The kitchen garden in Spring is my most favourite time in the garden and certainly the busiest. But I’m not complaining, all this physical work is welcome exercise for my waistline!
I know it sounds a bit cliched, but growing your own veg really is the way to go and you can soooo taste the difference. I also grow far too much of everything, but this year I have a plan for my surplus.
How About An Honesty Table?
Each year we grow as much fruit and veg as we need and always end up giving loads away or relegating it to the compost heap. But this year I’m going to try something new. I’m going to put an honesty box at the end of my lane. If this is as new to you, as it was to me (until my friend Ruth told me) then read on.
Basically an honesty table is somewhere where you lay out your spare produce and invite passers by to drop a couple of coins into an old box , in exchange for your surplus. Seems like a great idea. Joe Public gets to take home some lovely fresh organic fruit and veg, while you (hopefully) collect a few pounds to spend on the garden or give to your favorite charity. I suppose someone could always nab your table along with the proceeds, but hey if their they needs that great then they’re welcome to it.
We’re lucky to have a lane at the end of our plot, which leads onto another minor road that is often used by walkers, so we might attract a few passers by. But before then I need to get on with growing some produce, or we’ll have nothing for the kitchen, let alone the rambler!
Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
We adopt a ‘rotation system’ at Blackbirds, which basically means creating separate and distinct plots for each of the different veg types. We’re also organic, which means we never apply any chemicals, which means we have to find ways of minimising potential threats from ground borne diseases in other ways and crop rotations certainly helps.
It doesn’t matter how large or small your plot, just so long as you avoid growing the same group in the same space for at least 3 years.
My first plot is planted up with a few rows of potatoes. This year i’m only growing Charlotte as it seems to like my chalky ground and I find they don’t go all mushy when I cook them. We also make a fair bit of potato salad in the summer and Charlotte works really well in potato salad.
Last years second early potato crop ‘Charlotte’
We eat a fair bit of salad in the summer and I find Charlottes are excellent for potato salad.
My recipe for the perfect potato salad
Cook off about a dozen new potatoes, making sure not too over cook them. They should be softish on the outside, but still fairly firm on the inside.
While they’re cooking prepare the dressing.
- 2 – 3 tablespoons of good vegetable oil. You can use extra virgin olive oil if you prefer the taste, personally I find it overpowers the potatoes.
- 1 – 2 Teaspoons of Maggie seasoning.
- 3 – 4 teaspoons of warm vegetable or chicken stock. (I prefer Knorr stock cubes)
- Tablespoon of wine vinegar.
- Teaspoon of lemon juice.
- Couple of grinds of black pepper.
- Medium sized onion finely chopped, or alternatively finely chop a spring onion.
- Small chopped garlic clove (optional).
Mix all the ingredients together really well in a bowl.
When the potatoes are cooked drain them well and while they are still warm peel them and chop into approx 1 inch cubes. Then add the potatoes to the dressing and fold the potatoes in. As the potatoes are warm they will soak up the dressing and produce the most amazing tasting potato salad. It doesn’t work nearly as well with cold potatoes.
If the mix is a bit too wet, add a teaspoon of cornflower mixed with a little cold water and fold it in and the mix will thicken nicely.
Serve with grilled sausages, lettuce and tomato salads.
Plot 2 – Root Veg
My second plot is for my root veg. I’ve sown my beetroot in modules which have started to appear at long last. I’ll transplant in a couple of weeks when the risk of frosts has past. We use a lot of Beetroot both in salads and pickling for the winter.
I’ve planted 2 rows of early Nantes carrots, Kohl Rabi, Spring Onions and Turnips. The Spring Onions will help to keep the carrot fly from laying there eggs. It’s the larvae that do the damage as they burrow into the carrot. Nasty things they are, completely ruin your carrots if you let them.
Plot 3 – Legumes
So far I’ve got my sugar peas in and they’re doing quit well, which I think is because they are slightly protected by the potting shed. I’ve planted my main crop peas in pots in the polytunnel, and they will go outside in a couple of weeks.
Plot 4 – Onions, Shallots and Garlic
I like to start my onion sets off in modules, but you need to keep an eye on the watering as they can be prone to dry out. Three weeks later weeks and they’re big enough to be planted out, and but his time they’re too big for the birds to yank them out!
Plot 5 – Lettuce
This year I’m going to be a bit more adventurous and growing several different varieties of lettuce. Instead of growing them in the kitchen garden I’m going to build a small raised bed close to the house to grow my everyday salads like lettuce, radish and maybe a few tomatoes when the weather warms up.
Plan is to build a simple wooden frame out of some gash timber we have around the place and position it next to the herb garden. I’ll fill it with some top soil mixed in equal quantity of well rotted compost and plant straight into it. Should be fun.
One of the benefits of a Poly tunnel is the early salad crops including these gorgeous little Tom Thumbs.
Tom Thumb is my absolute favourite of all the lettuce and an excellent candidate for small gardens or of you’re stuck for space. I’ve also planted Lorroroso, Cos and Rocket, all in modules. The seeds only cost me 10 pence each, so we should have salads for weeks in the summer, and all for the price of a daily newspaper.
As for the rest of my kitchen garden it’s waiting from the weather to warm up a bit so we can plant out the Sweetcorn, Dwarf Beans and main crop Peas. I have planted them this early in the past, but the weather hasn’t been great over the last few days, so I think I’ll hang on for a bit longer.
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