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Flashy Butter Oak LettuceLettuces started off in the greenhouse and planted out in my front garden about 5 weeks ago are just about ready to have leaves harvested. This is the gorgeous ‘Flashy Butter Oak’ (above) from The Real Seed Catalogue, looking a little tatty at the edges from slugs and snails, but as it’s survived so far (not all of them did), I’m hoping it will now flourish.Reins des Glaces LettuceAnother little beauty from The Real Seed Catalogue is ‘Reine des Glaces’, a cultivar that’s about 200 years old.  Lovely crunchy sweet leaves work really well with softer lettuces and its curly spikeyness is so darn decorative in the garden. I love it!

Forellenschluss Lettuce (soeckled like a trout)

Forellenschluss (meaning speckled like a trout apparently) has similar colourings to the above ‘Flashy Butter Oak’, but it’s an Austrian heirloom Cos lettuce, so will hopefully develop some nice crunchy upright leaves. (I do like a good crunch in my salads these days.) It also looks a lot like Freckles, another delightful Cos, but maybe a bit looser in shape. Seeds available from the ever entertaining Chiltern Seeds. I’ll keep on harvesting just the outer leaves of these lettuces, so they should last me a good couple of months, and I know that it’s time to sow another batch of lettuces right now, although if I get round to this is another matter…

Lettuce seeds waiting in the wings are: ‘Cocarde’ and ‘Red Sails’ (from Nicky’s Seeds) and ‘Crisp Mint’, ‘Really Red Deer Tongue’ and ‘Devil’s Tongue’, (all from The Real Seed Company).

Should I develop a glut of leaves, Nigel Slater has a great recipe for lettuce, pea and mint soup in ‘Tender: Volume 1’. Very tasty and utterly refreshing. I wish I’d discovered this years ago.

Golden Streaks Mustard leafMy mustard leaves sown at the same time are now going to seed (‘Golden Streaks’ above), and although the leaves are getting spicier by the day, still taste great when used sparingly in salads, as do the flowers.

Sweet CicelyAnd Sweet Cicely adds a lovely aniseed note to the mix too.
Front garden lettuce bed with alliums and mustard leavesIt’s so lovely to have dinner on my doorstep, with the odd bit of decoration too.  (Allium Globemaster just about to come into bloom there.)
Front garden veg bed with runner beans and tomatoesAnd bed no. 2 has runner beans, tomatoes, sweet peas and radishes for more front garden veg (and deliciously scented blooms) later in summer. (Mustard leaf ‘Red Giant’ at the front of the bed, also just about to go to seed.)

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origibal raised bed

Back in 2010, I espied a couple of old palettes in a neighbour’s front garden and thought these might make wonderful raised beds for my own front garden. I spent an afternoon deconstructing the palettes and building the beds (here’s a ‘How to’), and then filled them with a mixture of topsoil and lovely rich compost as the soil below is rather heavy clay.

original raised bedsA year later and the beds were flourishing. In fact, they’ve been wonderful spots for experimentation ever since, and I’ve loved growing heaps of salad leaves, herbs, tomatoes

Tulips in front garden

and my annual tulip display (grown in the front garden as squirrels decimate these bulbs in the back garden).

Old wooden raised bedHowever, this wood doesn’t last forever, and despite a bit of mending here and there, these beds are now well past their best and in need of replacement. The question is, what with?

Deborah Nagan I visited Deb Nagan’s very inspiring garden in Brixton in 2013 as Part of the Chelsea Fringe,
Deborah Naga's metal raised bedsand her lovely metal raised beds have always stuck in my memory. Such gorgeousness combined with such great practicality.

So where to get some metal raised beds?

Tree pit edging

In the past we’ve used Everedge to supply us with metal edging for our street tree pits,

Rsuted steel raised bedand they also have a large range of other products for raised beds and planters. Following some very helpful discussions, I plumped for two (very reasonably priced) custom-made raised beds, 20cm high in Cor-Ten Steel. This naturally rusts over time, but they also supply galvanised steel which won’t rust, and powder coated steel which can give you different colours.

Rusted steel raised bed 2I love the deliciously warm colour of the rusted steel and its rather industrial look sits well in our urban setting. Peter from Everedge has added, in the comments below, that you can also have rolled edges if you’re worried about safety, but I can’t say that this crossed my mind when I was planning the bed.

It took a little while to construct as you have to bolt various lengths and corners together, but these raised beds should last for many years to come and I’m eager to see how my red and white Arsenal tulip display will look in this rusted bed come April.

P.s. I’ve also noticed that Harrod Horticultural sell a cream 30cm high snazzy ‘Retro’ raised bed. Not rusted steel, but groovy nonetheless.

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Helmi Daffs uprightLast year, all but a few of these ‘Rijnvelds Early Sensation’ daffodils came up blind. It was only their second year, but they’d been cruelly cut down (well, mowed actually) straight after flowering the previous year and they hadn’t had the time to build up strength for future blooms.

On seeing this dismal display last February, they were liberally sprinkled with Growmore, and requests given not to mow the lawn again until all of their foliage had completely died back.

Delighted to see how well they’re flowering again (if a tad early, even for these early bloomers).

Just need to keep that mower at bay……

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