Monthly Archives: June 2013

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Aphid spray from tomato leaves.

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If you grow tomatoes then you will know all about picking out the side shoots. But what do you do with them? They are really easy to pot on for extra plants but did you know you can make a organic aphid spray from the leaves?

Aphids are a pain in the backside for gardeners, especially veggie gardeners, as spraying your beautiful crops with awful insecticides feels like some kind of biological war. It’s also worrying when you read on the backs of the containers do not eat the vegetables after use, or keep away from children and animals. Leaves you thinking what have I just squirted on my families food!

Well here is a little spray that might just help you if your troubled with an aphid infestation, it natural and uses up things you are growing already, without any extra expense. Even if your not growing tomatoes, you may well know a friend who is.

Tomato leaf spray.

As you probably know tomatoes come from the nightshade family, a family which usually contains toxic compounds in their leaves etc. In the case of the tomato they are found in their leaves, stems and unripened fruit. These compounds are known as tomatine alkaloids.

When you chop up and add water to your tomato leaves the alkaloids are transferred into the ‘tea’ enabling you to spray on to infected crops to kill those pesky sap sucking pests. Here’s the best bit, it’s not harmful to you or your plants. It’s so easy to make too

A couple of handfuls of tomato plant leaves

Two cups of water in a container

Something to strain it through, cheese cloth, pair of old tights etc.

Then a spray bottle.

Extra two cups of water to dilute slightly.

Simply shred the leaves into small pieces, throw into the water and give a good stir and leave over night to infuse.

Next day pour the liquid into the spray bottle and wring out the leaves to get all the liquid possible add the extra water and spray away! Make sure you get under the leaves of an infected plant since that’s where these pests hide and do most damage. I would say if you suffer from allergies connected with the nightshade family take extra care making and spraying this, and never let your dog chew on a tomato plant as they are toxic to our fury friends!

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Strawberries won’t be long!

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Walking around my allotment today was pretty thrilling, won’t be long until we will be stuffing our faces with strawberries.

I am going to give them a feed later when the sun has gone in with some tomato feed.

Nothing beats a sunny day and a bowl of English strawberries and double cream, my mouth is watering just thinking about it! Yummy!

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Jerusalem artichoke

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Nothing beats pan fried Jerusalem Artichokes and I’ve been growing them for donkeys years and what an easy crop to grow. I have never had a problem growing them, ever.

They do get a fungal disease called Sclerotina which a white fluffy mould can grow on them and they begin to rot at the base turn yellow and wilt. The scary news is this will stay in your soil for a long time, so best to dig up the whole thing plus soil and pop it in the green bin and not compost it. The temparatures that regular compost heaps generate won’t kill the mould so just bin it all off – But I’ve never seen it on my crop.

The Jerusalem Artichoke (Heliantus Tuberosus) like most things is known by other names, sunroof, sunchoke, earth apple or Topinambour and belongs to the sunflower species! That’s why it grows so so tall, mine get to over 2 meters tall but never flower I believe they can do. Some people recommend giving them some support if it’s windy they can fall over, well I grow them on a pretty exposed spot and don’t really have a problem, but a few garden canes and some string will keep them up. They are great if you want a bit of privacy as they get so tall and dense and make a lovely swishing sound in the breeze.

My patch has been in place for about 7 years and come back every single year. I only dig up a small amount each year, they multiply under ground. You can get the tubers from good garden centres and plant them in March or April time, even better if you can get a few tubers from a fellow gardener. But bare in mind, they are very much like potatoes and if you just want to a few to try out one season make sure you dig every single one of them up as they are pretty suborn and will grow back next spring.

But as a whole I leave them to it, I give them some manure over winter and no protection. I cut them down in late winter when they start looking annoying and I have never had a problem.

So why grow them?
Apart from the fact they are extremely tasty, think potato but wonderfully nutty. They are packed with Potassium, high in iron, a great source of fibre and are different to most tubers as they aren’t packed with starchy carbs. They have Inulin instead, which is totally different from Insulin which helps you absorb calcium and helps you grow healthy intestinal bacteria too plus if you suffer from Diabetes they could be a nice alternative to potatoes as they do not affect blood sugar.

I am so looking forward to Sunday lunch with roasted lamb and Jerusalem Artichoke plus all the trimmings and yes, Yorkshire Puddings too!

A quick recipe for you!

Jerusalem Artichokes In Butter and Garlic

Serve a side dish for 4

3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
450 g Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, sliced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with the olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the sliced Jerusalem artichokes and sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper.

Sauté for about 10 minutes until they are brown and just beginning to soften. You’ll need to turn them quite a bit, then scoop into a bowl. Add the remaining butter and garlic to the pan and fry the garlic until it is just golden – this shouldn’t take longer than two minutes, so don’t burn it! Add the lemon juice and simmer for another 30 seconds. Spoon the butter mixuture over the Jerusalem artichokes and serve. Xxx

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Remember that top tip I told you?

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Well here is the proof, that a sprinkling of cinnamon helps combat fungal infections in your soil.

I didn’t lose a single liquorice plant and they are all planted out now in a big planter and looking lovely and healthy too!

My 6 year old daughter is made up, they are her little babies!

Happy gardening! X

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A new family of frogs…

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Every allotment has a little spot for a tiny pond. And here is mine, it only small, basically it’s an old water butt that was damaged years ago in the frost so instead of throwing it away I repurposed it. I grabbed a saw cut away the cracked bit and there it was my new pond, obviously I wanted it to look a bit better than that so…

I dug a hole under my willow tree and sunk it into the soil. There are no shortage of rocks on the allotment so I put a pretty circle all around it. But then I got thinking.

It’s is all well and good, but how do the frogs get in and out? It was time for a tiny rethink. There was an old water pipe knocking about for ages I used to have mint growing in it and thought, why not make a frog highway? From behind my compost heap down towards my pond? So I covered it in old rotten logs, twigs and moss found a huge branch from an oak tree and poked it into the water so the new habitants could get in and out and then filled it with rain water.

I waited for ages then one day a frog found it and moved in. It wasn’t long before I had frog spawn and all sorts of wonderful pond life tottering around it.

Ponds are good on the allotment for the frogs and toads who thank you for their quiet spot by eating slugs.

So welcome Mr and Mrs Frog I hope you both eat your hearts out!

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A vegetable from Roman times back on the plate.

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I think I have just found my new favourite vegetable, Good King Henry. I’ve been growing this on my allotment for many years, it returns each year without grumble, it isn’t bothered with pests and just gets on without complaint; but I have never eaten any…

He isn’t a pretty looking veg at first glance, rather plain and unassuming, boring some might say, but wow it’s tasty!

Usually at this time of year I’m getting stuck into the salad, courgettes maybe the odd pea or bean, but as it was so cold for so long I’m still waiting to harvest something. That’s why Good King Henry caught my eye.

Since medieval times the people of Europe have eaten this veg or herb. It was used for loads of different purposes it was a dye which gave a gold and green colour. It was also used to ease tummy ache in children has the seed is a very gentle laxative. Chickens love it too that’s why it’s also known as ‘Fat Hen’. It’s also said that this humble plants roots helped livestock especially sheep and goats if they were suffering from a cough!

Some other names it’s known by Markery, English Mercury, Mercury goosefoot, Perennial Goosefoot, Many-seeded Goosefoot, Oak-leaved goosefoot, Red goosefoot, Common orache, long-stalked orache, spear-leaved orache, Prickly saltwort, Fat Hen or Shoemakers’ heels.

Good names, but I think I will stick to Good King Henry. I think I’ve fallen in love with this plant even more since it has so much history. The Romans brought it to Britain, it featured heavily in Tudor gardens it was also a big feature in the Anglo-Saxon diets were it had the name Guter Henrich which I think is the name of a German fairy… I think!

I have mine growing in a Raised bed with some other perennials like horseradish and Jerusalem Artichokes. But I hear it’s perfect in a large planter on the patio, just keep it well watered and repot each new season with nice fresh compost. It grows to about 60 cm tall so will fill a gap on your patio very nicely.

Picking and harvesting
Pick and use straight away as I believe from what I’ve read it goes limp quickly but can be stored in the freezer. The plant is rich in iron, calcium and vitamins B&C so the question is what does it taste like?

Wow it’s lovely! I picked a few big spears, at the moment it’s flowering. I plucked the leaves off and threw them into a frying pan with some olive oil a big knob of butter and a couple of pinches of garlic powder. It cooked very quickly like spinach and like spinach, if your feeding a family you will need quite a lot. But it was absolutely beautiful, I would say a cross between spinach and asparagus, I will be eating a lot of this and saving the seed to sow more next year!

They also say you can sautéed the flower buds in butter too, but they were a bit too bitter for my taste buds and even the young shoots are very good, tied together in bundles and cooked and eaten like asparagus, which I will definitely try! If you make your own bread you can collect the seed to add to your bread mix, you need to soak the seeds over night.

So there you have it my new favourite vegetable planted and forgotten about for 8 years on my allotment and brought to the UK in 55BC but today I rediscovered it, I highly recommend growing some and what a story to tell your dinner guests.

Happy gardening my friend! X

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My little allotment…

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Things move quickly in nature, last time I took a picture from this angle, I’d just finished my big dig and was exhausted. This time I have a different feeling its one of excitement and hope.

What a difference a couple of months make. Most of my veggies are out and starting to grow. The left bed at the front is my kale, chard, cabbage and swede bed. On the right is my squashes, pumpkins, marrows and courgettes (or Zucchini for my American Friends).

As we go off into my allotment next bed down on the left is filled with purple sprouts and broccoli and some sweet peas. To the right I have my Runner Beans (pole beans) and French beans. This weekend I will have to transplant my asparagus peas or they will never get going.

The big green patch which looks over grown from the picture are my raspberries. I seem to grow the tastiest on the allotment, and I don’t do anything with them except leave them to it and add a bit of potash, we have a log stove so I collect the ashes in a tub when it’s cooled down.

The raspberries are the half way point to my little plot. Further down the peas and broad beans, strawberries all hang out quite merrily. I have spuds and cherry trees, salad and other little goodies I will share with you too.

I’m a happy and excited soul, longing for some sunshine though, my sky is looking a bit moody!

Happy gardening! X