and some maincrop.

This weekend we added the broad beans to this bed, having hardened them off over the past week or two. Alongside the garlic and several sets of onions that have already settled in here, I managed to squeeze in some of the beetroot seedlings from the greenhouse, and a few more short rows of salad leaves, spinach and radish, and this bed is now full.

King of the Hill dug over more of the middle bed, which lies between the greenhouse and the woodstores, almost up to the remaining hedging that we have heeled in here until we plant it along behind the greenhouse. We rigged up our bamboo poles ready to support our runner beans this year, and dug out the last standing leeks – rather fitting to harvest our leeks the same week that we sow the seed for next year’s. We hope to finish digging this bed over this week so that we can rotavate it, as it has only been worked for two years now and is still very compacted and heavy.

In the greenhouse, various summer and winter squashes have been potted on, along with savoy cabbages and black Tuscan kale and many other edible delights. I ran some of the excess brassica seedlings along to our next-door-neighbours-but-one, who are keen gardeners, and felt slightly better about the inevitable cull when you are left with more germinated plants than you have space for.

All that, and we still managed to find time for the first bike ride and barbecues of the year – loving this spring sunshine. I hope that you had an equally successful weekend!


12 thoughts on “Beans, Brambles and Barbecues

  1. What a whirlwind of activity!

    Very satisfying to tame a huge growth of bramble and reclaim some of your garden. Sounds like you got off easily with scratches.

    • Indeed, I seem to have got away rather lightly indeed, though a prickle does seem to have worked its way into the finger of one of my gloves and I can’t find it to remove it (but can feel it whenever I put them back on…)

  2. I’m impressed! it is a crazily busy time of year, but wonderful to have such great weather for it. Glad you fitted in a bike ride and a barbecue as well as the bramble hacking and seed sowing! My squash seedlings germinated in a day and are now throwing up true leaves – I just hope I have enough room to codddle them until I can plant them out! Other than the bramble cutting – and bike ride – your weekend sounds very familiar, much seed sowing and pricking out and wondering how much room I actually have and surely I could cram in another row of salad leaves… Enjoy the sunshine and the gardening!

    • Yes, the sunshine is marvellous for working outside (though the greenhouse has been uncomfortably hot – must build a potting bench outside too…).
      Our various squash seedlings leapt up too – except the Cornells Delicata Bush, which is maintaining a low profile still.
      I can’t wait until the middle bed is rotavated so that I can start to slip in more salad leaves, ruby chard and sweet peas… Think I will overspill what I can into the main beds when they’re complete too – true cottage garden style. The cardoons have germinated already, though my mum warns me that I’ll be cursing them for years to come after they’ve self seeded everywhere. But the flowers are so amazing for bees … and edible too!

  3. Sara, I’m surprised to see that you are using bamboo canes for bean supports – I would have thought you would be using branches from all those trees you pruned! Have you had any success with Celeriac? Mine seem to produce plenty of leaf, but the bulbs never get very big. Any advice?

    • Ah sadly the beech, horse chestnut and birch branches that we pruned didn’t yield anything long and straight and slender enough for bean supports, all being rather “forky” trees. We chopped most of it for firewood or kindling, and shredded the rest for mulch! You can see the birch pea sticks have been put to good use already though, with a few more in reserve… We already had lots of bamboo – some of it came from a clump in my MIL’s garden though, so still local and sustainably produced!
      Need to coppice willow or hazel really for long bean poles… I’ll try and work some in to the garden!

      This is the first time we’ve grown celeriac, so no idea what to expect yet. From my reading around, it sounds as though too much nitrogen in the soil will favour leaf growth instead of bulb growth; I’ve found recommendations not to add any N-rich feed therefore…

  4. It is satisfying to get down to some serious clearing up in the garden. Much, much more satisfying than pushing papers across a desk all day. You can stand back and see all your hard work. I hope those brambles reward you with some blackberries?

    • … or pushing numbers around a screen. Yes, much more satisfying. We did get a few blackberries from the brambles, but far far more in the hedgerows around us, so there’s no point keeping this patch just for that, if we can plant something a little more tameable there.
      The salmon flowered peas are growing nicely in the garden after being started in the greenhouse – looking forward to seeing them (and eating them!) – thank you again.

  5. Very imppressive, all that clearing, digging, pricking out. I always find it satisfying completing the full circle of sowing/harvesting – managed it with parsnips, PSB and leeks this year. Although if all the crops took that long I’m not sure I’d remain satisfied!

    • Thanks Damo, satisfying indeed – though definitely requires some faster crops too. We’re loving watercress, rocket and radishes at the moment, the first fresh crops of the year.

  6. Hello and, belatedly, happy Easter, ah yes how satisfying it can be digging out brambles despite the scratches.

    you can poison brambles easily by cutting them to the ground and painting the wound with SBK which works very well especially if the bramble root is entwined with another shrub or tree, although digging them out is much more fun!

    You obviously have the knack of pricking out seedlings, i have neither the patience nor the delicate fingers so my wife does it all for me and she leaves me to get on with the bramble wrestling…

    Barbecues! in April! the weather has gone mad!

    • Happy even more belated Easter to you too – hope that you had a great long weekend.
      Thank you for the bramble eradication tips – we may be resorting to that later in the year if they get ahead of us again.
      Sounds like you have a good even split of tasks going on in the garden! I get most of the greenhouse tasks, and bramble wrestling, but then my husband does the heavy digging and anything involving ladders, and is still hard at work on various construction bits, so I certainly can’t complain!
      The weather has been incredibly hasn’t it? I wouldn’t bat an eyelid if somebody told me it was July… mad, indeed!

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