Friday, December 14, 2018

What's left?

A patch of broccoli plants staked and growing in a garden
Purple sprouting broccoli, nicely staked, Nov 2018
While 2018's No Buy Vegetable Challenge is over, that's not to say the vegetables are over.  We're still eating from the garden every day, whether fresh or preserved.  I'm saving the last big green squash (picked in September) for Christmas dinner--the Brussels sprouts too:  they're still hanging out in the Holding bed, waiting to be harvested.  In fact, we'll probably have some fresh chard and/or celery for Christmas while we're at it.

I didn't harvest a lot in November, but we ate plenty from our stores:  all but one of the big squashes (plus the little Halloween pumpkin), some dried chard and kale, two big jars of sauerkraut as well as some frozen cabbage, a big jar of zuccini relish, and more. 

I still have a lot of dried chard (it goes best crumbled into a stew), two small jars of pickled beetroot, another full jar of sauerkraut, and the big batch of salsa I've finally made, now that I'm allowed bought onions.  Actually, there's half a jar of fermented salsa fresca still in the fridge which I'm savoring as slowly as possible (it's so tasty, and I won't be able to make it till next autumn/late summer).

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

In the allotment, December 2018

A very small cabbage plant growing in a garden
Cabbage cutting (not at the allotment), Nov 2018
I'm gradually adding to the sheet mulch at the allotment;  between a quarter and a third of it is now covered, smothering grass (and some nettles, thistles and dock).  A fellow allotmenteer gave me some big sheets of cardboard, and I'm collecting boxes from work--about four at a time, none particularly big!  Well, it's better than nothing.  I also collect weeds and trimmings from the communal waste area, to pile on top of the cardboard;  this weighs it down (the cardboard smothers weeds underneath and also prevents new seeds germinating);  it will also compost slowly in place, adding to soil fertility.  The husband set up a ramshackle compost bin from pallets;  some of these trimmings go here too, and hopefully we'll have a bit of compost next year.

Four of my chickens are still tractoring the uncovered portion, strip by strip.  I think they're a bit fed up, now it's cold, wet and dark;  all of them are either currently or have just finished molting--none are laying. 

There is one bed with Savoy cabbages in it still, also growing grass and a thistle or two;  I keep hoeing, but I think they're winning.  A couple of the smallest cabbages have disappeared, but the rest are holding on.  Earlier in autumn, the husband brought home a few big sacks of spent coffee grounds from a cafe at his work, which he generously mulched them with--most of it has been incorporated into the soil now (hoeing, rain, but hopefully earthworms too).  It really could do with some cardboard as well, but I don't want to attract the slugs.  Instead, I better ask the husband for more coffee grounds.

Friday, December 7, 2018

November 2018 garden notes

A garden bed with various brassicas growing
Brassicas bed, Nov 2018

Harvested the (small) early leeks; they're not frost hardy, so had to pick them despite their size.  Long season/perennial leeks even smaller:  none of these harvested yet.

Started picking the celery:  good size, though not as big as last year.  Plenty more growing for the winter.

Planted 87 garlic cloves (from own grown garlic) in 2019's Roots bed (2018's  Brassicas).

Spread a load of partly composted chicken bedding (manure and straw) over the empty sections of this bed.

Peas and beans

Runner bean plants still standing, slowly maturing a few pods for seed;  one pod collected this month.


Staked purple sprouting broccoli, and attempted to stake Brussels sprouts.  Harvested a few sprouts this month, but no broccoli yet.  Harvested last cauliflower:  good size.

Transplanted curly kale out of the Holding bed to Brassicas and staked.  None harvested this month.

New spring cabbages growing a little;  the six in the cold frame more strongly than those in the garden.  Savoys at the allotment still growing, despite half of them wilting last month (some degree of wilting remains this month, and a couple have died).  Cabbage cuttings, few kohlrabi and Tuscan kale all growing slowly.  Harvested a small amount of cabbage regrowth (from last year's plants) this month.


Still picking a small amount of leaf lettuce, miners and lambs lettuces, and spring onion this month: all in containers.

Finished the achocha harvest (finally) by the end of the month, though the plants still left in situ.  Aztec broccoli finished, but also not cleared away--hopefully to drop seed for next year.

Harvested a couple regular and cherry tomatoes--a few more hanging on at the end of the month, despite most of the plants succumbing to frost.  Harvested a couple more red chilis, with some still ripening on the plants at the end of the month.

Harvested a modest amount of chard throughout the month.


Nearly all fruit trees and bushes gone dormant by the end of the month, though there were still a few flowers and one tiny fruit on the yellow raspberry.  Finished eating the Sparta apples in storage.

Perennials and herbs

Only thyme and chives still have leaves by the end of November;  all other herbs finished/gone dormant.

All perennials gone dormant/died (hard to tell the difference this time of year), except artichoke which has strong new growth from the base;  I cut down the old growth at the end of the month.

I brought home some asparagus ferns with berries from the allotment communal waste, and put them down whole, covered, in my own Perennials section, but I think my three chickens might have found and eaten them all.  Also repatriated a handful of Jerusalem artichoke tubers;  not sure about the current state of these either;  the three chickens are free ranging through the whole of the garden, sans veg beds.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

November 2018 Food Totals

Close up of two red chilis growing
Still ripening, Nov 2018

8 oz salad greens (leaf lettuce, lambs and miners lettuces, baby chard)
4 oz runner beans
23 oz achocha
6 oz leeks
2.5 oz cabbage
0.5 oz spring onion
2 oz chili pepper
3.5 oz chard
9 oz celery
1 oz nasturtium leaves
29 oz cauliflower (including leaves)
7.5 oz Brussels sprouts
4.5 oz tomatoes

Total: 100.5 oz, or 6 lb 4.5 oz

Note:  I weigh all my vegetables after preparation:  peeling, trimming, etc.  Does not include some fresh herbs which were too small a quantity to weigh, i.e. less than 0.5 oz.


No fruit harvested this month


Total: 21 eggs from 5 hens
Total feed bought: 2 bag layers pellets (40 kg)


1/4 very small jar fermented hot sauce
9 medium jars unsweetened applesauce (from a neighbor's tree)
1 large jar dried apple chips (from wild harvested apples)

4 L cider started from a neighbor's apples
4 L cider vinegar started using pulp leftover from cider making
Bottled up 4 L of previously made cider vinegar
Elderberry/blackberry wine still fermenting
Fizzy elderberry/blackberry wine still fermenting
Previously made cider still fermenting
Previously made cider vinegar still fermenting

Friday, November 30, 2018

Out of the Holding bed

A spindly kale plant tied to a stake
Curly red kale, Nov 2018
In my Holding bed (one of five beds specified by John Seymour's gardening method), I grew on my winter brassicas:  Brussels sprouts, kale (curly and Tuscan), and cauliflower.  Early this month, the son and I transplanted the curly kale out into the main Brassicas bed where the dwarf French beans had just been cleared away.

Part of the specifics of the Holding bed is that plants are grown more closely than in the main beds:  in the kale's case, about six inches apart.  They're far enough apart not to have stunted growth, but close enough to get quite a lot of them together.

Once there is room for them in the main beds in autumn, these closely spaced plants need to be moved so they have more room to grow and, more importantly, produce.  In curly kale's case, the ten or so plants were pretty tall but quite leggy and not particularly leafy.  To transplant, I dug a much deeper hole to plant out, and then earthed them up as well.  A couple of them were close to waist height (a couple were under knee height though).  They seem to have adjusted to their new positions and hopefully will produce a bit more later this winter or in early spring.

What about the Brussels sprouts, Tuscan kale and cauliflower?  Well, it looks like the cauliflowers didn't survive the squash vine attack (overly luxurious growth overtook some of the Holding bed), while the sprouts and Tuscan kale remain in the Holding bed.  I did want to move the sprouts to a more sensible spacing, but they were already starting to produce and I didn't want to risk losing the harvest.  And it looks like there's just two (small) Tuscan kale plants, both already spaced far enough apart, now that the curly kale has vacated the spot.  They're staying too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The end of the Challenge, 2018

We did it:  my No Buy Vegetable Challenge officially ends today.  Six whole months without buying vegetables* at all.  Not every vegetable we ate came from our own garden:  some were gifts or were otherwise obtained for free.  However, we did not buy a single one.

The husband will give a big sigh of relief when he picks up his first punnet of mushrooms in six months, I know.  And the son looks forward to some carrot and swede (aka rutabaga) mashed together on his Sunday roast dinner.  I'm also eagerly anticipating a lovely big batch of salsa with those three bags of ripe garden tomatoes in my freezer:  just need some onions!

We still have vegetables from the garden, both fresh and preserved.  We'll still be eating them.  And next year I'm pushing the Challenge to seven months in total.  Can it be done?  It'll take some planning.

*All fruits are allowed, as per the Challenge rules, including "salad fruits."  However, very few salad fruits were bought throughout this whole challenge--only cucumber from about the end of June onward.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

Brussels sprouts plants partly fallen over
Ineffectual staking method, Nov 2018
Thanksgiving once more!  We celebrated it at our friends' house;  there were a total of four adults, and three children under the age of 10.  Because my No Buy Vegetable Challenge is still not quite completed (four more days now), we arranged that I would bring the turkey and gravy, and my garden grown Brussels sprouts, and they would supply the potatoes and another vegetable dish of their choosing.  We also agreed to each bake a pie:  mine being pumpkin--or squash in this case--which was homegrown as were the eggs (well, three of them:  only Cookie's laying and as she's a bantam, her eggs are pretty small).

It occured to me afterward that one of our spring hatched Australorp/Orpington cockerels would have made a fine Thanksgiving bird (not as big as the turkey we bought, but certainly large enough for a festive meal);  too bad we ate them long ago this summer.  It's something to think about for the future.