The Garden in June

I’ve planted out my squash, courgettes and beans.

A colleague gave me the courgette seeds. He says – despite their ugly appearance – they are the best tasting he’s ever grown. The variety is Rugosa Fruilana.

The winter squash are mainly Uchiki Kuri. These bright orange onion squash are perfect for small families or single people. They also store well.

Japanese Hokkaido Pumpkins
Japanese Hokkaido Pumpkins aka Uchiki Kuri

The other three are leftover seed – Candy Roaster and  Hungarian Blue. They’ve been plonked on the remains of the old compost heap in the far corner of the garden.

I have winter cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli and kaibroc which still need a cage erected to protect them from the pigeons and cabbage white butterflies.

I will also sow some Cavolo Nero/Black Kale soon for winter.

I’ve had amazing 100% germination rates for borlotti beans from seed saved by my friend Di. I’ve also sowed some May Beans that I cadged from the Garden Organic heritage seed library via the Norfolk Organic Group.

Climbing beans ready to be planted out

I’m also growing Violet de cosse, Czar runners and Greek Gigantes beans – all climbers. The first producing purple french beans. The other two mainly butter type beans for drying.

I swore I wouldn’t grow tomatoes this year – too much trouble watering them but somehow I have ended up with a dozen or so – from friends. Green Derby, Roma and Baby Plum. They’ll go outside once the broad beans are finished against the warm wall.

Lemon Verbena, Purple Sage and French Tarragon

My cuttings have done well. Easy if you follow a YouTube video. Next up are pelargoniums.

More ruby chard, parsnip and beetroot seed has been sown.

Celeriac seedlings have gone in.

They’ll need regular watering if they are to come to anything.

The real success story are the globe artichokes – last year they were just getting established and yielded only a few. But they’re prolific right now and quite early. A joy to eat with a thick mustard vinaigrette.

 

Soon it’ll be time to sow winter veg like endive, mustard greens and lettuce as well as red chicory.

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Getting to know you

This is the first year I’ve grown turnips.

At first glance they seem rather unglamorous.

But I’ve been making an effort to get to know them.

That’s still an ongoing process but I’m very pleased with the initial results.

The first attempt at a quick turnip pickle was a bit of a disaster – too much salt.

But second time around it worked a treat – the underlying sweetness of the turnip coming to the fore while retaining the bite.

I got the idea from “Japanese Farm Food” by Nancy Singleton Hachisu.

You could use purple topped Milano turnips – as I did. Or daikon radish aka mooli would work equally well. My turnips are still quite small – slightly larger than a golf ball.

The recipe calls for 675g of the topped and tailed vegetable sliced into 3mm rounds or half moons – I used less – but I’ve left the quantities as per the original recipe except for the salt which originally called for 27g!

Save a couple of handfuls of the young greener shoots and leaves in the middle and slice them roughly.

Sprinkle on a little salt (the recipe was too salty for me). I literally took several pinches and then rubbed it into the turnip greens and slices.

Then zest a lemon and slice it into very thin strips. Do the same to some peeled ginger (about a teaspoons worth). Add it to the turnip along with two small dried or fresh chillies.

Mix and leave for ten minutes. Eat alongside your main meal. It keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.

Kabu no shiozuke

To grow turnips, I sow four or five seeds per module and then transplant outside into a vegetable bed that’s been mulched well with about an inch of compost.

They do well in a clump of four or five – a bit like radish and beetroot which I grow the same way.

They’re a good early catch crop – and I may sow some for an autumn harvest or try daikon instead – sowing after the longest day.

When I harvest I take the biggest of the clump near the stem and twist and pull gently – holding the remainder in place with my other hand. They will carry on growing – repeat until you’ve used them all or they’ve gone to seed!

Pigeons like the young tops but I didn’t mind that too much so didn’t bother protecting them.

The greens are nice (as are radish) to eat. They’re slightly peppery and go well in a stir fry or blanched and then cooked with chilli and garlic.

I used this superb recipe.

 

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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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