Thursday, December 23, 2010

Frozen Food delivery

No, not from a supermarket, but from our veggie patch. Invited to spend Christmas with the mini-Soggies in sunny and snow-free Swanage, we had to go prepared, and not just with Christmas presents.

At first glance the only obvious crops were leeks, sprouts and kale; so I harvested, with increasingly freezing fingers, a tray of Brussels sprouts, enough for dinner on Christmas Day and Boxing Day for the four of us hopefully, that still left plenty more to come. They were swiftly joined by some leeks.

Then it was a matter of hefting snow aside to go in search of turnips and parsnips. I could only find one turnip, but got the bonus of a couple of beetroot besides. Then up came some good looking parsnips, despite the best efforts of the frozen soil to hold onto them. I had earthed over some carrots and dug down hopefully, and there they were, still happy and healthy, so in some of those went too.

Passing piled up snow at the roadsides most of the way here, there was no problem keeping the vegetables fresh on the journey. Now we just need to enjoy them and celebrate Christmas together.

Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year everyone.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Frozen Days

The garden is rather frozen at the moment, but that does give time for planning, catching up and bird watching. There were blackcaps on the feeders this morning, in addition to the usual finches, tits, sparrows, starlings and so on.

One thing I must catch up on is our Potato Day in Drimpton Village Hall on 12th February. It is surprising how many people come, of course Pennards have not only a good range and variety, but also really helpful advice, but it could just be the renowned village food on offer too!

It is also the time of year to browse seed catalogues and dream of the crops to come, oh, and of course to enjoy the Brussels Sprouts and parsnips now well touched by frost.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Frost and snow

Had quite a busy time recently doing more building work than gardening, helping off-spring Soggy, now that's nearly done the ground is frozen hard, so time for a quick post here.

We have a light sprinkling of snow remaining on the ground here, through which I dug some leeks, parsnips and beetroot for roasting and gathered some Brussels sprouts yesterday. The other night, whilst it was snowing, I remembered the nets over my autumn sown onions and broad beans. Last year both crops suffered because the nets, weighed down by snow, stifled the young plants. So went out during the snowfall and brushed the nets clear, so hopefully everything will be OK.

A few days earlier, rather than dig them up (our storage indoors is full of lots of other stuff, mainly out good potato crop) I earthed over the remaining carrots, hopefully I can now just go and dig as required.

The other main job at the moment has been to dig up the blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes, the former have been failing for a couple of years, the latter have been of varied performance despite Mrs Soggy's best efforts at pruning and care.

The intention is to plant new ones, haven't decided which yet, but we'll probably research RHS Award of merit varieties. I will also be attempting to train them to wires, that should be especially helpful, if it works, for taking the torture out of picking gooseberries.

The raspberries will be re-sited too, but I haven't dug them yet, I want to prepare the ground first and move them to a new site straight away and not leave them sitting about, even heeled in.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Edible vegetable beds

Having a daughter with a talent for making and decorating cakes (see her Iced Gems website) proved a real bonus on my birthday this week, when she surprised me with this beautiful creation. I can tell you it tastes even better than it looks.

I have to admit too, that it is much more neat and tidy than my actual veggie patch, they do get to look rather tired at this time of year don't they; thankfully though, it has been a very productive year.

Apologies for not keeping the blog up to date with everything that has been growing there. I will try better, honest!
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Just a couple of things to watch out for - beans and leeks

You may still have some broad bean plants in the ground - keep a sharp eye out for black-fly on them and ruthlessly pinch off any leaves, stem or pods which have any infestation (unless it is very light in which case hose them off) - that applies to other plants too.

When your broad beans have reached the end, don't dig them up, but cut the plants off at soil level as that leaves the roots with their nitrogen-rich nodules in the ground.

Now you can dibber the holes in the empty bean bed and drop your leeks into them (you may need to pull off some over-bushy root to get them to drop right down in). Then don't back fill with soil, just top up the hole to the brim with water.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Early July Harvest

I probed about amongst the roots of a few potato plants about three weeks ago and thought they weren't doing too well (we've had a long dry spell here). Today I took the plunge - or rather the garden fork - and unearthed the first plant of the first row. A variety called Premier - not a bad lot of potatoes from one plant. The other pictures are the rest of tonight's dinner (except for the scarecrow almost lost in the raspberries he's meant to be watching over).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The veggie patch flourishing

With so much sunlight, all the plants have plenty opf growing time, and now that the cold spell is well behing us they all seem to be enjoying life. That cold dry weather back along though has slowed some things up, today I probed under three different varieties of first early potatoes and none of them had anything bigger than a golf ball yet, so better be patient a while longer I think.
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The New Summerhouse

Well, even gardeners have to put their feet up, though painting it seemed to take for ever, the wood was very thirsty.
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Friends down the road at Picket Lane

Generally speaking, if you can't eat it, I'm not too bothered about growing it, that's not to say though that I don't exploit Mrs Soggy's efforts in the flower garden, I also enjoy the enthusiasm of my friend Neil at Picket Lane Nursery, not far away in South Perrott.

We've just put up a summerhouse, and some plants to soften its new straight edges are called for and so we headed off to Picket Lane. Neil and his family are masterful in plant propagation and even I can see they have some wonderful stuff. I think the veggie influence is rubbing off on him too though. He has made available some of his land for villagers to cultivate allotments, not only are they looking very productive, but Neil now has beehives to help with pollination. Last year in this area some crops, such as broad beans were a bit patchy, with flowers not setting and the bees are Neil's answer.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How many pesticides and insecticides are you eating?

My sister-in-law (thank you) sent me a link to a CNN article examining the level of pesticide residues found on food crops, things such as Celery, Peaches, Strawberries, Apples, Blueberries, Nectarines, Sweet bell peppers, Spinach, Kale and other brassicas, Cherries, Potatoes, Grapes, Lettuce. To find out more have a look, here: CNN "Dirty Dozen"

I grow some of those, and everything I grow is produced organically, so I'm quite happy to eat straight from the garden without washing (the veggies I mean, not me!) Organic farming food production has been around probably since the dawn of agriculture, so our bodies are well adapted to healthily produced food; only time (and lots of it) will tell what the long term effects on our species might be from ingesting pesticides and insecticides. Until we know better the consequences, why take the chance, grow organic if you can and shop organic if you can't grow it.

Bon appetit

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Outdoor tomato plants

I always end up with too many seedlings and hate throwing them away, so in addition to the 9 plants in the greenhouse, there are about a dozen outside, here's three of them, variety Ferline, which showed best blight resistance last year.
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Variety Maystar, our first of the year, the leaves eaten with dinner tonight and the cauli itself will make cailiflower cheese tomorrow.
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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Daffodils at Easter

No finer sign is there, that spring is getting under way, no matter that the weather is finding it hard to let winter go.
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Onions and more

The fine netting is protecting over-wintered onions, two types of garlic and autumn sown broad beans (helped along, with gaps filled by spring sown replacements - all Aquadulce Claudia).
In the foreground are more rows of onion sets with bigger mesh netting which is generally succeeding in keeping the mice and other pesky visitors off.
In the background are the potato beds ready to plant them all this Easter weekend. I have prepared trenches, I'll plant the chitted seed potatoes a few inches deep in the bottom of the trenches and then, as they grow, the sides can be pulled in to earth them up.
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Spring, Bare & Barren?

Beds ready for potatoes, parsnip seedlings appearing at last despite the efforts of the mice.
Spring Onion and leek seedlings, and some parsley potted on.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Carrots and parsnips

Whilst preparing a bed for onions and beans I came across two rows of carrots, the last of the succession sowings last year. Of one variety, Resistafly, not a trace, of the other, Flyaway, quit a few useable, not brilliant mind you, carrots. A nice little bonus.

From another of last year's root beds I had also dug up the remainder of the parsnips, last week. Mrs Soggy made parsnip cake, a new recipe, it was delicious - especially round the edges where the crisping really brought out the sweetness of the parsnips. No photograph though I'm afraid - all eaten.
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Potato Varieties

Here is a list of the Potato varieties I'm growing this year (you can get more information about them from the supplier to our village Potato Day, Pennards or from the European Cultivated Potato Database (click on quick search).

Bonnie Dundee 1E (Red Firm)
Premiere 1E (White Multi)
Swift 1E (White Firm)
Winston 1E (White Multi)
Vivaldi 2E (White Multi)
Charlotte 2E (White Firm)
Record EM (White Floury)
Markies LM (White Floury)
Sarpo Axona (Red Creamy)

Some, but not all, have blight (leaf and/or tuber) resistance or tolerance, you never know we may get another wet summer like last year. We have enjoyed good crops and good eating from some on the list prviously, such as Markies and Charlotte. We did well with Sarpo Mira last year and I'm quite keen to see how Sarpo Axona gets on.

Potato Chitting

I have just been doing the labels for a range of varieties of seed potatoes, here they are sitting in the light and out of frost danger, for a few weeks to send out short strong sprouts ready for the seed potatoes to be planted out in April.
The one in the foreground all on its own is Mrs Soggy's one for the Potato Growing Competition.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shrove Tuesday

It's a wet and soggy day here, just as well as i am about to head, not into the garden (where I really, really need to finish off the winter pruning of the apple trees, but into the kitchen to make pancakes for breakfast. Yummmm!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Potato prints on Potato Day

Whilst avid growers picked their favoured varieties of seed potatoes,
young people busied themselves on the hall stage giving us, hopefully,
a foretaste of summer to come.
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Potato Day, just before St. Valentine's Day

Chris from Pannard Plants, with,
in the foreground a heart-shaped seed potato -
how appropriate for a Potato Day
held the day before Valentine's Day!
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Potato Day

The village hall buzzing with life and activity as folk gather from far and wide to make selections from over 80 varieties of seed potato supplied by Pennard Plants (in addition to onions, shallots, seeds and plants from them and also quite a selection of plants from Picket Lane Nursery).
In the foreground are paints used in the young people's activities (though a few adults also had a go at potato printing).
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Friday, February 5, 2010

Topical advice

Now that February is here, the snowdrops are in flower and a friend told me he has seen crocus in flower, we can come out of hibernation.
I have updated the column on the right with information about what we can be getting on with now.
There's still wood to be cut though, I'm off to put a new chain on the saw.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cadbury and organics?

You may well be wondering why there is a picture of a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar on my blog, and rightly so, it didn't grow in my garden, though my family and friends may well be surprised one hasn't appeared here before - I have enjoyed more than a few CDMs over the years - but this is the last one, ever.

The last ever? I can hear a few jaws dropping with incredulity, but yes.

When Cadbury resisted the first offer from Kraft they were derisory about the quality of the larger company and the way it is managed. None of that has changed, but worse still is the fact that, to buy Cadbury, Kraft has had to borrow heavily. There seem to be echoes of the very kind of thinking which beset the financial services industry and from which the world economies seem likely to suffer for years to come. It was possible to identify with the founding ethos of Cadbury, no matter how distant, that has gone completely now and forever, so goodbye CDM.

By contrast, as we gardeners busy ourselves planning for spring in the northern hemisphere, especially those of us committed to organic, sustainable methods, our thinking could not be further removed from that of the people who have melded the new Kraftbury. We know that nature does not allow us to buy off today at the expense of tomorrow, the dust bowl history, the use of DDT, deforestation and countless other lessons reinforce the message that there is no long term option but to work in harmony with nature and build for tomorrow, not borrow against it. It is surely immoral to leave future generations a poisoned earth or a crippled economy, just so we can enjoy some short term benefit.

I'll look back in sadness at the demise of Cadbury and my enjoyment of CDMs, but forwards with pleasure at the prospect of nurturing crops, garnering them in and, above all, sharing and eating the tastiest and freshest of home produced foods.
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Friday, January 29, 2010

The not so humble Potato

This is well worth a read, came across it on the BBC news website this morning:

Time to rethink the potato?

Guess what? Two weeks to Potato day here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hedge Laying

It's pouring down today, though yesterday was rather better so I was able to make a start on laying the hedge which borders the flower garden. I don't think the birds are too impressed, despite me telling them that, in time, it will be a much denser habitat for them and other species.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Potato Day, 13th February

We are busy planning our Third Annual Potato Day, so here is a copy of the poster, if you are miles and miles away from West Dorset, I apologise for putting the temptation before you!

A Walk in the Snow

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A walk in the Snow

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Anyone for a cuppa in the garden?

Still snowing, about to take the dog out for her first real walk in snow, but not till I've made sure the birds have food to keep them going in these conditions.
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Leave it to the Birds

A goldfinch claims the nyger seeds
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Too Cold to Garden, but birds need to feed

A dunnock decides which bread scrap to make off with.
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