Seasonal salads

Hello people, long time no post! I’m sorry about that.

Check out my friend Mira’s new blog, ‘The Morningstar kitchen garden’. She’s my super friend for gardening college and knows a lot about growing delicious fruit and veg. Particularly how to make the most out of a small space, so very useful for any of you urban gardeners.

You’ll also pick up a lot of fantastic healthy eating recipes and ideas. Yummy!

Source: Seasonal salads

The Morningstar Kitchen Garden

One of my big plans for next year is a vertical garden, along a sunny wall, to grow salads and herbs. We moved in this July, so at present the ‘kitchen garden’ is just a single hand-built wooden trough with a trellis, on the back wall of our house. However, I plan to get the most out of this little space. I had some Pumpkin ‘Munchkin’ plants which I’d started off at our previous place, so I trained these up the trellis, and planted up the trough below with mixed summer lettuces.

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As we move into autumn, I have sown different varieties of winter salad in patches around the base of the lettuces. These will come up as the lettuces are taken out, one by one. These hardy varieties are perfect to sow at this time of year – the cooler, shorter days will mean they don’t bolt (run up…

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Chamomile and mint tea

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Last summer we decided to try growing our own chamomile tea from seed. How easy was it? Very!

With Christmas looming, the garden may be the least of many people’s priorities, but I remember it was this time last year that we bought in our seeds to start off in the New Year (they make great Christmas presents).

Chamomile is very easy to grow outdoors by scattering onto prepared soil. We sowed ours direct into a pot in March, and by June the chamomile was flowering beautifully.

We harvested the flowers by snipping them from the plants whenever there was a sufficient amount, and left them to dry on kitchen towel for a few weeks. Chamomile will continue to produce flowers up until September with regular harvesting. We also harvested mint and lemon balm, so we could create tea  mixes, and dried them the same way.

Once the harvest was dried we put them into jars and left the lid off for a further month to make sure there was definitely no moisture left.

Since then, the flavour has been maturing within the jar. I popped it open the other day and the smell of chamomile was really intense – perfect for infusing.

This tea can be used with a tea strainer, or you can put it into drawstring teabags. We were going to give homemade chamomile tea as gifts for Christmas but I don’t think we grew enough in the end. One 2 litre potful grew enough for this small jar. Maybe we’ll keep this for us and aim to grow more next year!

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Gardeners in time

A great blog post from my old boss here.

Dennis – Trinity won’t be the same without you. Every posh gardens needs a long haired, heavily tatooed metal head looking after them. Lovely to read a bit from good old John Page too. It’s brought back lots of happy memories! All the best to you Xx

thetattooedgardener

As my time at Trinity draws to a close, I have been reminiscing about my horticulture career and my journey to the dizzy heights of Head Gardener at Trinity College. Especially remembering how difficult it was at the beginning.

I have now written a couple of posts about how difficult it is for people entering and working in the world of horticulture. The first post I wrote on this subject  was about my own problems I faced in the eighties, the second being about the problems many are facing in more recent times. So, I thought it would be interesting to see how things were for people starting out in horticulture before the eighties.

I started working at Trinity as an Under Gardener in May 2000, where I met a gentleman called John page, who had worked in the gardens dept since 1984; John still works in the gardens to…

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Fig jam

Delicious figs and Bess the Labrador

I treat figs as a ‘special occasion’ fruit. They’re quite expensive to buy in the shops, especially if they’re out of season. Despite that, they’re quite easy to grow (given the tree time to mature), and a fig tree can be kept small if you don’t have a lot of space. They like to be grown in a pot, too.

Figs prefer warmer climates, but many varieties, such as ‘Brunswick’, ‘Chelsea’ or ‘Brown Turkey’, can be grown successfully in the UK, in a sheltered spot.

September to October is the time for harvesting your fig crop. If you have a big tree, you can end up with a few too many to eat fresh all in one go (it’s best not to over-do it on figs).

Fig jam recipe

Tasty fig jam

Here’s a recipe for a lovely fig jam, courtesy of Mamounette in France, which will conserve your fig harvest so you can use it throughout the year. It’s good with liver pate and various cheeses.

Preparation time: One hour
Cooking time: 30 mins

Ingredients:

  • 2kg figs
  • 1kg jam sugar
  • One cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 1 tbsp of ginger
  • Two cloves
  • One split vanilla pod
  • Juice of a lemon

Day 1:

  • Peel and cut roughly the figs. Mix in a big bowl adding the sugar and all the spices.
  • Toss several times to make a thick puree and let rest all night.

Day 2:

  • Take a large, heavy-bottomed pan, put the prepared ingredients with the vanilla pod (sliced in two) and the lemon juice, and bring to the boil (remove the cloves and vanilla pod husks).
  • Keep boiling and stir regularly for 30 minutes.
  • In the meantime, sterilise your jars in boiling water and place them top down on a tea towel.
  • When the jam is ready, fill the jars and put the lids straight on.

This recipe gives the fig jam a ‘Christmassy’ taste. Enjoy it with pate or cheese.

Images © Alan Jones

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Five reasons to get a greenhouse

Elite greenhouse

 

I’m at my dad’s house in Brittany at the moment and he’s just built a greenhouse in his garden. Apparently, choice of greenhouses is limited in France, so he bought his from the UK.

His garden is a bit windy, so after extensive research on strong greenhouses for windy or exposed gardens, he chose this lovely 8.5′ x 12′ one, from Elite Greenhouses Limited.

Five reasons why greenhouses are useful

1. Protect plants during winter.
Grow tropical plants, such as Brugmansia or Bourgonvilla  in pots outdoors, then bring them into your greenhouse to over-winter.

2. Propagation.
Get flowers and veg off to a head start by sowing them early in the spring.

3. Protect against blight.
Tomatoes grown in a greenhouse are not only more flavoursome and tender when grown in a warm greenhouse, but they’re also protected from air-borne diseases, such as blight.

4. Grow exotic or tender fruit and veg.
The warm, humid conditions that can be easily created in a greenhouse provide good growing conditions for crops like melons, pineapples, cucumbers and chillies.

5. Start a collection.
Some people use their greenhouses for creating jungle of rare or tropical plants, others keep tender alpines, for example.

6. Bonus point.
I’ve personally never built a greenhouse, but according to my dad, if you always wanted, but never had, a Meccano kit when you were young (and you think you’re a bit old for one now) building a greenhouse is a good project for you.

Having your very own greenhouse is a bit of a luxury in my eyes. First of all, you need space for one. Then, there’s the cost of buying one and the time it takes to put together. If you have space, money and time – I do recommend these Elite ones. They’re very much all you want a working greenhouse to be – sturdy, practical and functional. As domestic greenhouses go, 12′ x 8.5′ is quite a large one, but priced at around £1800 (give or take a few optional extras), I think it’s good value, too.

Here are some more pictures, and if you’re interested in finding out more about these greenhouses you can do so on the Elite Greenhouses website.

Elite greenhouse

 

Elite greenhouse

Images of greenhouse © Alan Jones

 

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Natural remedies – the health benefits of nettles

Nettle and heather

Nettle health benefits

Common nettles (Urtica dioica) can be used to treat an array of ailments, large and small. And, not only do they provide excellent health benefits, they have good flavour, and are actually quite a useful substitute for spinach.

Nettle is a natural antihistamine and can be used to treat hayfever, as well as other allergies, with its decongestant and anti-inflammatory properties. Unlike chemical antihistamines, nettle doesn’t lose effectiveness over time and won’t cause drowsiness.

Nettle leaf is used as a diuretic, and has also shown to be affective in treating urinary tract and prostate inflammation, rheumatism and high blood pressure. Skin conditions, such as eczema, can also be treated with a nettle infusion.

Research with nettle leaf is also showing promise in treating Alzheimer’s, arthritis, asthma, bladder infections, gingivitis, hives, multiple sclerosis and sciatica.

Harvesting nettles

Make sure the nettles you pick haven’t been sprayed with weed killer. It’s also best to avoid nettles that are growing next to a busy road, as they may be covered in exhaust fumes and dirt.

Wear long leather gloves, or rubber washing up gloves to protect your hands and forearms from stings.

How to use nettles

You can use nettles fresh or dry. To dry, wash them in clean water and remove the leaves from the stem. Lay the leaves on kitchen paper or linen in a warm, light and airy place until they’re completely dry. Alternatively, you can hang the nettles upside down in a warm, dry place and wait for them to dry out completely before removing the leaves.

Once the leaves are dry you can infuse them in hot water and drink as a herbal tea. Fresh nettles can also be infused in hot water as a herbal drink, or cooked in soup or side dishes as an alternative to spinach.

 

Image of heather and nettle © Alan Jones

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Hello! More posts coming very soon

GardenNomey's baby

In case you’re wondering where I am and why I haven’t posted for a while – I’ve just had a baby! So I’ve been a bit preoccupied, but will be back on the blogging very soon. I’ve a few good ones in the pipeline when I get a spare few minutes, thanks for your patience while I get myself back on track!

Nomey xx

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