Sunday 20 February 2011

Jerusalem artichokes

I am still enjoying my own Jerusalem artichokes, which I stored in the unused dishwasher and found like this: quite a spectacular sight.

Having some leftovers after a big roast (oil, salt & pepper), I decided to improvise a curry (Italian style): I stirfried a small onion, with some chilli flakes, turmeric and curry powder. When the onion was soft and translucent, I added tinned chickpeas, the roasted artichokes and a tin of coconut milk.

Once the coconut had melted and reduced, I added a mix of black rice and wholemeal basmati, which I had rinsed and simmered for half an hour. Hubby's loved it and I did too: it was a good balance of flavours.

I still have one plant in the ground to pick, but next year I am definitely planting more: besides the tuber fragments I left in the ground from this year (Jerusalem artichokes are a bit weedy in behaviour) I have ordered more already: they work as a windscreen for the wines, and are a wonderful winter crop that requires very little care.

Saturday 19 February 2011

Ready for the season

So husband has a few tools now and is immunised against tetanus. Has had a go at digging and manuring and is surprisingly happy with it. The rubbish from his plot is mostly cleared and I got him some daffs for Valentine's day, and some ranunculus that need planting.

My greenhouse is fixed - courtesy of the strong wind a couple of weeks ago, which brought out the lost nuts and bolts - is now clean and disinfected and so are the propagators. My seed stocktaking is also completed and copies have been printed for both hubby and myself, so that we know what is available, where in the crop rotation and when to sow.

Raring to go. Except it's raining quite heavily!

Anyway, while sitting at home in the rain, I was thinking that since my plot is almost all clear and manured too, and since it will take a while for the first seedlings to come out of the greenhouse, I might have a go at green manure this year.

My green manure booklet from Garden Organic gives a comprehensive list of benefits:
  • Feed the soil
  • Protect and improve soil structure
  • Stimulate soil micro-organisms
  • Prevent weeds
  • Control pests
  • Improve appearance
  • Rest soil
so definitely worth it, and I bought a few types. However, there's a problem. Looking at the list
  • Alfalfa La Bella Campagniole B, Fabaceae (Leguminosae) - April
  • Buckwheat                 X, Poligonaceae - April
  • Fenugreek                         B, Fabaceae - March
  • Field Beans                 B, Fabaceae - Sept
  • Fodder Radish         C, Brassicaceae - Aug
  • green manure mix                 X
  • Hungarian grazing rye C, Poaceae - Aug
  • Red Clover         B, Fabaceae - Apr
  • White Lupins         B, Fabaceae - March
most are Fabaceae, which means they go in the rotation with beans and in my 4-year rotation with Alliaceae too. As I grow quite a lot of both beans and garlic, though, I have no "B" beds left. It means I will have to buy Phacelia (Hydrophyllaceae), the only one that you can plant from March onwards and is not in the rotation. I planted it once already, I left it long and the flowers were a lovely lilac, loved by bees.

Sunday 6 February 2011

Aching all over with a warm feeling!

The buds are bursting out of their scales on most plants, and the wind of the last couple of days was warm though quite strong: it blew away one of my greenhouse tents and down my greenhouse door (a blessing in disguise, really, as I found a couple of lost bits which had made it wobble for the last few months, and so I could fix it for good!). Even the sun made a timid appearance out of his permanent blanket of white clouds. And more people are emerging from their winter hiding, and are busy around their plots.

Feeling energised, I had a go at tackling the hill of rubbish at the bottom of hubby's plot - a hell of a big task:  I dug out another 3 bin bags of rubbish, while removing a wheelbarrow or two of suckers, nettle and other weeds.

Up at my plot, my beds start to look pretty and tidy now. Both days I stayed until after dark, as in the good old times :) I feel very well but also extremely tired and all sore: it takes just a month or two without serious gardening to get me unfit: I am really getting old! ;p However, I found myself with a grin on my mouth whenever I stopped working.

No sign of further digging from the rats: have they eaten the baits? I keep forgetting the butter, but I have also remembered why I had stopped using it: the resident fox would get the trap and bash it around until she managed to eat what was inside.

Hubby has been down with me all the time and managed quite a lot of work: he cleared a big strip of land, manured it (the soil was extremely heavy and compacted so I though it might be a good idea) and planted his first onions. I hope he enjoyed it.

The technological type he is, Gianfry managed to think of a geeky gadget for the allotment too: he got us walkie-talkies to communicate when apart! I guess it is one of those thing that you hang on to from childhood for both of us, because I remember having thought of getting a pair myself a while ago. They work well, but I still prefer to walk from one plot to the other: it's good exercise! And it is nice to be both there on site, even though we soldiered through and didn't have much leisure together.

That's all for the weekend. I have soaked some cyclamen seeds and will try to sow them one of these evenings: my penchant for flowers is still showing, so much so that I have even bought again from T&M (but their website is really clunky, so I used the catalogue to browse). Well, time to get my head down and write my essay now...

Wednesday 2 February 2011

The allotment of Eden

After a bad day at work I decided I needed some carefree time all for myself, and no thought of studying whatsoever. So I got a day off and spent it all outside: in the garden, which is now much tidier and shows the emering bulbs that were previosly buried in overgrown grass and weeds; and at the allotment.

I was reading this blog entry and I think at the end it describes quite accurately what the feeling is that I have missed in my winter blues and that was back yesterday. Through my slipping in the mud, stabbing and otherwise hurting myself. Through the drizzle that finally gave way to a timid sun. Through the sorry mistakes of finding a ladybird under my foot and bleeding a tree (hopefully not to death) when hanging a bird box on it.

It did work! I find it really amazing how the mind stays empty and focuses on the task in hand while you garden: it's so relaxing. Even the physical aching of untrained muscles afterwards is somewhat pleasurable, as it makes me feel alive and real.

Now, almost all my beds are clear of weeds and manured, and ready for planting.

I have been looking at hubby's plot too, but it is such a big task and still I haven't figured out the best way to tackle it. I guess your plot grows on you while you manage it... But was very pleased to hear that hubby, too, found it relaxing, despite his initial skepticism.

There's probably a reason why Eden was depicted as a garden... ;)

-- Post From My iPhone