Tomatoes, potatoes and ‘TomTato’…!

We ate things from the garden this weekend, which kind of makes it all feel worthwhile.

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Last night I made pizza, using the first of the tomatoes.  It seems a shame to be roasting and pureeing home grown tomatoes, I feel as though they should be eaten raw, maybe in a salad, but the sad truth is I don’t do raw tomatoes, it’s the only thing I don’t eat and F is the same. DSC_0193Luckily, my youngest LOVES all vegetables so he has been snacking on the little cherry toms – Ildi – which I think deserves a place on my yearly list, as they are cropping beautifully with huge clusters of tiny fruit.  The Brandywine above were roasted as they were a little damaged underneath, where the weight (they are MASSIVE) had pushed into the edge of the bench where I’d propped them to mature, but C is looking forward to eating some sliced in his vegi-burger bap, at a later date.

DSC_0195There’s the first of the plums (San Marzano), these are also cropping well, in fact this year is looking good for tomatoes in general.

DSC_0198 Which brings me to a TomTato update.  As per this earlier post, the TomTato is a tomato plant grafted into a potato, so I should get a crop of both.  The plant was quite expensive so I’ve been looking after it with regular feeds and it’s been growing happily outside, in one of my large pots.

DSC_0201The potatoes are showing their first flowers

DSC_0204and I was excited to see the cherry tomatoes colouring beautifully, almost like the Thompson & Morgan promo photo below…..

8830534975518almost!

DSC_0205My other large potato pot, full of Lady Christl has given us its first meal, I grubbed about and managed to pull out a few tubers for our lunch and they were delicious, eaten with a little butter and salt.  It’s a new variety for me, I nearly always grow Charlottes but these are equally lovely.

The broad beans are nearly over, they are getting a little large now, today’s were blanched and then the skins removed and the beans added to a feta and pea salad.  C had a courgette (zephyr), also from the garden added to his frittata for lunch (the rest of us eat meat, so we had Jerk chicken), so all in all it was a good day for eating garden produce.  If I’d been better organised we’d have also pulled some carrots and the sweet corn is almost ready, but ideally needs a few more days.

Off the water and feed the greenhouse now, and enjoy the last few days of sun, before the rain arrives :)


July Eating…

Oh this is the bit I enjoy the best, popping into the garden with the boys and picking things to eat together.

I was home alone with the boys last weekend and decided to cook a roast lunch.  This is something I’d like to do every weekend, I was brought up with a roast lunch on Sundays and have very fond memories of this family event.  It was a highlight when returning home as a student and even now, when we are back visiting I still really look forward to Sunday lunch together.  I’d love my boys to grow up with a similar memories, especially as like many modern families we don’t spend a lot of time eating together during the week.

I decided to try broad beans from the garden on the boys, we were having roast beef (their choice) and I opted for the old fashioned broad beans in parsley sauce as an introduction for F (6) as he generally isn’t all that keen in any vegetable other than carrots.   This combination really does remind me of home and my childhood and along with cauliflower cheese, and braised celery often appeared on our table.  C (4) was very taken but sadly F refused to even try them.  Shame.

One thing F does eat well are new potatoes so today we have grubbed our first ones out of one the large bags.  These are the Anya variety planted early this year.  We simply pulled the loose soil away from the top of the bag and gently removed enough tubers for one meal, without damaging the plant stems, then we returned the soil to keep the other undisturbed potatoes snug for another day.  We are going to eat them boiled and buttered with some mint from the garden and I am sooooo looking forward to it.

I wanted to include a quick photo here of the Inca Bella flowers, I wasn’t expecting anything different from the usual white potato flowers but I am pleasantly surprised by these lovely purple and yellow blooms.

As it’s such a lovely sunny day we are going to have poached salmon, with the Anya potatoes and a nice salad to include, from the garden;  courgettes, broad beans, peas (raw), mint and feta cheese.  The peas are from the Sugar Snaps that I have let get slightly too big, although at the rate the boys are eating them raw they may not make it to the salad.  In fact this is another minor miracle moment as F hates peas with a passion but has just been converted to raw ones, this along with last years eating corn-on-the-cob, even though he wont touch the tinned variety, do make it all worth while :)

Things I’ve forgotten to menion OR I’m a bad blogger…

Take your pick as both apply.  I have been working in the garden so I’m not quite sure why my blogging hasn’t kicked back in, it’s always slow at the start of the year and over Winter, when everything goes into hibernation but by now I’m usually back into the swing of regular posting.  I suspect it’s partly that I know (after growing here for 4 years now) kind of what I’m doing so I spend less time reading up on-line and in gardening books and therefore less time learning new processes and recording them, not that I know everything, far from it and the good thing is it means this blog is working well as a record as I simply check on what I was up to last year and follow the same.

This is the ‘trolley’ in our kitchen, you can imagine how popular I am, especially as this mess tends to be there for most of Spring as I try to get all my seeds organised and planted out, I’m generally a bit behind but happy with that, I’d rather plant direct this year, when possible.

And so, here are a few things I’ve missed putting down on virtual paper, for the record.

Things that survived the Winter

Spinach ‘Bordeaux’

Planted back in September’s Autumn Planting post, is was the only thing that did take, everything else failed to germinate or died soon after due to a general lack of proper care, tut, tut!

Herbs ‘Thyme’, ‘Parcel’, ‘Winter Savory’ and ‘Mint’.

Although they look a bit scrappy in their pots, they are hanging on in there.

Carrots ‘ Nantes’

Now, these have rather taken me surprise, there were some left in one of the huge containers I planted them in (to avoid carrot fly – which worked like a treat) and although they lost all their top foliage in the snowy Winter we had, the carrots underneath are perfectly fine.  I know because Charlie digs them up to eat each time we are in the veg patch, the container is a great height for him to ‘play’ in.

Kale ‘Cavalo Nero’

Again, a crop from last Summer which I simply never got around to pulling up and composting when it got past it’s best.  I’m glad I didn’t as it has sprung back to life and all 5 plants are producing nice new leaves from the top, in fact some are sprouting so well from the bottom, I think I might trim them down and see if they can keep going..

Parsnips ‘Gladiator’

I couldn’t dig these due to frosty ground and only a few had germinated so they are still there and I forgot about them, they are now comedy giant parsnips.

Things I’ve planted that I forgot to tell you about

The new batch of shallot French ‘Longor’ were put into their beds a few weeks ago.  As per the instructions from 2009, the sets have been planted  in rows about 30cm apart, with 7 sets per row (my beds are 120cm wide) and the tops just poking out.  They are looking nicely settled although I’ve had to net them to make sure the cat doesn’t see a litter tray opportunity.  These are so worth it as we haven’t bought shallots since the first year I grew them and they need so little care, although we do normally have onions in the veg patch as an additional supplement.

I sowed some Broad Bean Super Aquadulce’ a few weeks back indoors and these have now been planted out.  I didn’t bother to do an Autumn planting as quite frankly in past years the final plants have always ended up a bit scrappy, it’ll be interesting to see how this early Spring sown version differs.

In a completely separate note, the Spring flowers are finally coming into their own, it always amazes me how quickly they go from green shoots to full blown blooms so (fingers crossed) there will be some pretty pictures to go with the next post and finally a bit of colour in the garden, for now here is the Fritillaria imperialis which is flowering for the first time for a while, I’ve been getting blind bulbs so I’m very happy to finally see some blooms :)

May Eating…

Quite a few crops were ready in the garden this last month.

The Pak Choi ‘Joi Choi’ sown back in March has a few nibble holes but is still great.

Sadly the Pak ChoiMei Qing Choi’ went to seed very quickly.  One minute it was about ready, then the flowers appeared before I had chance to pick and eat it.  I have checked the second sewing and it appears that the same thing is happening there, the ‘Joi Choi’ is fine but the ‘Mei Qing Choi’ is flowering.  I’m not sure why as I’ve kept it well watered but maybe the very dry hot weather we had in May was a bit much.  I recently put a third sowing in the greenhouse ready to replace those eaten this month.

I have also rather lazily let the Rhubarb go to seed.  I should have cut the flower heads off as they formed (I did the first few) to keep the plants producing nice new stems but we got a bit rhubarbed out, I am finding the flowers quite pretty though so I’m happy to let them be to admire when passing.

The Chard which has been in place since last year is also ready.  It was still a small plant this Spring but after a good feed it’s sprouted into life and is adding to the abundant greens we get to eat at the moment.

Finally, the Broad Bean Super Aquadulce’ hasn’t completely failed after I moved it outside in Winter just in time for the snow.  As I blogged earlier, it nearly all died but a few shoots lived on to produce a handful of beans, and they do taste good!

We should really be eating lettuce and spinach but sadly these crops either didn’t grow well, or have gone to seed before really taking off.  Again, despite my watering they were just too dry and a bit stressed with our super hot May, I have planted some more salad seeds indoors to pop out when they have sprouted, I find it very difficult to germinate the seed  in the beds.  I will make sure it’s in a North facing area and kept moist but it may already be too far into warm weather for any results.

February Vegetable Planting…

On Saturday (before the storms of Sunday) I spent a good hour in the garden, the boys were a bit stir crazy and the weather was good so we went outdoors for a run around.  It always surprises me how much you can get done in a small time, really the veg patch was a bit of a mess and in just an hour I cleared a lot away, dug out quite a few weeds, cleared all the pots and apple crate planters, in general made a mess quite presentable.

So I sowed seeds for:

Corn SaladVerte De Cambrai

SpinachBordeaux

Sorrel FrenchRumex Actosa

LettuceReine De Glace

In four of the apple crates, the last still has Mizuna/Mibuna (as above) that has survived all winter, not sure how it will taste, we’ll try some soon.  Really it’s a bit early to be sowing these but we are due rain and warm-ish weather so I’ll give it a go and I can always cloche them if I need to.  I used to plant nice neat rows of lettuce, in contrasting colours (it looked very pretty) but I just chucked the seeds all over the place this time, one type per crate.

In the pots, I cleared through one containing Parcel, again that has been on the go all winter, I thinned it cut it back and added a lot of new soil so we’ll see if it flourishes again.  The only other pot to survive is ThymeOld English‘.   I now have a few cleaned and ready pots for planting further herbs when it gets a bit warmer.

In the raised beds I started planting up Bed 3 which is normally used for flowers, I have decided to rotate it to veg this year.  So far it has 2 x Kale that have survived the winter but have never really taken off, if the slugs don’t get them they might still grow.  I have also planted out 3 rows of Shallots (‘Longer’) as per last years instructions and finally a row of Parsnip (‘Gladiator’) seeds, these are on their third year and as parsnip seeds don’t keep in theory wont germinate but they did last year so we’ll wait and see.  The dotted lines are spring bulbs planted very deep from when this bed contained flowers so I’m limited to what I can put there, although I may plant some Lettuce or Radish between.

Inside the house all the seeds planted back in the last post have germinated.  I was extremely surprised to see the Cucumber seeds poking through in less than a week!  After last years pathetic attempts is seems the trick is to keep them nice and warm under a radiator.  They are getting a big leggy so will need to planted up soon into bigger pots with most of the stems buried to root more firmly.

Finally, the blooming birds pretty much destroyed my glorious Red Sprouting Broccoli, I have been growing 6 plants in Bed 1 since last year and they were doing really well, I was rather looking forward to weeks of florets but went out one day to find them pecked to pieces.  I have thrown a net over and hope to still get some florets to eat, I swear, I nearly cried!  Also, the Broad BeansSuper Aquadulche‘ didn’t appreciate the harsh weather we’ve been having and gave up, I have cut the stems back to the bottom (as they might sprout back) but today I pushed some new beans into the soil in the hope there will be enough goodness for them to grow.

Buttoning down the hatches…and it’s true, never work with children!

As I wrote in my last post, I have started to tidy through the garden.  I intend to do small bits every day in the hope of getting through the work, I find otherwise there are lots of things I would prefer to do, I am a fair weather gardener it seems!  A while back the two Kales that were growing in the greenhouse were munched entirely by caterpillars, but I left their remains in hope that there would maybe be a recovery, I also planted seeds direct in my huge containers (free after lifting the Squash).  The container ones are growing, slowly, but the greenhouse grown ones have made a good recovery so today I planted them out (one Cavalo Nero and Red Bor).

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I then decided to cover them in the largest of my cloches, to make sure they settle in OK .

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The cloches have been very useful since I bought them two years ago to protect emerging plants from the rabbits.  Sadly I only have 3 left as the boys spent last summer using them as Buzz Lightyear helmets.  I had to wash and disinfect them as even though they had been stored clean, they were a bit green looking.  I also put one of the longer cloches over some of my tender Salvia’s after cutting them back to ground and applying a mulch, they are not supposed to survive the winter, but with a little help I find they do.

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As I had the warm soapy water out, I made myself wash half the glass in the greehouse.  There is very little in there this year, but we are having one of our coldest days today and I suddenly realised if I don’t get some of my pots (such as the verbena sissinghurst pink as above) inside they wont last much longer.  The Broad Bean (Super Aquadulche) as planted in early Autumn are growing well, I usually put them outdoors at this point but this year as the greenhouse is so empty I am going to leave them inside.

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The only other things in there are my sweet peas and a handful of Hardy Annuals for the cutting patch.

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As part of the greenhouse clear out I brought the Amaryllis indoors and gave them a soak so they can ‘hopefully’ start growing.  This will be their third year so I am not entirely sure I will get new flowers, they have been in the greenhouse over summer with regular feeds and in about August I left them to dry out.  I usually then move them into the dark after cutting the dead leaves back, but this year they remained outside, I had also intended to remove them and re-pot in new soil before starting their growing cycle but I also forgot this, oops.  Hopefully with a bit of TLC and some plant food they might do OK.  The three bulbs together are Hippeastrum papillo, which has a number of smaller flowers on shorter stems.  The larger one is a regular white Amaryllis, sadly I can’t remember the name but it always looks suitably fabulous as in this shot from my work space last February.

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Lastly, as referenced in the title, Charlie ‘helped’ me in the garden by pretty much sitting in the bucket of water so I had to abandon my work to get  him indoors and dry.  I left him for a moment whilst I turned off the water and closed the greenhouse door only to hear him running outside looking like this.

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He had helped himself to the gloves I was using and was running around being a scary monster.  Oh well, it was a good excuse to abandon work and come inside to write this post!

 

 

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain…

Well, thank goodness for that, some rain at last and after the builders had roofed our old extension so perfect timing.  What a difference it makes, the garden has sprung into life and turned a rather spritely green which is a nice change from brittle yellow.  Last week I planted out the final seeds for the flower garden, which were the sweet peas.  I have used toilet rolls as I figure they act as a sort of root trainer, I did this last year and felt rather smug with my invention only to find it wasn’t very original and everyone does it.  Anyhow they are in, two per roll pushed about 1 inch down, a mix of Midnight, Painted Lady and the seeds I saved from this years Matucana.

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Also starting in the greenhouse are the flowers Antirrhinum/Snapdragon (Crimson Classic, I think), Centaurea Cyanus/Cornflower (Blue Boy) and Scabiosa (Black Cat) all of which will stay there for the Winter after which I will plant them out, under cloches as early as I dare next Spring so they get a good head start.

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The 3 buckets with Broad Bean (Super Aquadulche) are on their way. I still have to decide whether to put them outside for the Winter or leave them in the greenhouse.  They did OK last year outside in a sheltered spot but they were a big scraggy and wind worn by Spring.

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As mentioned in my last post, here are The Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Red Arrow x 2, Rudolph x 2 & Late Purple x 2) looking rather splendid, oops, some weeding required around the bottom; on which note, here is what happens when you go overboard scattering seed heads

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just a few extra nigella seedlings to remove then!

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Last, and by no means least is a photo of the wonderful book ‘Vegetable Growing Month by Month’ by John Harrison.  John contacted me asking to use one of my photos a while back and in return he sent me a copy of his book and some seeds, I know who got the better deal!  Great book, it’s get every detail you need to grow veg month by month (does what is says on the tin) and I am very pleased he sent 100s and 1000s Tomato seeds as I have been looking for these mini tomatoes to add to my seed collection.  I should also mention John has a super fantastic site Allotment Vegetable Growing which is well worth a visit and has every piece of advice, including recipes you could possible need.

Hope the rain keeps up for a while!

Final Autumn Vegetable Planting…oh and garlic…

The final seeds have gone in over the past few weeks to provide some needed winter eating.  In the pots that had contained the squash I have planted seeds for Pak Choi (Tatsoi – an Autumn planting Pak Choi, about 5 per pot) and Kale (Cavalo Nero and Red Bor, one of each per pot as they need a lot of space) which are sprouting now.  They are  a little later than planned but the originals, which were started in the greenhouse, were munched by caterpillars.  Also in the garden I have seedlings (started in the greenhouse) of Chard (White Silver) now planted out (6 altogether) and finally last week I planted up my apple crates with a mix of salad seeds for the winter:

  • Mizuna
  • Mustard – Green in the Snow
  • Lettuce Cos – Green Oak Leaf
  • Lettuce – Cocarde
  • Lettuce – Marveille De Quatre Saison
  • Lettuce – Red Sails

I think I put in some Winter Purslane as well but to be honest can’t be sure.  I was in a hurry and rather stupidly though I would write down what I had planted where and then didn’t, however I do have 5 apple crates now sprouting a mix of seeds (usually 2 types per crate spaced as instructed on the packet).  This is why I should REMEMBER TO LABEL WHAT I PLANT!!!

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My garlic arrived, as ordered a while ago from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm.  As in this post, I have decided on only planting Albigensian and Solent Wight this year, the bulbs were massive so I planted all the cloves (I sometimes discard/eat the smaller ones in the centre) and they have taken up the best part of two of the raised beds.  This is not ideal but I got annoyed this summer with the garlic being spread over the garden, including in the flower borders so I decided to sacrifice another raised bed in the veg patch.  For the full garlic ‘how to’ post read here.  There is still plenty of time to still order and plant garlic, some can go in as late as Spring but I prefer to give them an Autumn start.

Still growing nicely in the garden are the Alpine Strawberries (Mignonette) which Charlie strips every day.  I am slightly amazed that 5 small plants are providing so many fruit over such a long period, they are a definite favourite and the extra 5 plants I have planned for next year are in place and growing well.  The Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Red Arrow x 2, Rudolph x 2 & Late Purple x 2) planted in the greenhouse in April and then in the bed after the garlic are an amazing size, I had to abandon the Enviromesh as it was rather crushing the leaves so I do a regular caterpillar patrol and the pick them off.  The late purple is rather lagging behind but is still doing well.  Also still in there are my Parsnips (Gladiator) which I will leave until after the first frosts, ideally not too long as last year they ended up rather large!

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Today I planted my final seeds (I think, unless I try and dash in some Spinach or some new herbs), Broad Bean (Super Aquadulche) which can be planted now and left over winter in a sheltered spot for an early crop.  Last year I planted 2 per bucket with John Innes No 2, this year I am going for 3, I had hoped to add a scarlet broad bean but have failed to find one and I saved quite a few beans for planting from the S. Aquadulche so want to make sure I use them.

All I have to do now is try and remember to water them!

June eating…

Potato barrels ready for harvesting.

Potato barrels ready for harvesting.

The potatoes are ready, they flowered a couple of weeks back and today I lifted the bottom part of my potato planter so see a lovely white Charlotte potato all ready to eat, so I fished about some more and managed to pull out enough for the boys tea.  I love this method of growing as the planters allow you to remove a few tubers at a time rather than having to turn out a whole bag.  I tend to go carefully though as I feel once you create some space you allow the slugs to move in and eat.  I did put slug nematodes all over the garden (and in all pots) a couple of weeks ago but noticed a few lurking around the base of the potato planters.  It also looks like Early Blight is setting in and I would rather this doesn’t move over to the tomatoes (more on that in another post).

The first glimpse of new potatoes - sorry about the photo quality!

The first glimpse of new potatoes - sorry about the photo quality!

Also ready at the moment are sugar snap peas from the first sowing (March – the second sowing are still in gutter waiting to be planted out).  I am making a point of picking them every couple of days to keep the supply coming, they are so tasty I eat them raw whilst pottering about the garden.  We still have plenty of pak choi which I replace with a seedling each time I pull one up, cut-and-come-again salad and spring onions.  Finally, the first sowing of broad beans (‘Super Aquadulce’ sown last Autumn), have finished but the second sowing from February are ready to take their place.

The boys tea - to be washed and cooked obviously!

The boys tea - to be washed and cooked obviously!

May eating…

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I have just picked the first broad beans from a sowing last September.  I planted 2 beans per bucket (drilled with holes) of ‘Super Aquadulche’ in John Innes 2 compost and after they germinated in the greenhouse put them outside, in a sheltered spot for the winter.  I did a second sowing in April, direct outside in more buckets of compost (this time I am trying 3 beans per bucket – we’ll see how they go) that should be ready for picking early summer.  Next year I hope to find a good scarlet broad bean so I can maybe grow it among the flowers as I think they will look great.  Today’s handful are going into a noodle soup for dinner, along with some pak choi ‘Mei Quing Choi’ that is also ready to eat (in fact yesterday I planted pak choi seeds ready to replace any that I pick in an old gutter laying alongside the raised bed so as to keep an ongoing supply throughout the summer).

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Also ready in the garden are spinach ‘Bordeaux’, mixed salad leaves and the rhubard is still going strong.