Archive | June 2016

A Kitchen Tidy & This week In The Garden….

This week my sweetpeas are flowering beautifully around my arch and they smell gorgeous when I brush past them.

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The bees are regular visitors now to the flowers in the garden and I am really pleased with this.  Unfortunately my Jack Russell is an excellent ‘bee catcher’ and I have to watch her like a hawk as she actually manages to catch them in her mouth and chews them before spitting them out….I really don’t know why she doesn’t get stung!

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The bees have been enjoying the flowers on my chives, but as the flowers are now going over I decided this week to remove them so they don’t self seed everywhere.

By chopping the chives to an inch off the ground, the chives will regrow and give me another crop later on in the summer:

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My comfrey has been growing very well this year and the bees have also been been loving these flowers too.  Unfortunately the comfrey has started to lean all over my runnerbeans and so I decided to cut some of it down, but I have still left some of it at the back:

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Comfrey can be used to make a comfrey tea to feed fruit and flowers, or it can be chopped up and put on the compost heap to act as a compost activator, however this time I chose to place it around my potatoes as a mulch.  The comfrey will break down and I will dig it into the soil when I have harvested my potatoes:

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This week I have been planting lettuces again.  Unfortunately I lost a few lettuces to slugs in our recent wet weather, so I filled the gaps with new ones:

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I then decided to use an old bit of guttering along our fence to grow lettuces in, so I bought some clips and attached it to the fence.  I am not sure how they will grow, but if they grow well then I will be very pleased….I will let you know.

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I have also continued to tie up my outdoor tomatoes and remove any side shoots:

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  And I have started to tie up my outdoor cucumbers (burpless tasty green).  These cucumbers are already doing better than last year:

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My courgettes and patty pans are also doing better than last year too:

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And I have noticed I have my first butternut squash growing too.  I am growing the plant in a large pot this year and tying it up my washing line post as it grows.  This is a trial so I am keeping my fingers crossed it works:

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In my greenhouse the slugs have unfortunately destroyed two of my basil plants and I caught the culprit still eating them!  Luckily I still had a couple of plants left over so I could replace them:

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 However my moat with my radish in is working well…..I found a dead snail in the water and my radish is untouched!

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My strawberries are growing well and I’m picking a few every day:

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And I am also picking my broadbeans as well now:

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So overall it’s been a good week in the garden.

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This week in the house:

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This week I have continued sorting my kitchen cupboards as I never completed this job previously.  I washed all the food containers and boxes and replaced the contents neatly:

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I also sorted all my storage boxes in my pantry too, so I now know where everything is and I feel more organised:

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I also decided to give some of my recipe books to our local charity shop as I never use them…..I feel much better for doing this and my cupboard looks better for it too:

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Now my eldest daughter has finished her A-levels and my youngest daughter had just one exam left (which she took today), I decided to reclaim my kitchen.  My girls tidied away their workbooks and revision guides and I spent the week giving everything a really good clean.

The kitchen has been great for my daughters to work and revise in and I have tried very hard not to nag them to clear away their books over the last few weeks……. but now it feels good to have a clean and tidy kitchen and some order in our lives again:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday as usual.  Have a great weekend.

XXX

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Radish In Guttering & Sweet Potato Wedges Recipe

Last week the weather was so hot and my soil was bone dry.  The greenhouse reached temperatures of 45 degrees celcius and I had to quickly put up some greenhouse shading….this week it has rained nearly everyday and there has been floods in the County…what a difference in just one week!

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Up until the last few years June was always sunny and warm, but in recent years we have had record rainfalls recorded in June and July…..is this climate change or just the seasons changing?

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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This week in the garden I picked our first strawberry of the year….and it was delicious (though I did have to share it with my daughters):

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I also picked our first courgette this morning….we always get excited when I pick the first courgette of the year (even though we know that soon we will be groaning when they are coming thick and fast in a few weeks time).

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I have one last spring cabbage to pick and eat this week….the cabbages have been in the ground since last year so I always find it quite sad when I pick the last one, however next week I will be planting my curly kale in this area:

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Also I will now start to use some of the onions that I am growing….I planted them close together so I could use some of them as spring onions.  The onions that I leave will then develop into full sized onions:

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The rest of the garden is growing well and my broad beans are nearly ready to pick as well:

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My dwarf pea plants are ladened with pea pods ready to fatten up…

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And I have currants, gooseberries, blueberries  and a few plums growing (I can’t wait to taste these when they are ready)…..

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My cherry tomatoes are flowering well in my hanging baskets….so hopefully I will soon have some tiny tomatoes growing.  As soon as I see mini tomatoes growing on my plants I start to feed them once a week with a high potash feed (e.g comfrey which is perfect for tomatoes):

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I have my first flower on one of my potato plants, however I didn’t get around to earthing my potatoes up this year and I think it is too late now as I can hardly see the soil around them.  It will be interesting to see how much my yield is affected….my old friend at my old allotment site never earthed her potatoes up and she said it never affected her yield….we will see.

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The greenhouse is doing well too.  I have cucumbers and tomatoes growing and I spotted my first peppers growing too this week:

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Over the last week in the garden I planted my sweetcorn and pumpkins.  I sowed the sweetcorn in April in newspaper pots and they have grown well, though I am a little late planting them out.  In the space where I needed to plant my sweetcorn was my ‘lollo rossa’ lettuce, which has been providing us with an outstanding amount of cut and come again salad leaves this year and I just couldn’t bring myself to pull them up until now.

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I planted the sweetcorn and then I planted three pumpkin plants in between them.  The pumpkins will hopefully produce small, palm sized fruit that I can roast, but as I have never grown this variety before I am not sure how big the foliage will grow….so it’s a bit of a trial:

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I have also planted some leeks this week, but unfortunately I did have to buy them from my local nursery as I had somehow missed watering mine when the weather was really hot and managed to kill my lovely seedlings – which I was gutted about!…but at least it proves I’m human.

As normal I trimmed the roots to make them easier to plant and then pushed each leek seedling into a four inch deep hole made with my dibber and then I just watered the hole….don’t worry if you can still see the roots as the soil will fill around the leeks as they grow helping to blanch the stems:

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I then covered them with environmesh as last year I lost a lot of leeks to the allium leaf miner:

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Two weeks ago I sowed some more radish.  I decided to have a go at planting them in a piece of guttering as I have read this works well.  I didn’t want the slugs to eat them so I made a ‘moat’ around the guttering in the hope the slugs won’t swim (this was a tip I learnt at the ECO House Garden Forum a few years ago before the ECO house shut)….

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…..And this week the seeds have emerged and so far there has been no slug damage:

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I have also continued to sow coriander, for my windowsill,  spring onions and lettuce over the last couple of weeks and I have been surprised at how quickly they have germinated:

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And finally this week in the garden I have finished planting my remaining bedding plants (I couldn’t plant them before in this area as my wall flowers were still flowering):

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Hopefully they will grow well now and flower soon.

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This week in the home:

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This week I decided to give the basil on my windowsill a good haircut as it was getting too big.  I placed all the leaves in a paperbag and hung them in a warm place to dry.  In a few weeks I will pass the dried leaves through a seive to remove any stalks and put the dried leaves in a jar to use over the winter:

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This week I also started some elderflower champagne…. as there are plenty of elderflowers around on our local park.  I have never made it before and I chose to use a recipe they gave on ‘River Cottage Bites‘.  I won’t tell you how I made it yet as I want to make sure it works…..but it smells wonderful at the moment.

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Over the week I have also been making large batches of food to freeze.  I made pasta / pizza sauces and spaghetti bolognaises and a big pot of soup to freeze in portions:

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I have also been trying very hard to use the herbs that I have been growing….

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I have used them in meals such as omelettes etc. and sprinkled them over our roasted vegetables before I cook them.  I have also been chopping a bit of mint to sprinkle over our vegetables when I serve them.

  It is so nice to have fresh herbs to use, especially as the herbs I grew last year in a different place were a disaster due to our local squirrel population digging them up every five minutes at the end of my garden!

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This week I made some sweet potato wedges and they were really nice.  I made them in exactly the same way as I make normal potato wedges, except I only cooked them for 30 minutes on Gas 6 / 200C.

(The normal potato wedges recipe I used can be found here).

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I cooked the sweet potato wedges to accompany a homemade pizza, which I served with homemade coldslaw and salad.  My sister gave me the idea of making the base with half strong wholewheat flour and half strong white flour to make it a bit healthier and she was right as it turned out really, really nice.

I have written the recipe I used in my breadmaker below…..it makes two large pizza’s so I froze half of the dough for another time.

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Wholemeal Pizza Dough Recipe

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300mls water

2 tablespoons Olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

340g strong white flour

290g strong wholemeal flour (plus some for rolling out)

2 teaspoons yeast

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Put all the ingredients into your breadmaker and put it on a ‘pizza dough’ setting:

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Split the dough in half and put half in your freezer for another day:

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Roll out the dough and and place it in a greased pizza pan:

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Leave to rise for 30 mins in a warm place with a clean tea towel over it.

Spread a pizza sauce over the base.  You can find my pizza sauce recipe here (it’s the same recipe as pasta sauce).

Top the pizza sauce with whatever topping you choose and then mozzerella cheese, either grated or sliced.

Sprinkle with basil and organo to give it an italian pizza taste and cook for 14 minutes on gas mark 6 / 400F / 204C.

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Enjoy!!

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Well that’s it for today.

Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great weekend!

XXX

Why Flowers Are Great To Grow On Your Vegetable Plot…

It has felt like summer has finally arrived this week and it’s been too hot for me in the garden, though I am not complaining as my garden has loved the sunshine at last and so has Judy….

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What I have noticed at our local park this week:

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This year the park keepers have left some grass areas uncut at our local park and for the last few weeks I have seen different wildflowers growing.  These flowers may not be unusual, but on mass they have looked stunning.

It started with the dandelions which are a common perennial herb that are part of the sunflower family.  This is the weed we all tend to dread in our gardens as they spread so easily, but they have so many uses and they really are a fascinating plant:

“Dandelions prefer chalk and loamy soils above a pH of 7.0. It has been found in prehistoric deposits, and has been recorded up to 2,700 feet in Britain.

The flower opens in the morning and then closes in the evening and a flower head can produce up to 400 seeds, but the average is 180. A plant may have a total of 2,000 to 12,000 seeds and individual plants may survive for 10 to 13 years in undisturbed sites”

No wonder the average gardener doesn’t like them!

(Below is a brilliant photo that my daughter took):

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After the dandelions the buttercups emerged coating the field with pretty yellow flowers which are still there at the moment and look spectacular on the field backed by the bright white cow parsley.

I also noticed the buttercups at the side of a busy main road road last week as we were driving home….nature is so wonderful!  I wonder how many people in cars have driven past this display without even noticing.

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But this week it is the turn of the red clover flowers and the ox-eye daisy and the display is the most impressive of all to me:

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I’m not sure if the council are trying to save money by not mowing the grass in certain areas, or if the flowers were intentional….whatever the reason, the outcome is beautiful and there are insects buzzing all around!

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Flowers in my kitchen garden this week:

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Nature manages to put flowers in every little suitable spot it can.  Unfortunately, our allotments and kitchen gardens need most of the space to be taken up by fruit and vegetables, but by leaving a few nettles at the back of your plot and adding flowers in every suitable spot available (as nature does), we can attract many insects to out plots – which in turn will pollinate our crops and feed on the ‘nasty’ bugs that we don’t want AND look pretty:

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Four of the ‘good’ bugs attracted to flowers:

Bees – Flowers encourage bees, which in turn pollinate your crops.  They are active from late winter until autumn, so I try really hard to have plants in flower during all these months.

Lacewings – These are voracious predators as the larvae and adults feed on caterpillars, thrips, mealy bugs and aphids.  They are especially attracted by Cosmos flowers, coreopsis and sweet alyssum.

Soldier Beetles – Unfortunately these beetles do eat the good bugs as well as the bad, but they do help to control aphids and caterpillars.  They particularly like catnip and goldenrod.

Ladybirds (sometimes called Lady beetles or lady bugs) – Ladybirds love to eat aphids, scales, spider mites, mealy bugs, etc. which is why most people recognize these as a beneficial insect.  It’s their larvae that eat the most of the ‘bad’ insects and can get an infestation under control in no time.  Ladybirds are attracted to the parsley family i.e. parsley, dill, fennel, carrots etc.

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If you look closely in the photograph above you can see two bees on my comfrey flowers.  It was easy to take photo’s of the bees as there were so many buzzing around the plant….this also applies to the chive flowers which line my central path and lookgreat at the moment:

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For years I have grown Calendula as they look so pretty and self seed like mad so you only need to buy a packet of these seeds once….and the flowers are edible and the petals look fabulous scattered over a bowl of salad.  This week my first two flowers appeared:

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 I used to grow nasturtiums around my dalek compost bins at the allotment, as these help to surpress weeds nicely….they also provide great ground cover around longer growing vegetables like brussells, spring broccoli and kale.  They attract blackfly so I continue to plant them in my kitchen garden around my runnerbeans as sacrificial plants (so the blackfly stay away from my beans) and as a bonus, the nasturtium leaves taste ‘peppery’ and again they are nice in a salad.

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At my allotment I used to grow sweet peas near runnerbeans to attract beneficial insects to pollinate them, so I get more beans to pick.  This year in my much smaller kitchen garden I have planted the sweetpeas in eight different places to attract insects, to look pretty and to pick a few to bring into our house as they smell wonderful….they are just beginning to flower now:

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Previously at my allotment I lined my paths with lavender and poached egg plants, again to attract beneficial insects that love the flowers.  The poached egg plants surpress weeds by covering the ground and self seeds easily….any plants that I didn’t want to keep would be dug into the soil and act as a green manure…..I really must find a place for some of these flowers next year in my kitchen garden:

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Previously I also grew Sunflowers at the allotment as the birds loved to feed on the seed heads in autumn…again I will be looking to see if I can fit a dwarf variety in my garden somewhere next year too:

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This year I planted tagetes and marigolds near my tomatoes in my greenhouse and along my central path in my kitchen garden as these help to deter white flies.  Both of them are now beginning to flower:

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Years ago when I took on my first allotment I was told I grow too many flowers and plots were for fruit and vegetables.  I am really hoping that my blog inspires other people to grow a few flowers around their plots, as there are so many benefits for the organic grower.

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I’ll finish today with a few photo’s of flowers growing in my small kitchen garden at the moment.  However, I am hoping there will be plenty more still to come over the coming weeks:

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great weekend!

XX

My Kitchen Garden So Far This Year….

This week the weather hasn’t been good, but the plants in my garden have been loving the rain.

Other than tying my peas and tomatoes up and removing the odd sideshoots from my tomato plants, I haven’t really been able to do a lot in the garden.  I have also been trying hard not to do too much in the house this week, so I don’t disturb my two daughters as they are revising hard for GCSE / A-level exams.

So I thought it would be nice to give you a slide show of my kitchen garden, so you can see how it is doing at the moment.

For those who are reading my blog for the first time, I started my new kitchen garden in January 2015 after giving my four allotment plots up (due to family circumstances).  Previously my little garden was a mix of large shrubs and so I dug the whole lot up to start my new vegetable plot:

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You can see from the slideshow below that I have tried hard to fill every space possible in my kitchen garden and I am still growing plants from seed to replace any spaces that become available.  Also (as always) I have squeezed in as many flowers as possible to attract beneficial insects to my plot and I now  have four bug boxes to encourage them to stay in the winter.

I have tried to remember that our garden is a not an allotment, so I have also used flowers to make it as pretty as possible so my family enjoy being outside in the summer…..As well I made sure we have a small lawn for our dog to use, by removing a slabbed area in the garden last year.

In 2015 (my first year) I managed to grow far more than I expected in my small garden, however this year my garden is a lot more organised so I am hoping to grow even more…..though I can still see I have plenty of room for improvement…..but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I hope you enjoy the photo’s.

 I will be back next Friday as usual.  Have a great week.

XXX

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