Moving Compost

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We’ve actually got around to ‘turning’ a compost heap over.

That is quite and achievement here. We often fill compost heaps so high that we can’t possibly turn them over without creating a collapse similar if Everest gave way.

But we did it, in two hours in the rain. We kind of had to do it because, well, I needed more space for the onions and garlic. I’ve planted somewhere around 250 onions… we were given quite a few but it was good seeing as the cats have already dug some up…

But yes – back to composting – why do we ‘turn’ compost over? Why do we compost in the first place? Why not chuck it in one of those bins?

For shame.

Right, compost: organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as fertiliser and soil amendment. Compost is the KEY ingredient to organic farming. Despite the slug pellets, that is what we aim to do.

Have you ever read The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stemple? Do, its great.

You make your compost out of basically anything in the garden – that can be cut grass, leaves, old plants, some people choose not to include their weeds but I do because I like dumping them somewhere and feeling like I am recycling. You can also put your food waste in it. This might attract rodents, of course, but what about your tea bags, banana peels, veg scrapings? Those are all really good to rot down and so not worth giving to the bin man. You can put cardboard and paper on too – covering the heap with cardboard is a good way of helping it to rot down.

But why should I compost?

  1. Saves money – do you know how expensive compost is?
  2. Saves resources and reduces negative impacts on the environment by avoiding chemical fertilisers.
  3. Improves soil – it feeds it with a diversity of nutrients, improves soil drainage and increases soil stability.

Compost takes time. It can look messy. But it is so worth it for a gardner. It is an investment.

So, if you don’t know already, ‘turning over’ the compost bed is aerating it. It gives it a flush of oxygen that encourages the bacteria breaking it down not to remain sluggish. It therefore speeds up the process, sometimes by weeks.

To aerate your compost, fork or shovel the compost into a newly set up enclosure next door to it. It is that simple. If your pile isn’t as big as a mountain.

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Autumn planting … and a recipe!

Uni has certainly eaten up a lot of gardening time, plus the clocks changing and the day hours been practically non-existent. So it was late, but we have finally done some autumn planting.

Last week I sowed broad beans ‘Claudia’, peas ‘Meteor’ and got going on the onion sets.

(Here are my posts all about broad beans and peas: Broad Beans and Peas)

We bought 3 sets, then two lots of neighbours gave us more to plant, one being very generous with garlic as well! We are basically going to be growing an acre of onions next year… if I get them all in.

The varieties of onions planted so far are Senshyu, a golden coloured variety, and Electric, red coloured.

If they all grow, we’ll have a lot of onions but fortunately, onions are one of those vegetables that appear in soooooo many recipes that everyone will always find a way to use them. They are essential base ingredients. They are in stews, stocks, curries, casseroles, pizza, raw in salads, moussaka, raw with burgers, fried with sausages, bolognese, quiche, stir fry, soups… but here is a new recipe for onions to get you in the bulbing spirit.

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Pasta with Fried Onion and Tomato Salad

(Serves 4)

-About 400g tagliatelle pasta -2 onions -Olive oil, for frying -8 handfuls of spinach -16 cherry tomatoes

  1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the tagliatelle pasta and cook for about ten minutes, or until cooked through. Drain and set to one side.
  2. Peel and cut the onions in half before slicing thinly. Put them in a frying pan with some olive oil and fry until soft and golden. Remove from heat.
  3. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Put the pasta on each person’s plate and mix in 4 tomatoes worth of the halves and two handfuls of spinach, per person. Divide the fried onions evenly and mix in too. Serve.

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Today’s pickings

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Today’s pickings – runner beans, courgette, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries, wineberries, giant baking sized potatoes and windfall apples for the pigs!

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Had to share them because  they were all so damn beautiful.

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And the most beautiful sight of all? Snoopy the beagle curled up in the horticultural fleece. She didn’t want to leave the garden and go inside for dinner too 😦

But she got over it when mum started making pie…

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Update: Sunday 4th Sept 2016

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Bumble bee on an Echinacea flower

Has anyone picked so many runner-beans this year that they’ve had to buy a new freezer?!

Nope, just me… ? Hmm, was afraid of that.

This week we’ve been:

  • Weeding, mulching
  • Mum has frozen a tonne of beans again
  • Picking blackberries and raspberries and plums – freezing them too
  • I made ‘courgette crisps’ because we have so many marrows still hanging around the house. You cut the courgettes very thinly, toss them in 1tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt, place them on a lined baking tray and scatter 1tbsp grated cheese and 1tbsp breadcrumbs over the top and leave them in an oven of 110C until they have turned brown and crisp (about 2-3hrs) before leaving them in the oven to cool to room temperature before eating them on their own or with some dips. I think mum is the only one to eat them so far but she said they were really good and she has eaten one whole tray full so they can’t be that bad…
  • Our bulb order arrived yesterday that mum bought on behalf of my birthday so I played clearing a patch for them under the apple trees that is swamped by nettles and invasion trees galore. I scythed the tall nettles first and cut down the unwanted bad trees before starting to dig out the roots of everything. I tossed all of the weeds, grass and nettles into the pig run for them to munch on and turn into compost. I might finally get that patch cleared and the bulbs planted in, say, a years time…
  • I also cleared away a whole patch of sweetcorn that had been picked and chucked those to the pigs. They really like the stems! I’ve prepared the bed for some lettuce and rocket I have growing indoors that are nearly ready to plant out, probably this week.
  • We do have a pesky fox digging up parts of the beds at the moment. I thought it was just the cats getting a little too confident at first but now that I’ve found some fox poo, I know who I am dealing with. Unfortunately, there is little I can do to prevent a fox from digging for bugs in the beds. I can only net over the little seedlings to give them a chance of survival, I suppose.
  • Excitingly, we had another order of manure delivered from our friends with the Guernsey cows, another huge load by tractor. We had managed to use all of ours that only arrived in like March. Perfect timing as the whole place needs desperate feeding and bed preparing.
  • Even better: we got seven new hens (all ginger ex-battery types) on Bank Holiday Monday. We were lacking in eggs seeing as the ducks are moulting, Clucky, my little white hen is broody and only one other Black Rock chicken is laying – that meant one  egg every few days. Now we’ll get a few more – the  eggs are so tiny because they are so young!

Have a good week, everyone.

Update: 28th August 2016

It has been rather busy – again. When is it not in the garden? It is a never ending project!

Lots of weeding and watering in the surprisingly hot August weather.

Lots of picking and freezing of beans, plums, raspberries, some gorgeously big blackberries despite the lack of rain (shh, I did not say that, let’s not encourage it to come back!) and mum even froze some broccoli today.

Still getting gluts of courgettes/marrows and cucumbers. Digging up some lovely potatoes and onions and I used my first homegrown leak in a made from scratch Homity Pie. I will try and put the recipe up sometime as it uses so much wonderful garden produce in it and went down a treat with the family.

Finally got round to making my first batch or raspberry jam – I know, slacking – and today I finally made strawberry jam. Just in time because I’ve nearly finished all of my homemade strawberry and rhubarb and might have cried. Plum and blackcurrant next to go…

Pruning funny shaped cherry trees before autumn creeps up on us. Getting rid of blighted stems on my celery and celeriac. Tried our first turnip and everyone liked it, even my mum and dad who both had been scarred in their childhoods from its interesting taste. Of course, now that we have been brave enough to try them and discovered we like them, something has taken a huge chunk out of the one of four I have left in the ground… Murphy’s Law.

Fun news: I have started testing out the scythe I was gifted for my 21st on the meadowland we have in the vegetable garden (that was previously known as the field, I should probably add, before I got stuck in). So far I haven’t destroyed any hoses, crops or cats that like to sunbathe there. Here’s hoping the good-luck continues! It is really good fun and I will hopefully get round to writing a post about them one day. Problem is I have so many ideas I want to share online but so little enthusiasm for sitting down all day when I am itching to get back to being a busy-bee in the garden. Talking of bees, ours are certainly not being busy. They are more like bees sitting on the sofa waiting for the delivery of sugar water to come to them rather than to step outside into the magical world of flowers and pollen. Thank goodness bumble bees are a little more enthusiastic.

Aubergines finally growing. Cape gooseberries producing! Picked our first okra this week (haven’t tried it yet…). And our first couple of sweetcorn, which were yummy. I have included a picture of a Japanese Wineberry from our bush we bought and planted earlier this year. A couple of berries grew and this is one that was ready for harvesting a couple of days ago. Is it not beautiful? It is such a light, red colour, like a ruby.

Hope the sun shines on all but that the heat does not kill the plants or us – anyone else feeling like a slug moving around in this odd weather? Not that I am complaining, there is a reason other than my large frizzy hair that makes people compare me to a sun-worshiping lion and that is my love of hot weather. Happy bank holiday and gardening to all.

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Weekly Update: Saturday 13th August 2016

Been a little busy so I have not done everything I needed/wanted to do in the garden this week but I still saw it every day.

  • Did some weeding and hoeing for a path.
  • Picked runner beans, courgettes, green gages, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, tomatoes.
  • Currently weeding a parsley bed at the moment.
  • Weeded and fed and mulched the tree cabbage.
  • Completed mulching the celery and celeriac, building up the earth around them.
  • Started tackling the beetroot patch.
  • Almost done with weeding the space near the beehives – but one has to pick the right moments to attempt that task.

Weather looks lovely if slightly hot. Lots of watering needed!

I turned 21 yesterday and  was given 4 lovely David Austin roses – white, yellow, pink and red and they smell divine. My favourite red rose already in the garden also opened for my birthday, specially! I was also given a scythe and bill-hook. This will be fun, my brother has asked me to warn everyone in  advance when I am practicing with it in the garden so that they can beware…

Happy gardening.

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Birthday cake my lovely mum made me. It may not have a lot to do with gardening but it has pretty flowers on it… 
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Flowers picked from the garden
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Green and Black’s Sachertorte

Weekly Update: Friday 5th August 2016

First week of August.

  • Lots of weeding, feeding and mulching beds, including: brussels sprouts, brukale, quinoa, amaranth, celery and celeriac.
  • Sowing seeds: lettuce, spinach, radishes, spring onions, parsley, coriander, last of the peas (indoors and outdoors, fingers crossed they germinate), rocket.
  • Covering up exposed potatoes with manure where the blight has killed off the plants above ground.

Harvested first green-gage plums. That is exciting – it means nearly plum jam time, my favourite!

Harvested lots of courgettes. Or marrows. Every time I turn away, one grows to the size of, well, a giant marrow from ‘Wallace and Gromit Curse of the Were Rabbit’. Picking lots of: cucumbers, blueberries, first new batch of raspberries starting to grow, boysenberries, tayberries, potatoes (they are so beautiful), runner beans, kale, perpetual spinach, swiss chard, radishes, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, finally got some PROPER sized spring onions to grow (my ones last year were a dismal, this year they actually have bulbs on the end of them), huge onions, lots of garlic, chives and parsley. I just made a cheese pizza using homegrown onion and garlic, topped with perpetual spinach leaf beet, kale and swiss chard served alongside homegrown salad followed by chocolate cake, pouring yoghurt, blueberries and raspberries. Yum.

Have a good weekend, I hope the sun shines on everyone.