49 weeks to go…

by Max Akroyd

 Spring maintenance

During last week’s efforts with the scythe, I managed to fool myself into an olde worlde comfort zone which conveniently ignored the disgraceful state the beds and paths were getting into. The weeds were getting bigger than the fruit trees. 

As any self-respecting, hypocritical Peal Oil peasant would, I reached for the noisy machines intent on blasting the lot to kingdom come. Two days of strimming, mowing and weeding doesn’t inspire much narrative but at least the place ended up looking much more managed. Which is a good thing – I think.

The gaps left by the failed March sowings were looking more obvious too. It’s a bit odd to have swathes of empty soil in June and they had me reaching for my seed boxes. I’ve never made it to the far side of the longest day in control of my acres before and my lack of experience is telling… I just don’t have enough stuff to plant out! 

With the last early pea finally podded and the early potatoes looking almost ready to flower, even more space will soon come available. I’m certainly trying to make the most of the seedlings I do have. Anaemic-looking courgettes have been forced into service and French beans lashed hurriedly to cane structures. All in that race against that returning dark we euphemistically refer to as summer.  

Le Coq


Another new arrival on the farm – no, not that one yet – but a fine cockerel to add an air of authenticity to the place with his early morning wake up call. (With the baby imminent, I’m not sure this service was really necessary…)

He’s been shut in one of the old cow stalls in the hangar until his new flock of (meat) hens arrives on Monday of next week. He’s a feisty chap – apt to dive-bomb you with his spurs foremost if you get too close. I hate to break it to him but, after you’ve been bear-hugged by a sixteen stone boar, his machismo doesn’t seem that scary! 

(I feel I should award myself a prize for ignoring all the pun potential presented by the presence of this creature. Please be assured that all the bawdy possiblilities have been considered, and sniggered at, but I’ve resisted every temptation, so far…)

Cauliflowers and other edibles

It was arrogant to come here expecting to be able to grow every vegetable, especially when the local farmers only grow cows and fodder crops.

But, more and more, I’m realising each crop has an ideal planting arrangement within the windy, weak-soiled context of this hillside in Brittany… I feel confident I’ve cracked the code regarding brassicas. It’s probably inappropriate to feel smug about my cauliflowers when I can’t get a decent spring-sown crop of broad beans going – but caulis are a definite challenge organically and there’s something very rewarding about seeing the white curds appear amidst the swirl of leaves…



All the brassicas seem suited by their set up: I plant the seedlings through plastic and over-arch them with netting supported on homemade hoops. Yesterday it was time to remove the October planted couves and collards. It proved relatively easy to relocate the whole shooting match of plastic and supports to another position on the field, ready to receive the Brussel sprouts which are presently turning a bit sour in their pots.

Elsewhere gooseberries are starting to come in… regular readers might recall the agonies of retro-mulching those so and so’s… well I’m happy to report the gastronomic delight of Emma’s gooseberry crumble more than atones for that miserable experience! Currants of various shades have also been sighted, but probably by the birds too… and we’re now approaching that decadent moment where strawberries and cream is no longer exciting and we’ll use them for jam instead. 

Happy days: first fruit is also appearing in the polytunnel at last:


An Apology

Lastly this week, a sincere apology for my failure to visit anybody else’s blog recently.

I despise heirarchy – especially in gardening – and don’t want you to think that because I can grow an outstanding, organic cauliflower that I’m getting too big for my boots. I may be planning a cauliflower boutique at Chelsea next year, but this isn’t the reason for my absence. I’d hoped that moving to a weekly post would free up lots of time to lavish on commentary elsewhere. Instead the vacuum has been filled by weeds to be weeded, peas to be podded and a cot to be constructed.

Normal service will resume as soon as possible!