Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Stormy Weather

The weather has been horrendous over the last couple of days.   Strong winds have reeked havoc in the garden  and I haven't been able to go out and rectify the damage as the rain has lashed down.

My small plastic greenhouse is laying on its side - luckily there was nothing in it.  The purple sprouting broc plants at the top of the garden have felt the full force of the wind and are laying flat, despite the fact, that they were staked.

My metal archway was hit by an acrylic cloche, that came away from its moorings, and bent it so that it snapped and lay drunkenly  across the raised bed.

There is no point trying to fix anything until the wind stops, so the garden looks like a disaster zone.
On the positive side I was able to dig up some parsnips for lunch on Sunday and a good sized Savoy cabbage. 
These are the last five courgettes that I had stored since early October, and although the skins will be tough, I should be able to convert them into a winter-warming soup which can be frozen. 

In the greenhouse the pickling onions in a container are now sprouting well, although one or two look a little mildewed.  The shallots that I put individually into pots are showing no signs of life as yet, maybe it is a little early to see any shoots on them but they have rooted - I was going to plant them out, but they will just have to wait now until the weather clears up a bit.

I have had to dispose of a few lettuce plants from the greenhouse as well, as they had also succumbed to mildew, but there are still plenty of salad leaves which are still growing healthily.  The chillis have finished as have the sweet pepper plants.  So, what is left - well I have three containers of carrots that seem to have stopped growing , but they may be okay to use as baby carrots, I'll pull a few out to check a bit later.   I do have some carrots in store though plus a few parsnips.

 Eating something from the veggie plot every day, is still going to plan, and I still have several cabbages and leeks left  - whether they will see us right through the winter, is another thing, but I feel I have made a pretty good stab at it this year.  The garden isn't large enough  for me to be completely self-sufficient, but I've enjoyed trying.

I can't post any photos at the moment as the fitting that goes into the camera seems to have gone a bit wonky so I will have to do a catch-up if we manage to fix it.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Seed Order for Next Year

I have been giving some serious thought as to what I will be planting in the veg garden next year.  I like to experiment with new varieties as well as growing those that I know do well for me.  So, seed catalogue in front of me, I drool over all the different variations that you can now grow.
Pink Broad Beans - Karmazyn

Turks Turban Squash
Italian Romanesco type cauliflowers

Spaghetti Squash
I am considering planting a couple more small fruit trees as part of my Edible Forest Garden experiment - maybe a Quince
and a Kentish Cobnut

There are so many different types I want to try but doubt if I will have room for them all - it does get a little boring keeping to the ones you have always grown - so next year I am definitely going to be a bit more adventurous.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Veggie Garden in November

As you can see from the picture there is still plenty going on in the allotment garden including the flowers in the cutting patch.  I have been completing some jobs whilst the weather is still fine, like strawing down the paths inbetween the veg to make it cleaner to walk on when harvesting cabbage, kale etc.
In the foreground you can see the Calabrese that I have been harvesting since early summer.  After the initial crop I chopped the plants down to about 6in. high and left them to it.  They threw up new shoots and I am still collecting tenderstems once a week.  How long will this go on - I have no idea, but it surely is an added bonus that I wish I had tried years ago.
 As we have still not had a frost the Mint is still green and flourishing (although I have brought some in to the greenhouse just in case) and the green manure on the left of the picture is just coming into flower.
A few of the companion plants, Marigolds and Nasturtiums, are starting to get a bit mildewy, but on the whole they have lasted well - and, as you well know, once you have them you have them always.
The Scarlet Kale has recovered from the caterpillar attacks earlier in the year and looks very impressive and a beautiful scarlet colour when the sun hits it.  Hopefully this should stand the winter well for regular pickings.
Things are not so good in the greenhouse - what with the damp weather - I have had a few things go mouldy on me, even though I keep it ventilated during the day.  The salad leaves are doing okay but I have lost the pea shoots.

I had some picklings onions that I never got round to pickling, so I planted them in a container and can use the onion greens as they shoot.
The sweet peppers are on their last legs with one or two left to ripen , but I shall just leave them on the plant till I need them before getting disposing of the plants altogether. 

One of the books that has inspired me most this year is 'How to Grow Winter Vegetables' by Charles Dowding - it has given me lots of ideas on how to improve and increase veggie production
with very little extra work.  There are still plenty of  different methods, that I have read about that I want to experiment with, and I can't wait to get cracking on these next year.  Meanwhile I am continuing with my winter preparations of mulching, covering and cloching against a hard winter, that is if it ever comes!

For those of you who are interested in sustainable living, there are one or two good articles at this month.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Boris Parsnip and Boring Brussels

Did you know that the Russian word for Parsnip is pasternak. - no neither did I - it wouldn't sound the same if Dr. Zhivago was written by Boris Parsnip  rather than Boris Pasternak, would it?  I dug up a few Parsnips last week and have stored them in a container in dried earth.  I thought it would be handy to have a few available, just in case we had a hard frost and I wouldn't be able to dig any out.  It turns out we haven't had a single frost yet - perhaps I am tempting fate - anyway parsnips store well overwinter, and we are bound to have a frost eventually.

I have never been very successful with growing Brussels Sprouts.  No matter what I try, be it liming the ground first, or firming the soil - they still wont firm up into decent sized sprouts.  So I gave up and for the last few years I just haven't bothered.  This year I decided to have one more go.  This is what they should look like:-

and this is what mine look like:-
by now the sprouts should have filled the stem, but no, they are small and a little bit blowsy.  I have no idea why they won't grow properly for me - heaven knows I have tried.  They will still be edible of course, but it doesn't make up for the fact that I am a failure as far as they are concerned.

Whereas, my Purple Sprouting Broc, of which I am very proud, is doing marvellously.  Mark Willis at said yesterday that his PSB was already forming a head, which was unusual for this time of year.  So I went to investigate my own - and 'lo and behold:-

one of the plants has already formed a head.  They don't normally do this till the following year, it must be the mild weather that has encouraged it to flower ahead of time.  So it looks like we'll be having supplies sooner than expected.
The mild weather is also helping in the cutting patch where the Zinnia are still flowering with plenty of buds to come, as are:-

the Cosmos, although they are beginning to look a little worse for wear. 
But the Rudbeckia have just about had it - they have had a wonderfully long season, and I have had many bunches of flowers from them - but it is time to cut them back now and hope the plants survive the winter to do just as well next year.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Let the Soup Season Begin

A bowl of soup with a hunk of crusty wholemeal bread is almost a meal in itself, and once you have become 'soup-minded' you will find that no usable leftovers are wasted (pea pods, turnip tops and even weeds can be used).  So long as you have some vegetables and herbs - you can rustle up a light, nourishing meal.
Elizabeth West

Now, is the time to start using up all the veg that has been frozen.  Yes - it is Soup Season.  I turn practically anything into soup  in a variety of different ways.

I have started already - taking the cubed courgettes out of the freezer for Courgette soup, last week I made Lentil soup with grated carrot, onion and potato.  Today I made Curried Lentil and Carrot soup which was nice and spicy, and I intend to try all sorts of different recipes

Roasted Tomato

Pumpkin with grilled cheese croutons

Sweetcorn and potato chowder

My personal favourite Leek and Potato

The list is endless

and this one Riboletta
where I can use up some of my Cavolo Nero

As you can guess, I am a bit of a soup fanatic - I can think of nothing better in winter than a warming bowl of soup and some lovely fresh bread for dipping.
If anyone can recommend a soup which is their favourite I will gladly give it a go

For research purposes you understand!

Photo source:  Pinterest

I have also installed some beautiful music
for you to listen to
whilst you read this post
(just click on any picture in the video bar)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Everlasting Alliums

I have been experimenting with the Allium family this year, trying to produce everlasting crops.  I am not too sure how successful it will be, but it can do no harm in trying.

Instead of digging my Leeks up I have been cutting them off at the base to see if they will re-grow.
As you can see from the photo it is sort of working.  The green part of the Leek is pushing up again.  Whether or not the white part of the Leek will come back is a matter of wait and see.

The same can be done with Spring Onions, or if you dig them up, you can then re-plant the base bit that you cut off.

As for normal Onions, well, as I have been using them I have cored out the root end of the Onion and soaked it in water to re-vitalise the roots, then planted it in a pot, to see if it sends new shoots out. 

It is all a bit speculative and a case of waste not want not - I will keep you posted as to whether it has been successful.  I have been wondering also about Garlic and whether that too would become a perennial if it was handled the same way.

Time will tell.

The late planting of Broad Beans I made in an old crate has been successful so far, but even though they are at the flowering stage, I doubt if they will start to form pods now, with the weather turning colder.  Maybe, if I protect them against the weather, they will continue growing throughout the winter, to give me an early crop next Spring.

Again, we shall have to wait and see.

This is my pathetic grape harvest - just half a dozen small bunches - hardly going to set the world alight is it.  It is the first crop I have had for a number of years - I don't think I prune it back correctly, so  last year I left it to its own devices and bingo - grapes.  I think there is a lesson to be learned here.

 These are some of the French Beans that I left to dry on the plants - a few of which I will save for planting next year - the rest I can soak overnight and use in cassoulets and the like.  I still have a few late sown plants in the garden which have podded up nicely, but I think by now they will be  too tough to eat, so I will leave the beans on the plant for a while, then bring them in for drying as well.
You can never have too many beans - that's what I say!
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