Thursday, 20 May 2010

Becoming self-sufficient with your kitchen garden

On the fourth birthday of our organic allotment - which we converted from derelict (when I say, derelict - I mean derelict - at least one hundred sacks of broken glass and rubbish removed) - it's time to take stock.

Our ultimate goal was to become as self-sufficient as possible in fruit and vegetable production. To produce fruit and vegetables for a family of three. And more - to barter with friends and neighbours for the things we don't or can't produce. We wanted to do all this with as little effort as possible.

We failed on the first count - (using as little effort as possible) - as the process has involved a lot of hard work. However - now that our plot is four years old - and now that we've learned a lot more about organic fruit and veg growing - things seem to be getting a little easier. We can get by with two afternoons or two evenings a week work.

So what will we be eating? Crucial question.

Our apple trees (two of them) will be providing us with a large harvest this year - we'll be swimming in apples again. What luxury! One of the trees fruits early autumn - and with the other one - the apples can stay on and be used as late as December. That's useful.

We won't be short of autumn fruiting raspberries. Of course many of these don't make it home as we eat them straight off the bushes like sweets. But that's fine - especially as far as our four year old daughter is concerned.

The blackcurrants, the gooseberries and the redcurrants are looking good - they liked the cold winter - so we'll have the ingredients for those summer puddings that taste so lovely - and they're actually quite simple to make.

We pride ourselves on not having to buy any salad greens all year. We've got various Mizuna and Mizuba greens and Little Gem lettuces growing in the court yard and on the plot.

The new potatoes will be along in a few weeks. They're First Earlies and they were off to a slow start this year. We harvest them gradually, digging them up when some are tiny and we leave some to grow larger. They should last until the end of August at least.

Herbs are a lovely accompaniment. In a few weeks we'll have parsley, coriander and basil on hand, as well as the usual perennial suspects like rosemary. This year we've also got Lovage - which deserves a separate post and a photograph - it's an attractive looking plant - you can blanch the stems and eat them like celery or you can add the young leaves to chicken dishes.

It seems an odd time of year to be looking forward to the winter - but we're doing that too. The beds which are currently filled with broad beans and dwarf french beans will be planted up with winter brassicas as soon as the beans are harvested.

So, in short, this year, for the first time ever - we're aiming to fill up every single bed on the plot - and as soon as one crop has finished we have plug plants ready to fill the bed up again.

We've now stopped harvesting the rhubarb and the asparagus to let the plants establish themselves and become stronger for the future.

We also have staples like garlic and red onions we can use in salads, together with spring onions and a nursery bed full of leeks.

Flowers ( attracting pollinators like hoverflies) include poached egg plant, a lovely Duckling clematis that survived the winter, plenty of self-sown Calendula, Nasturtiums, Delphiniums and something called 'Dancing Ladies'.

Things have been so hectic lately - I'm behind with photographs, but no doubt will catch up on this one soon...I'm looking forward to Open Day this year on the site. June 20th. Stay tuned.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Growing and eating Asparagus organically

I'd resolved to post at least once a week on this blog. This last month though, has been so busy I just haven't managed it. The weather had been so cold for so long, once things started warming up, I spent every spare minute on the allotment, or organising plantings to catch up. Even so - we're talking just two afternoons a week - that's all the time I had. Not even enough time to take photographs and post them here.

But it's been a wonderfully productive time. Last week we finally had our second meal of home-grown asparagus. Inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe - we ate it with soft boiled eggs and warm, italian bread. When I say 'cooked' I mean - I put it in a skillet for about two minutes and then it was done. As you can imagine it didn't stay on the table for very long, and my four year old daughter loved to eat the long stems with her fingers and dipped them into the egg.

Apologies, readers, for the lack of a picture of my own - missed out on an opportunity there - just so busy DOING - I'm going to try to catch up this week though with words and pictures but here's what Jamie has to say on Growing Asparagus and a useful video on Preparing Asparagus