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Green Tomato Chutney

August 18, 2016

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A large limb of green tomatoes was torn from the main stem in error I hasten to add. I spotted an easy recipe from the RHS Allotment Journal and halved the ingredients and saved the day.

RECIPE:

I kg of green toms finely chopped

500 g onions finely chopped

2 fresh green chillies de-seeded and finely chopped

2 crushed garlic cloves

1 tsp ground ginger

Pinch of cloves and pinch of turmeric

50 g raisins

250 g soft brown sugar

300 ml white wine vinegar

METHOD:

In a large saucepan add all the ingredients and stir together. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cover the pan stirring frequently. Simmer for one and a quarter hours then transfer to warm jars. This makes about 2 kg of chutney in four jam jars. Leave to mature in a cool place for at least three weeks.

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The tomatoes are ripening fast in the greenhouse but I seem to have lost all the labels so I can’t say which is the best flavour. What I do know is I’ll be growing more next year.

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A friend who has a fantastic crop of garlic this year separated two bulbs from bunches of garlic bought from a market stall on the Portobello Road last September. I am guessing they looked as authentic and organic as these which came from a market in France this week. The cloves will be separated and planted out in September and I’ll see what happens.

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Seeds of Kohlrabi ‘Delicacy Purple’ were sown directly in the soil on the plot two weeks ago as were ‘Amsterdam Forcing 3’ carrots and there’s no sign of either-yet.

This week the cut flowers are cosmos, calendulas and nasturtiums with a few alstroemeria flowers from the supermarket.

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Herbs

August 10, 2016

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A pot of Oregano on the garden table is scenting the air thanks to a bee disturbing the leaves and flowers whilst rummaging around for pollen. It’s a great herb to add to pizza or Greek salads and will be divided up in Autumn to spread the joy next summer.

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The hardy perennial fennel Foeniculum vulgare can be sown from seed late summer to over-winter in the ground with some protection. I’ve sown seeds in a seed tray to plant in full sun when I’ve cleared the climbing beans. The seedlings should be watered regularly-it’s a plant that hates to dry out.

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Sage is a pretty herb with antibacterial properties which is why it’s been used for centuries as a gargle for sore throats.  Young leaves chopped and added to butter to stir into hot pasta is a refreshing alternative to thyme.  And it’s easy to propagate by taking material from the shoot tip with a sharp knife or secateurs. Trim each cutting just below a leaf and carefully cut or pinch off all the leaves from the lower half.  Each cutting should be around 5-8 cm in length and cut from several non-flowering shoots.  Collect material in the morning when it is at its most hydrated and drop the cuttings into a plastic bag.

IMGP0770 The pineapple sage (above) was propagated in this way-the ends dipped into hormone rooting powder and placed round the edge of a 9 cm pot of damp compost. The whole pot was placed in a plastic bag and put on a shelf in the light to take root. Several plants were propagated last year and it makes a great gift to give away.

Mint on the allotment has started flowering and the leaves appear to have rust. I forked it all up and pulled apart three roots to propagate.  The roots were trimmed and the stems cut to 30 cm stripping off all the leaves. It’s now re-planted with the attached leafless stems spread out in different directions and the soil firmly packed in over the lot and well-watered. Fresh new leaves will emerge on all the leaf joints in a month or so. Oh dear is this a convincing image?

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Masses of summer crops are peaking this week with the first tomatoes now ripening every few days.

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The cut flowers this week are white Japanese anemones ‘Honorine Jobert’, pineapple sage, mint, Alchemilla mollis and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.

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Squash Flowers

August 3, 2016

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There are healthy vibrant flowers on the plants but in the past an abundance of flowers often resulted in only one or two mature fruit. Squash are not self-pollinating they rely on fertilization either by wind, bees or by hand.  And all squash plants are monoecious, meaning they have both male and female flowers on the same plant but only female flowers develop into fruit. The male flowers are there simply to pollinate the female and there are usually three to four male flowers to each female flower.  To identify the female you look for a swelling just below the base where, if successfully pollinated, the squash will develop.  I have to say this swelling was not very obvious and you need to be there the day the flowers open so I missed half of them. If you can identify the female then you can help the process along by removing  newly opened male flowers and gently swirling their stamens against the female flowers and bees were also helpfully busy too on a recent sunny day.  But I resorted to an artist’s paintbrush and in a cavalier manner transferred the pollen relying only on chance encounters with possible female recipients. It seems to have worked and pollinated fruit is steadily developing.

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The dwarf French beans ‘Purple Queen’ sown directly in the ground three weeks ago (there’s still time) are up and looking healthy. I spread coffee ground over the soil so that as the seedlings emerged they’d be protected against slugs and snails and it seems it has worked.

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This week I prepared a seed bed ready to sow Cavola Nero, spinach beet, flat-leaf parsley, coriander, Swiss chard and kohl rabi all in loose rows. When the seedlings are up they will be separated and transplanted in late-Summer.

Several plot holders on the allotment have sown patches of ground with attractive flowers. I love this Californian poppy ‘Carmine King’ offset by pale grey leaves.

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Lavenders are buzzing with bees.IMGP0684

Knautia macedonica ‘Red Knight’ lines the side of a poly-tunnel.

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A huge bed of Amni visage makes a great cut flower. IMGP0692

Verbena bonariensis is brilliant for attracting butterflies and bees.IMGP0696

And on my patch a bed of Cosmos ‘Sensation’ has just opened and the bees are very delighted.

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This week a pot of nasturtium leaves, Alchemilla mollis and Verbena bonareinsis were picked for the kitchen table…

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And a vase of assorted hydrangeas for the hall table… IMGP0718

Hot Colours

July 27, 2016

There’s a lovely mass of orange and red on the allotment this week with nasturtiums, Calendula and the red flowers of the climbing runner beans having a riot in the sun.

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It just needs the tomatoes in the greenhouse to turn red to complete the picture but thus far they’re still very green. But the first artichoke heads are bulking up nicely.

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And the first climbing French beans have been picked.

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The curly kale ‘Kapral’ is in good shape and can be sown again now to provide Winter greens.

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Supper last night made with onions, garlic, spinach and Maris Piper potatoes all from the allotment was a delicious Indian recipe Sag Aloo.

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This image of Agapanthus was taken last year but sadly there’s not much of a show this summer with four large pots displaying just one flower in each.  I fed the pots in Spring but a friend has a spectacular display and she says she never feeds.  I guess too much leaf was encouraged at the expense of flowers but hey that’s gardening for you.

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The cut flowers this week are an un-named hydrangea from Ikea two years ago which is doing well with Dahlia ‘Happy Days’ (a bit short in the stem to use easily) and Allium sphaerocephalum. The allium is great both in the border and in a vase but next year the bulbs will be planted behind and among medium size shrubs to give support. DSCN7047

Mid-Summer Flowers

July 20, 2016

Lavender tends to get over-watered here in the garden and ends up leggy and loose and then outgrows the space. It’s now re-planted in full sun in window boxes on the two balconies outside the sitting room windows.  Centranthus ruber ‘Alba’ a perennial plant that tolerates drought and relies on nothing more than rain water to thrive is in the mix too.

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A row of 3 m high Hydrangea aspera villosa are towering over the garden shed with a huge evergreen bay tree forming the backdrop. It’s lovely and will flower for weeks and I’ll save the flowers to spray silver for Christmas decorations.

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Other hydrangeas are in bloom as the garden enters mid-summer.  This is H. Madame Emile Mouillere which looks great in the bed but also makes a fabulous cut flower.

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All areas are changing as summer moves on with groups of the Japanese anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ flowering and standing in where roses have finished.DSCN7029

On the allotment the last sowing of beetroot has been made and lots of dwarf French beans sown directly in the ground. I never have huge success with this crop but I’m trying again and have put lots of spent coffee grounds over the bed to deter slugs. Strangely they ignore beetroot, flat-leaf parsley and fennel all sown directly in the ground and the emerging young leaves never get touched.

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The Rainbow chard and Ruby chard is flowering so it’s been cut hard back to re-sprout and a new row of Swiss chard seeds sown to get more leaves in Autumn. This was it at its peak about six weeks ago.

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Curly Kale is looking good and will stand in for leaves whilst the chard re-grows and there’s lots of summer Brocolli ‘Marathon’ producing florets now. Here it is steamed for 2 minutes and griddled for 5 minutes before adding to char-grilled courgettes in a salad dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, soya sauce, garlic and honey.DSCN7042

I wouldn’t normally pick Verbena bonariensis in quantity but I needed to move a few clumps when it grew to tall for the bed.  Inevitably since it was 1.80 cm the brittle stems broke so I cut back Stipa tenuissima and alliums to put with it and it’s a meadow in a vase.DSCN7033

Simple Pleasures

July 13, 2016

I peeped into a poly tunnel in a walled vegetable garden at the weekend and this huge clump of flowering dill took my breath away. It rarely performs like this out in the fresh air on the allotment but I shall try sowing it in a corner in the green house next year.

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At home the Geranium psilostemon is looking good and adding much needed pops of colour.

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And a few Dahlias ‘Happy Days’  are dotted around the Cistus ‘Sunset’ making a lively combination. These are new to me and although the flower stems are short there’s a profusion of flowers that go on for weeks.

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I spotted this bee covered in pollen in a magnificent Lavatera possibly ‘Burgundy Wine’ in a local garden. It’s a good shrub for filling gaps and the large flowers bloom for weeks at this time of year.

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Many vegetables can be grown in limited space and in the smallest of containers. These parsnips were sown from seed in a plastic potato planter to flower late summer to brighten up the back lane.

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Allotment blackcurrants, picked this week, weighed in at 2 kilos thanks to the net curtain that kept the birds off. The row was weeded regularly and the three bushes were fed with a fertiliser in Spring.

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The first crop of beetroot was ready too and the healthy and colourful leaves washed and simmered in a small amount of water with a knob of butter.

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The cut flowers are sweet peas from a friend’s garden.

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And in a favourite Indian pot a bunch of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ mixes with the drumstick Allium sphaerocephalon and the leaves of Sambucus nigra.DSCN6959

Mid-Summer and New Phase

July 6, 2016

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The garden changes rapidly at this time of year with the glorious roses now rain-soaked and seemingly over which leaves the palette largely green.  But a forest of Verbena bonariensis is about to bloom in the main parterre and there are pockets of colour elsewhere.  Crocosmia Lucifer is opening with its extraordinary primitive flowers cheering up a shady border under the dark maroon leaves of Sambucus nigra.

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Cistus ‘Sunset’ has been flowering since May and is likely to go on till October and is looking gorgeous.

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Two clematis are filling empty spaces really well. C.Jackmanii below is climbing and mingling with a Vitis purpurea against the wall.DSCN6935

And the herbaceous clematis C. Jouiniana Praecox, with its dark green leaves setting off pale violet flowers, is scrambling through empty spaces at ground level and looking very pretty.

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A blight alert was sent by the site rep on the allotment so I sped down to lift the Charlotte potatoes and all was well. We had our first supper of spuds steamed and drizzled with butter and mint. They accompanied broad bean burgers, available from Ottolenghi’s book Plenty, but my photograph looked like a dog’s dinner so you will have to trust me on that.

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But with a warm and wet summer vigilance regarding blight is necessary and the same for outdoor tomatoes. Greenhouse ones are less susceptible which is a relief since this is my first year and they are looking good but I’ll be checking them regularly.

The seeds of Calendula Indian Prince dead-headed and saved in an envelope last year were scattered six weeks ago are now brightening up the allotment.DSCN6912

And I keep picking this Few-Leaved Hawkweed growing against a garage door in the lane and I rather like the simple form.

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