Spring planting

IMG_8200IMG_8201Spring is supposedly in the air but Scotland doesn’t seem to have noticed yet! This year for my vegetable growing I’ve tried to be infinitely sensible. Instead of starting seeds on the 1st January, when they have no hope of developing into beautiful healthy crops, I waited. Then I waited some more and some more and then the snow came…

It has been the most snow that Scotland has seen since 2008 and it keeps on coming. Everytime I think the weather is turning another flurry of snow or icy winds comes in from the East. It’s driving me crazy! It’s also making growing challenging.

This is the year that I am trying to be more organised in my growing. I’ve completed a garden plan so I know where all my crops are going. I just need the ability to clear the space. Currently my vegetable patch is a riot of roots, bulbs and far too much heather that is smothering everything. I need to dig it all out and then start warming my soil. This is where the weather is killing me, I can’t even see the ground for the snow. Even if I could it’s so frozen that it’s not worth trying to pull anything out. Now I know I should have put my garden to bed at the end of the last season. Unsurprisingly I didn’t, I just left it because I wasn’t organised at all last year so now I pay for my sins by trying to eek an hour here or there digging.

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I’ve also started my seeds much later. I sowed my first batch just over 2 weeks ago which should have been the perfect time. They however are also thwarting me. Only about 50% of the crops I’ve sown have sprouted. Some of the veg hasn’t done anything at all apart from mock me with its bare brown soil. I know that a lot of this is due to temperature. My poor chillis and aubergines want the tropical climates to get themselves up and going and all I’m giving them is a weak bit of cold sunlight and some artificial heat every few hours. It’s just not good enough for them.

I will not be defeated in my quest to have a glut of veg this summer though. I was up with the dawn again today to sow my second batch. I’ve currently planted basil, autumn sprouting broccoli, peas, aubergines, cucumbers, patty Pan squashes, onions, garlic and Rosso peppers. I’m also going to get my potatoes in bags and boxes before the end of the month I hope. I planted them all again today and I’m trying a couple of different things. I’ve tried planting them in smaller pots to start off, see if I can get some heat in them. I’m going to cover the tops of the pots with warming fluff to incubate them and put them further into the house where the heat lingers until the first leaves poke through. I’m also trying to cloche some of them off and watering with lukewarm water to get that soil going. I hope to report success in the next week or two and continue with my planting schedule. C’mon weather- give me a bit of a break please!!

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Preserving- looking for inspiration!

One of the most important things I want to be able to do this year is preserve our food. I currently rely on my freezer to keep most of our food which, while useful, isn’t ideal. I don’t like the thought that if our power was to go off then we would lose most of our food!

Last year I tried a few different ways to use our foraged and grown food. I made my first ever attempts at jam, blackberry liqueur and red onion chutney. All of them worked which was an unexpected surprise! However there were some drawbacks. 

For a start I didn’t realise just how little chutney would be produced from what I thought was a decent harvest of our onions. I spent hours chopping and reducing my onions to only end up with three small jars. This seemed like a poor use of time I could have otherwise spent in the garden. 

*I have just been informed by my husband that I have an attachment for my mixer that would have done all that dicing in seconds-thanks for letting me know!* 

Secondly I really need to get an outdoor space to cook if I’m going to be spending any amount of time boiling vinegar- that’s a scent that really sticks! My jam making went well but my first attempt (plum and apple) was overboiled. Its still very edible but definitely over set and more akin to jelly. Lastly my blackberry liquer. Its an absolute winner for taste, and was super over Christmas in a glass of fizz, but made using shop bought wine. I’d definitely like to try a homebrew for this year.

There were some unsuccessful attempts as well… I tried grating and freezing my courgettes for baking some vegan cakes with- that was a disaster. I also have no idea of the best way to store my apples and potatoes. Does anyone have any successful methods they’ve used?

For this year I’m hoping to have a lot more food to store and preserve. I’ve been looking into canning, dehydrating and pickling as methods of preservation but to be honest I have no idea where to start…it also all seems to cost a lot of money to get setup initially. Not so helpful to our budget. I know though that I’ll have to spend some money to save in the long term. It does just feel like another setback from paying off the debt though…

We’re lucky that we currently stay by a canal which has an abundance of bramble and raspberry bushes. This means I’m saving a whole load of space in our garden and still able to get some fantastic berries. I harvested 3kg of blackberries and could have had more just from the nightly dog walks. One thing I’d love to make is some cordial to use for squash. If I was able to make this instead of buying it then it could end up saving us a lot of money. 

I’ve been looking at this years planting and there’s just too many things I’d love to grow. I’m as easily seduced by a seed catalogue as most women are supposed to be in a shoe shop! I want them all. So I’m trying to be judicious in what we grow. I want to have proposed methods for storing anything that we do grow before we even start. If you have any preferred varieties of veg for preserving then please let me know 🙂

I aim to make tomato sauce for pasta and pizzas, I’d like to try tomato puree as well. I’d also like to try pickled onions and beetroot, different jams and chutneys but after that I’m stuck on what else I can make…I’m definitely looking for inspiration!