Friday, 24 April 2015

A pleasure or a chore?

Since the sweetcorn has gone in nearly two weeks ago, we have had little to no rain in this part of the UK, less than a quarter for the average for this time of year I've just heard the weather girl on the TV say and having learnt my lesson last year when I missed a few evening watering sessions and lost my brusselsprouts, I have been at the plot every evening to water everything. I must admit it has been anything but a chore, it's quite peaceful on the plot and even after working a 12 hour shift, it does clear your head a little. So far, this is what's growing on the plot.

Onion bed Number 1

Onion bed Number 2

Onion bed Number 3

All of the onion beds are doing quite well at the moment. Apart from watering and weeding, they seem to happily doing what they do best, grow and get bigger.

The first early potato bags are all topped up and I'm hoping for my best potato crop ever. The main crop still has a long way to go before getting to this stage.

Do you remember the sandwich tub with the parsnip seeds in them? Above is the bed that they are in and bellow is one of the little seedlings coming through. Will it be monster parsnips this year?

Now the rhubarb look a bit worse for wear at the moment. I had a bonfire going last week and it was a little too close to the rhubarb. The actual storks are OK, it's just that the leave make it look like some sort of blight has infected it.

Not only have I been turning up every evening, I have also done my best to come on my days off. All the old raspberries have gone now, they were all well past there best and growing wild. As luck would have it, the people on the plot next door, seeing how I've been getting on, have given me some spare raspberry plants to replace the old ones. I'm hoping to get them in on Sunday. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Garden Connect hits the ground running.

It wasn't the best looking morning to do a bit of gardening, but I knew it would be dry. I wanted to make a start on my Garden Connect bed. It wasn't the best start either, I must say. I had only put the spade in for the third time, when I heard it cracking. I did inherit the spade with the plot. I'll have to put my hand in my pocket and buy another one. At least I don't have to buy a dibber.

As they say, its not how you start but how you finish, and the day finished well. Eight out of twelve from the list are in at the moment, well, I've made a start with at any rate.

Firstly, the carrots. I have been told by many people that carrots need fine soil and do very well in containers such as a bin or an old bath with a mix of 50% compost and 50% sand. With the restrictions of GC, I have these tubs that you would find in supermarkets with cut flowers in. The bottoms have been cut off and I've mixed compost and soil sifted through a homemade sieve that I put together using spare bits of wood and the mesh from a disposable BBQ. The only reason I didn't go for the suggested mix was that I really wanted to get started and I knew if went out to get the sand, that's all I would do. But if it works with this mix, I will be doing it in my main root bed this year, tubs and all. So the carrots are in, autumn king and cosmic purple.

Next is the tomatoes, plum tomatoes in fact. I'm using the bottle you see in the photo to keep it safe from the frost. 

Here is my basil, I've done a bit of 'showing off' with green and red basil, but it's only because I had the seeds and thought it would look good. Time will only tell. These have been cloched also.

The celery and spinach have also gone in. Seeds direct to the soil. The spinach worked this way last year, but I don't know if the celery will. I'm not too worried if it doesn't, I have plenty of seeds to keep trying again and in different ways, besides, I can't stand celery. I won't be crying myself to sleep if it doesn't grow.

In the 'Your Choice' space, I've chosen spring onions. Again these are also direct to the soil. These I'd like to have growing and plenty of them please.

Lastly for GC, I've put in one of my pimientos de Padrón plants. Is it a chilli or is it a pepper? Either way, I had plenty to spare and my sweet peppers aren't quite ready yet. No photo of this one, I forgot. It is under cover as well though.

If you've read this and wondered what the hell Garden Connect is, you can click on the GC banner at the top of the page, which take you to Hiemstra Gardens website with all the information you'll need. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Pumpkin soup.

I've had my last pumpkin sat under the kitchen counter since October. I have googled recipes, but clearly never got round to checking if I had all the ingredients or buying the ingredients I needed. That is until a few days ago. To be honest, I got fed up of moving it to get to the onions, then moving back to get at the crips. The recipe I found came from the BBC food website, its a plane and very simple recipe. This is what you'll need

  • 1kg pumpkin (peeled, deseeded & chopped into chunks)
  • 2 onions
  • Olive oil
  • 700ml vegetable stock
  • 140ml double cream
  1. Gently cook the onions in the oil until soft.
  2. Add the pumpkin and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened and golden.
  3. Pour in the vegetable stock, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Pour in the double cream and bring to the boil.
  5. Blitz with a hand blender and serve.
If you've read one of my recipe blogposts before, you'll know that I treat the recipe as a guideline. Having bought the smallest tub of double cream, it was still nearly twice as much as I needed and I'm not keen on having cream on anything else, so it all went in. I did also put more pepper than I normally would and because I had enough for a few servings, last night I added some smoked ham and it was delicious. So if you still have a pumpkin getting in the way, give this a go. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

We're gathering momentum.

Spring is really starting to kick in and if I'm not careful, I'm going to be too late with some of the things I'd like to grow. But now I'm starting to make some room on the windowsills, I should soon be up to date. Last weekend wasn't the best weather to be on the plot, it wasn't cold or raining at the time, but it was very windy, which made it very difficult to fill the potato bags you see in the above photo. This is my main crop of maris piper. Yes, I know, I have four bags with beans on them. I did go back to the garden nursery to buy more potato bags, but they had sold out. All they had were the bean bags. The purple bag in the middle is an actual potato sack I found next to my car one day. Below you can see some of my first earlies. I really am hoping for some good potatoes this year, not big, I'd just like to know that when I'm eating them that I'm the first and only living thing that's had a nibble at that spud.

I was surprised this weekend as to how quickly the sweet corn had grown. From packet to windowsill to plot within a week. Knowing that they don't like their roots being disturbed, this year I've used empty loo rolls. They have now been on the plot for a few days,  I've checked on them every evening and they are doing very well inside their coke bottle cloches. I have had the weather on my side since the weekend, warm sunshine, well for April at any rate. I still wonder if I have planted them out too early.

I'm attempting to repeat last year's success with the parsnips. What I'd done last year, and repeating this year, is to get a sandwich tub and place two sheets of wet kitchen paper on the inside of the lid, sprinkle a new packet of parsnip seeds onto the the wet kitchen paper and place the base on top. I left them on the windowsill and after two weeks, once they had started to sprout, they where ready to plant out. Using a dibber, I made cone shaped hollows in the soil, filled them with compost and place two sprouted seeds each. Fingers crossed it will work again. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Not the best picture and that's not a real dibber,
but you get the idea.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

It's the Bank Holiday.

Day One

Whenever a Bank Holiday is approaching, you can be sure the rain isn't far behind. But this was a Bank Holiday that the rain forgot. I just wish I got up earlier, a lot earlier. But if you can't sleep in on a day off, when can you?

Judging by the amount of 'Simon Mayo's Confession's' podcasts I'd listened to, I spent nearly four hours on the plot today. Nothing really exciting to talk about, I've dug over empty beds and the robin that patrols my plot gladly came along, at a safe distance, and pecked at the bugs. I did, however, top up the potato bags. It's a whole lot easier to throw some compost into Spud bags than it is to earth up potatoes in the beds, its done in a fraction of the time too. The onions have started to pop up as well. They're about the only thing I've ever managed grow consistently, well, not the over winter onions.

I'm all for experimenting and trying thing out when it comes to growing. I'd bought these tomatoes from Asda, some of the best supermarket tomatoes I've ever had. They're called Tomkin's. After some advice from Sally (see Pimientos de Padrón blogpost) on what to do, clean all the gunk off the seeds and let them dry, I put the seeds in a propagater on my windowsill. This is what I have at the moment. I don't mind admitting that I'm quite pleased so far. 

My windowsills are looking very full at the moment. I'm running out of space and I've run out of propagators to grow any more. If I put anymore on the windowsills, I'd get no daylight. I am in desperate need of a greenhouse. This is my view right now.

From left to right & top to bottom, Basil seeds in the
pot & parsnip seeds in the Tupperware starting
to sprout. Sweet corn in the top 2 propagators &
various peppers & okra in the bottom one.

Pimientos de Padrón

The whole bottom row are lemon
Top left, Tomkin's tom & next to them
Pimientos de Padrón.
Top right is a mixture of what I couldn't
fit anywhere else.

Day Two


I know I've been trying to get this area ready for six 'No Dig Beds', but while it was clear...ish, I wanted to tackle what will be the raspberry row and an area that I have ear marked for a greenhouse. I was really up for it today. I pulled up the existing raspberries which I'm told have been there well over 10 years and well past their best. Not only that, hawthorn, brambles and some plum trees that have no place being there at all. At one point, I was pulling up the small trees by hand, GRRR! Slowly but surely, I am claiming back my plot. Give me another five years and I might just have the plot how I'd like it. Here's how this area was left.


I know this has been one of the longest blogposts I written and I hope that you at least had a cup o tea in hand while reading. Till next time and thanks for reading.

One of the trees I'd ripped up from the
earth. This is as macho as I get.