Slate (and coffee cups)

Last year, at Old Sleningford Farm, we cleaned the slate nameplates for the apple trees in the forest garden. From that moment, I wanted to have slate nameplates for my own trees.

Eighteen months later, I decided to put an advert on Freegle to see if anyone had a few pieces of slate they could gift to me. I hadn’t expected any replies but in the event I got two. So last night I became the proud owner of several pieces, which I now need to decorate with the names of my own apple trees.

I learned from my gifter that the rest of the slate was being taken by a person who wanted to smash it up to cover their soil, so both of us were pleased that some of it was not being reduced to that. On the other hand, at least decorating a garden is not putting in landfill, unlike millions of paper coffee cups used these days.

I’ve just signed a petition calling for a 5p levy on disposable coffee cups.  Will it work in the same way as the levy on plastic bags? Maybe, maybe not, but here is the link to the petition: 

Posted in Gardening, Good for the environment, Permaculture | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Wasabi wannabe

Well, I made some bread with nasturtium seeds (cf. They look like mini sprouts!). Mm, maybe I need to add more as there didn’t seem to be any noticeable taste difference from ‘normal’ bread.

Not to worry…. I had decided it might be better to add the seeds in a crushed form rather than whole. By so doing, it gave me a new insight: crushed nasturtium seeds have a taste reminiscent of wasabi (or horseradish). Those are not my favourite flavours but if you like sushi, they might be just the thing.

Posted in In the kitchen | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

They look like mini sprouts!

It was a bright and sunny Sunday, so I got into the garden to plant both the garlic and the garlic bulbils. Or rather, I did so after biting the bullet and taking out the nasturtiums which have been merrily growing all around the area I wanted to plant in.

The nasturtiums were laden with seeds and there was a good smattering of them on the soil. In fact, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number – never seen the like before. Probably one of my best harvests this year, so it’s a shame I like the flowers and leaves more.

Anyway, I enlisted the help of my daughter to pick off all the seeds on the plants (I don’t want them going into the compost bin and there are quite enough around the garden for next year). She had turned her nose up at working outside but was more than happy to sit in the living room with a big pile of stems and leaves, hunting for the last of the seed pods, which she decided look like mini sprouts.

Personally, I think they look more like peas, though of course they taste like neither. I’m going to freeze most of them for winter but plan to try out some in bread in the next few days. I can imagine this will get the thumbs down from the aforementioned but you just never know. Maybe I’ll put some sundried tomatoes in as well.

Posted in Gardening, In the kitchen, Permaculture | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

Drying nasturtium flowers

This afternoon, I decided I’d been thinking about doing some work in the garden for long enough without any action. So, the plan was to get out there and chop the lemon balm bush back in order to make room for the garlic.

I put my gardening boots on, which in itself was an achievement in view of the fact that I routinely go out in Birkenstocks and then end up with muddy socks. I even remembered the key to the shed, whereupon I forgot all about the lemon balm. Instead, I had to take my boots off to go back in for the broad beans I picked up at Helmsley Walled Garden last weekend.

Interestingly, the hugel bed I sowed the broad beans in was clearly full of wood. In other words, the branches had not rotted down to any noticeable extent, although it is only a year since this one was built. I hope therefore there will be enough root-space for the beans. 

Anyway, after pottering about, removing unwanted vegetation from around the garden, picking tomatoes from the remaining plants (the ones in pots) and chive flowers, it came to me that I needed to do something else. Namely, why I was out there in the first place!

I didn’t manage to clear all the ground, although I’ve now got plenty of lemon balm for winter. The nasturtiums are still going strong and I hadn’t got the heart to remove them as well. There could be a frost at any time, so I will let nature to sort them out.

However, I don’t want to miss out on eating the flowers if I can. So, the other day, after dark, I decided to pick as many of them as possible. 

Freshly picked nasturtiums for drying

Last year, I froze some flowers but they were just a mushy mess when defrosted. Two days in the airing cupboard and I would hardly call this year’s batch the same. On the other hand, as part of drying they have shrunk considerably in size. But I did pick a load more today to add to the bag.

Posted in Gardening, Permaculture | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Feathers and environmental protection

One of the upsides of the Internet is having access to quality press from around the world. Now, I wouldn’t like to claim that the media are a true reflection of the state of a nation but they can give different perspectives.

A case in point is the New York Times. This morning, I’ve been reading an interesting article on Icelandic attempts to reforest their island. The article shows you what has happened since the Vikings cut down their forests a thousand years ago and now the struggle to grow trees again.

I’m having enough of a struggle growing my own trees due to the thinness of my soil. Being in a new build property may be the reason for the paucity of top soil rather than because it has all blown away – but I certainly don’t want to lose the rest.

Thus, a kind donation of feather-filled pillows from the friend we took to Helmsley yesterday is a step in the right direction. These are going in the compost bin, though maybe not all at the same time in view of how many she gave me. But the organic matter they add to the soil in the long run can surely only be a good thing.

As mentioned in previous posts, the jury is out regarding the effectiveness of hugel beds for building soil in my garden. Clearly, they must be adding organic matter but equally clearly far more OM is needed and on a continual basis. I’m not keen on building bed after bed – too much labour, apart from the disturbance to the soil – so it looks like homemade compost as mulch is the preferable option.

Posted in Gardening, Permaculture | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

Which apple tree next?

Today was Apple Day at Helmsley Walled Garden. Last year at the Apple Day, we selected the apple we liked best for a new tree, which should be arriving some time this November. Now, we were on the quest for a tree chosen specifically by my daughter.

Overall, it looks like Margil is this year’s winner. Not only my daughter and I but also a friend who accompanied us on the outing agreed this had the best flavour. It has depth, sweetness and no strange after-taste.

A representative from R V Rogers Nursery, where I’ve bought all my other apple trees, was on-site today, so I was able to check whether they stocked the Margil. And yes they do, although not on a dwarfing rootstock. 

At least I’ve got a good few months to think about what to do, as it’s going to be a purchase next summer…..

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Another colleague happy

This week, I’ve taken advantage of the still light evenings after work to clear up the autumn garden. The nasturtiums continue to thrive, so I am leaving them for the bees to enjoy while they are still about.

On the other hand, the fennel definitely needed to be cut down. In fact, the ripe seeds were starting to spread themselves around and I had promised a colleague some for tea/her own garden.

What I hadn’t expected was just how joyful she would be at getting a bag of fennel seeds. If only we could all be so happy with such a gift! It’s also a plus for the fight against big business and unnecessary moneyed transactions.

Anyway, another job I did was take up the squash. The plants were on the wane and I felt the fruit would better off in the shed to ripen fully. They are quite small but if I can save some seeds from them, perhaps they will naturalise to my garden conditions and eventually produce better fruit.

Posted in Gardening, Permaculture, presents | Tagged , , | 8 Comments