It’s too darn hot…

I’m aware I continue to be a bad blogger, I have every intention of writing posts, take the photos ready, but time just seems to be slipping away and they never get written.

I am loving the Crimson Flower broad beans, I might have to grow a red pea next year as well.

I have been out in the garden loads, mostly sweating and forcing my children into slave style labour dealing with the mammoth task of hand watering the vegetable patch (the boys love it, obviously, any excuse to get themselves covered in water ‘by accident’).  It really is a chore and I’m not enjoying it.  I hear a break in the weather is due with some cooler temperatures and even some possible rain.  I am wishing for a nice dry few days for everyone’s Jubilee celebrations, but I wouldn’t mind some rain before then.

The Alpine strawberries that line my raised beds don’t seem to mind the lack of water.

I have just been looking at my month-by-month planting lists, I run these lists over from year to year, it keeps me on track and lets me know what I’ve missed.  So far it looks like this:

February

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Chillies
  • Aubergines
  • Broad Beans
  • Carrots
  • Beetroot
  • Shallots
  • Potatoes (start chitting)
From the above list, I am missing the beetroot and carrots, which refused to germinate, I think due to my intermittent watering and the odd early temperatures.  The aubergines are there but they aren’t much above seedling stage.

March

  • Cucumbers
  • Courgettes
  • Spring Onions
  • Spinach
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Lettuce
  • Radish
  • Turnip
  • Beetroot
  • Pak Choi
  • Herbs
I am missing loads from this list: parsnips, radish, turnip, beetroot and pak choi have not germinated, again due to lack of attention, or where they did germinate they were eaten by slugs when still only tiny.  What a bad gardener 😉

April

  • Melons
  • Squash
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • French Beans
  • Barlotto Beans
  • Carrots (2nd sowing)
  • Sweetcorn
  • Salad (2nd sowing)
  • Herbs (any not already planted)

Again, I’m missing quite a few: melons, chard, kale, broccoli, french beans, barlotto beans, carrots and from all my sweetcorn only 7 are growing, probably not enough to wind pollinate the cobs.  Oh dear.

I still have time to catch up on a few of the missing things, others I will leave until the cooler temperatures of late summer now.  I have pretty much decided with the hose pipe ban in place, there is no point trying to be too ambitious, I would rather have a few good crops then loads that haven’t grown well.

On a slightly separate note, another reason I haven’t been blogging much is a mixture of tiredness and illness, we haven’t had much of a break around here.  I am fighting off a cold at the moment but managed a rare food shop today (I normally relay in fabulous Ocado to deliver) and am treating myself to some trout fillets for tea.  As M eats at work and the boys much earlier than me, I often don’t cook a big evening meal but I do eat a lot of fish, I made a quick cucumber salad to go on the side, as I had a craving for it.

I’ve mentioned a variant of this recipe before but this is slightly more like the Wagamama cucumber dressing which we also eat a lot, only made my way.  It’s a simple mix of equal quantities of water, rice vinegar with half the measurement of sugar (so today I have 60ml vinegar, 60 ml water and 30g sugar), heated with a couple of slices of fresh ginger and a crushed clove of garlic.  You then allow the mixture to cool and strain it over thinly sliced cucumbers and leave in the fridge for at least an hour.  I’ve added mint, coriander and a sliced spring onion, you can also add some chillies.  In the Wagamama version you make a much larger quantity and grate the cucumber into it then use this as a dressing, storing it in the fridge for up to a week, it’s delicious with salmon and some raw style vegetable salad.

Typical, having spent an hour today lugging water back and forth, it looks like there is a very slim change of rain tonight (it isn’t forecast but it’s starting to look very dark out there).  Oh well, at least my arms have had a work out 🙂

Wild Garlic…

We went for a walk around  Groombridge Place, near Tunbridge Wells again at the weekend, in fact we’ve taken seasonal tickets this year as it’s a family favourite.  The main house was used in the Keira Knightly version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as the Bennets’ home, you can’t go into the house, only the formal gardens (which includes a maze the boys love) but the woods are open and have a fantastic series of things to do, such as a 400m long boardwalk among the trees, giant swings that hang off very high branches and a pirate house.

We were lucky to catch the bluebells giving a spectacular show and sitting alongside were masses of wild garlic.

I think wild garlic is very much a hit or miss thing, you either love the smell or loath it; me I love it, it reminds of the woods near our family home, especially when the air is slightly damp, as it is every day right now 😉

I’ve been hoping to make the wild garlic muffins from River Cottage Handbook No 8 – Cakes,  for a while, I only recently bought the book but it’s already a favourite and my Sister had recommended trying out the muffins last year (she has lots of wild garlic growing on her land).  Wild garlic grows all over the place around here, so I braved the nettles in the scrubland near our house and picked a few leaves.

Please excuse the bad photo, I took  this late on Sunday on my iphone as I was trying to tidy away the Sunday lunch, but I can promise you they were delicious and it got me thinking of other things you might make using wild garlic.  I checked out the BBC Food website and there are 193 recipes using wild garlic, I also noticed that River Cottage website have this wild garlic pesto recipe which sounds delicious, especially if it freezes well (as suggested), I also like the idea of scrambled eggs with wild garlic and even wild Welsh rarebit.  The muffins, I should add, give an instant smell of wild garlic woods when you tear them open – delicious!

It’s taken me so long to publish this post (written on Monday) that since then I have managed to source and order some wild garlic plants from Wiggly Wigglers UK.  I’m quite excited, I’ve bought enough to put some plants in tubs as well as direct in the ground under our trees, that way if the tree planted ones don’t survive (I fear it might be too dry for them there) I should have some from the tubs for cooking with next year.  Perfect 🙂

Pesky Pests…

Well, following the hose pipe ban, here in the UK we have now had the wettest April on record so it appears the weather can’t make up it’s mind.  In all honesty, it doesn’t really bother me, I love how lush and green everything is looking at the moment and it does make trying to keep the vegetable patch watered much easier. On the down side, I haven’t been out much, the grass is now ridiculously long, and the slugs are having a party, munching all my seedlings.

I have just watered my second load of slug nematodes into the garden.

In case you haven’t heard of them, nematodes are tiny organisms (so small they are invisible to the eye) which are harmless to humans or wildlife, other than the insects that they are intended to kill.  You can get a number of ‘varieties’ eg for slugs, ants, and leatherjacks, etc; they arrive in a sealed container, are stored in the fridge and when needed diluted with water and watered into the garden.

This is my second of a series of 3 packs (timed for delivery at regular intervals), but I was disappointed to see pretty much all my early seedlings have been eaten – carrots, radish, beetroot, turnip and pak choi, all gone.  They had all germinated and were on their way last time I looked (although very small) but I think the earlier slug nematodes didn’t do too well, they need constant moisture and temperatures above 5 degrees C to survive, the early persistent dry weather and hose pipe ban made keeping the garden damp very difficult.

The insane number of rabbits are also causing a few problems, cute though they are, they’ve yet again managed to get through our attempts to rabbit-proof the garden and are prone to eating my flower seedlings as well as the grass.  Luckily they can’t get through the fencing we placed around the vegetable patch, I’d be heartbroken if they did.

As well as the munched seedlings, none of my courgettes have germinated, the mice have repeatedly stolen the planted peas and of 12 different types of squash started, only 2 are actually growing.  Ants have invaded every single one of my large containers as well as many of the raised beds.  I hate ants.  I very nearly ordered a starter pack of mixed vegetable seedlings (at a reasonable cost) but no, I refuse to admit defeat, today I put my wet weather gear on, got out there and re-sowed many of the planned plants.  I WILL have homegrown vegetables this year!

I bought soil from my local garden shop, ready for potting up the tomatoes and for (finally) getting the seed potatoes in.

These have been planted, one tuber each, in my small growing sacks (14 litre), with about 2 inches of soil (John Innes No 3) under each potato, they have then been covered in more soil, with just the chitted tips showing and popped directly outside to get going.  I’ll keep adding soil as they grow, leaving just the top leaved uncovered until the bag is full and if we’re due any cold nights I’ll cover the bags in a cloche or bring them into the greenhouse.

I love my local garden shop, it’s a small family run business, just around the corner, and I was excited to see they had some courgette plants for sale – hurrah! – they are just labeled ‘courgettes’ so I’ve no idea what variety or colour, but they are now snug in one of the large containers, protected by a cloche and it’s one less plant to worry about starting again from seed.