Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Home and Away …

When we are away from home taking a break at the coast – I think about the garden – will my neighbour keep everything well watered – will I have huge marrow like courgettes to come back to – will all my new seedlings have withered in my absence.

I needn’t have worried.  I harvested as much as I could before we went away – told my neighbour to concentrate on the greenhouse should she be pushed for time – and kept my fingers crossed that everything would be okay.

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And as you can see – no huge marrows – a few beans from the greenhouse – loads of patty pan squash – and all the chillies ripened.

There were one or two problems though.  My two wigwams of late sown runners had serious problems.

One  was infested by blackfly – I have never seen anything like it – unfortunately I couldn’t get a good photo to show you – and the other  has an infestation of green beasties (shield bugs maybe)?  These are eating the buds as they emerge.

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So the whole crop is ruined and will have to be pulled out tout suite.

I still have masses of Sungold tomatoes ripening outside – no sign of blight (touch wood).

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The patty pan squash plant is rampant and full of what look like baby space ships – so cute.

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The seedlings in the greenhouse have doubled in size – although something has eaten the baby lettuce (on inspection I found a big slug sleeping under a pot).

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And the kale plants that are waiting to be put in the courgette bed are looking pretty healthy and don’t seem to be suffering from being kept in pots.  I have put them outside now to harden off.

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The winter onions have sprouted too – so very soon I will have to find space for them in the raised beds.  Has anyone ever grown onions in containers? – did they do okay? – that is something I may have to resort to – it’s all going to be a bit of a tight squeeze out there.

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So, all in all I can breathe a sigh of relief.  I did get a veggie garden fix whilst I was away though.  In Wells there is a fantastic allotment area  - just one field away from the sea.   The plots are on the whole beautifully kept and one in particular that you can see from the lane is a model of perfection – I didn’t have my camera with me (slapped wrists)  – I am sure you would have been as impressed as I – talk about busman’s holiday!

The other thing I wanted to mention is why are restaurants so stingey with veg? They never seem to include them with the meal – sometimes they are listed as a side order – when the meal could really do with a bit of green on the plate.  The fashionable thing seems to be to put on the menu where  all the meat and fish is sourced locally – on one menu in particular the veg was supplied by Fred So-and-So from his allotment.  Well, all I can say is, that Fred was having a bad year with his veg, or he was keeping the best for himself.  Where were the runner beans, where were the French beans, where were the spinach and chard -  surely he must have had loads to sell on – one meal we had, included some curly kale, which was as tough as old boots and certainly didn’t add any flavour to the meal at all.  I know in the main restaurants like keep things seasonal, but even I, with my limited means, could have found something green to add to the meals – they all seemed to be very keen to add salad leaves to everything though.  Sorry – rant over – you have discovered one of my ‘bete noirs’.

‘Til next time – happy harvesting.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Gardener Cook ~ Waste Not Want Not

I seem to have been doing a lot of pressing, squeezing, chopping, cooking and tasting – all in the name of filling the freezer and preserves cupboard.

Is it some deep-felt need to go through this every year – originally in case of times of hardship.  Well, not really – I mean, everything is readily available in the shops – so what makes us keep on with this ancient practice of hoarding food  against the shortages of winter – when we know there won’t be any.

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To be quite honest, even if we don’t really need to do it – I quite enjoy the whole thing of gathering in the surplus crops and trying to make something tasty out of them – and I do get quite a kick out of opening the cupboard and freezer and seeing them full to the gills of homemade produce.

Anyhoo, what did I spend the last week doing.

  • Mixed Berry Jam
  • Damson and blueberry jelly
  • Vegetable Mulligatawny Soup (for the freezer although we did have a bowl each first)
  • Apple Juice

vegetable mulligatawny soup

I thought I would get the (seldom used) juicer out of the cupboard and make the most of the over-abundance of James Grieve apples on my tree.  I was going to get rid of the juicer as it is only taking up cupboard space – then I thought – why not turn the apples into juice.  The result is one glassful from about ten large apples. 

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When you drink this tart-sweet juice, the sharpness makes you salivate, and look at the lovely pinkness of it.  It smells and tastes just the same as the apples, which I guess is no surprise – I found it really refreshing – but was it worth all the mess, and the washing of all the parts of the machine just for a glassful?  The jury is still out on that one – but I won’t throw the juicer out just yet – it has earned a reprieve for now.

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I think that’s me done for this year a) because I have no room left anywhere to store anything and b) because I have run out of freezer containers and jam jars.

The evening on Sunday was glorious – I took a couple of pictures of the veg patch just as the sun was going down ~ as you can see it wants a good sort out ~ it all starts to look a bit messy at this time of year with the runners dying back  ~ tomatoes needing to be taken down ~ foxgloves that have seeded themselves into the beds need digging up and transplanting, all jobs that I will get on with when we come back from our September break at the coast.

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I have planted some onions in modules in the greenhouse – they were in the shop so I thought I would give them a try as I have never grown them this early before – but it seems a good time of year to get things going – the seeds I sowed last week are all through already ~ even the carrots which usually take an age to germinate ~ I’m dead chuffed because my original sowing of carrots got munched by the badgers and I haven’t had a single one this year.

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And finally – I was reading an article in Gardens Illustrated last month about the Great Dixter vegetable garden and Christopher Lloyd’s book ‘Gardener Cook’ was mentioned.  I purchased it for the princely sum of 1p. It has lots of recipes on how to use up the vegetables you have grown all given in Christopher’s own inimitable style – I shall definitely be trying plenty of them out during the course of the gardening year.

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‘Til next time – happy veg growing …

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Autumn Preparations For A Bountiful Winter

As the weather has turned colder, more blustery and extremely wet over the last couple of weeks – my thoughts have turned to preparations for autumn and winter.  A little early for that I hear you say, but I say, best be prepared a little early rather than leaving it too late.

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I have been transferring operations into the greenhouse where it is obviously sheltered and warmer than outdoors.  The tomato plants have been unstaked and laid down so that the rest of the tomatoes on the vine get a chance to ripen -  and I have stopped watering – a bit risky – not really, they have reached full size now  and just need to redden – possibly too much water at this stage would affect the flavour. 

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I still have Sungold outdoors where they have grown beyond their canes and are venturing over the fence into next doors garden – if they don’t get a chance to ripen now it has turned colder then I will strip the plants and bring the fruits indoors.

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The French Beans left in plant pots have been transferred into the greenhouse away from the cold and the slugs and already these late-sown plants are forming tiny beans.

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The runners have just about finished now but the ones I planted in the flower bed, which haven’t performed very well, are just starting – they obviously don’t seem to like being amongst the flowers and maybe haven’t had as much water as the others – I won’t experiment like this with them again as the beans are difficult to harvest in the flower bed.

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I have had to buy plug plants of all the brassicas due to the slug invasion that wiped them out – but maybe this is no bad thing, later plants means that they have missed the onslaught of caterpillars – they have been covered with nets and dome cloches until they establish – and liberal doses of pellets have been applied – I am taking no chances.

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The grow-bags that the tomato pots were standing on have been sown with lettuce and radish seed – the pea troughs also, with spinach and chard, and the potato containers have been re-sown with carrots.  These are all in the greenhouse where they will stay all winter in the hope of harvesting fresh crops. SDC12213

Once the courgette plants have been hit by frost I have some small cavolo nero kale seedlings to plant in their place – so that the raised beds stay productive all through the winter.

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And finally, I have cleared the strawberry bed, applied fresh compost and manure and re-planted with the plants that were growing in containers in the greenhouse.  There is only enough room for a dozen plants which is plenty for us - I have covered them with a mesh cover as we are having problems with badgers in the garden at the moment, and with freshly dug soil – they are likely to dig all the plants up to use the area as a latrine.

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I think I am getting the hang of this small scale gardening – it has been an interesting exercise to get as much as I can out of a small space – the secret seems to be to have plants-in-waiting, ready to pop in when a crop has finished - let’s hope all my plans are successful and we have a plentiful supply of food right through the autumn and winter.

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‘Til next time – be prepared.

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