Thursday, 25 October 2012

Too busy to stand and stare...


“The spirits of the air live on the smells
 Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
 The gardens, or sits singing in the trees,”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight: but left his golden load.
                                                           William Blake

The fine weekend prompted a frantic tidying session.
The greenhouse is now empty of all except chilli peppers and tender over-wintering geraniums. The summerhouse is full of garden furniture, including my lovely new bench and all seat cushions have been aired and stored in the garage. 

Pablo cat enjoying the flowers

The small front garden has had its lawn edges sharpened and the dead foliage of day lilies etc have been cut back to stop slugs and snails taking refuge there. The few roses have had an early prune and the fruit of the ornamental quince is beginning to fall, reminding me to harvest the rest and consider making Sarah Raven’s delicious quince and apple cake. Quinces smell wonderful and I recommend adding some to a bowl of  pot pourri to help lift the spirits during the dark days to come.

Pablo’s garden is beginning its autumnal clearance. I no longer cut everything back, preferring to leave some foliage to dry naturally and leave seed heads both for the birds and to self sow in situ. This works really well with foxgloves, honesty and aquilegia and I give the stems a good shake to distribute the seeds each time I take a wander around the garden.

Use for a home-grown pumpkin

Drying autumnal garden foliage looks wonderful arranged in a vase together with a few stems of honesty. You don’t need many flowers to make an eye-catching arrangement as witness my allotment-grown pumpkin surrounded by a few flowers and foliage picked from the borders of Pablo’s garden.

Happy Hallowe’en

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The cure for all ill ...

 is not to sit still
Or frowst with a book by the fire;
But to take a large hoe and a shovel also,
And dig until you gently perspire.

                                                                   Rudyard Kipling

Every woman should have one
The sunshine of the last few days, coupled with a promised skip to take  rubbish away, has prompted lots of digging and a tidying frenzy on the part of the allotmenteers – myself included.

October is a hectic month for the vegetable gardener, removing perennial weeds and digging over vacant plots to allow the cold weather to help break up the soil in anticipation of spring planting next year. It is hard work but very satisfying.

I guess gardeners must be optimists as, despite the extremely poor harvests this year, here we all are, planning ahead to next year’s crops – ordering seeds, planting Japanese onions and Durham Early spring cabbages to over-winter and get a head start on the 2013 growing season. 

Globe artichokes grown for glory not food!

There will be leeks and Jerusalem artichokes yet to harvest during the worst of the winter and there ought to have been Swedes but mine just haven’t grown – lots of green tops but no swelling bottoms to add to soups and warming vegetable cobblers. How do supermarkets always manage to have them in abundance?
'Jemmer' coourgettes

I have had some courgettes, although again not the crop I’d hoped, but sufficient to make friend Vivien’s delicious Courgette and Cumin soup:-

25g butter                                       
 1 onion –chopped
 1 garlic clove –crushed                  
2 tsp ground cumin
150g potatoes – cubed                 
 350g courgettes – thickly sliced
450ml vegetable stock                   
300ml milk
freshly ground pepper

Melt butter and fry onion and garlic until soft.
Add cumin, stir in potatoes and courgettes
Cook gently in stock and milk until vegetables are soft
Purée the soup and serve hot or cold, garnished with sliced courgettes.


And my personal favourite courgette recipe -
Courgette Provençale:-

Slice courgettes, onions, and tomatoes (they can all be lightly fried beforehand but healthier not to). Layer in a soufflé dish or similar, adding a grating of cheese every now and then together with black pepper (a smattering of your favourite herb can also be a welcome addition). Finish with a layer of courgette slices and cover with grated cheese – I prefer a strong cheddar. Bake in a moderate over for approximately one hour. Delicious served warm with a salad and crusty bread or as a side vegetable. (It also reheats nicely in the microwave for a few minutes if you want to use leftovers later).