Archive for the ‘Backyard Farming’ Category

It is now preserving season and approaching the end of the growing season where many crops and foraged foods can be preserved for the upcoming Winter months, here is a quick and simple recipe if you need to make pickling vinegar on an ASAP basis:

Make your own Spiced Pickling vinegar in 30 minutes

Home Made Spiced Pickling Vinegar

You Will Need:

  • A good glass Jar or Bottle, usually you should use a non-metallic lid as vinegar is corrosive,
  • Cider or Malt Vinegar (Cider being the healthier option),
  • 1 Tsp Peppercorns,
  • 1 Tsp Coriander Seeds,
  • Small Cinnamon Stick piece (2-3cm long),
  • 2 Cloves,
  • 1 Tsp Mustard Seeds,
  • Small Pot / Pan for boiling and simmering.

Method:

  • Measure the vinegar by pouring it into your storage jar / bottle to fill it up, once filled place it in the pot with the spices and bring to the boiling point,
  • Once boiling point is reached, bring the heat down and simmer as slightly as possible for 30 minutes – let it sit to cool down,
  • Pour the liquid through a sieve or similar filter into your storage jar or bottle, your vinegar is now ready to be used when you want to pickle any vegetables from your garden

For other preserves including Jams, Jellies, Chutneys, Compote, Soups, Pickling etc, Click Here

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Over the weekend I was blessed with quite a few Butterflies (I installed a Buddleia early this year) and saw a Lacewing which so far, I don’t recall seeing one in the last few years in either my garden or allotment …

I also got out and secured a second batch of Nettle Seeds (I started using these and foraging for them last year), they are great added in practically anything from smoothies to porridge, salads, soups etc etc! This year has been a little weird with the weather and so, they are ripening far too quickly and soon won’t be available so get out soon and get snipping! I’ve now got 3 seed tray bottoms full of Nettle seed stalks drying out on windowsills, I estimate that if you find good decent nettle seed, that a half shopping carrier bag to a full one will supply a small family with enough till next season.

Elderberries are already ripening everywhere I go, again, since it has been such a dry summer, I’ve observed that many of them have already rejected much of their fruit as a survival tactic, so only take what you need and don’t overdo it. I have a couple recipes for Elderberry so as usual, I would recommend you immediately freeze them when you get home as you may not have gotten enough on your first session to make something – also, they are far easier to remove from their flower stalks when frozen.

Elderberries do wonders for our immune systems, hence why nature gives them to us just at the end of summer towards the cold / hibernation / dormancy months …

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I’m not aware of any parts of the UK that have had any reasonable rain over the last four or so weeks, this has not been a major issue for plants in the ground but potted plants and crops have been suffering! I now have to be 100% sure to do a watering session almost everyday at home and at least 2-3 times per week at the Allotment – BE CAREFUL with newly planted seedlings / plants !!

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During June we are officially in Summer, but this doesn’t mean your seed germination should halt.

This is a great time of the year to work hard on your compost production! The extra warmth is great in getting the beneficial microbes going in order to break down biomass quicker, adding in just enough grass clippings twice a week will ensure your compost will be ready by Autumn or Winter depending on what was / is in there to begin with …

Outdoors:

  • Frenh / runner beans
  • Sweetcorn
  • Root crops: carrots, beetroot, turnips, and also swedes for the winter
  • Swiss chard & leaf beet
  • The last of the summer salads, then after the middle of the month including oriental salads (mizuna, mibuna, mustard greens etc)
  • Herbs including parsley, coriander and others
  • Fennel

On a windowsill or germinator (this is your last chance for these):

  • Courgettes, squashes, cucumbers and melons (start of the month)

In a polytunnel or greenhouse border

  • Basil & coriander
  • Plant out summer crops started indoors

Before I forget, remember to always check out the Companion Planting Guide so that you can eliminate the need for pesticide, Herbicide and Fungicide use – why not let nature just do the work ?

Every month I will be posting the Monthly Sowing Calendar and these will always remain in the archives for future reference.

 

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With the ground warming up around the UK and some parts passing their Last Frost date, we can all start sowing most of the crops now (There are still crops which can be sown from the March and April month lists)…

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Organic Sweetcorn can be grown in your own back Garden !

Outdoors:

  • Maincrop sowings of root crops – carrots, beetroot, leeks, radishes, turnips etc

  • French, runner and broad beans, mangetout & podding peas – sow in modules/pots if you have trouble with slugs/mice etc

  • All the brassicas can still be sown this month for overwintering – kale, brussels sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli, summer and winter cabbages, calabrese and cauliflowers

  • Leaf beets inclduing Swiss Chard

  • Herbs including parsley, coriander and others

  • Keep sowing salads, Much better a small sowing every 2-3 weeks than a large patch that bolts before you can eat it

  • Early sowings of fennel – if you have trouble with it bolting, wait until mid-June

  • Sweetcorn – but only sow direct if the weather, and soil, are warm, if not then start it off in modules / small pots.

  • Salad Onions

In trays or pots

  • Brassicas & Salad Onions (If you have slug / snail problems)

  • French, runner and broad beans, all types of peas

  • Sweetcorn

In trays or pots indoors

  • Courgettes, squashes, cucumbers and melons – ideally best sown by the end of May

In a polytunnel / greenhouse

  • Summer salads

  • Basil & coriander

  • Plant out summer crops (tomatoes, peppers etc) started indoors once you’re certain night time temperatures won’t fall too low

Maintenance

  • Application of compost onto growing beds if you haven’t done so already (Creating compost in less than one year is possible with the right amount of turning and moisture / urine addition)
  • Weeding will be a chore now, good strikes on sunny days with a hoe will be useful
  • emptying your composting area and bagging up the not-so-ready compost / mulch / mold to stack somewhere out of your way and to continue composting in the bags (I recommend you get hold of stronger bags such as old compost bags or builders rubble bags as they can last years – contact a local established gardening firm or landscaping company, they often need to dispose of hundreds of mulch bags after large landscaping jobs or annual mulch applications)
  • Slug / Snail / pest control including checking regularly for Aphid and Spider Mites etc.
  • If Green manures were sown at the right dates, you may need to start chopping and forking them in as you should be getting ready to start planting crops such as Tomatoes etc.

Note/s:

We have had a pretty bad start to Spring / Early Summer – it was only 8 degrees celcius on Monday and we have had hardly any good sunshine besides that one week where we had perhaps four good days? You may still need to sow indoors with this unpredicatable weather otherwise outdoors may be a gamble considering this year’s miserable start …

Hi everyone, this has already been posted in March but I’m posting again because, although the April sowing calendar is the same for March and they share the same crops, now more crops can be direct sown outdoors.

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Cucumber Seedlings – Organic Permaculture

So here it is, just remember next year if you use my site as a reminder of what and when to sow, that March and April are the same however, a good vegetable book is still recommended as sometimes you might find a book that is more relevant to your country / area – we are in the UK so this advice can work in similar northern hemispheric climates however, the timings might be slightly different.

April Sowing Calendar, Click Here

Regarding my own personal experience this very gloomy and wet 2018 Spring, I have had okay results in seed sowing but Onions have had a 50% or so failure rate, Marigolds have so far had 100% failure including newer seed …

Here is a nice little video on Permaculture as well as a Permablitz in action, being put into practice in Hawaii, at the  1:40min mark of the video where they are re-designing a back garden into a permaculture garden, I could not help but realise that one day perhaps, every garden in that little town / area would convert into the same or similar idea, ending with the entire town becoming one large permaculture site which merely has some houses and roads in-between the various food forests and vegetable gardens!

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Hawaii Permablitz Back-Garden Design

Imagine if a society like that could end up breaking down their garden walls to effectively remove what are real social and environmental barriers and upgrading their consciousness to the point of respect that no one should own any land and we are merely just temporary users of land – that we do need some small space to actually live on but we use the garden/s for growing and therapeutic reasons. Creating in effect, a large wildlife friendly human oasis similar in concept to the ‘green belts’ which some cities have

-Jeff Permie ( Growinagrden.wordpress.com )

At the 3:22 min mark, Paul explains the difference between consuming your own home grown Organic food and the taste you can sense if you should happen to go back to eating or consuming store / generally available factory or monoculture farmed foods.

At 5:00 min’s you get the full tour of his back garden and the design which has a beehive, banana trees, fig, limes, vegetables (chard, beets, rocket and salads), Sweet Potato, Tumeric and ginger to name a few.

In the context of special interests and corporate interests that are looking to control our food supply, this is again a very simple answer, if we start to shift from being consumers with rights towards being producers with responsibilities … then we actually take back our power.

– Matt

The concept of Hugelkultur (Hugel Mound Growing) can basically be described as a self-composting bed or planting area (in the case of this article, in large pots). The gardener digs a shallow trench or pit and places logs, branches, sticks, twigs, brown leaves, nitrogen rich greens and or fresh manure, then tops these materials with the dug out earth and finally a decent layer of compost.

A good Hugel with large thick logs can be self-composting for anything up to 10 years. Read previous articles on traditional Hugels here Article 1 and Article 2.

Just the other day I realised that I can re-create the Hugel system but in large plastic planter pots, this will give you the benefit of Hugelkulturs without having to strain your back doing loads of digging!

Anyone taking on an uncultivated or fallow piece of land such as a disused Allotment Plot can always Sheet / Lasagna mulch a section, cover the result with thick impermeable black plastic sheet to kill off the perennial weeds and simply place Hugel Pots on top to ensure the land is still productive. Once you need to remove the sheet after a year and start using the ground space for planting, you can simply knock over the pots and empty the goodness to build up the humus / top layer!

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Hugelkultur Mound in Planter Pots

The general rule in terms of what can be grown on the Hugel Mound in year 1, are shallow rooted crops / plants such as various lettuces. Thereafter you can grow plants that require more nutrients and moisture and then finally on year 3  you can pretty much grow anything from Tomatoes to Pumpkins.

In the terms of the Hugel in a large pot, you can start the bottom layer either with composted or semi-composted wood chips (skip them and use soil if you have Slug / Snail problems), place a decent layer of soil (especially soil you wish to amend) on top of the latter with the Branch, Sticks, Twigs and cardboard / leaves as the carbon layer.

Follow on top with vegetables, fruit scraps, cut grass or fresh manure and then go on to adding the thick layer of soil / compost for growing in

(refer to image for general idea on layers, there are no specific rules but rather guidelines to follow) such as:

  1. Wood and wood chip need Nitrogen to break down, the plants you intend to grow need nitrogen too, the wood will suck this out of the soil and this is why we add manure or nitrogen rich fresh greens like veggie scraps and grass clippings / garden prunings, therefore, try to add as much green / manure / nitrogen rich material the more wood you have – greens decompose much quicker so stuff a lot in there.
  2. Compose the larger wood at the bottom and build up with smaller pieces until you reach brown leaves and cardboard this should ensure nice air spaces between are protected from being filled in by settling materials, these air spaces are important to ensure that the process does not become anaerobic – you could even start the logs on top of a 3-5cm thick layer of fresh grass clippings although this is not imperative.
  3. Intending on using this pot every year for the same purpose and do not intend on emptying it for a few years? then this is the time that you can use much thicker logs and branches in the bottom, if you want to empty the contents regularly (every 1 – 2 seasons) then it would be more beneficial to use thinner branches and sticks instead.
  4. Shallow rooted crops are mostly recommended in the first year however, you could easily use root crops such as carrots and parsnips provided you have a deeper layer of top soil / compost, remember that carrots and parsnips need nicely sieved compost / soil to prevent roots from ”forking”