Saturday, 22 August 2015

Preserving your produce for winter use

It is that time of year when there is more produce in the vegetable garden than you can possibly eat fresh.
It dose not matter how well you plan your garden you always end up with lots of one crop at certain times of the year. Mine at the moment is courgettes and runner beans I just cannot keep up with them and you end up being a bit fed up of eating them. So my new preserving bible is Keep it Fresh which came free from DT Brown seeds it is written by Rachel Cole. I keep this book in the kitchen now as I use it so much at this time of the year when I have so much produce coming in from the garden. I am not sure if it is still in print any more I can not find it on there website but it may be worth contacting them to see if it is still in print as it is such a good guide. I want to preserve as much as possible for use through the winter when there is limited fresh vegetables in the garden. I would not normally recommend frozen veg but the veg you freeze your self is so much better than any you can get from the supermarket.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Selfsufficient update

At the beginning of the year I set my self the challenge of going self sufficient and producing at least one piece of food every day of the year. Well how has it been going, very well especially now we are producing more than we can eat so there is lots of freezing and jamming taking place. Usually late into the night don't no why but Jam making always seems to start at about 9 o'clock at night. Probably because it is dark outside so no gardening and the girls are in bed so peace and quiet. We spent the spring building raised beds and levelling up the slope in the garden to make it much easier for us to garden. We filled them up with lots of compost, manure and soil from the levelling of the slope which has made a great growing medium for our vegetables to grow in.
One of the problem crops this year has been onions they have not performed well at all lots have gone to seed or not reached a very good size. Which is a shame as last year not one went to seed and it was the best crop I have had for a long time they also lasted until late June which is great. The other problem I have had is the peppers and aubergines just have not wanted to grow as the nights have been so cold. The other night it dropped as low as 4oC which is ridiculous for the end of July and no surprise that the more tender crops are struggling to grow.
But forgetting all the problems as it would be very boring if everything went well every year and gardeners do like something to moan about other than the weather. When growing your own it is always difficult to get the right balance of quantity's of each crop not having too much all at once. Yet again I have far too many courgettes than I know what to do with. The problem is I always end up with lots of good plants at the beginning of the year and never want to put them on the compost heap. But there are always lots of friends and family who are always happy to take a bag home with them.

So the challenge is going very well but to carry on the challenge on in to the autumn, winter and beyond. So we have been constantly sowing every time we clear an area a new crop is sown in that space so there is never any bare soil. which also means a constant supply of vegetables I have learnt that it is better to have lots of different vegetables in small quantity's rather than large quantity's of a few vegetables. Except vegetables that can store well such as onions, garlic, shallots etc. also there are some crops that stand well in the ground such as leeks, celery, parsnips and carrots etc. You can harvest them as you need them especially through the winter if they have a bit of protection. All in all it is has been a success and we will defiantly be carrying on with the experiment it next year.

Making the most of your hedge clippings

It's that time again when we have to get the hedge cutters out again and trim up our hedges depending on the type of hedge you have. You may have to cut it more than once during the year and each time it produces piles of woody clippings. Most folk reach for the council's green bin to dispose of them in but that way you are wasting so much great composting material. Your main problem is that it is bulky and woody not easy to compost as it is so I spread it out over the lawn. Get my mower out and mow it all up as it goes through the mower it all gets chopped up in to tiny pieces and dumped into the collection box.
Now you have some great woody material that will rot down well especially when mixed up with all your grass clippings and kitchen scraps. It's always best to try and compost as mush as possible from your garden as good garden compost is one of the gardens best friends. It is also a great method to use when cutting down your perennials and any shrubs you are giving a prune.