Friday, 30 July 2010
Once, years ago, I overfilled the petrol tank in my little car and parked it at a bit of an angle causing petrol to drip rather ominously from the petrol cap. It was a very hot day, and I was a bit concerned about the safety aspect being as the car was parked right outside my front door. So I phoned the Fire Brigade for advice, not 999 or anything you understand, just their normal enquiry number, and explained my concern. The nice man on the other end said I was right to be concerned, and that I should stay in the house and close the front door, and they would send someone along. Someone, he said. No sooner had I hung up the phone than a huge fire engine with sirens, flashing lights and the full works came hurtling down our little road, causing all the neighbours to come out onto the street to see where the fire was, and vast numbers of burly firemen running along, hoses aloft, ready to deal with the imminent danger to life and limb. Now I love a man in uniform, but I have to confess to being slightly overwhelmed and embarrassed at the response to my little domestic scenario. They were all lovely about it though, and said that I had done the right thing, and they had to respond in that way because it could have been much more serious than it had seemed to me at the time. Apparently petrol being highly explosive, I could have blown up the whole street.
It must be great having me as a neighbour.
Thursday, 29 July 2010
Saturday, 24 July 2010
Monday, 19 July 2010
You don't often see figs growing in England. Fig trees yes, but actual figs, not so often. The RHS says that figs will crop three times a year in tropical countries, twice in the mediteranean, but only once in cool temperate areas like England. The tree is hardy enough to withstand our winters happily, but getting some fruit is apparently, as with so many things in life, all in the timing.
Fig trees make an enormous amount of growth, and often sucker at the base - this tree in fact was a sucker that I pulled up from a tree growing in the garden of the French house we had a few years ago. So it's a kind of nice souvenir, although I don't know what the variety is, but it reminds me of those few balmy summers we enjoyed in the Charente every time I look at it. One of the differences between one's own garden and a public garden like the RHS (apart from the weeds) is that in our own patches we have some plants for sentimental rather than purely horticultural reasons. And there's nothing wrong with that. The Edwardian gardener Gertrude Jekyll would certainly not have approved, she said the gardener has to have a hard heart, and remove any failing plants and replace them with something better. And I can see her point, why struggle with a plant that is clearly unsuited to its surroundings. But we home gardeners have no paying clients to please and we can afford to be a bit more sentimental, and persevere with our funny old fig trees and so on.
Anyway, according to the RHS, if you want to grow figs in England, the thing to do is to leave the little tiny figs that form late in the year, as next year they will grow and mature into your single crop. My crop is, of course, entirely accidental, it just seems to have turned out right. Now I'm hoping we have enough sun to sweeten and ripen them up by the end of summer.
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
I've treated myself to one of these..
and no it's not some weird victorian medical contraption, it's a steam juice extractor. I bought it very cheaply on Ebay from a lady whose dad used to use it for wine making. I've got such a generous harvest of fruit this year, I thought it would be a useful bit of kit.
There's basically a pan at the bottom which you fill with water, then a second pan on top that collects the juice with a funnel in the middle that directs the steam up to the fruit which sits in the top layer in a basket. It's difficult to describe, you kind of have to see it to get how it works.
Sunday, 11 July 2010
Forbidden fruit a flavor has
That lawful orchards mocks;
How luscious lies the pea within
The pod that Duty locks!
I've had more luscious peas this year than even Emily Dickinson could have dealt with. Some have even made it to the dinner table. Usually they never get that far, and to be honest, having had a few servings of cooked peas, we have decided that we like them best raw, and so I serve them in the pod as a kind of starter before we eat. It reminds me of a trip to Italy, a couple of years ago, when we ordered broad beans in a restaurant, and were presented with an enormous plate of raw beans, not only were they raw, but also still in their pods! I later learned that this is a local speciality in Puglia, and although I couldn't finish the whole plateful, I did enjoy them as they were young and tender, if a little inelegant!
As you can see my peas are tall, the variety is they very old variety Telephone, and they require staking. I think it's worth the extra bit of effort, since you get far more pea per square foot of row than with the short varieties, which have mostly been developed for the convenience of Messrs Birds Eye, who require peas that grow uniformly, mature all at once, and can be harvested mechanically. And you can't harvest six foot tall plants with a machine. The peas aren't all ready at once, which is what we as gardeners are looking for, and can be picked over a period a week or two. The only problem is that there's such an abundance of them that it's difficult to keep up with the picking, and it 's looking like pea soup will be on the menu pretty soon for the older cannonballs that I've missed.
I've also grown "Alderman" another tall pea, whose seed is more generally available, and whilst it's perfectly fine I would still recommend Telephone for its stronger growth, and bigger pods containing up to nine finely flavoured peas. Seed can be obtained from Real Seeds, who warn that the pods tend to swell up before the peas have developed so don't be fooled into picking too early. Seeds Of Italy also supply the seed under the name "Telefono".
Thursday, 8 July 2010
On a more successful note than the broad beans, I'm very pleased with my summer brocolli, or calabrese, as it should properly be called. I've never managed to grow good calabrese before, although I've often had success with the winter purple sprouting kind. I've tended to think of it as "difficult" but I think I was mistaken. This variety is Corvet and has been very quick and surprisingly easy. Sowed in modules and planted out at about six inches high, about a foot and a half apart. Firm in well, water generously. It makes a large central head and after you've cut that, the side shoots make a second crop of spears to cut a little later. Highly recommended, give it a go.
I have to cover all brassicas in my garden against pigeons, and it helps to keep the cabbage white butterfly at bay. Note the rogue "volunteer" potato plant coming through on the left!
Tuesday, 6 July 2010
My broad beans this year have been rather poor. I'm not sure why, I think I sowed them early enough, in pots and planted out in timely manner. They seem to have been occupying their bed forever, and I really do need the room for winter brassicas, which are getting severely overcrowded in their nursery quarters. Maybe it's the dry weather, maybe the variety, it's Masterpiece Green Longpod, not one I've grown before, and I certainly won't be bothering again! I will probably go back to Bunyard's Exhibition, if anyone has recommendations I'd be grateful to hear what has worked well for you.
One of the things broad beans often seem to fall prey to is blackfly.And mine is worse this year because they've been so slow to mature.
I don't use insecticides** in the garden, so in a case like this, which I admit I have let get a bit out of hand, I use the water cannon approach. That is supporting the plant stem in your left hand, the hose pipe in your right and using a medium strong spray, (don't go mad and blast the leaves off) you can remove most of the aphids quite easily. It will take a few minutes to do a row of plants, and although the aphids will gradually come back and you'll have to do it again in a week or two, it does get rid of most of the little devils ok, and your insect and bird population will thank you for it. I do the same with roses if I find outbreaks of green aphids that sometimes infest the flower buds. But generally speaking, a healthy insect population means that aphids are not normally much of a problem for me.
**I noted yesterday that we have once again, a wasp nest in the roof space, which sadly may have to be chemically removed if the wasps start to raid my beehives as they did last year, will have to see how it goes.
Saturday, 3 July 2010
Thought I would just show you a picture or two of the vigorous white rose Rambling Rector who lives by the back door. I took this picture last week, when it was at its peak, it's just gone over now - there's no second show, it's all at one mad flurry, but quite lovely for a week or two in June.
Not only is it visually stunning, the perfume is lovely too, and has filled the kitchen whilst I've had the doors and windows open in the hot weather.
It's fairly generally available, but don't be tempted to plant this rose on a small pillar or arch.It is vigorous and needs plenty of room to spread and is ideal for planting at the base of an old apple tree. There's another one in the village growing on a dead almond tree which also works well. If you plant it by the back door like me, you do have the side effect of a confetti filled kitchen for a few days when the petals start to fall though. Small price to pay I feel.