Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - November 2011

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 30th November 2011

Here in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden our mild autumn is slowly turning into winter and we are finally getting a chill in the air, nothing like this time last year though when we spoke of winter sweeping into East Anglia and snowfall creating havoc for everyone. Nature has to cope with all these variances in weather conditions in our little corner of the world and cope it does tremendously well although I do feel us gardeners are on our toes this year having been caught out by the harsh winter we had last year. Our stocks of bubble wrap have been flying off the shelf which indicates that all you ‘on the ball’ gardeners out there are all getting prepared!

A major clean up operation is ongoing in the kitchen garden which has been looking decidedly messy, mainly due to the falling leaves, raking them up is a constant tedious job. But there is an upside to all the hard work – leaf mould!  The leaf composters are getting fuller by the day so we may have to dig out the Biodegradable leaf sacks as a standby.
The greenhouse glass has been cleaned and we are now awaiting a cold rainy day to get in and clean the inside. Lynn (our Kitchen Gardener) is keen to flush out any mice that may be having a doze underneath the greenhouse staging in a hidden pot somewhere! Having dug the broad bean seeds out of the Rootrainers they are probably sleeping somewhere with full tummies. They have also eaten 80% of a paper instruction booklet recently so patience is wearing thin and these little critters will soon be caught in humane traps and rehomed somewhere else! In the meantime another batch of Broad Beans (var. Super Aquadulce) has been sown directly under cloches this time. 2nd time lucky!

All the old crops such as the runner beans have been removed from the ground and raised beds and are now in the compost bins. Don’t forget to leave the roots in the ground to break down releasing valuable nitrogen into the soil. Talking about compost bins we have been turning them every couple of days with the handy compost aerator, we have also added accelerators to speed up the process. We need lots of that lovely compost to use in the spring.

All our apples and pears harvested last month have been stored on fruit racks, the weather has been too warm to keep them storing well, we need cooler temperatures!

The last of our celeriac has been harvested we will certainly be growing this again next year. The leaves add a lovely celery flavour to those warming soups.

Our chives have been cut back to 5cm and will be stored in the greenhouse if we have room or in a cloche outside if not. The mint has also been moved into the greenhouse and fingers crossed this will pick up and give us some mint for our potatoes at Christmas.

The un-ripened figs from one of our young trees have been removed as they won’t ripen now it’s cold and frosty and it’s best to let the energy go back into the plant.  This is a new fig tree only planted up in a pot this year so being tender we have moved it into the greenhouse for shelter.

When we were cutting back the autumn raspberry cane’s last week we rolled the fruit cage side netting up to let our resident friendly robin in to see if he could find any insects planning on overwintering in there.  It seemed strange letting nature in as the Extra and Super Heavy Duty Netting usually keeps everything out!  But you have to work with nature and we mustn’t forget those hungry birds in winter.
For all you gardeners that still have a glut of Swiss Chard - our Kitchen Gardener Lynn has tried out this delicious Swiss Chard & Gruyere Cheese Tart recipe.

Our leeks are looking very healthy and are growing by the day, we haven’t harvested any yet as we were a bit late getting them in the ground this year as we were waiting for space and we also want to save the big ones for Christmas lunch along with the giant parsnips and sprouts.  We are planning to have a dedicated seed bed next year to avoid our plants sitting around in trays waiting for other crops to finish before they get in the ground -  more about this in the coming months.
Our Autumn onions finally arrived (very late!) and these are now in the ground covered with fleece to stop the birds and squirrels from pulling them out when they start coming through.  We have used this 17g Fleece to protect the onions and the garlic bulbs.  The squirrels are burying their bounty all over the garden not just in the kitchen garden – just wish they would tidy up after themselves!

Our sprouts are still very small fingers crossed again that they will be big enough for our Christmas lunch but then again baby sprouts are always a delight.  Lynn is doing all she can to encourage them to put a growing spurt on. The leaves have been removed from the bottom and the sprout tops removed from the top, the plants have been fed.

We have planted three more ‘Red Champagne’ rhubarb crowns this month to increase our supply of rhubarb for those delicious crumbles!  We will select one of the older plants for forcing in January under these lovely terracotta rhubarb forcers.

Most of our seeds for 2012 have been ordered apart from the more unusual varieties we are going to try next year that we are still trying to source!  The challenge now is to complete next year’s planting plan and fit everything in that we want to grow. The list of vegetables and the different varieties gets longer and longer each year.

If you are stuck for ideas for Christmas presents for the keen gardeners in your family our Kitchen Gardener Lynn is loving these Sophie Conran gifts, these are definitely going to be on her Christmas list this year.

On a slightly more palatable subject than sprouts, you can also pick up loads of handy tips by using the expertise we've got to hand. We're always here to offer advice and support - just e-mail kitchen gardener Lynn, pest control expert Julian Ives and horticulturist, Master Composter and Tweeter Martin Fiddes (also known as our Ask the Expert panel) and they'll do their best to help!  

With winter well and truly here and daylight/gardening hours at their shortest, why not take the opportunity to fire up the PC/laptop and join the social media revolution! Sounds complicated? Well, it's not as all you need to do is click on either the Twitter or Facebook icons above to visit our bustling Twitter feed and Facebook pages. We're busy tweeting about all things Harrod Horticultural - what we're doing, special offers, gardening tips and advice and you can always use Twitter or face book to get in touch with us as well. With our webteam manning the Tweet decks and Facebook site, you can be sure you'll get the best service we can offer!  

By the time December’s kitchen garden update is ready to be uploaded you will have all enjoyed your Christmas lunches with lovely vegetables from your own gardens. Merry Christmas to you from us at Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden and look forward to seeing you back with us in the New Year. Cheers and don’t forget to eat your sprouts!