Episode 9

 

It's the beginning of June; we've basked all too long in days redolent of a northern hemisphere summer rather than our autumn, but the tide has turned with a wintry blast and thankfully, this season's veg are just about tucked up in their beds....

Oh how spoiled we really have been these last weeks....to enjoy such an extended period of glorious clear days; bright blue skies, golden sun; fine air...the kind that almost puts a halo of clarity around each living thing. With a low-hanging morning star that fades to apricot dawns; and pink streaked sunsets, it's been bliss. 

I wasn't joking when I said I'd reverted to gardening in a sarong...some of those days had me working up a serious mid-summer-like sweat! But in the blink of an eye the cold swept in on a howling wind and now its all layers of thermals, jumpers, puffa jackets and scarves and I feel more like a child wrapped up to go and make a snowman, rather than heading for a Hawaiian luau!

 


Shades of yellow, gold and russet...


Colourful leaves clung to the persimmon branches 'til the very end... 

 


And claret fades to paper brown....

 

Who could possibly not enjoy kicking up their heels in deep piles of autumn leaves? 

 


Found lurking in the zinnia foliage....

 

Down in the kitchen garden though, the time had truly come to haul out the row of zinnias at the front of the leafy green bed, and what a surprise it was to discover a few loofahs hiding amongst their spent foliage...of which this was the largest!

 


Old ones have cigar-like brown outer casings...

 

Small compared to the beauties from a few seasons ago...and I wonder what will be inside?  It's quite heavy, so I'll leave it to dry out over the coming months before investigating.  It's joined all the other weird and whacky specimens that tend to land on the verandah table, which must be cleared from time to time when I need to use it for....

 


Specimens must make way for food from time to time...

 

A lovely lunch! 

 


Happy together....

 

Doesn't this look almost identical to the image I popped into the last episode notes?  Despite all the basil I picked for a big batch of pesto soon after; the rate of growth was so speedy that soon it was all back again!  

How I love to see full and fabulous rows of leaves, mingling with each other...but this time, I had to pull them out.  There's bound to be a frost any day now, and the basil wouldn't like it, so...

 


A fully laden basket...

 

Better that I took it to the kitchen! It's safe in jars of pesto now, sitting on the kitchen bench, awaiting my next trip down to the cellar. 

 


Early morning shadows...

 

Before I pulled the basil out though, I snapped this image looking across the bed, with the just sown row of parsley seed at the front, where the zinnias had been.  I'm hopeful that by next episode, tiny emerald leaves will dot the empty earth in the foreground. 

 


They're about to explode out of the wire cylinders so I may have to be brave...


How I love the colour and form of this still immature radicchio....their row makes a handsome partner to the beetroot leaves, with their crimson leaf-veins and stalks in the row behind.

 


Densely clad...a hangover from last season...

 

The root bed next door at front left is still dominated by the 'Wild Sweetie' tomato-clad wigwam.   

 

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Sweet little berry-like tomatoes...

 

I'm in no hurry to pull it out, given the small handful of berry-like fruit it delivers each day and its foliage is still strong and healthy...though probably not for much longer! 

I did indeed pop some pea seeds in around it's base, but it may be too late in the season to get them established....we shall see....I reckon these things are always worth a try!

 


Almost completely planted up...just waiting for beetroot seed to germinate at the far right south end, then I'll sow this last empty space to the north...

 

The rows that make up this season's root veg bed are still very immature. You can see how it will take much of the season for them to make any substantial visual impact, let alone be ready to harvest. But they're all much advanced since last month.  Once I stop thinning the parsnips, I'll be able to take away the plank so the cylinders and tunnel can sit flat on the ground, but just for now, it's all higgledy-piggledy! 

 


Allowing more space with each thinning...

 

I've thinned the carrots a couple of times now and next time, we should have fine baby carrots to eat. 

 


Dear little seedlings....

 

Here you can see the first 'true' parsnip leaves forming.  I wish the first row I sowed at the front of this bed had had such a good rate of germination, but at least it looks like this one I sowed as an insurance policy row is off and away!  

I don't know why I hadn't thought to soak parsnip seed before...silly me. It's thanks to my friend Phil, who just happened to send me a few images he snapped at Great Dixter last month, that I picked up on the parsnip seed-soaking tip! How odd it is, that on opposite sides of the hemisphere, we carry out many jobs at the same time, though our seasonal conditions are entirely different. 

Getting parsnip seed to germinate is notoriously tricky.  "You must use fresh seed" goes the old wives tale, though I've disproved that time and again. Sow at the right time though and there's no problem at all....the trick, in our climate, is finding that right time!

I usually sow, as you have seen, during the autumn, after collecting fresh seed in the summer. Parsnips are a long term crop...in that it takes a long time for a seed to grow into an edible sized root.  To have them to eat during our winter, we really ought to sow in early spring, but that doesn't coincide with collecting 'fresh' seed from the flowers in our climate.  Regardless of when they're sown, they tend to flower in late spring and set their seed in early summer. Which is why I sow in autumn, because it's way too hot for germination to sow them in our summer. For this reason, we tend to have them for spring-eating, rather than a winter-edible crop.

As you know by now, I allow a lot of veg to self-seed - especially in the guild beds.  I quite like this haphazard approach, and I tend not to keep a record...if a plant is there, it's there, if it's not, it's not.  I enjoy the surprises that are revealed on a regular basis.  

But this year, to satisfy my curiosity and hopefully yours too; I'll let you know when I see the first self-sown parsnip...then we might all have a better idea of the natural cycle of this splendid root veg that is as delicious to eat as it is valuable as a companion plant in flower. 

 

  
Tiny weeny as yet...

 

I'm excited to have planted out a row of Stock seedlings.  To me, Stock just goes hand-in-glove with kitchen gardens...and they'd been on my mind when I happened to notice some in the Diggers catalogue. I'd like for them all to be pale apple-blossom pink and not a mixed bunch but I'm sure that hope is doomed! And the label says fat, not tall...so perhaps I'm setting myself up for disappointment, but at least it says highly fragrant!  Oh well, let's just hope they gallop along now because if it all comes to fruition...this bed should be a very pretty one, as well as very edible, in the spring! 

 


Early season legume bed...


The legume bed behind is also completely planted up now. While the peas are yet to fill out on the wigwams, I'm hopeful they'll get a move on now I've taken away the nets and wire that were protecting their just emerged seedlings; so they're exposed properly now to airflow and sun, even if it does mean they're more vulnerable to the wildlife!

 


Plump, crisp and delicious...

 

I pulled the first beautiful fennel bulbs from between the wigwams, and they were perfect!  As you know, these ones were the first to be planted at the beginning of the season and I've been busy planting more, successionally, all over the garden ever since.  My intention is to keep up a good supply all through the cool months because they're one of our favourite veg of all. (I'll put more about eating them at the foot of the notes).

 


Inside their frame...


The broad beans in their tunnel are enjoying good air circulation and full sunlight now that I've taken away the net that was protecting them too, and they're growing on well.  It's time to check each day that they are growing up inside the horizontal rods of their structure.  As they're inclined to put on rapid, sporadic growth, keep a good check because if they escape, it can be difficult to tuck their brittle stems back inside without snapping them.  

 


Bad bugs...

 

These are the black aphids I mentioned that always seem to appear on the broad beans at about this stage of their growth cycle; but I have yet to spot the little electric-blue dot of an insect that generally appears around the same time. 

That said, I took this image a couple of weeks ago and have noticed fewer aphids in the last days (which is possibly due to simply removing the net, making the black aphids visible to other predators....it's really all about micro-management....). I do hope my little friend appears though, so you can see and tell me if you've spotted it too! 

 


Tubers from the deep...

 

Behind the broad beans I went a-digging to see what I could find....these were the first sweet potatoes to emerge.  And then... 

 


Hmmm....not exactly what I had in mind...

 

I unearthed this crazy thing!  I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with it! But it's joined the rest of them, stored now in an old open, pierced-metal grape-harvest bucket down in the cellar.

 


The life-cycle begins a new..

 

The vine-tip cuttings I took have all sprouted in a jar of water on the kitchen bench, but while my intention was to pot them on, in order to nurse them through the winter and have them robust and ready to plant out in the spring, I'm having second thoughts....  

You see, they were meant to be the orange-fleshed variety, but instead they're the ones with purple skins and white flesh, which while fine....they aren't the ones we most like to eat!  So it may be that I just enjoy these for their pretty leaves on the kitchen bench while they last, and start again with new seedlings next time. Ho-hum...

 


Heavily textured blue-grey brassica leaves...

 

Although the brassicas have been badly blown around in the last few days, you can see the enormous amount of growth they've put on in the last month. 

I'm pleased the cage has gone and now they can grow on unimpeded by wire and net; but it does mean I must check regularly for the eggs and caterpillars of the white cabbage moth.... 

 

 
Emerging from deep in the heart of the broccoli plants...

 

And be sure to cut and bring the likes of this head of broccoli inside for us to eat before something else does!

 


The last dark fruit dangling among brassica leaves....

 

I do enjoy seeing the aubergines swell and hang amongst the brassica leaves, even if they are attached to their own very spindly plants by now. These are the last of the season and I'll have the plants out by the end of the week. The combination of handsome long and oval fruit in the row have performed well for simply months on end and I'm planning to replace them with red kale this weekend. 

 


Dazzling droplets...

 

Dew-drop mornings have been a joy; but the wind has put paid to this for now and it will soon be frost causing these droplets to bead on the brassica leaves.

 

 
Pinky-purple base and leaf stems are a favourite in the brassica bed...

 

The base of kohlrabi seedlings are just beginning to show signs of swelling...which means they're getting better established, about three weeks after planting them as seedlings.



Still straddling the seasons...

 

The guild beds look altogether different to those on the traditional side.  Still sporting framework from last season, as well as new for this; they're heavily sown and planted up by now, with just a few spots of hessian covering new compost, awaiting final planting...another job, along with replenishing mulch all over the garden, for this weekend!  

 


Twiggy enclosures..


I'll leave the protective enclosures of fruit tree prunings in place for the season...the newly emerged carrot and parsnip seedlings inside them, will ultimately grow through and envelop these twiggy nests. 

 


Playing with height, form, colour and texture....

 

Interspersed around the nests are cylinders, each containing fennel or chard, beetroot, broccoli, kale, celery or radicchio.  I intend popping some lettuces in this weekend to complete the seedling planting for the season....

 


Early days yet...

 

The seed I spilled in patches and swathes around the cylinders a few weeks ago has germinated; creating a colourful carpet of newly emerged seedlings that are, of course, entirely edible, so now I'm scattering tiny new leaves of rocket, red elk and giant red mustard over all manner of dishes in the kitchen.

This is the kind of fun you can have once you begin collecting your own seed...you can be as profligate as you like with your sowing and it's why I save so much of it in those large paper bags. As I've said before, with these kinds of small seeds, I don't bother to separate them from their stems, but simply drop the whole stems, seed heads still in tact, in patches I'd like it to grow...just as it would if left to mother nature. I press the stems between my hands...to coax any still-closed pods to spill their seed, then leave all the dried material on top, as a light protective layer....the new seedlings soon grow over it.

 


The early morning chill makes their hairs stand on end!

 

Although the third guild bed also contains an individual broad bean box and a wigwam for peas, its still mostly covered with leftovers from the previous season, as well as the sprawling Cape Gooseberry that's taken a dreadful battering in the wind.  Aren't the little hairs of its early-morning, chill-dusted leaves and flowers exquisite?  Once the day warms, they go back to being their rather boring selves!

 


Exquisite paper lanterns contain bittersweet fruit...

 

The fruit they bear however, is anything but boring! When they're ripe, the lanterns tend to drop to the ground.  You can eat them raw...though they're bound to make your mouth pucker!  I rather like them, but tossed in a little olive oil in a hot oven for a very short time will cause them to collapse, wrinkle and slightly caramelise.  Tossed through a leaf salad this way, they're delicious...especially one that accompanies roast chicken.

 

 
Early seed-pod development at the base of the stem..

 

Stems of rocket flowers spill around the edge of the bed just now and I find them quite captivating in their own right.  

 

 


I haven't been able to walk along the path for weeks....

 

All across the back of the garden, as well as to either side of the apple arch, the companion beds are filled with a froth of fennel foliage, tansy and calendulas in flower, as well as a spike of amaranth here and there. 

It means I have little space to sprinkle borage and poppy seeds so I might have to do some selective removal!

 


Hopefully there's so much wire and so many sticks, the birds won't notice the pea seedlings...

 

Down the back, lettuces come and go...each time I pick one, I plant another in its place, just adding a little handful of blood and bone at the bottom of each planting hole.  This bed was well prepared earlier in the season, so the earth is good and able to handle the frequent turnover.  

You can see I've taken the net away from around the peas here too...with much fear and trepidation!  How I hope that a few episodes down the track, I'll have pea-covered tunnels to show you!  

 


Still young but I'm stealing the odd leaf anyway...

 

A favourite lettuce that grows well here in the cool season is the one that Diggers, anyway, call the Australian Yellow Leaf.  I've been collecting its seed for years, but that's where I got hold of it in the first place.  I love its crinkly leaves and the bright chartreuse colour it adds to cool season leaf salads...especially if a torn radicchio leaf is thrown in too...it all makes for a jewel like combination of leaves that pop in colour, taste and texture! (Add a caramelised cape gooseberry or two and even a sliced and roasted Jerusalem artichoke to the mix and you'll have a lovely winter salad....I rather like to add something tiède....just out of the oven, to a leaf salad in the cool months, for some extra bite).

 


Tremendous progress in the last month....

 

I'm so relieved the garlic is in straight rows!  Now I'm just doing battle with rabbits trying to dig them up!

 


Seemingly a new surprise combination each day...

 

The rate of growth in the throwaway seed bed is phenomenal!  It really does resemble a fabulous magic carpet and is growing taller and more textured by the day. As quick as I pick from it....whether leaves or a big clump, any gaps quickly fill back in!  

You can so easily do this too....just let even a few of your veg flower this season, wait for their flowers to develop seed and dry on the stem, then store in a big paper bag.  You can mix it all up in the bag by shaking it about, or toss the individual stems out randomly as I do.  Either way, it's really FUN for children (and childlike behaviour by adults too!) to do.  And you won't be without all kinds of morsels to add a flourish to whatever you're eating...

 


Spur of the moment broth...

 

This mid-week home made chicken broth felt like a life saver, with all its little additions from the garden....a few tomatoes, a couple of last season's garlic cloves finely sliced; a poached egg from the chookies and a smattering of greens from the throwaway bed. 

 


Almost there...rows of leeks...

 

I'm still successionally planting leeks down the back...another dozen this weekend and I'll call it quits.  It's time to hoe the weeds and give them a good blanket of mulch, then they'll just grow on through the winter. 

 


Basking...

 

Pumpkins are randomly dotted about on hard surfaces, close to wherever I found them hiding after their foliage died back...

 


Under cover and waiting for their stalks to dry...

 

But it's time now to bring them under cover.  It's not the most prolific haul I've ever had, but they're good, and there are certainly plenty for us to eat! 

 


Lovely segments..

 

And eating is the name of the game!  How sweet this first Clementine of the season off the tree... 



Winter salad...

 

And it was sensational in this first Fennel & Clementine salad of the season!

To compile, slice one fennel bulb quite finely and segment one Clementine....(or as many as you like!). It works equally well with a sweet orange, but ours won't be sweet for some time yet....the Clementines ripen sooner. Make a very simple vinaigrette....a twist or two of black pepper, a smidgin of sea salt, a very wee touch of Dijon mustard, juice of half a Clementine and as much olive oil to make a consistency you like.  Shake in a bottle and toss all the ingredients together. One of my staple midweek lunches....on its own, or if I happen to have some of that pumpernickel soda bread on hand, well....you know the rest!

Another favourite of the season that I made for the first time since last year, this week, is Fennel & Lemon Risotto...and I challenge anyone who thinks they don't like fennel to pass this one up!  The recipe for that one in The House and Garden at Glenmore.

 


Colour, texture shape...and sound if you play with them...

 

To end....the ever-changing still life on the kitchen bench...inside where it's warm and away from that howling wind!

'Til next time...happy gardening and keep warm!  

 

 

Going, going......

fancy tomatoes, aubergines, quinces.

Eating....

fennel, broccoli, kale, lettuce, coloured chard, beetroot leaves, tomatoes, aubergine, capsicum, Jerusalem artichoke, sweet potato, cape gooseberry, rhubarb, quince, persimmon, pomegranate, fennel fronds, basil, sorrel, salad burnet, lovage, chives, mint, French tarragon, parsley, calendula petals, nasturtium petals, amaranth, red elk, giant red mustard and rocket seedlings.

Sowing seed of....

It really should all be in now, but depending on just where you are, you could still try peas, fennel, carrot, beetroot, Australian yellow leaf lettuce, rocket, red elk and giant red mustard, parsley, dill, chervil, coriander, nigella, borage, calendula, nasturtium, poppies.

Planting seedlings of...

kale, lettuce, leek, onions.