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Friday, 29 January 2016

January Jobs in The Garden

Prune apple & pear trees
The winter period is quite a good time of year to prune your apple and pear trees as they are now dormant. Trim back to one or two buds, thin out branches that are congested or rubbing against other branches. By doing these jobs you will increase the  light and air flow through the tree. Remove any "mummified" fruits still hanging on your trees as these can be a source of rot going into the new season.

Harvest
Despite it being January there may still be plenty to harvest, Leeks may well be standing ready but if a sustained freeze is expected then you can dig a few up and heel them in to dug ground. Parsnips and swedes in the ground can also come up when you are ready, but until then cover them over with fleece or straw to stop them freezing solid into the ground. The cabbage family should be providing some sustenance and beet leaves (perpetual spinach) and chards will be available. On a sunny day it is worth emptying your potato sacks and check for any that are starting to rot before it spread

Protect tender plants
Tender perennials such as Cordylines and Fuchsia should be kept out of the frost, so bring them into the green house or conservatory.

Brush heavy snow off trees
If you get a heavy snow fall then brush shrubs and conifers with a broom to prevent branches getting damaged.

Digging
If the ground is now frozen finish off any digging over you still need to do.

Cleaning
Thoroughly clean and oil your loppers, secateurs, and other hard worked tools so they’re fit for another years maintenance in the garden. Start off by giving them a good scrub with some hot soapy water and leave them to dry thoroughly before wiping over with an oily rag to stop them going rusty.

Snopdrops
If you dont have any (or enough) then this is a good time to plant in the green especially if a friend of neighbour can provide them to you.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Double Digging The Alotment


As well as getting ready with some of your winter sowing, this time of the year is a good soil preparation time, and one of the best ways to get the plot ready for next year is to double dig. Digging over the soil is essential for good plant growth. If you have a poor soil then organic matter can be added at the same time as digging.

The ideal time to double dig your plot is from October through December (i.e. now!), this is because the soil is free of frost and so can be left to overwinter, winter frosts will help break the soil down further. However if you leave it too late then the ground may be too wet or frozen and so will be be much more difficult to work with. You should avoid digging over heavy soil when it's wet as this can damage the soil structure and lead to poor aeration and poor drainage.

So how to double Dig?

Step 1 Begin at one end of the bed and dig a spade-head depth (approx. 12" deep or 30cm) trench across the entire bed's width, placing the excavated dirt in a wheelbarrow.

Step 2 Fork over the bottom of the trench. This is where the name 'double digging' comes from, as you dig twice the depth as usual, single digging. Add organic matter, such as garden compost or well-rotted manure, to the base and lightly fork in

Step 3 Dig a second, trench of a similar size to the first trench directly next to the first. Place the excavated soil into the first trench you dug. Loosen the soil at the bottom of this second trench with the garden fork as well.

Step 4 Dig a third trench next to the second trench. Backfill the second trench, loosen the bottom of the third trench, and continue this process until you have tilled the whole bed.

Step 5 Fill the final trench with the soil excavated from the first. (The soil from the wheelbarrow)

Step 6 Take a well earned rest and have a cup of tea! 

  

Friday, 25 December 2015

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Perfect Christmas Parsnips



Parsnips are one of the best vegetables for winter with a lovey nutty taste and there are so many wonderful ways to prepare them. Heres a few I love.

Parmesan crusted Parsnips.
Cook the parsnips in boiling salted water until tender. Add oil to baking tray and sprinkle grated parmesan, polenta and mustard powder, heat for about five minutes and then add the parsnips, and transfer the tray to the oven cooking for about 30 to 40 minutes turning at least once.

Parsnip Crisps.
Use a swivel blade peeler to peel strips from the parsnips. Coat them in oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place them in backing trays in single layers and bake for about 30 minutes until they are crisp  Grind sea salt over them and eat them hot.

Roast parsnips
Cut your parsnips into bite sized chunks and simmer in boiling water for about five minutes. Preheat your oven and a baking tray with oil. Remove the parsnips and add them to the hot tray, ensuring you coat them all in the oil. Roast for about 30 to 40 minutes turning at least once. Serve whilst hot.

If you do make the crisps then its worth making a lot at they are very moorish and I find they get eaten very quickly. You can make vegetable crisps from other vegetables for extra variety.



Thursday, 17 December 2015

Growing Raspberries

To ensure you can enjoy delicious raspberries it's essential you prepare well beforehand. Choosing the best area to grow raspberries will ensure good growth; they thrive in sheltered yet sunny conditions although they can still bear fruit when partly shaded. Once you've found the prime position remove any weeds and add plenty of well rotted manure into the soil. Raspberry plants benefit from slightly acidic soil - a pH testing kit will allow you to determine whether you need to add ammonium sulphate to your soil to increase its acidity.

Now that you've found the perfect spot and made sure the soil is in an ideal condition you can turn your attention towards actually planting the raspberries. They can be planted anytime during the dormant season (November-March) provided the soil isn't frozen or waterlogged.


Types of raspberry

There are two types of raspberries - autumn fruiting and summer fruiting. Summer fruiting varieties grow raspberry canes once a year and bear fruit the next (you still harvest fruit every year - just from different canes), while autumn fruiting raspberries grow and fruit every year.

Supporting growth

For raspberries to grow to their full potential you need to provide them with the right support. Plants should be planted 2ft apart - if growing multiple rows, these should be 6ft apart. Hammer two 8ft stakes about 2ft deep into the ground, 10ft apart. Three layers of 12 gauge galvanised wires should be stretched between these posts at 30, 42, and 66 inches above ground level, held firmly in place with straining bolts.

Raspberry maintenance

Summer fruiting raspberries should have their fruit bearing canes cut to ground level during the autumn - take care to make sure you don't prune the growing canes. The eight strongest pruned canes can be tied to the wire supports, leaving a gap of 3-4 inches, while the remaining canes can be removed completely.
Autumn fruiting raspberries on the other hand should have all their canes cut to ground level in February, although the canes can be trimmed in summer if overcrowding is hampering growth.

Container planted raspberries

If you can't grow your raspberries directly into the ground don't despair - raspberries can also be grown in containers. A single plant can successfully grow in a 15 inch diameter container filled with an 80:20 mix of multipurpose compost and loam-based potting compost, which is fed during the growing season with a general purpose liquid fertiliser. Canes can be trained up bamboo cane in a similar way to single plants grown into the ground.

Enjoy!

As long as you remember to keep raspberry plants well watered and give them plenty to feed on (mulch general purpose granular fertiliser with rotted farmyard manure in spring) you can look forward to a bountiful yield. Whether eaten with pavlova, turned into a delicious jam or eaten alone, you can delight your taste buds with the fresh, fruity taste that just isn't available from the shops.

Author Bio: YouGarden is an online gardening center run by three horticulturalist who have over 50 years combined experience. They have one simple ethos “Gardening for Everyone” and sell everything from soft fruit plants and bushes to flowers and fruit trees

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Perfect Brussels

Brussel Sprouts are often ready for harvesting now, but to many people they bring back memories of childhood, being forced to stay at the table until you have eaten (or hidden) the last brussels on your dinner plate. Heres several options to make the perfect Brussel Sprouts

Brussels with Bacon and Chestnuts
First fry your bacon in a hot pan without any oil for about 10 minutes until it is crisp. Then add chestnuts and fry until they are beginning to colour and coated in the bacon fat. Drain off the excess fat, then place the fried bacon  with the chestnuts into a bowl and allow them to cool. Beat some butter with a spatula to soften, then mix in the bacon and chestnuts. Season the mix with black pepper, and store in fridge. This will keep fresh for about 3 days in the fridge or could be frozen.

To serve, place your sprouts in a microwaveable bowl, and pour in approximately 100ml of water, cover with cling film and pierce a few holes in the top. Microwave your sprouts on High (850W) for about 16 to18 minutes, stirring at least twice during cooking, or alternatively cook in a pan of boiling water for 5 mins. Drain  off the water and place into a warm serving dish, then add the butter over to melt.

Brussels with pancetta 
Blanch the Brussels sprouts in a pan of boiling salted water for 3 mins. Drain the water away and place into a bowl of iced water to quickly cool them. Drain off any water again and set aside until nearly ready to serve. Sauté the pancetta in hot goose fat until crisp, add in the sprouts and stir-fry everything for a further 2 to 3 minutes, before placing in a bowl to serve.

Brussels with hazelnuts 
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the sprouts and cook them for about 5 minutes until just done. Drain well and place the sprouts into a warmed serving dish. Meanwhile, melt some butter in a small frying pan and add your hazelnuts. Cook the hazelnuts until they just start to brown, and the butter is turning a lovely deep golden brown. It should smell delightful, a lovely nutty smell. Tip this mixture over your sprouts, and add pepper to your taste.

Hopefully there will be no more hiding the sprouts round the back of the plates or feeding to the dog!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Planting Winter Onions


Following on from our post earlier this month about how to grow onions its worth reminding ourselves that there are actually quite a number of different varieties of onions from sets that can planted in your vegetable plot or allotment now. Sets are the simplest way to grow onions yourself much easier than from seed. They have the bonus that they can be harvested earlier on in the year as well.

Electric is a good red set, Radar a good yellow and Shakespeare is a highly reliable white.

You can also sow some spring onions now: White Lisbon Winter Hardy is a good one that we like to use. Check your local garden centre as quite a lot of them will have shallots available now for plantin. Jermor is already available in my local garden centre. These are good to be planted about now or though until just into the New Year.
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