Monday, 8 September 2014

A redesign

As the year has gone on I've found myself looking around the garden, feeling that I could have fitted more plants in. With a new vegetable patch being created at the beginning of the year it looked like a big space at the time. Of course this was quickly filled a left me searching for more.

The three main plots I use are the large vegetable patch created at the bottom of the garden, the raised beds bordering the patio outside the kitchen and the polytunnel. Also dotted around the garden are various other pots and small beds containing some kind of vegetable or other.

Despite all these it's still not enough. If  I really am going to grow all of my own vegetables with plenty to eat fresh and plenty more to store then I need more space.

As many of the fruit and vegetables outside come to an end this month with many of the beds becoming empty, it seems a good time to reshuffle and this past week has seen me take drastic action.

Like a lot of people I have a shed containing mainly old pots of paint and varnish, a few tools and a lawnmower. With this being in a prime location there was only one thing for it, it would have to come down.

Anything inside that I  need can be stored on shelves in the log shed opposite. The tools can be hung up on nails and the lawnmower securely stored undercover. This is all I need really, the shed seemed to be a dumping ground for things that could probably be thrown out or stored elsewhere, taking it down would free up a sunny part of the garden and give me some much needed space to grow.

Now I had planned to overwinter some chickens on the vegetable patch at the bottom of the garden but with plenty of homemade compost from the ducks and chickens already waiting to be dug in there seems no need. The next lot of chicken that I get will be enclosed on this new patch of land from October to March digging it over, keeping it weed free and most importantly fertilising it. When things start to warm up around April it should require minimal digging to prepare it for planting.

The left over wood will be used to build a new, bigger chicken coop with anything else going on the log burner. Besides I'm always looking for bit of wood to build something or other.

With garden looking like a bit of scrapheap at the moment there's still a lot to do to get things how I want them, but looking longer term it's worth a bit of effort now to maximise what I can get out of the garden in the future.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Courgette chutney

It's been a year of firsts and with a current glut of courgettes what better time than to have an attempt at my first chutney.

After consulting a couple of cookbooks to get a general idea of what quantities I would need I settled on a combination of courgette, apple and onion. Half a kilo of courgettes fresh from the garden and a quarter of a kilo of the cooking apples and onions.

 It was simpler to make than I had imagined, all the above went into a large, heavy based pan with some sugar and cider vinegar. Added to this was some finely grated garlic and ginger and plenty of salt and cracked black pepper. These were just what I had to hand, the variations on spices and  ingredients that can be used seem to be endless. This was all left to simmer with the lid off so that the moisture could escape.
According to the books you can tell when a chutney is ready by passing a spoon through the middle of the mixture. If the bottom of the pan is exposed for a few seconds before it all closes back together then it is ready. The jars should be thoroughly sterilised as the chutney can be stored for well over a year this way. The mixture should be jarred while still hot with the jars having a plastic coated lid to stop the vinegar in the chutney reacting with any metal surfaces.

 Unfortunately for eager people like me chutney needs time to mature. I'll now leave this for at least two months before opening the first jar. With ten jars altogether it will be interesting to see how much effect the maturing has between the first and the last.

Sunday, 3 August 2014



My main aim this year was to grow and eat as many fruit and vegetables as I could find space for.  This, so far, has been largely successful with crop after crop ready for harvest. Growing my own has really moved me towards eating seasonally, enjoying food at its peak, from plot to plate often in less than ten minutes. When I need to supplement my veg patch I have strived to buy only British produce again dictating seasonality.
Far from being a burden this has been a real joy, with the only problem being deciding what to make with the abundance I have found in front of me. At the moment we are enjoying a glut of courgettes as I'm sure many other growers are. The timing of this has worked out perfectly, with the plants in the polytunnel now getting a little tired after giving me crops for the past two months the plants outside are now bearing fruit of a decent eating size.
These have been accompanied by early potatoes and shallots planted back in March of which the shallots will now be left out to dry and should store well into the winter.
My first sowings of peas and broad beans have now begun to come to an end. The broad beans will shortly be followed up by a later sowing extending my harvest season by a couple of months. With limited space however the peas were sown as one group so had to be enjoyed while we had them. This will need to be rethought before  next year as their sweetness and flavour was second to none, mainly due to being eaten so quickly after harvest before the sugars turn to starch.
The next glut will be runner beans, with three sowing in three different areas of the garden they all seem to be doing really well. Hopefully good news for my longest runner bean entry in the local show at the beginning of September.

As mentioned in previous posts the polytunnel has been a revelation with regards to growing tomatoes. I'm still yet to enjoy any but the sheer quantity that are beginning to ripen should make fantastic eating. With sauces, ketchup, chutney and of course fresh to name a few, there are a lot of ways to enjoy tomatoes so the more the merrier as far as I'm concerned.

 Looking ahead the pumpkins and squashes are coming along nicely and should produce a good few meals. This has been a bit of a sacrifice of vital space in the garden and I may plant them somewhere less valuable next year as they seem to be able to grow anywhere. Nevertheless I'm sure they'll taste great and see me through the chilly nights of Autumn.

Today I have sown cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, chard and swede to go in when the last of the potatoes have been dug up. I plan to get some more chickens to over winter on the reaming part of the veg patch, keeping it weed free and fertilising it at the same time.

It will be interesting to see when the veg in the garden runs out and the shops stop stocking British produce in the depths of winter whether there is a massive disappointment in eating something that doesn't quite live up to what I have produced so far this year. Or perhaps more meaningfully something that I haven't planted, protected and watched grow in to something spectacular that livens up my dining table. It's not a day I'm looking forward to and I'm already making plans to delay this further next year or possibly not even have to buy any vegetables at all.