July 2015 - Everything in the Garden...
You should have already seen some evidence of home produce in my cooking here and on my Instagram page. This post will provide a bit of background to how I get my hands dirty in a perfectly legal way.
This is the point in the year when Mrs. Cheoff and I begin to see the results of early spring efforts in our garden. The three raised beds on the right of my picture were built in 2010 and were augmented by a couple more on the left in 2012. The narrow border along one side fence pictured further down has had various plantings through the years before being defined with scaffolding planks like the rest of the plots two years ago. There is not a huge amount of space for growing but that means I don’t have to fret for too long since any failures cover very little ground.
An allotment would be lovely but I still remember the back ache and sore hip which accompanied the preparatory work five years ago. Small and contained will do for me. Supported exercise in a swimming pool seems kinder and I still seem to get plentiful reward from gentle effort in the garden. The balance is right as far as I'm concerned.
The picture of the long border was taken only last week so it's clear that the runner beans are way behind schedule. Most of them are replanted after a slug or snail attack on the first set of seedlings. It looks like there are enough established now to give us fresh pickings, a few blanched and frozen extras as well as providing one element of the 2015 Piccalilli. Mrs. Cheoff was more than dubious about growing runner beans but young, tender, straight from the garden and lightly cooked has converted her.
The planting has varied only slightly over the years. No sweet corn, peppers, aubergines or squash this season (so far) and broad beans will be bought elsewhere, blanched, prissily peeled and frozen.
We just have a couple of four tier plastic covered shelters to protect sowings and seedlings. Without a proper greenhouse most of our crop is late to develop. That does have the advantage that most plants stand a fair chance of missing any frosts. We had to completely re-sow the carrot bed last year after heavy rains. Still, we adapt if we can and always end up beaming stupidly at any of our eventual successes
I don’t feel particularly qualified to give any tips on sensible choices or techniques, much less discuss anything like considerations for different soil types. I am too inexperienced to offer advice except for the obvious one… if I can do it, anyone can.
We use neighbours, local garden centres and the internet for advice. Five years in, and we are blissful in knowing almost bugger all about what we are doing. We remain quite happy to allow nature to take its often delightfully successful course.
The vegetables offer a pleasing structure to the garden, according to their growing habit. Ornamental, flowering plants are slowly getting a look-in. Tubs of Californian poppies are on the way but those nasturtiums are already giving a spot of complementary colour to the overall green hues while attracting any black fly away from edible crops. Ah, and a Cabbage White was laying her eggs on the leaves just yesterday.
Herbs are closest to the kitchen door. There are a few alpines and flowering plants creeping in to the next picture but for the most part it’s a collection of ready-to-snip greenery. You might identify basil, oregano, dill, mint, sage, lavender, chives, tarragon, parsley and thyme. Even if these aren’t cut for meals, any trip outside is likely to involve a gentle rub of leaves or flowers to unleash their lovely fragrance.
The truly great thing about any green-fingered success is that it is there, a few footsteps from the back door. Those large courgette leaves often hide a sudden burst of activity which, once identified, is under consideration for a meal which will be made just hours, maybe even minutes, later.
Being a keen cook, having access to the freshest ingredients is a must. All the following gave healthy enjoyment to meals after a maximum journey of fifteen metres. Well, all right, that wine does have a few air-miles attached.
This year's tomato plants have set their trusses but I'm impatiently waiting to use their fully ripe fruits in another month or two. Let's hope they are even half as good as these from last year.
The only negative aspect of all this could be the careful consideration and attendant worry that must be given to our 'babies' when we abandon them for holidays and breaks. So I'll finish with a fanfare of heartfelt thanks to Jenny over the road who has her own magnificent flower garden but always seems very happy to feed and water our surrogate children until our return.