Monday, 27 July 2009

Broccoli, Courgettes and blurry photographs

There's something very real about this photo. It's far removed from the glossy shots you see in 'foodie' magazines. A little bit blurred even. It's a 'just-come-home-from-the-allotment-and-put-things-on-the-table-tired-now-but-happy' sort of a photograph. I like to help other growers along - so this is definitely a 'you-can-do-it-too' sort of picture.

And there's another thing I'm proud of. This digital snap does NOT illustrate a glut. We've grown just enough broccoli and courgettes (two or three plants) to have some for our evening meals, without getting fed up with them, and without wasting anything.

These were low maintenance plants. Once I'd raised the broccoli in biodegradable pots at home I just planted them out - threw them in with a net over the top, held down at the sides with bricks. I really didn't pay them much attention after that. I can't even remember weeding them. And people say brassicas are really difficult to grow...?

As for the courgettes - it was the same story with them too (didn't need the nets though). No doubt the rain helped. There I was at the beginning of June - worrying about how I was going to water the plot, and in the end - I hardly needed to.

Even if we don't eat these vegetables today (and I don't make it down to the allotment every day - I'm there once or twice a week at the moment) - these vegetables will still be much fresher than the ones we could have bought in the supermarket.

Here's another blurry photograph:

In this one, you can see roughly how big the head of broccoli is by comparing it to the size of my (largish) hand. That's another thing about organic growing. Some people will tell you organically grown fruit and veg always turns out to be smaller than 'conventionally' grown veg. Don't believe a word of it.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Is the food industry 'playing' with our lives? Food Inc.

'Food Inc' (the documentary) is making waves in the U.S. Not least amongst the major 'players' of the food industry. This clip shows a mother who lost her son because he ate contaminated food. She's fighting for new food safety legislation. Lots more about Food Inc on YouTube. See also BBC's Radio 4's The Food Programme for a discussion: Food and Film.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Nasturtiums and Marigolds

Nasturtiums and Marigolds. Both clumps of flowers self-seeded. Saves time and money.

I went to the trouble of raising about fifteen seedlings last year - but this year, I didn't need to. They look really attractive in the middle of the plot - and the bumble bees love them. I'm aiming to have something in flower every month of the year so these yellow and orange blooms do the 'July' shift...

Some people say these plants are invasive, but they're not difficult to keep in check - if you've got too many - just pull some up before they flower and add them to the compost heap.

I put the tree stumps in place to add some interest for my daughter, who's off to school in September - she likes using them as stepping stones.

Nasturtiums come in all sorts of vibrant colours. You can use both flowers and leaves in your salads. Follow this link for some great recipes: Salmon-cucumber stuffed nasturtium leaves, nasturtium-strawberry salad...see Old Fashioned Living.

You can eat Marigold petals too. Try: Stuffed Tomatoes with Marigold Blossoms (and basil). You need French Marigold petals for this dish. I'm not much good at latin names, but I also like the appearance of Calendula Officinalis, which has a larger flower than the French Marigolds in the picture. I grew Calendula Officinalis last year too. All seeds from The Organic Gardening Catalogue.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

How to grow peaches

It's been quite a journey. It began with an 'Avalon Pride' peach-leaf curl resistant peach tree, planted in 2006. The peach tree cost about £26.00

I don't know anyone else who has grown a peach tree successfully AND organically outside in the North West of England. In the first year (2007), I spent a good while fretting about frost protection. The peach tree lost it's blooms and succumbed to peach leaf curl, even though it was supposed to be peach leaf curl resistant.

By the second year, I left the tree to it's own devices. The blooms stayed on. I planted garlic round the base (which is supposed to deter fungal diseases) and hoped for the best.

To my delight lots of fruitlets appeared. I made the mistake of thinning them. (We had about twenty originally and I took about a dozen off). Don't follow the advice you get from gardening books too slavishly!

We were left with FIVE fruits, and here is a picture of one of them. They're about half the size of the ones you see in the shops, so here's hoping that in a week or two, with some sun - they might even be ready to eat. Anyone else with a peach tree out there? Let me know via the comments box...