August in the garden

4 Aug 2012 | 0 comments

At last the sun has arrived and the crops that survived the continual hammering from the rain and slugs and the low night-time temperatures are now growing steadily. The poor weather has meant that our tomatoes are almost a month later than last year, all of the potatoes got blight and about half of the tubers will be thrown away and about one third of the onions have rotted. However, if the sunshine continues the courgettes, which have already picked up and the beans that are definitely enjoying the sun, as well as the squash and sweetcorn will continue to grow and just produce a little later than usual, and perhaps slightly lower yields.


As the soil dried out towards the end of July we managed to plant everything that was in desperate need of planting such as the brassicas, more beetroot, fennel, chard and chicories. Much of this was a little later than we would have usually done it, but hopefully the plants will recover from being pot-bound and mature into strong specimens.


 The third and final sowing of lettuce has been made for the outdoor salad. After which the salad growing will resume in the polytunnel overwinter again. Lettuce seed becomes dormant if it is subjected to high temperatures (over about 25°C), so we sow all of our lettuce during the summer in our shed. Once germinated it is then put into the propagating tunnel to grow until being planted out. The autumn salad sees the return of some of the oriental and brassica salad leaves as well as chicories and endive (of which we are trying about 15 different varieties this year). We do not grow any of the brassica salad leaves such as rocket, mizuna, namenia and the like during the summer months as they are not very well suited to growing at this time of year. They tend to suffer flea beetle damage (lots of small holes in the leaves, especially during dry spells) and also flower and run to seed quickly so require continual re-sowing to keep up production. We prefer to grow more lettuce throughout the summer which are well suited to growing at this time of year as well as pea shoots, herbs such as basil and other interesting leaves like salad burnet, perilla, shungiku and various edible flowers. Each different salad leaf tends to have an optimum time of year for growing and if grown during this time it will ensure healthier crops and less stress for the grower, rather than trying to grow certain varieties all year round when they are not really suited to all year round production. Seed companies often miss this and recommend sowing certain varities at ill-advised times – the brassica salad leaves are a good example of this. Gardeners often therefore struggle to produce good quality salad during the summer, sowing leaves such as rocket which will grow, but produce far fewer leaves and of lesser quality than many other salad leaves suited to summer production.


It looks as though the weather is going to change again – as more rain is forecast for early August. However, as long as there are sunny intervals and warmer temperatures than early July the summer vegetables should plod on and gradually ripen. Fingers crossed for sunny weather during the Trill Summer Festival during which we will be providing Daphne with plenty of vegetables and salad to prepare. We will also be giving tours of the garden giving you a more in-depth idea of what we do. 

July in the Garden

2 Jul 2012 | 0 comments

Having met up with many other vegetable growers recently it is almost a relief to know that we are all in the same boat and suffering (some more so than others) due to the dire conditions that have continued throughout June. Stories of huge losses to certain crops such as squash mainly due to slug damage and other damp related pests and diseases are common this year. It is a sad state of affairs for many growers and only serves as another reason to grow a variety of crops to lower the risk of losing income. This links in nicely to the theme of the discussions that will be taking place during the Trill Summer Festival – “Diversity for resilience”. Building up a system that relies on just one crop, such as monoculture does, opens up the likelihood of quicker spread of pests and diseases and takes away the biodiversity of a mixed system. A farming or growing system that uses mixed cropping helps to support insects which increases predators as well as leading to increased birdlife. The soil is also looked after and a healthy soil leads to increased biological activity and a more stable, resilient place to grow vegetables. This therefore leads to stronger, healthier plants, which do not rely on chemical nutrition, but grow as plants do in nature; creating complex relationships with soil microbial life. It is therefore very important to continue to grow a wide variety of crops as is encouraged in organic farming with the necessity to practice crop rotations.


So, the cool wet weather has continued throughout June and doesn’t look to stop soon. Some of our crops are much later than expected but overall most fare well. We are starting to harvest cucumbers and French beans from the polytunnel, and the first few tomatoes are being eaten as we walk through the tunnel in the mornings. We have had wonderful broad beans this year and these will continue for a couple of weeks.


We grow on slow draining clay soil and the bottom end of the garden is particularly wet at the moment. We have been thinking about growing more green manures next year to ensure our imported fertility is minimal. The idea would be to sow the bottom end of the garden with various green manures which would then be cut and collected and then either used as a mulch around certain plants (probably those that do not suffer too much slug damage such as garlic) or composted to provide fertility to the growing areas of the garden. This not only adds fertility but also organic matter, which helps to improve drainage, and increases the biological activity of the soil, having great impacts on crop health. We are lucky enough to be able to use some of the manure produced on the farm, but also buy in composted green waste to add as mulch to certain parts of the garden. This is not only costly, but also relies on transporting large quantities of compost, using fossil fuels. Trying to produce most of our organic matter and fertility on the farm is a much more sustainable idea and also helps to increase the diversity of life on our small patch of ground. As we have no guarantees on the weather for this month, we don’t really know what crops will make it – so our main aim as always is to reduce our impact on the land, growing in a sustainable way that ensures our soil is of a good enough health to continue to produce resilient plants.



July in the Kitchen

3 Jul 2012 | 0 comments

Two of my all time favourites are ready to harvest in the garden.

First - artichoke. The plant is magnificent and whilst the artichoke may be a little complicated to prepare & eat, the first taste tells you it was worth the effort. The following recipe for Artichokes with Lemon Mayonnaise is simple perfection. 

Second - raspberries. It’s hard to perfect a bowl of fresh raspberries but when there is a glut Raspberry & Whisky Cream makes a great Summer pudding

Artichokes with Lemon Mayonnaise

serves 6

6 artichokes

1 large egg plus 1 yolk

1/4 teaspoon salt

300 ml olive oil

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

freshly ground black pepper

juice & zest of 1 lemon

Remove all but 1cm of each  stalk.

Cut the top 1/4 off each leaf with scissors. This removes the spike at the tip of the leaf, which is really quite sharp!

Cook in boiling water for 15 - 30 minutes, until tender. Drain well and place on individual plates.


Pull off a leaf at a time and dip in lemon mayonnaise. Use your teeth to pull the flesh off the base of the leaf, throw away the rest of the leaf. Continue until you're left with the heart and the flowery thistle. Cut off the thistle  and discard then finally enjoy the heart dipped in the remaining mayonnaise.


Lemon mayonnaise


Combine the eggs and salt in a bowl and whisk well. Continue whisking as you drizzle the oil into the bowl in a slow steady stream, when the mixture begins to thicken add the white wine vinegar and then continue to drizzle in the oil whilst continuing to whisk. Finally add the lemon zest, juice and black pepper.


Raspberry and Whisky Cream

Serves 6

1¼ lb (600g) crowdie (a creamy soft Scottish cheese.  If you are unable to source crowdie use a 50/50 mixture of yoghurt and mascarpone)

1 oz (30 ml) whisky

2½ oz (60g) icing sugar

7 oz (200g) raspberries

2 tablespoons toasted oats

6 raspberries


Place the crowdie, icing sugar and whisky in a bowl and blend together. Spoon this mixture into serving glasses alternating with raspberries, finish with a layer of crowdie. Chill overnight.

Remove from the fridge, sprinkle over the toasted oats, pop a raspberry on top and serve.

« Previous 1 36 37 38 39 40 45 Next »