Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Currant fun

So this one is for the novice fruit gardener looking to, ahem, branch out...

Where do you go once you've got strawberries under your belt? Raspberries are certainly the hipsters berry of choice, whilst the health conscious among us may plump for blueberries. 

I'm now in my third year of what I consider to be the connoisseur's choice - blackcurrant.

Cast your mind back to your childhood. Ah yes, guzzling ribena in the height of summer, rejecting any attempt to ween you onto Sainsburys own-brand juice, yuk! Nothing matches the silky sweet, purple-rich nectar.

Well, blackcurrants are nothing like this. They're complex in flavour, sharp and bitter at first but given the right companions make a classy breakfast choice.

Today I spotted the first sign of joys to come on my blackcurrant plant:

And just like all the best plants, one rub of the leaf releases the scent of fruit...

Now, I must admit, I've not been especially prolific with them, but this year looks promising already. If anyone has good recipes for blackcurrants, perhaps a recipe for a chewy sweet (Chewits, I'm looking at you here), give me a shout.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Highly strung

So the doctor has told me to stop. 

I'm at that age where you still like to think you have your life ahead of you but you start to notice the milage clocking up (35) and the boot getting a little heavy with baggage. 

As a result, I've found myself holed up on the sofa for a week, post virus and in my doctor's eyes post a few relentless years of coping with the odd big change here and there and at times a rather unforgiving day job. Turns out this has left me exhausted in a way I've never experienced before and has come as a small wake up call.

So on doctor's orders I've had to stop gardening (and work, rowing, house hunting, drumming, blogging...) and I've been forced to watch Top Gear. Endlessly. This hasn't really aided recovery but it beats Jeremy Kyle.

However, today is the second anniversary of this blog and my alter ego The Hapless Gardener. So I sneaked out into the garden just to plant some peas. I couldn't leave this day unmarked.

Surely a little pea sowing wouldn't break any rules? 

I'd prepared the soil a few weeks ago so it was simply a case of digging the trench (flat bottomed, 5cm deep) and popping in the dried pea nuggets (Kelvedon Wonder) in at 2-5cm intervals.

Having done that I thought I'd mark the trench with a line of string tied to a couple of canes. In went the canes.

I looked around for my string. I'd used it recently to tie the growhouses down so I guessed I'd left it out...

I had. Except now it appeared to have been blown all across the garden, tied around pots and branches, veering off towards the wall and up - my that wind is strong - and on to the top of the wall, along the wall...wait a minute. 

Arrrrghhh, bloody cats! I've been burgled! Not only have they left me at least half a dozen parcels, they've gone and nabbed my string, leaving their mocking trail as if they'd spotted my doctor's note. It used to be pigeons but now cats are garden enemy #1.

I need a lie down.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Hapless 1 Wincy 0

As regular readers will know, I have wind problems. 

Last night it was howling outside. It seems that my garden has it's own microclimate, and not a welcome one. It's as though the wind roams the rooftops descending forcefully into the enclosed arena to whip up a frenzy among my unsuspecting garden furniture.

In the past I've had young pears downed from the tree, my table upturned and, most damagingly, my plastic growhouses thrown halfway across the garden in acts of anarchic destruction. Last year, I lost 2 months of growing which ultimately ended my harvest in a night of carnage.

So last weekend I finally decided to learn from my mistakes and got out the string to anchor my nurseries to the stone floor. The only slight challenge was finding suitable solid objects to tie them to. Thankfully I got lucky with rooted buddleia, rusty nails and a handy support column for the flat above, that allowed me to keep the growhouses in sunshine. And I did it not a moment too soon. 

This morning, I nervously peered out of my shutters, and to my manly delight I saw my handiwork had come good, my seedlings have survived and I feel one proud seed daddy. Take that Wincy Willis!.

But it wasn't all good news. Sadly, my duck took a hit.

So in case you're still taking risks out there and hoping the wind stays away, why not get out the scissors and string and let a different kind of Howlin' sound fill your day

Sunday, 7 April 2013

King Arthur's Weed of the Day

Yes, I'm digging up my old favourite Weed of the Day post. I promise some proper writing in the coming days now Spring has made a lame attempt to appear this weekend. 

But after 2 days manful digging in both the garden and the allotment and a fight through the fairweather garden crowds at the garden centre I'm knackered.

So can I present to you the mythical weed of the Round table, discovered on a recent visit to the north shore of Cornwall and King Arthur's birthplace Tintagel.

I think this is my favourite weed so far. It's made an effort to look the part in amongst the medieval stone. Why, one might even wonder if Merlin himself had planted it...

Yeah, that's right, I'm keeping the myth going. But despite all the tat for sale and bus loads of tourists aghast at the number of steep steps to climb, it is a stunning place fit for only the finest weeds.

The Hapless Kitchen Gardener

My photo
I only feel hapless because some people make it look easy to grow 10 ft marrows or a banquet of greens whereas my courgettes got nabbed by killer slugs and I only got one raspberry. So tips and stories from people less hapless than I are more than welcome. As a disclaimer though, none of my comments should be taken as expert advice on which you can rely! © Unless stated otherwise, and with the exception of guest content where that guest retains copyright, all photos and posts are the copyright of Tom Carpen and may not be used without permission.