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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Perennial Vegetables

As I looked around the garden recently I became aware of how dependent I am on vegetables that come back year after year.

Rhubarb has magically sprung up over the last month or so with its huge scalloped leaves creating a dramatic edge to the main vegetable garden.

It’s  accompanied by delicate clumps of  chives in the gravel path which have just started to bud and will soon break out into spiky purple flower heads.

Next to them are four thriving artichoke plants. I was given the slips by a friend, Julie, a couple of years ago and last year we had our first real crop. I will divide them next March and give some away.

Stridolo or bladderwort in the foreground has paired up with another perennial – artichoke.  The new strawberry bed was under the fleece to the left of the picture but that has now been removed!

And then between the artichokes and some gooseberries is a stand of sorrel which never fails at this time of year.

The other side of the garden is a bed of five year old asparagus which has been cropping for the past couple of years. It should last another fifteen or twenty as long as it’s kept well weeded and mulched and the thuggish horseradish next door doesn’t move in and take over!

All of these plants are perennials and they provide a much needed bridge between the winter veg and the new season’s sowings which won’t really yield much until June.

There are a good few self sown plants which are providing us with food – the wild rocket is flourishing since it turned a little warmer. Coriander has surprised me by establishing itself with no effort on my part. Parsley is so prolific I’ve been potting up unwanted plants and giving it away.

The apple and pear trees are in full blossom and a thornless blackberry’s been heavily pruned and then trained along a rough home-made hazel trellis.

The new strawberry bed looks pretty healthy and a few flowers are heralding the possibility of some fruit in this first year. I’m currently trying to decide whether to mulch with straw or not.

On the annuals front there are lots of seedlings ready to take the place of veg like ruby chard and oriental mustard that’s bolting and going to seed. I have a great selection of squash including my favourite Uchiki Kuri or red Hokkaido Kuri, and hundreds of pricked out celeriac – many of which I will give away.

A colleague has given me the seeds of a yellow lumpy courgette, variety rugosa fruilana. Apparently – despite it’s ugly warty appearance – it is delicious. Can’t wait to try it.

I have been given tomato seedlings by a couple of generous friends – Roma from Janet who’s also given me peppers and some tenderstem broccoli to try out. The others were heirloom varieties from Caroline down the road – who runs a community garden in Great Yarmouth.

My leek seedlings are looking good – they will be planted in shallow clumps of four or five rather than singly in deep holes.

So for the time being all I really have left to do is sow my beans which will go in home made potting compost over the next week or so.

 

 

 

 

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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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