Posts Tagged ‘home-grown’

Got into the garden yet?

February 13th, 2014

Between the floods still clustering along the Windrush, and the sleet hanging menacingly in the air, you might not feel ready to begin a season’s gardening. But, trust me: spring is just round the corner. If you’re thinking of growing your own this year or even next, then a few small jobs completed in the next month or two could reap big rewards.

If you’ve got an allotment, you probably already have a list of tasks as long as your arm that you know your have to tackle. There are plenty of non-growing tasks, although the local garden centres (usually so keen to hurry onto the next season) don’t have much in the way of spring supplies in yet: trust me, I’ve tried! But you can also already start planting hardy veg like carrots, and broad beans, and even kick off your leafy greens, tomatoes and herbs indoors: have a look at sites like whatcaniplantnow.com for more ideas, and don’t forget that past editions of Gardeners Question Time are available in perpetuity!

If you don’t have an allotment, or indeed much existing space to grow your own, you’ve still got time to build a square-metre raised bed from waste wood (the best garden investment I ever made.) And if that doesn’t suit, then Edible Gardens meet every second Monday of each month in the coffee bar of the Methodist Church on the High Street. They’re a local group who aim to help bring grow-your-own to everyone, with a public veg bed project in the town centre alongside the flowers, and plenty off ideas about how you might, say, share growing space with someone, in return for helping out with digging….

Finally, don’t forget that this Saturday is the pre-season volunteer open day at Cogges. Along with 2014′s first volunteer-run “Big Dig” in the Victorian kitchen garden, there’ll also be an opportunity to chat to existing volunteers from all areas of the farm museum. There’s no better way to learn gardener’s lore or essential skills than by actually gardening, alongside other gardeners, and hearing what they have to say. When you do decide to take the leap and grow your own, a stint helping out at Cogges might give you the edge in that first season!

After all, they might say the best gardening is done with pen and paper in the kitchen; but surely the best result is to have managed, all by yourself, to put food on your plate for next to nothing. 2014 could be your year for doing just that.

Raised-bed cooking: chard pie

July 21st, 2013

It started with a pallet. Sustainable Witney member J-P dismantled a wooden pallet into its component planks, then built a raised bed out of it . Then he turned it into a mini allotment and when you last heard from him in May, it was doing well.

I’m his wife and I’ve decided to blog about the fun bit: turning what we grow into tasty meals!

Picture of raised bed with greenery in it

Our raised bed in mid-June

By early June, the raised bed was a riot of green, with a lot of spinach and chard. (The picture of the bed was taken after I gathered enough for that evening’s meal.) Here’s my recipe for chard pie.

Pie base

100g grated carrot
100g wholemeal flour
100g oats
100g butter
Pinch of salt
Teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

Filling

Chard (and spinach, if you like)
1 onion
A few garlic cloves
1 egg

What to do

Mix all these ingredients together until there aren’t any offensively dry or offensively buttery lumps. “Crumbing” with your fingers helps to get the texture right.

Then press the mixture into a lined, greased, baking tin, roughly 8 inches in diameter. Chill it for half an hour, or if you’re impatient, freeze it for ten minutes.

Then bake the pie base for about quarter of an hour at 200C.

Colander with green leaves in itIn the meantime, gather your chard. (You can easily add spinach to this too; nobody will notice.) I gather mine in a colander so I can wash it in the same container.

Chop and fry an onion and a few garlic cloves. Chop the green stuff. When the onion is going brown, add the chard (and spinach, if you like) to the mix.

Beat an egg and add it to the mix. Turn the heat off as soon as you add it and keep stirring. Add salt and pepper and keep stirring.

Put the mixture onto your pie base. Top with cheese – any cheese will do, really. Then put back in and bake for about half an hour at the same temperature. Then take out of the oven, leave to cool for ten minutes, remove from the tin and serve!

Chard and spinach pie on table

Notes

  • I didn’t create this recipe; it’s adapted from one I came across several years ago. If anyone knows the source, let me know so I can credit it.
  • Making and chilling the base is time-consuming, so I always double up on the quantities, make two bases and pop one in the freezer.
  • While the pie is in the oven you can (with any luck) go out to your raised bed again and get some lettuce for a salad to go with it!

The vegetable garden in April

April 26th, 2011

The soil is warming now, even our claggy Oxfordshire clay so, having dug the garden and spread the muck, it’s time to get serious about sowing vegetable seeds for a succession of fresh, crisp vegetables in the coming months. Here are some guidelines about what to do in your vegetable garden in April.

Broad bean seedling

» Read more: The vegetable garden in April

Rain at last! and other vegetable growing matters

July 15th, 2010

Carrot in July

Rain! We’ve finally had some rain. Every day, for weeks, I’ve been checking the forecasts. Mostly they’ve said ‘hot and dry’ and sometimes they’ve shown rain in three or four day’s time, but that’s where it’s stayed, until today when a gentle, soaking rain started in the early hours. The RHS reckons we are now five inches short of rain and that will take some making up, so don’t let up on the watering as the plants need all they can get. Give priority to plants in flower so they get what they need to form pods or fruit.

Watering late in the evening or early in the morning is best as this means the plants get what they need before the moisture evaporates. If you are troubled by slugs and snails, water in the morning so that the soil is dryer over night and less comfortable for them to slither across.

» Read more: Rain at last! and other vegetable growing matters

What to do in the vegetable garden in June

June 11th, 2010

Pea pod
Now that much of the vegetable planting and sowing has been done, there is a change from the planting frenzy of spring to that of constant weeding and watering. Although we had a lot of rain during the first part of June, brighter weather is in the forecast here and there so watering may be necessary. You can see the forecast for the rest of the month on the Met Office site.

The Meteo website also has a rain radar showing rain over the Witney and the UK, which is useful for planning gardening days and watering.

Vegetables to plant out

Artichokes, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, celeriac, Kohl rabi, leeks, lettuce, peas, potatoes, rhubarb.

Whilst peppers and tomatoes can be grown in the ground, I prefer to keep them in pots in case the weather changes and I need to bring them under cover. I made this decision after last year’s ‘barbecue summer’ forecast. Feeling optimistic, I planted out a lot of peppers and tomatoes only for the next six weeks to bring torrential rain. The peppers in the ground had little fruit and all the tomatoes in the ground got blight. Not getting caught out like that again!

» Read more: What to do in the vegetable garden in June

What to do in the vegetable garden in May

May 14th, 2010

April was a very dry month in Witney and I think we only had one or two showers for the whole month. A rain gauge is very useful in helping to judge how much to water as it measures the amount of rain that reaches soil level. Mine has remained dry for much of the past month, so I’ve been out watering more often than usual.

An empty rain gauge

There hasn’t been much rain this last month!

» Read more: What to do in the vegetable garden in May