Tuesday 2 August 2011

The urge.

I just have that urge this morning....
Not that rather naughty one that I cannot discuss here....
But the urge to blog about my greenhouse....

I am over the moon with it so far this year!! It feels like walking into a jungle when I go in :)

 It has done me proud so far in it's second life, the first of which was in someone else's garden where it wasn't appreciated as it should have been. Now it is positioned right at the entrance to my veg garden and it has the huge responsibility of raising all my seedlings, growing on tenders through the winter, producing crops of exotics through the summer and just protecting any of it's inhabitants (including me) from the worst that the elements can throw at it! 

Oh, and it's the spot to plug in the radio!! :)

Peering into the jungle.

 Anyway, it's nothing special.. an 8x6 lean to greenhouse, slabs on the floor, some auto vents and a power supply, but I (and the garden) would be lost without it.
 The summer crops are doing really well this year. Cucumber 'Carmen F1', Chilli 'Lemon drop' and 'Bartletts bonnet' to name a few, aswell as tomatoes, aubergines, sweet peppers and more chilli's. I have used a mixture of large pots and growbags all sat in plastic growbag trays, which are then filled with gravel for positioning the pots on.

Chilli 'Cayenne'

 I haven't painted any of that white shading onto the glass this year, and so far I cannot see any difference in the crops inside.... saves me worrying about it again in the future now :)

Sweet pepper 'Orange bell'

 Although this years harvests have been relatively small until now from the greenhouse, I think things are about to move up a gear or two as the plants have a lot of nearly ripe pickings for Sarah and I!! :)

Aubergine 'Some random seeds from Malaysia'

Cucumber 'Carmen F1'

 Well that's enough from me for today. I shall be back when I get my next urge! :)

I hope you are all making the most of the summer this week.

Thursday 28 July 2011

J'aime l'ail

I love Garlic!!!!!  What more can I say!!??!! 
 Roasted whole or chopped or crushed into anything, It has to be one of my best additions to a nice home cooked meal! I even love to just look at a nice string of it in the kitchen!! :)

 Anyway, this years crop has been pretty good on the whole. Luckily though I planted quite a lot of it, five varieties to be precise... Vayo, Solent wight, Albigensian wight, Tochliavri and Elephant garlic, as some did much better than others.


 Planted last autumn sometime around october, probably an inch or so deep, and about six inches apart. Performed the best out of all of my varieties. Nice white bulbs with a pinkish stripe on them, which are a very respectable size. It is a hardneck variety so it does send out flower stalks (scapes) which I remove so the plant puts all of its energy into producing the bulb.

Solent wight.

 The least impressive of my garlic varieties. This was planted last autumn as was the Vayo, but it has produced only mediocre bulbs at the best with most of them destined for puree Mo & Steve's garlic puree thanks for that Mo. This one is a softneck variety so no flower stalks to worry about here, and apparently softneck varieties keep longer, but I shall have to keep you posted on that.

Albigensian wight.

 This one produced some lovely looking bulbs, and some rather poor ones aswell, probably a result of something I did (or didn't do more likely) but on the whole I am happy with their performance. Again it was autumn planted as were the previous ones, but it didn't seem to establish as well as the Vayo initially, but then went mad come spring.


 This was my only spring planted variety. Again an inch or so deep, and about six inches apart, but planted around march time.  Softneck variety so no flower stalk again. This was the first spring planted variety I have tried, so I was a bit anxious about how well it was going to do in a much shorter space of time than the autumn planted varieties, but to be honest it surprised me how well it performed.

Elephant garlic.

 These were my own cloves from last year that I saved. Planted around october again, they have performed pretty well, although I have dropped a clanger here and not harvested them quick enough so most of the bulbs have split..... pants!!!!  Oh well, I still have some massive cloves to use up, but they just won't look as nice in storage.  These were planted a bit deeper than the other garlics, maybe two inches or so deep and about ten to twelve inches apart.

 I have watered all of them a bit earlier on in the year, kept the weeds down as best as I could, and given them a top dressing of bonemeal in the spring, but other than that they have been left to get on with it.

 I lifted most of it about ten days ago, and the last of it at the weekend, and it has been drying since then, with my first bulbs ready to plait in the next few days. I think I should have probably lifted it a week or two before I actually did, which may have saved the Elephant garlic from splitting, but I shall do better next year.  Out of the five varieties grown this year, I shall substitute the Solent wight for something else next year, maybe Chesnok wight, but the other four will go in again, from my own cloves that I shall save and replant.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Pump up the jam.

  Last year was our first attempt at preserving in any kind of real quantity. On the whole, it was all a great success... apart from one batch of chutney that I overdid the chilli in... (well I loved it anyway, even if others ran away screaming of burning mouths, shortness of breath and even "Hell in a jar") so this year we will have our work cut out for us to equal last years results.

 I must say however, it has already started well!!!  (modest I know)

 Last week saw me out in the strawberry patch for about two hours picking around five kilo's of the little red beauties :)
Most of my picked strawberries.

What on earth does one do with all those strawberries?????

I tried to sit and eat as many as I could while watching Wimbledon..... that got rid of a kilo or so... and I think the accompanying Pimms may have gone to my head somewhat, as I cannot remember much of the matches :)

I gave a few away to family and friends..... another kilo or so...

Another good sized bowl of them went into some of Sarah's Eton mess..... half a kilo ish... and she made a nice strawberry sauce to go with it too... a few hundred grams more!!

Hmmmmm... still a couple of kilo's to go... only one thing for it... where is that jam pan??!!??

1kg strawberries, 500g granulated sugar, 450g jam sugar and 150ml lemon juice... up to set point in the pan..... decant into jars (with quite large brown paper hats) and job done.... 7 jars of finest strawberry jam.

Still have a kilo or so of strawberries left...... right, more jam...

600g strawberries, the last 600g rhubarb from the garden this year, 150ml lemon juice, 1.2kg jam sugar... up to set point again (which I think is 104.5 degrees)..... decant into more sterilised jars and job done... 7 jars of finest strawberry and rhubarb jam.  This one is deeeelicious!!!!! :)

The last few strawberries then got eaten up out of the way..... phew.

Just think..... this weekend I probably have another 2 or 3 kilo's to pick again!!! It's a good job I have just been and purchased a bottle of champagne and a lot more sugar for my strawberry and champagne jam!! :)

Anyone for a Devon cream tea??

Tuesday 5 July 2011

A blooming good july!!

  There seems to have been somewhat of a delay since my last blog post!!  An understatement I do believe.... as it has been approximately four months since my last ramblings.  Apologies for that, but what with a lot of job issues which have ended up in me becoming currently unemployed, and then the general workload at home just increasing tenfold simultaneously, I have had no time whatsoever to pen any new posts until recently. Well, I am aiming to try and get on a bit more frequently now (being unemployed does have it's plus points ;)

 Anyway, to start the ball rolling again, here are a few photo's from around the gardens this morning...

Gaillardia 'Goblin'.
Nasturtium 'Gleam'.
Jasione 'Blue light'.
Allium 'Globemaster'.
Zantedeschia 'Albomaculata'.
Leek 'Jaune de poitou' setting seed.
Busy lizzies adding some colour.
Unknown Rose variety.
Unknown Rose variety.
Yucca gloriosa flower spike.
Close up of Yucca gloriosa flower.
Unknown Rose variety.
Fuchsia 'Mrs popple'.
Kniphofia 'Sunningdale yellow'.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Gardening under plastic

 I love this indoor gardening malarkey!! I wish I had taken the plunge and got this polytunnel last year instead of being indecisive about it for twelve months or so. Even when I now arise to a wet and miserable day, I know that I can go and get on with something in the polytunnel (listening to the rain on the plastic is great...but watching it out of the open door is even better) until the weather improves enough to move outside, or vice versa... work outside if it's nice, and move inside if the weather goes a bit downhill.
 Anyway, here is a quick catchup on what's exciting me in there already...

 It's got pretty crowded in there quite quickly. The left hand bed is already full of seeds and plants, and the right hand one is just plant storage at the moment.  It has been a huge help having all the extra storage space for the plants in the tunnel, as my little old greenhouse was nowhere near big enough for everything I want to grow this year!

 Pretty boring I know.... but how excited was I when my first seedlings came up in the polytunnel!! These particular ones are Rocket, but i've also got Radish and mixed Lettuce leaves coming up aswell.

 I've also put my Lettuce little gem plants in the polytunnel bed to give me some early crops from an early sowing(they probably won't make it to maturity as i'll no doubt start nicking leaves off them as soon as they are big enough)

 The polytunnel is coming in handy for propagating space too. This is an Iris that I have just divided into three and am now growing on before putting them into the garden in a month or so. I've started potting up a few other plants too.. Kniphofia's, Zantedeschia's, Peonies and one or two Alliums, so I should have a nice selection of plants to put in my couple of flower borders in the veg garden soon.

 These are my pesandor shallots that i'm growing for the village show.... we will win some firsts this year!! (hopefully more than last year anyway :)

 Some summer purple broccoli waiting to go in the ground. I think I shall put half of these inside the tunnel, and the other half in the garden and see what difference it makes to the crop.

 So all in all it's going quite well I reckon. The planted crops in the left hand bed so far are Peas, Carrots, Radish, Rocket, Beetroot (Sarah planted these and was most impressed with the little cluster seeds), Lettuce leaves, Spring onions, Lettuce little gem and Early greyhound cabbage. It's amazing how well everything is growing in there already, the plants are all romping away in their new surroundings. The right hand bed will hopefully get attacked this weekend if I can rehome some of the plants in pots (maybe that second polytunnel will need to be here sooner than I thought). I still have a few other jobs to do (don't I always have "a few jobs" to do) like finishing the paving down the centre, attaching all the crop growing wires for the taller plants, making some opening windows for the mesh doors, plumbing in the mains water supply and putting my gravel bed in at the far end, but none of this is desperate so it can be done during the next wet weather spell I guess. :) I can now just enjoy my gardening inside and outside of my new polytunnel (Sarah would probably already call it my new home :)

Monday 14 March 2011

A sunny march day.

 Keeping up with my monthly photo posts, this is march at Fairview in glorious technicolour...

 Ladybirds seem to be everywhere now. My preferred method of aphid control!! :)

 One of my favourite herbs is Basil. I'm trying a new variety this year... lime flavoured Basil, I am looking forward to tasting it!

 A Camellia in full flower in the polytunnel. 
 Some Bellis perennis brightening up the garden.

 The ubiquitous spring bulb shots now... firstly a white narcissus, I have no idea what cultivar though.

 Again, I have no idea what cultivar this yellow daff is.

 Sunday was a glorious day to be out in the garden!

 The bright yellow blooms of the Forsythia's look most striking in the sun!

 This large willow tree fully loaded with catkins, was like a gourmet buffet for the bees. I couldn't believe how many were happily buzzing around it, and how noisy they were.... I actually thought I had got too close to a bee hive at first and was poised to scarper... but then realised where the noise was coming from.  I was absolutely over the moon to see so many bees about already! :)

  A very satisfying view down the veg garden for me on sunday afternoon. All cleaned up and ready for the coming seasons after a lot of hardwork. I did however purposely avoid including the rest of the garden in the photo, as it is in no way fit for showing off yet. In the foreground of the photo is one of my potato beds which has all the first and second earlies in, and the far end is my allium bed. All I really need to do now is just keep it tidy and weed free (if only it was that simple).

 My first earlies starting to get earthed up.... I can taste those lovely new potatoes already!! :)

Tuesday 8 March 2011

A little day trip to the local nursery.

 How bad am I??!? I have an apparently wonderful nursery just up the road from me, but because I never drive past it for anything... I never use it.  I always seem to end up at the big 'Blooms' garden centre on the back road to work.  Well this weekend I decided to put that right, I decided I was going to take a trip up to Bridge nursery and see what delights they have to offer.

 Well, I arrived at about 10am, to be confronted by a locked gate.... oh dear, are they closed today I asked myself. Thankfully not, according to the sign at the side of the gate, and after what was seemingly an age of pondering over whether to return later, or wait and see what happens, a van pulled up behind me. Now this could have spelled trouble... maybe it was the local constabulary... had I been reported for loitering around the quiet rural nursery (in my rather scallywag styled van) with a view to relieving them of all of their stock, or could it have been the irate farmer trying to get into his field through the gate that was now situated directly behind my stationary vehicle, or maybe even just the local fashion police.... I didn't exactly dress up to visit the nursery (clothes and hands still covered in half of the garden :)  It turned out to be one of the nursery owners... phew... he was just running late that morning, so I moved the van to the car park, and wandered in.

 I followed the owner around the nursery while he opened up the polytunnels, and directed some seriously technical questions towards him... "do you sell herbaceous plants?" (the rows of perennials in pots gave that one away.... doh) "do you grow your stock yourself?" (this one was answered when I actually opened my eyes and looked around.. the polytunnels were full of young plants and propagating benches... doh x2) and to top off the spanish inquisition... I excelled myself with "are you open today?" ...pure genius Simon... who on earth did I think had unlocked the gate and let me in... some random passer by maybe? or some deviant wishing to steal all the plants in broad daylight, who thought I might be good enough to pass him the pots while he loaded his van??
 Once all the important questions were sorted, (and I had clearly showed myself to be an intellectual) I then proceeded to basically put the horticultural world to right with my new debating partner.. we covered all manner of relevant subjects from watering to weather, polytunnels to propagating, gardens to growing vegetables, and many many more, all while giving me a VIP tour of the nursery. Brilliant!!
 Ok, what can I buy today my good man? I asked.... the answer was apparently nothing. Strange!!!! A nursery owner who doesn't want to sell anything? Does he just want to get rid of me after all my probing questions?? No, it seems as if he is rather honestly just delaying my purchase until more of their stock is ready, so as to give me a better choice of stronger plants!!  Wow, I thought that the idea was to sell plants too early to customers, so the frosts would kill them off, and they would then return to buy more. I didn't for one second suspect it was to actually sell people plants at the right time, and to give good advice to enable people to just buy and grow once. I was advised to leave any purchases for a month, as at that time the nursery beds will be stocked up again with all the plants from the tunnels, so I will be able to choose more of the plants I want, get all the advice on growing them while reclining in the cafe (opens on the 2nd April I think) with a nice mug of tea and a slice of cake, and then know that they should grow on quite happily in my garden. I would recommend any of you checking the link to their website, as it's a nice place to visit if you are ever in the area, they have a great nursery, cafe, wonderful stock gardens and they even do cut flowers.
 So, after all the talk and advice, I actually ended up returning from the nursery with nothing physical to show for my trip, but it's now the first place I shall go for plants in the future, thanks to a really most helpful man who was more than happy to spend some time talking things through with me, and not just trying to sell me plants that he wasn't completely happy with.

Friday 4 March 2011

Indoor precipitation for Peas.

 How wet is the ground at the moment!!?!!!  Every little part of the garden is just saturated! Any work on the garden has screeched to a halt over the weekend, as the top inch or so of the ground was just turning to some kind of swamp under my feet everytime I took a step.... I think I need to stick to the hard paths!

 Well then, if I cannot get onto the gardens, what can I do??  Ah yes, I now have a polytunnel that is somewhat less saturated inside as it's had a week to dry out!! As Del boy would say.... Lovely jubbly!

Soaker hoses (with peas planted at end)

 Right, firstly I can put most of the irrigation pipework in. I have decided that both of the raised beds are going to have soaker hoses in them, three runs up and down each bed will do nicely.
I purchased the hoses, corners and stakes to hold it all down from GB Plastics ltd . They delivered quickly, and it was all at a reasonable price. The hoses were easy to cut and join to make all the corners (once I had untangled the mess of hose from around my legs, where it sprang out of the packet after cutting it open) , and the stakes just clip over the top and do a pretty good job of keeping it all flat. I think I will connect them to a water timer at some point, so I don't have to worry so much about the watering when i'm at work.

Overhead sprinklers

 Secondly I had overhead sprinklers to install. These came with the polytunnel as an option from First tunnels when I purchased it. The system has a main pipe running along the ridge tube down the centre of the tunnel, with sprinkler heads inserted into it at regular intervals. The main pipe has a stop end in it at one end, and terminates at a valve on the door frame at the other end, and then your supply just pops onto the bottom of that.... voila.
 I also decided to put two standard taps up, one either side of the door frame, as I don't think one would be enough. One of the taps will then be connected up permanently to a ten metre coil hose with a spraygun on for spot watering, and the other tap will be set up to supply the soaker hoses and sprinklers on some sort of timer system (yet to be totally thought through).

Watering cans strategically positioned

 I have to say it, but my best idea for automatic watering in the polytunnel so far is my two little watering cans. As you can just about see in the photo, I hung one up on either side of the frame as I thought they looked good there (oh what a sheltered life I lead!!) but once I had admired them for a second (more like five minutes) I thought of the idea of attaching a string to the handles which then leads back up to the house... then when the sun comes out, I pull the string from the comfort of my seat, and hey presto... the polytunnel gets damped down :) Do you think I should try the Dragons den with this idea for automatic irrigation?? (maybe not giving up my day job at the moment would be a wise move :)

 To be honest.... I may have gone a bit far with all this irrigation just to water my small sowing of early peas.... how much water do forty eight pea plants need ?!?

 I had better get some more seeds and plants in there quickly!

 How satisfying was it though to be planting in the polytunnel for the first time!!! The rain lashing the polythene, the dog sat in the doorway keeping dry, the plants excited to put down roots in their new luxury country retreat, and me like a kid at Christmas with is new toy!!  I think I still have a smile on my face now!!!

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Latvian Piragi

 After mentioning these in another post and getting a few comments on them, I thought i'd make a batch and do a quick blog for you incase anyone else wants to try them out..... They are delicious!!! :)
 I was first introduced to these years ago when I was little. A friend of the family (Marta) relocated here during the war from latvia, and it was her that used to make these for us.... my dad and I could never get enough of them when she made them....  and there was always a freshly baked supply of them whenever we visited her farm!(that phonecall the day before worked every time :) Unfortunately she died about 18 months ago and will be missed greatly. While at the funeral I happened to have a chat with one of her daughters and mentioned these in passing... next thing I know I have the recipe for these little delights! Now and then I throw a batch together and it always brings back memories of Marta and her farm.

 Firstly.. The ingredients..

For the bread...
  • 1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp dryed yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 or 6 cups of strong white bread flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened)

For the filling...
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pound cooked ham diced into small cubes
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds (or more if you love it like me)
  • 1 tsp black pepper

For the glaze...
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp water

  • Combine the yeast, 1 tbsp sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small bowl and set aside to activate.
  • Combine 1/2 cup of sugar, salt and 2 1/2 cups of the flour in a mixing bowl, then add the butter, yeast mixture and the rest of the water. Stir it all, then add more flour until you make a soft dough.
  • Knead the dough on a floured surface until it's smooth and elastic, which usually takes me about 5 minutes. Place the dough in a large greased bowl and cover the top with clingfilm. Leave to rise for about 1 1/2 hours.
  • While the dough is rising, cook the bacon in a small pan, drain it and then chop it up into small pieces then soften the onion in a pan with the butter.
  • I bake my own ham in the oven with a few cloves and some honey the night before I make these, but you can get it ready cooked from the supermarket if you like.

  • When ready, add the ham to the onion. Stir in the caraway seeds, pepper and chopped bacon. Cook for a minute, then remove from the heat.
  • When the dough has risen sufficiently, punch it down and divide it into 4 pieces.
  • Roll each piece of dough out into a rough circle about 1/8" thick.
  • Now you can decide what size you want your Piragi. I like mine a reasonable size... something like a small pasty, so I use a cutter to make circles of about 6" ... but you can go down as small as 2 1/2" circles for little bite size Piragi if you like.
  • Spoon some of the filling into the centre of your round piece of dough, enough to fill it out when folded, then fold it in half to make your pasty shape and pinch the edges to stick it closed.

  • Place the Piragi on a baking sheet or tin with the seam underneath it, combine the egg and water, and then brush the Piragi with the egg wash.
  • Bake in the oven at about 190 or gas 5 until golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.... or you could do what I like to do, and scoff the lot and get a burnt mouth!!!! :)

Now I know i'm no Jamie or Gordon, and this isn't exactly top class restaurant food, but I would love to hear about any of you trying these out.