vendredi 15 octobre 2010

Champs Elysees

A sunny, warm October day on the Champs Elysees.  The trees are half green, half burnt copper.  Gorgeous!

Hidden treasures

It's bulb time again; those things that look like onions (and not very appetising ones at that) which poke up like green swords and burst into life with a neon multicoloured explosion just when you are thoroughly tired of the grey winter garden.

It's time to plant, NOW!  Don't delay.

Bulbs look best in clumps so grab bundles of them in your local garden centre.  You don't need to look for anything 'hard', or complicated or exotic.  Even the simple daffodil brings joy to the eyes under the weak winter sun.  Bulbs are great value and you can even cut the flowers to display in the home.  There are few guarantees in the gardening business, but with bulbs you simply plant at the right time, add soil and water and off you go!  I hear of people planting bulbs upside down and still being successful!

Choose what you like best.  You have plenty of choice in colour.

Creamy white or orange or neon yellow daffodils.  Choose dwarf versions for windy terraces so they don't get blown over before they're even showing their flowers.

Hyacinths planted in a pot next to your door give off a delicious heady scent better than any perfume.  And the colours are great too - purples, bright pink, elegant white.....

Dainty snowdrops can even poke out of the snow.

And later, tulips in an array of shapes, sizes and colours bring us through to March and April.  Choose your palette and don't forget to plant in clumps for effect.  I've never liked that 'one flower per foot' attitude to gardening.  Tulip planting can wait until November but why wait?  Again,choose dwarf varieties for windy spots.  Tulips have a tendancy to droop all too easily.

Seek out a freely drained, relatively sunny position for best effect and a bulb likes to be buried no less than two times its own depth.  Planting advice tells us to take out and store tulip bulbs over the summer but I leave mine in the ground and they have been reliably coming back to see us every year since.  Bulb can also peep through other foilage like ivy in a windowbox or even on the lawn - again, plant in numbers and in clumps for best effect.

Some favourites:'February Silver', 'February Gold', 'Peeping Tom', 'Jack Snipe', narcissus 'Pipit' too, but don't get hung up on varieties; normally bulbs do what they say on the packet so choose colours that you like and off you go painting a wonderful winter picture.

mercredi 6 octobre 2010

Global warming produce

Acting on an urge to grow his own food, Mark Diacono purchased a 17 acre smallholding in Devon, (Otter Farm) England.  Banking on a changing climate and global warming, he decided to plant warmer-weather produce.  There's a long article about him on the link above.

In an article in the Observer, he gives his advice on how to grow remarkable fruit and vegetables:-

1.  Choosing what to grow: Make a wishlist.  Dream.  Forget limitations.  Let flavour be your guide.

2. Grow what you most like to eat: Follow that wishlist.  That's why we grow cherry tomatoes in the main - we love eating them, they are delicious and expensive in the shops.

3. Grow what you can't buy: Supermarket peaches, nectarines and apricots are picked early to keep them firm so their sugars stop developing.  They never have the taste of one just picked from the tree at the right moment.  Equally, asparagus, sweetcorn, peas and carrots taste sublime from the garden.

4. Grow something unexpected.  Mulberries, salsify and quinces don't do well in the supermarket system.  He also suggests a subterranean pear (yacon), sweet lemony oca or Egyptian walking onions.

5. Challenge your tastebuds.  If you don't like something in the shops, you might find the home grown version delicious.

6. Grow food that's expensive to buy (hence our cherry toms) or asparagus, purple broccoli.  You'll save plenty of money.

7. Think seasonally.  Don't ignore fruit, greens, salads and nuts from other parts of the year.

8. Quick return.  Enjoy quick and easy successes with cut and come again salad leaves for example to give you confidence.

9. Go for diversity.  Don't plant too much of one food.  Go for a broad range and a mixture of varities.  You'll find a big difference between varieties of the same fruit or veg.  Some might be easier to repeat next year for example.

10. Aesthetics.  Foster your own sense of the beautiful, give your patch importance.  Park your chair and have your morning coffee near your crops, feel the pride!

11. Get catalogues.  Look through all the catalogues you can find, go to someone who knows what they are doing (a neigbour for example).  Remember what you are reading is a menu, just that the service is a bit slower than in a restaurant!

12. Be realistic about your time.  Start slow, don't take on too much.  There's a lot of difference between four tomato plants and six crops.  Take on what you can cope with and add more crops when you get more experienced.

Thank you mark Diacono for those words of wisdom!  If you'd like some more of that wisdom in book form, buy 'Veg Patch: River Cottage Handbook No 4' from Amazon.

Scores on the doors after September

I can hardly believe it myself but the tomato plants are STILL going strong, looking a bit more brown and certainly they have stopped growing, but there are still producing tomatoes, incredible, what an investment!

The scores on the doors at the end of September are:

Small one                393
Medium one             33
Mummy                   385
Daddy                      44
*Unexpected one      52

*I planted some seeds way back in March/April from a packet of chilli peppers.  They grew nicely in the pots, I thinned them and planted them in the garden all over.  So we now have a good crop of chilli peppers?  No!  They turned out to be largeish cherry tomato plants instead!  What a surprise.  I watched them as they grew and knew that the leaves were a bit similar in both plants but then the leaves started to smell of tomatoes, and lo and behold little green tomatoes began to form. 

The great thing is that they have matured much later than the plants that we purchased, so we have a longer tomato season.

In the supermarket, a pack of organic cherry tomatoes costs nearly 3 Euros and there are about 20 in each pack.  Thus, we have saved around 300 Euros in tomato costs.  This is enormous!

Final scores on the doors in mid October I expect.  It's a close race....