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Thursday, 12 November 2015

Winter Greenhouse Prep


If you have a greenhouse or even a coldframe, lean-to or conservatory, then you should be thinking about preparing it for use over winter or for the growing season next year. A greenhouse is ideal for storing plants over the winter, but they need a bit of preparation first. .

Cleaning: Before starting it is important to clean the greenhouse, removing algae build up, grime and any left over debris from the summer.

Insulating: to protect plants over winter add insulation, big bubble bubble wrap is ideal. Of course insulation on its own will not keep out the coldest temperatures so its worth adding a small heater. Either electric if you have a safe supply or a paraffin heater.

Soil care: if you have beds in the greenhouse then remove weeds and consider enriching the soil for next year.

Pest and diseases: As part of the cleaning regime ensure pests and disease are dealt with, fungal problems can be solved by the use of anti-fungal treatments. If you have pest problems then treat these, either organically or via a pesticide.

Plant care: tidy the plants you plan to store, cut back any dead or damaged sections and remove dead leaves. Keep removing any leaves that fall over winter to reduce teh risk of rot or fungal problems.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Delicious French Onion Soup with your Harvest



Following on from our post the other day about how to grow onions, we thought it would be a good time to think about what to do with some of them! Onion based soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times. They were then usually seen as food for poor people, as onions were plentiful and easy to grow. The modern version of this soup originates in France in the 18th century, made from beef broth, and caramelized onions. It is often finished by being placed under a grill in a ramekin traditionally with croutons and gruyère melted on top. The croutons on top is reminiscent of ancient soups
INGREDIENTS
  • 6 large red or yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced.
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups of beef stock
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dry thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 slices of toasted French bread
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated Swiss Gruyere with a little grated Parmesan cheese
METHOD
1 Cut each onion in half lengthwise, then slice into half-moons. Slice these half-moons in half again. Place them into a large saucepan, sauté the onions in the olive oil on medium high heat until well browned, but not burned, about 30-40 minutes (or longer). You can let them cook even longer — an hour and a half will give you deeply caramelized onions! Just let them cook, stirring at times, as you see dark colour emerge. After 45 minutes they will look pale mahogany in colour. You can let them get even darker if you like — just don't let them burn or get black. Adjust the heat as necessary.

2 Add the sugar about 10 minutes into the process to help them to carmelise. The rich flavour of the base is not due just to the broth, but to the caramelized onions (typically, the pot is full of sliced onions, which will shrink down to less than half the volume on cooking).

3 Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the stock,  wine, bay leaf, and thyme. Cover partially and simmer until the flavours are well blended, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaf.

4 To serve you can either use individual oven-proof soup bowls or one large casserole dish. Ladle the soup into the bowls or casserole dish. Cover with the toast and sprinkle with cheese. Put into the broiler for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Getting Busy in November


Although the weather is still reasonably mild, and lots of trees are still hanging on to their leaves, there are plenty of signs that winter is on its way now. The days are getting shorter and after the clock went back last weekend its dark in the evening too. Frosts will soon be a regular visitor... so it is easy to relax and imagine that there is little to grow at this time of year. Think again! There's actually lots of preparation and plants to get started in November. So what vegetables can be grown in November in the UK? 

Garlic
Of course it is possible to start your garlic in the the Spring with some varieties being perfectly happy being planted in early spring, November is by far the best time. Garlic really does need a good dose of frost as this cold will encourage the bulbs to split into cloves. And whilst planting them you can think back to the sunnier times in June and July when you were harvesting them. 

For a guide to growing garlic, check out our handy guide on how to grow garlic. 

Onions & shallots
By now we are just about as late as we can go for planting onions or shallot sets in before Winter really gets going. Personally my favourites are the Japanese Sensyhu onions as these are nice and hardy as well as being pretty easy to raise (a perfect combination). 

Broad Beans 
Usually the advice is to sow your broad beans late Winter to Spring between February and May, so why would we be advising growing them in November? The reason is to extend the growing and therefore the cropping season. If one just relies on your Spring sowings then you would expect to be harvesting your produce between July and August. However by having an Autumn sowing as well you'll then be able to have an additional crop in June as well.

Peas
Exactly the same idea as with your broad beans, start some early and crop earlier as well potentially up to 6 weeks earlier.

Whatever you choose to grow enjoy it and keep warm!

DG

Monday, 2 November 2015

Fruit Tree Planting

If you’ve never experienced the sheer unbounded joy of casually picking some apples or plums from your own fruit tree and then sharing them with friends and family then you’re missing out on an unique experience.
Apple, pear and Victoria plum trees are all ideal fruit trees to plant in your garden. Not only will they enhance its natural beauty but they will also provide you with the most organic and natural fruit money can’t buy. The fruit is delicious in itself and can also be used to make delicious ciders, wines, moonshine, chutneys, preserves and jams. But it’s important to note that to ensure a healthy tree and productive harvest, it’s always best to plant certain fruit trees in Winter.

What Type of Fruit Trees are Suitable for Planting in Winter? 
Deciduous fruit trees such as apple, pear trees and Victoria plum tree should always be planted in Winter, as opposed to evergreen fruit trees such as Olive and Loquat which are hardy but best planted in the spring or more tender trees such as lemons which should be overwintered in a cool conservatory. Deciduous fruit trees have evolved in a temperate climate and require exposure to the cold of Winter in order to produce fruit and flowers. This is known as the minimum chill requirement. The growth buds of these particular trees do not blossom properly until they experience a full winter.

How to Plant a Fruit Tree in Winter 
Fruit trees are in their dormant stage in late Autumn and early winters, so this is the best time for planting. Always soak the roots thoroughly and avoid placing in the ground if there’s a frost because the soil needs to be moist. Place your fruit tree in a position in you garden which benefits from both sun and shelter. When it comes to digging a hole ensure it is a third wider than the tree’s roots and the same depth. Insert a stake to support the tree and fill the hole with soil. Water the ground well, but only well enough to keep it moist. You do not want to drown the tree’s roots.

Things to be Weary of When planting fruit trees in winter 
To maximise the amount of fruit they yield almost all deciduous fruit trees require careful and regular pruning. It’s also a good idea to apply a grease band to the trunk of your tree at least 18 inches above soil level to protect it from moths and other insects who will eat its leaves and fruit. The application of fertilizer, organic or chemical, is a personal preference but it can give the fruit tree just the boost it needs to start bearing the sort of fruit that will make you the talk of the town.


This article was first published last year.
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