The Kitchen Garden

3 years at the allotment

I've been a bit quiet on this blog recently about my allotment. it's 3 years since we got our plot of land with a bit of a fanfare because it was the 1000th NT plot .

Allotment through grass (1 of 1)

That doesn't mean we havn't been doing anything, - although if I'm being honest, we've not spent as much time as i'd like, because i've been busy creating a flower farm.

This allotment is hopefully a long term thing for us, - We look on enviously at the newly retired people who can tend their plots each day, - and by the time we get down there, after work or on a weekend afternoon, we're often the only ones at the plot (except for the wildlife).

Beds and paths (1 of 1)

Over the last couple of weeks, we've worked at edging the allotment with wood to keep out the encroaching grass paths, and laid some black matting down between our no dig beds, so that the weeding of those will be minimal.

Even though we've only been visiting for 1/2 hour at a time, there have been some successes this year, - The kale is the best i've ever grown, and even William will eat it, We're on our 3rd set of potatoes, - and they've been tasty. The fruit has been amazing, - the first Plum & Strawberry jam has been made, and summer pudding with custard was devoured, - we even had 1 meal of asparagus at the beginning of the year.

Garlic chives (1 of 1)

If the blight can hold off for a couple more weeks, i'll have plenty of ripe tomatoes, and at the 3rd attempt I managed to get the Sweet peas to grow. - Here they are flowering their socks off after all my Hill top farm ones have finished long ago. I don't think my pumpkins will be winning any prizes at the Horsley Garden Society show on Saturday the 20th, but i'll have a few things to enter. - Here's to the next 3 years, and lots of allotment meals.

Garlic chives (1 of 1)



Sowing overwintering salad crops


I've now harvested most of my greenhouse tomatoes. There are just some compact plants and the chilli's left in my pots on the floor of the greenhouse now.

Within a few weeks I want all of those refilled with winter cropping salads. I've already got some lettuces growing, and some chervil, but I needed to make sure that I had sown enough salads to last me through until April, as i've vowed to have another winter with no shop bought salad leaves.

To make sure that I can keep to that, i've filled my staging with module trays of lots of different varieties of winter leaves, and seedlings of lettuces which will be for as soon as the sun comes back next spring.

The winter leaves i've sown are

Rocket, - wild and variety Apollo

Chervil - a favourite now, great for adding to winter omelettes

Red leaved Sorrel - fairly strong so only a few leaves used in a salad, but great for using in sauces for fish

Mizuna - this tastes revolting if grown in the height of summer, but the overwintered taste is milder

Mustard - i've several different types of mustard leaves growing

Chicory -Leaf and radicchio

& Coriander, - (just writing this reminds me I should sow even more of this as I always run out)

plus Perpetual spinach and rainbow Chard


The Lettuces

Winter Density, All the Year round, Arctic King, Valdor and my every present pack of Bis di Lattughe from Franchi.

Although i'm lucky enough to have my greenhouse, most of these are hardy enough to go outside in the ground. In fact the chervil was planted in my raised beds last winter, and came through the snows perfectly and kept harvesting until May. For easiest Winter cropping though, if you havn't got a greenhouse, make sure you've got your salads in pots near the back door.

my seeds are from a variety of sources, but my favourite suppliers for winter lettuce are

Sarah Raven

(amazing selection, and some strong selections)

Wiggly Wigglers

(new to the winter salad seed market, but some different varieties that i'll be roadtesting this winter)

Seed Parade

(smaller collection, but great Rocket, Coriander, basic lettuce varieties, all at budget prices)

plus T & M, and Mr Fothergills (the only one I know that does the red veined sorrel)

Allotment gardening here I come...

Yes, At last, the Brown family have an allotment, and I can tell you about it. You see I was having to keep it a bit of a secret and we weren't allowed to start until we had the official go ahead because.

It's the National Trust's 1000th Allotment.

For anyone that doesn't know, a couple of years ago in 2009, the NT, pledged to create 1000 new allotments on their land so that individuals, community groups and schools could grow their own. They joined up with the Landshare website to get the word out about the land that was to be shared, and they've surpassed their own expectation of getting to their target by 2012

I was aware that the wonderful Grace and Flavour community garden and allotments were National Trust associated, but it was only last month when we were told we were next on the list and that the plots were going to be available from the beginning of September, that we realised that they were part of the new allotment pledge.

So we are very pleased and honoured to take on the 1000th plot, - here it is.


It hadn't been allocated with the rest of the allotments in April, as it had a great big water trench dug through it to supply the community garden, so the far end is rather clay where the diggers had gone down deep and brought up subsoil in laying the pipe. The near end at the front had been the site of the massive bonfire last year when the site was being cleared. so there is plenty of potash in that area, and it was easy to dig.

I've got a large plot of land to call my own, and this morning i've been planting my first crops - Blackcurrants, Spring Cabbages and Leeks. We've even been featured on the National Trust's website

So ideas and feedback welcomed, - what do you suggest should be top of my list to go in next?

(photo credit Professional Images )

Update -

Yes we have got a completely dug plot, to start with, - that's the thing about a community garden, lots of helpers, even in the rain, - so yes this plot was dug in a morning, if you'd like to watch a Benny Hill Stylie Timelapse of our morning of digging, - download the video here Download timelapse.flv (7435.0K)  

More space to grow in

When we moved to our current house 3 1/2 years ago, one of the reasons was because we wanted a bigger garden. Now, i've filled all the space i'm allowed (apparently my 7 yr old does need to have a climbing frame and some football/ cricket space) i've been looking at other areas to cultivate.

Luckily, I do have client gardens to "play" in, and there's school gardening club, and the grace and flavour community garden, so i'm not short of practise room, but i've had to say no, to requests from hubby for Brussel sprouts, and asparagus, and cabbages, and no to pleas from my son for pumpkin growing, as our back garden raised plots are being kept for salads, and beans and tomatoes and, - well I grow lots, but there isn't room for big things.


Earlier in the year Allotments were created right by the Grace and Flavour community garden and we've been watching with admiration and envy as they've gone from a bare piece of land to productive beauty. (the picture above was taken there, there are lots of wonderful plots, but I love these Sunflowers). My parents have also finally got to the top of their local allotment society waiting list, and have taken on a plot with fantastically productive fruit bushes, As we took yet another jar of jam from them last week (Mara de Bois Strawberry), and admired their onions and Kale and Butternut squash. I was mentally trying to search for extra space to grow more.

We had an allotment when we were in our first flat, (ooh about 18 years ago) and for 2 years we fought marestail and couch grass to grow far too many courgettes, plus some other crops that i've forgotton about now in the mists of time. We know how much work an allotment can be, we know they'll be digging to start with and lots of weeding, and probably disappointment as crops fail the minute you turn your back and don't manage to visit, but yes our name has been on the waiting list for the last few months, and hopefully we should hear this week, as more land is being allocated.

Since our last foray with an allotment, i've read lots of books, blogs and tweets about allotment growing, hopefully learned a huge amount about both growing crops, and about managing them so they take the least amount of work. With an eager family to help me dig and plant and water, and a desire to eat vegetables and fruits i've grown without added chemicals, (plus maybe grow a few flowers, ) i'm hoping more space to grow in will be great for us all, - although i'm going to leave the Jam making to my mum.

Harvest, the end or the beginning?


At this time of year when you're struggling to keep up with a glut of fruit and vegetables from the garden, it's easy to think that this is the beginning of the end for this year. Whereas really, in amongst all the batch baking and freezing and juicing and preserving, you need to be planting to ensure that you have crops in the winter and at the beginning of next year.

If your harvest from the garden this year hasn't amounted to as much as you'd like, don't worry, you havn't left it too late, because you still have a month left at least to get in crops you'll be eating in 2011, and several months to spare if you want to fill the hungry gap of March and April next year. You don't need a large space, or much expertise, just a little enthusiasm and some knowledge of which varieties work well.

Excellent places to order your seeds from include

Sarah Raven don't click on this link if you don't have self discipline, - but the range of winter cropping saladings is the best i've found

Seed Parade A budget seed website, - with excellent germination rates (their Broadbean Aquadulce Claudia) beat Mr Fothergills and T&M in my home trial of germination rates)

Thompson and Morgan (T &M) A giant in the Mail order plant industry, - i'm not always enamoured of their plants, but their range of seeds is unrivalled and their postage service for seeds is excellent


Wiggly Wigglers  - one of my favourite companies, who i've heard good things about their ready grown veg mixes, (no not me, I grow all mine from seed) and who now do some winter salad seeds in their range

so that you can get a Christmas day platter like this


If that doesn't give you food for thought and inspiration to start sowing, so that the end of your harvest is the beginning of your winter crops, then come along to my Workshop

Friday 16th September 2011 - 9.30am Horsley Surrey and find out more about growing Herbs and Salads all year round, in the company of other gardeners.

Fresh vegetables for all - What's a tithe?

This morning, I had a very rare Thursday that I wasn't working, so as Hubby was working from home, and the electronic babysitter (that's the TV) was taking care of my Son, I took the opportunity to slope off down to Grace and Flavour, our local community garden.


G&FTitheaug11 I usually help out on a Saturday if I can, so I havn't taken part in a Thursday harvest before, but it is one of the most satisfying jobs.

28 families receive a package of vegetables, - this week it included potatoes, carrots, lettuce, runner beans, courgette, parsley and sage.

These are picked and packed by the G & F team, and were then collected at 11.00 by some other lovely volunteers from the local Wheel of Care, who delivered them to those with out transport or unable to get out.

We also harvested crops that went to the local church at their coffee morning. The local shops got some to sell to the local community,  and Polesdon Lacey received a delivery to use in their restuarants. ( there will probably be Ratatouille, the amount of Marrow's that were delivered).

It was a highly satisfying couple of hours, in the company of other gardeners, and the cake to go with coffee was pretty good too!

If you live in Horsley, you are very welcome to take part in the Grace and Flavour garden. Team days are Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday. Give as much or as little time as you like (warning, it is addictive!) or if you can't get there, bake us a cake every now and then.

If you'd like to have a tour, then come along to the West Horsley Fete on Saturday September 10th - 2-5pm which is in the ground of Dene Place Nursing home in Ripley Lane (adjacent to the garden)

An apple a day..... Needs a lovely tree in your garden

From my office window, I have a view of the back garden.

My view is centred, (some might say dominated) by a fabulous apple tree.

(ignore the dirty window and the glass reflections for this please!)

When we came to view this house in September 2007, I asked to taste an apple from the tree, and found that it was a lovely tasty, crisp and sweet dessert apple.

The following year I used the RHS fruit naming service to find out the variety of apple. I highly recommend this service, and this year (2011) it is free to members and non members on selected dates throughout September, October and November at the RHS gardens and shows.

So I found out that my apple is a Merton Worcester, - raised at the John Innes Institute, Merton around 1930.


It's Parents are Cox's Orange Pippin, and Worcester Pearmain. - Both readily available, but I hadn't heard of Merton Worcester before.

Because it peaks in September, we have apples ready to pick from the beginning of August (when they are rather tart, but great for stewing and juicing) Through to the end of October, and with careful storage, through to December.

The RHS letter also stated that it is a heavy cropper, - which it is, fabulously this year.

A garden centrepiece, summer shade, and fantastic blossom and fruit. I'd recommend an apple tree for every garden.

Apparently UK apple orchards have declined by 95% in the last 40 years, - so Copella the apple juice people are running a plant and protect campaign this year. Copella and The National trust currently have a promotion to increase the number of apples grown and re-ignite the nation’s passion for English apples.

If you have a tree, you are being asked to visit the campaign website  to register your apple tree variety to help map out the UK’s English Apple landscape. (I have)

If you havn't got one, and are currently having to buy your apple juice. - Copella will be offering Cox’s Orange Pippin trees, (That's one of the parents to my tree!) , to Sainsbury’s customers who collect tokens on 750ml bottles of Copella Apple juice, and apply on their website

I'm off to fill that hunger gap before dinner with an apple


Pruning summer fruiting raspberries

i've mentiond before that Raspberries are one of my favourite fruits and there's nothing better than having a fresh supply from the garden all through the summer.


during July, the summer fruiting varieties will finish producing, and need pruning.

if you're not sure which type your raspberries are, - these are summer (fruited raspberries) on the left, next to Autumn (about to fruit over the next few weeks) on the right.

at ground level, it's a lot easier to see.

The canes which have fruited were produced last year, - so are the old brown canes. Next year's raspberries will come on the newly sprouted green canes, - so we don't want to cut them out, just the old brown ones.

These summer fruiting types are slightly harder to work out what needs pruning compared to the Autumn fruiting types, which are just cut cut back completely in February details here.

The main thing is to get out there in the next couple of weeks to prune now, so that the next years growth gets the rest of the season to grow away. Also make sure the summer and autumn canes are separated so that it is easy to sort them out.

Happy raspberry picking


A new set of garden friends

Those of you that follow me on Twitter will know that we lost our 3 chickens to the fox last week, - In daylight with me in the house.

Unfortunately like last time, - The fox didn't take the chickens for food, - he just broke their necks and left them there.

We were going to wait until we had completely redone our outer run, - but by the weekend I was missing having company in the garden, and there was noone to feed the slugs to, - so we phoned our Chicken Guy, Dean, and he'd just had a delivery of rescue chickens earlier in the week.


Here are 2 of our new girls (they wouldn't all stay together to get a picture of all three of them.)

They are really nervous to start with, making it quite difficult to catch them, but they'll get used to us in the coming months, - and will soon get used to running up to me to catch slugs.

When they arrive with us, these rescue chickens look in a rather bad way, but by the time they've been with us for a few weeks, they will have plumped out, and have all their feathers back. particularly if they get to sun themselves.


After spotting Mr Fox again last night (they were all safely locked away, but made enough fuss to make me look up) we won't be letting them out except when we're in the garden,

I've had lots of suggestions for helping to deter foxes, - Human hair will get tried, we will look into an electric fence, but I think the shotgun may be a step too far.



Summer fruit in Spring

The weather has been gorgeous here in Surrey for weeks and weeks. It's easy to forget that it is still only the end of May, - not July.

These Raspberries are really confused. Apart from growing their way into my greenhouse, they've started fruiting already.

Not that i'm complaining, Fresh Strawberries and Raspberries to go with meringues made from eggs from my chickens. - Yum