Monday, August 23, 2010

A Lot Is Happening In The Garden

Lots going on in the garden this week and our kitchen is a veritable hive of activity, preparing, freezing, bottling and pickling our produce.

We have now harvested the potato pods containing the varieties Lady Chrisi and Red Magic, both of which were delicious.  The Lady Chrisi is not unlike the Charlotte, a beautiful firm texture that makes wonderful potato salad whilst the Red Magic is quite floury  and is gorgeous roasted.

The potato pods that we emptied have been re-planted with Christmas varieties of Maris Peer and Charlotte and hopefully we will be eating home grown potatoes until the end of the year.

The Onions, Sturon, have now been lifted and are basking in the sunshine until they have completely dried off. By the way, I would thoroughly recommend the onion bags available from I feel lucky to have discovered these as they really are very inexpensive but the quality is superb.

We have lifted the red onions and shallots which are also drying off and will be stored in the onion bags in the garage.  I feel confident that we will have sufficient to keep us going until next season, in spite of the very slow start we had.

Our freezer is now getting well stocked with runner beans, french beans, swiss chard, spinach and rhubarb and we will enjoy eating these during the winter months.

Beautiful little baby beetroots have been preserved in vinegar and the only difficulty there is resisting the temptation to keep dipping into them.

We still have an absolute mountain of cucumbers from a solitary plant in the greenhouse.  I have been assured that they will last for over two weeks if wrapped tightly in clingfilm before storing in the fridge.  I haven't put this theory to the test yet but fully intend to try it out.  Tomatoes from the greenhouse are picked on a daily basis and are superb.

I have also been assured that courgettes pickle very successfully.  I must say it sounds a little odd to me and I would love to hear from anybody that has tried this.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Beautiful Crops

We are really reaping the benefits of our labours now and are gathering fresh vegetables on a daily basis.

Last year the potatoes were like marbles but this year we have got it right and what a huge difference in the crops.  The addition of some manure in the bottom of the pods and a little potato fertilizer given at regular intervals has made a world of difference.  We have so far harvested one pod of "Charlotte" and one of "Blue Belle", both of which, with a little butter on the top (oops, lots of calories) were absolutely delicious.

We have also picked an excellent supply of early peas, or at least my long suffering husband, Peter, has.  For some strange reason he really enjoys picking peas and shelling them and, whilst I fail to see the attraction, I am more that happy to let him carry on.  Any help with the produce is always gratefully received. We have now planted another row of peas "Kelvedon Wonder" to follow on.

The runner and french beans are also providing brilliant crops and we have this week planted a few more french beans to stretch the season.  Now it does say on the seed packet that these very fast growing vegetables should be planted by the end of June at the latest but I really can't imagine a couple of weeks into July will make that much difference, weather condiitons being reasonable.  I am sure the dear little beans themselves are unaware I am running a bit late.

Suddenly, with some rain, the onions have really improved and are not going to be the disaster I feared we may have.

One tip I had this year which proved more than helpful was to scatter crushed egg shells amongst the vegetables to keep the slugs away,.  It could well be that the slug population reduced a bit this year anyway but this certainly seemed to work well and we shall continue to use this method.

My solitary cucumber plant in the greenhouse is providing us with far more cucumbers than we can use in salads but, treated in the same way as marrows, these make an excellent and tasty hot vegetable so none will be wasted.

By the way, would love to hear from anybody that has a tried and tested recipe for cucumber relish.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Most Things Are FlourIshing

Let me start this week's blog by telling you about a fantastic book I have discovered and one that is absolutely perfect for amatuer vegetable growers.  It is "The Allotment Cookbook, The fruit and vegetable growers recipe guide" by Kathryn Hawkins.  Apart from excellent recipes there is lots of advice on preserving, freezing and even hints on which varieties to grow.  In spite of having a surplus of some things, there is not a single thing now that will be wasted and I am sure, for me at least, this book will prove to be invaluable.

I have already frozen some spinach, turnips and rhubarb and will be filling the freezer with many more things for winter use as they become ready for harvesting.

Most things in the vegetable garden are looking wonderful and it is a constant thrill to watch everything developing beautifully.  However, there is one exception.  In previous years I have always been very successful at growing onions but this year they all have very thick stems with no lovely bulbous looking onions at all.  If anybody has any idea why this is I should love to hear from them and any advice will be most gratefully accepted.

I think I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had received a gift of Thompson and Morgan's Radish "Rainbow mixed".  These are really easy to grow and the different colours make a delightful addition to any salad.  However, I have also now discovered that they keep exceptionally well in the ground and last for weeks and weeks without going to seed or getting "woody".  These will definitely be a permanent feature in my salad garden from now on.

In the flower garden the shrubs are looking really pretty now and the mock orange is just coming into bloom.  Each year we look forward to the beautiful perfume that pervades the garden from this lovely tree and we have never yet been disappointed.

By the way, grateful thanks for the comment regarding adding a little lime to the soil in which our baby Olive tree is growing.  We immediately took the advice and can already see a considerable improvement.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Vegetable Garden is Doing Well

It has been a little while since my last blog but now I will attempt to catchup on the news.

Everything I planted is doing incredibly well with the exception of one thing and that is Marrows.  I have grown them very successfully in the past so why they have rejected my tender loving care this year I have no idea.  Never giving up totally on anything, I have this week pushed a few more seeds directly into the ground and will live in hope.  The courgettes are thriving so I suppose I could allow them to grow large and just pretend they are marrows.

We are now reaping the benefits of our labours and are enjoying lots of salads, spinach, cabbage, turnips (surely the most under-rated of all vegetables) and swiss chard.

This is the first year we have grown swiss chard but it certainly won't be the last.  This week we picked some and cooked it by the simplest possible method, just steaming, stalks first for three minutes, then adding the roughly shredded leaves for a further five minutes.  Absolutely delicious and my only regret is that we didn't discover this delightful vegetable years ago.

We have also had quite a surplus of spinach but, not wishing to waste a thing, I discovered a recipe for spinach and celery soup and this proved to be really good. I have now made a batch and put it in the freezer ready for cooler days.

The runner beans have begun to climb very nicely up the canes and the tomatoes, both in the greenhouse and in the garden, are beginning to fruit.

One very small problem has been the lack of rain so my long suffering husband Peter (no gardener himself) has spent many hours standing holding the hose pipe. Maybe I should buy him a sprinkler system for his birthday, now there's a thought!.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An Exciting Week in the Garden

Lots of things now growing in the garden and great excitement watching everything develop.  The potatoes are now growing really strongly and in just a few weeks we shall be enjoying the fruits of our labours.

This week we have been eating and freezing lots of delicious rhubarb and have also pulled the first of the radishes.  The lettuces, spring onions, rocket and beetroot will not be far behind and we will soon be eating freshly picked salads and what could be nicer.

We have now planted out the runner beans and tomatoes, much too early some would say, but should we be really unlucky and get another ground frost, I will tuck fleece around them and keep fingers crossed.  (Of course I could well be the first one in the neighbourhood to show off my crops and watch with glee the envy of others).

One tip I was recently given is to save up eggshells, crush them and spread them round the runner beans.  This is to keep the slugs away and, although they have only been in the ground for a week, so far there has been no signs of the wretched creatures.

I now have another pot on the kitchen windowsill to join the coriander, basil, parsley and thyme, which are all doing well, and this time it is Dill. I really would love to have some more herbs to join them but, failing having a hole knocked in the wall and another window installed, which seems somewhat drastic, I guess I will have to make do with five.  Rosemary, bay leaves and mint are growing in the garden so it is a pretty reasonable selection of herbs.

When we moved to this bungalow, some five years ago, there were two really ugly concrete clothes line posts in the garden spoiling the view from the window.  As we are totally lacking in DIY skills and would not have the tools to remove them anyway, we had to think of another idea.  I covered one of the offending posts with wire mesh and planted some ivy at the base.  This is now within a few inches of the top so a have planted a clematis to climb up the ivy and add a splash of colour.  I am really hoping this will make an attractive feature in the garden rather than an eyesore.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Dry Week In The Garden

Not a drop of rain this week which means Peter has had to get the hose pipe out at the crack of dawn each morning.  It is now over two weeks since we have had any rain at all and I am seriously thinking of doing a little dance to the rain gods, praying for a real downpour.  (My apologies if you are currently on holiday enjoying the sunshine).

Unfortunately, we are still experiencing ground frost at night so all the plants currently  hardening off outside have to be tucked away in the greenhouse each evening. The runner beans are now a good size and I am anxious to get them in the ground but the tender plants will have to wait a bit longer yet.

The peas "Kelvedon Wonder" have come through a little erratically so I have just pushed a few more into the ground filling up empty spaces. I use the very technical method of wearing a rubber glove and using my thumb, simple but it works.   I had to do the same thing last year but we ended up with an excellent crop.

The Alpines are looking particularly pretty just now with their gorgeous colours but I must admit, although they look wonderful , later in the season I will have very few in bloom.  I guess that is just bad planning on my part but if anybody knows of late flowering alpines I should be delighted to hear from them.

A dear little Olive tree that was a gift to us for Christmas 2008 has now been brought out of the greenhouse and put into the garden for the summer.  It is still very small and I am not optimistic that we will see any fruit for the next couple of years at least but I shall continue to lovingly tend to it and eventually I am sure our patience will be rewarded.

I still find it impossible to resist the temptation of buying salad and vegetable bags every time we go out and they are now in every available space in the garden.  Surely they are the best way of container gardening ever and you only need to spend a fraction of what you would pay for large tubs.    I must admit seeing the little seedlings popping through never fails to thrill.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Busy Week In The Garden

At this time of the year there is always plenty of jobs to be done in the garden, most of them really enjoyable.

This week Peter has put the blade down on the mower and we now have a really nice looking lawn rather than the somewhat miserable grassy area we have been looking at for the last few months.

My contribution to the flower garden this week has been limited to walking round admiring the spring flowers.  Surely tulips are amongst the loveliest of spring flowers and the pretty primroses which bloom year after year, in spite of following a very hard winter.

Although I have done little in the flower garden, I haven't been totally lazy and potted up lots of tomato plants grown from seed.  The only problem I have is that I simply cannot resist potting up every single brave little seedling that germinated and always end up with far too many plants.  I shall have to try really hard to find good caring homes for the surplus.

I had five tiny little seed potatoes left and, as I can't bear to throw anything away, I went out to buy yet another potato bag to grow them in.  Unfortunately I accidentally picked up and "extra large bag" and when I opened the pack was astounded at just how large it was.  I promptly went out and bought another small bag and the potatoes are comfortably settled in their new home.

The extra large potato bag has now been utilized as a "mobile garden" which we filled with compost and have sown cabbage seeds in.  In fact I am so impressed with this that I think we shall buy some more bags to put in any available spot in the garden and therefore obtain extra growing space for yet more delicious vegetables and salads.

The runner beans in the greenhouse are now growing strongly and, in the next few days, will be put outside to harden off prior to, planting out.
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