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Friday, 16 September 2011

September - Mini Harvest

Had my own little mini harvest so thought I'd share the picture! Spuds (Rooster, and a few left over Maris Piper from last year), Carrots (the ones the carrot fly didn't ravage!), 2 different types of scalloped squash and kohl rabi (not bad roasted). Nom!

The rest of the harvest of Potatoes. I feel OK about this amount, much more reasonable than last years epic harvest of doom that we never managed to eat through.

Garlic! Pretty good I think, nice pale pink cloves. I seem to have picked pretty varieties of everything this year! These went into the ground last autumn, to be honest I think I left them a bit too long as they had sprouted extra cloves about the outside, I broke these off and they are in a bowl in the fridge to be used first.

My tomatoes did not ripen *sad face*. There are still a few tomato plants languishing outdoors but as an experiment, these ones, who were taking up space in the main vegetable beds have been ripped up and suspended upside-down in the sun in the extension. The Internet tells me this will allow the goodness to drain down the plant and they will ripen. I remain sceptical, but...who knows! Worth a go, and if not there's always Fried Green Tomatoes!

I have cleared out all the spend summer veg. Still in the ground are scalloped squash, pumpkins (planted too late I think, they look a bit sickly), Parsnips, Onions, Kale, Kohl Rabi, Swiss Chard a Salsify or two and some Cauliflower (purple!). In this month go Broad Beans, Garlic, various winter salad leaves, Toughball Onions, early Spring Onions and possibly some other stuff I have forgotten. The land with nothing on has some field beans as green manure.

Finally, Nigella seed heads removed before they open and self seed all over the place again (nice yes, but a bit in the way). I think I will suspend them upside-down in a bag and collect the seeds.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Summer 2011

I have been remiss at keeping the blog updated this summer, too much going on, you know how it is. Anyway, I thought it was about time I did a catch up post since I do have pictures.

The summer went well for peas, having planted several patches where last year there were root crops growing. I bought a roll of plastic netting this year for support, which worked a lot better than the string (if a lot less eco friendly).

This year the Blueberry plant I got using my Tesco Club Card vouchers had fruit! (I got it last year). Only about 5 in total but they were tasty and I'm hoping for more next year.

A free home collected packet of wild flowers I got when I bought some Yarrow seed on eBay had languished in the seed box for over a year, so I took an oblong plant pot and scattered them over. How beautiful they were, poppies and all sorts.

Last year I was not fast enough at pulling out the huge amounts of Nigella (Love-in-a-mist) I had sown, and the seed heads scattered a huge amount which germinated this year and produces a carpet of flowers, I hadn't the heart to pull them up so I let them grow.

These are Asparagus Peas, they look a lot prettier than they actually taste, You eat the interesting looking pods before they reach 3cm. Personally I hate them, they are furry...bleuck! Never again! Shame as the little red flowers are lovely.

The Summer squash grew quite well, this is what it looked like when it was small.

I don't think I have a picture of the Salsify when it was flowering, but you can see a similar picture of what mine looked like like here. When the seed pod opened up it looked like a giant dandelion head.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Late Spring/Early Summer

Thought I'd better update on how things are going so far. The Peas are in their final positions and planted around their feet are transplanted spinach plants which should give them shady toes while they reach for the light. Spinach is a real life saver for the shady spots and I have a terrible craving for it at the moment, so I have grown two varieties, one normal and one Jamie Oliver red stemmed variety ("bish bash bosh whack it in tha ground job's a goodun"?) for a bit of colour interest. Also for the first time I have planted Swiss Chard, I haven't the foggiest idea what it tastes like!?

I have completed a plan of the final locations of all the veg again this year. I am following crop rotation rules to minimise pests and diseases and ensure good quality organic crops, but also as an experiment I am trying a less formal arrangement of vegetables, mixing them up a bit and putting more emphasis on the beauty and landscaping that can be created from vegetable plants. This was inspired by reading Alys Fowlers book The Edible Garden, it's a lovely read and very inspiring. I'm not sure all the things I have planned will work, but growing is a yearly experiment I am still discovering what grows well in my soil and in what positions, and even then who knows what weather will beset us. We seem to have a lot of 'weather' in England, it can be rainy in the morning, hail at lunch then heatwave in the evening (I might be exaggerating a bit...but you know how we Brits like to discuss the weather!).

As per usual I have grown way too many tomatoes, I really need to re-home some. Currently in the ground I have a small gathering of onions (I was determined to grow some after failing miserably last year), the previously mentioned peas (growing up the shed and fences this time), carrots, garlic, tomatoes and trailing tomatoes (in tubs), rocket, garlic and early and main crop potatoes. Freshly planted out from the greenhouse last weekend are the squash (now quite big and flowering already), sweetcorn, cucumber, peppers, broccoli, Kohlrabi.... Also the Sweet Potato slips arrived and have been planted in kitchen roll tubes indoors to root train them. Just planted seeds for Asparagus Peas and Pumpkin in the greenhouse.

This year I have 2 gardens to plant, my parents are letting me plant up theirs too as they have just cleared out masses of space to grow veg. So far they have similar plants to me and the same informal-ish design. Hoping it goes well, their plot gets much more sun than mine really and is much more sheltered. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Spring Advancement (maybe!)

Well a week or so on and most of my seedlings have sprouted, I have a lot of sweet corn shoots (pictured above) plus tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, a few onions (for some reason I never do very well with growing onion family seeds). The large broad leaves of the scalloped Squash are now up (pictured below), although amusingly some resolutely stuck their heads in the soil and poked their bums (roots) up to wave at the ceiling. I guess I planted a couple of them upside down (how you tell I'm not actually sure!?).

I have bought and planted a few roots of Bocking 14 Comfrey, which I am hopeful will sprout. Comfrey is a plant that draws nitrogen and nutrients from deep within the soil with its' long roots, it stores these nutrients in it's leaves which can then be used to benefit your plants. You can use it to make a Comfrey tea (cut the leaves and soak them in a covered bucket of water until it smells manure like) to feed to them as liquid feed, or you can add the leaves directly to your compost heap. Maybe even plant it around your compost pile to ensure that the leaking nutrients are caught by the Comfrey and put back. Bocking 14 is a sterile seeded variety of Comfrey, useful for keeping it under control, as a result of this you'd have to get yourself some by buying roots cuttings. I bought mine from eBay, I am quietly hopeful but if they don't do well then I haven't exactly wasted much, the average price is very reasonable. It says plant horizontally though, this fills me with deep misgivings, I killed the Horseradish by doing that (remember kids, always read the instructions!!).

I also just bought some caffeine spray to keep the pesky slugs off my young plants. I'm not naming it yet, it might be crap, so I'll keep that to myself until I've had the chance to road test it on the lettuces!

Here is what the tiny egg from a few weeks ago looks like when cooked. It did have a yolk, just a tiny weeny one!

I'll leave you with a recipe. Nettle Pesto, I tried this last week and it's lovely (if a bit garlicky!). I think next time I'd use a bit less garlic. The mesasurments are in cups, because it was an American Blog I borrowed the recipie from. There is a link to that here - Fat of The Land Nettle Pesto

Nettle Pesto


2 Cups of Stinging Nettles (blanched and chopped = about 6 cups raw)

1/2 Cup finely grated Parmesan

1/2 Cup Pine Nuts

4-5 Large Garlic Cloves

1tbsp Lemon Juice

1/2 Cup Olive Oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Boil the nettles for a minute or two to neutralise the sting (you'll still see the hairs but don't worry, they will be soft).
Ball up the nettles and sqeeze the water out.

Add to food processor with other ingredients and half the olive oil.

Whizz it up, and you're done!

The excess can be frozen in ice cube trays


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

March...on Spring! (hohoho*cough*)

I might be Spring! Since my last entry I have lightly dug most of the garden in preparation for planting. Since I was totally disorganised at buying the green manure on time (plants that grow overwinter and keep the nitrogen in the soil) mostly the soil was bare over winter, save for the autumn/winter veg. This means that in 2 beds I have allowed the nitrogen to be leached out through the soil over winter, the other had peas, and their clever nitrogen fixing roots that I left in after I chopped my peas down will have helped to keep the nitrogen in. On that bed I added some leaf mold that I made from the leaves collected on my drive last year. On the other 2 beds which are very sandy I have dug in some of my compost from the compost bin, which is now bursting with worms (great for the compost...not so great for me *twitch*). I discovered this when I opened the bottom hatch and 5 shiny red worms dropped out and squiggled across the concrete, "Naaaaath...heeeeelp!?".

Last Saturday I went to The Edible Garden Show it was a fun day out and I did come back with a few ideas and lots of tips on chickens. Worth going for the animal tent alone, it had pigs and goats and many different types of chicken (I wish I had room for a Orpington). I also came back with an Oak Paper Potter. These are very handy little tools allowing you to create 4 small paper pots from one sheet of newspaper (no glue or water required, just roll it round the roller and scrunch the bottom in the press), I have already made a nice tray full of pots to plant my seeds and seedlings into (as you can see above). I intend to buy the watering rose tops you can buy for old drinking water bottles (bottle top waterers) so I can water my indoor seeds without washing them away (how clever!). I've planted some lettuce and baby carrots seeds directly in the ground, but I do plan to start off as many plants as I can in mini pots to avoid early slug damage when the seedlings are too small and tender to cope with being munched, and so I can replace things as we eat them...that's the plan anyway!

Mushrooms are growing in my walk in wardrobe...brown closed cap, and intentionally of course. Actually they aren't growing yet, they have just had the casing layer added and I'm waiting hopefully. They're in the walk in wardrobe bit as it's an outside wall in there, and so much cooler than the rest of our terraced house, so a good temperature for shroomies.

On the chicken side of things, I had to show you this. Nessa laid us a mini egg a week or two ago, sadly it wasn't chocolate (shame) but it is freakily small. I thought chickens only laid this sort of egg when they were just at 'point of lay', but the web tells me this isn't the case. It's known as a 'wind egg' and can also happen to older hens. It's an egg without a yolk. An interesting site about abnormal eggs can be found here.

It's hard to imagine that last year in March the garden looked liked this:

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

February - Of eggs and chickens

February's going fast! Most of January was spent getting over December. The weather is starting to warm up, the first planting has began and the chickens are looking cheery. Over the winter period Nessa, our big cute friendly chicken had stopped laying. As Clara was still in lay we assumed that Nessa was probably not having a break for winter and she had reached chick-opause (menopause for chickens, geddit?!). Hmmm, I thought. Disadvantage - the halving of egg production, and no more recognisable speckly brown Nessa eggs. Advantage - not squating once a day to lay a torpedo must seriously narrow down her chances of dying a premature death (egg peritonitis is nasty, and caused when the eggs slightly leak inside the chicken, the bacteria multiplies and makes them poorly). Well now it's February she's decided that that's her winter rest over and she's started laying again! The new style egg she's going for this year is more compact and less eye wateringly huge than last year. Clara must be green with envy as the ones she is laying at the moment are very much torpedo-tastic whoppers, I am presuming the required face for the delivery of the egg pictured above was >_< . You can see the size comparison (top pic)!

At the weekend, if the weather is dry I will let the chickens wander over the now mostly empty veg patch, and they can clear the ground of any unwanted grubs.

Here's a nice chicken cuddling picture for you. Proving the ex-batts are the most lovely pets, this is me with Nessa. Excuse the picture quality, that's iPhone's for you.