I was sifting through my photographs the other day and I realised how many pictures that I have taken of my chive patch. It may be because, aside from my strawberries, they are one of the only things in the garden not to have been nibbled by beasties, sat on by my cat or dug up by my boy.
Last year I bought two tiny pots of chives from the garden centre. They looked sad and spindly, just a few stems on each. I planted them in a newly dug border at the patio end of the lawn. They grew well over the summer and provided us with many, many cutting of the delicious onion-y flavoured herb (delicious with buttered new potatoes, stirred in to a garlicky mayonnaise, sprinkled in salads and tossed over fritatta). When the winter arrived the bed filled with water and didn’t drain for weeks.
One of my main reasons for wanting a border of chives was for their beautiful, purple flowers. I got the idea of having an edible border was from Alys Fowler’s The Edible Garden. I liked the idea of having a pretty patch that provided colour as well as food. I also planted other cut and come again herbs, a small lavender (lavender flowers are delicious mixed in to ricotta cheese and stuffed into canelloni or ravioli) bush and some spring bulbs (for early colour, not edible). All but the chives perished in the boggy border.
In early April I decided to dig them out. I moved the chives to a pot on the patio and in to a corner of one of my small raised beds. The ends of the chives were yellowing and straggly so I cut them right back, being careful to avoid cutting off any flower heads. Within a few week the flower heads were beginning to turn purple, the recent spell of hot weather brought them into bloom and edible stems are plump and juicy. The boggy border has dried out a bit and has been grassed over. A new site for the edible bed has yet to be determined.
I love asparagus. My favourite way to eat it is by lightly steaming it and eat it dripping in butter. The UK asparagus harvest has arrived two weeks early, so if you like your asparagus fresh now is the time to get to the green grocer.
Three weeks ago I planted ten asparagus crowns in my garden but I think they are sick. I am told that asparagus has a tendency to sulk in the wrong conditions and like light soil, sun and no wind. Condition wise I probably have half out of three. My soil is not that great and being in the North of England you can’t rely on the sun being bothered to turn up for work each day. But you need to do what you can to get your plants to grow. As you can’t buy sunshine (how amazing would that be?) I decided to give the soil a helping hand so I worked it over with some home-made compost and farm-yard manure, then carefully spread out the roots before covering them over with fresh compost. I all but kissed them and tucked them in. I go out each night and diligently water them but, so far, the crowns are not satisfied with my efforts. You also can’t harvest them for two years so you need put the work in and treat them as a labour of love and not a one season affair.
After doing some research I decided I needed help so I tweeted my current favourite gardener Alys Fowler who kindly advised that I keep an eye on them (done), water more (done) and then have a gentle poke around in the beds, find them and make sure that the roots are still plump. I poked and I found. I have no idea if the roots are plump or not but I have decided to keep watering and leave them alone and let them come in their own time. Fingers crossed that in two years I have a blossoming bed of juicy asparagus spears. If not I will have a bit of well watered dirt.
You can follow Alys Fowler on Twitter, she also has a great book available, The Edible Garden.