Yearly Archive 2015

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Celery offsets, the allotment and the Sharks Fin Melon is still alive.

I planted some celery (variety: Victoria) in early summer which, now it is winter, is huge and only lightly touched with frost. Only a couple of leaves have slightly curled and the flavour is crisp, watery, mild and with a hint of saltiness – ie, perfect! This is a surprise to me as the things were bitter and soapy tasting in late summer, but I have to admit I know practically nothing about growing the stuff, I prioritise perennials not biennials, I just had the plants (and the land) spare. Read More

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Greenhouse! Sharks Fin Melon Still alive in December!

I bought a greenhouse from B&Q, a standard 6ftx6ft aluminium job, and it being a clearance sale it was a *really* good price. It was however an experience putting it up – the box had obviously been on the shelf for some time and a snail had eaten half the instructions. But it was a good price and I pride myself on building Ikea furniture so a lump of glass and aluminium was not going to pose me too many problems. Well, it has been 2 and a half days and I still have 4 panes of glass to go in and I need to fix the door because all the ball bearings fell out of one of the runners. It would have been quicker if half the glass wasn’t smashed in the packs and the instructions for glazing that I was promised in the frame instructions would be in the glazing packs, were actually in the glazing packs. But trial and error, a modicum of resourcefulness and the thing is mostly up. It is enormous and dominates our garden in a way I didn’t really want it to, but once the thing is bursting with melons, cucumbers, tomatoes and chillis I will soon get over it. Read More

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Sharks Fin Melon, the hardier squash

The Sharks Fin Melon is not sweet as you would expect from a melon, it has more of a taste of cucumber, slightly sweet when raw and almost completely tasteless when cooked. It does provide bulk in your soups and stews and I like the texture which James Wong assures us is the same as the actual fin of a shark. Even better, the skin and seeds aren’t hard (and I’ve been picking them even up to this evening) so you can just chop them up like a courgette or cucumber and bung them in the pan. Add stock, garlic and other flavourful ingredients and it makes a decent amount of bulk and quick to prepare too. In fact it is the speed of preparation that endears this squash to me, it is easy to reach for and use and doesn’t require the finger endangering knife skills of say a mature Crown Prince. Read More

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Harvest 83 kg so far, more welsh onion stuff and leek bulbils (pips / grass)

83 kilos! That’s double the yield of last year in my little urban plot and without importing fertiliser or ┬ámanure. I felt a bit embarrassed about posting that I was calling my backyard a food forest but the fruit trees and veg polyculture seem to be working. About 20kgs were pears and 8kg cherries, which is a significant haul, and amongst the veggies the most significant heavyweights were the squashes. 83 kilos is not the greatest yield possible on this site, inorganic fertilisers would produce much more, even a few barrow loads of horse manure would too. But the fact I have not contributed to wasting fossil fuels on my garden – and in fact have reduced wastage by recycling scraps and cardboard from the house into the garden veggies – means I am very happy with what I have achieved. Read More

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Skirret harvest, dividing welsh onions and runner beans as a nitrogen fixer

IMAG0081I’ve been looking at my skirret for some time now and it is starting to look bedraggled. Soon all its top growth will die back (it is a herbaceous perennial) and it will overwinter if left alone. But I grow it to eat its roots, which taste somewhere between a carrot and a potato with the texture of parsnip. I like this root vegetable, it is an Olde English veg that it seems only Americans eat. Read More

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Nearly the end of the season and 63 kilos so far!

63 Kilos of produce from the back garden this year so far. And there is still several kilos of pears, a couple of squashes, some leaves here and there, and some beans to come. This means I have had a third more produce than last year and that is despite a horribly wet and cold summer and a disastrous non crop of tomatoes. Read More

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30 kg harvest with 7.9kg of Cherries!

White roses and cold frame 17-7-2015My teeth hurt from all the cherries I’ve been eating, so many I’m a bit sick of them. I let them go a little bit longer than I should’ve done and many were splitting but what a taste. A week earlier would’ve been optimal but like many things timing is important. I am also now eating the blueberries and the extra time I have left them on the bush I believe has made them bigger, I think. I have improved the watering and feeding regime though, so that might be it. Many people rate blueberries as the best fruit but they came nowhere near as lovely as the cherries in my garden. Read More

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Finally summer heat and the garden takes off

Yes it was rainy today (and mercifully cooler) but the last two days have been very hot and finally my second season plants take off. Those squash and chili plants that have spent two months in the doldrums put on a spurt of speed, so much so I can practically see them growing before my eyes. I say second season because for the gardener there are two main growing times of the year (arguably three). Read More

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19.5 kg of food from my tiny backyard so far this year and it’s only the end of June

19.5 kg is a nice tidy amount so far and I am really chuffed. I was so gobsmacked I rechecked my figures. I’ve given up trying to find perennial alternatives to our usual annual veg and it shows in the productivity. I am however trying to use sustainable alternatives to the usual treadmill of buying seed, sowing it and then eating it which has within it no┬áreal sensitivity towards where seed comes from and the cycle of vegetable life. Read More

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First proper crop (including a kilo of cherries) and why I am digging at the allotment

Late June is an exciting time to be a gardener – I’m reaping the rewards of all that hard work. Especially the allotment: the soil is somewhere between a loam and clay, the subsoil is hard clay so I might be benefitting from decades or even centuries of soil improvement. It used to be an orchard, before it became a working class housing estate and then I assume it was set aside for allotments. In many ways it is sad to see old gloucestershire’s indigenous agroforestry replaced by “leisure gardening” even though I am one of those leisure gardeners! Though my plot is on a north facing side of a hill the plot gets much more light than my back garden. It also (for this year anyway) gets plenty of manure, both chicken and horse, though I intend to make the allotment plot a closed loop garden – like my back yard – it will take a while to get the soil in a very fertile state and the support plants ready to support the nutrient cycling in perpetuity.

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