Spring Clean

What a fantastic day!

Blue skies. Quiet neighbours. Time to spread compost made this winter on the vegetable beds and remake the heap for more.

Also a brilliant opportunity to tidy up.

We removed the fleece for the day and found claytonia/miners lettuce, chinese mustard leaves, lettuce, red chicory, and rather small chard. All the leaves are really taking off with the warm weather.

The self sown forget-me-nots have not flowered yet – perfect time to hoe them out and include them on the new heap along with duckweed from the pond and other unwanteds like dead nettle and wild mustards and a couple of thistles and groundsel.

It was hard physical work emptying the compost heap and remaking it – layering the weeds with half made compost from my two black dalek bins.

 

This was moved to the main heap

 

 

There were lots of tiger worms in evidence – a good sign.

The heap has also had some wood ash and urine sprinkled through it as well as half rotted leaves.

Some of that was very wet and slimy so I included a few layers of ripped up cardboard and old newspaper.

 

 

 

A bit further down in the garden towards the orchard and other compost heaps there are plenty of good things to eat.

This took about two or three weeks to force. I’ll pick it tomorrow to stew and eat fresh. Some of the other crowns are still almost dormant – but when they get going I’ll make rhubarb and lemon chutney.

These garlic chive seed heads should naturally self sow and will come back elsewhere nearby – you can also propagate clumps by division.

The ruby chard is still glowing along along with nearby clumps of snowdrops that light up this shady area of the garden.

I harvested the purple sprouting broccoli and some winter salad leaves – I shared some with Rebekah who helped me this morning.

I was pleasantly exhausted after five hours in the garden – so much so I had a cheeky pint of homemade cider to refresh myself when I’d finished!

Seeds update:

I’ll do a proper post next time – but so far radish in modules are germinating well.

Calabrese also reaching for the light and the first Greyhound Cabbage is through.

But no sign of the spinach.

The lettuce looks as if it’s “damping off” – I think I overwatered it and it’s going mouldy on the surface of the compost. I might have to sow some more!

You win some – you lose some!

Mustard Leaves – good stir fried or pickled in salty brine

 

 

 

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Sowing seed

February always surprises me – it’s technically still winter but light levels have increased a lot since the winter solstice.

Sunrise is at 7 am and and it doesn’t get dark until five in the afternoon.

And the temperatures at the moment are double the average – up to 16 celsius!

Now is the time to start sowing seeds.

French Breakfast Radish seed has been multi sown four or five to a module

I’ve multi-sowed beetroot, radish, spinach, onion (varieties are Bedfordshire Champion and Kyoto Market Garden).

Broad beans have been sown one seed per module.

All will then be planted out in a few weeks time.

The temperatures can fluctuate so wildly at this time of year that sowing direct is asking for trouble if we get hit by bad weather like last year’s Beast from the East.

Plants sown under cover first can also resist slugs and woodlice better as bigger plants – seedlings are much more vulnerable.

Three different kinds of lettuce surface sown on compost – they need lots of light so only cover with a little compost – if at all.

Lettuce has been sowed on damp compost in clumps which I will then prick out individually before planting out under fleece as single plants.

It’ll be interesting to see if some old lettuce seed I picked up from the Norwich Seed Swap last Sunday germinates.

I’ve sowed a mixture of begged, borrowed and saved seeds this year.

The varieties are bronze arrowhead lettuce, oak leaf, and red salad bowl.  I’ll sow Brun d’hiver later in the year.

One thing I won’t be doing is switching on the heating in the glasshouse if it does turn cold – last year we got hit by an extremely high electricity bill when I did that!

I have also sown early Greyhound cabbage and calabrese seeds I picked up at the swap – like the lettuce they’ve just been sowed randomly into a tray of compost and will be pricked out after they show the first true pair of leaves as single plants.

Coriander’s also gone in.

Still got to get Purple Milano turnips and kohlrabi underway.

The persimmon mash is bubbling away and is smelling more and more like vinegar.

I keep it covered with a tightly drawn muslin and an old tea towel and stir it with a big clean metal spoon every day.

Quinoa, avocado, blueberry, radish and rocket dressed with cider vinegar, salt and olive oil

I made a lovely salad last week and shock horror it was mostly veg I bought at Follands organic stall on Norwich market – where I also obtained my persimmons.

I just fancied a change.

But it has given me the idea to buy a couple of blueberry bushes.

Soon I maybe able to grow all the ingredients next year except for, maybe, the avocado.

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A friend visits

I’ve just had a lovely hour walking round the veg garden with my friend, Sue Roe.

She’s a great gardener – in fact quite an illustrious one – with a pedigree as long as your arm.

The thing is she’s so enthusiastic and kind –  her visit was really motivating at this time of year when everything seems a little lacklustre.

She has the ability to see past the frostbitten straggly veg that I’ve left (in the hope it’ll regenerate once it’s warmer and give me a second harvest during the so-called “hungry gap”).

She also seems to understand why my garden is (deliberately) untidy; in very cold frosts the loose dry fallen leaves from nearby trees and hedges quite often act as a natural protective pocket around tender leaves like radicchio, chard and shungiku chrysanthemum greens.

Red chicory
Treviso chicory

I’ve also left the dry rocket stems and seed pods in situ which I think will act in the same way until some new self sown seedlings emerge. Then I can cut the dessicated stuff back to give the babies more room.

We also looked ahead to the coming year and agreed that simple is best. This year we’re both going to hold back from sowing seeds too early.

Having said that I do have spinach and french breakfast type radish seed to sow in the next week – most probably where there are gaps under fleece that’s been covering the oriental mustard, endive, claytonia and lettuce.

Leeks and onions can be also be started off under glass or on a windowsill as can module sown beetroot (3 or 4 seeds to a small inch square).

I quite like the idea of pea shoots this year as an early crop and am toying with growing microgreens on a window sill.

My Sarpo Mira potatoes are chitting slowly – they won’t be planted out until Easter.

I’m going to desist from anything that needs “unreasonable” levels of attention like indoor tomatoes, chillies and aubergines (eggplant).

I may grow some blight resistant tomatoes (Crimson Blush or Crimson Flush) or some more Gardeners Delight which seem to do well outdoors.

The raddichio I picked as we wandered around the plot is going into tonight’s supper – a risotto with onion, celery. a dash of vermouth – topped with torn basil and lightly roasted and broken walnuts.

Today’s harvest

And the dense head of red cabbage I picked this afternoon will go to make a lovely stir fry or coleslaw type salad. Sue took the other half.

The netted black kale and the purple sprouting broccoli are in their prime and protected from the pigeons. Must remember to pick some this week or next.

I have been madly using up my Hungarian Blue and Red Kuri squash/pumpkins.

They’ve started to rot at the crown – but if you chop that away you still have lovely sweet flesh that along with celeriac and red lentils and stock make a wonderful soup.

Slices oven roasted with a little olive oil and then dusted with Japanese seven spice or shichi-mi togarashi are delicious – if you haven’t got that a mix of chilli, salt, crushed toasted sesame seeds and paprika might be nice. Dukkah’s also an option.

In other news – I’ve finally bottled up the cider!

Tastes great. Very dry and very drinkable. Hic!

And I have stuffed an sterilised old sweet jar with persimmons to make persimmon vinegar. This is in anticipation of my plan to buy a tree and grow some here in Norfolk.

The jar is filled to the top and then covered with muslin held in place with a rubber band

I’m following Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s recipe in her brilliant book that I’ve just bought in digital format to read on Kindle Cloud Reader (a first for me and it was half the price of a real book!).

 

 

 

 

 

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A New No Dig Bed

We had a very productive day on Saturday making a new “no dig” bed with old flattened out bike boxes covered with an inch or two (up to 5cm) very rough homemade compost.

It’s where the old asparagus bed was and the ground has been “rested” for about 3 years.

I’m going to put a new strawberry bed on part of it.

I was lucky to have help from Rebekah for the first part of the day.

We were fortunate the weather had warmed up again after a few days of hard frosts.

I pegged out one of my late father’s old lines and neatened the edges where the grass had started encroaching into the veg garden.

It was just the right length and I had visions of him using it years ago when he first laid it out.

I used a semi circular edger and composted the grass/weeds that I gathered.

The spade was not for digging – honest! It just helped me to edge the grass sward. In the foreground to the right you can see parsley which is self seeding and germinating like mad

I also laid compost around the rhubarb and the rest of the fruit bushes that were missed out last year when I ran out of homemade mulch.

I mixed in some potash from the wood ash from our fireplace to lay around the redcurrants – apparently they like it!

As do overwintering onions which will have to wait their turn until I’ve had a few more fires.

I have inverted an old metal dustbin over one of the rhubarb crowns to force a few pale pink spears for an earlier harvest like I did last year.

Rhubarb
Last year’s champagne pink rhubarb which was forced. Once the bin is removed it quickly reverts to a dark green and red. The hazel behind it has been coppiced and the soil around it has been covered in cardboard to stop weeds and mulched with compost

I’m also weeding the gravel path with a flat shovel/spade – using it almost like a hoe to sever the weeds off at the roots. But I’ll have to be careful to avoid the beautiful clumps of chives which thrive in the edges next to the rhubarb. They spring back year after year then die back to nothing in winter.

This what the chives will be like in three months time – just about to break into spiky round purple flowers

The brick edging is also getting the same treatment – it should look very smart in a couple of weeks time.

I guess you could say this time of year is about preparation – my Dad always said a garden’s made in winter!

This includes going through old seeds, discarding some and keeping others.

I have ordered some new ones including two varieties of beans, “Greek Gigantes” and “Czar”. The former is for drying and keeping as a giant butter bean and the latter can be eaten as a runner bean or also dried for storage for winter soups and stews.

I’m going for celeriac this year and a new variety of beetroot, “Sanguina”.

I would like to plant a persimmon tree but I’m not sure which variety yet.

One of the enduring images I’ve retained of the late autumn landscape in Japan is the orange globes hanging on the bare branches of a tree that had shed its leaves — against a piercing blue sky.

Recently I bought some seed potatoes “Sarpo Mira” – a blight resistant variety from a lovely old fashioned ironmongers and DIY shop in Stalham. I might also plant red skinned “Mozart” as they were so good last year. They will need chitting on a windowsill before planting in April.

I’m planning go to the Norwich Seed Swap in a couple or three weeks time which yielded some great finds last year.

There’s a bit more compost to come  – this is maturing under the makeshift cardboard cover and should be ready in a month or so

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunflower Seed Cream Cheese

I hate to whinge but I’ve been suffering from really bad sciatica.

The physio thinks it’s referred pain from the lower lumbar spine.

The doctor thinks it’s bursitis or inflammation of the hip joint.

Then my acupuncturist suggested that I revert to the ‘healing’ diet I followed for a good year or two after I had breast cancer.

It’s  quite restrictive – but in the past it has worked wonders!

It was prescribed by biopath,  Gudrun Jonnson, who I used to travel to London to see.

Lots of leafy greens but no tomatoes or other nightshades (peppers, aubergines or potatoes) or citrus fruit and no bread or pasta.

And other stimulants like tea, coffee or alcohol are out.

One of the things Gudrun did leave on the list was seeds – as long as they are soaked overnight.

The seeds in the bowl are soaked for 12 hours and – as you can see – compared with the dried ones on the board they swell quite considerably

So I did that with some sunflower seeds and  drew inspiration from this recipe.

It’s called a dip but I think of it more as a cream cheese as I add chives, dill and sometime parsley which reminds me of the French cheese Boursin – that was so popular here in the 70’s!

I added chopped umeboshi plums (a salted plum from Japan) as well as lemon juice.

You can see the umeboshi plum at the back of the board behind the herbs and garlic

You could also use umeboshi plum puree or ume shu (a “vinegar” which is really the brine left over from the pickling process) – all are available in wholefood shops.

But you don’t need to use it if you want to just use the lemon juice on its own.

Anyway – feel free to follow the original or my version – either way it’s delicious.

By the way – the salad and beetroot is from the garden but the herbs in the cream cheese are bought!

Hopefully next year I can keep some going through out the winter without having to resort to the supermarket!

5 from 1 vote
Sunflower Seed Cream Cheese
Servings: 2
Author: Cath
Ingredients
  • !/2 cup sunflower seeds, covered in water, soaked,drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 whole umeboshi plums, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped dill
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
Instructions
  1. Put all the ingredients, except the fresh green herbs, in a blender and grind to a smooth paste/cream.

  2. Stir in herbs and serve.

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