The Potato Harvest

I harvested my potatoes last weekend.

I was surprised.

The recent downpours must have swollen the yield as they are really quite decent size although the skins are a little tough – probably due to the long hot dry spell before it finally rained.

So far I’ve made Leek and potato soup, jacket potato with courgette and kidney bean chilli (I used Morrocan Ras al Hanout for the spice), and the stir fried potato slivers you can see in the photo.

The recipe for that came from one of my favourite cook books, Sichuan Cookery, by Fuschia Dunlop.

It is also in her book, Every Grain of Rice and it featured in this Guardian column.

I’ve also tried the version using green peppers (home grown of course).

I would also highly recommend Potato and Rosemary Pizza!

The Italian version of a chip butty.

Thinly sliced potato tossed in olive oil finished with chopped and whole fresh rosemary leaves and black pepper.

The space vacated by the potatoes (variety Mozart) has been swiftly planted up with a late sowing of fennel in modules and a few red chicory that have survived the total neglect I have shown them!

I’ve also planted up some lettuce after ripping out two spent courgette plants which left a good gap for the seedlings that will overwinter hopefully.

I also have a last flush of beetroot seedlings multi-sown in modules that must go in before I go away.

I’m also going to try and sow some coriander, dill, more lettuce and spinach and mustard leaves today.

Remember to pick your tomatoes when they show the first signs of colour and ripen on the window sill.

Otherwise they’ll split if left too long on the plant – which is what’s been happening to mine!

And I must get a garlic order in soon – you can plant cloves over three months from October onwards.

Other jobs

  • hoeing off red oxalis weeds and clearing an area to be planted up on my return with more winter veg seedlings
  • stopping pumpkin and winter squash plants – nip the end out of the growing shoots as they won’t produce any more viable fruit
  • look out for first signs of blight on tomato leaves and remove immediately
  • water bean plants – they need it and it’s very dry at the moment even though it’s not as hot as it was
  • prune cherries and plums if you didn’t do it earlier in the summer
  • pick early apples – you can tell if they’re ready if the pips are dark brown and they come off easily if you pull and twist gently
  • pick and freeze kale and chard
  • start harvesting wonderful red cabbage
  • Save seed – I have left some lettuce to flower and go to seed, also shungiku chrysanthemum greens, beans, mangetout peas, chillies, tomatoes.
  • Saving seed from courgettes, pumpkins and other curcubits are more of a faff as they tend to cross pollinate and will not come true next year (although you can take measures to stop this)





Art in the garden

Creative Gardening

One of the things I love best about gardening is it brings out my creativity.

This first photo is my latest art installation!

I have transplanted some more mange tout seedlings and constructed a frame with horizontally tied string supports for them to grow up.

I’ve fleeced it to stop the pigeons decimating them – in a month’s time they’ll be vigorous and robust enough to shrug off the pesky birds!

New group

Last Monday I joined Norfolk Organic Group  and went to my first ever monthly meeting at the Quaker meeting house in Norwich.

I was really impressed.

There was tea and cake.

And free seeds.

And seed potatoes for sale – Mozart early mains!

They also arrange visits to interesting gardens like Bob Flowerdew’s in South Norfolk.

All for fifteen quid a year!

More composting and feeding the soil

Every month they have a talk.

This time the guest speaker was a grower called Hannah Claxton, who started a community farm called Eves Hill Veg Co  a couple of years ago.

She gave a talk about compost teas and green manures and managed to sneak in some information about soil biology.

It was fascinating – and fits in with my attempts to start gardening without animal products or manure.

Anyway I’ve been cutting making more compost using, amongst other things, leaves that have been sitting in an old builders bag (horrid – I know it’s plastic!).

Half made leaf compost. It has some tiger worms in it – a sign it’s well on its way to full decompostion.

A medicinal herb that feeds the garden

I’ve been layering freshly cut comfrey with the year-old leaves, other green stuff like grass clippings, weeds without their roots and shredded torn up newspaper.

Comfrey can take three or four cuts a year and it grows back with more lush growth that’s fuelled by the long tap roots that bring up vital nutrients from deep in the ground.

Garden Organic, formerly known as the Henry Doubleday Research Institute, has some great information on how to use the plant.

It’s also a medicinal herb and was used as a poultice to mend broken bones in times gone by – giving it the common name of knitbone.

I am also making nettle tea for the first time.

Nettle leaves
Nettle leaves are covered with water and left to soak for a few weeks.

Hannah also recommended reading Dr Elaine Ingham’s research and visiting her website and following her recipe for compost tea.

Having once helped make biodynamic preparations in the form of a tea to be sprayed around the garden – her method seems familiar and I can’t wait to try it.

Other jobs that are being done now:

  • clearing bed and finding unexpected full sized edible potatoes from last year
  • laying new compost down on that area to plant module sown leeks into
  • transplanting module sown beetroot
  • pricking out magic cauliflower mix into individual pots to be transplanted to final position in the garden in about 6 weeks time
  • sowing more peas, white icicle radish – seeds courtesy of the Norfolk Organic Group or NOG
  • sowing black and red kale and saved chard seed
  • weeding the asparagus bed and garlic that is looking really vigorous now the weather’s warmed up
  • sowing marigold seeds
  • planting out garlic chives in a long row – they can be cooked as a vegetable in their own right – Chinese and Japanese influenced recipes to come later in the year
  • and planting a rosemary hedge with cutting that I took from a plant I ended up destroying by pruning it too hard last year
Rhubarb and chives with self sown forget-me-nots 

We are harvesting:

  • chives
  • parsley
  • leeks
  • over-wintered pink stalked chard and lettuce
  • rocket which has sprung back to life from its dormant state
  • potatoes that were lost and forgotten over winter
  • perennial cauliflower – which I’ve made into the most amazing Italian cauliflower and millet soup – recipe to follow soon
  • kale
  • purple sprouting broccoli (steamed and served with a lemon and olive oil dressing)
  • and dried, reconstituted (soaked and boiled) borlotti beans cooked with parsley and garlic

What a wonderful world! Gratitude for all it provides.