Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Nettle Feed

Now that spring is in full flow everything is shooting up in the garden. To a lot of peoples disappointment this includes nettles, for me however they are a joy. I have been enjoying nettles for the past few weeks now, they must be the easiest plant in all the wild larder to identify with most people finding out at an early age just what a sting they possess. The young tops make a fantastic soup, perfect when topped off with one of our own poached eggs.

Alternatively they can be used as a substitute for spinach in any number of recipes. One I haven't tried yet but am looking forward to is nettle pasta the way it turns the pasta green looks fantastic and delicious too. Another I have had the pleasure of eating is nettle and spinach frittata.

While the tops are good for eating the rest of the plant isn't. Now that I have harvested most of the young tops I've cut down the rest of the plants to make a plant feed for the vegetable patch. Cutting down the plants will as ever encourage new growth and within a couple of weeks I'll have fresh new shoots to enjoy.

The nettles are extremely rich in nitrogen which most plants love, by chopping them up into small pieces they will break down quicker and in turn release the nitrogen quicker.

These are then submerged in water, preferably in a container with a lid or as far away from the house as you can get, the the smell after a week or so really is quite pungent.

After about four weeks the feed will be ready, hold your nose, take the lid off and scoop some of the nitrogen rich liquid out. This will need to be mixed with about ten parts water before using on the plants.

Once you have used all the liquid and harvested all the fresh young shoots that have re-emerged the nettles will probably have grown big enough to repeat the whole process. Any leftover bits in the bottom of the bin can be mixed in with the compost heap. They are excellent at speeding up the decomposition of some of the more harder materials.

What's not love about nettles?

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

In The Garden This Week

Sowing for the village plant sale

Every year in the village hall or neuadd as they say in Welsh they hold a plant sale to raise funds for the upkeep and running of the hall. Living only two doors away we often see events happening in there and when possible pop or head in for a look around. At last years sale we had been out for the day and just caught the end of it so there wasn't much left to buy.

We regularly receive a newsletter full of the latest gossip from the surrounding villages, the latest edition was advertising on the front cover for plants to sell. As anyone who grows their own knows you always end up with a surplus of seeds at the end of the year so to pot up a few for a good cause seemed like a great idea.

Rather than go for something plain I've sown some French beans named purple queen and a couple of trays of sugarsnap peas called Sugar bon. On top of this every year my herb garden is taken over with wild strawberries. The plants in the sun are already flowering however a lot of the runners have spread into shady areas so these won't do so well. So far I've potted up twelve plants, they are shallow rooted and pull up easily. I think I could pot up at least another fifty without effecting my harvest, by midsummer I'm sure they'll be carpeting the floor again.

Monday, 18 May 2015

A Slow Start

After the fantastic weather throughout April, May has been a mixed month so far. By the time it did eventually rain in April the garden was in real need of it, there is only so much a watering can or hose pipe can make up for. Regardless of the lack of rain the early sun really gave a lot of plants a great start. My aim this year was to sow as much directly into the soil as possible rather than in seed trays or pots and April's weather was ideal for this.

Parsnip seeds were sown in rows with a catch crop of radish mixed amongst them, beans and peas went in at the bottom of the canes and carrots seeds were accompanied by spring onions in a specially prepared bed. Various types of salad leave have been successionally sown since the beginning of March and the potatoes and onions weren't far behind them. Of course all of these and more went directly into the soil rather than onto a windowsill or the dining table where I would have been able to keep an eye on them.

The results have been mixed really. The potatoes got caught by a late frost and for a time had me worried that they would never recover, they have and they now appear to be the star performers. The radishes were going strong for about four weeks until suddenly the ducks decided that they do actually like them and ate the whole lot whilst I was in work. They seem to have left the parsnips alone though which is a bit of blessing as they do take a while to get going.

An impulse buy at the garden centre saw me come home with some summer cabbage seedlings, these have gone out with the extra protection of netting whilst they settle in. I find that when transplanting it takes a week or two for the roots to adapt at which stage there will be no growth at all. If the plants can be protected during these early days when they are most susceptible to damage then they will really shoot up in the weeks that follow.

The beans and peas haven't lived up to last years high standards, this has prompted me to buy new varieties of each which I hope will do better. The runner beans never did germinate and only about fifty percent of the peas ever came through. These have now been surrounded by a load more directly sown seed so who knows I may end up with more than I think if they all come through, fingers crossed.

Meanwhile inside there have been highs and lows. It is essential living up here for me to get any warmer climate loving crops such as courgettes, squashes and corn started off inside so when they do eventually go outside they are good and strong. It also gives me a longer growing season, last year my first butternut squashes appeared around the end of September when there was no chance that there was enough sun left in the days for them to mature. Some dwarf french beans, another first for me, managed to escape my notice and seemed to shoot up overnight. I've put them outside for now but they'll likely end up on the compost heap and I'll start again with these.

It won't be long and I'll have my first meal from the salad bed, hopefully accompanied by some broad beans. For the moment everything appears to be standing still but all that will change once the sun begins to shine again, everything will shoot up around me and we'll be eating from the garden every day again.