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Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Out with the old and in with the new

It's getting to that time when the majority of vegetables planted earlier in the year are now ready to harvest. Whilst successional planning is always key for us gardeners it can sometimes be quite daunting when you're left with a big open space in the middle of the growing season that was full of plants only yesterday

The broad beans have pretty much come to an end now, I probably went a bit over the top with them to be honest, I was getting bored of waiting and these are one of the earliest seeds that can be sown. I ended up with a lot more than I bargained for, although that's been no bad thing over the past couple of weeks with us regularly enjoying the harvests. I am now left with a gap in the veg patch which is only going to get bigger when the potatoes come out alongside it. They should be out by now having planted Red Duke of York as first earlies, however, we lifted a few plants a couple of weeks ago and thought that they would make better eating as maincrop potatoes due to their floury texture.

So what to fill the space with, the majority of seed packets will tell you to sow March - May? This year I had the forethought to sow some brassicas inside on the windowsill back at the beginning of June in the hope that they would slot straight in after the broad beans. My windowsills have been full since early February and show no sign of slowing down yet. Anyway it's not quite worked out the way I wanted. I sowed the seeds in peat free compost trying to be as organic and environmentally friendly as possible and it's just turned out to be very poor for root growth. Admittedly it wasn't a seed compost but at the time local choice was limited and I have, in the past, regularly used a standard multipurpose compost for sowing.

Although they're a little way behind where I wanted them to be I've decided that the best place for them is in the ground rather than potting on into something more suitable and giving it a few more weeks. As ever I have sown too many so the majority will be planted out with the rest staying as they are for back up, I may squeeze them in somewhere else in time.

With the weather not being too temperamental at the momnet they should establish quite quickly. I have sown Cavolo Nero kale which should be ready around October; Brussel sprouts for Christmas time, cabbage January King for the New Year and because of this year's success plenty of Purple sprouting broccoli.

There's still plenty of time to sow most things. This week I'll be sowing carrots, French beans, beetroot and some cima di rapa. Of course there are things that can be sown almost all year such as lettuce and spring onion. Time spent planting now will see you eating out of the garden right through Christmas and beyond.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Open Farm Sunday

If you missed it this Sunday saw the tenth open farm Sunday, an event that has gone from strength to strength since launching in 2006. Farms all over the country open their doors to the public putting on tractor rides, educational talks, kids activities and much more, all for free! The idea is to raise awareness of how farmers are working in harmony with nature to produce good food with environmental care.

Having missed it last year we took the opportunity to visit Slade Farm, an organic farm that rears pork, beef and lamb that is available to buy from the onsite farm shop.

Having a two year old boy, a day on a farm is just about the perfect day out for us; a highlight for him being the pig racing along with seeing all of the tractors.


The owner of the farm gave an interesting talk whilst explaining about sheep shearing. Any meat he doesn’t sell from the farm shop is sold to Waitrose, his point being that you can either buy the meat from him or it can be shipped to Cambridge sorted and shipped back to the local town of Cowbridge. Something to think about if you’re conscious of food miles as perhaps we should all increasingly be.


Other activities on the day were archery, a blacksmith demonstration, learning how to milk a cow, and of course a bbq selling homemade sausages and burgers.


A great day out for all the family and we'll certainly be visiting one or two more next year.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Cowbridge Physic Garden

Having moved to a house with a smaller garden this summer I have been thinking long and hard about what to grow in this new space. I brought some plants and pre-made raised beds with me so these immediately went in, as much to brighten the place up as anything else. Thinking longer term I wanted to do something with the front garden that would require very little maintenance, make a big impact and of course taste great.  The solution I came to was to start a herb garden. Something that I can use everyday and after the initial set up not spend too much time on.

I already grow a few herbs for everyday use in an old trough outside the backdoor. These are added to many of our meals so never get the chance to grow too any sort of size or run to seed as they are constantly being harvested. Even so this little offering has kept me in good supply throughout the past couple of months, the only thing it's not providing is variety.

With hundreds of species and variants available I was never going to be satisfied with just eight different plants. For inspiration a couple of weeks ago I took a trip to Cowbridge physic garden to explore the possibilities on offer.

Just off Cowbridge high street hidden behind four large stone walls is this real gem of a place. Restored and maintained by volunteers after falling into neglect, it boasts a huge variety of medicinal plants and herbs that once would have been commonplace.

Despite visiting in winter there was still plenty to see, some plants were past their best and others still in full glory.

There aren't many physic gardens left in the country these days having fallen out of favour with the development of modern medicine. In the past people would have used these plants for treating all manner of things, To name a few lemon balm was traditionally used to ease anxiety and insomnia, rosemary to improve concentration and memory, lavender as an antiseptic, parsley was used to prevent flatulence and bad breath, and lovage to cure colic.

Some great ideas and well worth a visit, I'll certainly be back again in the summer.