Episode 10

 

It's early July, when days are likely to begin with a chill factor and end with a crackling fire. The best of them are clear as a bell, all blue skies and sunshine, when you can work up a sweat and yet...go in search of those layers fast as the sun begins to dip.  We've passed the shortest day, and the growth rate has quickened a beat...

I do admit to taking a couple of weeks away!  You know I promised honest insights into kitchen gardening at the beginning, and I won't pretend that having a kitchen garden, especially one of a substantial size, is a huge responsibility, that does require daily attention.  I've been saying for years that the kitchen garden here requires more attention than all of the rest of the garden put together! 

But the rewards are many; which is why I choose to be an advocate for what is more than just a garden...kitchen gardening is a whole way of life

I've mentioned in earlier episodes, that kitchen gardening may not suit all stages of your life, and that at times, small may be the only way to go.  But don't ever be put off by small...I have examples here a-plenty that yield both edible produce and a visual feast; and I hope you will be encouraged by the combinations...to experiment with all facets of kitchen gardening along the journey of your own lives.

But of course there is more to life than the garden, and a little excursion away from time to time with family, to see friends, is also sustaining; inspiring, and I don't mind saying it was rather nice to be clean and to wear pretty clothes for a couple of weeks!  To not cook, wash up or make the bed...but...oh how I can never wait to get back to cooking and preparing exactly what I want to eat...what my body tells me it needs.

I hate to miss a single trick in the kitchen garden too!  Things have grown!  As they should....with all the prep put in during the process of crop rotation.  And if you've done your work well, there's just a brief window of opportunity....while the veg manage to move along of their own accord....pushing out leaves, swelling their roots, getting established; to leave them to it.  It's more risky to leave in the spring/summer season, when the earth doesn't hold moisture so well, although there's a moment then too, that you might plan a brief escape.

 


These 'Telephone' peas have already reached the top of their wigwam..


At this time of year, the only real pressing task, now that everything is planted, is to begin tying-in the climbing peas, once they get underway, which some of them are doing now! So I got away just in time....phew!

 


Gently does it...

 

While I'm on that topic, I realise I neglected to mention, during the episode, that it's a good idea to use a figure-of-eight knot around the fragile stems, to give them a bit of extra support and 'play'.  I start tying them into their upright rods once they've made their way to the top of the myriad pea-sticks I give them for support in their early stages of growth....but not too tight. 

 


Late sown, but on their way....hopefully protected by, as well as clinging to myriad pea-sticks....

 

Telephone peas aside, most of the pea wigwams in the main garden are still looking a bit sparse.  I made another sowing to the two wigwams on the traditional side, which will hopefully beef up the first ones that emerged.  Then the late peas I sowed, where the sweet potatoes held up the process, are getting a move on and as long as nothing dire happens, they should be on track for a good spring show and crop. 

 


Progress...

 

While the ones down the back are looking the most sturdy of all...what is it that I tend to say about having their feet firmly in the earth, rather than in a raised bed?  Hmmm???

 


Pea leaves...

 

How I love these blotches at the stem of the Purple Podded Dutch Pea, that bleed out into the leaf veins....

 


Dainty buds....

 

New buds are forming by the day now on the strongest specimens so far.... 

 


Tendrils and flowers as this Purple Podded variety goes full steam ahead...

 

These first flowers will soon develop into a tiny pea pod....something to look forward to seeing next time! 

 


Time to make some space...

 

In the leafy green bed on the traditional side, you can see that the radicchios are longing to expand beyond the size of their cylinders. I'll be brave and take them off so they can reach their full potential but oh dear....I hardly dare look for fear of attack!

The beetroot in the next row have provided many leaves these last months, but their roots have grown too, to a good edible size, so I think I'll begin pulling them to eat....which will give the radicchios more room to spread and....

 


Enough to transplant...


Those newly emerging leaves of Australian Yellow Leaf lettuce the space and air circulation they also need to grow on.  I usually find they don't mind being transplanted when they're small, so I may prick out some of these and move them to where I'm pulling fennel bulbs, over in the legume bed.

 


A more or less permanent supply of seed...

 

I've been saving the seed of this particular variety for years...just be sure to let one lettuce run to flower, so you can do the same.  I find it to be particularly reliable through the winter months, and it's crinkly chartreuse leaves make such a pretty addition to a leaf salad. (see ep nine notes for image). 

 

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Almost time to whisk away the cylinders and tunnels here too...

 

If you revisit the same image from last episode, you'll begin to get an idea of the expected rate of progress in the root veg bed at this stage of the season; where everything has put on a substantial amount of growth.... 

 


And they're away...

 

Especially the parsnips which had only just emerged from sown seed last time. I'll take away the plank once I carry out a second thinning, and do a spot of weeding while I'm there, then add some more mulch and they shouldn't need much more attention 'til harvest time comes around.

 


Those kitchen garden poppies are inclined to come up everywhere at this time of year...

 

You can see how much the first sowing of beetroot has grown at the south end of the row (compared to last time). While it's still under the protection of the tunnel for now; I risked sowing the north end free from cover and so far so good...fingers crossed! This also needs a bit of gentle weeding...a rather nice Saturday afternoon job.

 


If only you could smell them....

 

The carrots I pulled from the next thinning are mixed up here with some from the guild side that are a bit larger.  I pulled some more this week but they went into dinner before I thought to photograph them....silly me! 

 

  
Just add parsley straight from the garden...

 

Here's where some of them ended up....with baked fennel, that I left just a wee bit too long in the oven! Oh but it was deliciously caramelised  and 'gave' easily at the touch of a fork.  

 


Resplendent still....


StillWild Sweetie is doing much more than keeping up an appearance...she's positively billowing from her wigwam! She had got into a terrible muddle with motley leaves while I was away, but quarter of an hour of fiddly primping and preening was worthwhile, to ensure....

 


Each tiny drop filled with winter sunshine...

 

A continuous flow of delicious tiny fruit!  

 


Frst pickings on return....


Now while I'm on the subject of tomatoes...yes it's true...now is the time to get those seed catalogues out - whether you plan to experiment with new varieties or old favourites.  July is the month to sow into punnets, to ensure you have good time to grow on sturdy seedlings for planting out in the spring!

You'll need to keep them warm though....at least somewhere out of frost's way.  Do you know, over the years I've used heated mats for basal warmth, covered them to keep them in the dark, put them inside plastic bags to increase humidity, but do you know one of the best methods?

While as usual, timing is everything....this is worth a try and will make you laugh!  I often forget to do it, because old greedy guts here tends to eat the last fruit of everything going! But...try this as an experiment:

 


Off, off and away...

 

Years ago I got chatting to John....the Envirocycle man, who pitches up at regular intervals during the year to check our water recycling system is on track (we're not on town water).  This was his tip: take a ripe tomato and bury it in soil in a pot. Put it out of the way somewhere and forget about it. Then, be prepared to be surprised (or not, as the case may be)!  

Well, I was telling Thalia this tale a couple of months ago and she looked a bit sceptical. But I'd just pulled the last Yellow Currant toms and and suggested we pop one of the last remaining fruit into a pot to see what happened!  As you can see....the little seedlings, that came up in a clump, have already been potted on into a punnet! So these ones are ahead of the game. Now I just need to remember to do it with one of each of those Costolutos and San Marzanos that are sitting on the kitchen bench...and it should be a no-brainer with a Wild Sweetie....so have a try and see how you go! 

 


Over yonder...

 

The legume bed, over at the back there, is slowly filling out.  The front two pea wigwams are more sparse than I'd like, but hopefully that second sowing of peas will soon see them smothered. 

 


Steady progress....

 

While the broad beans are filling out well. You can see that most are up through the second horizontal keeper and heading for the third which is very exciting indeed. 

 


Already the flowers are beginning to attract bees...

 

That some are beginning to flower may mean we're in for an early crop....the excitement of it all grows by the second!  

 


Tips a-swelling...

 

See that burgeoning bud down deep in the heart of the tip?  Well....that is going to be a treat to eat....when the time comes!  I just want them to creep up through, and pop out the top of the third horizontal rods before I start taking the tips out...what a tease!

 

 
All getting a move on now...

 

Then over at back right is the brassica bed which is coming along great guns.  We're eating from it now...a lot!  Which is the whole point; but oh how I love that these leaf colours and textures are gradually coming together!  The frilly red/purple kale that replaced the row of aubergines I left in so long is way behind the rest of the bed, but at least it's visible now!  The Dianthus are still a bit fine, but looking a lot stronger and I'm hopeful they will pull off the combination yet! 

 


Oh the colour....

 

I know we should eat the kohl rabi but....I think I'll have to leave them where they are! We're not short of members of the brassica family in our diet....with all the broccoli and kale...there's enough to be getting on with, but a garden visitor did tell me last year that I should treat the kohl rabi leaves in the same way as kale or spinach and wilt them down, so I really must give it a try (I don't like taking the leaves off either but I do take the ones closest to the ground for the chooks!). 

 


Dazzling droplets...

 

Oh how that Savoy cabbage is coming along a treat!  Really I should give them a great deal more space to grow, but I'll probably pick it small'ish....if I can bring myself to! I suspect not before the next episode though...just look at those droplets of water clinging to the crinkles and crevices...love it!

 

 
A wintry apple arch...

 

The companion beds all around have had quite a clean up....calendula and fennel fronds are the current mainstays.   



Rivers of seed...

 

On clearing overgrown stems of tansy, I sprinkled poppy seed (that you'll remember I collected late last year), where I hope to encourage drifts once again this coming spring. 

 


A thicket of poppy seedlings newly emerged...


And already, thanks to the recent showers, it's making an appearance throughout the garden. I also allow a lot of strays that come up of their own accord to flower, so weed them out selectively. 

 


Holding centre-stage...

 

Over in the guild beds, close inspection is required to really see all the activity that's occurring!

 


At this stage, you almost need a magnifying glass...

 

In the short time I was away; the tiny giant red mustard seedlings that had just emerged from my seed sowing were so fine, delicate and barely visible....

 


Colourful veining comes first; before flooding the leaf...

 

But on return, they have true leaves and are ready for thinning...I really only need one plant, so the thinnings are heading for the kitchen! I thought the leaf colour might contrast rather well with the grey of the globe artichoke....as long as those weighty leaves don't smother the mustard...I keep tearing away the large lowest ones in an attempt to keep the base clear to ensure the artichoke plant itself is a sturdy, upright form.

 


Caged in...

 

There's more giant red mustard sprouting from the base of the lobster pot...which may not have been such a good idea but it certainly looks rather enchanting just now!

 

 
Immature red elk and rocket leaves surround newly planted fennel bulbs...

 

Similarly, the leaves that had already grown substantially since I recorded the last episode and that we'd begun to eat prior to skipping off.... 

 


What a difference a couple of weeks make...

 

Are at the very best size for eating right now....fine, delicate, tasty...and I'm collecting them by the clump to strew into leaf salads, scatter into broth, fold into omelettes, pasta, risotto...or through the other more substantial veg.

In my opinion, you can never have too many tasty leaves to play with!

 


Colourful and filled with little morsels that pop with delight...

 

They might end up in a leaf salad like this, that also had a smattering of clementine segments, caramelised cape gooseberries and calendula petals thrown in for good measure....delicious on its own; add a poached egg, or in this case, it accompanied roast chicken.

 


Knobbly roots...

 

Here's the first of those out-of-kilter celeriac seedlings I planted late last spring...perhaps not so out-of-kilter afterall. While still a bit on the small side, it was delicious. 

This is one veg whose timing I've just never managed to figure out...but maybe this time I've done it!  We love eating them as a winter mash....but I wonder in what season we should really expect to enjoy them as the classic French Rémoulade?  Perhaps it ought to be early autumn, rather than spring? Maybe I should have planted them sooner....late winter, to have them just right for early autumn? 

I can see more experimentation is required, but with the row on the traditional side planted in early autumn, this is going to be a good year to compare timing and perhaps...get it right at last! With my two separate plantings this year, maybe I might even prove we can have both...have our 'cake' and eat it too....winter mash and spring rrrrrrémoulade!

 


Sturdy rows now...

 

Down the back, the garlic's just as it should be...a full compliment marching on (hopefully it stays that way!). 

 


Maybe time to remove the twigs that did their job while these were tiny...

 

The parsnips I sowed in a band early in the season before planting the garlic (into what is not the most congenial of spots I must say, but all other space was taken up at the time) are looking a bit more substantial.  Whether or not the soil in this spot is really deep enough to accommodate their long tuberous root remains to be seen...it may be that I just let them go to flower, but we shall see! 

 


All in a row....

 

The onion rows are very new...planted as they were in the bed only recently vacated by those San Marzano tomatoes that grew so well all spring, summer and autumn long.  That means the previously well fed soil, for the benefit of the tomatoes, should be fairly depleted of nutrients by now...which means the onions should put their effort into their roots, rather than their leaves. Roots follow fruit....

 


All tucked up....

 

Next door, Thalia was kind to divide the largest of the asparagus crowns and fill the blank spots at the back of the bed for me. I cut down all the spent ferny foliage before going away and she's re-mounded the rows with compost and added mulch.  There never really is a great deal to 'see' in the asparagus bed...that is, until those spears begin to emerge in the spring...and hopefully I'll have a more even spread this year.  

 


Left to its own devices...

 

Along one bed again, my seed 'throwing' bed is supplying more leaves than I know what to do with! The poppies seem to be taking over at the front, while there's a good amount of land cress, red elk and giant red mustard. There are some random broad beans and coloured chard in there too.  It's going to be fun to watch it evolve over the coming months. 

 


Down the back...

 

Here's a wide view of these beds, to put you in the picture. You can see the mountain of material that awaits the first turning of our next compost heap, filling the bay behind the onions...and we haven't even yet begun the winter pruning exercise of the rest of the garden!  

In the far left corner, the main elder has been cut back to leaf nodes on bare branches at about chest height; and the original mandarin, which is rather silly here (but here it is), has had a good tidy up too...it tends to only fruit every second year.  I've taken some good stalks from the rhubarb to its right and you can see I've left all those star pickets I whacked into the ground on that tremendously hot day in the summer, to drape a panel of willow over.  Although makeshift at the time, I can't figure out a better way of doing it, so I'll probably just leave them there for next time! After all....this is 'down the back'!

To the right of the rhubarb are the onions, then the asparagus, then the 'seed throwing' bed. The much used washing line sits idle for a change!

 


It's a long road to edible leeks...

 

Beyond here, the leeks in the first-sown row are beginning to swell....

 


Strawberry surprise...

 

A few strawberries seem to be on the move...I wonder if I can get there before something else does! 



Dazzling fruit on a dull winter day...

 

Navel oranges hang by the dozen, slowly ripening on their branches. So far its only windfalls I'm bringing inside, but they're sweet now and the smell of each one is enough to make you swoon! 

 


Simply enchanting...and rockbound...

 

Travel....always yields some unexpected and hitherto obscure tidbit of information. In my case, it's often to do with plants, which is hardly surprising!  It's the way I like to gather and absorb information...literally by something crossing my path...never by trying.  I like things to unfold....to be revealed in an organic kind of way. (Although I could have done with this trip a year ago to confirm what to do with that caper plant that's been sitting on the potting bench for so long!). Honestly, I should have just popped it in position in the first place...but now I feel more reason to plant it: there's a connection...and that is pretty much how all of the garden here grows...plants represent people, places, moments of inspiration, whether they be far flung or close to home...the garden is a tangible and olfactory web that traces our life's journey so far.

On the topic of the inexhaustible tangent....I think I'll save more musing on that for when it comes to wrapping up the series.  But oh how I do hope you're feeling more confident on your own kitchen gardening journey by now...that perhaps seasonal timing of particular fruit and veg is falling into place for you, and that the idea of getting your hands into the soil is becoming more compelling by the day.

'Til next time...get out those catalogues, order some seed and start dreaming of summer!

 

 

Going, going......

tomatoes of all kinds, though they seem to be hanging in there longer than expected! Capsicums and the last of the persimmons...

Eating....

fennel, broccoli, kale, (should be kohl rabi!), carrots, pumpkin, lettuce, coloured chard, beetroot leaves and roots, tomatoes, capsicum, Jerusalem artichoke, sweet potato, celeriac, cape gooseberry, rhubarb, oranges, clementines, persimmon, fennel fronds, sorrel, salad burnet, lovage, chives, mint, parsley, calendula petals, nasturtium petals, red elk, giant red mustard and rocket seedlings. Always rosemary and thyme.

Sowing seed of....

Tomato, capsicum, aubergine into punnets...be sure to protect them from frost.

Planting seedlings of...

Australian Yellow Leaf lettuce only....everything else is bedded in and growing on.