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Each day we walk around the garden looking for the signs of new season’s growth. It doesn’t matter how many times you see plants popping above the ground in spring it’s still an amazing feeling.

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Tiny shoots of the Jerusalem Artichokes – not the lettuce sharing the pot (hence the directional arrows)

Asparagus

Our first asparagus spear …

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Purple sprouting broccoli, appearing much earlier than they did last year, due in part to earlier planting and a warmer spot in the front garden.

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Autumn Digging

You may be surprised to hear that I have actually managed to get in some gardening amidst all our other recent exploits, but its plant now or have a slow start to spring. I’ve been working on the front garden bed which feels like less hard work than digging in the back garden  – a completely illusionary feeling as it turns out.

About two weeks ago I started on the least weed-infested part of the bed, clearing it to plant seeds of beetroot and purple sprouting broccoli, or PSB as I shall refer to it from here on in. By the way did you catch the latest episode of the Hairy Bikers Food Tour of Britain, they were in Worcestershire and everyone kept referring to the aforementioned veg as “purple sprouting” the ‘b’ word didn’t even get a mention. But I digress.

Everything is coming along quite well with only a few plants so far becoming slug snacks. I also have one tomato bush in the bed – the lone survivor of all the ones I tried to grow from seed this year. Then there was the other half of the bed….

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Thankfully TB came along and gave me a hand with digging out some of the worst of it. This ‘summer’ with all its rain has certainly bumped up the weed quotient in the garden. Not surprisingly working in the front garden attracts visitors. My first just popped in quite casually and started helping clear behind me.

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I can’t say that the second visitor, while friendly, was quite as welcome. Spotting a chance for some neighbourly interaction the Staffordshire Terrier from up the street came bounding across my newly seeded beds to get a pat. After which I decided to put some sort of structures over the beds in the hope of some degree of protection. At least at seed stage there wasn’t too much damage. In this area I’ve planted seeds of onions, Welsh bunching onions, and some Spring onions, Cimi di rapa, also called turnip greens, which are an Italian brassica very similar to broccoli, and some turnips.

I was also somewhat surprised to see that a new ‘branch’ has sprouted off last year’s Collard Greens (think of it as a loose-leaf cabbage, that’s it in the very front of the photo below) which I had saved for seed production. Apart from the seed I’ve already collected I see that it has also dropped some seeds which are spouting away nicely.

Planted

The finished garden bed ready for winter, ta da!

 

A passion for purple

The story so far …

Late last year (2009) I discovered my first purple passion, the beautiful eggplant Prosperosa at the Allsun Farm open day. First I was seduced by its flowers  and then by its wonderful fruit.

During the 2009-10 summer Elspeth Thomson encouraged this interest with her tales of her purple garden plants and the almost mystically regarded (well by the English at least) purple sprouting broccoli. As Hugh FW is also a devotee of this veg it was only a matter of time before I too succumbed. The plant well and truly delivered this spring.

This year has also been the year of the Purple Podded [climbing] Pea. Please be careful as there are both English and Dutch purple/blue pea varieties to be found on the Lost Seed catalogue. I choose the English variety Purple Podded (although to confuse matters I had actually intended to select the similar Dutch variety called Blue Podded Capucyer).

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To start off with the flowers were a combination of pale mauve and dark purple followed by purple pods. Inside you find a fat pod of bright green peas. This is a proper cooking pea and definitely not one that can be eaten like a snow pea.

 You can see why I love this colour combination.

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I also collected some of our first Red Norland potatoes ‘bandicooted’ out from the end of the potato bed and some sorrel (springing back after its’ recent haircut) to make a basic pea soup.

Soup

So yet another ‘green soup’ but a pleasant and simple meal at the time of the year when rich food is the order of the day.

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Housework I

It was Joan Rivers who said “I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.” Apart from the fact I love gardening, the time has definitely rolled around again for re-making the beds (I agree about the housework).

On Saturday we pulled out the remaining parsnips in pipes and purple sprouting broccoli (we’ve been eating them since mid-September), with a view to planting our tomatoes in the bed. We have kept one purple sprouting broccoli plant for the seeds (front right of the picture along with a large weed which has since been removed) and I have plans for the parsnips.

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Before anyone gets overly excited I will say that our idea of crop rotation is just don’t plant the same thing in the same place twice in a row. I can never find the rotation chart when I want to and here at Chez Fork we are rarely able to bring ourselves to rip out plants that are still producing. The other thing about pulling out the old stuff was that we found all this other stuff we didn’t even know we had. In my case three potatoes, three onions and a long forgotton cauliflower – well one brassica looks pretty much like another when you aren’t paying attention.

It was quite instructive to see that half the bed, where two or three crops have been grown over the last year and have therefore been manured and mulched had a vastly improved soil structure to the other end of the bed. In poorer part of the bed we’d grown carrots last year and then the purple sprouting broccoli this winter. Clearly with less mulch and regular addition of compost it was no where near as ‘good’ a soil as the other end. I was able to get some of our rotted compost onto the garden bed – the compost was full of worms so I only lightly forked it in so they could get on with their work.

Meanwhile on the other side of the garden TB was rennovating our second most venerable concrete block bed with a view to making our second wicking bed. Out came a very scraggy spinach and enough broad beans pods to yield 500 gms of beans. Like me TB also found some lost things – in his case a very welcome self-sown warrigal greens seedling. Unfortunately we are still looking for the good pair of secateurs and they could be anywhere!

Our first bed wicking bed is going great guns and we have not watered it since I built it at the beginning of October (er yes, it has rained a bit since then).

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As you can see the peas and silver beet are growing well. And my Purple Podded Peas are podding!

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Apart from not having to water so often the other good reason for a second wicking bed here is to stop the roots of the wattle tree from stealing all the moisture from the plants. Like me TB also found some lost things – in his case a very welcome self-sown warrigal greens seedling. Unfortunately we are still looking for the good pair of secateurs and they could be anywhere!

After calling it quits for the day we awoke the next morning to see that the “rain had interrupted play”.

Ready, set, go!

Whoa! spring has arrived. First wonderful sunshine, up to 19 degrees C mid-week, now howling gales and flooding across SE Australia. At Chez Fork we have recorded 80mms of rain since Friday evening, 65 mms of which fell between early Saturday morning and 5.00pm on Saturday.

Today was still pretty wild on the wind front but there was sunshine between the low clouds. A quick tour of the garden revealed some welcome sights. First and foremost we have our first asparagus spears poking up above ground.

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However I was a bit surprised to see that something has been having a bit of a chew on two of the spears. Normally not much has a go at this vegetable.

Next I took a really good look at my Purple Sprouting Broccoli. This has appeared to be somewhat of a non-starter. It has had lots of sprouting leaves but not much else. I know that one despairing friend has given up on hers and has been feeding the plants to her chooks. By contrast friend M, (she of the warmer micro-climate), has been harvesting her plants for weeks! Just when I was about to write mine off I had a really close look at the crown of the plant and discovered that at last some flower buds are developing. Well better late than never.

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The Tarragon that had been transplanted at the start of winter to allow us to work on building new garden beds has clearly survived the harsh weather and has started sprouting.

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Finally one last, and most unwelcome first for the season. I killed my first Cabbage White Butterfly today. I’d spotted some earlier in the week so now the long battle against their caterpillars will commence!