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Archive for the ‘Trees’ Category

Well, following the cultivation notice (that apparently we shouldn’t have got because we have had it less than 3 months) Jamie has worked incredibly hard on digging and planting the plot.

The new plot

The new plot

The plan is to have mainly perennial fruit on this site, so that it is lower maintenance. Also, fruit takes up a lot of space and you want to give it plenty of room. There were already three small plum trees on the plot (seen at the back of the photo below), and some Rhubarb (also at the back). Jamie has added raspberry canes with a frame, and gooseberry.

Fruit patch

Fruit patch

Once the asparagus seedlings are well established, they will go in and already have a dedicated row. The yew trees were in pots in the garden, but have been transplanted in as have a number of box plants (of course!).

This year I am going to get some space for annuals (the bare patch at the front). I already have some Charlotte potatoes chitting on a windowsill. I don’t think there’s any danger of putting the potatoes in too late. The girls have planted a lot of different flower seeds this year, so we will see if any of those are successful.

Finally, there is going to be a very small vineyard in the space shown below.

Space ready for the Vineyard

Space ready for the Vineyard

You never know, Costello home-made wine might be coming your way in years to come? Jamie has taken some cuttings of the vine that currently runs over the canopy at the flat.

Grapevine cuttings

Grapevine cuttings

We met a local grower/winemaker at a Farmer’s Market from the Old Railway Vineyard in Merstham. When we described our variety, he identified it as a good one for wine. It has a good pedigree, having successfully grown on the patio for what looks like the last century.

Finally, the first French tarragon of the year is coming through, so we picked some for our favourite dinner, recipe below.

Tarragon Chicken

For this recipe you can use either quarters, legs, thighs, breasts on the bone, whatever you have in.

Chicken pieces (see above)
Butter or olive oil for frying (depending on cholesterol count)
1/2 chopped Onion
Mushrooms
1/4 bottle of white wine
4 or 5 sprigs of French Tarragon (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons Creme fraiche (this can be low fat or full fat)
small amount of chicken stock (optional)
lemon rind and juice (optional)

Tips: This recipe has many variations, depending on what you have in the cupboard.  Stock can be added for flavour, but you can use a chicken Oxo cube, gravy granules etc., or leave it out altogether.  I find if you use chicken pieces on the bone, you don’t need to add stock, but if you use chicken breast fillets, it might need the extra flavour.  Lemon isn’t essential, but goes very well.  The basics are chicken, white wine, creme fraiche and tarragon.

Fry the chicken pieces in the butter/oil in a heavy bottomed pan or casserole, until nicely browned on the outside.  Take them out and reserve on a plate.  Then use the same oil to fry the onion and mushrooms if using, followed by the garlic (chopped or crushed as preference).

Once the onion has gone slightly brown, add the chicken pieces back to the plan and add the white wine and half the tarragon, stirring to get the brown glaze off the pan into the sauce.  Add water or chicken stock to cover the pieces.  Add the lemon juice and rind (you may need to add a tiny bit of sugar if using a very dry wine and lemon juice).

Simmer for about 30 – 45 mins on the stove, or put the casserole into the over, checking occasionally.  Strain excess oil if needed.  Add salt and pepper and more stock to taste.

When you are sure it is cooked through and ready to serve, add the creme fraiche along with the rest of the tarragon.

Serve with rice and mange tout or french beans.

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Jamie has been at the allotments all weekend. A pattern is emerging where I tend to look after the girls while he does the hard graft in the cold/rain/wind, but he is keeping me up to date on progress – photos to follow.

Stanley Road – he has uprooted most of the raspberry canes, which were too close together through overenthusiastic planting last year. These have been transplanted to the Warren which will have most of the perennial fruit. This leaves blackcurrants and the Christmas tree in the back bed at Stanley Road. Stanley Road will have the crops that need more maintenance, and strawberries are the main fruit on the patch.

The Warren – the row of raspberry canes has been planted in much more space, and in honour of this, our first fruit support structure – I will have to wait and see this next weekend. There are already three or four well established damson/plum trees on the plot (we will wait and see exactly what they are), along with a gooseberry.

Seed planting: We need to get going on the seed planting. The coldframe at the Warren will be really helpful to get things started. I am waiting for this latest cold snap to pass, just in case we get a repeat of the severe frosts that have been commonplace this year.

Coming soon:
A plan of the whole two plots, with crop rotation diagram.

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Winter hibernation

It’s hard to get to the allotment in winter. Firstly the dark nights mean we can’t go after work. Secondly the rain, wind and cold mean that even weekends are often tricky.

However, we have checked on things a couple of times:

1) I popped up there to check on the place and to give everything a final once over before winter. Clearing the last of the final greenery.

2) Jamie dug up the Christmas tree about a week ago. After a couple of nights on the patio in a pot, and a night in the cold outside hallway it came into the living room for Christmas.

Although it is looking a bit fragile, it is still going after 3 years. Who knows whether it will be here next year, but it is a worthwhile experiment.

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So, just as you catch yourself thinking that it is far too warm for bonfire night, the autumn hits with a vengeance.  We haven’t been able to get to the allotment for a fortnight now – the sunny days of late are a distant memory as snow, wind, rain and frost takes hold.

So what do gardeners do in winter?  What can you do once the long dark evenings put a stop to weekday gardening?  Well, in some ways, a rest period is welcome.  The grass and weeds slow down, the frosts kill back tender plants.  Only the hardiest and most self sufficient plants survive the winter, and they can all seem to look after themselves.  Most of your annual beds are cleared and ready for next year (or a green manure?), and thoughts turn to seed catalogues and inspirations for next year.

So we went to the Cotswolds for a weekend to visit Westonbirt Arboretum on a ‘garden lover’s break’.  A weekend of autumn leaves, good food and log fires with a bit of ancient English history thrown in for good measure.  We stayed at the Old Bell Inn in Malmesbury, in the shadow of Malmesbury Abbey, where King Athelstan was buried and the location of one of the infamous ‘Crosses’ of ‘Banbury Cross’ fame (When Eleanor of Aquitaine died, every place that her body was placed en route to London was marked with a cross).

The maple avenue at Westonbirt

The maple avenue at Westonbirt

The hotel was superb, with at least four separate lounges with log fires, and incredibly helpful staff.

The food was brilliant, and most definitely inspired us to do a bit of winter cooking. We came back brimming with ideas, including my usual ‘open a garden centre with a cafe’ dream. Maybe one day….

The starter!!!

The starter!!!

The pumpkin, incidentally, got a Halloween makeover, and is now the proud wearer of lip gloss and eyeliner – a mummy pumpkin, obviously.

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