Friday, August 31, 2007

The festooned plum experiment

As an experiment I festooned a 4 year old Victoria plum to see if it really did encourage bud break and hence more fruit. Well as you can see from the picture, yes it did in a big way and is something I will try on other top fruit as well. Every branch is now hanging under the weight of fruit rather than being held down by the festoon strings.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Its not all bad news

After the blight bad news, it was good to see the first cape gooseberry was ripe and very tasty it was too, well finders privelege I say. Also the aromel everbearer strawberries are doing us pround with a couple of pounds a week of very tasty, good sized fruits. I have potted about 60 runners of this variety ready to go onto the new half plot. I an heartily recommend "Aromel" to anybody.

Another half plot

We have taken over a half plot that quite neatly joins our other plots together. Behind this one is our ploytunnel plot and in front our original plot. It looks rough but its only really this year that its been neglected. I hope to get the worse cleared ready for planting some soft fruit this side of Christmas.

Blight cometh

Oh what a disaster. Both tunnels have succumbed to blight. In 48 hours, healthy plants, laden with ripening fruit have been turned into dying ones laden with corruption. If you have never seen blight, look closely at the pictures.
I will be spending some of the weekend removing all traces of the plants, fruit and all and piling it on a bonfire to burn. Never ever put blight infected plant material into your compost bins.
On the bright side, I salvaged a whellbarrow full of green and red tomatoes and will be doing something with them tonight as they will not keep raw.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Saving sweet peas seeds

Once your sweet peas start to set seed the flowers dry up, hence the importance of picking the flowers regularly which prevents this from happening. However if you want to save seed for next year, now is the time to let a few do what comes naturally and set seed.

We leave the seed pods on the plants until they are as dry as we can get them and then pick them off and store them in a dry place to complete the drying process. Once dry, the pods can be shelled and the dried peas stored in a dry container, an envelope is ideal for this.


I only have 40 more days to wait now till my Limoncello is ready. You can make almost "instant" Limoncello but it is not as good as this one even though it takes the best part of 3 months before its ready.

Here is the recipe:-

Limoncello (80 day recipe)

True Limoncello is made in Sorrento, from lemons whose trees overlook the Mediterranean. However, if you have good lemons where you live (I'd want organically grown here), you can get pretty close. It's not difficult.

15 thick-skinned lemons
2 bottles (750 ml each) of the best 100 proof Vodka or a 750 ml bottle of 190-proof alcohol
4 1/2 cups (1 k) sugar
5 cups (1.2 litres) water if you use vodka, or 8 (2 litres) if you use grain alcohol
Wash the lemons in hot water before you start. Remove the peel with a vegetable peeler, removing all white pith on the back of the peel by scraping with a knife, and put the peels in a 4-quart Mason jar.
Add 1 bottle of Vodka, or half the alcohol, and stir. Cover the jar, date it, and put it to rest in a dark cabinet at room temperature. After 40 days, take out the lemon-Vodka mixture. In a sauce pan set over high heat, stir the sugar and water together and boil for 5 minutes. Let the sugar syrup cool completely in the pan, about 10 minutes. Add the sugar syrup to the lemon-Vodka mixture along with the second bottle of Vodka or the remaining alcohol. Stir well to combine. Replace the cover on the jar and note the finish date. Return it to the dark cabinet and store for 40 more days. At day 80, remove the limoncello from the cabinet. Strain the mixture and discard the lemon peel. Pour into clean, sterilised bottles with caps or decorative corked bottles. Store the bottles in the pantry, but put one bottle at a time in the freezer until ready to use. Makes approximately 6 pints.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A glimpse of our garden

Despite the rain and lack of sun our garden is still looking good, the showgirl flowers, dahlias, heleniums and rudbeckias especially are coming into their own. Even though its a sign that summer is drawing to a close, I just love them.

A few reasons why I love France.

Yes I admit it, I am a confirmed Francophile. When was the last time you saw a UK market stall selling heritage tomatoes, or allowed pensioners to sell there home grown dahlias (2 euros a bunch) from a small table.

Show me in the UK country houses and gardens that cost less that a fiver for two people to go around, and hundreds of them to chose from to boot.

Cafe culture is just fabulous, we are catching on in the UK but nowhere to the extent that the French have it sorted. I just love having lunch and a glass of local vin rouge whilst watching the world go by. Without having my wallet raped I might add, or suffering piss heads at the next table.

Finally every village, comune or town is BOTHERED about its appearance and every where there are flowers planted, very little litter and a sense of pride. The French ARE proud of their communities and rightly show them off. All I hear over here is "cutbacks".

Why dont we???

I feel sad that we feel unable to fly our flag. These pictures were taken at a town called Coutance in Normandy. The town hall is ablaze with the French Tricolour and the EU flag is only just given parity with the two lions of Normandy, the regional flag.
Not really wanting to get all political but I feel quite betrayed that our government and councils are ashamed to show their national and regional identities. I was not offended by the French love of their country, I was inspired by it. Vive La France.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Banana shallots

I harvested my banana shallots grown from my own seed last week and have laid them out to dry in my workshop. A few people had germination problems, others lost the small plants but I can honsstly say mine proved to be prolific in all ways. The biggest ones are huge and the rest are of a good size with very few small ones.
I still have some of last years seed for the coming season but will be keeping some shallots back for seed production for future years. Taste wise, they are superb.

Pick a peck of peppers

I saved some seed from a "Tesco finest sweet pointy pepper", sowed them in February and have been picking quality peppers like this since July, lots are now starting to turn Red which is a boon. Also, finally I picked the first pink brandywine beefsteak tomato, its huge.

Rude tomatoes

Well, what more can I say!!!!!

Strawberry propogation

I grow two varieties of strawberry, Marshmello and Aromel. The Marshmello are a traditional summer variety and the aromel are everbearing and will produce fruit right through to the first frosts.

With plants being expensive and losing vigour after their third year, propogating plants from runners is a sensible thing to do. The runners are just plunged into a pot and when rooted are cut from the mother-plant and overwintered in my cold frame. I only take two runners per plant unless I need lots of plants when I will take three. As you can see from the top picture, the runners are very prolific and from the bottom picture, root very easily, this plantlet was rooting in the bark surrounding the raised beds.

Most of these plants (80 plus) are destined for a new strawberry bed although a few will wend their way down to the forest folk for their new allotment I am sure.

Heritage peas

Early in the year I was fortunate enough to be given a few heritage peas (purple podded, champion of England and show perfection).

We have just harvested our heritage pea crop and this pile of pods came from just a dozen Purple podded pea plants. The seed saved will allow me to grow a full crop next year and have enough left over for seed for the next year.

I have found all three varieties very prolific, very tasty and varyingly tall. As a boon the bees loved them.

Wow, razzers everywhere

Our three rows of Autumn Bliss raspberries are just doing so well with all the inclement weather we have had this year. We are picking about 12lb a week which is more than any family can eat but we convert lots of them into other useful products. We put them in the dehydrator and can then sprinkle them on cereals or into porridge etc, we make coulis which is put through the pressure canner so that it does not have to go into the freezer, freeze them whole for making smoothies and ice cream with.

So, can we have too many razzers? Definitely not, especially when you consider their cost from a supermarket.

Keep those crops coming

I like to keep a succession of crops that are frequently used in the kitchen available and one of those must haves are spring onions. I clump module sow these. This just entails sowing half a dozen or so seeds per module and when they are the size as shown in the top picture with modules full of roots they are planted out at 6" spacings. The second and third pictures show ones that are being pulled now as required. Its quick, simple and the most productive and foolproof way I have found yet to get good spring onions.