Summer harvests from the kitchen garden

Summer abundance fills my garden and kitchen, the delicious harvest of mulching, sowing, pricking out, planting, weeding, watering and caring for so many vegetables, herbs and fruit. I am not quite at the point of ‘we can’t keep up with it’, thanks to three young adult children with super-human powers of consuming cucumbers and tomatoes, but preserving will start soon. I have written an article about summer gardening and cooking for Permaculture Magazine, out in a few days – with recipes for meals to make now, preserving summer flavours and tips for the summer garden. This is the issue to look out for.

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I picked bags of red and blackcurrants which are now in the freezer  (I’ll defrost at a less busy time to make into jellies and other recipes), gooseberries still to store – I’ve been snacking on those as they ripen. I’ve been picking loganberries, white currants and raspberries too – more soft fruit ripening almost daily!

It has been a particularly busy summer for me this year, usually taking me away from the garden a lot. Usually I am gardening all through the summer but in June we spent a long weekend in Ireland where Charles was giving talks at Ballymaloe and Kilruddery (here is my blog about that.) Shortly afterwards I spent two weeks with my daughter in Thailand (blog here) visiting my dad, followed by her graduation from Cardiff University, an outing to the sea on the hottest-day-of-the-year-so-far, a trip to see the rewilding project in Knepp – plus work, homelife and being a mum: all three of my children are at home at the moment, it feels like a dozen at least!

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The view from the veranda at my dad’s in Thailand

So things have got a bit behind in the garden… Coming back from Thailand I discovered that weeds seem to realise when the gardener is away and take advantage of the holiday – speeding away in an attempt to take over! My allotment wasn’t too bad, just a few annuals and some perennials that creep in from the abandoned plot next door (it took around 30 minutes to sort out the plot) but areas of my back garden where bindweed is still present were quite jungly on my return. My 17 year old son kept everything watered so I was happy that it was all alive, but there was a lot of work to do.

It took me 2 1/2 hours to side shoot and sort out all of the polytunnel plants! Here is a triffid tomato before the sideshooting. I listened to a lot of music on my iPod doing this…

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The potatoes needed harvesting as although the leaves mostly looked gorgeous, there were too many signs of blight emerging. This is a bed with Charlotte, Pink Fir Apple, Apache and Highland Red. I still have some in containers which are looking good.

There’s so much growing at the allotment. I was sad however to discover that the council’s contractors had sprayed around the plots with glyphosphate weed killer. Most of us grow organically there and what makes it even more disappointing is the random spraying serves no purpose. You can see the line of dead grass in a photo below. I haven’t had time yet to put up my brassica hoops, a job for next week. The netting is butterfly netting, with a very narrow mesh.

Growth is amazing in the polytunnel.

Other fruit in here includes a grape vine, tomatillo, goji berries, blueberries, cape gooseberries and a tamarillo which is producing the occasional flower but no fruit as yet. I don’t think it likes living in England, perhaps it is yearning for warmer, sunnier climates and the right pollinators – we shall see.

Some bindweed creeps into the polytunnel from outside so I planted Tagetes Minuta, a Mexican marigold which is said to suppress bindweed. However I’m not sure it works as here is a plant with bindweed growing up it…! On the positive side, it smells gorgeous and can be used as a culinary herb.

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I have harvested the Grenoble Red lettuce for seed saving. It is now drying under the stairs – I’ll use the seeds for my winter salad.

I don’t grow much salad at home in the summer as Charles produces such an abundance it keeps us going too! I plant it for my family in the autumn and winter.

There is so much to pick and eat. The beans and peas are growing in my front garden beds, along with the pale yellow knobbly courgette.

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Globe artichokes from the allotment, chillies, tomatoes and cucumbers from the polytunnel, spring onions and beetroot in the front garden. The Florence Fennel is in the back garden.

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Something more unusual – Salsola Soda, growing underneath a pear tree in the back garden.

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The perennial walking onion is producing little onions – shall I eat them or make more plants?

Bunny our house rabbit has been finding the weather a bit hot. She likes to cool off under the kitchen table or fling piles of fruit tree prunings about and sleep on them. Bunny is enjoying the abundance of fresh vegetables, in particular the fennel fronds and spring onion greens. Rabbits are social creatures and we have found that she enjoys having the soft toy Bagpuss to snuggle up to.

In the garden I have found a Garden Tiger Moth on an aubergine in the polytunnel and two bees mating on a brassica leaf. I have not seen bees mating before.

I’ve been sowing for the autumn, including brassicas, chicories and fennel. Mine are a bit later than usual because I have been away.

Some of my flowers – I love the vibrant colours.

The beautiful garden at Stavordale Priory where I used to work was featured on Gardener’s World on the 13th July. The programme (no: 16) is still available to view on iPlayer for the next 2 weeks. I was their kitchen gardener for 3 1/2 years: this was part of it in October last year, shortly before I left. The kitchen garden is not shown in the programme but you can see some of the more unusual features there!

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