I have been so lucky with the wide variety of lettuce that have sprung up – most of them from saved or swapped seed.
Some overwintered and provided the first greens of the year despite the vicious cold spell we had in early March.
The others have thrived once they escaped the confines of the modules I sowed them in.
And now we’re reaping the benefits – picking just as many leaves as we need (the plant is allowed to stay in the ground to continue growing – a tip from no dig guru, Charles Dowding).
In the kitchen we’ve been making big bold salad bowls by adding at least three varieties of basil, garlic chives, fresh parsley and frothy fronds of fennel.
Purple star-like borage flowers and the yellow and white petals of Shungiku or chrysanthemum greens that have flowered have been the final touch – so beautiful that it seems a shame to eat it.
Elsewhere in garden
The beetroot are swelling, the peas are podding and the broad beans are almost big enough to coax out of their vivid green velvet jackets.
There are the first signs of fruit on the courgette/zucchini plants and the apple and pear trees have just had their “June drop” – that’s when they shed some early fruit giving the ones left on the tree a good chance of reaching maturity.
The early Florence fennel has produced crunchy white edible bulbs (mound up the earth around the bulb as it’s growing to encourage this).
I have served it raw in a salad with zingy, slightly sharp Valencia oranges from Spain!
I shall sow some more this weekend which should see us through to Christmas if protected from very cold conditions.
I’m sure Steve will hate being called that – but that’s the effect he had on a visit last weekend.
He’s a fellow gardener, cook, river swimmer and Sacred Harp singer from Bristol.
We accomplished a lot in the garden.
We planted out pumpkins and cabbage.
We weeded and heavily mulched the badly neglected raspberries with the last of my home made compost – and they seemed to perk up almost immediately.
We also built a new compost heap – combining and turning two smaller heaps to make a new mother heap in the bay we’d emptied.
Tiring but satisfying work.
This growing season has been wonderful so far because of the help and encouragement and advice I’ve had from friends.
I’ll leave you with a rough recipe for rocket, red onion and oregano pizza.
Another good combo is pre-wilted and chopped spinach or swiss chard with onion, tomato sauce, capers – baked then topped with fried crumbled sage leaves.
Make a smooth dough and knead for between 8 and 10 minutes or until you can pull and stretch a section of dough so thin it makes a window you can almost look through (Steve Brett's top tip).
Grease or flour a large bowl and transfer the dough and cover. Leave until it's doubled in size in a draught free place.
Knock back and leave for 45 minutes.
Divide in half and roll out thinly. Leave to rest for 5 minutes.
Cover with thinly sliced red onion (mine were a gift from friend Dianne Chittock), rocket torn into small pieces, then a cup of tomato sauce, and 2 tbsp (yes that much!) oregano and then drizzle on 1/3 cup olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Bake for 15 minutes in a very hot oven or until edges are crisp.
Slide onto an oven rack for a further five minutes to crisp the base.
Recipe courtesy Stephanie Alexander, The Cook’s Companion
I also sowed some “Kyoto Market” spring onions and some more squash (North Georgia Candy Roaster and Hungarian Blue) – all in modules – to go with the Hokkaido onion squash seedlings that are already big enough to go out under fleece.
My friend Julie saved the seed and gave me some.
Monday morning was devoted to sowing beans.
The six purple ones are two kinds of runner beans and the five massive white ones are Giant Greek butter beans which I can’t wait to try.
They were another gift – this time from Kate Poland who runs Cordwainers Garden in Hackney.
I also sowed some Cherokee Trail of Tears climbing beans which I’ve never tried before (not shown).
And some Cosse Violette are going in – they’re a purple french bean that cropped well over a long period last year (see gallery below).
Borlotti beans – both climbing and dwarf varieties – will be the foundation for many delicious meals throughout the year as they can be dried and stored (not shown).
My friend Tierney came over and helped plant out the courgettes and squash as well as some more mangetout.
The peas will hopefully climb up bamboo canes and extra chicken wire tied along the fence of the new bed.
I cleared nettles the other side so we don’t get them growing through and stinging our hands when we pick the peas in about six weeks time!
The stingers went on the new compost heap.
More compost – it’s officially an obsession!
Much of the past weekend was spent turning unfinished compost from my black plastic dalek bins into a big cubic metre open heap and layering it with grass clippings, partially rotted leaves and newspaper as well as the odd bit of kitchen waste.
I have added some QR compost activator which I bought from Chase Organics.
It’s reputed to speed up the composting process so it’s ready within 4 – 6 weeks.
It was devised by May Bruce (one of the founders of the Soil Association) just after the war based on a Rudolf Steiner recipe using a biodynamic preparation of seven herbs/medicinal plants including valerian, oak bark, nettle and yarrow.
Meanwhile a massive mother heap at the bottom of the garden is yielding valuable growing material.
A major project in the next week or so will be to excavate the rest of that.
I’ll lay it around the blackcurrants, gooseberries and globe artichokes.
Then I’ll then underplant some of them with six strawberries I got at a plant swap.
And in other news…
Tierney and I also planted out cucumbers (fleeced initially as they haven’t been hardened off) and some more mixed lettuce that glowed like jewels in the freshly watered dark earth.
We moved the brassica cage (it protects the plants from pigeons and cabbage white butterflies) down the main veg bed ready for the magic caulis, the red cabbage and the cavolo nero kale that will be ready to set out in a couple of weeks.
That left the Nine Star perennial cauliflowers without protection.
After a bit of faffing we came up with a structure that works perfectly and adds an ethereal quality to the garden I think!