It is ages since I showed you the raised veg beds which the Pianist made last year. As I said at the time, I filled them using the lasagne method of layering organic material. This year I found the soil had settled and the level had fallen drastically, so clearly more organic matter had to be found. Luckily, I had the turf which my lovely two helpers took off to make the new winter- flowering beds. You may remember I got help with this project, as I thought I might die after digging up the front lawns when we moved in here. I couldn’t face doing it again.
I put in a layer of newspaper and leaves. Then for a Valentine’s Day gift the Pianist gave me several loads of lovely, well rotted manure. He tried to take all the credit for it, but actually it was produced by my friend Francescas’ lovely two boys; Shannon and Pickle.
But still, the pianist shovelled and delivered it to me which I think is a really romantic gesture, not many girls get a couple of tons of poo for a Valentine’s Day gift. Here he is, my hero in a red boiler suit and a silly hat.
I managed to dig around and find some compost to fill the boxes up. When you are filling them up, you can use anything organic as long as you layer with dead leaves or newspaper.
My scarecrow who has been named Chloris, has a new set of clothes this year, but nevertheless she is beginning to look the worse for wear.
I understand why the garden writer Eleanor Perenyi removed her scarecrow. In her marvellous book, ‘Green Thoughts’ she said: ‘Dressed in my cast off -clothes, this figure had become an increasingly derelict version of myself, and though it didn’t really keep off the birds, it had begun to frighten me to death’. I feel the same; the scarecrow is ageing faster than I am, and looking ever more dissolute and weirdly androgynous. Despite her new, pink flowery vest, people at a recent garden opening kept calling her ‘he’ which is worrying. I have given her some cottonwool breasts. But still…perhaps a flowery hat might help.
I am growing just Charlotte potatoes this year, as when I try new varieties they often get rejected by the chef as being too floury. I started harvesting them last week and we had a lovely meal of new potatoes and the first broad beans.
So here is the potager at the moment. I am going to call it my ‘potager’ from now on, it sounds very grand and Villandry-ish.
In the centre where I grew runner beans last year I have planted a standard gooseberry bush with nasturtiums and bits of chamomile round its feet to make a chamomile lawn.
Running down the side of the boxes are raspberries, currants and gooseberries. The first ripe raspberrries are appearing.
Ok, calling it a potager is stretching the point, the effect is botched boxes rather than Villandry, but nevertheless it is very productive. Planting in layers of good, organic matter is rather like growing things in a series of composts heaps.
I increase the fertility with nice regular doses of nettle and comfrey tea. I found an old, galvanised water tank in the garden which is very useful. Comfrey is very high in potassium. It is quite invasive, but I grow the variety ‘Bocking 14’ which is sterile. Unfortunately, it smells appalling as it rots down in the water which is a bit of a drawback.
Something else delicious to eat has ripened in the greenhouse. It is the first apricot on the tree I planted a couple of years ago.
And whilst we are on the subject of things to eat or drink I made my Elderflower cordial today from flowers growing on Sambucus nigra. It has a nice pinkish tinge to it.
I know a lot of bloggers make it, but in case you would like to and don’t have a recipe, here it is.
40 flower heads.
3 litres water.
4 kg sugar.
4 lemons, juice and zest.
100 g. citric acid.
Rinse flowers. Boil water, add sugar and dissolve. Dissolve citric acid in a bit of the boiling water, add to the syrup and pour over the flowers. Add the juice and peel of lemons and leave 5-7 days. Strain and bottle.
I do it in 2 batches as it makes 4-5 litres. It doesn’t keep a long time so I freeze it in pint batches.
If you want to have a go, hurry up, the elder flowers are beginning to go over.