Monthly Archives: April 2015

raab rapture ….

The air temperature is rising, one result of which is that the over-wintered brassica have started to flower.

DSC_0909I’ve opened the tunnel so that the bees can have a snack. In previous years they would have been the only ones feasting as I used to hoik the plants out and consign the whole lot to the compost heap, which is great from a recycle point but we had been missing out on a culinary trick.

DSC_0905Because the flower shoots are really delicious.  From what I can glean, these budding shoots of broccoli, kale, mustards etc. are called raab or rabe.  I picked a huge bowl of purple shoots the other day and we had a bunch wilted with anchovy and chilli to accompany baked cod fillet.

DSC_0904Today we snapped off some shoots from the curly kale.

DSC_0911These featured in a home-made pizza along with roasted onions and black olives, (recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, who also has a mean looking pasta recipe). All the more reason to keep the brassica producing shoots over the coming few weeks by nipping out any that have broken into flower.


A very fitting final flourish.



there is a season……

We have just eaten the first picking of the asparagus.


This is the best thing about GYO (growing your own).  There’s always THAT moment to look forward to, a moment to savour.  Then it’s gone, until next year.  And that makes the moment all the finer; the brevity.  Pick the best in the season, appreciate it and then look to the next – the first strawberry or the first new potatoes lifted from the earth.

We shall have more picking of asparagus over the next 6-8 weeks until June and then the plants will be left to go to leaf to build up the crown before being cut away in winter.

To appreciate the first of the season – keep it simple.  A few minutes of steam, a light sprinkle from the salt and pepper grinders and a classic pairing with a softly poached egg.

C’est tout.


the big mow…..


The OH has been out with the sickle bar and cut the grass in the orchard.  I raked up some of the grass clippings and created a ring of mulch around the fruit trees.  These have been piled up to a depth of around 4inches to 6 inches which should help suppress the growth of grass around the trees thereby reducing the competition for nutrients and water.  Whilst trees on half standard rootstock can cope with grass grown up to the trunk once mature if is preferable to remove the competition and it is essential to do this for young trees to ensure that they establish well.   Commercial orchards usually have a herbicide, (glyphosphate), strip running along the rows but as we don’t spray this isn’t an option.  We have gone for a combination of a mypex mat plus the mulch.

Also, long grass could hold moisture against the trunk which increases the risk of rot.  MM106 rootstock can be susceptible to collar rot on heavier soils so I’ve pulled the mulch back from the trunk by about 6 inches to ensure good air circulation and sunshine at the base of the tree.  The mulch will also help retain water through summer and as grass is organic its breakdown will return nitrogen back into the soil which is all to the good.

So I’m feeling most virtuous and have turned my thoughts to adding wildflowers to the orchard.   I’m leaning towards introducing a mass of spring bulbs. Narcissus, snake’s head fritillary, snowdrops. Just like Sissinghurst…..

sissinghurst orchard

…. except for the King Alfred ones which are horrid.





sweets for my sweet….

I’m going out on a limb here …

I know – heady stuff.

Last year's sweetcorn

Last year’s sweetcorn

Just over a fortnight ago I sowed a tray of sweetcorn.   Now, sowing early is a common tendency in some veg. growers – when I say some, I mean of course,


I sowed tomatoes and chillies in January – big mistake. I didn’t have anywhere with enough light and warmth to keep the potted-on specimens. With a few, (very few), exceptions, they sulked and then, just to hammer the point home, died. A resow was required in late February.  I sowed the french bean, Tendergreen, early.  Big mistake.  No germination, zippo, nada.  That was a waste of seed, compost and loo rolls.

But here I am again.  Back in mid March I sowed a tray of loo rolls with sweetcorn and kept the tray in the utility room.  Outbuildings are mouse territory and sweetcorn is up there with peas as choice mouse gourmet meal for one. The seed has germinated.  Now the tray really should have more light so I’m toying with putting it into the poly tunnel….

It could all end in tears.



The OH meanwhile has, more sensibly, dug bean trenches and put in the bean poles.  And then dug potato trenches and planted a couple of rows of first early potatoes.  And then made a lovely job of squaring off a compost bay which is now ready to be covered over with a length of woven back carpet and allowed to breakdown.


And yes, that is an old feather pillow…..







easy pickings…..


We have started to pick the first crops – lovely crunchy red radishes, (Cherry Belle), from the polytunnel and forced pink rhubarb, destined for a rhubarb and ginger crumble pudding tonight.  Baby salad leaves will be ready to harvest from the tunnel next week.  We have planted up two tubs of first early, waxy salad potatoes in the tunnel to add to the swell of produce.


Also, under cover, pea sticks have been pushed into place and extra seed sown in the gaps. The protected broad beans look green and lush –  hopefully the growth will be able to support a bumper crop.


Outside, we have weeded through the alliums, (garlic; onions and shallots), and planted the last of the sets for this year.  Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will dig the first trenches and set the bean poles.

In the orchard the almond blossom has started to break…..