Monday, July 28, 2008
Weeded the main patches, which seem to have couch grass in them? inexplicable - that wasn't there last year?? The cabbages got hoed and fertilized:
Picked some courgettes again. you can see one peeking through the leaves here.Uncovered the strawberries entirely and tidied them up a bit. Still producing...
Noticed the new beans pushing up through the soil. They weren't there the other day:The 3 sisters patch is doing well, the corn has quite big ears and I will have to keep an eye on them, I don't know when they will be ready. There are at least 4 pumpkins growing (you can see one at the lower left of this pic).
I pulled my first beetroot, still quite small but I just fancied eating some! However I am confirmed in my opinion that fennel is a watse of time: it has bolted as usual.
On this picture you can see the beetroot, the carrots (behind the fennel - those are the spring sowed, there is no more than a dozen but still they are growing well), the maincrop potatoes next to the path and behind it all, the raspberries, which funnily enough are not doing well.
It is still a bit wild, but it had been tidied up a little, another barrowful of weeds and grass went out. It is starting to take shape though and I am quite pleased with the harvest so far.
The tomatoes are growing steadily - I had another handful on Saturday, curiously they (the very small cherry tomatoes) are pink in colour and to be honest not that nice. But the bigger ones are tastier and with some more sun I am sure they will ripen up nicely.
Friday, July 25, 2008
All in all I got about 5 or 6 tomatoes including a wonderfully knobbly Marmande and some smaller salad tomatoes.
I popped down to the lottie before work (probably quite sinful, as I was then late) And came away with a fistful of rhubarb sticks, a big handful of beans, some radishes (the last of them), 3 lovely yellow courgettes and a box of strawberries. Not to bad for a 30 minute visit!
This week has been fiendishly hot and I can see that some of the weeds are dying off - the pumpkin vine is also shedding some excess leaf and the ripening pumpkins, green and orange are a treat to see. The melon plants are romping awaybut some of the other plants are looking a bit tired by all that sun. Today there is a sprinkling of rain that should relieve them.
Tonight I will make a big batch of ratatouille and freeze some and I guess make a big veggie bake (mmm did I not give that recipe?)
In a deepish ovenproof dish (e.g Pyrex) I butter the dish then place layers of the following in any order, quantity or combination you like:
- celery (stem or root)
- (I tend not to put fennel, too strong, or cabbage, too all-pervading or aubergines, a bit soggy cooked like this, but I guess you could if you needed to)
Then pour a little cream or milk if you are on a diet into the spaces, or a few spoons of creme fraiche as you layer.
I tend to top it off with some thinly slice onions and tomatoes if possible.
Either cover and bake in moderate oven for 45 minutes or in the microwave on 600w for 25 minutes. In oven, sprinkle cheese on top and uncover and cook for another 10-15 minutes or in m'wave, top with cheese and under the grill.
It's quite quick, not much work and is good when you have lots of different veg lying around that need using up.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Reaping and sowing
First thing was to pull the nets back off the strawberry patch. There were 2 more dead birds in it so I though that enough was enough. Next year I will try and set up something more elaborate so the netting is completely sealed to the ground, but for now I have had enough of decimating the local blackbird population. Yes they seem to always be the same bird, little female European Blackbirds. Well, now they are fertilising the new rows of green beans, just goes to show that crime doesn't pay.
Anyway gave me the opportunity to weed out the strawberry beds at least. and pick about 700g of berries, avoiding the ones near where the dead bodies were, yuck. It was so charming especially as I picked one up (with gloves on of course) and a whole lot of yummy maggots slid out - the bird had been literally emptied from the inside out, in just a couple of days.
In less gory events, I dug over the last patch of empty ground, put away the tarpaulin for a while and sowed the last dwarf beans.
Then I transplanted a few beetroot seedlings that were not thriving where they were, thinning them out. That method seems to have worked well for the other ones so I did it again with the later sown beets too.
Things are really romping home, I gave the tomatoes a bit of TLC, tying up some wayward ones, pulling off a fair few stems that were inappropriately placed. And a good watering too.
Two barrowfuls of weeds got pulled out, tidying up all the edges and the flower beds.
There are now several pumpkins forming and ears are growing on the sweetcorn!! So it really is an early variety!
The red cabbage, sprouts and broccoli are doing marvellously well too, my home sowings! So proud!
And I did quite a bit of picking:
- 700g of strawberries
- a lovely pointy cabbage
- well over a kilo of yellow French beans
- 5 courgettes
- radishes (yes the ones I sowed as indicators for the carrot seedlings are actually ready to eat!First time I have had some decent radishes, I pulled a big bunch and we ate the lot that same night)
- 2 small fennel bulbs (they are bolting so I might as well eat them)
- well over a kilo of second early spuds. I am quite pleased with that variety, "Bernadette", the spuds are quite healthy, a good size and there were about 4 spuds per plant. I admit I was expecting more but on the whole I am just happy that they are healthy.
And try and take some more pictures of the garden in full swing!!
The current state of play:
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Onions, garlic, shallots
Echalotes: 1.5 kg (the best of the lot, Jermor cuisse de poulet variety, but maybe I will do 2 varieties next year)
Brown onions: 1.7 kg - well not terrific but they are better than last year's! More bigger ones and the average size is bigger. A few hardly swelled at all past their "set" stage though.
Red onions: about 1.2 kg although I have already used quite a few. Most bolted.
I can't remember how many I planted though - I believe it was 250g of each. So maybe in terms of yield that is not too bad.
Next year, different plan of attack:
- Plant them where the beans were this year so they have good nitrogen stores,
- Add lots of manure there as quickly as possible (think I will already start that in the soon to be empty pea patch for the winter garlic planting), and really dig the soil well until perfectly crumbly and light, so the bulbs can swell,
- Plant closer together, I think I wasted lots of space in my allium patches.
- Weed them well,
- Use seed for red and brown onions - it seems a far more profitable way to do it,
- Try planting a few at different times and see which ones grow best (especially for red onions, they seem to tend towards bolting)
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Before and after
And July 2008 (still quite messy, I tidied it up a bit since then):You can make a point of reference with that building in the background, almost the same view. It has changed quite a lot hasn't it???
Our 150th message!
A long weekend - the perfect excuse to do things in the garden.
On Saturday there were friends coming to eat so I was actually able to harvest enough to make a nice steamed veggie combo, which everyone thought tasted "garden fresh". We ate a mixture of shredded cabbage, carrots (not mine), green beans, fresh peas, red onions and courgettes.
And salad with lettuce, thinly sliced raw fennel, and red onions from the garden too.
Monday, public holiday (thank you to all those revolutionaries that stormed the Bastille some time ago). Time to dig...
I harvested all the yellow onions, the remaining red onions and the echalote. I was quite pleased with the latter, they are healthy and well formed, perhaps some are a little small. But nice fragrance. The onions are again a little small, I think I will try seeds next year... I asked my neighbour who has massive onions, how she did it, she said she bought sets and did nothing special!!! well maybe just luck then. The onions are now in a wooden box on the window sill drying out.
In place of the red onions I put the sprouts which are really big and healthy, and a few smooth head cabbages that I bought as plants. Very pleased with my brassica seed efforts, all the red cabbage, broccoli and sprouts look terrific. Much cheaper than plants too! In the place of the yellow onions, I put the rest of the bought cabbages and I sowed some autumn spinach.
While I dug up the onions I also dug up about 1 and a half kilos of spuds that were volunteers!! bonus harvest! They were red ones, probably got more there than from the harvest last year :-)
Then ran around the other side, lifted the tarp and dug over the ground, a doddle, it was damp and crumbly, and only had bindweed. However I have found that when covered, the bindweed becomes very white, and its roots consolidate underground which curiously makes it easier to rip up. It will keep coming back but that gives me a head start. I dies off in a few weeks' time anyway. In that place I planted 60 leeks, grown from seed. De Carentan, winter leeks.
Just enough space now to sow a few more green beans and the garden will be full for the cooler season!
Most of the rest is doing well, especially the three sisters, I have a few pumpkins developing, I put a little straw under them to protect their little botties and the beans and corn are splendid - the corn is about 120 cm high but is already developing bearded bits! which I think means cobs will soon follow. That is definitely a good idea, I will do that again next year! and since that area was heavily manured this year, I think it will make a splendid patch for the alliums at the end of the season.
I wil try to post some more close ups soon, now that it looks relatively tidy :-) The little celery plants, the red chard, the fresh rows of tiny bean plants, all look so cute and so edible...
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
I had some young plants that needed going out, so I got stuck in but ended up weeding out the rest of the bed where I put them. Typical - I think it is getting couch grass in it - funny thing is I never had that last year??? Oh well, I just dug it out.
I managed to squeeze in 8 new lettuces (green Batavia) around the existing lettuces and next to the newly sowed carrots (a very close look showed me a few carrot seedlings poking up in between the radishes - I sowed them together so I could see where the carrots were). Then next to those and rhubarb chard, I put in 12 celeriacs. The bed is looking nice and full now!
After that I dug over the bed where the red onions were - I pulled out most of them, dunno how long they will keep because 70% bolted - and in their place went Purple sprouting broccoli and green kale cabbage. So plenty of greens for over the winter!!
The tomatoes are getting carried away - the cherry tomatoes have loads of small green fruit, in the next week or two I reckon we will eat some of those! And the others are not far behind, some have good sized green fruit already. I trimmed a few of them but I know now that I didn't prune them like I should and planted too close together. Oh well, I will know for next year!
The melons that worried me are in fact getting lots of new growth and even a few flowers so perhaps I will get a few melons after all. There are at least two pumpkins on the vines too and the first Coco beans (shelling beans) are starting to fruit.
Came home with 4 new courgettes and a big handful of spuds found on a "volunteer" in the onion bed!
Monday, July 07, 2008
Gooseberry meringue pie
For the creme patissiere:
- 2 egg yolks (save whites for meringue)
- 250ml milk
- vanilla (pods or essence)
- 1 tab cornflour
- 50g sugar
For the fruit filling:
- 450 g gooseberries (but you can use mixed fruits of the forest too, I put a few strawberries in to make up the weight)
- 100g sugar
For the meringue:
- 2 egg whites
- 75g sugar
- a little lemon juice if you have it
Also a sweetcrust pastry (either shop bought or home made. I think it suits a small tin, a 20-22 cm diameter)
So line the pie tin with the pastry and blind bake it for 7 minutes. Leave to cool.
Well ahead of time, make the creme: boil the milk in a small pan either with the vanilla pods or some vanilla essence. Then in a bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar to a creamy froth, add the cornflour and mix well. Add some of the boiling milk to this, stirring well and scrape it all back into the saucepan. Cook on medium low heat until the mixture is well thickened. Leave to cool completely.
Now make the fruit filling: put the fruit and sugar on low heat until the sugar melts and the fruits starts to leak juice, then increase the heat and simmer stirring frequently until the mixture resembles a runny jam. Leave to cool.
Last, make the meringue: beat the egg whites till they start to stiffen then add the sugar and lemon juice and beat well till thick and smooth. As I say, I perhaps would have folded in a heaped teas of cornflour, I rather regretted it.
Build the pie: first the creme on the base, then the fruit then the meringue piped on top (it's hard to spoon it on as I discovered).
Cook in a slow oven (120 deg C) for about 40-45 minutes.
Get it out, put it back in
For the picking, I came home with:
- 300g gooseberries, what looks like being the whole of this year's harvest (what happened to the 3-4kg per bush I had read about?) - I know how much it weighed because it went in a pie!
- about 250g of strawberries and raspberries,
- about a kilo of peas - I think this is about the lot for that plantation which dated from early spring. Still, we had three meals out of them so I can't complain.
- the first summer cabbage,
- 2 fennel bulbs,
- about 4 kilos of early spuds - that is the lot now so I am a wee bit disappointed by the yield, I thought there would be more from 25 seed potatoes! Perhaps next time I should cut them up and plant the potatoes in bits to increase the number of plants? Still, the flavour was there, tender and creamy and the skins just slip off.
- half of the red onions. There too, disappointment, they started off quickly, maybe too quickly, I think they need planting later than the others. Lots bolted and they are very small. Still, we will eat them anyway.
- A stray echalote. Much more promising, there were 5 echalots on the bulb and they smell wonderful. I have quite a few bulbs in so I will be right for echalote over the winter. The yellow onions too have not bolted and seem to be ripening well. I weeded them on Saturday.
- 5 nice sized yellow courgettes. I will do those again next year, beaut flavour, firm flesh, and best of all, you see the fruit straight away so picking is easy.
- Our first 3 cherry tomatoes :-) There will be more from where that came from! The cherry tomatoes are loaded with flowers and green fruit.
- Where the early spuds had been, I put in 12 celery plants. The ground was still cool and rich so I think they will do well there.
- I shovelled over the red onion patch but it is not quite raked to a fine tilth! I want to put in some celeriac there, I bought 15 plug plants this weekend. I will also put the Brussel sprouts there are the ground is quite compact, having had just the onions in it, and the soil will not be too rich for the sprouts.
- I did a bit of tidying up around the fruits, the carrots, the summer cabbage and the onions, pulled out another barrowful of weeds.
But on the whole, the plants are starting to take over from the weeds, the 3 sisters patch is doing remarkably well and the first pumpkins are appearing.
A friend of mine who has a lovely tidy veggie patch showed me around his plot on Saturday, his carrots made me envious. He very kindly gave me some young plants, he had loads, a bit too many it turned out: batavia lettuces, some green cabbage (kale) and rather daringly, some Purple Sprouting Broccoli, my first attempt at growing that. He gave me so many, I hope I can give some to my neighbour who has been very kind to me. They tend not to grow that here so I will start a trend.
So lots of things to plant this week! Broccoli, winter cabbage, celeriac, some late spinach to sow (I will try it again, no luck last year but I think the conditions didn't suit it), lettuces (and of course not forgetting the leeks). But I think that once that is done I will have set up the plot for the autumn and winter harvest and I can concentrate on picking and keeping the plot tidy. It is looking very full now, the 3 sisters patch makes it look especially luxuriant. I will try to take soem pics this week for your viewing pleasure.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Rain at last
My friend E gave me some mint yesterday! I think I will devote a bit of care this time, and build a little sheltered patch, maybe near the composter, where it can grow. Everyone else complains about mint but I can't get the bloody stuff to thrive!
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Visual update June 08
And here is a pic I took this week too...it still needs tidying up but since then (this is reposted a couple of weeks later) I have weeded a lot of things and replanted some of the beds, so it looks much neater:
You can see the stakes for the tomatoes, the melons are next to them then some cabbage. On the left further down are the spuds and courgettes. You can see that I have lifted some of the spuds.
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