The edible garden part 3

The garden we inherited when we moved in a few years ago is made up of very traditional beds and herbaceous plants.  Nice to look at for about three months of the year but the rest of the time? pretty much meh. As we clear the beds for different uses (herbs, climbing berries and what not) one of the trees/bushes I’ll be planting is Amelanchier lamarckii or Juneberry.  A plant that, like many others I go for, can do everything the demanding gardener needs. Flowers in spring/summer, autumn colour and edible attractive fruits for people and animals alike. It’s small enough for most gardens and in smaller spaces can be a real centre piece. Let me know how you get on.

The edible garden part 2

Now here’s a berry that you’ve probably all eaten a product of but were never aware.  Next time you’re munching on some fruit pastilles or other dark/purple coloured fruit conconction look for the word Aronia juice.  This is a very very purple juice produced from the Aronia berry (Aronia Prunifolia or Aronia melanocarpa).  It’s the poor relative of superfoods as it has a very sharp and astringent taste when eaten raw (hence the unappetising name of chokeberry) but added to other juices/jams or whatever it can add a real antioxidant punch.

It’s a shrub that grows at the edge of woods in damp slightly acidic soil.  No good for the chalk downs but if you’re on wealden clay or other acid soil then give it a go.  If it’s happy it’ll flourish and you’ll be spoilt for berries for ever.  The blackbirds seem to love them too. Other Aronia suppliers are available

Manure

We’ve got three horses living in the field – along with three goats and the 10 chickens. They get on famously but the amount of manure (in three flavours) is gargantuan. I’ll be entering the largest pumpkin, the tallest sunflower and the biggest marrow at the village fete next year.

Mayan Gold potatoes

Finally found some Mayan Gold seed potatoes – IMHO the king of potatoes (a phujera type) that make the finest roast potatoes know to man. If you have the room (and the manure) they should be your first choice potato for the home garden. You won’t look back.

Get your cabbage on

When you get into the whole gardening, sustainability thing you start to look much more closely at the foods you eat.  Now I’ve always loved Sauerkraut and although its not to everyones taste it is an amazingly healthy food to eat (check this out).  So many moons ago I decided to make my own.

Cabbage on its way to becoming sauerkraut
Cabbage on its way to becoming sauerkraut
A bucket to hold all the sliced cabbage
A bucket to hold all the sliced cabbage
Give the cabbage a good stir and bash to mix in the salt
Give the cabbage a good stir and bash to mix in the salt
Keep filling the crock – make sure your hands are clean before you start

 

Fuill up your crock with the cabbage
Fuill up your crock with the cabbage
Bash and mash down the cabbage so that the jiuces are released

 

Well I’m back

It has been a long time since my last post – over a year in fact.  The main reason being that we moved house.  Out of suburban Brighton and into the countryside.  We now have over an acre of garden and two acres of paddock.  Loads to to and what’s more and absolute load of fruit trees for making cider and other yummy stuff.  Our productive space has increased dramatically.  I’ll be starting a Youtube channel this year on growing veg in the plot.  I’ve had to say a fond farewell to all the bindweed (good riddance) as the acid clay and damp soil just doesn’t suit it.  So farewell Convolvulus arvensis and hello Lepus curpaeums (of which there seem to be a lot) as public enemy number one.  A young pippin tree that we had planted has all ready been stripped of bark so there’s lesson number one for us.    This is going to be hard work (the clay swallows manure like it’s going out of fashion).  The chickens and compost heaps are working overtime to get the ground into something more brown and crumbly that red and squishy.  Wish me luck

2013 looks like being a great cider year

We had loads to apples to press this year.  My garden shredder was no long up to the task (what with going rusty and being so badly cared for) so I invested in one of these from ebay.  Wow did it save a lot of time and because it mushed the apples up so much it increased our production massively.  We made about 12 gallons, but could have made even more if we’d been able to pick all of the apples from our trees (it got very windy in September).   I racked off recently and now we’re about a week away from bottling up.  I also bought some Coopers sugar pills to make the secondary ferment a little more consistent.  If you want a good range of equipment both Amazon and eBay seemed to have picked up the home brewing bug big style and both now stock (through their market sellers) a whole load of great supplies and equipment.

Saving the Bees – becoming a gardener

Articles like this make me despair.  They really do.  It makes me despair because it is here the scientific method starts to fall down.  The government is not supportive of a ban on Nicotinoid systemic pesticides because the case in unproven that these chemicals are killing the bees.  So it wont ban the chemicals for gardeners.  Now here I’m going to get a little one-sided.  If you as a gardener need to spray anything, absolutely anything in your garden with systemic pesticides then You ARE NOT a gardener.  Categorically, undeniably NOT a gardener.  You have no right, permission or privilege to call yourself one.  Let’s look at that word systemic for a second.  These are poisons that find their way into the plant itself.  They don’t get sprayed on the leaves to be washed off.  They stay in the very blood (sap) of the plant.  Washing your salad won’t work, a quick splash under the tap wont cut it.  You are making your plants into poison factories for every critter that uses it for good or all. Sap, pollen, leaves and roots.  Dripping with poison.  So if that’s what you need to do to make your garden grow then quite frankly you’re doing it wrong.

How strong is the case for banning these poisons once and for all?  Well when the bees go, we’re done for.  Really; I mean it.  Done for.  No pollination for fruit or veg for so many of our crops.  The very foundations of our food chain ripped out by self interest and blind profit. Personally even if we’re still not sure I just don’t think it’s worth the risk.  It reminds me of the old smoking days when people were still not convinced of the causality between smoking and lung cancer.  Causality is such a tricky concept for many people (including scientists) to get their head around it leaves enough wriggle room for many people’s opinions.

So what should you do?  Well first of all do everything in your power to learn to grow plants in your garden that don’t need to be converted into chemical weapons to survive the onslaught of insects we have in the UK.  Get yourself a good book on organic gardening and read it.  Reflect on what it means to be a gardener as opposed to spending time in the garden spraying chemicals with abandon or planting seeds coated in poison.

Country living, vegetables and cider making