Monday, July 28, 2008


Hard yakka

In some steamy summer weather, I did about 2 1/2 hours work on the lottie yesterday.

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.

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Tomato fever

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.

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Friday, July 25, 2008


First tomatoes!

yes I realise that a picture should support this wondrous event but it might have to wait till I have a camera in my hands :-)
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?)

Veggie Bake
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:
Put a sprinkling of cheese on a few layers and season well.
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.

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Monday, July 21, 2008


Reaping and sowing

Phew, Saturday was quite warm and my kids were off to stay with their grandparents so while hubby was off doing that I was down on the allotment for a few exhausting hours. I admit that I did overdo it slightly, I was knackered when I got back (and curiously sunburned - the back of my calves but it stops where my wellies were...).
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: So what now? Well the week is supposed to be hot and dry so a bit of watering will be going on methinks, I also need to tackle the herb bed that has bramble growing once again, cut down some of the flowering parsley, maybe mulch the thing with some grass clippings to keep it moist. Also need to take the net off the goosberries (why did the birds not go for them I wonder?), go and get some horse manure, do some hoeing and general weeding, tidy the place up well before my holidays.
And try and take some more pictures of the garden in full swing!!
The current state of play:

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Thursday, July 17, 2008


Onions, garlic, shallots

Well that is it for the alliums this year. I just spent two evenings plaiting my garlic and cleaning and stringing up or netting all my onions and echalotes (OK slight exaggeration, I was also making 15 pots of apricot jam at the same time). There looked like a reasonable amount but when I weighed them, what a letdown!
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:

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Before and after

While posting some pics on A4A, I found the first picture of my plot! Let's do a little before and after shall we?

January 2007:

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...

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008



Yes yes crazy I know, I popped down after work last night and dug around till 8 pm :-)
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!

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Monday, July 07, 2008


Gooseberry meringue pie

This was how this year's gooseberries finished and it was well appreciated by all the tasters! It is quite sweet, so I have reduced the sugar in the cream in this version. Also I found that the meringue topping didn't go very crunchy. I wondered if I shouldn't do a pavlova style meringue next time, folding in some cornflour at the end?

For the creme patissiere:

For the fruit filling:

For the meringue:

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.

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Get it out, put it back in

That kind of summed up Saturday's efforts. It was a mixed batch between picking and planting!
For the picking, I came home with:
Which gave me a nice little box a bit like this:Now to get onto the hard yakka bit again.
3 sisters plot:
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.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Rain at last

After a scorching few days, at last a bit of liquid relief. The new seeds will maybe pop into life after this good downpour, last night and a few heavy showers today too, and the other veg will appreciate some water, it was getting pretty parched down there.
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!

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Visual update June 08

Will just post a quick diagram of the garden in its current state. As I am starting to get in some of the winter crops, it will probably change a bit in the next few weeks! I will probably replace the potatoes with brassicas as I gradually dig them up.

And here is a pic I took this week 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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