I’m going to split July into two entries – first our new raised bed and all the flowers that started blooming and secondly the sunflowers. I’ll start with the raised bed we bought at the end of June. At the same time I ordered some plug plants so we would have something that had a good start to put into the bed. As this is our first year with any major vegetable growing it was hard to decide what to grow. We’ve tried potatoes before and not had much success so we decided not to try them this year.

We chose spinach, lettuce, runner beans, rocket and mustard leaves. I also had edamame beans, onions and carrots in bags and some tomatoes that we planted in pots in June. We definitely started these crops in the wrong part of the garden, I don’t think they were getting enough sun so they had a slow start. When we started to fill the raised bed we moved the tomatoes and beans next to them, in the full sun part of the garden and transplanted the onions and carrots. At this point we’d decided to sacrifice the lawn space as it’s not a great piece of grass due to the cherry blossom tree roots disrupting it, but more on that later in the summer.

So after adding plenty of compost and manure I planted everything into almost neat rows and our raised bed journey started.

Raised Bed – Day One

A very experimental start to raised bed vegetables

It was such a joy to look out of the living room window and see this little square of life. I don’t think I realised how much pleasure I was going to get from this 1.2m square of soil. I weeded it every day, watering whenever it didn’t rain. I was a bit worried about the cats that seem to think they live in the garden who visit regularly but so far they have ignored the bed completely. The other thing that shocked me as how quickly everything grew. July was a very strange month – full of dreadful winds and rain but not particularly cold. I spent a lot of July in and out picking pots up and checking for wind damage.

Our work situation changed at the start of July when my husband went back to work. He works in a very clean environment anyway but the company took lots of extra precautions (divided desks, masks, one way systems etc) so after a couple of days I stopped worrying about him being “out in the world” but we took sensible precautions to protect me (mostly him changing out of his work clothes and showering as soon as he gets home) and I am very grateful that his company take the whole situation seriously and are protecting their staff.

Being at home on my own all day was a bit odd at first. There had been two of us here since late March and the first few days on my own were strange. I went upstairs to speak to my husband a couple of times and then remembered he wasn’t there. I’ve always loved working from home, I work well on my own and in more normal times I work on a team of geographically distanced people anyway so communication has never been an issue for us. I think I’ve probably been less affected by the whole working from home scenario than most people as I’ve had a lot of experience doing it when I worked in the finance industry – I very often worked 2 or 3 days a week at home on my own.

I am, however, very conscious that lots of colleagues do not enjoy this new normal and I have tried to make an effort to send more emails, have more IM chats, get involved in more video meetings with people who may be struggling and not enjoying the freedom I get from working from home. As I’ve said before I count myself very lucky that this enforced time at home has only been beneficial for me personally and professionally.

The best part about being at home for me is the ability to take a break whenever I need to (I have some issues with my joints that mean sitting for long periods of time make me seize up so I need to get up and move around regularly). Coffee breaks were taken in the garden, dead heading, weeding, taking photos. Those little breaks made me very aware of the changes that happen every day in the summer. Buds opening, petals forming, leaves growing. When you spend a lot of time on a daily, almost hourly, basis in your garden you notice these changes that you might not spot if you only went into the garden at the weekend.

The passage of time I saw with these observations was fascinating to me, especially to the photographer in me and I took hundreds of photos every week. This documentation of the growth in the garden is important to me, I’m a scrapbooker so keeping track of events is second nature to me and every photo felt like an entry into a future scrapbook page. I’ve created a few pages but it feels like a project in preparation, for the long winter weekends to come. The memory of these gorgeous blooms are going to be very welcome in December when my time in the garden will be largely dictated by the weather. Dahlias, cosmos, marguerites, poppies, chrysanths – everything bloomed and made the garden a wonderful place to take a break and be grateful.

By the end of July the raised bed was barely recognisable. We were cutting spinach every day for smoothies. The strawberries were a welcome addition to this vitamin packed drink every day. The rocket and mustard grew amazingly quickly but we discovered that we didn’t like them too much (too strong tasting) but my neighbour’s rabbit loved them so they didn’t go to waste. The beans were growing, well, like weeds, and the lettuce were enormous.

Again, our rabbit friend next door appreciated them as we couldn’t cut it fast enough as it kept growing. My coriander also did very well in the raised bed. The carrots were coming along but still not ready. We added some chillis and peppers in pots. We decided early on that we weren’t going to use any insecticides or chemicals and so there was the odd slug and caterpillar lunch provided but we didn’t have a lot of insect damage and by the end of July everything was flourishing.

From this….. to this

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