Sunday, July 29, 2007


If you have blueberries, and we have 16 planted directly into the ground, its a good practice to use cranberries to underplant. Not only do you get a good crop of cranberries for Christmas, but they act as a mulch, spreading out suppressing weeds and keeping the ground moist.
They are well worth growing as you get two crops for the space of one.


Blight has well and truely caught these outside tomatoes. Our second early tomatoes were also infected but the main crop so far seem clear. Strange.


The peas sown last week are sprouting thick and fast. Two now empty beds recently cleared of onions will also be planted for a late crop. To be prudent, netting will go over them to keep the pigeons off.

Baby Leeks

As an experiment, some of the leeks that are normally planted out after lifting the first early potatoes, were planted at 4" spacings in an attempt to gain some early "baby" leeks. Well the experiment worked and tonight we are going to be eating a picking of those said leeks. We were so impressed that a further 50 or so leeks were planted in another bed for pulling early as the main crop leeks are planted now.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pressure Canning

The tomatoes are coming much faster than we can eat them now. Knowing how tasteless bought ones are in winter, we thought it a good idea to make stuff with our tomatoes now, that will be good to use then.

To this end I roasted in a pan, tomatoes, onion, garlic and sweet peppers, seasoned with salt and pepper, some fresh herbs and lashed with olive oil. The trays were then put into a hot oven to roast, after which they were transfered to a pan, simmered for a few minutes and blended with a bamix until a near smooth consistency was reached. This hot mix was transfered into 1 litre hot canning bottles, the lids fixed just hand tight and these then went into a presure canner. The canner was brought up to 10psi and left for 20 minutes before the heat was turned off and the pressure allowed to fall back to normal. The jars were then removed and placed on a wooden chopping board to cool. Within a few minutes I heard the lids pop as the vaccuum formed.

A net result of 5 x 1litre jars of pasta sauce that goes into a cupboard, rather than the freezer.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A few very smug trugs

An evening visit to the plot prompted a huge harvest. We picked another half a trug of mixed tomatoes but also added nicely ripened "lipstick" peppers, jalepeno peppers, culinary and desert gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and blackberries.
Added to the pile were "foremost" new potatoes, chantenney carrots, beetroot, florence fennel, two red cabbage and a couple of lettuce for good measure.
It makes all the hard work worth while.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Herb bed

A trip out today resulted in us buying a whole bootful of herbs for a new herb garden being planed at the allotments. We have a small amount which are grown at home but as we don't have space for things like lovage, a custom bed is required. We picked up for £1 a pot, 6 varieties of mint, 3 of thyme, fennel, curry plant, sage and rosemary amongst others.

The mints were re-potted into 7 litre pots which will be plunge planted into the bed to stop them from spreading. The others will be planted directly into the ground as they are less invasive. although the Lovage which was a gorgeous gift from Wellie and Trousers will grow some 7 feet high.

At home

Here are just a few pictures of flowers in our garden, the top picture shows Kazzi planting a new clematis (Elizabeth), some sweet peas, a penstemon, agapanthus "lady bacon" and lastly a standard rose called "The fairy".The vast majority of plants at home are perenials and whilst a few are bought, the majority are propogated from cuttings, seed or division.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sun (no really) Dried Tomatoes

We had planned to go see the forest people this weekend but alas a flooded M5 and blocked M42 put paid to that, which is a shame as we are always treated to 5* food, good company, far too much drink and a damn good giggle.

All was not lost though, we brought a load of firewood in from the log store, lit the fire and hunkered down to watch some tv, read and generally chill out.

One job was started however and that was to turn the half trug of tomatoes into their sundried cousins. Not only are they expensive to buy but converting your crops in times of plenty, into top quality added value items for winter use not only expands your store cupboard but makes financial sense.

As we have had no sun this summer, our sundried tomatoes are dried in a dehydrator. The half trug of tomatoes filled all 5 shelves of ours. All we do is half the smaller tomatoes and cut into thirds the larger ones, lay them cut side up on a shelf and season with Maldon sea salt and a touch of pepper, add shelves until all of the tomatoes are used or the dehydrator is full, put on the lid, turn it on and wait some 12-16 hours until the tomato slices are dry but still bendy. They are then added to a sterile Kilner or Le Parfait jar and topped up with good extra virgin olive oil, ensuring that all of the tomatoes are covered. Seal the jars immediately and store in a cupboard, NOT THE FRIDGE. Once a jar is opened, consume within a few weeks.

Even though I do say so myself, they are good!!

Friday, July 20, 2007


The grape vines purchased in France early this year have grown well and have given us several bunches of grapes. These two are from inside the new tunnel and are just ripening up. Having tasted one today, I can confirm they are sweet and juicy. The outdoor vines also have fruit but are much smaller due to the distinct lack of sun. Hopefully next year, with a bit more framework to the vines, we will get lots of bunches to eat.

Can I have a Pea please Bob?

The bed in the top pictures had been cleared of shallots two days ago. I don't like leaving beds empty so this one was sown with a good helping of "Feltham First" pea for a late crop and to help fix nitrogen back into the soil.

The bottom picture shows how well the purple podded peas are doing, it will be harvest time for them soon.

I really cant be bothered

I have consigned to the bin of "old wives tales" the need to remove the bottom leaves of tomatoes to aid ripening. The top two pictures show fruit ripening all over the plant, even where there are lots of leaves. If you are feeding plants at least weekly, why remove the leaves? It seems to be counter-productive, especially as it's heat that ripens tomatoes, not light. Also it's a lot of extra work, and I just can't be bothered. If you plant your tomatoes far enough apart and ensure good ventilation you remove the only legitimate reason to remove leaves and that is mildew or other moulds due to poor air circulation.
Lots of leaves, for me at any rate, means lots of tomatoes. We pick half a trug 3 times a week and the amount is increasing as the later varieties are now coming online.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Rather than leaving them to dry outside as I would normally, all of my onions were lifted to dry in the workshop. Out of 300 sturon sets planted at the begining of March, 6 bolted and 4 were soft. I really rate sturon as a standard "kitchen" onion as I lose so few. As well as the trug shown above, 3 boxes of them went into the car boot to bring home.

I will lift the rest from plot 2 tonight, that bed also includes some red karmen onions, the first red that I have had a decent yield from, with virtually no bolters.

Organic pest control

The new pond is already attracting toads. As shelter for them I have stacked up some logs in shady areas. This little one obvioisly likes the new habitats.
Amphibians are not the only organic pest control I am hoping to attract, the bottom two pictures show the first of several lacewing hotels in position. Hopefully they will attract lacewings and ladybirds to overwinter, giving me an advantage in the spring by having resident predators of greenfly and the like.

Monday, July 16, 2007


This is Stan, chief mouser and total softie. He loves nothing more than to be near us when we are working in the garden, supervising.

Pure nectar

Nectar bearing flowers attract lots of pollinating insects, the most important of them being bees of varying kinds. We have poppies in amongst the raspberries which are real bee magnets. This flower actually had three in it when the picture was taken.
More bees equal more pollination on your plot, so make it attractive for them and sow some flower seed or plant some plants to draw them in.

I know I keep banging on about

I know that I keep banging on about module sowing crops and then planting out as clumps, well the proof is in the harvesting. These carrots and beetroot are just what you want, no thinning, no waste, just good quality edible roots. The spring onions in the last picture are grown the same way and will be ready to start harvesting within a few weeks.

Try module sowing, it really does work.

Pick a peck of peppers

The first two pictures show just how early and prolific the variety "Lipstick" is. All ten plants are laden with plump, large fruit. They are available from the Real Seed Company.

The last picture shows peppers grown from seed saved from Tesco's finest sweet pointy peppers. They to seem to be very prolific and are coming true to type. All in all our tunnels are being very successful this year pepper-wise.

Calendula Hand cream

As we both get "gardeners hands" we made a batch of calendula hand cream to use after a day with the rake or spade.
It takes about 30 minutes to make and is very easy. You just need a big handful of calendula petals, 300ml of olive oil and 200g of beeswax. First off melt the beeswax into the olive oil using a double boiler, add the calendula petals and simmer for ten minutes. Pour through a strainer to remove the petals into a jar and wait for it to set. It is well worth the effort to make.