Monday, 27 June 2011

Home Grown Salad Potatoes

This spring I decided to try growing salad potatoes for the first time.  I grew them in a potato sack, and as per the instructions I found on the internet, half filled the bag with compost, placed my chitted potatoes in the bag and liberally covered them with a chunk more compost.  As the shoots started to come through, as per the instructions, I kept covering them with more compost until I reached the top level of the bag.

Potatoes are in the solanaceae family and as a general rule that family likes lots of sun, lots of water and lots of feed, so I basically treated them a bit like tomatoes but with out the removal of side shoots and no need for supports.

I waited until all the top shoots were flowering and then checked if any potatoes were there...

And it really paid off!

This is it....  I will be growing potatoes every spring from now on.  Even in a small container garden you get a really good crop.  I harvested 900g of salad potatoes from the potato growing sack in the picture above.  It really was like digging for treasure!

Salad potatoes are usually pretty pricey so this is a great crop to grow at home.  And don't they look perfect? 

They were so crisp to cut.  I get an enormous pleasure chopping food I've grown myself.  Its a mixture of pride, having earnt the privelege through nurturing and watering and now getting the reward from all that hard work.  Lots of emotions!

What did I do with my new found bounty? you might ask...  I made the most wonderful potato salad.  The potatoes were so crisp to cut through, only needed a light brushing to remove the earth so I par-boiled them and promptly made some homemade mayonnaise to go with and a few chopped salad onions to garnish (also from the garden).  It really was very yummy!

Here's a link to my Potato Salad recipe

Friday, 24 June 2011

My turnips have gone to seed

On return from holiday, I found my turnips had gone to seed (also known as bolting).

This is when a vegetable plant transfers its energies from producing its vegetable to producing flowers and seeds.  It usually happens because the plant is under stress, for example, the conditions are too dry.

Another factor that can cause this to happen is growing vegetables in containers when really they would really like to be grown in much more soil and not restricted to the confines of a container.  With container growing another factor could be that they are not getting quite as much water as they would like.  This is a particular issue for the container grower as they will only get as much water as you or the rain gives them - if they were grown in open ground they could send their roots down further in search of water and nutrients.

My turnips are being grown in a pot (about 10 inches deep).  I don't think they like the confines of the pot as the turnips we are growing at the Bramford Community Garden are golf ball sized and not bolting at all.

They can't have been too stressed last week from lack of water as we had so much rain.  In any case I have beautiful yellow turnip flowers and no turnip roots.  So what do I do with them?  Can I still eat them?

When this occurred, it reminded me of when my radishes flowered last year.

At first I was disappointed as the roots I had grown them for were woody and dry.  Then they grew these beautiful white flowers, which I left as they looked beautiful.  Once they had finished flowering they produced seed pods.  I harvested these and added them to our salads.  We ate them like mange tout and they were wonderful and gave a good crunch to the salad.

Turnips look very much like big, white radishes.  Both turnips and radishes are brassicas, which is what reminded me of my last year's experiences with radishes.  Maybe these are good lessons learnt to bring to my bolted turnips.

Now I am in a quandry.  I feel I must experiment with the culinary delights that these flowers may present.   But do I eat them as flowers  (like broccoli) or do I let them form seeds?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Leaving the garden for a holiday away

I have just returned from a holiday with my boyfriend who is currently working away from home with the UN.  It was a lovely week's holiday but I could never have relaxed and enjoyed myself had I not had my lovely neighbour, Mic do the watering while I was away. 

This is the first holiday I have returned find a garden full of healthy plants.  Usually I spend the holiday checking the UK weather forecast trying to find out how dry it is in the UK and not really focusing on enjoying my holiday.  Before I leave for the airport I put upside down bottles of water contraptions in all the containers and heavily water everything before I go and then return home to find everything desperate for a drink and at least one casualty.

I have to say that Mic has been a star and everything is much bigger and bushier than I left.

My strawberries have not started producing fruit yet but there are plenty of flowers with promises.

Have to admit that my tomatoes have gone beserk!  Which is of course an amazingly good thing.

Really have to get these potatoes out of the bag now I think and find out if there's any goodies at the bottom - this is the first time I'm growing potatoes so it could go either way!

I think I may have some peas ready to eat.  Just need a closer inspection....

Looks like these guys have bolted... probably not suited to container growing as the turnips we've been growing in the Bramford Community Garden were all around golf ball size a fortnight ago.  I will experiment with eating the flowering heads in some salad instead.

Now the Kai Lan has got to be about 3 times the size it was a week ago.  I can see this might be this year's favourite super discovery.  (Last year's was chard).  I think a welcome home salad is in order.

I also found these beautiful radishes - perfectly rounded and ready to eat.  Another veg that has at least trippled in size in my week away.

If you'd like to see what else ended up in the welcome home salad... here's a link to the recipe garden salad

Friday, 10 June 2011

An ornamental edible garden

Lately I've been pondering a lot about the ornamental qualities of an edible garden.

It could be my work at the garden centre that has inspired me.

It could be due to planting a few companion flowers in the garden to ward off pests (e.g. calendula and nasturtiums).

It could be recently reading Alys Fowler's book The Thrifty Gardener - I could not help but read this gardening manual cover to cover!  This book inspired me to look at the garden as a combination of a thing of beauty and an edible garden.  Previously, I had always been focussed on growing edibles.  It really got me thinking about combining the two aspects, not just the plants but the containers that the plants live within.

Since then shopping has not been the same - always on the lookout for potential plant containers where ever I go and what ever I consume.  Take a look at what the radishes are growing in, in the picture below.

As well as hunting for potential containers this also led to my sowing a few annual ornamentals which I haven't really done before.  Cosmos was the ornamental flower that crept in - technically speaking the rest of the flowers are recommended companions for an edible garden.

I find rainbow chard with its full leaves and colourful stems always to be visually beautiful as well as very tasty.  Virtues of growing chard

Another vegetable that I have always thought very beautiful are squash.  I grew crookneck summer squash last year and the leaves looked so lush, the flowers and the bright yellow fruit looked amazing. Wonder of germinating squash

This year I have simply been completely bowled over by the beauty of purple pea varieties.  I think their flowers are simply astounding.  The flowers look sweet and no doubt their peas will taste amazing too.  I have never grown these before.  They came in this year's batch of seeds from the Heritage Seed Library called Purple pod.  Just take a look at how it flowers.  Peas please

I had almost forgotten to eat nasturtiums.  I've grown them for the last few years but simply as a fodder for the aphids so that they would leave my more prized edibles alone.

The other day I was gardening at the Bramford Community Garden and one of the other volunteers ate a nasturtium leaf.  The penny dropped - of course, you can eat the leaves! So I picked a nasturtium leaf.  Immediately, I smelt a very evocative smell that reminded me of a smell I knew from my childhood and with that smell I remembered the taste.  I thought why didn't I do this sooner!!  Munched on the leaf and that leaf packed a punch of peppery flavour.  Ever since then, nasturtium leaves have appeared in my daily salad!!  And the leaves and the petals are so beautiful too.

Last week I planted a Globe Artichoke in the Bramford Community Garden for its beautiful tall thistle shaped flower and its multi purpose of being a beautiful and architectural plant as well as an edible.  (Not the one in the picture!)  It is just a baby plant at the moment but I am looking forward to it growing taller than me with loads of beautiful flower heads!

Another thing of beauty is strawberry plants.  They come in a range of flower colours from deep dark pink, to pale pink through to the classic white flowers.  They can be planted in hanging baskets where the ripening fruit can dangle down graciously.

Take a look at these radish flowers. 

If I hadn't neglected the radishes last summer, I would never have seen this beautiful display of white flowers.  Following on from the flowers came the radish pods which were delightfully crunchy in salad (a bit like very small mange tout). 

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Transporting seedlings by bicycle

I always struggle with transporting seedlings by bicycle.  I know I really should buy a basket for my bike but I just haven't got round to it yet.

Each time I transport some, there just seems to be some tall ones that are particularly difficult to carry by bike so I put them in a bag which I hang on one of the handle bars desperately trying not to have the bag swallowed up by my front bicycle wheel.

On Sunday, I had rather a lot of seedlings to bring to the Bramford Community Garden  (cape gooseberries, aubergines, gem squash, tomatoes, sun flowers).  I managed to find a card board box that would fit into my rucksack and I could put all the seedlings in upright, except for the sunflowers that have grown more than a foot tall.

So I set off rather wobbly trying not to squash my prized sunflower seedlings. Then as I was cycling across my local park, I had a brain wave... What if I zipped them into my hoody they would be stationary allowing me to concentrate on riding my bike safely. I would not be worried about their well being more than my own!  I'd look a bit strange for the 20 minute ride - but who cares!!

When I arrived at the garden, Miranda said "they are your sunflower babies!"