About my garden

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Autumn Composting

I spent my weekend in the garden, which is the first time I have done that for many weeks. It was lovely.
I could discern the difference I had made by the end and my garden looks cared for again, if a little overblown. I filled up my green waste wheelie bin but also put plenty of waste in my own compost. 
I found very many seeding weeds around so, of course, they can't go into the compost heap, unless you want to proliferate the weeds next year and they do well enough on their own.The rest of what went in there was big twiggy prunings, perennial weeds and general waste when I wasn't organised enough to separate it.

This is my comfrey which is looking a little sad now. It has some mildew and the leaves are starting to die off. I cut a few leaves to go in my comfrey tower, for a bit more liquid  feed,and cut the rest to the ground to add to the compost. Mildews are particular to each kind of plant and only live on live plants so are safe to add to compost.
There is quite a lot of dry material at this time of year. If you add plant material from the garden which you are cutting down, it's a good idea to mix it up with grass clipping, veg waste, comfrey or similar green waste so you get a good mix of green and brown. The composting will slow down from now on but a good mix will help it on.
The other plant I added, which I have never been able to do before, was tomato plants. I cut some of them down but NONE of them have blight yet. I get blight every year but not usually until September ( they are grown in a greenhouse). This year, not yet! I put it down to the very dry weather. So I was confident enough to add the plants to my heap, which will add a good bit of green.
The problem I did have with them was whitefly. I always grow tagetes in the greenhouse as it is reputed to repel whitefly by smell. This year all my tagetes plants were eaten by slugs. In and out of the greenhouse! Strangely one end of the greenhouse was badly affected by whitefly and the other end not much at all. The Green Grape tomatoes are still producing madly and the plants are healthy so I have left them.

They are more plum size than grape and are ripe when they are a yellowy green. They started late but now I have had baskets and baskets of them.
I have tried to spread matured compost on spare bits of ground but haven't found many yet. I pulled up some courgette and squash plants which had gone over but I am still getting a few beans so don't want to take them out yet. It's a case of waiting and hoping the you have time and reasonable weather to tidy up later. I still have another wooden heap to dig out so perhaps that will be a good Autumn job when I have some spare ground.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Courgette and spinach soup

I've been watching my courgettes and picking regularly but even so two managed to escape my eye and grew rather bigger than I wanted. 
So I made some courgette and spinach soup. I've been making this for a few years and the recipe is below. I started with this but now I tend to just add quantities of each depending on what I have. Most of my soups are made up as I go along, in my pressure cooker. I like to make batches of this to freeze as it is a good way of storing courgettes for winter. 
I made this batch with New Zealand Spinach. (Seeds available from Simpsons Seeds),
 It is a much more fleshy leaf than the annual or perpetual spinach and has quite a strong flavour.

New Zealand Spinach makes a low sprawling plant which does seed from year to year. It takes up more space than you expect. It is quite prolific now in September.
Courgettes are definitely slowing down now but this is good for the glut in summer and is delicious. 
I finally found the recipe after looking through all my books. It is in a very old Cranks book. 

1 onion
1 large courgette
1 medium potato
4oz spinach
2pt stock
1/4pt double cream
Saute onion and courgette until onion is transparent. Add potato, spinach, parsley and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 min. 
When cool, blend in small quantities.
Return to saucepan and and stir in cream and add seasoning to taste. 

Looking at this recipe I realise I have distilled it down to it's simplest. Usually I only use onion, spinach, courgette and stock. I'd forgotten the recipe has parsley and I don't usually have cream. Anyway it tastes good!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Growing flowers for cutting

A few years ago I started growing flowers for cutting. I like to have flowers around and however much time you spend in the garden you do spend more time in the house and so can appreciate them each time you pass. 
I don't always want to cut something from my borders, although I do cut from them, so it makes sense to grow things especially for cutting. 
The first year I tried having one bed but I have had greater success with  growing a row here and there, often on the ends of my vegetable beds. This has the added advantage of enticing in the bees.
These are a few of the flowers I have found to do well and last well in water. 
Sweet peas are always good, of course. They are over now but this is what they looked like a few months ago. 

I did have a smattering of flowers a couple of weeks ago but we have had no rain and I forgot to water them so they have completely given up now. I had cut all the flowers off a few weeks before. I always choose varieties which are scented and they just bloom and bloom for weeks if you keep picking (and watering).
 I still have many things flowering now, in September. No dahlias to speak of, if you have read previously you may remember that the slugs got them. The plants are hanging on to life but not exactly blooming.
However there is plenty more.
 Rudbeckia Rustic Dwarfs. Flower non stop and last well in water. This photo doesn't do the colour justice. 

 Amaranthus caudatus. These are about 70cm long and look fabulous in vases trailing over the edge but they do drop pollen. There are lots of smaller shoots for little vases.

 The same in green. Not nearly so vigorous and much more subtle. 

Cosmos flower from summer to the first frost and are so dainty and airy in the garden as well as lasting well when cut.They are in shades of pale and dark pink.

I often make little posies as they are quick and easy. You only need a few flowers and they can have short stems. I must admit to having taken this photo last year. 

I wanted to go and get more photos today but we have had torrential rain and thunderstorms last night and today has been GREY! The garden is so pleased with the rain though, I can hear the plants sighing with relief. I'll have another go on a bright day.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Garden visit - Charles Dowding - Homeacres, Somerset

I was lucky enough to be free this year when Charles Dowding opened his garden on Sunday afternoon. If you have not heard of him he is an no-dig, organic vegetable grower extraordinaire. Have a look at his website here. If you are local to Somerset you may well have already seen his amazing plot. It is not enourmous but he packs a lot in.
He grows vegetables and salad leaves and supplies local shops. He has written several books and runs courses from his home. 

Great compost heaps, of course. The no-dig method relies on layering quantities of manure and compost on the top of the soil.

Abundant squashes. I was pleased to see that the plants were dying off as mine are looking rather ropey and I thought I had done something wrong. I suppose it's just the time of year. 

If I had to pick out something, the tomatoes were the most amazing plants. They were seven plus feet tall and the stems were thick and sturdy. They are grown up strings braced by the frame of the poly tunnel. All the lower leaves had been removed and there were so many trusses:
All the fruit looked glossy and fantastic.  These are cherry tomatoes.
This garden has been built from scratch, using the no dig layering method, in only a couple of years. It looks as though it has been here for years.
The plants are fairly well spaced apart which is good for slug control and gives them fewer places to hide.

Charles Dowding specialises in growing salads. His technique is only to sow a few times a year and to keep picking the leaves from the same plants. What you see here are lettuces which are still being cropped which is why the stems are so tall. Loose leaf and hearting types can be treated like this.

This garden is obviously meticulously managed and Charles also carries out experiments and trials. Above is a Dig/No-dig experiment. The two beds are prepared differently but planted up with the same plants. The dug bed is on the left. As you see there is very little difference in the size or health of the plants in August. On his website Charles Dowding has complete records of the preparation of the beds and the cropping from the last two years.

I always like the backstage areas. I took particular note that the compost used was West Riding Organic multi purpose. I have had trouble with compost this year and I know other people in blogland have had similar trials and tribulations. This compost looks gorgeous, I stuck my hand in the bag and it felt gorgeous.
 Squashes grown in a hot bed.
More squashes.
Such an inspiring garden. I'm so glad I went and I'm hoping some of the magic rubbed off and I brought it home. The secret is really constant care and vigilance. My problem is that I only manage that sometimes!