Kitchen Garden

What’s Growing On In February?

Biting winds, rain, hail and snow showers, we’ve never been so thankful for the occasional glimpse of sunshine to provide some respite. Ooh naughty February! Welcome back to our monthly catch up posts where we show you what’s growing on in our garden smallholding.

The vegetable garden in February still offers fabulous things to eat thanks to a bit of careful planning. By dedicating a whole bed to carrots rather than just a couple of rows for late summer/autumn use, we’re still pulling tasty roots of ‘Autumn King’. Standing well in our soil our garden tends to get rather boggy in winter so this variety really is worth growing. The same can be said for ‘Gladiator’ parsnip, fantastic roots right through to spring.

Another great crop providing nutritious leaves from summer right through to winter is kale. ‘Nero Di Toscana’ will grow in difficult conditions such as a shady spot and poor drainage (trust us, we know!). The flavour improves after a frost and once it finally bolts the flowers can be eaten too.

We’ve just finished picking the last of the Brussels Sprouts and now we’re patiently waiting for spears of beautiful early sprouting broccoli to make an appearance. Early purple sprouting is sown late spring one year and produces from February/March the following year – so you really do need to be patient!

The veg garden in February

Autumn-fruiting raspberry canes got their annual chop this week. Rich carefully tidied around to remove the old leaves and debris being careful not to damage emerging canes, finishing up with a mulch of compost afterwards.

The canes are very spiky – gloves are needed! In just a couple of months the whole bed will be brimming with fresh new growth.

Rather than burning or composting we’ve decided to keep the cut raspberry canes and use them as organic slug and snail deterrents (due to the spikes), laying them on the ground in and around seedlings.

Something has had a go at the broad bean seedlings underneath the cloche tunnels (unlikely to be a pigeon, a mouse perhaps?), a bit of soil disturbance and a couple of seedlings vanished – one is wilting so I guess the seed bean is damaged. This is the first place we’re going to use the canes. I wonder if mice will be that bothered by a few spikes? It’s an experiment so we’ll let you know if it works.

Our chickens were beginning to lay regularly (except for Mrs Broody pants), a couple have now decided to have another moult which means no eggs.

Some of our girls are getting on for retirement, perhaps nearer summer we’ll increase the flock seeing as we have a new coop!

 

Kitchen Garden

And Sow it Begins

I came home from hospital last weekend, my body is tired and sore but getting a little stronger every day. I ended up needing more surgery than expected which has set my recovery back with one thing or another but I am getting there, slowly. I miss spending time with the chickens and of course the day-to-day activities in the garden smallholding, family are mucking in and doing what’s needed. I long for the day I can join in rather than watch from the window but I’m not to lift anything heavier than a cup of tea for at least 6 weeks. Meh.

I guess I can cope with the tea bit.

After going through our seed stash last month we’ve ordered what we need for the new growing year with some new varieties to try, the rest will be our own saved seed. We will buy our seed potatoes very soon and set them out to chit in egg boxes.

We like to sow our tomatoes and chillies early, harvesting can begin as early as June/July depending on varieties grown. Chillies need constant heat to aid germinate so we’re using a seedling heat mat at the moment to help. We’ve never used anything like this before when germinating seeds such as chillies and peppers, we usually get decent germination results by using the warmest spots in the house but it can take up to a month to occur due to temperatures dipping at night. It’s a bit of a trial so we’ll let you know how the heat mat performs in terms of germination rate/time, and if we like it enough to recommend we’ll do a little blog post. Rich set everything up for sowing our seeds to avoid me lifting anything, all I had to do is pop the seeds in. It felt so good to be involved and gave me the lift I needed.

It’s official, gardening is therapy!

Foraging

Foraging Walks

We really enjoy our dog walks through the beautiful countryside surrounding the village.

dog walking

At this time of year the hedgerows have so much to offer, so our dog walks have turned into foraging walks.

german shepherd

Miss B doesn’t mind, she comes along too.

Haws, the fruit of the hawthorn
Haws, the fruit of the hawthorn
rosehips
Rosehips

Blackberries

You'll find wild blackberries growing almost anywhere, these are right by the roadside
Blackberries

You’ll find wild blackberries growing almost anywhere. The sprawling, spiteful plants are a nuisance, but try to remember what they offer late summer.

elderberries

I couldn't believe how many elderberries we found in just one area!
Elderberries heavy with juice

Syrups, jams, sauces, gin, wine, cordials and jellies are some of the things I will attempt to make with our free food, I plan to squirrel away foraged loveliness to the larder for Christmas.

sloes
Sloes, the fruit of the Blackthorn

Hazelnuts are also in season now and a great find for the forager, most probably green at the moment (but still delicious) but you could always leave some to ripen in a bowl and eat them at Christmas if you prefer. There’s a place we know of, so I guess Miss B would like to go foraging for hazels soon.

Kitchen Garden

Growing Our Own

veg beds

I’m so pleased with our vegetable garden now, particular because it was such hard graft to get anything growing in the first place. The whole plot was a jungle only a few months ago, you could barely access any of it let alone dig it. All the hard work has paid off and now we have vegetables happily growing away. So what have we been growing and sowing so far?

Sweet corn, Pentland Crown main crop potatoes, Charlotte salad potatoes, two varieties of broad bean (tall & dwarf) mange tout pea, red & white onions, garlic, runner beans,  courgette, Brussel sprouts, parsnips, main crop carrots, butterhead and cut & come again lettuce, radish, beets, rhubarb, tomatoes, cauliflower and we some chillies growing inside. We grew tried growing chillies last year and had reasonable success with them, although the chillies refused to go red on the plants. This is all a big step up from what we grew last year, we still have a lot to learn with regards to vegetable growing but so far so good.

The foundations that we discovered a while ago have now all been removed and soil replaced to fill in the trenches that were left. We have been left with a perfect brown rectangle in the lawn, a sprinkle of grass seed will soon put that right. The Marjorie’s Seedling plum has recently been planted into its final position but we need to wait a little longer before planting our apple trees. We are having a new fence erected at the end of the garden as well as having the soil leveled with mini digger. We did manage to level off half of it by hand but the job proved too time consuming and back breaking that we felt that we needed a bit of machine power. And a well earned rest! This should all be happening middle of next month, then we can think about planting our apple trees finally and perhaps getting another fruit tree, perhaps a pear.