Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - August/September 2011

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 31st August 2011

What a mixed bag our August weather has been;  we’ve had dull days, hot days, wet days – we’ve had to deal with it all apart from long sunny days that we all long for – these have been very few and far between this summer.  But we all know that time flies regardless of the weather when you are busy and what a busy month it has been – no sitting back and enjoying the fruits of our labours for us.

Here in the Kitchen Garden we have had a film crew in filming video clips for our new Website which is in development at the moment with many people beavering away behind the scenes getting ready for the launch.  For Lynn our Kitchen Gardener this time of year means trying to keep everything in tip top condition to show off our produce and products in the many video clips that you will find on the Harrods Horticultural website.
Back to work in the garden, I have already cut back this year’s flowering stems on our Raspberry bushes and tied in all the new growth ready for next year’s crop.  They do begin to look tatty very quickly if this job is not done pronto!  We are already enjoying the Autumn crop of raspberries – they are early this year but I think they are so much bigger and tastier than the summer raspberries and they come with the added bonus of less pests being around.   Our blackberries have been good too, I can recommend the ‘Black Satin’ variety, lovely big berries, self fertile and thornless too.  Not as sweet as I would have liked but I think that is something to do with the lack of sun on them.

The lack of sunshine has also meant that our many different varieties of tomatoes have been very slow to ripen during August.  However I am very pleased to report that we now have some lovely big Italian tomatoes being harvested which are heading for the pot.  Home grown tomato sauces are delicious, we are in the process of pressing batches of tomatoes using our Rigamonti Pomodori Passata machine, this makes very light work of the glut of tomatoes and you just can’t beat from garden to pasta plate!

Like most keen gardeners out there we have far too many Runner beans for our own use here at the kitchen garden.  They keep coming and coming and I expect we will still be eating them well into September and maybe October.  I have been experimenting and have found a different way of enjoying  them – try slicing them up into 2cm chunks cut on the diagonal, part boiling them and then stir frying them with onions and garlic, add some tomato pasta sauce and some fresh basil leaves and hey ho a lovely accompaniment to any roast meat and freshly dug up potatoes from the garden.

Talking about potatoes, our last crop of potatoes have now been dug up and stored for winter use. We had a good crop of Sante Main Crop potatoes and will most probably add them to our list for growing again next year. Digging up the potatoes is my favourite job in the kitchen garden and I never tire of seeing those freshly forked up potatoes on top of the soil.

Visitors to the kitchen garden this month have admired our stunning sweetcorn  growing in one of our Superior Raised Beds. As stunning as they are I must add that the cobs are very slow to ripen and swell this year and we have yet to taste any scrumptious sweetcorn. Hopefully it won’t be long before we can enjoy this guilty pleasure!
I have also been busy crushing and pressing our organic apples into delicious apple juice. I had fun training some of our Customer Services Team in how to use one of the many apple presses we sell on the website. Firstly I used the crusher to pulp quartered apples before putting them through the 12 litre Cross Beam Fruit Press – such a worthwhile investment if you have lots of bounty harvest available to juice up. If you have lots of windfalls to pick up the Apple Wizard is quick and saves your back - take a look or treat yourself to the new Apple Picker to reach those apples just out of your reach!

Some things have not gone to plan this month, any gardener will appreciate that growing fruit and vegetables is a tricky business dealing with errant weather and problem pests who are just sitting there waiting to devour your lovingly grown specimens.  Read on to find out what has been disappointing us this month in the garden. 

Firstly and most frustrating our Sprouting Broccoli went to seed overnight, the young spears arrived and the next day the plants were covered in little yellow flowers. I did catch Terry Walton talking about brassicas on Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show saying that the main problem with brassicas going to seed is that they are not firmly planted in the ground. I knew brassicas liked hard ground but I can’t seem to make the connection with firm ground and broccoli spears going to seed.  With growing your own you learn something every day!

Secondly, our attempt at growing a late crop of Hurst Greenshaft peas started off well with the peas germinating quickly and soon producing about 8cm of growth.  However, this growth quickly died off and was most disappointed again to find they had died off over a weekend.  Just wondering if we had a chilly night that perhaps finished them off?

Thirdly, the squashes aren’t good this year, squashes love sunshine and water and I think they have been denied  enough of the former!  We have different varieties growing and most plants have small squashes growing away merrily but due to lack of sunshine our favourite vegetable is not performing well this year and some baby squashes have dropped off completely.
So you win some and you lose some in gardening, hope we have better luck and better consistent weather next summer - somehow I don’t think so!

Before I go I just wanted to tell you that whilst writing this update a little squirrel ventured into the Potting Shed, he came half way in and just sat upright ,l listened to me typing on the laptop keys before turning and fleeing back out of the door again!  It did make me smile but I didn’t realise I was that scary!!

Speaking of visitors, you can also pick up loads of handy tips by joining our massed ranks of Twitter and Facebook followers. We're always here to offer advice and support too - just e-mail kitchen gardener Lynn, pest control expert Julian Ives and horticulturist and Master Composter Martin Fiddes (also known as our Ask the Expert panel) and they'll do their best to help!  

With October just around the corner and daylight/gardening hours slowly decreasing, why not take the opportunity to fire up the PC/laptop and pay our revitalised Garden Blog a visit. Supplementing our busy Twitter feed and Facebook pages, the blog brings you topical news from Harrod Horticultural and the gardening world as a whole as seen by our horticulturist and photographer Martin Fiddes - so when it's too dark to garden, let Martin provide some illumination!