Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Planning a Cutting Garden and a New Competition!

Have you ever been tempted by the idea of starting a cutting garden? Maybe you’ve had enough of paying for stems of over-engineered, chemically coated and unscented shadows of a former bloom, when you know very well you are more than capable of growing better yourself?  I know my answer to both questions and I imagine I’m not on my own here.
Since I’ve had a garden I’ve grown flowers for the home and I guess that started with my Grandmother bringing Roses in to her home and naturally roping me, an animal crazed youth, in for earwig duty. That was much more exciting at the time but the Roses never failed to amaze either.  They were always large, old fashioned, scented blooms in shades of pink and red, a much better quality rose than the mainstream tight budded chaff that is churned out en mass nowadays.  To date, I have refrained from growing roses but that doesn’t mean that the influence of growing cut flowers has been lost.  

My small garden is host to a number of plants and flowers that could be considered as vase worthy and I have been known to sacrifice a few for the home but this is not without a touch of resent.   A few decapitated blooms in a small space is often too great a loss, at least it is not something that is entirely sustainable, and it is therefore my intention to dedicate a bit of space (a small space at that) on my allotment.  The question is – What do I grow?

I have visions of growing a mix of annuals, perennials and bulbs so that I can create seasonal displays. I have a vague idea of what to grow but I want a wider and more informed view of what will grow well and last and in true Ryan’s Garden style there is an upside to this - there’s a prize in it for you!

In association with clothes retailer Lands' End I am giving away six £25 gift vouchers and several packets of Nasturtium seeds, which are perfect for sowing next spring in the garden or on the allotment.  Lands' End sponsor the Colour Garden at Barnsdale Gardens.  I was lucky enough to be invited to the garden this year but I couldn’t attend.  I will visit next year for sure as part of a number of much needed garden visits.  

So the question is - What Spring bulbs would you recommend for cutting?  To enter the competition please click here.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Allotment update: The harvest just got better

You may remember that back in May I got a call to say that my time had come  to become an allotmenteer after a lengthy wait on the waiting list.  I was offered a quarter plot which was just a little overgrown (see here) and since that day the allotment has come a long way.  Today's harvest was easily the best yet.

The Nero di Toscano has grown well alongside my other Brassica's, the Courgette's have been unstoppable (no surprise there then) and the beans have grown amazingly well this year.  I have eaten more beans than I think I've eaten in my whole life combined.  Some of my favourites have been Runner Bean 'St George' with its red and white flowers, Broad Bean 'Bunyard's Exhibition' and French Bean 'Purple Queen'.  The latter is an amazing bean that has gorgeous purple flowers and pods that are almost black .  Upon boiling the beans magically transform and become green as per your standard French Bean.  I couldn't help but think that if there is a way to get kids interested in vegetables and cooking then this little bean may have what it takes.  It certainly entertained me.

Besides the obvious vegetable excitement you may have noticed a new addition to the harvest?  That's right, one of my new girls laid an egg today and I'm hoping that the other two will follow suit shortly so that I can make something substantial. 
The Speckledy hen above is the one that is the most likely to have laid the first egg as she is supposed to lay brown speckled eggs, the Cotswold Legbar (the brown hen above with the great hair do) is likely to lay a blue/green egg and the Copper Black Marans below should lay quite a dark brown egg.  Only time will tell but I cannot convey how excited I was to find the first egg today!
The small but perfectly formed egg was put to good use and helped to make today's Yorkshire puddings (pictured below) and besides the obvious benefit of keeping hens I'm learning that they make for great company. They have great personalities, dispose of pretty much anything, including waste from the plot or from the kitchen and they are sure to increase the fertility of my compost.  
Gardening will definitely be more interesting from here on in and I'm looking forward to my first  omelette!

If you have any Chicken keeping tips please leave a comment below!
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