Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chilli Glut

This year for the second year in a row I have grown a Chilli Plant and it has produced a nice crop of small hot red chillies, unfortunatly this years plant only came labeled as a chilli plant and I do not know the variety.
But this good harvest has lead me to have to work out what to do with my sudden glut of chillies since I have got out of the habit of cooking with them recently I found that the first few harvested had ended up shrivelling up in my fridge and this would not do to have the whole harvest go this way.
After a bit of deliberation I decided to have an attempt at making chilli jam (or more precisely jelly since it is strained) as I also had a glut of cooking apples brought down from my parents garden in Essex.
The first attempt at making this jam didn't set properly as I had not put enough sugar into the mix. (the perils of not actually owning a set of kitchen scales) but after adding more sugar it set very solidly.
I have found my new favourite condiment to have with cheese and crackers :D

After this I had a few chillies left to ripen on the plant and needed to find something else to do with these. BBC good food then gave me an idea, Chilli vodka, but I have adapted the recipe to make more of a liquor by adding sugar and leaving it to absorb the chilli kick for longer as the sweetness will now combat the flavour.
Additionally I have added red food colouring so it is not drunk by mistake.

Now I only have the job of deciding how to over winter my chilli plant. The plant has such nice foliage on it that I am reluctant to cut it right down as one of the sites I looked at said to do. I may just leave it out with all the damaged foliage cut off and see how long it will stay green for and once the rest of the leaves start dying back then cut it down so that it can focus on keeping its roots alive.
Then I should have a good crop of chillies for next year. *fingers crossed* I am also looking for another chilli plant to grown next year and have been trying to find out what a chilli I saw on a gardening/food show is. It is a small purple chilli which is not too hot but has a lot of flavour to it. It just seemed so exotic and wonderful that I might have to try and find it. But if not then I will be looking for a cooler chilli to the one I currently have so that it is more likely to be used in cooking...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Potting up/out

On Wednesday the uni managed to break every network connection it has, and to be able to do any of my work I needed at least one of the connections if not more so this morning was a write off as far as uni work was concerned so I donned a pair of trousers that dont mind getting dirty and my boots and headed out into the garden.

Today I decided to plant the daffodil bulbs that my nan gave me recently and also the cyclamen that my mum bought on her last trip down here.
So I cut away the shrubbery from the two pots in the front garden which are bare at the moment and planted the daffodils in one of them and four of the cyclamen plants in the other. The soil was surprisingly nice, considering that nothing was growing in them (one or two tiny weeds but nothing else). Once I had done this it seemed silly to leave the last two cyclamen in their tray so I decided that they should be used up and I also had a few bulbs left over and so started a mass potting session on the lean to roof. (I have taken to working here as it is in the back garden and is about work top height so is nice for using to rest pots on etc, although the roofing felt has a habit of capturing dropped bits of compost!)

In the mass potting that followed I potted the extra cyclamen in their own pots, planted the remainder of the daffodil bulbs along with some other bulbs I bought recently. I have separated pots that came from my mother house and have either gained other plants during that time or she thought had given up the ghost and trained my mint plant into to grow another plant from (she is the only person in the world i know who can kill mint).
All of this potting has produced a large number of pots which have now all been moved together with any existing pots to the corner by my dining room/ utility room so that they can keep together and use some of the heat from the house to protect from the worst of any future frosts. Also so that I can use the herbs I have with out having to move too far into the garden when its cold and they can be admired from the comfy chairs in the dining room :D

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Arrivals

New arrivals to the garden lately have been yet another mint plant.
This mint was ressurected from a 15p reduced mint plant from asda and is still going strong. It was re potted into a larger pot and has been going since then.

Posher plants to have made their way into my garden is a Japanese Acer, a small Olive tree and a Geranium.
the acer arrived shamefully not from a garden centre but from B&Q... My mother decided that she couldnt pass by it with out buying it, the same with the other two plants. My olive tree is about a foot tall and I am unsure how it is going to survive and grow in my mini, english weather garden but only time will tell.

In addition to these plants a number of additional herbs have congregated 'in' my garden. They are living on the front drive at the moment waiting for me to plant them in the main garden but the bed is not ready yet. Although one of the lemon thymes has been planted in the gaps at the edges of the steps where I have pulled back the 'weeds' that was there originally and I am waiting to find out if it will take before I add the other pots I have.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The big cut.

Trying to make my mark on the garden has been a trial when I'm working around what is already there especially since a lot of the back of the garden is overgrown and the plants, although nice, are just a bunch of straggly bushes that have grown up unchecked over the last how every many years. 
In making my mark on the garden I am cutting these plants back to see what there is in the rest of the beds and waiting for them to come back in spring and see how they then react and how they can be incorporated into the garden.
The back beds are raised up from the lawn but having cut the plants back I can see that this bed is split into two and the second bed (at the back) is raised up from the first bed by a small amount. In addition to this we can now see a 'rock feature' that is present in the back left corner of the garden which looks like it was possibly aimed to be a water feature but never really made it to completion. I will have to see how the plants grow around it in the summer as to what I will eventually do with it. It will probably just end up being a support for growing plants up/on.
There are plans in the pipe line for the two bed areas, the back one will have the main bedding plants, providing the visual part of the border whilst the front bed can support a small veg garden. It would be nice to get some form of self sufficiency going even though we only have a small 'town garden', but we will see how this idea progresses the bed seems to need a fair bit of work doing to it before it would support any veg I think. So it may not be this time round that the bed is good enough for planting but I'm keeping my fingers crossed

The front bed currently only contains a tree, one sickly looking honeysuckle a confer hedge and an old lavender bush. This bed I am planning to convert into a herb garden, eventually moving the lavender from the steps side to replacing the conifer hedge but this will take time since I have decided to put in a new lavender bushes so will take a few years to grow from cuttings. But the plan is there, and that is all that matters at the moment.

Currently the paved area of my garden is a mess of logs and cut down shrubbery waiting for the garden waste to be collected so I can put this into the bags. Our garden waste is collected in two green sacks every other Tuesday, which has meant that there has been a pile of hedge cuttings on our front 'lawn' for a while now, waiting to be fitted into the bags and removed! Nearly all gone now though. 
Not all of the stuff we have removed from the garden this time round will go in the garden waste, some of the larger pieces are being logged and stacked in the garage to dry so that we can burn them in the wood burner in our kitchen. I have also gained two sacks of logs from my grandparents garden which will also go to help keeping us warm this winter. Bring on the reduced heating bills!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Baby Steps

I started the garden facelift by ignoring the main problems in the garden and only changing the things that I had a chance to change in the short time I could fit in around Uni and other activities that I had arranged. 
The main beds in the garden are quite overgrown and the ones that are not overgrown are so solidly compacted that there are not even weeds growing in them. The bed outside the kitchen/dining room doors is bounded on one side by a small conifer hedge, on another by a well established lavender bush, the garden fence on another and the front of the bed is the raised wall holding the bed in place. It also has a tree in the front fence side corner. This bed has nothing else in it except a fairly sickly looking honeysuckle that has nothing to climb up so it laying on the ground. 
To alter the bed would have taken too much time so I have resorted currently to using it as a support (and a location providing shade) for a series of potted plants. Some of these have been trusted to me by my mother and others have been gained from shopping trips and one or two are actually grown from seed by myself. 
I have had much luck growing a 'ground covering' succulent which was originally transferred from my mothers garden, this has also produced 'cuttings' very very easily much to my pleasure, though the main plant needs to go into the ground soon before it envelops the pot it is in entirely! But most of my early plant acquisition was based around gaining herbs for use in the kitchen since I am a keen cook and like to be able to use fresh herbs in my cooking. So far I have managed to gain mint, chives, parsley, rosemary, lemon balm and feverfew.   My mother is one of the only people I know of who can kill mint, she is so successful at this that she cannot grow it even if she is trying to, luckily it seems that I have not fallen foul of this trait much to my appreciation. 

Over the early summer keeping the pots alive was a hard job since the heat that we had required getting up extra early every morning to water the plants before heading to Uni for the day and then watering them again when returning in the evening. Since over the main part of the summer I travel back to my parents house so that I can work for their company, my pots came on a road trip back home with me so that they could be watered and would survive the summer. This plan seems to have proved fruitful and the plants have returned with me in time for the start of a new Uni year and who knows this year some of them may even be being moved up out of the pots into the ground! In preparation for this the tree has been cut back considerably (it is less than a third of its initial size) and the bed has been forked and some compost (donated by my nan) has been added to put some nutrients back into the soil. The compost was fairly acidic so it will be a while till the herbs actually get put into the bed but at least the ground work has been started :P (excuse the pun)...

The Start...

They always say to start at the beginning, which is where im going to try and start this blog. The beginning: What is this and why am I doing it? 
Here I will be writing about the evolution of my garden from the overgrown 'interesting' garden that was inherited with this house to what I hope will be a good looking, well maintained (I can only wish) garden to match the property and the people in the house. Which will be not too much work to maintain, but enough to keep me out of trouble.
Here I will also relay stories about the people that inhabit the garden and some tales from the kitchen since I feel that a good cook should also be in touch with the garden as this is where most of the food stuff comes from. That and I love cooking with herbs.

The back story: 
Having moved to Southampton in '06 and lived in halls I then moved into a lovely terraced house, with out much of a garden to speak of at all. But I did not spend much of this year in the house as I was given an offer to go to the Caribbean on a Tall Ship which I took up so had the year off uni. On returning to the UK to continue my studies I moved into a friends house at short notice, this house was a typical student house with mildew/mould on the walls and the most over grown garden you could ever hope to come across. One year in this house was more than enough and with my sister starting at Southampton the next September the hunt started for a decent house that the two of us could enjoy for a number of years to come, being big sailors Soton is a good place to come to indulge this habit, so it was likely that we would not be leaving too quickly after graduation. 
The house was found and moved into a week or so before freshers week which gave a week to sort the house before my house mate moved in (including painting the rooms etc). In the first year, between finishing the bits in the house that had escaped first time round or only come to light after living in the house, a full timetable at uni and being ill, the garden has had to take a back seat. 
This summer we have decided that the garden needs looking at, and having cut back the hedges and generally given a hard cut back to most of the plants that were present before we are getting an idea of what there is to play with and getting stuck into making it better :D

*Pops the cork on the virtual champagne* - A toast to the start of a new blog and hopefully a new garden too...