Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Kohlrabi Sauerkraut

Take a couple of these


and grate (foodprocessor recommended)

 Mix well in 2% by weight salt.

Pack into jars:

Use a glass weight to keep the pulp submerged.

Set in a cool room with loose lids and leave to ferment for three weeks at least.

Close lids tight and refrigerate.

Persuade your family that sauerkraut is the new wonder foodstuff.

Enjoy with soups, stews, salads, sausages, fish, chips .....everything !

Friday, 7 December 2018

Psychedelic Botanics

We often visit the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh, but never after dark....until now.

In the run up to Christmas they put on an illuminated show that stretches right through the /gardens. 

Some features are familiar, but transformed:

Other paths have been given a completely new take.

It is certainly out of the ordinary.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

A Good Year For The Birds

I just have to share crab apple harvest this year.   These orange apples, on a now leafless tree, are too small to make jelly from.  We leave them for the birds - who devour them when other food becomes scarce in mid winter.  I am sure they get drunk on them because once they get started there is no limit to the antics they get up to as they tightrope/softrope their way along the branches.  Blackbirds and pigeons are the most enthusiastic, but these house sparrows on the nearest bush seem to be keeping a custodial eye on them.

Just in case you are wondering, yes the blue lines are our washing line.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Remember Your Plot?

Days have shortened, temperatures have dropped, rain has been sweeping past and outdoor activities have become less attractive.  It is tempting to just forget about the plot on the other side of town. That's not to say that there is nothing cropping at the moment.  It's just that as soon as your gloves get wet you have to change them before you lose the use of your hands.  So today three pairs of gloves at the ready I harvested

The last of the row of fennel


Swiss chard:

and spinach:




Carrots from under their cover:

and that's a row of salsify to the left which, like the parsnips, I have yet to explore. 

Less photogenic but also picked today Jerusalem artichoke and sprouting broccoli. There's plenty beetroot too and Brussel sprouts to come.  The leeks I am leaving for when things get really depleted.

Nearly forgot to mention the late brassicas planted after clearing the strawberry patch! There's spring greens, kale and mooli in there.   

So all in all I have still got lots of reasons to remember to visit the plot, (just don't ask me to do any weeding).

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Night Time Visitor

Here's a surprise.  I was testing the new motion sensitive infra red camera and on the very first night captured this unexpected visitor.

The cats and even the foxes were not a surprise, but this definitely was!  I should explain that we live on a main road, on the long side of a right angled triangle formed by a back road.  So the gardens in the triangle are only accessible by crossing the road and finding an access point between the houses.  

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

November? - The Salad Bar Is Open

Today, at the school garden, I lifted the fleece on the salad bed:

This is where the peas and beans grew this year,  but then we planted out plug plants at the beginning of September.  The fleece was deployed in the middle of October just before the first frost arrived.

In the foreground the Mizuna is looking nice and frilly. At the other end the Land Cress or American Cress is thriving :

Land Cress
This provides a peppery aftertaste.  When the children were sampling the salads last week I warned them off this, and didn't provide any tasting samples for them.  The result was that it became the highlight of the session with, I think, every child trying it just to prove me wrong, or to prove they weren't wimps!

There were four sorts of lettuce, with the Marveille de Quatre Saisons stealing the show with its rouged leaves.

 The most prolific salad has been Winter Purslane (Claytonia, Miners' Lettuce).  Still mild despite starting to flower.
Winter Purslane
 I've tucked them all up again under the fleece and it is going to be interesting to see how they do when winter bites.  I will leave them to see if we get a new flush come spring.  As this is going to be the brassica bed next year there is no rush to clear the ground.

Just while I am on the subject of summer crops I can't resist showing of the solitary chilli from last year.  It was an unsuccessful experiment for me spanning some four varieties.  I did learn that they really do need to be treated as indoor plants in Scotland.  The unheated greenhouse was ok for tomatoes and cucumber but the chillis just refused to grow.  Add to this my over enthusiastic watering (in a vain attempt to encourage growth) and you can understand why they protested.  It was only when I brought them back indoors that this one fruit eventually ripened.

As you see the leaves are protesting about the cold nights.  Despite all this I will try again  next year, in a limited indoor windowsill way,  to grow chillies.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Weed Suppressant Fabric - Cure or Curse

This picture, for me,  encapsulates the case for Weed Suppressant Fabric.  The net overhead and the collars around the plants give away that this was my brassica patch (in 2017).  The strip to the left: no WSF.  The rest to the right WSF applied in early spring. Which would you rather be faced with come the month of June?   No contest.  This trial evolved as a result of my wish to leave a strip in which to sow later brassicas that will not tolerate transplanting (Swedes, Pak Choi, Mooli) and was not staged to prove a point. None the less as I crouched on hands and knees under the net I thought it was worth taking this picture for the record, ready for that Autumn day when I would be warm indoors mulling over the lessons learned.  16 months later that day has arrived. 

I do still have reservations.  The fabric is made of woven plastic and is not biodegradable (although it lasts for years and is reused).  It allows water through the weave but there are concerns for the effect it has on the soil/air interface.  Do insects and worms like or abhor it and how does that affect the soil food web? I see the Garden Organic guidelines approve of it only on a limited basis for clearing weed patches although it is acknowledged as a longstanding tool for growing organic strawberries.  A web search has plenty of rants against "landscaping fabric" in vegetable patches which surprises me some as I have not experienced the problems they describe.  (Usually someone is renovating a recently acquired garden where the previous occupant has laid down a layer below soil level and weeds have grown on top. ) My piece follows (or rather precedes) the brassicas around the plot and has the bonus of already having the holes spaced out at just the right distance for planting. 

For now, I will continue to use it on my brassica patch in order to reap the benefits, but I am now wary of leaving it down in one place for more than one season.  I have just recently decided to carry out a worm survey of comparable patches with and without WSF to see if there is any discernible drop in numbers.  If you can save me the trouble by pointing to any research on this topic - do please let me know.  I don't know about you but I just find weeding a chore.