Monthly Archive June 2013

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Garden Update 25/6/13

As we head into summer properly plants are responding to the light and warmth. A classic English summer means the slugs and snails are also responding and the increased foliage is providing places for them to hide. Read More

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Allotment Update, Scoffing Artichokes and Elephant Garlic Scapes in Melted Butter

Artichoke

Artichoke

Just how middle class is that? A nice big artichoke head has appeared which I cut with a 12 inch stalk. Some instinct – perhaps something I read on t’internet – suggested the stalk was edible, and I was right. I scraped the stalk with a knife, you can use a potato peeler, cut it off the head and boiled it. I also boiled the artichoke head. James Wong suggests for 25 minutes but I think that was probably too much. The stalk was really tender and delicious, by far the best bit. During the last five minutes I bunged in the elephant garlic scapes – a scape is the unopened flower bud. I left 12 inches of stalk this time on the scapes and I was glad I did because this was delicious as well. If the elephant garlic cloves are as good as the scapes then I think it may be the veg of the year on my plot. Read More

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Garden update (poppies, a rose, scoffing Kailaan)

My first rose in the garden (with a citrusy scent).

My first rose in the garden (with a citrusy scent).

Foul weather today – yes, get yourself a happy pakamac – but I got out in the weather and got on with a few things. Apart from the slug damage, there are a few things to see including my first rose this year and my first poppies. As far as edibles are concerned, I’m still cutting spinach (real spinach) that I overwintered as seedlings and that shot away this spring. I cut about once a week and it just springs back in a way that the rhubarb chard, that I put in with it, just doesn’t. So apart from spinach’s propensity to bolt, and it is trying to do so, I am very happy with it. It is of course infested with slugs, which in all the wet weather we are having, are having a field day. But I am getting a yield.

The elephant garlic in the allotment are doing very well and I have high hopes for the harvest. The elephant garlic in my back garden however are much smaller. I have a feeling they won’t split into cloves this year. A change of plan may be in order but I am running out of space on both the allotment and here at home. The site at home got plenty of sun during the spring (and some sun in late winter, they were planted in February) but a – now leafed up – sweet cherry is interfering in the hours of daylight available to them. I should take comfort in the forest garden principle of “stacking” – the yield of the elephant garlic may be smaller but combined with the yield in cherries should make a yield greater than elephant garlic on the same space grown in full sun. Unless I’m deluding myself.

Though I am committed to sustainable forms of growing veg I still get the urge to have perfect, massive, veggies like the more conventional allotmenteers. Though I am plainly getting rewards from my plots I am often getting them from bolting chards, overwintered from last year, that have very big stalks and that are very tasty boiled with salt (Oh, I’m too British!). They have also plainly bolted, which to a normal conventional veggie grower is untenable. It doesn’t look right, veggies should be neat, low, and unbolted. I am using them for cut-and-come-again and each time they come back just as strong.

I’ve had some success with kailaan – which is a Chinese broccoli and allegedly a perennial. I picked a shoot and cooked and ate it. It was OK, a little bit bitter, but was tender and a little bit like asparagus. I am also taking cuttings to propagate. A lot of people (including myself) find that the plant when sown bolts quickly and doesn’t produce the thick stems that are shown on the front of the seed packet. I sowed some, I think, in late July or August last year and overwintered them carefully (in pots under cloches next to a wall). I think it is the overwintering that has allowed them to grow the thick stalk. It is its perennial nature that makes me want to grow it, cos I can’t stand sowing seed.

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Mother Leek and Baby Leeks Part Two

Mother leek and baby leeks

Mother leek and baby leeks

I noticed that some of the leeks at the end of the allotment (where I am making a bed of globe artichokes) are starting to clump. Just to make sure it wasn’t just a handful of leek seeds that I had accidentally dropped there, I dug one up to have a look. All the remaining leeks are now sending up flowering scapes, so what remains is no longer for eating – though I did scoff one of the flowering shoots just for fun and it was quite nice.

Anyway, the dug up leek had two baby leeks coming out of its base and were a good nine inches in length with two green leaves and a bulb that was about 4mm in diameter. I ripped them off and replanted them, chucking the mother on the compost heap. Breaking her in two showed that the entire leek had turned to stalk inside.

Of the two baby leeks (bulblets according to the RHS) one had no roots and the other I chopped off with a good chunk of the mother’s base plate and roots. I’m figuring this is the same as planting bulbils or sets, in the sense that when its baseplate touches earth it will send out its own roots. Anyway, only time will tell.

I’m including links to other articles I have done on leeks…

Leeks, and more leeks.

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Elephant Garlic Scapes to Eat While Daubenton Kale Cuttings Grow Away Happily

Elephant Garlic Scape (flower bud)

Elephant Garlic Scape (flower bud)

James Wong says of Elephant Garlic scapes:

“Steamed and topped with hollandaise sauce, they knock the socks off the most fancy asparagus and are a revelation blitzed into creamy soups.”

High praise! Well two of my elephant garlic plants (which are getting enormous) are flowering and I reckon the rest are right behind them. The flower bud is called a scape and I cut these two at about 5 inches and ate them fried. They are not bad and remind me of asparagus with a hint of garlic. You need to remove all the flower buds to allow the plant to bulb up. The bulbs and cloves are the main attraction of this plant and flowering just holds these back. This year’s growing is so much better than last year, I’ve been scoffing bits and pieces from my garden and allotment since early spring and the amount of food is rapidly increasing. Read More

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Trinity Road Community Garden, Easton, Bristol (Updated)

Updated with photographs

Previously posted May 6, 2013.

It was March the first time I visited this garden and the first thing that struck me was the warmth in the polytunnel. Polytunnels are not the most beautiful of things from the outside, but they are beautiful on the inside, beautiful in the sense that they create a fine environment and reward human beings with their marvellous functionality. Like making it feel like the south of France in late spring when it is march in cold England. Their grape vine (inside the polytunnel) was in leaf, an amazing site to my horticulturally starved eyes. There was also lots of mustard and other leaf vegetables in an advanced state of development. Read More

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