Monday, December 30

The Herbs

We still have a supply of fresh herbs. I plant parsley in pots in the garden but also plant out a row on the plot. The pot grown parsley grows quicker and gives us fresh growth to harvest whenever the fancy takes us. The pot of parsley is currently in the cold greenhouse really just to protect it from a battering which will hopefully provide us with fresh green leaves through winter.
The row on the plot is made up of smaller plants but they are looking very healthy and should hopefully keep going after the pot grown plants have gone over.
The plant growing behind the parsley is borage which has self seeded and so far this year not produced any flowers. It's optimistically decided now is the time to produce buds.
I don't hold out much hope of success although the rosemary that we grow in a pot in the garden seems to think any time is a good time to flower. It produces flowers continuously throughout the year - even now!
The sage planted in a herb bed on the plot still is covered with useful leaves even though that growing in tubs in the garden had been denuded.
Maybe I should dry some leaves whilst there is still time - it's something I have never really got into - maybe I should.

Saturday, December 28

Squash and Ginger Cake

We had quite a lot of squash so I was on the look-out for something different to do with them when I found a recipe for Pumpkin and Ginger Teabread

It sounded quite tasty so I set to to convert this ...
 into this.
It took far longer than the recipe indicated to bake and from the comments after the recipe on the website it seems most people found the same thing.

We had a taster before the cake was cold. I thought it was more of a cake than teabread which is why I have called my version squash and ginger cake.
The verdict was that it tasted rather like I cross between carrot cake and parkin. We certainly didn't think it needed spreading with butter. Would I make it again? Yes I would.

Thursday, December 26

Dropping by for Christmas lunch

Monday, December 23

Spoiled for choice

So which vegetables will we use for Christmas dinner? 

Although our Christmas dinner is unlikely to be of the traditional variety we will be eating traditional vegetables. Really this means the vegetables that we have available on our plot at the moment.

So should we choose Brussels sprouts?
For a year or two we seemed to have lost the knack of growing sprouts, then we started to grow a club-root resistant variety - Crispus and since then we've been back in business. As we are not members of the sprout detesting section of the population this is good news. We have been harvesting for a while but there are still plenty left.

Should we choose parsnips?
This year we have pulled some of our best ever parsnips. The variety is Gladiator. We've never had a parsnip like this before.

Should we choose carrots?
Some people maintain that you can't grow carrots on our allotment site - think again!

Should we choose leeks?
Should we choose a cabbage?
This year some of our Kilaton cabbages have grown huge - we'll never manage to eat a whole one at one sitting so maybe I'll have to freeze the excess. No Mark, I don't like sauerkraut.

If not a green cabbage should we choose red?
I really like braised red cabbage.

We have plenty of potatoes stored but which variety should we use?
If we don't fancy any of that, then there's always squash, onions and shallots in the greenhouse and peas and beans in the freezer.
Too much choice? But a good position to be in!

Sunday, December 22

Happy Christmas

(Photo taken 17 January 2013 near to The National Mining Museum outside Wakefield)

Thursday, December 19

Prim but not exactly proper

We have a lovely row of native primroses on the plot and I really wanted some to enjoy in the garden.
Last year when I was tidying up the ones growing on the plot I noticed some self sown seedling and so I potted these up to grow on a bit.
These sat in their pots over summer in a position where I would be sure to keep an eye on them and water them. They suffered a little bit of nibbling by what I presume were slugs and snails but they continued to grow.
I felt it was time they were planted out and so earmarked a patch of bare soil under a mahonia. It's in our spring border which is appropriate. I was a bit concerned that the soil may have been dry in that position but it was just fine and so now here they are.
I hope they like the spot chosen for them and provide a splash of creamy yellow in the spring.

Wednesday, December 18

Fernishing the garden

Sunday, December 15

Watering holes.

In earlier posts I have described how we provide lots of different foods for our bird visitors, however it is just as important to provide birds with water.

It may seem strange to us that birds need to bath when the weather is freezing but bathing is essential if they are to keep their feathers in good condition. On many winter's days our bird bath can be emptied in minutes by bathing birds.
As well as making sure the baths remained topped up we also have to be on thawing duty when the water freezes.
We have several sources of drinking and bathing water in our garden. There are three bird baths and a puddle pond.
In autumn the bird baths need to be kept leaf free and as you can see from the photos above ours were in need of a scrub to remove the algal growth.
We also have a garden pond which rarely freezes completely. When it becomes impossible to keep the other water sources ice free birds will use the pond as a bathing and drinking hole. The strings are to deter one bird that isn't welcome - the heron!
We have lids on our water butts so that any birds searching for a drink don't fall in and drown but this is important all year round as is access to water.

One thing the smaller birds weren't too impressed with was the visit this morning of a male sparrowhawk which sat in our magnolia tree just until we managed to get the camera ready at which point it flew off!

Thursday, December 12

More prickly work

As well as tackling the thorny issue of rose pruning as described in a previous post, I have also been pruning the gooseberries. Although these are not as violent as the roses they do fight back when being attacked by a secateur wielding gardener. At least holding back until most of the leaves have dropped makes pruning a little easier.

The gooseberries provide us with plenty of fruit most years and in many ways it seems a shame to repay them by giving it the chop but I like to see it as being cruel to be kind.

So the gooseberries have gone from this ...
 to this ...
All the straggly twiggy growth has been cut out and any branches growing into the centre have been removed along with any that were too close to one another or crossing. The aim is to create an open bush (described as an open goblet by expert gardeners). This allows air to circulate and cut down the chances of a mildew attack. It also is supposed to make picking the gooseberries an easier and less prickly activity.

I've pruned the jostaberries in the same way - a bit easier as they don't have thorns. Allowed a free range these bushes would be enormous. Instead they have gone from this ...
to this ...
I've used a similar pruning method to that used on the gooseberries(not sure whether this is technically the correct pruning method for jostaberries - anyone know?)  I've also cut out any branches that were trailing on the ground and trimmed back any that were straying too far across the paths.

Update: If you also follow Martyn's blog you will know that we have now planted our honeyberries - although Martyn didn't mention the time I spent clearing the lavender edging. Below is a picture summary but you can read more on Martyn's blog here.
Martyn has also posted that we have planted more raspberries to replace those that died over last winter.
Read more on his blog here.

As you can see we have been busy bees so hopefully we will be all set now for a fruitful year next year.

Wednesday, December 11

Indoor Gardening - The Gerbera

Tuesday, December 10

Can't completely avoid those prickly plants

I mentioned in an earlier post that one of our plot renovation projects had the added bonus of me not having to become entangled in the bramble as there would be no need of an annual prune.

This doesn't mean I was be able to avoid prickly pruning altogether.

We have five shrub roses in a bed on the edge of the plot. The bed is another area earmarked for renovation. You can see why from the photos below.

The top two  photos are prior to pruning and the bottom two after pruning. 

I'd be surprised if you could spot the roses amidst all the rubbishy growth. I also cut back the Sambucus Nigra which had growth really tall - much easier to spot the difference there. No doubt they will repay me by refusing to produce flowers next year.
Around February/March time the roses will be given their final prune. No doubt this will mean more thorns trying to defend the plant by penetrating glove and skin!

By then we are hoping this bed will look much tidier - well that's the plan anyway.

Monday, December 9

Harvest Monday

Maybe a bit of a cheat as we harvested this on Friday but I thought I'd join in this week and describe what we are harvesting at the moment.
The cabbages are supposed to keep well in a cold frost free place so we hope that they will keep well in the garage. We could have left them at the plot but hopefully they will keep us supplied if the weather stops us from visiting the plot.

There are beetroots sheltering under straw too but we didn't pick any of those.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphnes' Dandelions here.