Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Blueberry tubs

Back in February I mentioned my two blueberry bushes. One was a very thoughful gift from a good friend and the second one I bought as a companion for the first. Although both are termed self-fertile, the received wisdom is that 2 bushes will give you a larger crop than a single one.
Having decided to keep them containerised in order to better manage their acidic soil requirements - I needed to find them appropriate containers. In the meantime, they were repotted into flower buckets from our local supermarket (the yellow one with the big M; other supermarkets are of course available...)
As I'm a fan of all things vintage when it comes to garden tools, household items and books, I pondered on the idea of suitable containers for a while before deciding to track down some dolly tubs. For those of you too young to have heard of these, dolly tubs were the washing machines of the Victorian era. Galvanised steel or zinc tubs would be filled with water on washday and a wooden dolly peg was used to agitate the clothes in the water until clean (or at least cleaner than they started out). Often at the end of the day when all the clothes were washed, the children of the family would be popped into the tub one by one for their weekly bath!

Anyway, having acquired two of these lovely items from the fabulous shopping emporium that is eBay, I asked my very handy handyman to drill some drainage holes in the bottom before I added plenty of crocks and what seemed like a trailer full of ericaceous compost. I'm really pleased with how they look and it gives the plants plenty of root growing space.

We had a pretty good harvest from these two bushes during July, August and September - plenty of blueberry muffins were baked but sadly there weren't enough for making blueberry jam as well. Now the cooler weather has arrived the leaves have begun to change colour, displaying wonderful rich autumn hues.

Monday, September 26, 2011

September chilli fest

I'll confess that I'm slightly pitying of anyone who doesn't like chillies. In my book, that's like saying 'I prefer my food to taste quite ordinary, I don't really like making it a bit more interesting'. Chillies don't have to be hot to make a difference in food, they can add fruitiness, spice or simply an unidentifiable tang that just adds a bit of pizzazz to everyday flavours. Tomato and mascarpone pasta sauce? Throw some chopped hot cayenne in there! Stir fry or pad thai? Whack a scotch bonnet in it! Courgette fritters? A couple of bulgarian carrot chillies will add some zing!
My chilli rollcall this year is as follows: Hot Cayenne, Peruvian Chinense, Scotch Bonnet, Razzmatazz, Numex Twilight, Lemondrop and Bulgarian Carrot. The latter 3 are new to me this year, the others I've grown at least once before.
Chillies have a long growing season, so most were sown back in February and March. I get the best results keeping them in the greenhouse and it means I can prolong the ripening through to October if I'm lucky.
Most of my harvest will be added to the freezer so we have an all year round supply. If I have a real bumper crop I may dry some to grind down for chilli powder or make a small batch of chilli jelly.

Scotch bonnets
New flowers on the Razzmatazz plant 
Hot cayenne ripening in the sun
The changing colours of the Numex Twilight

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tomato tasting

There are 3 types of tomato growing in my greenhouse. Which, some might say, is 3 types too many for someone who doesn't actually like eating them. But I love growing them.
And I find I can make things with them that I do like to eat - it's just whole and/or raw tomatoes that I don't like to eat. Sun dry them and it's a whole different story, make them into ketchup and I'm there.
Anyway, I'm growing Moneymaker, Roma and Gardener's Delight, which I realise are not varieties that set the gardening world on fire, but most of the seeds were freebies with gardening magazines so I stuck with them.
This year the Roma and Moneymaker plants have not grown particularly big, but their output in the last few weeks is more than making up for that. They're all still getting a weekly dose of liquid organic feed to keep them happy.

The single Gardener's Delight plant has been fruiting prolifically, giving hubbie a regular supply of fresh tomatoes for his lunchtime sandwiches.

The Roma plum tomatoes have been harvested once ripened, skinned, stored in the freezer and then every week or so I've been making a batch of passata, which then goes back into the deep freeze for another day. I make a great tomato and mascarpone pasta sauce when the mood takes me.
And the Moneymakers have been harvested green and made into chutney - the kitchen looks like a catering establishment!