Tag Archives: vegetable growing

Foraging the Back Garden

We are well into the hungry gap now and until our perennial vegetables (well just Kale actually) are established we are supplementing our early cut and come again salad with foragings from the garden.

Lots of salad.  Yum Yum!

Lots of salad. Yum Yum!

[In the above salad is Fat Hen, Chickweed, Sorrel, Bloody Dock, English Mace and Mizuna]

I met the lovely Wild Food Forager a few months ago and she kindly popped round one afternoon to give us an edible tour of the weeds in the back garden. I didn’t want to pop some hemlock into lunch by mistake!

I learned a lot.  Thankfully I had properly identified Fat Hen and now we eat lots of it whilst waiting for the Spinach to come up.

Fat Hen

Fat Hen

There is also Chickweed (I’ve been pinching out the tops for our salads), Hogweed (I tried one of the young shoots – it tasted very green), Wild Sorrel, Nettles, Ground Elder (I probably won’t be eating a lot of that!), Goose grass (edible but barely!), Elderflowers, Rowan, Dogrose Blackberries and Cow Parsley.

Wildfoodforager was surprised we had no Comfrey (and so was I!) I think one of our plans for next year should be to plant some perhaps under the apple trees;  like nettles, they are so valuable for our composting system.

At the moment I’m letting the Fat Hen and Chickweed grow instead of weeding it.  It gets picked and eaten like any other herb/vegetable.  But I think that Josh and I might have a tussle over that 😉

The nettles won’t make it near the dinner table though – they are far too valuable for the compost heap.

All this has reminded me I own Food for Free and Weeds both by Richard Mabey.  Time to get reading I think!

Finally a picture of the new pigs. The previous pigs did so much digging that they actually created a wallow – they didn’t need to use it much living here in the Winter, but going into the Summer I think the new pigs are going to love it!

oink oink

oink oink

 

Bank Holiday Work

So moving up here is a lifestyle choice – which means that instead of going away for the bank holiday weekend we were desperately finishing the new pig pen and doing lots of gardening. But it was all great fun!

Our 3 new Berkshire Weaners are happily installed in their huge pen.  They are so tiny it is really easy to lose them in the pen/pig hutch, so I keep thinking they have escaped… only they haven’t, they are just tiny.

After that it was back to more vegetable gardening.

I have planted out all the squashes now (6 butternut and 1 blue banana), a couple of cabbages (Duncan) and the only 3 sweetcorn that made it.  I think sweetcorn in the North will be a bit of a pipe dream from now on but we will see. The rest of the cabbage and about 5-6 cavelo nero need hardening off over the next week before they go in.

I also caught a couple of beans which had germinated which I missed the first time and chucked them in where I could.

The other big job was banking up the potatoes.  Since we have clay soil here I’m trying a new technique of using grass clipping, they rot down over time so you have to bank them up more regularly but it is a million times easier than trying to hill up our soil. Josh worked hard on mowing the lawn so I’d have enough grass clippings for the job.  So far so good.

The win/lose tally is dipping into nature’s favour though:

Lost 1/2 the last salad planting, 1/2 the purslane and the best looking courgette plant to the slugs.  Pass the beer traps please.

I’ve also had cat trouble – my lovely permaculture circle beds are purrfect litter trays.  I’ll be bringing out the rubber snakes soon! In the meantime I lost a good chuck of carrot seedling.  Maybe I’ll replace with a couple of radishes?

We did get our first tiny pea pod of the year – very exciting!

Round Like a Circle Bed

I’ve been reading up on everything permaculture for a while and slowly drip feeding the principles into the design and construction of our vegetable garden.

Gather your ingredients.

Gather your ingredients.

One of our biggest challenges has been couch grass – it is persistent, deep rooted and in the way.  We used the first set of pigs to move a lot of it but since I’ve discovered No Dig gardening I’ve been looking for other ways to reclaim patch of ground for vegetables.  Which is where I came upon the idea of the circle bed.

The idea is simple and I constructed one and planted it up inside an hour – so time efficient when you are grabbing gardening time when the baby goes for a nap

I started with a circle of cardboard roughly 1 meter in diameter. Simply made using a drawing pin, a little over 1/2 a metre of string and a pencil.  I tied the pencil to one end of the string, attached the other to the centre of my piece of cardboard and then keeping the string taught, sketched out a circle.

Then I soaked the cardboard in water and popped it straight on the grass in the location I picked out – near the other vegetable bed but with plenty of room to move around.

The stick is just a garnish.

The stick is just a garnish.

Then I piled up 1 wheelbarrow of well rotted horse manure and then a layer of 60 litres of compost.

Well rotted Manure.  Thanks to the neighbours.

Well rotted Manure. Thanks to the neighbours.

 

After that it was easy to shape with a bit of watering and I patted it down like a giant sandcastle.  I made little terraces for the seeds and then smoothed them over.

You can just make out some handprints.

You can just make out some handprints.

Because the circle bed is only 1 metre in diameter and heaped in the centre you never have to walk on it (and so avoid compacting the soil).  The mound creates 3 growing areas, near the base for shorter rooted plants like lettuce, 6-8 inches up the side for longer rooted things (I’ve chose Mooli and Carrots) and the very top where I’ll probably plant a Cavelo Nero, or maybe a squash plant, or maybe a cucumber – who knows!

In the end it was a squash plant…

I'm the king of the castle... etc.

I’m the king of the castle… etc.

The first bed I made I used a straw mulch as suggested in the book.  Then I realised that the book was for Australian gardeners who use the straw to reflect sunlight (less of a concern in the UK!).  Therefore I’ve pulled it to one side to let more light and warmth in and I’m hoping it will create a slug obstacle course. When I made the second bed I skipped the straw layer entirely.

The second bed has nasturtiums plants in the top which I am hoping will cascade down the mound creating ground cover and making it look beautiful.  Cross your fingers this all works!