Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Pea shoot recipes

Pea Shoot and Smoked Bacon Soup

Nice recipes here if you have done OK with your pea shoots.

Easy-peasy(!!) soup for example.  Simplest of all just add them to almost any sandwich. 

Sorry I gave up sharing recipes with you (see top bar of the blog) I can't find an easy way of setting them up to be able to use them easily.  Yet another cyber project on my long list of 'how do I do this?'.

Getting ready for summer.........

Did I hear howls of laughter when you read the heading?  We had a fairly nice weekend - a decent bit of sunshine which raised out hopes for two whole days.  Wednesday today and it is freezing cold and raining as I type this.  To cheer myself up I thought I'd sort photos and look at the sunshine we had.

We got out into the garden as I said and, as usual, we did our own chores.  

 I planted up all my summer pots.  It seems I have seventeen of them not on the watering system.  It is really hard to believe because looking around I can never see more than two or three at a time.  In a way it seems daft sharing any photos as they have a long way to go before looking like anything in particular.  The chimney pot for example should be overflowing with trailing geraniums and lobelia soon I hope.  

There is always the photo album if you are interested in more.

There are sweet peas to trail downwards in hanging pots  on the trellis arch and odd pots of petunias and other stuff scattered about hither and yon.  There are the usual couple of hanging baskets out in the front garden which meant moving the winter pansy pots to the tree.  I also planted my big hay basket under the bay window.  That always looks a sorry sight until it has filled in.

I moved the bulbs which have finished flowering; removing them from their pots and planting in various parts of the garden - front and back - in hopes of another good show next year.  It is always prudent to make a note of them if you are curious as to whether they make it or not otherwise you might just forget what went where.  I am just fine with serendipity.  When they have performed once for me, anything after that is a bonus.

My sister gave me a tiny pot-bound peony last year in memory of the one which grew in our mother's front garden all our years in the house I was born in and the garden of the next one where we/she lived for thirty plus years.  I am pretty sure it isn't part of the original plant but it will serve to remind me of my mom and her garden so I am really pleased it is looking so promising right now: it has flower buds on it.

I think I have mentioned this before - every garden I have ever had has the climbing rose 'New Dawn' in it which is an absolute requirement for similar nostalgia.  The other 'childhood' plants that stick in my mind are a big lilac tree and a positive wodge of purple and white dahlias - courtesy of Pype Hayes Park rubbish tip!  Sadly I don't have those.

While I was shifting plants and pots around my other half 'oiled' the furniture and put it back in its place at last.  We even managed (the next day) to have our first lunch at the table outside; not to mention a couple of cups of tea/coffee and the accompanying sit-downs on the other seat on the patio.

Even the sun loungers are optimistically in place.  A lot of sitting goes on in our garden!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Clearing up

Off to the lotty for the first time this week to do some clearing up.  We shifted the concrete posts and bricks and other junk so we could see the wood for the trees.

wild flower garden before
I cut the grass and pulled up huge weeds in the area from the compost bin to the tree stump and strewed some soil mixed with wild flower seeds.  I am not convinced any will make it, they were 'old' and the area is pretty rough by any standard and they really would be better started off indoors much earlier in the year, but it was worth a shot.  Would be lovely if some did get their feet down.  If it works I will do the whole of the back section in my area next year.

The ones sown this year were:  Love-in-a-mist, Harebell, Oxe-eye Daisy, Ragged Robin, Cowslip.  Aren't the names truly evocative - lying in some long grass looking up at a blue sky in your long summer holidays from school ....

Back to now and reality.  This is the area I described after the clear-up and the seed sowing.  The slab is where a council water butt will go.

The two upright grow bags have a courgette plant in each of them.  They are a bit of an experiment.  Courgettes are shallow rooting but spread for miles so they do best in a large area.  I have only ever grown them in pots.  I decided if I gave them a whole bag to themselves they might just send their roots down instead of out - does it work like this in nature?  I have also planted one in each corner of the mixed bed.  There are salad leaves butted up to them right now but I suspect they will have been grown and eaten by the time the courgettes get going so they can then have as big a space as they need in each corner and hang over the edges of the bed so at least half of the growth won't be covering up valuable planting areas for the shallow rooted lettuce, radish and stuff which will be planted as we bowl along through the summer with successional planting.

I just love theory - don't you?

Ken cleared a bit of the walking around (aka paths) area too but I think I will just blast the stuff with weed killer (carefully).  I am not sure if I want to invest in membrane and wood chips this year to make paths; I am still in the see how I feel about it all at the end of the season mode.

My handy man also shinned up on the bean bed using a plank across to attach the upright bamboo bean poles to the cross bar.  My brains - his muscle!  I had a terrific photo of it taken by Ken, balancing on his plank, but somehow I chucked it away.  This is an over-cropped picture but it might show how we did it.  

Basically they are the plastic clips that you can make a wigwam with.  The uprights are alternated front and back of the centre pole, the vertical being pushed through a hole in the clip and the clip then being shoved onto the cross bar.

Here's the finished construction.

The thinking behind it is that the runner beans just take up a row just like everything else so they don't hog all the space.

From left to right - 
- peas and sticks to grow up
- broad beans (now also planted in a row)
- runner beans
- spring onions
- radishes
- cut and come again leaves
- a courgette plant in each corner

Not bad for 36 square feet - hopefully even more to come.

If you want to see close up of courgettes, and other stuff and how my potatoes and rhubarb are doing, not to mention the bonny compost bin, have a look at the photo album.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

St Luke's plants

About half of these plants are mine.  I am minding the others for a week.  A friend gave me a heads up on an annual plant sale held at St Luke's Parish Hall in Salford.  You get to place an order before May 10th and then go and pick up (and pay for) the plants - this time on the 18th.  They are a great price - £1.95 a box (6, 9 or 12 plants per box).  They are good size, ready to plant in your  baskets/garden and are in immaculate condition.  This was my first year so I was a bit cautious as I had no idea what to expect.  Look out for next year when my order will have tripled and will include a couple of their already planted huge fuchsia baskets for £9 a piece.  I was suffering from plant envy watching all the great stuff being shoved in cars.  Always greedy some folk.  When I get to hear about it next year I'll let you know.  It is worth the drive.  Any of you Bury folk know of anything similar near us?

Just a quick one....

Here are the pea shoots ready to eat and the courgettes ready to go out and the tomatoes just starting.  The latter are probably a bit tardy to do any good???  I think you need to get a really early start on tomatoes up here.  In truth I have never done any good with them.  They grow fine and put on loads of fruit but they take quite a bit of looking after - water frequently, don't leave gaps or they will split, feed well and often, pinch out side shoots and, and and.... then I get a ton of fruit in about September and we leave before they come to anything near ripe.  So, unless I go into green tomato chutney production big time they aren't worth the trouble.  This is my last go this year and these will be kept in the greenhouse full time - lets see how that works out.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Holiday preparations

It is 4.20 am and I am still up and working on Canadian time.  Just a couple of weeks and a few thousand miles and my body clock is shot....  might as well use the time productively!

As I said we have just got back from a trip to visit family in Canada so I thought I'd show you what we do about the garden while we are away.  Anyone who is a serious gardener just doesn't go away from April through September as there is always something which won't wait more than a couple of days.   Even this early into the season I had stuff in the greenhouse that I worried about - I lost a load last year with just a couple of days heat.

We have an automatically timed watering system for the whole garden front and back.  Generally we have to have heat wave conditions for us to turn on the General borders system but it very useful for patio pots and was a godsend when I had the veggie plots at home.  Even when we are here it saves having to do the watering and it is easy to turn it off or on depending on the weather.  Right now for example there is no point in it being on as we are getting so much rain.  These systems can have a rain control added to them which will even do that for you.  Ours is pretty crude but effective.

This is where it all starts.  We have another outside tap on the side of the house and a similar system set up for the front garden.  

Basically it is a battery operated timer which opens and closes valves according to how you set it.  We have divided the water outlet into two so we can attach a hose (long or short) for any other jobs we want to do.   If you look where the trellis is you can see another division.  Each of these can be turned on or off independently of the other so we can water the four main beds or the patio area and pots or have them both on for the whole garden.  It is at least a couple of years since that happened!

This is how it is in the garden.  It is actually invisible in the mature beds; this is the brand new one so you can still see the pipes and the sprinklers.  We use different kinds of heads in different places.

This new space can use the tall sprinkler heads well as there is not much vegetation in the way.

This is how we get water to the boxes and pots on the patio.  The main pipe runs along the foot of the box hedge and has a series of pipes running from it to pots.  The main pipe has dribblers set in it to water the box hedge.  It needs doing as often as the pots as it grows against concrete and competes with a lawn.

This system continues into the roses and lavender squares and on into the arched entrance to the utility area.  As I said this is the most used part of the system.

I do have a few pots not on lines that I move around as I change the planting in them through the year. I have to hand water them now and then but I quite like having a reason to go out into the garden most days for a bit of a mooch around as long as it doesn't involve too much work.

These peripatetic pots come round the side of the house when we go away and are put on temporary lines using Hozelock Aqua pods.

These pods also deliver water to the plants in the greenhouse.

Such a critical time to leave seedlings.

Even the hanging baskets have water delivered.  Again this is brilliant in the summer when the proper ones are in place.  Those big overplanted baskets need watering every day which can be a pain.  The rain doesn't really reach them under the eaves.

Another thing I sometimes forget to do is to open and close the greenhouse door according to how hot/cold it is so, a couple of days before we left, I broke down and bought an automatic vent (£24 from B & Q).  It may well save more than it cost over a couple of years of occasionally frying plants as I have done in the past.  We had just one day to check it was working before we left so prayed for sunshine.  It was duly delivered and the vent opened.  Brilliant.

I am overjoyed to say that after all this shuffling stuff around everything survived without me; even the babies in the greenhouse.  

If you look at the greenhouse photo which was taken the day before we left - the pea shoots (front tray on the right) are now very close to being harvested.  Tomatoes (right hand half of the tray behind) not even visible before we went are now at their two leaf stage.  The courgettes (left hand half of that tray) just poking through the soil in that photo are now fully formed plants and will  be planted out in the next couple of days.  The runner beans (the pots in the green tray on the left) hadn't even broken the top of the soil when we left and are now planted out in the lotty.   You can see they all made stonking progress in two weeks with warmth through the glass and regular watering.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Jobs for May and other stuff

This is really a heads up to say I have several posts backlogged for this Blog and I will try to get to them as soon as I can.  If you are on the list of people I notify by email this is the only post I will point you to for a while.  If you are curious just check back in every couple of days for the next week or so as at least three other posts will appear.

I intending blogging a list of jobs for each month at the beginning of each month... so here we are 16th May and ......   to be fair to me I have been away for a couple of weeks so have missed the beginning of the month.

This is what I will be doing this month - I know there are a zillion other jobs to do in May depending on what you grow but this is just one person's ramblings in the great 'up North' and isn't intended to be a Gardeners World type epic.

I have clumps of primulas here and there that are well overdue for dividing.  When they have finished flowering - maybe at the end of the month I will be lifting and dividing them.

I am making notes of various spring flowers that would work better in another place and as they finish I am moving those.  So far the tête a tête has been shifted.

Everything is pretty slow growing with this cold weather but normally I would be endlessly tying in climbing roses, clematis, Lady Boothby (climbing fuchsia) and so on.  If the month warms up they will all gallop away and need doing.

 I have some white narcissi out right now that are in the 'wrong' bed; when they are done they will be on the move.  It is OK to either move them after flowering or shift them in the autumn.  I never succeed in moving them in the autumn because I can never find them!  What I do now is dig the hole a clump is going in (add a bit of bonemeal) then dig up the clump (after deadheading) and drop them in their new home - they don't even know they have been moved.  Always, but always, let your spring bulbs die down naturally - all those leaves are feeding the bulb for next year.  If you keep tidying them up after flowering they will only last you a couple of years.

That said, tulips never last in my garden more than two seasons.  I would rather grow them in  pots and then shove them out in the garden when they are done to take their chances.  Another May job.  You can see the bottom border behind these red and yellow tulips with some white tulips and forget-me-nots in it.  The red and yellow tulips won't be going there: they are destined for the 'hot' garden out the front, but I do intend to buy a load of white tulips in the autumn to put in the bottom border as I like the look of those.

The forget-me-nots are lovely tiny ones.  A friend gave me two tiny bits of blue and one bit of white last year some time and here they are again.  The white have made it through but are just a smidgen as yet.

If, like me, you are planting bulbs now or in the autumn but have established perrenials everywhere, the trick is to just make a deep slit through the plants with a sturdy trowel - wiggle it back and forth and ram the bulbs in.  I promise you it looks brutal but the bulbs and the plant will survive it.  Most of all this month, feed your bulbs.

I will also be getting my hanging baskets planted up but maybe not put out yet - I'll have to see how this weather is going.

Now off to the lotty......

Any strawberry runners need pinching out.  Broad beans, runner beans and courgettes can be planted outside and you can sow the seeds outside now, if you don't have plants ready to go.  Runner beans like bonemeal.

I would be thinning my carrots out had the pigeons not taken care of them - I have four!!  Thin anything that does need thinning.  I seem to have done well this year at sowing thinly and may get away with that job.  

I doubt my broad beans will be in flower this month but if they were I would be pinching out growing tips - keeps the blackfly down.  I am always in two minds as to whether growing nasturtiums keeps the blackfy away from your beans or actually just attracts them to the area where they then discover the beans.  Comments welcome.

If the weather gets up to a fairly constant 21 degrees you could plant out tomatoes and courgettes.  My tomatoes are at the one inch, two-leaf stage so I don't think they will be going any where soon but I might just risk the courgettes - 21 degrees or not.

I keep forgetting to plant the land cress.  For any water cress fan I can't recommend this enough.  Water cress is expensive and you have to pretty much go out and get it when you want it - it doesn't keep well.  Land cress tastes roughly the same, grows like a weed, lasts almost all year and is there just when you need it.  I will grow it in pots near the house for that very reason - not a lotty veg, this one.

PS:  I owe a credit to the pea-shoot growing man.  He is Darren Turpin and his blog is Backyard Kitchen Garden.  Thanks Darren.