Tag Archive | Green manures

An Onion Trial, Tomato Soup And Freezing Parsley

Hi all, I hope you had a good weekend.

Since the New Year, I have only been blogging twice a week and I am finding it really hard to cover everything I actually do in just two posts a week.  So I try and cover as much as possible, but I do miss out a lot, so I would like to apologise for that.  If there is anything you would like me to write about, or anything that puzzles you, please let me know.

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The weather was good here yesterday, so I managed to dig up two more rows of potatoes and dry them ready for storing.  These potatoes are a variety called ‘Piccasso’ which I have grown a lot over the years.  They are great for roasting, mashing and baking and I find they boil and hold their shape well.  So they are a good all rounder, which are great for storing over the winter.

My potatoes drying in the sun

My potatoes drying in the sun

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A couple of weeks ago, I took up my over-wintering onions.   This is a job I usually do in July, but this is another crop that was behind due to the cold spring we had.

My over-wintering onions last year didn’t do very well at all, due to an attack of the ‘allium leaf miner’.  So in autumn last year, I planted seed sown over-wintering onions (rather than sets), in the hope that they would grow stronger than the sets I usually plant.  I also covered them in environmesh to protect them.

My onions growing under environmesh

My onions growing under environmesh

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The allium leaf miner is a pest that was only detected in Britain in 2002.  It has been spreading rapidly since and spread to many places in the Midlands for the first time two years ago. 

The allium leaf miner isn’t choosy which allium it attacks.  Alliums include onions, leeks, garlic and shallots.

You can read more about the pest here.

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I am really pleased with the results, as none of them suffered from the allium leaf miner and this year I have lovely, large onions, which are now drying in my mini greenhouse ready for use:

My onions drying in my mini-greenhouse

I will use my over-wintering onions first, as they don’t store for as long as summer onions do.  I usually chop them up and freeze them, ready to use when my summer onions have ran out.  However, as it’s been such a good growing year, I am struggling with space in my freezers.

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Yesterday, I also managed to pull up my summer onions.  I planted a variety of onions this year so I could compare them and find out if one variety was more resistant to the allium leaf miner than the others, as my summer onions also suffered badly last year from this new pest.

  I sowed some seeds back in January called Bedfordshire Champion and in March I planted two different varieties of onions sets, one variety called ‘Sturon‘ and another called ‘Turbo‘.  Incidentally, both of these onion sets have been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

My onion patch at the beginning of July

My onion patch at the beginning of July

The results (drumroll please)…..

I didn’t suffer very badly this year at all with the allium leaf miner, even though my summer onions weren’t covered in environmesh.  However, a few onions were affected on all three varieties, so I can safely assume that the allium leaf miner is not fussy about which onion variety it chooses and it didn’t make a difference whether the onion was grown from a seed or sets.

I don’t know yet which onion I prefer, as I need to taste them first and I would like to see how well they all store over the winter.  But on first impressions, it’s definately ‘Sturon‘ that has given me the biggest onion.

I have now set out my onions to dry for a few weeks, ready for storing over the winter:

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Last week I sowed a green manure called ‘Phacelia’ and I am pleased to say that it has germinated and growing well now.  I like using this particular green manure as I don’t need to worry about my rotational beds as it isn’t a brassicca, legume, allium or part of the potato family.  I usually sow it at this time of year in any areas that become available.

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‘Phacelia tanacetifolia’ is good for sowing between March and September and it takes between one and three months to grow depending on growing conditions.

It is a green manure that tolerates most soils, which is why I chose it, as I have a heavy clay soil.

If you leave phacelia to flower, it is a beautiful lavender colour that the bees absolutely love, which is why I grow it in my wildflower area.  The one drawback is that if you leave it to flower it self seeds like mad.

As I am sowing it as a green manure, I will chop it down and fork it in to the soil before it flowers, so it doesn’t grow and become a weed to me next year.

Phacelia in flower

Phacelia in flower

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I just thought I would tell you about the winter salads that I mentioned on Friday’s blog post.  I am amazed to tell you that the winter lettuce (arctic king) and my mizuna have germinated in just four days!  I am amazed by this.  These will go into my polytunnel when I have a space in a few weeks time:

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I’ve been busy in my kitchen this week too, blanching and freezing my crops.  One of the things I have frozen is my parsley.  I don’t bother drying it, as I only really use it in a handful of recipes, including homemade garlic bread (you can find the recipe here).

It is really easy to freeze parsley:

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Start by chopping all the leaves off the stalks and wash them

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Leave the  leaves to drain so the leaves are not too wet when you freeze them.

Pop the leaves in a freezer bag and put the bag in your freezer.

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Use the frozen parsley straight from the bag.  You will find it crumbles easily ready for use when it is frozen.

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My tomatoes are ripening well now, both inside my greenhouse and outdoors at my allotment:

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I decided it was time to make my tomato soup as my daughter loves it.  This is how I make it:

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Tomato and Basil Soup

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1400g ripe tomatoes cut in half

2 medium onions chopped

2 medium potatoes chopped small

2 tablespoons of olive oil

550ml of vegetable stock

2 garlic cloves chopped

3 teaspoons of dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

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Gently heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the onion and potato and soften for approximately 15 minutes, without it all browning.

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Add the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes.

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Add the stock, garlic and basil.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

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Use a hand blender to blend the soup roughly and then pass the whole lot through a sieve to extract the seeds.  Throw away the contents of the sieve.

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Re-heat the soup and serve.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at approximately 4pm.

Have a good week!

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Little Savings That All Add Up & Green Manures To Plant Now

Today I had a telephone conversation with Jim Davis on his Radio Leicester show.  I talked about money saving tips when buying food.

Jim mentioned my blog, so welcome to anyone who is reading my blog for the first time.  I hope you find lots of interesting information.

If you would like to listen to the conversation I had with Jim, you can listen again here.  I am on approximately 40 minutes into the show.  I think you can listen back to it for one week.

I could ramble on for hours about doing things cheaply.  I think some people who are struggling to make ends meet, still buy expensive things from the supermarkets, as they just do not know how easy it is to make things from scratch.  I’m certainly not a chef and as I’ve said before, I couldn’t boil peas fourteen years ago and my friends used to call me the ‘Packet Mix Queen’.

Little savings that all add up:

A few weeks ago, I realised I do little things automatically, without even thinking of what I’m doing and I said I would try really hard to make a note of these things, so I can share them with you.  You can read about some more little things I do here.

Today I realised I do another thing without thinking:  The Way I Do My Washing and Ironing:

I wash most days and I always hang my washing out to dry if it’s not damp or raining. It somehow seems to smell nicer and feel fresher when it has dried in the wind.

I read somewhere, that if the pavement is dry, then your washing will dry and it really works!

I even hang my washing out in winter and if it doesn’t dry fully, then at least it has done half a job for me.

 If I’ve looked at the weather forecast and it’s going to rain one day and be fine the next day, then I wash two loads the next day if at all possible.

I always wash early in the morning using economy seven electricity, to save money.  I also use the laundry liquid I make up myself, which saves me loads of money over the year.  You can find how to make laundry liquid here.

My Laundry Liquid

Over the last few months I have really cut down my ironing, just by hanging things up straight away, rather than leaving them in the washing basket for a while, after fetching them in from the washing line.

It’s amazing as no one in my family has noticed.  T-shirts, jeans, school tops , sheets, quilts etc. have gone un-ironed for weeks and even some of my daughters blouses, just because I hang them up or fold them up properly straight away.

A blouse that I haven’t needed to iron because I’ve hung it straight up to air.

(I know some of you probably do this already, but I didn’t before, so I’m sure there are loads of other people who don’t either).

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Also, I only iron once a week now, as I have so little to iron. Before, I would iron a little bit each morning to keep up, but it takes a lot of electricity to heat the iron up from cold each time.  So now I iron once a week, so the iron only heats up once and just maintains the temperature, after it’s heated up.

Simple little savings that all add up.

I would love to hear of any little things that you do to save money.

(Leave your replies by commenting at the the bottom of the post)

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Today I strimmed and dug in the Green manure that I planted in the summer.

It was Phacelia tanacetifolia.

You can find more information about Green Manures here.

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I have been asked this week about Green Manures.  Therefore, today I thought I’d take a look at the Green Manures that you can still plant now, as it’s not too late to plant a couple of them here in the UK:

Field Beans (Vicia faba)

Field Beans are in the Leguminosae  family (Peas and Beans).  They can be planted between September and November and they will grow overwinter.

Field Beans prefer heavy soils e.g. clay and they fix nitrogen in the soil which will benefit following crops.

The beans need to be sown at 22 grams per square meter for a good result.

(If you are using Field Beans, for best results, don’t forget that you shouldn’t plant peas and beans in the same place afterwards).

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Hungarian Grazing Rye (Secale cereal)

Hungarian Grazing Rye is in the Gramineae family (cereal grain crops).  It can be planted between August and November and they will grow overwinter.

Hungarian Grazing Rye is happy in most soils but it doesn’t fix nitrogen like some other green manures do.  However, it is very good for improving soils, especially clay and it is great to use before a potato crop.

The Hungarian Grazing Rye needs to be sown at 16 grams per square meter for a good result.

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If you are thinking of planting a green manure at this time of year, you can plant both the above Green Manures together in alternate rows if you want to, to improve weed control.

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If you grow either of the above Green Manures, leave them to grow overwinter and cut them down three or four weeks before you want to use the ground again (or if the plant starts to flower).

After chopping the plants down, it’s easier to let the foliage wilt before you dig the plants into the soil.  Grazing rye can be hard to dig in, so you may need to ‘roughly’ dig it in first and then repeat the process again a week later.

I hope this information will help someone.

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Thank for reading my blog today.

 

Back to School and Pasta Bolognese

My two daughters went back to school today after six weeks off for summer.  My day was really quiet without them.

I always miss my girls so much when they go back to school after the long summer holidays and for the first few days I feel like a big part of me is somehow missing.

Back to school

I decided to cook a meal for dinner, that they both really enjoy…the humble ‘Pasta Bolognese’.

I make the bolognese sauce the same as everyone does it, but I use my own passata and add loads of my home grown vegetables.

The homegrown vegetables I used in tonights sauce were tomatoes (for the passata), courgettes, garlic, onion, basil, broad beans, carrots and runner beans.

A big pot of Pasta Bolognaise

(Incidentally, my husband and daughter both think they don’t like runnerbeans or broadbeans, but they don’t know they are actually eating them, as I cook them in a separate pan and then puree them down and mix them in at the end).

No one can accuse our family of not having our ‘five a day’.

The only things I paid for was 800 grams of minced beef and a sprinkling of dried oregano and the dried pasta, so it was a really cheap meal to make.

I made a great big pot full of the sauce and I separated it into three.  One for tonight and two to freeze for another time.

If I need a quick meal one evening, I just defrost the bolognaise sauce before hand and then re-heat it in the microwave, until it is piping hot, and serve it with pasta.

I’m sure that homemade bolognaise sauce is much better for you, than a jar you buy from the supermarket, that has lots of ‘e-numbers’ and preservatives.  A homemade sauce will probably have more meat in it too, even though I padded it out with lots of vegetables.

I mix the cooked pasta into my sauce, as this way the sauce goes even further.

My family also sprinkle a little bit of cheese on the top of their pasta and they all really enjoyed it.

Such a simple cheap meal

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At my allotment today I noticed my green manure is growing nicely.

 You can read about my green manure here.

Phacelia – a green manure

My pumpkins have finally put a spurt on, so at least our family will have a pumpkin for halloween:

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And finally I picked one of my cabbages and I am really pleased with it.

This was one of the cabbages that were attacked really badly by flea beatle in May and June.  I decided to leave them in and I gave them a weekly feed with a seaweed tonic and hoped for the best.  I think they recovered well.

My Cosmos is finally flowering now too, better late than never.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

Bargain plants and Green Manure

Today I used the bargain plants I bought last week.

My local nursery were selling Begonia semperflorens and geraniums at a cost of £2, for a tray of 15 plants.  I bought three trays of Begonia’s and one tray of geraniums.  I also bought three dahlia’s for £1.00 each.  So that was an amazing bargain of 63 bedding plants for just £9!  I was obviously very pleased with this.

Today I set about using the plants.  I planted some at my allotment and the others I used to make up my hanging baskets and pots.  My back garden has been a bit negleted lately and these have really cheered the place up.  You can see them on the slide show below:

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Today at my allotment I sowed some ‘green manure’ on three of my empty beds.  The beds had my shallots in last week and they are now drying in my greenhouse ready for storing and pickling.

A green manure is a plant that is grown to benefit the soil.  Farmers have used green manures for centuries to improve soils.  It improves the fertility and soil structure. It helps to open up heavy soils and improve drainage and in light soils the green manure acts like a sponge and stops the moisture from draining away.

Green manures can also be used to help stop the nutrients from washing out of the soil in heavy rain, as they hold on to the nutrients through their roots.  Some green manures fix nitrogen in the soil as well, ready for the next crop you plant.

Green manures are usually used on bare patches of soil that are not going to be used for a while, but it can also be used between widely spaced plants, e.g. sweetcorn, to stop weed growth.

Green manures are good for predators that control pests, as they are a welcome habitat for them.  Frogs and beetles enjoy the damp, cool ground underneath it.

Some flying pests can be confused by green manures.  If you let it flower near to your crops e.g. under planting brassica’s with ‘trefoil’, this will help to deter cabbage root fly.

When you dig in green manures, it stimulates the activity of microscopic creatures that consume the decomposing foliage, which helps to have a healthy soil, which is good for the plants.

As an organic gardener I pay a lot of attention to feeding the soil rather than feeding the plant, as a healthy soil produces healthy plants.

One thing that needs to be taken into consideration, is that as a green manure foliage decomposes, it releases compounds that can inhibit the germination of small seeds, so it’s best to leave it for a while  before sowing.  This does have it’s good side, as it also inhibits weed seeds too.

 The green manure I chose today is ‘phacelia’, you can see it in my slide show above.

Phacelia tanacetifolia is good for sowing between March and September and it takes between one and three months to grow depending on growing conditions.

It is a green manure that tolerates most soils, which is why I chose it as I have a heavy clay soil.

If you leave phacelia to flower, it is a beautiful lavender colour that the bees absolutely love, which is why I have put it in my wildflower area.  The one drawback is that if you leave it to flower it self seeds like mad.

As I am sowing it as a green manure, I will chop it down and fork it in before it flowers, so it doesn’t grow and become a weed to me next year.

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Tonight I roasted the patty pans that I picked yesterday, together with a couple of homegrown onions and homegrown frozen parsnips from the winter.  I just put a spray of oil olive on the baking tray and on top of the vegetables and they were really tasty.  You can see them in my slide show above.

I served these with pork chops, homegrown potatoes, swede, cabbage and peas.  The only thing I paid for was the pork chops.  Therefore this was another frugal meal and the homegrown, organic vegetables always taste so nice.

It’s money saving to ‘grow your own’, but also living well for less.

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I hope you enjoyed reading todays post.

Tomorrow on ‘Bump the Blog’, I will be featuring another blog that I particularly like.

Hope to see you then.