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PREPARE FOR SPRING 3 pages of essential top tips

“Why home grown is best”



It may still be too chilly to sow outside in February, but there is certainly no need to be twiddling your thumbs. Outside, providing the ground isn’t actually frozen or snow-capped, you can continue the big spring prep of the soil, manuring, liming, digging and warming with cloches. If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse or a polytunnel then, as you’ll see on Joyce Russell’s greenhouse growing pages starting on page 10, you can be busy even if the weather outdoors is rather forbidding. If you still can’t quite bring yourself to venture outside, why not get growing indoors instead by making a mini plot on the windowsill? Turn to page 60 to find out how you can grow 18 of the quickest, yet most nutritious crops possible for very little cost. We have features on increasing your yields, no matter how small your space, as well as growing guides for tomatoes, parsnips and gages. But if all that sounds like hard work, simply turn to page 80, take a deep breath and relax!

Fancy a curry? Turn to p50 and grow your own!









Steve Ott, editor Contact me at: sott@mortons.co.uk | 01507 529396 Find us at www.kitchengarden.co.uk Contact subscriptions: 01507 529529




FEBRUARY 2018 | 3












Plant strawberries in hanging pots, lime the soil, thin apple spurs



Pot on aubergines, boost overwintering veg and install a potting bench

/kitchengardenmagazine FOR OUR CONTACT DETAILS TURN TO PAGE 15

12 WHAT’S NEW? The latest news, comment and advice from the world of kitchen gardening

14 YOUR LETTERS AND TIPS Learn what other KG readers have been up to and pick up some great first-hand advice


Your questions answered plus solutions to your fruit and veg problems. This month: tomatoes




32 PASSIONATE PLOTTER 2017 Meet runner-up Frances Stearman from Twickenham, South West London

68 GROWING ONLINE A roundup of more of the best websites, blogs and social media posts



Just Ask your local newsagent to reserve you a copy each month

Make a note to visit a potato day or book yourself on to a course

4 | FEBRUARY 2018

80 102 LAST WORD ✪

We welcome chef and food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to the pages of KG.

106 NEXT MONTH Some of the highlights to be found in your March issue plus news of great free gifts



98 Scan this, and we’ll tell you!

RECIPES This month cookery expert Anna Pettigrew turns the spotlight on carrots, leeks and cauliflower✪

Pg 98

84 GET GROWING 16 ON THE PLOT WITH THE THREE MUDKETEERS The Muds open their latest delivery to find just what they need to make a delicious Thai green curry




We explain how to extend and improve your harvest of these delicious roots

KG’s deputy editor Emma Rawlings turns on the sunshine with sunflowers



Gardening writer Gaby Bartai brings you the steps to produce your own four-day crops

This month make some great savings on plant protection products, weeders and food dryers




KG regular Sue Stickland explains what to grow to maximise yields in small spaces

36 TONIC FOR THE GARDENING TROOPS Food expert Tanita de Ruijt reveals her favourite home-made health tonics


Like to improve your tomato crop this summer? Expert Rob Smith shows you how


KG’s deputy editor Emma Rawlings offers some easy ways to increase your yields in 2018


Advice to help get your plot into tip-top condition in preparation for the season ahead

We try out some products for those with limited space



Expert David Patch turns his attention to a fruit that should be more widely grown

80 GARDENING FOR RELAXATION Learn how gardening can improve your well-being and your sleep




More great new products and services to make your growing season the best ever


Permaculture expert Julie Moore explains why biodiversity is so important

Ben Vanheems shows you how to grow your own curry ingredients


Practical gardener and writer Joyce Russell has a simple plan for high-rise crops

Claim your free* raspberry canes worth £12.95 plus save on delicious soft fruit such as strawberries, blueberries and blackberries (* just pay p&p)

94 GREAT GIVEAWAYS WORTH OVER £1325 This month you could win gardening togs, welly socks, instant gardens and kids' growing kits FEBRUARY 2018 | 5

TASKS FOR YOUR VEGETABLE PATCH IN FEBRUARY BY MARTIN FISH SPREAD COMPOST When you get a little spare time on the plot, start to dig out well-rotted compost from the compost heap or bin and tip it around the garden in piles where needed. If the ground is frozen hard, all the better to prevent making a mess.

WASH POTS AND TRAYS It’s always good to start the growing season with clean pots and trays, so when it’s too cold or wet to garden, spend a little time in the shed with a bucket of warm, soapy water and give your plant pots and seed trays a good wash.

CHIT POTATOES When you buy or take delivery of early varieties of seed potatoes, start to ‘chit’ them straight away to prepare them for planting in several weeks’ time. Light and cool conditions are ideal to encourage short, stocky growth.

HEEL IN FRUIT BUSHES It’s fairly quiet in the garden at the moment. Take advantage g of this and do a little advanced anced preparation by writing outt plant labels of the vegetable es you are intending to gro ow w this year.

Fruit trees and bushes that were planted in the autumn or over winter can be checked to make sure the roots haven’t been loosened in frosty weather. If the soil is soft or the roots have been heaved out, firm them with the heel of your boot.



STRAWBERRIES IN HANGING POTS STEP 1: I’ve been growing strawberries in hanging pots for several years with great success and now is a good time to pot up young plants to produce a crop this summer. For healthy growth always use a good compost. I mix two-thirds multi-purpose and one-third John Innes together and to supply plenty of nutrients to the plants all summer long, I also add in a little slow-release fertiliser.

STEP 2: In a 25cm (10in) container I plant three strawberries. These are runners rooted late last summer that have been grown in cell trays, but nurseries may still have bare-root plants for sale or pot-grown runners. Plant around the edge of the basket making sure the crown (large central growth bud) is at compost level. Too deep and it can rot and too shallow, the plants will rock around.

STEP 3: Once planted and the compost lightly firmed, give the plants a water to settle their roots and the compost. Although hardy, keep the plants in a sheltered part of the garden, or better still stand them in a cold frame, cold greenhouse or polytunnel while the roots establish. Keep the compost moist and in April, hang them out, or keep them undercover for an early crop of delicious strawberries.

SOW NOW Onions, lettuce, salad leaves, broad beans, early peas and carrots under cloches.

LIME THE BRASSICA PLOT If you practice crop rotation, the plot where you are intending to grow brassicas can be treated with garden lime to raise the pH slightly. All brassicas prefer an alkaline soil (pH7) and even on my neutral soil I always add a little extra lime to the plot. Not only does the lime create the correct soil conditions, it also can help against soil-borne diseases such as clubroot which can be a serious problem on brassicas, especially in acid soil conditions. I sprinkle two or three handfuls per square metre, and allow the rain to slowly wash it down into the soil. If in doubt, carry out a soil pH test before applying. www.kitchengarden.co.uk

C CLOCHES TO WARM SOIL There is a lot of folklore in gardening and one old saying warns that “As the day lengthens, so the cold strengthens”. That’s often true in February, which can sometimes be a cold month, so don’t rush into planting and sowing too early! What you can

do now to help warm up the soil for when you do want to start growing is cover an area with cloches. They will keep the rain off, allowing already wet soil to dry out a little and warm up a degree or two. It also means that when you do start sowing, the soil will be friable and easy to rake down to a seed bed.

PLANT NOW Soft fruit bushes, cane fruit and fruit trees, garlic, rhubarb, Jerusalem artichokes, shallots.

HARVEST Brussels sprouts, winter cauliflower, kale, savoy, winter cabbage, leeks, celeriac, Swiss chard, swede, Jerusalem artichokes, spinach, parsnips.

IN STORE Apples, potatoes, beetroot, carrots, onions, shallots. FEBRUARY 2018 | 7

■ Feed spring cabbages with a little nitro-chalk, sprinkling it around the plants and working it in with a hoe. This will give them a boost in growth when the weather warms up.

THIN FRUITING SPURS ON APPLES A great way to grow apples where there isn’t much space is to train them as cordons, espaliers or as a step-over. This way you can grow several varieties in a small area and I think these trained forms also look very decorative. Pruning trained trees

is simple and most of o the pruning is done in late summer by cutting the current season’s growth back to the establish hed framework of branches to create short fruiting spurs. This is done every year to keep the tree in its trained shape, but after several years, the clusters of spurs get a little longer each year and they can become crowded and congested. This is now happening

on the step-overs in my veg plot so it’s time to thin out and reduce the length of them by simply cutting out and shortening some of the established spurs to allow more space between them.

CHECK HERBS IN THE COLD FRAME I always pop my pot-grown perennial herbs into a cold frame over winter for a little protection. Most are hardy, but the frame keeps off excessive wet, which most herbs don’t like. The light is left open most of the time to allow plenty of air to them. As rain can’t get to them, I check them occasionally and if the compost is drying out, I’ll give them a drop!

RE-TIE CHERRY BRANCHES TO WIRES ■ Prune down autumn fruiting raspberries to ground level and tidy along the row, removing any weeds.

■ Carry on pruning apple trees while they are still dormant. Don’t worry if it’s cold, they will be fine and come to no harm.

■ In mild areas you could sow broad beans directly into the garden, but I always prefer to start the plants off in cell trays of compost. Once sown, they can be stood in a cold frame or greenhouse to germinate.

■ Feed around the base of established fruit trees such as apples, pears, plums and damsons with a few handfuls of sulphate of potash. This helps with fruit development through the summer.

8 | FEBRUARY 2018

Check over trained fruit trees and bushes to make sure they are securely tied to their support wires. I’ve tended to use garden twine in the past which after a couple of season rots and needs replacing. I’ve recently discovered a rubber, stretchy string that is very tough, will last for many years and it also expands as the branch grows, so I’m using it to replace the string.

PLANT RASPBERRY CANES We’ll soon be at the end of the bare-root planting season, but there is still time to plant raspberry canes over the next month. Nurseries, garden centres and mail-order companies should still have canes available, but you’ll need to get them as soon as you can. When it comes to planting, summer and autumn fruiting raspberries are treated exactly the same way. They also both need the same growing conditions which are a well-drained, moisture-retentive soil and a sunny position. As for varieties, there are some really good ones that

will produce good crops of sweet fruits. For summer berries try ‘Malling Juno’, ‘Glen Ample’ or ‘Glen Fyne’ and for autumn fruiting ‘Joan J’, ‘Polka’ or ‘Autumn Treasure’. All are very good, modern varieties that crop well. If you are replacing old plants, you will need to plant on a fresh area of ground where raspberries haven’t been grown for a few years. When planting, ground preparation is important. The area needs to have been dug over and all perennial roots removed. Mix in plenty of organic matter in the form of garden compost or well-

rotted manure to improve the soil and help to get them off to a good start. I dig a trench the width and depth of the spade in the prepared ground along a string line to keep the row straight. Plant the canes about 35-45cm (14-18in) apart in a single row. Make sure when back-filling with soil that you plant to the same n level they were grown in the nursery. You can usually see a soil mark immediately above the top of the fibrous root system. Firm the soil around the roots and when all planted, prunee the canes down to a bud as close to ground level as

possible. This pruning is the same for both summer and autumn varieties. The plants soon establish a root system and when the weather warms up, new, healthy shoots will appear above soil level and that’s when I feed with a general fertiliser to promote growth.

www.kitchengarden.co.uk k h d k

WITH JOYCE RUSSELL Pictures by Ben Russell

A NEW GREENHOUSE ■ Wash glass and polythene to allow maximum light inside the structure

■ Sow some leeks, beetroot and celeriac in cells for growing on outdoors

■ Check that propagators maintain a steady heat before relying on them to raise plants

■ Prick out and pot on, so seedlings never suffer from crowded roots

■ Sow tomatoes and peppers at the end of the month

■ Plant a few early potatoes at the beginning of the month

■ Sow spinach and salad leaves directly in drills

■ Provide support for peas and beans

10 | FEBRUARY 2018

■ Consider where the greenhouse will fit in your garden. Avoid shady spots or where tree roots can grow to sap the soil of nutrients. Ideally, there should be a water supply nearby and a power point may be useful too.

■ Allow enough room for a path right around the outside: access is vital when it comes to maintenance. Then it’s time to stand in the house and look out at the view. If the greenhouse is in direct line of sight, then it is worth paying a little more for something that looks attractive and may even enhance the view. ■ If strong winds are a problem where you live, then choose a sheltered site for a polytunnel, even if you compromise a little on light. Or consider a lean-to structure braced against a wall: this acts as a heat sink and can help extend the growing season. www.kitchengarden.co.uk


GREENHOUSE GADGETS: A POTTING BENCH Choose a bench at a suitable height for you to use without bending. It doesn’t have to be big, but make sure there are sides to stop compost from spilling. A plastic, or aluminium, tray is light and easy to clean: brush out old compost at the end of each potting session. Look for extras like a place to store pots, or a place to fit a bag of compost. Some benches have places for labels and pens and others have a sieve or mesh base for sifting fine compost. Take a look at what is available. There are online sites like twowests.co.uk that offer a few options.

■ Cover heated propagators with a warm blanket, or similar, on cold nights. This keeps electricity bills down and reduces temperature swings for seedlings. ■ Remove any mouldy or discoloured leaves as soon as you notice them. The colour won’t improve and spores may spread to other plants.



■ Use good compost and clean pots for the best results. Garden compost works for large seeds and weed growth is kept down if you scatter a layer of sterilised compost on top.

Lay a layer of black polythene over empty beds. This helps the ground underneath to warm up more quickly than if left uncovered. You can put manure or compost underneath and plant directly through holes cut in the polythene, but slugs and snails like to hide underneath and, although the cover keeps moisture in the soil, it can be hard to get water through an impermeable layer to where it is needed.

■ Check seed packets for planting depths and err on the side of less-rather-than-more depth when starting seed in pots. Keep compost damp, but not soggy: seed will rot if too wet.

GIVE A NUTRIENT BOOST Crops that have stood through the winter are all ready to put on a growth spurt. They respond to the lengthening days and a bit of warmth on any sunny day. A boost of extra nutrients now can work miracles. The best way to deliver this down to the roots is to use a liquid feed. Dilute according to instructions if using a commercial product, or aim for the colour of tea if you have made your own brew. Spring cabbage, lettuce, peas and beans will all benefit from this treatment. They often put on a spurt and grow tender, sweeter leaves. Spring onions and garlic can reach full potential if given a high-potash feed now.


■ Don’t use too many seeds in a pot. Roots can be hard to tease apart and seedlings can be leggy when they are crowded. Any halt to growth can affect the productivity of the full-grown plant. ■ Check germination temperatures too. A couple of degrees either side is usually fine: it is better to go a little too cool than too hot.

■ Remove any plants that have finished cropping or have gone to seed. You can put any usable leaves from salad in a bag in the fridge and use them over the next week or so. Cleared beds are all ready for the new season’s sowings to begin. ■ Salad leaves produce plenty of pickings in trays. This frees up the border for other crops and they take up less room in a small greenhouse. ■ You can sow melons and cucumbers in February, but you’ll have better success if you wait until March.


■ Compost can develop a green layer on the surface after a cold and damp winter. Break this up by scuffling with a hoe in borders, or use your fingers if it happens in large pots.

Seed sown last month should have produced sturdy young seedlings by now. It’s time to move each one into an 8cm (3in) pot and while you are doing this, drop any long stems a little deeper into the compost. This helps avoid tall spindly plants. Water each transplant in and keep plants at 20C (68F) in order for them to keep growing well. Remember to label each plant – it’s easy to forget when different varieties look the same.


■ Keep containers of bulbs indoors until they are almost ready to flower. Plants aren’t battered by wind and rain and stems tend to stay upright.

Harvests can have a distinct green theme at this time of year. Not that this is a bad thing, but it is worth making a note to buy seed to sow in the summer that can ring the changes a little next year. Bright coloured chard, Florence fennel, and lovely red and golden mustard greens can all provide somee different colours and flavours for thee February harvest. Try to cut stems cleanly when harvesting and even fennel can produce new shoots. FEBRUARY 2018 | 11






Pictures paint a thousand words, they say – and none more so than in this beautifully designed book all about growing. Written by RHS expert Guy Barter and lavishly illustrated by Sam Falconer, FLORA offers a graphic guide to growing. This is not, however, a case of style over substance. There’s plenty of very useful information in this book that will be of value to the seasoned gardener as much as the gardening newbie. So, find sections on planning, planting, vegetables and herbs, fruit and vines and many of the practicalities that growing involves – soil care and compost making, for example. And it’s not just about edibles – there’s guidance on lawns, hedges, wild flowers, climbers, shrubs, trees, water planting and more. So if you’re looking for a book that appeals to the eye as much as to the brain with its pleasing balance of text and illustration, this book won’t disappoint. FLORA: The Graphic Book of the Garden (Hardback) is published by Aurum Press at £25.

Tomato blight is pretty devastating, seeing your lovely produce turn rotten before your very eyes. Fortunately, there are blightresistant varieties available such as ‘Crimson Crush F1’, ‘Mountain Magic F1’ and ‘Losetto’. Now seed company Thompson & Morgan are offering a new variety called ‘Oh Happy Day F1’, a cross between a very blight-resistant North American line and a French marmande type. The round, 150g tomatoes grow in clusters of 3-7 fruits which T & M say ‘have a superb taste balance of acidity and sweetness’. Colin Randel, Thompson & Morgan’s vegetable expert, said: “The high, late blight resistance of ‘Oh Happy Day F1’ meanss that these outdoorgrown tomatoes will have onger to ripen to their lo full potential and to provide the superb flavour that only comes with sunkissed, outdoor-grown tomatoes.” £2.99 for 8 seeds. Available from www. A thompson-morgan.com Research carried out by garden furniture specialists BillyOh.com has revealed l d that th t UK gardeners will spend the equivalent of more than three years of their working lives maintaining their gardens. The survey took into account regular tasks as well as the one-off jobs homeowners tend to complete just once or twice a year, such as painting sheds and fences, mowing the lawn, raking leaves and cleaning the patio.


ASPARAGUS AVEC AMOUR If you’re looking to enhance that romantic feeling come February 14, why not serve up some asparagus? In The Perfumed Garden, a guide to the art of love-making written in the 12th century, the Arabic writer suggests a daily diet of asparagus will act as a stimulant to amorous desires. So there you go. And if it doesn’t work, well, just love the taste!

A study of over 64,000 middle-aged women carried out by the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research has found that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables can reduce the risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 25%. Diabetes 2 is the one that is linked to lifestyle choices and is therefore often preventable. The study concluded that the antioxidants found in certain food and drink may have an important role in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes in middle-aged women. Drinking tea was also found to be beneficial.





HOMAGE TO THE HUMBLE PEA This year’s Chelsea Flower Show (May 22-26) will feature The Seedlip Garden, something that will be of interest to those who love their peas. This has been designed by Catherine McDonald and celebrates the humble pea Pisum sativum and the wider pea family, Fabaceae. Show manager Katherine Potsides says: “We’re very excited about RHS Chelsea 2018. Every year is different as we welcome some of the greatest designers, plants, people and floral artists who bring their creativity, ideas and inspiration to the show and set the horticultural trends for the year ahead.” For tickets visit: www.rhs.org.uk/ shows-events

T Two years after an epic hailstorm wiped out the entire crop, fruit and vegetable company, D T Brown, has officially announced the return of the ‘Kelsae’ onion. A regular winner at the National Vegetable Society (NVS) national V championships in the ‘large exhibition’ and ‘1kg to 1.5kg’ onion classes, it is also noted for its sweet flavour. The company now plans to use the mother stock to produce a commercial crop in four secret locations in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Holland and Italy and hopes to be able to reintroduce the seed in 2020 if the programme goes well. Plants of the ‘Kelsae’ are modular grown in individual cells to minimise root disturbance, carefully hand graded, packed and will be despatched from mid-April 2018. For more information visit: www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk


RENOVATION PROJECT RIGHT ON KEW Kew Gardens is preparing to draw to a close the biggest renovation project in its entire history. On May 5, Kew will throw open the doors of its Temperate House – the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse. The entire framework of the building


has been painstakingly repaired, and its thousands of panes of glass replaced, along with its intricate ironwork and expansive paved flooring. This Temperate House will once again house some of the world’s rarest

and most threatened plants. It will also tell the stories of the plants that Kew has rescued, and the journeys they have taken to reach the sanctuary of their new home. For more information visit: https:// www.kew.org/

According to AXA Insurance’s Stress Index, 41% of people who practise gardening have said that it has improved their physical health, even though most people only spend around two hours a week working on their plots. Gareth Howell, managing director, said: “Stress is something that affects us all. However I think we can all admit that we don’t always choose the healthiest options to alleviate this stress. “We have found that gardening is one of the best ways to deal with stress, so it’s important we look for new ways to enjoy this hobby all year round.” The company emphasises the therapeutic effects of gardening and that watching things grow need not only be for those sunny days, it can be an essential year-round de-stresser. So preparing the garden over winter, planning for spring and growing plants indoors are key things AXA suggests could be done in the darker months. Why not saunter over to page 80 and find out more on how gardening can help you relax?



GARDENING – A TRICKY BUSINESS I first read the magazine when a friend at work left a copy in the staff room for anyone to read. After that first read, I put ‘subscription to Kitchen Garden’ on my Christmas and birthday list. A year went by and my family had ignored my hints. Finally, I gave it to myself as a present last Christmas. My dad, sadly, passed away before I became interested in gardening – he would be amused, and thrilled, that I have now, in your magazine, found a friendly guiding hand in this tricky business of growing veg. I don’t have a greenhouse and I was really pleased to read a letter


from one of your subscribers explaining that she has grown tomatoes outside for many years – and she named the two varieties she had success with. I hotfooted it to the garden centre and bought exactly the same tomatoes – hey presto! – the first success with tomatoes I have ever had. I was still picking them in early November last year. Sheena Stockley, Bath TONY SAYS: One was ‘Mountain Magic’ a medium-sized, blight resistant variety and the other was the delicious cherry tomato, ‘Sungold’.




Thinking of the coming year, I have been looking at our allotment to see how (post double hip replacement) we can maximise the yield, and minimise the work required. For next year, the major part of our allotment will comprise the magnificent seven crops that we enjoy most, namely:

1. Beetroots (red and golden) 2. Onions and garlic 3. Beans (runner, broad, climbing French) 4. Potatoes (first earlies and maincrop) 5. Tomatoes (greenhouse and outdoor blight resistant) 6. Cucumbers (greenhouse and outdoor ridge) 7. Lettuces and salad leaves Any remaining space will accommodate sweetcorn intercropped with squash. Colin and Julia Smith, Kent

I love trying something new whenever I can. While reading some magazines last autumn 2016 I saw cucamelon seeds. They were very slow to germinate – out of four seeds sown I was able to raise three plants, two of which I planted in the garden outside, and one in the

greenhouse. The one planted in the greenhouse produced quite a crop – I guess there were between 50 and 100 small fruits about the size of a grape. The ones planted in the garden outside produced the same size but nowhere as many as in the greenhouse. I would grow them again as they were an interesting crop to grow. David Hewitt, via email

TONY SAYS: Would make a good film that, folks.

Send us your tips and pictures and if your letter is published you will get a £10 Dobies voucher. If you are lucky enough to have yours chosen as our Star Letter you will get a £25 voucher. Your voucher will be sent out with a Dobies catalogue and you can choose to spend your winnings on a fabulous range of seeds,

14 | FEBRUARY 2018

young plants and gardening sundries. You can get hold of a copy of the catalogue now by phoning 0844 701 7625 or go online to www.dobies.co.uk You can reach us by letter, email or via our Facebook page: FACEBOOK.COM/ KITCHENGARDENMAG

Email your letters to tflanagan@mortons.co.uk or post to Letters, Kitchen Garden, Mortons Media Group, Media Centre, Morton Way, Horncastle, Lincs LN9 6JR



MAKING APPLE PUREE With reference to your ‘Apple Turnover’ item in your December 2017 issue, lots of our apples are not easy to peel as they are so small, so I just chop and boil the whole apples, cores and skin as well. Then I pour the resulting stewed apple through a sieve. At first you get a liquid (the apple juice), which I freeze. Then I push the rest through the sieve, which I also freeze for later use. The resulting purée is very nice mixed with currants, raspberries or blueberries from the garden, or blackberries harvested from the hedgerow. Mrs Diane Tyson, Cumbria

EDITORIAL Tel 01507 529396, Fax 01507 371075 EDITOR: Steve Ott, sott@mortons.co.uk DEPUTY EDITOR: Emma Rawlings,

erawlings@mortons.co.uk STAFF WRITER: Tony Flanagan,

tflanagan@mortons.co.uk PRODUCTION EDITOR: Pauline Hawkins PUBLISHER: Tim Hartley DESIGNER: Charlotte Fairman PICTURE DESK: Jonathan Schofield,

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I have often thought that I could do with some help in the garden… then it arrives from a totally unexpected source!

My 82-year-old neighbour still manages his small allotment. It was his birthday recently and while browsing around our local garden centre I found the ideal present. A mug and coaster set stating: “Old gardeners never die, they just go to pot.” Luckily he found it very amusing. Carole Fletcher, Gloucestershire

Bob Catchpole, via email TONY SAYS: Well done, Bob, I have to hand it to you, that’s one fine specimen... or five.


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Kitchen Garden is available on cassette tape at very reasonable rates to anyone unable to read normal type. Details from the Talking Newspaper Association of the UK on 01435 866102. ISSN 1369-1821 © Copyright Mortons Media Group Ltd. Reproduction in any manner, in whole or part, without prior approval in writing is prohibited. The publisher cannot accept responsibility for errors in articles or advertisements, or for unsolicited manuscripts, photographs or illustrations. www.kitchengarden.co.uk

SPADE HANDLES – T OR D? MONIKA: I find T handles much easier to use because each hand can grip the handle on either side of the shaft whereas a D handle isn’t really wide enough to accommodate both hands comfortably. Any preferences anybody? PA SNIP: Vote goes to D for me. I don’t find the T bar type easier at all. I certainly don’t think I would find it easy to use two hands on a T, but then I also think if I had to use two hands on either a T or a D I would be trying to dig too big a chunk in one go. MOTHERWOMAN: I’ve never tried a T handle – always used a D – but it’s probably just what you get used to. I apparently dig left-handed, so I’m told, but then my father taught me how to dig and he’s left-handed! Just goes to show it’s what you’re used to. The really long-handled spades that are common in some areas seem incredibly unwieldy to me but their users swear by them. To have your say on the forum visit: http://forum.kitchengarden.co.uk www.kitchengarden.co.uk

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KG is media partner with NAGTrust – helping to make Britain’s allotments better

KG and the National Vegetable Society – together helping the nation to grow better veg

NSALG recommends Kitchen Garden Magazine, the number one magazine for growers of fruit and veg

FEBRUARY 2018 | 15

If you’re growing brassicas this year check the pH of your soil. Ideally raise to 7-7.5 by adding lime. This will help prevent club root spores forming in the soil.

Illustrations: Let’s Face It

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3 Mudketeers Well, there’s boxes, big boxes and even bigger boxes. So when the Mudketeers received this rather tall one from Plants4Presents they were, not surprisingly, quite intrigued as to what it might contain. First to come out was a tall lemongrass plant – hence the need for a tall box – followed by ginger and turmeric plants. And right at the very bottom (which meant that Tony had to plunge head first into the box to retrieve them) were some kaffir lime leaves and two fruit. The kaffir leaves smelt wonderful, as did the fruit itself with its unusual knobbly exterior.

So just some of the ingredients you need to make a good curry (see our feature Grow Your Own Curry, page 50). Plants4Presents was launched in 2004, and is run by mother and daughter team, Isobel and Emily Rae. Their seasonal gift collections include more than 100 different fruiting or flowering plants at any one time, as well as an extensive range of citrus trees and exotic fruit trees, a popular ‘grow your own curry’ range, and lots of flowering plants not readily available in garden centres. Find out more at: https:// plants4presents.co.uk/



16 | FEBRUARY 2018




AN ABUNDANCE OF OCAS Having had a couple of good frosts I decided it was time to lift the ocas that were planted back in early summer on my Lincolnshire plot. I’ve never grown this crop before, but was keen to give them a try as a blight-free, lemony alternative to potatoes. The tubers only start to form late in the season as the foliage is killed by the cold and the forest of shamrocklike leaves (which are also edible). They were now looking rather sorry for themselves. Many of the stems had a little tuber in every leaf joint, so I can imagine that in a different climate these plants could be amazingly productive. In some cases tubers had also formed on the surface, but unlike potatoes these hadn’t gone green and were still perfectly edible. I dug three of my dozen or so varieties to give them an initial taste test and will let you know next time whether the team liked them or not. I certainly hope so as I seem to have hundreds! If anyone reading this has a favourite recipe I’d be very pleased to have it. www.kitchengarden.co.uk


FLYING HIGH A reader wro ote in to say that he was surprised last year that carrot fly had got into his four-foot high raised bed. Commo on wisdom has it that they don’t fly above two feet! So maybe there’s a new superbreed about, or perhaps, they’re just high on Red Bull (as the reader suggested). High, yes, literally…. So what options are there? What has worked for me in the past is firstly, a fine mesh insect netting! Secondly, planting between onions, garlic or shallots – no signs whatsoever when I tried this last year. Thirdly, growing a carrot fly resistant variety – last year I grew ‘Resistafly’, with no signs of infestation at the time of picking. The only problem with opting for resistant varieties is that it narrows the range of varieties you can grow. According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), 81% of the questions they get about garden pests are about carrot fly, with some gardeners giving up altogether because of the problem!

TASTY TIGER NUTS Th year I grew tiger nuts, This sup pplied by Dobies Seeds. Tiger nu uts are not nuts but the tuber o a grassy plant called yellow of nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus). Th tubers are like peanuts The and have a flavour crossed between an alm mond and coconut and aree quite sweet. Tiger nuts were popular in the early 50s when rationing was still in place as they were a good substitute for sweets. However, once rationing was lifted and tastier, sweeter things were more readily available, their popularity declined. They are quite good for you, being high in vitamins including C and E and also are a good source of iron, zinc and

potassium. They can also be used to create a tasty vegetable milk called horchata and fishermen are familiar with them too as they are used as bait in carp fishing. I grew them in small pots and they were placed outside during the summer. The plants made a lot of grassy growth but when they

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died back in autumn and about the time the first frost struck they were ready for harvesting. When you pull the plant out of the pot you immediately notice the little round tubers. A large plant can produce hundreds of tiny tubers. I have to say they might be very nice but they are a right pain to clean!


HOW TO ENTER: Compare pictures A and B. See if you can spot at least 10 differences. Identify these on picture B with a circle. Complete the coupon below and return your entry by Wednesday, January 31, 2018. The first correct entry drawn after the closing date will win our prize (above). Please enter your details below:


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FEBRUARY 2018 | 17


■ 'PIKES PEAK': This is another tall growing variety up to 3.6-4.5m (12-15ft). It;s flowers have an almost shaggy appearance. (Kings) ■ ‘HELIOS FLAME F1’: Produces stunning red and yellow flowers on 1.8m (50cm) stems. Ideal for cutting. (T&M) ■ ‘MOULIN ROUGE’:: If you fancy something g different how about a mahogany red sunflower? This one branches well, giving multiple heads and a dramatic display. (Marshalls)

In this new series we look at flowers that complement the veg garden either to grow as a cut flower crop or to attract beneficial insects. unflowers can have big blousy blooms and grow to many feet or have masses of smaller flowers on short stems. They will attract bees and other pollinators to your edible crops, too.


You can also sow direct into the ground and this often produces really strong plants as the taproot is not hindered by growing in a pot. Sow in April and thin the seedlings to 45cm (18in) apart.



Sow sunflower seeds from March to early May. Slugs love them so it can help to start the seeds off in small pots or cell trays, sowing one seed per cell in a good multi-purpose compost. They don’t need too much heat to germinate; place the pots on a warm windowsill or on a greenhouse bench. If starting in a greenhouse cover with netting to keep mice at bay. Once the seedlings are through, move them to a cooler place. A porch, cold frame or mini greenhouse is ideal and will stop them growing leggy.

If growing in pots, once they are about 10cm (4in) high and well established, either move on into larger 13cm (5in) pots or plant them out. If slugs are a problem, planting out larger plants may help – otherwise use a suitable slug repellent or cover plants with cut-down plastic bottles. Plant sunflowers in a really sunny part of your plot and incorporate plenty of garden compost into the soil before planting. Sprinkle some Growmore or chicken manure pellets, too. Once

18 | FEBRUARY 2018

the plants are established, water during dry periods and every week apply a liquid feed.

SUPPORTING THE STEM Dwarf varieties will not need staking, but the taller ones are best supported with tall canes or tied to a wall. This is particularly important if you want to grow the tallest sunflower.

LEAVE ON SOME HEADS Once the flowers are mature and producing seeds they become really important for the birds, so avoid removing the heads. If you prefer, cut the heads off but leave them propped on their side or hang from a bird table. The hollow stems can also create homes for overwintering insects; either leave in situ or cut down and tie into bundles. Leave them lying around for the insects to inhabit. ■ www.kitchengarden.co.uk

Pictures: Marshalls Seeds

■ ‘AMERICAN GIANT F1’: Want to grow a really tall sunflower? This one can grow up to 5m (16ft) tall, yet the strong stems may not need support. Good for creating a temporary hedge or to place at the back of a border. (Unwins)


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Could you please identify this infestation in my leeks and advise me on the best course of action for the future? The leeks grew really well and looked healthy from the outside, but when I cut into them, they were damaged and discoloured with small brown pupae lodged in channels inside. Am I right in thinking that this is the allium leaf miner? All my leeks have been affected on two separate, adjacent plots. Anne Cook, Market Harborough Steve Ott, editor, Kitchen Garden magazine STEVE SAYS: Your crop has indeed been infested with allium leaf miner, a relatively recent problem that has spread quickly to o many parts of the UK. Unfortunately, there are no sprays available to UK gardeners and the best way to control it is to use crop rotation in combination with crop protection fleece or fine insect mesh, such as Enviromesh. This is best left in place throughout the life of the crop if possible but certainly during March and April and October and November when the egg-laying adults are active. The pest will survive in the ground over winter so your crop and indeed all your onions and garlic should be grown on a different p patch next year.

Our Star Question winner will receive vouchers worth £25; the writers of all other questions printed will receive a £10 voucher. They can be redeemed against any products in the latest Mr

20 | FEBRUARY 2018

I enjoy growing and eating celeriac, but they only grow to a small tennis ball size. How do I grow them to the same size that supermarkets sell? Over the yearss they have always grown to the same size. Seed is sown early in the year, potted on into 50mm square cells then planted out into my beds and watered regularly during the summer. Trevor Crowshaw, West Midlands

Andrew Tokely, horticultural director, Kings Seeds ANDREW SAYS: Celeriac requires a long growing season and should not be allowed to get a check to their growth at any stage of their development. Ideally celeriac should be sown between February and April under glass at 18C/64F. Once germinated they can

THOUGHTS ON FRUITS I have half an allotment which is full of fruit bushes. There are four gooseberry bushes which do not produce much fruit and are very small and never seem to grow, and quite honestly I am not that fond of gooseberries anyway. Could you suggest a replacement please? I already have a loganberry, blackberry, raspberry canes, numerous blackcurrants, a couple of redcurrants, and apple, pear and crab apple trees. Margaret Smith, via email

Fothergill’s catalogue, which will be sent out with the vouchers so you can choose from the massive range of quality products including seeds and garden equipment. To receive a free catalogue, call 08453 710518 or visit www.mr-fothergills.co.uk Email questions

be transplanted into modules and grown on under g glass. Keep a close g eye e on the plants and a as soon as the roots touch the sides and bottom s of o the modules they should be re-potted into 9cm (3½in) pots. Gradually harden off G plants in May and plant out as soon as all risk of frost has passed, spacing the plants 30cm (12in) apart. Celeriac requires a rich fertile soil and regular watering to grow well. Once plants start to swell in July, remove some of the outer leaves from the base of the root and this will encourage them to swell into a bigger size. Variety choice is also important to get quality roots and I would recommend either ‘Asterix F1’, or ‘Prinz’, an RHS AGM winner.

David Patch, D professional p nurseryman, n R V Roger Ltd d DAVID SAYS: Strawberries are the obvious choice, especially if the gooseberries aren’t thriving because the soil is a little dry for them. ‘Korona’, ‘Hapil’ and ‘Malwina’ are excellent varieties, which would provide a long season of cropping. For something more unusual, how about a jostaberry (a gooseberry/ blackcurrant cross which is very easy to grow) or even a fig tree – there are a few varieties which will do well outside in the UK, such as ‘Brown Turkey’ or ‘Brunswick’.

to tflanagan@mortons.co.uk or post to Question Time, Kitchen Garden, Mortons Media Group, Media Centre, Morton Way, Horncastle, Lincs LN9 6JR. Please include your full address on letters and emails. We do not publish full addresses.



PROBLEM SOLVER Ó MAGNESIUM DEFICIENCY The areas between the veins of the leaves and at the edges become yellow, affecting the vigour of the plant. This can be caused by too much potassium (with the over-use of tomato food, for example) at the expense of magnesium.

Your guide to common pests, diseases and other problems affecting your crops

SOLUTION: A dose of Epsom salts (about 20g per litre of water) sprayed on the foliage two or three times every two weeks.


This reveals itself as a brown to black patch at the base of the tomato and is due to a lack of calcium. This is caused by insufficient watering which means that calcium doesn’t reach the parts furthest away from the roots. It’s more of a problem with growing bag tomatoes.

SOLUTION: Maintain a regular watering regime. Feed once a week.


The caterpillars of the brightline brown-eye moth, Lacanobia oleracea, will eat foliage and then the fruit. They can be green or brown with a distinctive yellow streak down the side. SOLUTION: Inspect leaves regularly and remove any caterpillars you find. You can also spray with an insecticide such as Resolva Natural Power Bug & Mildew Spray.


This is a fungal, airborne disease that will devastate a crop in no time. It occurs when the weather is humid. Brown patches on stems and skins quickly overtake the plant and kill it. More likely a problem in tomatoes grown outdoors but not exclusively so. Burn infected plants or dispose of them in the green waste bin. SOLUTION: There are a number of blight-resistant varieties on the market you could try: ‘Crimson Crush F1’, ‘Mountain Magic F1’, ‘Losetto’ and ‘Oh Happy Day F1’.


This is caused by heavy watering after the roots have been left dry. The sudden influx of water causes the inside of the fruit to expand within before the skin has had time to adjust. SOLUTION: Water regularly and don’t let the roots get too dry.



These little white insects congregate on leaves, sucking the sap from the plant and excreting sticky honeydew deposits which then turn into a sooty mould. All this weakens the vigour of the plant. SOLUTION: Spray with the insecticide of your choice; also consider introducing the parasitic wasp encarsia into your greenhouse or polytunnel.

FEBRUARY 2018 | 21


SLOT, LOCK, GROW! The Harrod Slot & Lock system lets you build your own frames and cages to whatever dimensions you require. Winner of RHS Chelsea Garden Product of the Year 2012, the system comprises 16mm (5/8in) diameter aluminium tubing, available in a range of lengths, and tough plastic connectors, which lock rigid with stainless steel screws. You can create irregular shapes using Angle Connectors, which open up to any angle between 30 and 180 degrees, and Brace Kits add extra rigidity. Complete kits for Slot & Lock cages are also available in a range of sizes. Save 10% on all Slot & Lock tubing, connectors, accessories and kits by quoting code ‘ETADKGSL’. Go to www.harrodhorticultural.com and search for ‘Slot & Lock’ to see the full range. Offer valid until February 1, 2018 8.

DRY CLEAN The L’Equip FilterPro Digital Food Dehydrator was the first food dryer to use clean air drying technology. A filter cleans the incoming air, ensuring better food hygiene, and it also has a unique air pressure stabilisation system, so it dries more consistently than other stacking tray models. It comes with two deep and four regular trays, and extra trays can be added to expand its capacity. It is supplied by UK Juicers, which says that the FilterPro has proved to be the most reliable dehydrator in its range, offering the best long-term value for money. The L’Equip FilterPro normally costs £179, but KG readers can claim a 10% discount by quoting code ‘KGFP18’ at the checkout at www. ukjuicers com Offer valid until April 30 ukjuicers.com 30, 2018 2018.


WEEDING G WIZARD From Niwaki, purveyors of ‘great stuff from Japan’, this demon onehanded Weeding Hoe is one of those tools that immediately become indispensable. It’s great for slicing through weeds in borders and veg beds, and is also handy for preparing seed drills. It has a 13cm (5in) carbon steel blade with a single bevel on the underside, and a pine handle, and comes in right- and left-handed versions.


The normal price is £18 (plus £4 p&p), but KG readers can save 10% on the Niwaki Weeding Hoe by ordering at www.niwaki.com/KGFEB or by calling 01747 445059 and quoting code ‘KGFEB’. Offer valid until February 28, 2018.

Protect your plants with the excellent range of fleece products from Gardening Naturally. There’s Thermacrop, a stronger, easier-to-handle fabric which works just like garden fleece but has a life expectancy of five years, Warmacrop, a heavyweight 30g fleece which will protect down to -4/5C, and 17g Standard Fleece. For individual plants you can buy Heavy-Duty Fleece Bags in a choice of three sizes, or Tube Fleece, a tubular fleece from which you can make your own bags. To save 10% on Gardening Naturally Thermacrop, Warmacrop, Standard Fleece, Fleece Bags or Tube Fleece, quote code ‘FLEECE17’ at the checkout at www.gardening-naturally.com Offer valid until February 1, 2018.

22 | FEBRUARY 2018



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Gardens might be getting smaller, says Sue Stickland, but they can stilll give you valuable crops of vegetable es – you just need to decide what to grow and what to leave out


he community garden in my local Welsh town has about 40 ‘micro-allotments’ – plotss which average only about 1.2m x 3m (4ft x 10ft). They are gardened by local people (one per individual, two per family) who have to make those difficult ‘shall I grow it or not?’ decisions every year, but that doesn’t put them off. The plots are amazingly full, healthy, and varied to look at, and there is a waiting list for taking one on. As a volunteer at the garden, I frequently get asked for advice on choosing crops and I usually start by saying: “Well, it depends...”, because many different factors affect whether or not particular vegetables are good value for space.

Strictly allocated – one per person, one plot

WHAT WILL FLOURISH? Soil, sun and shelter all determine what will grow well. One advantage of a small plot is that it is not a big job to improve the soil – adding a couple of barrow loads of compost will make a significant difference, both lightening heavy clays (so you can grow good root crops, for example) and helping sandy soils retain moisture. Even if you have to buy bagged compost or soil conditioner from a garden centre, it won’t break the bank or your back. If drainage is poor, then you can easily build upwards. Some of our community garden plots at the damper end of the site have sides of wooden or recycled plastic boards, and a height of just 15cm (6in) is enough to make them less soggy. In fact, hard edging is a good idea for any

small plot – it stops grass roots or mulch from paths encroaching and helps make the most of every square inch of space. Unfortunately, usually little can be done about shade, and this can seriously restrict what vegetables you grow. However, leafy crops can do well in light shade – lettuce, chard, kale, rocket – and so can baby beet and carrots, and all these crops are good value on a small plot. Peas and runner beans can similarly produce worthwhile yields, especially where there is some direct sun in midsummer. Give crops a good start by sowing them in modules in a sunny place and transplanting them, and sow autumn and winter crops earlier than you normally would. ➤

Edging beds helps make the most of every square inch of space

FEBRUARY 2018 | 27

GET GROWING BEST PICKED FRESH Nearly all vegetables are better picked fresh from the garden and taken straight to the kitchen, but some benefit more in quality and flavour than others. Leafy salads – lettuce, rocket, landcress, oriental greens, baby leaf spinach – top my list. They are far tastier and more vibrant than the bags of insipid salad that you buy in the shops. The flavour of baby carrots and beetroot just pulled from the ground, and the clean snap of sugar peas direct from the vine, are also difficult to match. I would add runner beans too – and looking at the plots in the community garden in summer, many others seem to agree with me. They may be ubiquitous – piles on every market stall and gluts in every garden – but only if you grow them yourself can you pick them at their young and tender best.


Other crops which are hard to find in the shops, or that cost a lot, are also good candidates for growing on small plots. In our small town, this can mean anything that looks exotic or strange – kohl rabi or multi-coloured beetroot, for example. Some of the community garden plot holders come from outside the UK, and grow their favourite crops from home. Dolly from Jamaica always has an exotic jungle of sweetcorn and calaloo – a leafy amaranth used like spinach – while next door, a Romanian couple grow their own variety of enormous ridged tomatoes which seem to flourish even in the cool, wet Welsh summers. If you cook with herbs, these undoubtedly give the best value for space, fitting on the tiniest of plots. The few available from supermarkets are comparatively expensive and cannot compare in scent and flavour with their homegrown equivalents. Our community garden has its own small beds of herbs, used frequently by volunteers who cook for work parties and for the pop-up restaurant on the site. Indian food is often on the menu, so they never like to be without coriander (both leaves and green and dried seeds) together “Garlic with chives, mint and parsley. ➤

It seems a shame to take up room on a small plot with main crop onions, for example – they are easy and cheap to buy, and in many recipes their taste is not critical. Other alliums are more deserving of space – the long ‘banana’ shallots, highly rated by chefs for their flavour, and mild salad onions used fresh at any size. Garlic pulled when still green is not easy to buy, yet is one of the delicacies of early summer, and even when dried delivers lots of flavour from not much space.

ABOVE LEFT: Dolly’s calaloo seedlings

LEFT: Like many plotholders, Gerry always grows runner beans so he can them pick when young and tender

‘Micro-allotments’ (1.2m x 3m plots) at the community garden

Photo: Phil Moore

pulled when still green is not easy to buy, yet is one of the delicacies of early summer”

ABOVE: Dolly (from Jamaica) grows a jungle of sweetcorn and calaloo on her plot

LEFT: These beefsteak tomatoes are a speciality of this Romanian plot holder BELOW: Stephen watering with cans from the rainwater reservoir – water is piped to here from a tank which is filled by rain from the barn roof

CAN YOU LOOK AFTER IT? In theory, it should be easy to satisfy the needs of plants on a small plot. During times of drought, when I am struggling to water my large veg garden, I envy those with the micro-allotments: all it takes to water them is a few cans from the rainwater reservoir (an old bath) set up for the purpose. Once-weekly attention is enough for many crops, but new seedlings at risk from slugs or drought need extra care, for example, and runner beans and courgettes need more frequent harvesting at their peak. Pest problems can often be pre-empted – putting up butterfly netting over a small area of brassicas is not a major task and avoids the task of picking caterpillars off your plants. One plot at the community garden – belonging to Sasha, a Russian artist in the town – takes a more radical approach. It is full of perennials such as scorzonera, bunching onions and sorrel, and annuals allowed to seed. Sasha comes to the garden irregularly, but every time there is something to harvest – most noticeably in spring when other plots are relatively bare. Maintenance just means pulling out weeds and keeping self-seeding crops in check.

ORNAMENTAL AND EDIBLE If there is only room in your garden for one small plot, should you grow flowers or vegetables? A compromise is to make it as attractive as possible but still edible. Choose colourful varieties of vegetable – ornamental kales, purple-

MY CHOICES Vegetables that give the best value on a small plot are usually ones which are quick growing, give good yields, and are far better when picked fresh. However, all sorts of other considerations have an influence – not least personal taste. These are my choices: Beetroot

Quick to crop as small beets; young leaves also good to eat and attractive


Young carrots best when home grown; high yielding; attractive foliage

Chard/spinach beet

High yielding with long cropping period; chards with coloured stems are attractive and multi-purpose

Coriander leaf

Flavour is best when home grown; sow little and often

Corn salad (lamb’s lettuce)

Winter hardy salad – good for intercropping, catch cropping


Quick to crop and long harvest period; grow compact varieties; unusual types (yellow, round etc.) more difficult to buy

Florence fennel

Quick late summer crop harvested as small plants; use leaves and swollen stems

French beans

Dwarf varieties crop quicker, but climbing varieties give higher yields over a longer period; decorative flowers


Early varieties take up space for less time; immature ‘green’ garlic difficult to buy


Winter hardy, long harvest period, decorative; grow plants closer together to restrict their size

Kohl rabi

Quick growing – good for intercropping; use leaves and swollen stem base; can be difficult to buy

Land cress

Winter hardy salad – good substitute for watercress


Slow growing but high yields from small space; winter hardy; use at any size


Quick to crop as leaf lettuce; very good for intercropping/catch cropping; ornamental; quality best when home grown

Oriental greens e.g. mizuna, mustards

Very quick to crop as baby leaves – good for intercropping/catch cropping; fairly winter hardy; best when home grown; use flower shoots as well as leaves


Long cropping period; flavour best when home grown

Potatoes, early

Extra-early varieties take up space for less time; easy to grow, reliable yield and better flavour than bought spuds


Summer radish very quick to crop – good for intercropping/catch cropping; young leaves and immature seed pods also good to eat


Very quick to crop as baby leaves – good for intercropping/catch cropping; fairly winter hardy; best when home grown

Runner beans

Dwarf varieties crop quicker, but climbing varieties give higher yields over a long period; decorative flowers; quality best when home grown


Hardy winter roots (difficult to buy); use blanched shoots or flower buds in spring


Easy to grow, distinct flavour. More choice of variety if home grown


Quick-growing catch crop in spring and late summer; best when picked fresh

Spring onions

High yields from a small space – use thinnings at any size; best when home grown

Sugar peas

High yielding and quicker to crop than ordinary peas; best when home grown


Need protection in cool/wet areas, but still worth it for the flavour of homegrown fruit; tall (indeterminate) small-fruited types best value


Quick-growing early types are very sweet, good for intercropping/catch cropping. Young leaves can be eaten as greens

30 | FEBRUARY 2018


LEFT: Tom, one of the volunteer cooks at the community garden, picks fresh parsley and coriander to use in the communal lunchtime dish

RIGHT: Sasha picks sorrel from the plot – she uses it with spinach to make a tasty soup

leaved ‘Bull’s Blood’ beetroot, rainbow chard, ‘Painted Lady’ runner beans with their beautiful red and white flowers. Grow them in patches rather than rows and edge with frilly salad bowl lettuce. Include edible flowers – pot marigolds, nasturtiums, small-flowered pansies and flowering herbs. Not only are these lovely to look at but are magnets for bees and other pollinating insects.

“They grow all sorts of different crops, often just for the fun of trying something new, and get spectacular results”



Traditional veg gardens are planned on a four-year rotation – with crops moved from year to year in order to meet their various nutritional requirements and prevent the build-up of soil-living pests and diseases. This can seem useless on a small plot where a crop can only be grown a metre or two away from its previous spot, and it doesn’t seem to be important for some vegetables. Just make sure you add plenty of organic matter to help keep the soil healthy. However, carrots following a previous carrot crop are likely to be tunnelled by overwintered carrot fly larvae in the soil, for example, and potatoes can give poor yields if eelworm numbers build up. It is best to move crops around if you can, or take the opportunity to substitute different ones in some years.

You generally want quick returns, so veg such as leaf lettuce, rocket, radishes and Chinese greens which can crop in a couple of months give great value, and sugar peas, fennel, kohl rabi and spring onions aren’t too far behind. Be wary of vegetables that need to be in the ground a long time before you can eat them – parsnips, Brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli, for example. Some of these also need large gaps between plants to yield well. However, you may be able to combine the two groups – sowing or planting quick-growers between slow growers when they are small, or getting a quick harvest from the same patch of ground before (or after) the main crop is planted (or harvested). Such techniques of ‘intercropping’, ‘catch cropping’ and ‘undercropping’ can allow seemingly overpowering or slow-growing vegetables to still be good value on a small plot. Above all, don’t be too cautious. The micro-allotment plot holders at our community garden pack more than I would ever have thought possible into their plots. They throw conventional plant spacings on the compost heap (along with much of my advice!) and grow all sorts of different crops, often just for the fun of trying something new, and get spectacular results. ■


FAR LEFT: Oca – an alternative to potatoes for a small plot, perhaps? FAR LEFT BOTTOM: Quick-growing rocket and oriental leaves can be used for intercropping or catch cropping

Ornamental and edible: BELOW LEFT: Calendula BELOW: Nasturtiums BOTTOM: Small-flowered pansies

FEBRUARY 2018 | 31


Frances tends to her eight raised beds

This month we feature the second-place winner in our Passionate Plotter competition, Frances Stearman from Fran Tw wickenham. Frances has put h of her front garden and half half of the back down to crop production DO YOU TEND YOUR PLOT ON YOUR OWN? My husband Martin helps me with the heavy work. I am sometimes also helped by the Richmond-upon-Thames U3A Garden Produce Group. We are a group who visit each other’s plots in turn and act as a team to carry out whatever needs to be done on that day. (The U3A is an organisation for retired people).

32 | FEBRUARY 2018


Frances makes full use of her sunny front garden, too Frances with two members of the Garden Produce Group, Elizabeth and Robert Darby


DO YOU HAVE AN ALLOTMENT OR VEG PATCH IN YOUR GARDEN? Half of the back garden consists of eight raised beds separated from the ornamental garden by a trellis. The approximate area of my patch is 140 square metres. In addition I have planted trained fruit trees and bushes along the edges of the pergolas in the ornamental garden. I have tried to make this interesting by having a mixture of espaliers, fans and a quadruple vertical cordon. Grape vines are being trained over the pergolas. Half of the front garden is devoted to herbs and perennial vegetables with an olive, a mulberry and a pomegranate tree.

I make a lot of soup and like to include a variety of root vegetables. Beetroot is always trouble free to grow, unlike carrots, parsnips and celeriac! However it stains the soup dark red/ brown, so I like to grow ‘Chioggia’ which has white flesh with rosy pink circles, and also mangel wurzel ‘Yellow Intermediate’ (Heritage Seed Library) which has yellow flesh.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN GROWING VEG? I have been growing vegetables and fruit for 23 years, in three different gardens. This present garden is coming to the end of its second season.

DO YOU GROW ANY VEG IN CONTAINERS? My front door faces south-west so I grow tomatoes, peppers and aubergines beside the door, in terracotta pots, along with the pelargoniums. The microclimate in that spot is almost as good as the greenhouse! The pots are 10in diameter lined with old compost sacks, and I use New Horizon compost with added vermiculite, sand and chicken manure pellets. It is very successful because I see them each time I leave and return to the house and can respond swiftly to problems – my small attempt at permaculture!


FEBRUARY 2018 | 33



WHY ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT YOUR PLOT? I get a great deal of creative satisfaction from growing our food all the way from seed to harvest. My happiest time of the day is when I am tending my plot! I often go out intending to carry out a particular task (and in a hurry as I am usually behind schedule with everything). However, I sometimes end up doing something completely different because it has caught my eye as even more urgent (or pleasurable!) than the task in hand. I often stay out there for hours and resent going indoors! There is a meditative calm about just spending time there.

 £150 Harrod

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 £150 WOLF-Garten tools  £100 voucher for The Organic

Gardening Catalogue plus The Chase 3-Step Organic Plant Nutrition Programme (1 litre each of SM3,SM4 and SM5). RRP £33.85.  £42.90 Greenhouse Sensation Quadgrow  £75 Dobies vouchers

HOW DO YOU GROW ONE PARTICULAR CROP? Last year I heard that purple fleshed sweet potatoes are very nutritious but hard to come by in this country, so I thought I would give them a try. I acquired a smallish root and placed it in a saucer with a little water, covering tightly with a polythene bag to prevent evaporation. I put it on a shelf above the kitchen range. The root sprouted and quickly produced about eight slips, but this was in the winter and they were not to be planted out till May! I removed them to the conservatory and detached four good slips by cutting off a little of the root with them. I planted them into a 4in deep pot. I kept them in the conservatory and managed to keep them going until April, when I planted them out into the greenhouse. I supported the foliage on strings and they reached the roof very quickly! When the leaves died down they were harvested. The crop was small although the parent plants were long and narrow. I may try more moisture-retentive compost next time.

Mixed plantings help to confuse pests

to your home. www. organiccatalogue.com Tel 01932 253666

THE ORGANIC GARDENING CATALOGUE The Organic Gardening Catalogue brings you an exciting collection of seeds and supplies, all assured suitable for organic gardening and delivered direct

34 | FEBRUARY 2018


HARROD HORTICULTURAL This company has been producing top quality garden products for 60 years and is innovative in bringing new designs on to the market. www. harrodhorticultural.com Tel 0845 402 5300

WOLF-GARTEN The WOLF-Garten gardening tool collection offers the total solution for soil and cultivation, lawn care, tree and shrub care and general garden maintenance. www. wolfgarten-tools.co.uk Tel 0845 894 1599 GREENHOUSE SENSATION This company sells a range of high-quality products

that produce bumper harvests far greater than that from plants grown in pots or growing bags. The three prizes offered, Vitopod, Quadgrow and Duogrow, are just two of the company’s innovative designs. www. greenhousesensation.co.uk Tel 0845 6023774 DOBIES Dobies has been supplying flower and vegetable seeds

direct to gardeners since 1880. An extensive range of products are featured in its main annual catalogue. www.dobies.co.uk Tel 0844 967 0303 HOZELOCK Hozelock – Britain’s leading watering experts – have launched a range of NEW easy-to-use products designed to revolutionise automated home watering. www.hozelock.com


Photos: Patricia Niven

721,& )25 7+( *$5'(1,1* 752236 In this extract from her new book, traditional food and therapeutic cooking expert Tanita de Ruijt explains how she uses ordinary ingredients to help her stay feeling healthy through the rigours of a UK winter 36 | FEBRUARY 2018


very year at the first sign of a stuffy nose I head to my kitchen for help. I’ll mix up one of my signature tonics to quickly put me right. No, I’m not a doctor, or a nutritionist for that matter; nor do I plan on becoming either. I’m just a home cook – one who is fully invested in unlocking both the flavour and the medicinal potential of my ingredients. Using food as a medicine is part of a basic instinct for survival that we seem to have lost touch with. It’s a handy one, too, especially when life throws you one of its many curve balls, such as waking up

with a sore throat on the day of an important meeting; overeating and feeling bloated (life’s too delicious); waking up with a hangover (it happens); or the classic afternoon slump. There was a time when all cooks were also experts on medicinal foods. Herbs and spices served a dual purpose – they went into medicinal concoctions as well as into the cooking pot; into the types of home-made remedies your grandma used to make. I call them tonics. Discover ways to pillage your kitchen cupboards and make surprisingly effective – and inexpensive – remedies. Here are just a few examples for you. www.kitchengarden.co.uk


35(9(17,21 721,& Time to take all preventative health measures possible. Even if you eat fermented foods all the time, a little extra protection can’t hurt. This tonic pickles the most potent of roots and spices to create a fiery liquid supplement that will tackle any signs of weakness. Drink a tablespoon with a glass of water every morning. The ingredients are simple, and loaded with good things that each have healthenhancing properties. Once fermented, they become more digestible, and packed with healthy immunity-boosting bacteria.


0(7+2' Rinse your turmeric, ginger, chillies and horseradish (if using) thoroughly. Leave the skins on. Slice all of the ingredients into thin discs. I like to use a mandolin – this way you can layer evenly, and the ingredients become beautiful edible pickles once ready. You can slice the chillies in half. Place the turmeric, garlic and ginger slices in the bottom of your vessel, top with the chillies, then with the onions, then with herbs and lemon slices (if using), finally placing the horseradish slices across the top so as to form an almost flat layer.

Mix salt into the filtered water and then slowly pour it over the veggie layers until they are submerged. Cover the vessel with the cloth and secure with an elastic band. Allow the mixture to ferment at room temperature for three weeks. After this time, strain the liquid and bottle it into sterilised bottles. You can eat the pickles at this point too. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. The mixture will keep for up to three months while refrigerated.

Makes eight servings Ready in three weeks ■ 8cm (3in) piece of fresh turmeric root, unpeeled ■ 18cm (7in) piece of fresh ginger root, unpeeled ■ 200g (7oz) red bird’s eye chillies (Thai chillies) or habaneros, without stems ■ 3 bulbs garlic, peeled ■ 3 white onions, peeled ■ Pinch of sea salt ■ 1 litre (35fl oz) filtered water 237,21$/ 200g (7oz) horseradish root; unpeeled sprigs of rosemary; thyme or oregano or a lemon

(48,30(17 ■ A 2-litre (70-fl oz) glass vessel ■ Muslin (cheesecloth) ■ An elastic band


FEBRUARY 2018 | 37


&28*+ 6<583

1,*+7 1856(

A DIY cough syrup made from kitchen cupboard staples, to help you combat your cough as well as reduce inflammation in the throat. Sip it by the tablespoon until your itchy, scratchy throat is content. Honey and lemon is a legendary combination when it comes to sore throats. Combine that with anti-fungal herbs to open up the airways, and loosen up and expel mucus from the lungs.

This herbal tea remedy combines comforting, sleep-inducing spices with a home-made cough syrup, to relieve tickly coughs and sore throats. The medicinal pantry is full of sleep aids. Combining spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg creates a synergistic sedative effect on the body, that helps to restore calm. Honey also facilitates a good night’s sleep, by stabilising blood sugar levels and contributing to the release of melatonin in the brain, a hormone responsible for inducing sleep.

,1*5(',(176 ,1*5(',(176 Makes 360ml (12fl oz) Ready in 20 minutes ■ 180ml (6fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil ■ 3 lemons, sliced ■ Fresh sprigs of sage, rosemary and thyme ■ 180ml (6fl oz) honey

0(7+2' Add all the ingredients, except for the honey, to a small saucepan set over a medium heat. Infuse for five minutes, then remove from the heat and let it cool. Once cool, strain, mix the honey in well, and store in a sterilised mason (preserving) jar or other container with a tight-fitting lid.

Makes eight servings Ready in 2-3 hours ■ 3 cinnamon sticks ■ 1 tbsp cloves ■ ½ tsp black peppercorns ■ 15 bay leaves ■ ¼ tsp grated nutmeg ■ 5cm (2in) piece of fresh ginger root, finely sliced ■ 2 litres (70fl oz) filtered water ■ 1 tbsp DIY cough syrup (see left) or honey

0(7+2' Combine all the ingredients together (except for the cough syrup and honey) in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a very low heat, and allow the ingredients to steep for 2–3 hours. Strain, and serve with a tablespoon of DIY cough syrup or honey stirred into your mug. Feel free to add a dash of your milk of choice too, if you wish.

237,21$/ milk of your choice

It will keep in the fridge for three months, or keep on your kitchen counter for about six weeks.

%8< 7+( %22.

38 | FEBRUARY 2018

This extract was taken from Tonic: Delicious & Natural Remedies to Boost Your Health (Hardie Grant, £12.99) Photography © Patricia Niven

THE AUTHOR SAYS: These recipes are intended for basic selfcare, in order to keep you feeling good on a daily basis. If you are ill beyond the ailments outlined here, I suggest you visit a doctor.

Readers of Kitchen Garden can purchase a copy of Tonic for the special price of £10.99 (RRP £12.99) with free p&p. To order, please call 01256 302 699 and quote code NJ3.

OUR ADVICE: Always consult a qualified health professional for advice before trying the recipes above and do not take if you are allergic to any of the ingredients used. www.kitchengarden.co.uk

With tomatoes in mind, Rob Smith offers some timely tips on sowing and showcases some of the varieties he loves to grow


There are many varieties of tomato, so think what you want from them before you choose which to grow

40 | FEBRUARY 2018

always remember my granddad growing tomatoes in his old greenhouse when I was a child. The thought reminds me of summer with hours spent in the warm sun, picking the ripe fruit, and it brings a huge smile to my face even now. I don’t have many gardening friends who don’t grow at least one type of tomato, be it in a hanging basket at the front of the house, or as a cordon in the greenhouse. There is certainly a type of tomato for every situation and for every taste. Garden tomatoes, the ones you and I grow and eat (Solanum lycopersicum) are part of the nightshade family, the same as aubergines and potatoes. There are literally hundreds of varieties, all with different growth habits and differing uses. That’s why it’s best to decide what you will use your tomatoes for before you start to grow them. I like to grow a whole mix of types and varieties as they come in handy for so many dishes, be it a sweet cherry for snacking from a basket, to a huge cooker to make pasta sauces. Most people are now used to the idea that

different potatoes are best used for different things, be it mash, chips or jackets. Well, tomatoes are pretty much the same, with smaller, sweeter varieties being great for snacking and salads, while the larger, savoury types are bland and spongy when eaten raw, yet they transform into amazing sauces and soups when cooked.

Rob sowing his tomatoes – he starts them off in modules rather than pots or trays www.kitchengarden.co.uk

Tomato slices drying on kitchen paper

When dry, place slices in a pot of compost, cover and keep moist

STARTING OFF Starting your seeds off couldn’t be easier. Tomatoes aren’t really that fussy as long as you have a sunny windowsill for them. I normally use modules to start my seeds off in, simply because you can get more seedlings in a smaller space, rather than using pots. I sow one or two seeds per module, making sure they are moist before putting them in a propagator on a sunny, south-facing windowsill, or in a heated greenhouse if you are lucky enough to own one. At this time of year you really do need to provide the sunniest place you can for the seedlings or they may become leggy and weak. This isn’t always a problem for cordon tomatoes, but can cause issues for bush varieties which you want to Tomato seedlings growing in modules be stocky and strong. As your seeds begin to sprout, it’s best to LEGGY SEEDLINGS? remove the weakest, allowing the stronger seed When it comes to potting up tomatoes, to grow unhindered in its module. depending on the sunlight levels they A handy tip for growing on a have had, they may be a little leggy or windowsill is to turn the stretched. Thankfully, tomatoes are plants each day. This “There are one of the few crops which can prevents them from plenty of tomato be planted deeper than usual. leaning towards the sun What you can do is plant the and getting damaged feeds to choose young tomato quite deep, even by curtains or blinds – from on the snipping off its bottom leaf the last thing you want market, but I like and having the soil level come to do is snap the stalk over this. This type of planting of your tomato plant. to make my own not only stops the plant being comfrey tea” SOW FROM so leggy, but it also means the first A SLICE fruiting branch will be lower on the Another method for growing plant, allowing more tomatoes to be tomatoes, especially if you save your produced from the one plant. The stalk of own seed, is to grow from a slice of ripe fruit! the plant will then produce extra roots, so that All you do is slice the tomato thinly so that it the plant will be stronger and able to access more looks like you are preparing it for a sandwich. goodness from the soil. You then either place it on a piece of kitchen TRENCHING paper or greaseproof paper and let it dry on a If you wanted to go one step further, you could windowsill for a couple of weeks. This ‘slice’ can then be stored in a labelled envelope and planted trench your tomatoes. This method of growing involves laying the plant horizontally in a trench, easily the following year. with the growing tip sticking out at one end. To grow from the slice, simply put it in a This tip is grown normally with a cane or string pot of compost, cover with more compost and system, training the plant upwards. The plant keep moist, again on a sunny windowsill. When will also produce another leader from the stem all the seedlings begin to grow, just prick them which is under the ground, so technically you out into their own pots and you should have have two stalks from the one plant. The plant several seedlings from just one slice of tomato! will again produce more roots from the stalk, This is a really fun and easy way to get kids allowing it to feed this ‘extra’ plant. growing tomatoes. www.kitchengarden.co.uk


Visit: http://bit. ly/2BmI75q

With trenching, you lay the plant horizontally, training the top of the plant upwards

FEEDING It is best to start feeding your tomatoes once the first flowers open. There are some who say the first truss (group of tomatoes) has to have formed before you should feed, but I believe as soon as they flower they need more food to produce a larger crop. There are plenty of tomato feeds to choose from on the market, but I like to make my own comfrey tea as this always works well for me. I then leave the residue from the comfrey tea on top of the soil around the tomatoes; this allows even more goodness to be incorporated into the soil. Remember that comfrey tea is for anything that flowers or fruits, whereas nettle tea is for anything leafy and green (so not your tomatoes). ➤ FEBRUARY 2018 | 41

GET GROWING HARVESTING When it comes to harvesting your tomatoes, you’ll find there is no better taste than a sun warmed tomato straight from the vine – it’s simply bliss. Ripe tomatoes normally need to be removed from the vine as soon as possible, otherwise you run the risk of them splitting. Tomatoes which split, suffer blossom end rot or ‘cat face’ (are misshapen) are usually not watered consistently, so make sure your plants are always constantly moist to avoid problems. Some tomatoes will store better than others, in fact some are bred with this in mind. European larder tomatoes are varieties which can store for several months because of their thicker skin. This makes them ideal for cooking and soups. One variety which is particularly good is ‘Long Keeper’ which can stay fresh until December, meaning you can serve home-grown tomatoes fresh on Christmas Day! There are also ‘pocketbook’ type tomatoes – these are cherry

Pocketbook varieties are cherry tomatoes which merge together. Great for snacking!

European larder tomatoes can store for several months thanks to their thick skins

tomatoes which merge together as they grow, looking very strange to our eyes, yet back when they were popular in Europe, people would have pulled a few pieces off to eat and left the rest for a snack later in the day.


Blight is normally the biggest problem for tomato growers. With this disease brown patches appear on the leaves and fruit. It kills the plants within a matter of days, which could mean no harvest at all from all your hard work. Normally only a problem on outdoor varieties, blight has now begun to move inside and become an issue on tunnel/greenhouse grown plants too. There are a few tolerant varieties which can cope with blight better than others, such as ‘Fantasia F1’ and ‘Lizzano F1’. However, if you suffer from blight year after year, you are probably best to go for a blight resistant variety such as ‘Crimson Crush F1’ or ‘Mountain Magic F1’. These varieties will all show signs of blight, normally up to 30%, yet they will often grow through the problem, so don’t dispose of the plants as they should manage to provide a crop. If your plants do suffer from blight, be sure to dispose of affected plants, otherwise it will quickly spread to the rest of your crop.

Tomato moth caterpillar is also becoming more of a problem, especially tomatoes grown inside. The moth lays eggs which turn into large green/ brown caterpillars with a taste for the fruit. They can decimate a crop very quickly, so keep an eye out for the tell-tale signs of their presence – their large, round poo will be all over the leaves. Simply remove the caterpillars and dispose of them as you see fit (if you keep chickens, they can provide a nice treat for the birds). I have noticed that growing marigolds and basil alongside my tomatoes has reduced the problems this year. I sprinkled a mix of red and green basil, which came in handy when I cooked the tomatoes, as they are the perfect partners. Like my granddad used to say ‘if they grow together, they go together’. I also used Indian marigold ‘Kushi’ to deter pests with its strong smell. This seemed to work better than the French varieties and it gave me lots of very big flowers to use in vases around the house. When harvesting your tomatoes, it’s best to give yourself at least a few hours to prepare your bounty. I like to make sauces, soups and chutney, along with drying some for use during the winter as sun-dried tomatoes. The perfect reminder of long, hot summer days spent on the plot. ■

A tomato moth caterpillar – the damage done

Drying tomatoes intensifies the flavour


Blight is one of the biggest concerns for the tomato grower

MAKING PASSATA Tomato passata has to be one of the easiest things to make from your glut. Simply cook all your ripe tomatoes (preferably the more savoury ones) in a large pan with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. When they have all broken down, leave them to cool and then pass through a passata maker, which will remove the skin and seeds, leaving you with a thick sauce which is ideal to use as a base for soups or pasta dishes. Passata also freezes very well, so you can use it all year around.



4 TOP TOMS TO GROW 1 ‘SUGAR PLUM RAISIN F1’ – A brand-new breakthrough in tomato breeding, this variety gives you masses of very sweet, small red fruit which can be left to dry on the vine. When left on the vine eight out of 10 of the fruit will begin to dry, forming ‘sun blushed’ tomatoes, perfect to store in jars of olive oil. The fruits concentrate their taste and sweetness as they dry,

‘Sugar Plum Raisin F1’


becoming incredibly sweet, almost like a chewy sweet. Perfect for tomato lovers and kids alike. Available from www.dobies.co.uk (plants only, as they are so new). 2 ‘LIZZANO F1’ – This variety produces gorgeous bright red, baby cherry-sized fruit with a vigorous, trailing, semideterminate habit. Abundant crops of sweet-tasting fruits. This variety is the most blight-tolerant tomato on the market. Available from www.kingsseeds.com

‘Lizzano F1’

3 ‘PATIO PLUM’ – Perfect for the window box. A very short-jointed determinate (bush) variety, producing an abundance of small trusses each bearing three to five grape-like cherry tomatoes. With a maximum height of 45cm (18in) and a spread of 30cm (12in). Best grown singly in a two-litre pot on a windowsill, in a conservatory or even outside. The delicious, well-balanced flavour of the fruits makes them a tasty snack. I first saw this at RHS Chatsworth, it’s a stunner! Available from www.pennardplants.com

‘Patio Plum’

4 ‘CRIMSON CRUSH F1’ – As well as its ability to shrug off even the worst blight, ‘Crimson Crush F1’ will provide great yields of exceptionally fine tasting, large, round tomatoes (each weighing up to 200g). Bred for outdoor growing, it’s the tomato that everyone should be planting this year. Plants can still show infection (up to 10-15%) of leaves, stems etc. without affecting fruit quality or yield. However, they seem to have the resistance to be able to grow away from the attack. Available from www.suttons.co.uk

‘Crimson Crush F1’

FEBRUARY 2018 | 43

With the decline in biodiversity as a result of conventional farming systems, it’s time to change the ecological balance and bring biodiversity back to our plots, says Julie Moore


atural ecosystems have a wide diversity of plants, animals and soil organisms. We can mimic these natural ecosystems on our own plots by growing a diversity of native plants as well as accepting and encouraging a wide variety of insect and animal species. Gardening for biodiversity isn’t rocket science. Read on to find out how you can invite nature to your doorstep and promote biodiversity.

SOIL BIODIVERSITY Beneath our feet lives a complex underworld and interdependent web of micro-organisms such as algae, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes and arthropods, to name but a few. Soil is the second most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet. In one handful of soil there are more living things than there are people on Earth, most of which are invisible to the naked eye, and yet they play a key part in the health and functioning of our soils. Without this concealed world, our planet and the human race simply wouldn’t thrive. Whenever soil is tilled or synthetic plied, fertilisers or pesticides are app soil life may be harmed. The soil d structure is compromised and soil erosion, the leaching of nutrients, pests and diseases all follow. The self-sustaining system that Mother Nature developed collapses through human intervention and the soil, now devoid of life, becomes nothing more than dirt. www.kitchengarden.co.uk

Our job as gardeners is to protect and nourish the delicate soil food web. Turning soil, especially with a rotavator, disrupts the ecosystem within the soil. It exposes some organisms to the elements, buries others, destroys the air pockets made by earthworms and wrecks the precious web of fungal and bacterial growth that aid in plant nutrient uptake. By opting for no till or low till techniques, we can decrease aggressive soil disturbance, leaving the subterranean web of life intact. Vegetation is Mother Nature’s protective covering of Earth. By keeping the soil covered with plants, mulch or green manure, you’ll be preserving the nutrients that are already in the soil. Bare soil can lead to topsoil loss and nutrient leakage from wind and rain. Avoid using synthetic pesticides which kill both beneficial and harmful organisms. Multiple and repeated pesticide applications leads to a reduction in both the number and diversity of soil organisms. g synthetic y Although fertilisers supply nutrients, they do not feeed the micro-organisms. The micrro-organisms decline in numb bers and, since they aren’t pressent in sufficient numbers to release the nutrients stored in n organic matter, the plants become ever more dependent on repeated applications of In one handful of soil there are more living things than there are people on Earth

Green manures such as phacelia prevent topsoil loss and nutrient leakage from wind and rain

chemical fertilisers. The soil organisms that do remain can’t capture the excess nutrients that aren’t taken up by the plant roots and up to 85% of nutrients can be leached into groundwater. To ensure that you have a fully functioning soil food web, inoculate the soil with compost. Correctly made compost is the best source of bacteria, fungi, nematodes, protozoa etc. that can be put back into the soil. ➤ FEBRUARY 2018 | 45

GET GROWING PLANT DIVERSITY There are thousands of varieties of edible crops that we can grow. Looking through the seed catalogues, with their enticing photographs and captions of great promise, it’s easy to get carried away and order exotic seeds that simply cannot be grown in your locality. Instead opt for heirloom and heritage varieties that are likely to perform in your local climate – this could be recommendations from friends and neighbours. Sourcing locally produced open-pollinated seeds which have not only adapted to the environment in which they are grown (UK-produced seed will often yield better results than imported seed), gardeners can save their own seed and should find that the seed gets better and better as it adapts to the soil, weather and other environmental conditions of their gardens. While the yields of heritage and heirloom varieties are lower than their F1 counterparts, they often have a better taste and uniqueness – quality versus quantity! Some gardeners may swear by a favourite open-pollinated tomato that produces just “While eight ripe fruit per plant

the yields of heritage and heirloom varieties are lower than their F1 counterparts, they often have a better taste”

Vegetable plots shouldn’t be just for vegetables. Cosmos not only brightens the plot up – it attracts pollinators too!

Wildflowers growing in an uncut area of grass

46 | FEBRUARY 2018

Wise gardeners eschew commercial monocultures on their own plots

in preference to a high yielding F1 hybrid variety. It’s important to incorporate native plants into your plot or garden as they play a key role in maintaining the biodiversity by serving as food, shelter and breeding grounds for indigenous fauna as well as contributing to the overall health of the ecosystem. In some cases, the relationship between the organism and the plant is so important that the organism cannot survive without its host. This is notably the case with certain butterflies which depend entirely on their host plant to reproduce. The Chalk Hill Blue, whose survival requires the presence of horseshoe vetch, is an excellent example. The more diversified the flora, the more you are encouraging biodiversity.

POLYCULTURES Wise gardeners eschew monoculture in favour of mixed plantings. In nature, we see examples of mixed plant groupings everywhere. By mimicking nature, a diversity of compatible species of vegetables, herbs, flowers and even fruit can be grown together. Compatible plantings can result in less competition for nutrients and other beneficial relationships between the plants, pollinators, insects and soil. You’ll also produce more food with no or little need for crop rotation. You’ll find fewer pests and diseases because the different colours, shapes, textures and scents of the leaves confuse pests and diseases can’t spread easily from one plant to the next. Examples include the traditional ‘Three Sisters’ planting scheme where the corn provides a scaffold for beans to climb, the beans fix nitrogen for all three crops and the vigorous

Leaving the seed heads of annuals such as sunflowers will provide a food source for birds over the winter months www.kitchengarden.co.uk






Water points can provide a habitat for toads

Beetles feed on adult slugs, snails and their eggs, and many pest larvae

Weeds are the bane of every gardener, always seeming to grow better than your crops

foliage of squash is capable of suppressing most annual weeds; lettuce partners well with carrots, onions and radish while basil and marigolds complement tomatoes. When it comes to autumn, it’s best not to become too overzealous when tidying the plot. Leaving the seed heads of annuals such as sunflowers will provide a food source for birds over the coming winter months. The hollow stems of dying plants offer shelter for overwintering insects and should be left and cut back in spring. Bare vegetable beds can be covered with shredded leaves and a few grass clippings – the earthworms will happily incorporate the organic matter into the soil for you.

WEEDS Weeds are the bane of every gardener, always seeming to grow better than your crops. In the competition for the ‘survival of the fittest’, one of nature’s oldest laws, weeds win time and again against cultivated crops. Although weeds are plants that you don’t want on your plot, they do come with some benefits you can take advantage of. Weeds are natural soil indicators. Simply by observing the most prevalent weeds that are growing in a specific area, they can indicate if the soil is acidic or alkaline, whether the soil is healthy and balanced or if it’s overly rich in one nutrient and deficient in others, or whether a soil is poorly draining or unable to retain moisture. The more prolific your weed population, the healthier and better conditioned your soil is. Having a bewildering array of weeds on your plot isn’t actually a bad thing – the weeds will attract a huge diversity of insects which will contribute to and enhance your plot’s natural ecosystem. As a bonus, some weeds are very good to eat and could become a favourite salad or soup ingredient! www.kitchengarden.co.uk

Insect hotels attract a diverse range of clientele

Having a wide variety of animal species lessens the chances that any single one will dominate

ANIMAL DIVERSITY Towns, villages and roads have all infringed on Dead wood provides the perfect habitat natural spaces for wildlife. We can reverse for the larvae of wood-boring beetles this trend by providing habitats, such as the stag beetle. A pile of nourishment and water points to logs is an ideal hiding place attract a variety of species. “The average for centipedes while loose Most trees and shrubs bark provides a damp pair of blue serve as shelter, nesting sites place for woodlice and tits consume and food sources for birds, millipedes to live. insects and small mammals. Leaving a pile of dead around 15,000 You may also benefit leaves undisturbed in a caterpillars for from a natural harvest of, shady, damp corner can every brood for example, rosehips and attract hibernating frogs, blackthorn sloes. toads, hedgehogs and they raise!” We can further encourage grass snakes. birds by putting up bird boxes. Water points can provide Most plots should be able to a habitat for toads, frogs and accommodate a small nesting box – the newts as well as a source of drinking average pair of blue tits consume around 15,000 and bathing water for a host of other animals. caterpillars for every brood they raise! If you Installing some stones or a ramp from the have a larger site, consider a box for owls. A water will allow easy access to the water for family of these night hunters would certainly hedgehogs while birds can bathe without being cause discomfort to the rodent population. out of their depth. We can encourage beneficial insects and Where there is a wide variety of animal pollinators into our plots year round to breed, species, it lessens the chance that any single feed and hibernate by creating a shelter. Not all species will over-populate the plot. All these insects and pollinators like the same conditions efforts help to sustain wildlife while so by providing different habitats, you can contributing to the overall environmental attract a diverse range of occupants. balance in our plots. ➤ FEBRUARY 2018 | 47

GET GROWING NATURAL POLLINATORS Pollinators prove relentless time and again by offering their pollination services to enable us to enjoy freshly harvested food of the highest nutritional quality. As gardeners, we can be important allies for pollinators. Since pollinators are active until the last frosts and start foraging again in spring, increasing the diversity of plants on our plots increases the likelihood of flowers being available throughout the year, thus ensuring there are no ‘hungry gaps’. Pollinators prefer open daisy-like flowers such as cosmos, sunflowers and plants of the Asteraceae family (Michaelmas daisies, asters etc.) as well as herbs. Avoid growing double flowered varieties as they produce less nectar than single-flowered types and pollinators find it more difficult to access the pollen. F1 hybrids usually produce very little pollen, so opt instead for organic, open-pollinated seeds. You can attract hibernating solitary bees and wasps by making a simple and attractive house from timber and hollow bamboo canes. Bees and wasps will also lay their eggs in the hollow canes. The bees will leave a stock of nectar and pollen before sealing the egg chamber with dried mud or leaf litter, leaving the young to fend for themselves. If you don’t have bamboo canes, simply drill holes of different diameters (10mm for drones and 5mm for bees) in “Instead blocks of old wood.

of reaching for the bug killer, a more pragmatic approach might well be to sit back and do nothing”

Pollinators prefer open daisy-like flowers such as cosmos


Marjoram is valuable to bees; the concentration of sugar in the nectar is incredibly high

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The majority of insects and micro-organisms have a beneficial or neutral influence on our plots. Natural pollinators are essential for the success of our crops while the micro-organisms in the soil keep it healthy and fertile. Pesticides can be destructive to this delicate web of life, decimating more than their ‘target species.’ Instead of reaching for the bug killer, a more pragmatic approach might well be to sit back and do nothing. After all, it’s natural for insects to seek out food and by doing nothing, it’s more likely that other animals, in the form of predators, will be attracted, thus contributing to the formation of a dynamic ecosystem in your plot. Where there is a diversity of animal species, there is less of a chance that any given species will overrun your plot. As biodiversity increases, so does the resilience of the garden ecosystem. Instead of becoming fixated on the few crops that we lose, it’s more rewarding to concentrate on the many crops that we reap as a small part of our harvest will always be shared with the local wildlife. ■

A small part of our harvest will always be shared with the local wildlife www.kitchengarden.co.uk


FEBRUARY 2018 | 49



Think of curry spices and you are whisked to tropical climes. Yet you may be surprised how many spices can be grown right here – in your own back garden! Benedict Vanheems shares his pick of the crop to turn up the heat and flavour


ome of us are born to love curry – and I’m one of them. In fact, I could happily eat curry at any mealtime. I’ll ’fess up right now: there’s been many a time I’ve tucked into last night’s takeaway curry for an indulgent though admittedly unconventional breakfast. Cooking curry is like culinary meditation: perfecting the spice blend, lovingly caressing it with the wooden spoon then serving it up with all the trimmings, from chutney to raita. Each warming, taste-exploding mouthful is a joy, a welcome contrast to our sometimes stuck-in-a-rut repertoire. What you may not appreciate is Select pieces of ginger with at least one growing point

50 | FEBRUARY 2018

just how many of the essential spices that make a curry can be grown right here in good ol’ Blighty. Imagine snapping off a thumb of your own ginger or grinding up a stem of lemongrass from the garden. It’s all do-able – and here’s how.

A TOUCH OF GINGER Ginger forms the starting point to just about any curry, whether Indian, Thai or Chinese. It’s also fantastic to grow for a pep-in-yourstep hot drink; together with a squeeze of lemon it will settle the stomach and get you

going first thing in the morning. At the very least a few home-grown plants will yield a harvest of leaves to give a warming flush of flavour to home-cooked curries. To get started you will need to find a finger of ginger with at least one growing point on it. Look for pointy buds the shape of a rhino horn. Launch your ginger into growth from late winter. Just like seed potatoes it’s possible to encourage new shoots by keeping the root in a warm, bright place for a week or two before planting. Once it’s sprouted, plant your finger of ginger into a pot of soil-based compost with the bud facing up. Keep the compost moist and pot on into a larger container once it has filled its nursery pot. Ginger is a tropical plant, more comfortable at 30C/86F than our typical 13/55C! So keep it in as warm a spot as you can find – a sunny conservatory or steamy bathroom, for example. Feed plants regularly with a general-purpose liquid feed. www.kitchengarden.co.uk

Begin harvesting occasional leaves once your ginger has got into its stride. When autumn approaches, taper off how often you water so that the compost dries out between

waterings. This will signal to the plant to produce what we’re after – the rhizomes. You may be lucky enough to get a few fingers of usable root by the end of winter, but it’s

more likely that you’ll need to overwinter your ginger in a warm, bright place to give a better chance of rhizomes towards the end of the second year. ➤





Picture: andresmh



Picture: solarisgirl

Freshly unearthed ginger – this is what it’s all about!

Curry Spices

FEBRUARY 2018 | 51


TOP UP ON TURMERIC Fresh fingers of turmeric look very similar to ginger. It too produces rhizomes, which may be used fresh or dried then ground for storage. Unlike the somewhat straggly ginger, turmeric is a really attractive plant, producing wide, luscious leaves that look a bit like an aspidistra. Turmeric isn’t difficult to grow – it just needs warmth and light – but sourcing rhizomes may be more of a challenge. The best place to look is in Asian supermarkets, where you will need to select older, slightly shrivelled roots with buds that are primed to sprout. Again, plant them bud-side up into pots of soil-based compost. Turmeric grows best at temperatures of around 20C/68F and you can coax the shoots along by securing a clear plastic bag on top of the pot with an elastic band to raise the humidity.

Pot your turmeric on as it fills the pot, enriching the compost with garden-made leaf mould or composted bark chippings to mimic the growing conditions found on the forest floor where it naturally grows. Once plants reach about 20cm (8in) tall, add a top-dressing of your compost-leaf mould mix to encourage the rhizomes to develop. Whatever you do, keep plants clear of draughts and mist them from time to time to keep the humidity up. Plants may start to look a bit sorry for themselves in winter. This is a reaction to the diminishing light levels. Don’t worry! Reduce the amount of water you give your plants then step things up again in spring as growth recovers. You can use the leaves in cooking – just drop them into a curry as you would a bay leaf. But if you’re patient you could be harvesting fresh roots by the end of its second year.

Picture: saiberiac

Turmeric has wide leaves like an aspidistra, making it a very attractive houseplant

52 | FEBRUARY 2018

Tangy lemongrass may be grown outside during summer

LEMONY TANG Lemongrass has a crisp, citrusy tang that imparts a lighter zing to curries. It’s very popular in Oriental cuisine and is the signature flavour to many Thai recipes. Healthy plants grown in Britain can reach waist height, offering plenty of stems for cooking. Begin your lemongrass odyssey by seeking out really fresh, healthy stems. You are looking for stems with a bulge at the base, from where the roots will sprout, rather than stems that have been cut above the crown. Plant these up into pots filled with a 50:50 mix of compost to gravel or vermiculite. A heat mat, set at 18-20C/6468F, will help to speed up rooting. Once they’ve taken, pot them on into containers of compost enriched with leaf mould and a little more grit. Just like the ginger and turmeric mentioned, lemongrass thrives on warmth and sunlight. Keep the compost moist and feed with a balanced liquid fertiliser. Lemongrass is quite happy outside over summer, but pick a suntrap corner of the garden that’s sheltered from chilling winds. Towards the end of the season plants should have bulked out enough to give you a worthwhile harvest. Keep a clump to grow on for next year, overwintering it somewhere bright and that doesn’t dip below 7C. All these spices need warmth and perhaps a little extra care, but aspiring to a home-grown curry is entirely realistic. Tikka masala from Taunton? Or a Madras from Manchester? It could happen given a little bit of horticultural know-how and patience! www.kitchengarden.co.uk


STEP BY STEP HOW TO DRY CHILLIES Chillies are a universal ingredient to any curry. They need similar conditions to greenhouse tomatoes – so plenty of warmth, regular feeding with a high-potash liquid feed and steady soil moisture. Bumper harvests can be dried so they’re ready to drop into curries throughout the year. STEP 1 Thread the chillies on to cotton thread so they are evenly spaced. Hang them up in a warm, dry place to dry out for two to three weeks. Finish them off in an oven set to a very low heat for one hour. Leave to cool.

This tried-and-tested threesome doesn’t require overly complicated care and will contribute heat or flavour by the curry load! ■ CHILLIES: These face-flushing fruits need no introduction. Whether superspicy or pop-in-the-mouth mild, chillies are the soul of a curry. In our cooler climate, chillies are best grown in a greenhouse or polytunnel to encourage fruit production. Water plants with water that’s been left to reach ambient temperature. This avoids cold-shocking the roots. Pinch out the growing tips when plants reach about a foot tall to encourage bushier growth.

STEP 2 Dehydrators are very efficient at drying larger quantities. Spread the chillies out on to the trays and set the unit to run at a low heat for around 24 hours. Split the chillies lengthways if you want to speed things up.

■ METHI: Methi is the Hindi name for fenugreek, a plant more commonly grown in the UK as microgreens or as a green manure. Sow it somewhere warm and sunny towards the end of spring. Fenugreek grows quickly and can be thinned out to give 15cm (6in) between plants. Pick the leaves as needed to enjoy their mild flavour in curries. Some plants may be left to produce seedpods, which once yellow and ripened can be ground up as a key ingredient to curry powder.

STEP 3 Remove the top of each chilli. You can then store them whole. Or crush them with a spice grinder, pulse of a food processor or a pestle and mortar to store them as chilli flakes. Keep them in airtight jars away from bright light.


Picture: Ramesh NG


Picture: greycharleigh


Picture: Claudia Heidelberger


■ CORIANDER: You can never have enough coriander! Whether part of a home-grown salsa or stirred into or on to a curry, coriander’s king! To store over winter, leave some plants to go to seed. This shouldn’t be difficult in the first half of the year, when lengthening days signal to the plant to flower. Let the seeds dry out on the plant then shake them out and decant into airtight jars.

■ CUMIN: Like coriander, cumin produces seedpods that can be collected as the first pods begin to dry. Sow the seeds in spring in moist, warm seed compost at a temperature of 10-15C/50-59F. Once germinated, prick them out into 7cm (3in) pots of multipurpose compost then grow on to plant out after the last frost. Cumin loves well-drained soil in full sun. Keep plants well watered but leave the soil to dry out between waterings. ➤

FEBRUARY 2018 | 53


LEAFY LOVELIES Tap into this duo of leafy herbs. The distinctive sweet fragrance of kaffir lime leaves form a must-have ingredient to many Southeast Asian dishes, while curry leaves form the basis to traditional Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine.

Curry leaves

The KG team decided to make a curry using as many homegrown ingredients as possible recently and you can see the video on our YouTube channel (you’ll also see why we call it ‘bush tucker’!). For those of you who fancy giving it a try here is the recipe, which uses many of the ingredients mentioned by Ben above. FOR THE PASTE ■ 2 cloves garlic ■ 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger ■ 1 shallot ■ 1 stem lemongrass ■ 2 chillies (add more if you like it hot or substitute with chilli flakes) ■ ½ tsp ground cumin ■ Small handful of fresh coriander ■ 1 tbsp fish sauce

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Kaffir lime leaves

SUPPLIERS ■ PLANTS4PRESENTS: 01825 721162, plants4presents.co.uk For kaffir lime, curry leaf, turmeric, lemongrass, ginger. Picture: Lemore Edman

■ CURRY LEAVES: Use the leaves just like bay leaves to impart a pungent curry taste. Curry leaf plants are sensitive to frost, so keep them indoors in winter on a bright windowsill then place them on to a suntrap patio for summer. The curry leaf plant doesn’t need much water in winter but does require regular feeding and watering throughout summer. Like the kaffir lime tree, it’s important to let the compost dry out between waterings.


Picture: Glen MacLarty

■ KAFFIR LIME LEAVES: This zingy citrus can cope with brief periods of light frost, which means it can remain outdoors for most of the year. Bring it inside when temperatures threaten to freeze the rootball – usually by November. It will need a bright, cool spot away from both draughts and radiators. A special citrus fertiliser will keep trees in good shape. Water regularly in the summer but allow to dry out between waterings. Older trees may produce rough-skinned fruits, which are prized in Oriental cuisine.

■ VICTORIANA NURSERY: 01233 740529, victoriananursery.co.uk Stocks lemongrass plants. ■ CHILTERN SEEDS: 01491 824675, chilternseeds.co.uk For cumin, lemongrass and fenugreek.

METHOD 1. Peel and chop garlic, ginger, shallot, chillies and finely slice lemongrass. 2. Place in a food processor with cumin and coriander. Whiz until finely chopped. 3. Add fish sauce and whiz again. FOR THE CURRY ■ 200ml coconut milk ■ 300ml hot stock ■ 2 lime leaves ■ 1 courgette ■ 2 medium sweet peppers ■ 100g mangetout ■ 100g baby sweetcorn METHOD 1. Heat 1tbsp of sunflower oil and fry paste for one minute. 2. Add coconut milk and stock. Simmer for five minutes. 3. Meanwhile chop vegetables. 4. Add chopped vegetables and lime leaves. Cook for 8-10 minutes. 5. Serve with steamed rice.

Many of the ingredients for our curry can be grown at home

The team tuck in to a warming bowl of curry on a cold day in the garden


SOW: Feb-May HARVEST: Sept-Mar






This month we turn our attention to one of our most popular winter vegetables and discover that parsnips donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to be reserved just for Christmas. KG editor Steve Ott explains


If your soil is warm and free-draining you can sow as early as February

For better results make extra large drills and fill with good sowing compost



n established part of every traditional British Christmas dinner, parsnips often force people into one of two camps; those who can’t get enough and those who try to hide them at the side of the plate under the sprouts! For me, home-grown parsnips are a must-have and if there is a way of enjoying them for longer through the season, then I’d welcome it. Think of parsnips and you might think of the long, thick, frost-sweetened roots that have grown in the soil all year to be lifted in time for the Yuletide celebrations. However, using modern F1 varieties, it is possible to have smaller but very tasty roots from late August or September onwards from a spring sowing.


There are other ways to greatly boost your chances of success in the early stages. I like to make a deeper, wider seed drill than usual, and line this with sowing compost. The seeds are large and easy to handle and after watering the drill thoroughly, can be sown thinly along the row with about 2.5cm (1in) between seeds, with a view to thinning out later. Alternatively you can sow 5-7.5cm (2-3in) apart, two seeds per station and thinning to the strongest once they have germinated. Another method is to pre-chit your seeds. This involves scattering them thinly on to damp kitchen towel which has been placed in the bottom of a Tupperware box or similar. Place this in a warm airing cupboard or in a heated propagator (it doesn’t seem to matter if this is kept in the light or dark) until the little roots emerge from most of the seeds. The chitted seeds are then ‘sown’ in a drill which has been prepared as above and before the roots become too long. Because the seeds have already germinated, they can be sown or planted singly at a 7.5cm (3in) spacing, 13mm (½in) deep to grow away. This has worked well for me, although I do find that I get a greater

Pre-chitting your seeds gives them a head start

proportion of misshapen roots than when sowing in the normal way. If you have a stony, shallow or very heavy soil, you can give your roots the best possible start by making conical-shaped holes in the soil in which they can grow straight and true, rather than forked and comedy-shaped (a good parsnip should only have one ‘leg’!). Use a metal bar or similar to make the holes, bashing it into the soil to a depth of 30cm (12in) or so, then moving the top in a circular motion to make the cone. Do this every 10cm (4in) or so then fill with seed compost, ensuring that there are no air spaces by proggling (prodding) with a thin cane. Once half an inch from the top, water thoroughly before sowing two seeds in the top, thinning to the strongest once established. Whichever method you decide to use, allow 40cm (16in) between the rows.

Parsnips have a reputation for being difficult to germinate and establish, but this can usually be GROWING ON overcome with a little TLC. The first two simple, Very early sowings benefit from a covering of but essential rules for success are to ensure you fleece or a cloche, but you will need to check use fresh seeds (throw away last year’s half used under the cosy covering regularly to see if your packet now) and that the soil is warm enough to rows need watering. Water regularly during dry ensure rapid germination. spells and remove any competing weeds as they If you are lucky enough to have a appear; hand-weed close to the plants to avoid deep, well-drained, fertile soil in a accidental damage to the crop and to prevent place that is sheltered but warm, disturbing the soil too much. ➤ then you should be able to sow them direct where they are to crop as early as February, stand back and Cover the soil intended for watch them grow. Few of growing your parsnips with us are that lucky however cloches or black polythene and most of us have to be to encourage it to warm patient and wait until soil up more quickly. temperatures rise in March, April or even May. Providing your soil is reasonably good, these later sowings will germinate and grow away much faster, soon catching up with those your neighbours may have sown. If you want to be really high-tech about it, a soil thermometer is a good investment. Put it in the ground and hold fire until the reading is around 7C (45F) within the top 5-7cm (2-3in). Only then tear open your Thin the plants in stages as they grow until about 20cm (8in) apart seed packet and let the fun begin. www.kitchengarden.co.uk

FEBRUARY 2018 | 57




Although the best-flavoured roots Slugs have been mentioned and are still those sweetened by parsnips can suffer from carrot the frost (which turns stored fly, being closely related to this starches into sugar within crop, although being bulkier the roots), modern varieties the damage tends to be far Begin to dig baby roots have been bred to have more less serious than on carrots. in August or September, natural sweetness even before Covering the crop with fine thinning within the rows autumn chilling. Others are mesh or fleece where attacks to leave the rest bred to be eaten as baby roots are particularly bad will reduce to mature. and you’ll find a few of our the damage. favourites on this page. Certain root rots can be a Parsnips are always best left in the problem, canker being the most ground until needed as they do not keep fresh common. This causes black lesions on the roots for long once lifted. In fact they can be left in and allows other rots to take hold. Choose a place until you need the soil again the following modern canker-resistant variety. Well-drained spring or they begin to shoot (they will go to soil is the key in keeping root rots at bay, along seed in their second season). with regular crop rotation. Long, mature roots will dig much more easily if the row is thoroughly soaked the night before lifting. Then simply brush away some soil from the top of the roots to see which are the biggest, push a fork into the soil about 15cm (6in) from the row and gently lift. Very long roots may take a little more effort and digging! Remove the tops, give the roots a scrub in clean water and use them as soon as possible. Roasting or making into a delicious soup are my favourite ways to eat them (soup is a great way to use up misshapes)and of course they are great with other veg to make a healthier, and tastier, version of Soak the rows well the night before lifting potato crisps than you can buy in the shops.

There are lots of excellent varieties available, so here is a selection of my favourites. ■ ‘GLADIATOR F1’: The first F1 parsnip and still very popular. Good disease resistance and flavour. Mr Fothergill’s ■ ‘COUNTESS F1’: A modern variety producing disease-resistant, long white roots with smooth skins. Kings Seeds ■ ‘WHITE GEM’: One that always does well in our trials. Shorter, but broad roots with good flavour. Widely available ■ ‘ALBION F1’: Good-sized diseaseresistant roots with smooth skins and uniform tapering roots. Award of Garden Merit winner. Suttons Seeds ■ ‘JAVELIN F1’: Long, straight, sharply tapering roots. Good as a mature or baby root. Award of Garden Merit winner. Jungle Seeds ■ ‘PANACHE F1’: A disease-resistant modern variety producing long, smooth-skinned roots of good flavour. Marshalls Seeds

‘Countess F1’

‘Gladiator F1’

‘Albion F1’

‘Panache F1’

‘Javelin F1’

‘White Gem’

Lift the roots as required

58 | FEBRUARY 2018


SPROUT! Fast, fresh and famously nutritious, sprouted seeds give you a crop within the week – whatever the weather. Gaby Bartai tells you all you need to know


his can be a difficult month. Allegedly, a new season is under way, and gardeners are itching to get growing. Unfortunately, very little else is. It was February – a cold, dark, Scottish February – when I discovered seed sprouting. It’s the perfect therapy for frustrated green fingers, and gives you a garden within the comfort of your kitchen on days when the actual garden is less than enticing. You don’t need any special equipment – though upgrading to a proper sprouter is satisfying and inexpensive – and the process itself is child’s play. It is, in fact, an excellent project for children, offering both hands-on activity and instant gratification. Weight for weight, sprouts have many times the nutrient content of the mature plants – they have impressive levels of vitamins and antioxidants, and many are also an excellent source of protein. They transform winter salads and sandwiches, can be added to soups, stir-fries, casseroles and

rissoles, and are ready inside a week. Sprouts are often found in catalogues alongside microgreens, but are distinct from them in that there’s no substrate involved. They are sprouted using only water, and all you need to do is rinse them, drain them and watch them grow.

SEEDS TO SPROUT The original sprout was the mung bean or ‘bean sprout’, and that’s still the most useful all-rounder – but seed catalogues now offer a whole range of alternatives, from the micro alfalfa to the macro chickpea, and specialist sprouting websites suggest dozens more. Some are more successful than others. My own favourites are mung beans, aduki beans, lentils, sunflowers, fenugreek and radish. The easiest ones to start with are the first three; sunflowers are easy to grow but need to be dehulled by hand, and smaller seeds can be more fiddly to rinse and drain.

“Weight for weight, sprouts have many times the nutrient content of the mature plants”

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RECOMMENDED DE SPROUTS ■ MUNG BEANS: sweet-tasting crunchy ‘bean sprouts’, for salads, soups and stir-fries. ■ ADUKI BEANS: chunky, nutty sprouts, good for adding to rissoles or to soups, salads or stir-fries. ■ LENTILS: mild, sweet, earthy sprouts, for salads and sandwiches. Whole green and brown ones sprout best. ■ SUNFLOWER: succulent crunchy sprouts, excellent in salads. ■ FENUGREEK: spicy at the three-day stage and milder thereafter; good in salads and sandwiches. ■ ALFALFA AND CLOVER: tiny sprouts with a mild flavour, for salads and sandwiches. ■ RADISH, CABBAGE, BROCCOLI AND SALAD RAPE: spicy brassica flavours, good in salads and sandwiches. ■ ONION AND LEEK: allium-flavoured sprouts for salads and garnishes. ■ BEETROOT: purple sprouts for gourmet garnishes. You can also sprout red cabbage or red-stemmed radishes.








Mung beans

Aduki beans

Green lentils





Mung bean and radish sprouts

Pea sprouts

MICROGREENS INSTEAD One thing to beware of is that many catalogues offer a single range to cover both sprouting seeds and microgreens, and it’s not always clear that some options are much better – or only possible – as the latter. Peas and chickpeas, which are offered by several catalogues, produce a disappointingly low ratio of sprout to seed, and the seeds remain unappetisingly chewy. You can use the sprouts in cooked dishes – in which case sprouting confers the distinct advantage of reducing the cooking time from hours to minutes – but if you want pea shoots to eat raw, you need to grow those as microgreens, in trays of compost; you then get a much larger shoot, which you harvest at soil level, leaving the seed behind. Mustard, cress and rocket are ‘gelatinous’ seeds; their first response to being wetted is to

produce a jelly-like coating, and in a sprouter they form a recalcitrant mass which can’t be drained properly. Those therefore need to be grown as microgreens, either on kitchen paper or in shallow trays of compost.

OMISSIONS There are notable omissions from lists of varieties suitable for sprouting; many apparently obvious salad greens and herbs are missing, as are all of the carrot family. Very small or light seed simply doesn’t work in a sprouter, and anything that is slow to germinate is also out. All legumes contain lectins, a type of protein which can be toxic in quantity, which is why many culinary varieties have a warning on the packet telling you not to eat them raw. The toxin is broken down when legumes are soaked and sprouted, so raw sprouts of recommended varieties are safe to eat in sensible quantities. Peas, chickpeas, mung beans, aduki beans and lentils are fine as long as you let them sprout for at least four days. However, you shouldn’t eat raw sprouts from other types of beans; some sprouting websites do offer a couple of others, but with strict instructions to cook the resulting sprouts.


For gourmet pea shoots, you need to grow them as microgreens www.kitchengarden.co.uk

Buy seed sold specifically for sprouting; this will have been produced to food-grade standards and is supplied in the quantities you need. Don’t sprout conventionally grown seed that was sold for sowing, which may have been treated with chemicals. Organic seed will be untreated, but

Rocket needs to be grown as microgreens, as do mustard and cress

I’m duty bound to advise against eating any seed that was sold for sowing rather than as food. In any case, a regular seed packet produces a miserly quantity of sprouts. A better option for leftover seed is to sow it as microgreens; that gives you a better return, and you avoid eating the actual seeds. You can also sprout seeds sold for cooking, and in the case of readily available pulses like chickpeas and lentils this is cheaper than buying them from a seed catalogue. However, if they have been stored in warm conditions, they may not germinate. Your kitchen is definitely too warm for seed storage, so there’s probably no life in anything that’s been in your cupboard for a while. If you’re buying seed to sprout in batches, store the surplus somewhere cool, dry and dark, as for any other seed. ➤ FEBRUARY 2018 | 61


STEP BY STEP SPROUTING 1. PREPARE Measure out your seeds – sparingly; their volume will increase up to tenfold, so three to four tablespoons of larger seeds, or two of smaller ones, is plenty. Pick out foreign bodies or any that are defective. 2. SOAK Put the seeds into your sprouter with twice their volume of water, and leave them to soak for a few hours, or overnight, to trigger germination. 3. RINSE, DRAIN AND REPEAT Skim off any seeds that are floating and don’t sink when prodded. Drain off the water, rinse the seeds, drain them again, and sit the sprouter in a warm place – a kitchen worktop is ideal. 4. HARVEST AND CLEAN There is no definitive point at which your sprouts are ready. The only proviso is that peas, chickpeas, beans and lentils need to be sprouted for at least four days; apart from that, it’s a matter of taste.

RINSING & DRAINING While your seeds are sprouting and until ready for harvest you need to rinse and drain them twice a day, without fail, to keep them fresh and growing steadily. With the biggest seeds, three times a day is better. If you let them dry out, they will die; if

5. STORE Once you are happy with your finished sprouts, drain them very thoroughly – a salad spinner is good for this. Then, let them sit for a couple of hours until dry to the touch. If you’re not eating them straight away, move them into the fridge in a covered bowl or a plastic bag, where they will keep for two or three days.

you leave them sitting in water, they will rot. Use cold water, and lots of it, turning the tap on full and running plenty of water into the sprouter. ‘Rinsing’ is the operative word; this is more than watering. Particularly in the last couple of days; thorough rinsing is essential to keep them healthy. It’s important to drain your sprouts equally well;

they need to be kept moist, not wet. Tiered sprouters address this problem by draining from the bottom, but if you’re using a jar, leave it inverted for a few minutes. If you want white sprouts – with mung beans, for instance – put them in a dark place once the shoot (as opposed to the root) appears.

Rinsing your sprouts, morning and evening, quickly becomes a familiar routine

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Clockwise from top left: chickpeas, sunflowers, peas, mung beans, onion, beetroot, cabbage, fenugreek, lentils. Centre: aduki beans

Sprout trials in progress

CLEANING YOUR SPROUTS Sprouts will shed their seed coat (or ‘hull’) at some point; whether you remove these from the finished sprouts is a matter of taste and/or aesthetics. If you want classic white mung bean sprouts, for instance, you’ll need to pick out the green hulls. The easiest way to do this is to tip the finished sprouts into a bowl, add plenty of water and rinse them vigorously; the shed hulls will mostly float, and can be tipped off. Sunflower hulls cling obstinately to the sprouts, so those need to be picked off by hand – which, if you lack patience, is a good reason for growing sunflowers as microgreens instead. With larger sprouts – this isn’t realistic with smaller ones – you should also pick out any ungerminated seeds, and any sprouts which are obviously defective.


SPROUTING SEEDS Pictures: Organic Gardening Catalogue

The BioSnacky Sprouter

SPROUTING OPTIONS The simplest type of sprouter is a jar with a mesh lid. Some come with a stand which holds them at an angle, so you don’t need to wait around for them to drain. Moving up a step, there are multi-storey sprouters in which you can grow several

The Gaia Sprouter

varieties at once. These have stacking trays and a sump for surplus water to drain into. Moving seriously upmarket, you can buy electric sprouters which do all the rinsing for you. A further option is a sprouting bag; made of cotton or hemp, these drawstring bags are just rinsed under the tap and then hung up to drain. It sounds d appealingly simple, but I’m not cconvinced that the confines of a damp bag qualify as a b A classic sprouting jar, with a mesh lid for drainage

healthy growing environment. The sprouts I produced this way were noticeably more discoloured than those emerging from a jar. You can make your own sprouter from a Kilner jar, by replacing the seal component of the lid with a disc cut from tapestry canvas or plastic mesh – should you happen to have those things to hand. If you’re improvising for a trial batch, the simplest DIY option is to use an ordinary jar (minus its lid) and drain the seeds through a sieve. A cloth lid, held in place with a rubber band, will keep the seeds clean, but this needs to be removed for rinsing and draining. Personally I’d recommend the sieve.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS ■ Make a mung bean sprout and sweetcorn soup, flavoured with parsley and served with sour cream. You’ll find a full recipe at http://bit.ly/beansproutsoup ■ Add aduki bean sprouts to vegetarian rissoles, made with onion, grated carrot and Cheddar, egg and breadcrumbs. See the full recipe online in this month’s Subs Club at www.kitchengarden.co.uk ■ Make a salad with lentil and fenugreek sprouts, grated carrot and chopped roasted peanuts, dressed with lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, red chilli and ginger. ■ Stir-fry mung bean sprouts with garlic, ginger and sprouting broccoli, adding a handful of broccoli or radish sprouts as es off tthe e heat the pan co comes heat.

Mixed sprout and carrot salad Bean sprout and sweetcorn soup

SUPPLIERS The Organic Gardening Catalogue (www.organiccatalogue.com), Kings Seeds (www.kingsseeds.com) and Tamar Organics (www.tamarorganics.co.uk) all offer a good range of seeds and sprouters. ■ MOLES SEEDS (www.wholesale. molesseeds.co.uk) offers a wide range of seeds for sprouting, including bulk quantities of types normally sold for growing to maturity. ■ UK JUICERS (www.ukjuicers.com) has an excellent range of sprouters, including electric models, and a wide selection of sprouting seeds. ■ A sprouting bag, with a finished crop of mung beans www.kitchengarden.co.uk

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If you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have lots of space to grow there are ways to increase productivity of your plot over the season, says KG's Emma Rawlings 1. FEED YOUR SOIL

Improving your soil will improve your crops and therefore the harvest you will get from them.


Sow little and often. Avoid sowing a 6m (20ft) row of lettuce in one go. Sow a quarter or half of it one week then make a note to sow the remainder two weeks later. Also sow a few lettuce or other salad leaves in cell trays at the same time. If you have failures in the row you can plant up the gaps. â&#x17E;¤ www.kitchengarden.co.uk

FEBRUARY 2018 | 65



This is sowing or planting crops between other crops. Good examples include lettuce or radish between onions, parsnips or climbing beans and squashes between sweetcorn plants. Plant garlic in sunny corners of the plot that are unlikely to be sown with anything else. Sow spinach and basil around the base of tomatoes in a greenhouse.

Make a note of when to sow things in your diary. This is useful so that you make best use of your time and space. For example, make a note in your diary (or your KG journal, free with last month’s issue!) now to sow some kale or sprouting broccoli in April/May, ready for planting out in June/July for winter cropping.



This may almost seem a strange thing to say when you want to increase production but when you think about it, one large carrot could feed two people whereas if you don’t thin them you have to pull many little roots to feed two people. Leeks are another example. Small leeks are lovely but you may need a few for one meal – one large leek will suffice.

You may have a corner of your plot or gaps that are just weed traps. Don’t waste the space, plant a standard gooseberry and grow herbs around the base or lettuce and salad leaves. Other things to plant are a wigwam of beans or sweet peas. You could grow a cluster of annual flowers for cutting and to attract bees and other pollinators and help increase yields this way. A Minarette apple, pear or plum creates a narrow column and could be planted in small gaps on the plot.

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In contrast to point 6 you can also use dense planting to your advantage. A good example is salad leaves. You can sow these more thickly (about 1-2cm, or ½-¾in) between seeds and then harvest just a few leaves as and when you need them.



Don’t fill lots of space with crops you either won’t eat a lot of or you actually don’t like that much. By all means experiment every year with one or two new crops, but don’t devote a lot of space to them. Just give them a small trial area. If you love them then you can give them more space the following year.

Try not to leave finished crops in too long. We are all guilty of leaving crops to go over that may start to flower and seed. Unless you want to save the seed or eat them, then rip them out as soon as the crop is waning. Have some garden compost or pelleted chicken manure pellets ready and re-dress the soil and then plant up quickly. See below.

10. HAVE PLENTY OF CROPS IN RESERVE Always sow a lot of the following and be ready to plant out when there are gaps. ■ LETTUCE: Always a good staple to have plenty of, so sow regularly in cell trays. Lettuce can be dropped into gaps in a plot at any time during the growing season. For example, you are part-way through digging up a row of potatoes. What are you leaving behind? A half row of empty space! Fill it with salad plants or have some broccoli or kale plants ready to go in. ■ RADISH SEED: Always a good fall back for a gap. Quickest crop to grow but also go over so keep sowing if you like radish. You will always have a gap somewhere for a few plants.


■ SALAD LEAVES MIXED: Always great to have cell trays of clumps of salad leaves growing. Just like lettuce, drop into gaps on the plot. ■ KALE: Can be grown all year round and small plants will still reap a few leaves to pluck for salads or stir-fries. They don’t have to be fully grown. Drop into gaps, as for lettuce. ■ BEANS: Dwarf French beans can be sown in April but also sow a few in May in cell trays and plant out if any gaps in July or August. You may be lucky and get a late harvest. ■ PEAS AND MANGETOUT: These can be successionally sown so start some off in cell trays and then drop the young plants into gaps in the plot. ■

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SWEETS FOR MY SWEET RAISING THE BED Watch TV presenter and gardening expert Katie Rushworth show you how to set up a raised bed vegetable garden http:// it ly/2zbjfBi http://bit.ly/2zbjfBi

If you’re looking for something sweet to keep your favourite person sweet for Valentine’s Day, why not make some delicious Valentine’s Cookies. You’ll find the recipe for this (full title: Heart Warming Valentine’s Cookies with Cinnamon Suggar) on Anna Pettigrew’s food and photography h site: www.cameraandclementine.com. Regular

readers of KG will know that Anna is our resident chef, serving up scrumptious recipes for us all to try out, month on month. In Anna’s own words, “Camera & Clementine is a vegetarian food blog founded on the principles of using healthy and seasonal produce in the kitchen.” Plenty of delicious dishes to explore on this site, organised according to the seasons – main courses, breakfasts, sides, drinks and foraging. Yummy!

GETTING THE CALL TWITTER VALENTINE VEG Steve Hammond Feb 14 Valentine’s Day, so please find enclosed one heart-shaped potato once found in the veg box

FACEBOOK FAVES FUNNY FEBRUARY Paul Wyman to The Gardeners Calendar What a funny month February is, one minute the warmth of the sun hints at the promise of spring and the next we’re back in the depths of winter. It’s sooo frustrating. I find myself wishing the spring was here so I can get sowing the trays of veg to go into the allotments.

@GrowWithKG 68 | FEBRUARY 2018


Michelle, also known as Bo or Chelle, is the writer behind The Bohemian Raspberry blog. She describes herself variously as wife, mother, allotmenteer, gardener, horticulture student, plant addict, self sufficient wannabe and eco warrior. “I just love gardening,” she says, adopting organic, green and ecologically sound methods. So here’s a snippet of one of her blogs about acquiring her second allotment: “When the day arrives when you get the call to say your name has come up next on the waiting list for an allotment, I don’t think anything is more exciting! “You sign the papers and this lovely bit of earth is yours and you are filled with enthusiasm and grand plans for cultivation.

SELECT TOMATOES Tomatoes must be one of the most popular crops to grow, an edible beauty you can grow indoors or outdoors, in small spaces, big spaces, in and around h and upside down. But with so many varieties to choosee from, which one is best for you? If you need a bit of help check out this useful Thompson & Morgan KitchenGardenMag

You’re going to grow beautiful and delicious crops and you can’t wait to get started. “I have just recently had this pleasure again and even though it’s only been three years since I took on my last plot (which I still have and plan to keep) and 10 years since I had my first ever plot I forgot the wonderful nasties that await you on an allotment…” For more visit: https:// thebohemianraspberry.com

Selector Guide which explains the main types of tomato yyou can grow, the difference between indeterminate determinate, semideterminate and cordon, and then a comprehensive table of varieties according tto type. Each entry has lin nks to further specific detaails about that particular varietyy. Tomtastic! Visit: www w.thompson-morgan.com/ tomato-selector-guide @GrowWithKG




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At last we can see an end to the freezing days of winter and look forward to spring. KG’s Steve Ott encourages us all to make those final preparations for our best ever gardening season ahead

t’s easy to take your eye off the ball in the depths of winter, allowing the weeks to slip by as spring advances. Before you know it, it’s time for the ‘big sow’ and you still haven’t bought your seeds or dug the plot! Don’t make that mistake; get yourself organised now and you’ll not only have your first choice of varieties, but all your tools and sundries will be close at hand so that everything goes into the ground or compost at the right time and gets the best possible start.

Many gardeners like to start their seeds off in trays where possible, giving them an early start away from the attention of pesky pests. Therefore, top of the list after seeds, onion sets and seed potatoes has to be clean cell trays or Rootrainers (deep, book-like cells) and cell trays. Or perhaps you prefer to sow into seed trays and to prick out later. Once your plants have established you’ll need some pots; small plastic ones are ideal, but you may prefer to try

biodegradable paper ones, so doing your bit to reduce that mountain of discarded plastic that is clogging our seas and oceans. Good trays and pots will last for several years with careful handling, but any that have seen better days are best discarded and replaced. If you haven’t already done it, clean soiled trays and pots with a good garden disinfectant such as Citrox. Compost is next on the list and this is one essential that is worth waiting for; check that

Starting your seeds off indoors in cell trays gives them the best possible start

A propagator is great for starting tender crops. Look for one with a good heat control

A simple lighting set-up can prevent those leggy tomato seedlings early in the year

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■ A fork and spade for digging and incorporating organic matter. This is something you should aim to get done by the end of the month really, if not sooner. However, more and more gardeners are deciding to take up ‘no-dig’ and simply to spread the compost or manure over the surface for the worms to pull in over winter; if so, just a fork will do. RIGHT: With practice a soil rake can produce a lovely even seed bed, removing plant debris and stones at the same time

“A propagator is a real boon for raising seeds of tender crops or for early sowings of most others”

you are buying fresh supplies and not bags that have been sitting in the garden centre all winter, especially if they are wet. The cheapest seed sowing or multi-purpose is fine for our veggies and the peat-free or low-peat options do seem to be much more reliable that they once were. A propagator is a real boon for raising seeds of tender crops or for early sowings of most others. Look for one with a ventilated lid and if you intend to grow a wide range of crops a model with an accurate temperature control is worthwhile. For those raising lots of seedlings, a heated bench or heated mat is a good investment and if you are very serious about your gardening some broad spectrum lighting can help you to extend the season both at the beginning and the end and also prevent weak ‘leggy’ seedlings.

…OR KEEP IT SIMPLE Perhaps you prefer to keep things simple? It is very true that with good soil and attention to detail, wonderful crops can be had from sowing direct into the ground. Here all you need is a basic tool kit and something to keep the ground fertile and productive. ➤ www.kitchengarden.co.uk

■ Although a fork can double as a rake, the purpose-made tool is better for distributing organic matter evenly over the soil, breaking down the surface lumps and is essential for levelling a seed bed before sowing or planting. It is also great for removing debris and large stones on stony soil. If you have large areas to prepare it is a good idea to have a heavier standard rake for breaking down the lumps and a much wider soil rake for levelling. ■ You will need a garden line if sowing in traditional rows or perhaps a straight edge if sowing short rows across a raised bed. The latter can be cut to length to fit the width of your beds and measurements added to make spacing of young plants at planting time easier. ■ A large dibber, especially one with measurements on it, can be very handy to help you to gauge depth when making a seed drill, ensuring that those seeds are actually buried 6mm (½in) deep and not an inch! RIGHT: Keep that hoe sharp!

■ A good pair of gardening gloves is a real asset – in fact a range of pairs for various jobs is a great idea – thin for hand weeding and planting, thick for removing tough weeds such as nettles and brambles, waterprooff for handling wet materials or after rain.

LEFT: The humble fork can double as a rake as well as a digging and lifting tool

■ A flat board such as a scaffold board is very handy when it comes to sowing in traditional beds as you can walk on this so as not to cause unnecessary compaction on your newly tilled soil. You can also use the edge as a guide for your seed drills… there is nothing worse than wonky drills! Of course you’ll need a watering can fitted with a reasonably fine rose (and a fine spray if sowing into trays). ■ Later on, when tending to your developing crops, a full length Dutch hoe for hoeing between rows is useful, as is a shorthandled hoe/weeder to get between plants. Keep the blade sharp so that it slices through weed stems with minimum effort. LEFT: A garden line keeps your rows on the straight and narrow

■ A good trowel with a comfortable, well-fitted handle is essential, especially when it comes to planting. One with measurements on the blade (e.g. one intended for bulb planting) can be useful, if not essential. LEFT: A home-made straight edge is always useful at planting time

■ Finally, where would we be without a wheelbarrow and/or a builder’s trug? Both are so useful for taking the strain when moving heavy materials, weeds or simply ferrying your tools and bumper harvests around! LEFT: A good trowel is ssomething to treasure. Not o only can you plant with it, but itt makes a handy measure for g gauging the space between p plants

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IT’S TIME TO… Depending on when you are reading this, it‘s your last call to get the winter soil preparations finished. Remove perennial weeds and apply bulky organic matter, where needed, while the weather still has time to help work on the soil to make a seed bed. Start to cover prepared soil for early sowings with black polythene or alternatively dust off those cloches and use those. Both will help to warm the soil, getting your sowings off to the best possible start. Black polythene will also encourage weed seeds to germinate, but deprived of light, most should soon die. Before sowing any seeds this spring, carry out a soil test using a simple kit from the garden centre. This will show you if your

Set aside an area for wildlife. A nettle or comfrey patch is beneficial, too

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Covering soil with cloches or black polythene helps to warm it in preparation for sowing

soil is deficient in lime or the ‘big three’ nutrients – nitrogen (N), phosphates (P) or potassium (K). You can then apply fertilisers as recommended to top these levels up if necessary. Clean up any areas of the plot that might be harbouring pests.

Start collecting your very own free supply of water now

A simple soil testing kit is inexpensive and really useful

Clear away weeds and any old debris. However, do keep wildlife in mind and if it is likely that gardener-friendly frogs, toads etc. may be sheltering there, delay the clean-up until next month. Consider setting aside a dedicated spot for helpful wildlife and plants so that they can thrive and help you on your plot. A patch of nettles and/or comfrey is an investment both for wildlife (nettles are great food for several butterfly species such as peacocks, but also for your plants when used as a mulch or liquid feed). Maybe you have room for a small pond which will attract frogs and also hedgehogs which

may come to drink. In return they’ll help keep down your slug population. Install that greenhouse, polytunnel, cold frame or mini greenhouse you’ve always wanted to help with your spring sowings. They really can help to stretch our short season and offer your seedlings protection from the weather and pests, too. Do you have any untapped opportunities to collect water? Perhaps a downpipe from a new shed or greenhouse? Then install a water butt – you’ll be glad you did during the drier months of the year. Consider a water diverting kit, too, if your water butt is near a drain to prevent overflowing.



FEBRUARY 2018 | 73

GAGES This is a fruit often overlooked mainly due to gardeners not knowing what it has to offer. Professional nurseryman and fruit expert David Patch suggests we are all missing out on a real sweetie


The ‘Cambridge Gage’ is a reliable cropper


hen choosing a new fruit tree to ‘tender, melting... most delicious flavour’. As for plant, there are certain things history... stones found on a shipwreck, confusion I always bear in mind, the first over who introduced them to the UK and the being: is the fruit expensive or favourite fruit of a 16th century French queen. hard to find in the shops (such as mulberries Gentle reader, read on! and quince)? No point in giving valuable garden Green gages probably originated in Armenia. space to fruit which can be bought cheaply and By the early 1500s they spread west through easily. Next, the fruit must be utterly delicious. Greece and Italy until they reached France. So It motivates me to do all the menial upkeep, besotted was Queen Claude, the wife of Francis like winter washing and checking greasebands, I, that she planted several trees at her chateau in if I know the reward at the end is worthwhile. Blois in the Loire Valley, and to this day they are And finally, if there is a little history involved still known in France as ‘Reine Claude’ plums. or a good anecdote, all the better. If there is Gage stones were found on the wreck of the one fruit that gives a resounding ‘yes’ to all Mary Rose which sank in 1545, so the fruit was of these, it is the gage. When at their peak, certainly known in the UK at this time, but they have a very short shelf-life, so probably only as a form of plum. you might be lucky enough In 1724 Sir William Gage to find them at a farmers’ imported some fruit trees “The sweetness market, but generally from France for his estate at the big supermarkets Hengrave Hall, near Bury puts all other don’t carry them. St Edmunds. It is said plums to shame, The fruit is divine, that one tree had its label and even the wellrich and sugary and missing, and when the described by the fruit was cropped a few loved ‘Victoria’ Victorian fruit expert years later the small plum has been Robert Hogg as green fruit were named described as ‘insipid in his honour. However, gages are and bland’ in not all green! Some turn comparison” a lovely translucent yellow when ripe, while others are flushed with dark burgundy red. It is hard to distinguish between a plum and a gage from a horticultural point of view, as they are all members of the same family. I think the best definition is that a gage is a dessert plum – the sweetness puts all other plums to shame, and even the well-loved Victoria plum has been described as ‘insipid and bland’ in comparison. ➤ FEBRUARY 2018 | 75


FAVOURITE VARIETIES When the fruit is this good, you can’t really go wrong with any variety – but the following are some of my personal favourites. ■ ‘JEFFERSON’S GAGE’ A small yellow gage which develops light red freckles as it ripens. Discovered in 1830 in the United States and named after the third President. A naturally compact tree, this is ideal for fan-training or for the smaller garden. It does need a pollinating partner but any plum within a quarter of a mile will do. It is one of the more consistent croppers among the gage varieties. ■ ‘ORIGINAL GREEN GAGE’ The original and still the very best-flavoured gage you can get. Small green fruit which can turn a very pale yellow when fully ripe, each one bursting with juice and sugar. Not without its drawbacks, as it is not the most reliable cropper and it does need a pollinating partner, but if only the very best will do – this is the one to go for. The ‘Cambridge Gage’ is a good alternative if you want more reliable crops.

‘Original Green Gage’

■ ‘OULLINS GAGE’ A chance seedling discovered in France and introduced by the nurseryman Massot of Oullins in 1860. Citron vert fruit, utterly delicious, but a more vigorous tree than some of the others. A great choice if you have the room for it. ■ ‘GOLDFINCH’ Bred from Jefferson’s Gage by the famous Laxton Brothers nursery in 1906, this has the wonderful flavour of its American parent but is also partially self-fertile. One tree on its own will set fruit (although the presence of another plum nearby will increase crops). ■ ‘GOLDEN TRANSPARENT’ Small yellow fruit sometimes mottled with pink red dots. Outstanding flavour, compact in growth and self-fertile too. My absolute favourite for an easy-to-grow gage.

‘Jefferson’s Gage’

Pictures: R V Roger www.rvroger.co.uk

Gages are very hardy, so can withstand the coldest of winters. However, like all plums they blossom in early spring and the flowers are susceptible to frost damage. They will also require all the summer sun you can afford them, as it is this sunlight which forms the sugars in the fruit. They can be grown as a small free-standing tree in a sheltered garden, but otherwise fan-trained on a south or west-facing wall is ideal. Pruning is exactly the same as for all other stone fruit – that is, prune in summer only, to avoid the dreaded silverleaf and bacterial canker. Remember that they fruit best on one-year-old wood, so don’t give the tree an all-over ‘haircut’. The only exception to this would be in the first year or two after planting a young tree, when you want to encourage good branch formation. In this case prune in a dry period in April – you’ll miss the period when the fungal disease spores are being carried by winter rains, but it is early enough in the year for the tree to respond to pruning with good new growth. Feed often in early spring with a high-potash fertiliser to encourage fruit set. Gages can be slightly shy to set fruit, especially when young, so build up potash reserves and starve of nitrogen to get the best possible crop. ■

‘Oullins Gage’

■ ‘COUNT ALTHANN’S GAGE’ Produced on the estate of Count Althann in Bohemia in the 1860s, this is a richly coloured gage, deep crimson black when fully ripe. Lovely gage flavour and regular crops make this one a good choice. ■ See classified pages for suppliers of fruit trees


‘Count Althann’s Gage’

‘Golden Transparent’

Young gage trees at R V Roger’s nursery

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Looking for an early start to your growing this year? Then take a look at Kings Seeds Early Starter Spring Catalogue. It contains an excellent range of veg plug plants, seed collections with different themes, bulbs for flowers and patio fruit trees.

This Fun to Grow range from Suttons is an enjoyable and educational way to get children growing flowers, fruit and veg. Specially developed for 4-10 year olds, these packs have been designed to link closely with Key Stage 1 of the National Curriculum. The new kits include goodies such as a tape measure in the sunflower pack to record the growth of their flowers.

PRICE: FREE www.kingsseeds.com; tel: 01376 570 000

PRICE: £1.99 PER PACKET www.suttons.co.uk; tel: 0844 326 2200

GARDEN STORE OUR ROUNDUP OF THE LATEST PRODUCTS AND SERVICES FOR KITCHEN GARDENERS A TASTE OF ITALY Ô Take a look at the 2018 catalogue from Franchi Seeds with its emphasis on Italian regional seed varieties. There are the regular products plus a range of new ones, including seeds for beekeepers, Tuscan olive trees, and natural vegan cosmetics.

GROW YOUR OWN MUSHROOMS Grow your own oyster mushrooms with this propagation kit, which comes with full cultivation instructions so you can enjoy your very own fresh mushrooms within weeks. PRICE: £13.95 www.bakker.com; tel: 0344 481 1001

PRICE: FREE www.franchiseeds.co.uk; tel: 0208 427 5020.

Ó TOOLS IN A TUBE Ô This set of four stainless steel, lightweight hand tools contains a hand trowel, hand fork, cultivator and transplanting tool, all the essentials for keeping on top of those jobs around your garden. All tools come with a leather hanging strap for easy storage, or simply keep them in the tube they come in. PRICE: £24.99 www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk; tel: 0844 557 6700 78 | FEBRUARY 2018


Trouble sleeping? Maybe eating the right veg is all you need, says nutritionist Susie Kearley


here’s been a fair bit of publicity recently about the effect of lack of sleep on people’s health and the economy, with new research reporting that sleep deprivation costs the UK economy £40bn a year and increases mortality. Fortunately, there are many things we can do to improve our chances of a good night’s sleep, including gardening and paying attention to good nutrition. The Sleep Council says: “Sometimes sleeplessness can be caused simply because we have not been active enough during the day.” One study showed that people who exercised for 20 to 40 minutes, four times a week, slept better than those who didn’t exercise at all. Any form of exercise will help your body use up surplus energy and wind down to a relaxingg ng is particularly sleep, but gardenin beneficial because it helps wind, you relax and unw it reduces stress and anxiety, and it putss you in a happy, healthy frame

Protein-rich foods can help to make you feel relaxed thanks to their effect on brain chemistry

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of mind, all of which are absolutely necessary for healthy, undisturbed sleep. Gardening doesn’t usually feel as hard or exhausting as a session in the gym because your mind is preoccupied with other things. You’re focused on nurturing your plants, not on how much your limbs hurt or your back aches (not exclusively anyway!). You’re focused on whether your crops are optimally planted, the best types of soil, companion planting, and the direction and intensity of the sun in different parts of your garden. Gardening is a highly stimulating activity and studies have shown that images and recordings of natural environments can reduce pain y and speed p p healing in and anxiety, up hospital wards. If you’re relaxed, free from paiin and anxiety, and feelin ng happy, you’ll sleep bbetter too. Another study showed thaat exercise can loower blood pressure, improve your mood and enhance selfesteem, all of which can help you relax and sleep soundly.

Gardening is stimulating, keeping both mind and body active

Soil: the great mood enhancer? www.kitchengarden.co.uk

RELAX DIRT MAKES YOU HAPPY – MAYBE In 2007, the University of Bristol published a study showing that common bacteria present in soil could enhance the mood of mice... and maybe, of people. Exposure to the soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, appeared to increase the brain’s level of serotonin, a happy chemical, which helps you sleep. The results of this treatment on humans have been patchy, showing only partial replication. But in a study of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, exposure to this beneficial bacteria reportedly increased their vitality, their appetite and their quality of sleep. They were also able to think more clearly and reported less pain than before. The lead researcher concluded that the results “leave us wondering if we shouldn’t all spend more time playing in the dirt”. Don’t, however, deliberately breathe in microbes from the soil, because there’s also a risk of breathing in a fungus called aspergillus. It’s generally thought to be harmless, but anyone with a weakened immune system could be susceptible to an aspergillus infection, which is highly undesirable. On balance, gardening can potentially help people sleep in many ways, from enhancing your mood, and reducing your levels of anxiety, to simply wearing you out, so you sleep soundly at night.

GARDEN PRODUCE AND SLEEP Protein-rich foods, like nuts, seeds, soya, cheese, meat or fish, oats, beans, lentils, hummus and eggs, contain tryptophan, which increases the melatonin and serotonin in the brain, making you feel relaxed. Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain, making you sleepy, so a healthy evening meal with a balanced nutritional profile will set you up for a good night’s sleep. Eating too close to bedtime, however, can make it difficult to sleep, so leave at least three hours between dinnertime and sleep. Also avoid stimulants like caffeine as they may keep you awake. ➤

CHAMOMILE TEA Chamomile tea has a reputation for helping you sleep. In 2005 a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that the tea had many health benefits, including improving quality of sleep. Consumption of chamomile tea was associated with an increase in the amino acid glycine, which helps to relax the muscles and nerves, and acts as a mild sedative. Glycine is sometimes sold as a supplemental sleep aid. You can make your own fresh chamomile tea by infusing the flowers of the plant in boiling water. An alternative to chamomile is passion flower tea, which is said to bring calm, relaxation and sleepiness.

LETTUCE OPIUM Lettuce contains lactucarium, a milky substance, which is found in the leaves but is more visible seeping from the stem when the leaves are cut off. Lactucarium, commonly called lettuce opium, has sedative properties and is used as a sleep enhancer in herbal medicine. Some experts suggest that simmering three to four large lettuce leaves in a cup of water for 15 minutes and sipping before bed, may help you sleep. Adding some fresh mint will enhance the taste.


Chamomile tea has many health benefits and may aid a good night’s sleep

LEAFY VEGETABLES It’s well known that a milky drink helps some people sleep, but it’s less well known that green leafy vegetables like kale and broccoli may help you sleep too. These vegetables are good sources of calcium, which assists the brain’s use of tryptophan to create melatonin – the sleep hormone. Spinach, mustard greens, spring greens and watercress are also good sources of calcium. So eat your greens and when night falls, you’ll be nutritionally prepared for a good night’s sleep.

Lettuce is said to have sedative properties

FEBRUARY 2018 | 81

A little honey in your bedtime drink may help you sleep soundly


two weeks. The study was based on the theory that the juice from tart cherries boosts levels of melatonin in your brain, which can help you sleep. Most participants did see some improvement in their sleep patterns, and another

A study in 2010 showed that a glass of tart cherry juice could help people suffering from insomnia to sleep slightly better. It was, however, a small-scale study, which only lasted

small-scale study, published in 2012, also showed that cherry juice improves sleep, so there may be some truth in the theory. There’s no harm in trying some cherry juice before bed, or fresh cherries for that matter, to see if they help you!

HONEY It’s a popular belief that honey can help people sleep, but views on how this happens vary. Some say that the sugars in honey, by raising insulin levels, enable tryptophan to enter the brain more easily. Tryptophan is an amino acid and precursor to melatonin, the sleep hormone, so that makes sense. Another theory is that honey supports the liver’s requirement for glycogen while you sleep, preventing you from waking and feeling the need to refuel. So a spoonful of honey before bed, perhaps with chamomile tea, may promote restful sleep.

Several studies have suggested that cherry juice is a good sleep enhancer

Don’t dis the dandelion!

DANDELION TEA & COFFEE Herbal teas can be relaxing, and many are naturally caffeine free. Dandelion leaf tea is a great liver and kidney tonic, which supports the body’s natural detoxification process and improves digestion, which can lead to better sleep. Fresh dandelion leaves, left to infuse in boiling water for five minutes, will provide a gentle infusion. Roasted dandelion root is available commercially as a caffeine-free tea or coffee preparation. It has a reputation for improving sleep, though you may need to try it for a month to see any benefit.

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Give your garden a lift with this elegant and simple-to-make obelisk. Joyce Russell shows you how


ven the smallest vegetable garden can function better if some plants are allowed to twine upwards to reach their full height. And flower borders always look nice with a frame or two to allow climbing plants to shine. Of course, you can buy metal, wooden, plastic and woven versions of frames in different shapes and sizes to fulfil these tasks, but how much nicer to make your own obelisk in a few simple steps. Make one to the size shown and it will fit neatly into any border. Make one with more canes, or shorter canes, or one that spreads over a larger plot of land. Once you have got the idea of how simple it is to make a beautiful obelisk, there will be little to stop your ambitions for more climbing plants.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS ■ 8 x 2.1m bamboo canes ■ Piece of plywood greater than 26cm square ■ Coir rope, or similar TOOLS: Jigsaw, drill plus 10mm bit, staple gun, tape measure, pencil, ruler, sandpaper Plate approx. 26cm diameter Note: you may need a slightly larger or smaller drill bit if using particularly large, g , or small,, diameter canes.








STEP 1: DRAW A CIRCLE Hold the plate on the piece of plywood and draw around it to get a neat circle. STEP 2: CUT OUT THE TOP Use the jigsaw to cut out the circle marked at step 1. Use a bench clamp or vice to hold the plywood in place when cutting. Aim for as even a curve as possible.

If you only have the means to cut straight edges, mark out a hexagon or square instead of a circle.

STEP 3: MARK POSITION OF HOLES IN TOP Use the ruler, or the edge of a straight scrap piece of timber, to mark the centre point of the circular piece of ply (imagine a clock face and draw a line between 12 and 6 and between 3 and 9 – where these cross is the centre point). Draw two more lines to divide the circle into eight even segments. Mark 20mm in from the edge on each of these lines to give eight evenly spaced drilling points around the edge. Mark another eight evenly spaced points closer to the centre. STEP 4: DRILL MARKED POINTS Use the drill and 10mm bit to make holes at all the points marked in step 3. The centre hole and inner ring of holes will allow for drainage so rainwater doesn’t pool on the top. The outer holes will Use a scrap bit of timber accommodate canes. underneath when Rub all rough edges with drilling. This stops the sandpaper. edges of the plywood from breaking as the bit goes through. STEP 5: POSITION CANES Push the fattest end of each cane into the ground to form a circle approximately 60cm in diameter. You can eyeball the spacing, but try to get an even gap between each cane. Push canes down about 30cm into the ground and firm soil down around the base of each one. ➤


Flowers and pods tend to grow towards the outside


Bean stems twine anticlockwise

FEBRUARY 2018 | 85


STEP 6: FIT CANES THROUGH TOP Fit the top of the canes through the outer ring of holes drilled in the plywood circle. Holes should allow the thin end of each cane to slide through and the angle of each should prevent the plywood from sliding down too far. If the top circle does slip down, simply widen the diameter at the base of the canes to create a more acute angle.


STEP 7: FIT ROPE Start at the bottom of one cane and wind the coir rope round each cane as you spiral up towards the top. Aim for a bit of tension in the rope without it pulling so tight that it twists the whole structure (a small twist can look attractive, but you don’t want to create undue force on any part). Tie the rope to the canes at the start and finish.


STEP 8: FIX ROPE IN PLACE If the rope is taut enough then the angle of the canes should prevent it from slipping. If in any doubt, use the staple gun to fix it in place. Or as an alternative, and if you have the right tool, use hot glue to fix the rope to the frame. Bear in mind that the obelisk may bear a heavy weight of foliage.


STEP 9: STRAIGHTEN IT UP! Stand back and look at the finished structure. Push some canes a little deeper if the obelisk doesn’t look straight. This can be an optical illusion if the ground slopes, or other plants nearby aren’t vertical, but it is better for the obelisk to look good and be a small bit off kilter than to be perfectly level and look strange! STEP 10: SOW AND PLANT Sow or plant around the obelisk, positioning one plant beside each cane.

ON-GOING CARE ■ Choose healthy plants with intact growing points. Don’t plant out climbing beans until all frosts have passed. Water young plants in well if soil is dry. ■ A mix of climbing French beans and sweet peas can give an attractive display. Runner beans have more dense foliage than some other plants. The obelisk is strong enough to support them, but close planting can slightly overwhelm a display.

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■ Small plants may need to be directed towards canes until they start to twine by themselves – beans twine anticlockwise so don’t force them the wrong way! Tie sweet pea stems in loosely so they don’t slide down to the ground when fully grown or if battered by strong winds. ■ You can add a few small twiggy sticks round the base to protect small plants and help raise them up off the ground. Protect from slugs and snails at the same time.

9 ■ Flowers will tend to grow towards the light. This makes them accessible to pollinators, but it also means that pods hang mostly on the outside of the frame and are easy to pick. ■ Canes will last around three seasons, if the obelisk is lifted and stored under cover when a crop is finished. The whole thing can be painted, or treated with a garden-friendly oil or stain, if you want to prolong the life of the obelisk. On the other hand, replacing canes every few years isn’t too difficult or expensive.

10 ■ This project is a good one for children to help with, provided an adult does the cutting and drilling. Parts are easy to assemble and small children love watching how tall something can grow from a seed. ■ Try growing outdoor trailing cucumbers or melons over the obelisk in a sunny and sheltered corner of the garden. It can also make a pretty base for rambling pumpkins and squashes, but choose a small-fruited variety so stems don’t snap. ■



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Greenhouses can be very expensive so if your budget doesn’t go that far, why not opt for a plastic alternative? Here are a few the KG team tried out this month






GARDMAN WALKIN GROW ARC This compact arc greenhouse has a simple ‘push-fit’ tubular steel frame, pre-shaped cover and integral shelving. Reinforced UV-stabilised green nylon cover. Access and ventilation is via the roll-up zipped door. Dimensions: (W)143x(L)73x(H)190cm (56x28¾x75in)

Very easy to assemble, lightweight (so easy to move) but also sturdy, this greenhouse will accommodate taller plants such as tomatoes in the centre, with handy shelves left and right for young plants in pots and seed trays. Longer (standard) version available too.

TWO WESTS & ELLIOT www.twowests.co.uk PRODUCT CODE: SKU: GARC PRICE: £64.99

Quality Effectiveness Value for money

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★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★






This is 2m wide and more than 1.5m tall (6½x5ft) with front and back door panels that can be partially or completely unzipped. It has a sewn-in mesh ground sheet and the cover is made from tough UV-stable PVC. Can be free standing or fixed to a wall.

Fitting standard size growing bags and trays, this is ideal for tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and aubergines. There are three upper vents which allow canes to pass through. The front zip-up panel fully opens and easily clips back, allowing total access.

This can be used to raise and harden off seedlings in spring. The shelves can be removed to grow taller plants like peppers and aubergines. It has a coated, tubular steel frame and reinforced cover with roll-up door. (H)159x (W)69x(D)49cm (62½x27x19in)

GREENHOUSE SENSATION www.greenhousesensation.co.uk PRODUCT CODE: N/A PRICE: £49.95

SMART GARDEN PRODUCTS https://products.sgpuk.com PRODUCT CODE: 6510005 PRICE GUIDE: £49.99


This will suit taller plants in particular to make the most of the space. The zipped front is removable and can be replaced with an insect netting front if needed. The guy ropes provide stability in strong winds.

Quality Effectiveness Value for money


★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★

TOP PICK: BEST FOR TALL PLANTS A good product for taller plants. Very easy to assemble and lightweight. We liked the vents for the canes, and the clips to secure the rolled-up front in place.

Quality Effectiveness Value for money

★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★

This is so easy to assemble and offers versatile under cover growing options. Perfect for seed trays, seedlings and young plants but also, as the season progresses, the shelves can be removed to make way for taller plants.

Quality Effectiveness Value for money

★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★

FEBRUARY 2018 | 89





Made from super clear UV-stabilised PVC with a zinc-coated wire frame, this cover has a large top window vent with open/close flap for ventilation control, an insect net pane, and a twin zip door. Dimensions: (W)1x(L)1x(H)1.2m (39x39x48in).

This comes with glass fibre poles, an easy access zip and a copper strip along the base to deter slugs and snails. The netting allows access for pollinating insects. A plastic cover can be bought separately. Size: 1.2x1.2m (4x4ft).

This mini greenhouse has a steel frame, is lightweight and therefore easy to move around. The transparent cover has zippers to give easy access for watering. Dimensions: 1x1x1m (39x39x39in) and is made of 0.8 mm thick polyethylene.

DOBIES www.dobies.co.uk PRODUCT CODE: 570714 PRICE: £29.99 (Cover); £29.99 (Raised bed kit)

HARROD HORTICULTURAL www.harrodhorticultural.com PRODUCT CODE: GNE-365 + GNE-364 PRICE: £29.95 + £11.95 (POLYTHENE COVER)

BAKKER.COM www.bakker.com PRODUCT CODE: N/A PRICE: £23.95

A versatile, robust mini-greenhouse that will accommodate a good range of plants. Relatively easy to assemble, it fits securely over a 1m square raised bed (purchase separately). A very practical option for small-scale, undercover growing.

Quality Effectiveness Value for money

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★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★

TOP PICK: BEST FOR VERSATILITY This is a good product in itself for keeping out birds and butterflies, but if you add the polythene cover it is an effective mini-greenhouse too.

Quality Effectiveness Value for money

★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★

A handy little greenhouse – compact and functional. As it pops up as soon as you start to open it up, no work is involved. Fine for starting off seeds, protecting seedlings, young plants and growing on a small scale.

Quality Effectiveness Value for money

★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★



FEBRUARY 2018 | 91




6 RASPBERRY ‘POLKA’ CANES Few things can top the sweet summer taste of fresh raspberries and now you can try a double crop of multi-awardwinning raspberries for free*! ‘Polka’ is a medium to large variety, holding awards both domestically at the National Fruit Show and internationally, showcasing its exceptional fruit quality. Bred in Poland with ‘Autumn Bliss’ as one of its parents, the virtually spine-free canes will yield double the crop of that variety. It will crop up to two weeks earlier, from late July to October, even when in less desirable soils. Our specially selected canes are propagated from disease-free certified stock, and will have well-developed root systems when you receive them, so they will establish fast st and give an excellent crop. Worth £12.95! Delivered d in seven to 10 days.


LONG CROPPING STRAWBERRY COLLECTION (AND MINI COLLECTION) Three of the best strawberry varieties to extend your cropping season: ■ EXTRA EARLY STRAWBERRY – ‘MALLING CENTENARY’: Bred to mark the 100th anniversary of the leading East Malling Research Station in Kent. This variety has a superb flavour with uniform conical shaped fruit which is well displayed on the plant, making picking quick and easy. Fruiting from early to late June (earlier if grown under cloches).

■ MID-SEASON SAVE STRAWBERRY OVER – ‘ELEGANCE’: Expect exceptional fruit quality with this strawberry. When we saw ‘Elegance’ in trials we were taken aback with the large number of heavy fruited trusses on strong, disease resistant, upright plants. It has a magnificent flavour.


■ LATE SEASON STRAWBERRY – ‘MALWINA’: Probably the latest-fruiting strawberry worth growing in our gardens. ‘Malwina’ has large fruits which are full of flavour and will crop through to the end of July. It is also resistant to many strawberry diseases. Delivered as dormant, bare-rooted A+ grade plants. Offer price: Full collection (30 plants, 10 of each) £29.95. Mini collection (15 plants, five of each) £18.95. Or buy the plants seperately (see order form)



*JUST PAY £5.95 p&p

SAVE £43.90

This deliciously sweet tasting, trailing variety can harvest up to 1.3kg (2.8lb) of fruit from one hanging basket! ‘Black Cascade’ is thornless and will fruit in its first year. Plants are compact and produce arching, trailing stems which become loaded with fruit from August through to October. The berries are large and sweet, perfect for eating fresh as well as for making pies, crumbles and jam. Just plant up a hanging basket or patio container with ‘Black Cascade’ and enjoy harvesting tasty blackberries from the patio! Delivered as 3 x 9cm potted plants.

SAVE £9.95

Offer price £19.90 92 | FEBRUARY 2018




FRAMBERRY FRUIT PLANT A breakthrough in soft fruit breeding has created this wonderful new variety which looks like a strawberry, but tastes like a raspberry and strawberry combined – just delicious! The plants grow in a similar way to strawberries and are easy to maintain. Grow in hanging baskets and containers. Delivered as a 9cm potted plant. Offer price: £7.95 or 3 plants for £15.90

LONG CROPPING BLUEBERRY COLLECTION Easy to grow, manage and harvest, remaining productive for many years, blueberries make great container plants in ericaceous compost – spring flowers, summer fruit, autumn leaf colour. Our all-season blueberry collection contains three great varieties:

SAVE £14.95

■ ‘DRAPER’ – This large-berried blueberry is our early to mid-season favourite, fruiting from late July until mid-August. The bushes are highly productive and the large, firm berries have a crisp and sweet flavour which sets the mouth tingling. Extremely resistant to common diseases. ■ ‘BLUECROP’ – This is the most widely grown blueberry in the world. It’s reliable, very high yielding with an excellent flavour – not quite as sweet as some blueberries. ‘Bluecrop’ has a nice “bite”. The mid-season fruits are a delightful powder-blue colour and the bush is incredibly vigorous and establishes quickly and strongly. The autumn colour is tremendous with beautiful deep red leaves. ■ ‘AURORA’ – Our new recommendation for a very late variety – late August and September. The berries are large and darkly coloured, best picked when fully ripe to get the greatest results – a rich, all-round tart flavour which jazzes up the breakfast cereal! Strong growing and highly productive. Delivered as 3 x 2ltr potted plants (1 of each).





Long Cropping Strawberry Collection 10x3



Long Cropping MINI Strawberry Collection 5x3



10 Strawberry ‘Malling Centenary’



10 Strawberry ‘Elegance’



10 Strawberry ‘Malwina’



Framberry Fruit Plant



Framberry Fruit Plant x3



3 Blackberry ‘Black Cascade’ Fruit Plants



Long Cropping Blueberry Fruit Plant Collection 1x3



Blueberry ‘Draper’ Fruit Plant



Blueberry ‘Bluecrop’ Fruit Plant



Blueberry ‘Aurora’ Fruit Plant



FREE* 6 Raspberry ‘Polka’ Canes

£5.95 p&p







I enclose my cheque payable to D T Brown OR please debit my Mastercard/Visa account (delete as applicable)

❑ Visa

❑ Mastercard

Name Address

Offer price £29.90, or buy the plants separately for £14.95 each Postcode Telephone

HOW TO ORDER Call the credit card and debit card order hotline on 0845 371 0532* (open 8am to 8pm weekdays and 9am to 5pm weekends). Only orders above £10 by phone please. *calls cost 3p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge. Or send a cheque made payable to D T Brown Seeds to Kitchen Garden FEBRUARY Offers (KG18FEB), D T Brown Seeds, Bury Road, Newmarket, CB8 7PQ.

Email address

All items despatched in mid-January. Offer subject to availability, only one FREE collection per household. D T Brown reserves the right to substitute with a product of equal or greater value. This collection offer is only available on the varieties listed in this offer and can’t be combined with any other offer. Please note that a £5.95 p&p charge will apply should you not take up the free item.


Please fill in Card No below

Expiry date Security No

Signature Tick if you do not wish to receive further product information from D.T. Brown. Offers are subject to availability. ❑

FEBRUARY 2018 | 93





Garden on a Roll borders are created by designer Antony Henn, enabling anyone to create the perfect garden border without the need for specialist garden design services. It’s as easy as planting by numbers. You simply order online, choosing your style, width and length of border, and everything you need arrives at your door, ready to plant. Garden on a Roll grows its own beautiful plants and sends them out nationwide from its Hertfordshire nursery, with the aim of encouraging a new generation to get into gardening. “Designing and creating beautiful gardens is great fun and very satisfying but I had this ambition to share my passion for plants and gardening with people who had little or no experience,” says Antony. His complete border-in-a-box kits include biodegradable paper plans and all the plants required.


You just peg down the plan, match the ‘lettered’ plants with the markers on the plan, and plant them through the paper. The kits also include a trowel, pegs, gloves and fertiliser. Prices start at £65. There are eight border styles – Mixed Shady Border, Mixed Sunny Borrder, Wildlife Border, English E Cottage Border, Mediterranean Border, Evergreen Low Maintenance Border, Sensory Border and Winter Border – and our three winners will be able to pick their style. Find out more at www.gardenonaroll.com We have three prizes of a 3m by 60cm Garden on a Roll border, each worth £140, to give away.

WINTER GARDENING WRAPPED UP Featuring advanced insulating yarn, a long-looped thermal pile and a soft brushed inner, Heat Holders products are possibly the warmest in the world. Its signature Originals socks have an impressive 2.34 tog rating, and the company has now expanded its range to include thermal socks of various lengths, sizes and types plus hats, neck warmers, gloves, jumpers, trousers, tights, leggings, joint warmers, underwear and blankets. Perfect for winter gardening, Heat Holders Wellington Boot Socks are slightly longer than other designs in the range and have fold-over cuffs to keep more of your legs warm and ensure they stay up while

94 | FEBRUARY 2018

you’re working. Our lucky winners will also be kitted out with a Heat Holders Hat, Neck Warmer, Gloves, Zippered Fleece and – for cosy evenings once the gardening’s done – a Snuggle Ups blanket.

Find out more and buy online at www.heatholders.co.uk We have three Heat Holders prize bundles, each worth £102.94, to give away.



GROWING RANGE FOR LITTLE GARDENERS Aimed at helping parents and grandparents to engage the next generation of gardeners, the Little Gardeners range from Johnsons includes easy-to-grow flower and vegetable seeds, an Indoor Cress Garden, Seed Starter Pots, Complete Grow Kits, My First Growing Game and My First Mini Greenhouse. All come with comprehensive, easy-to-follow instructions. Each product in the range helps children to meet National Curriculum learning targets as well as providing handson growing activities. Little Gardeners even has its own website at www.little-gardeners. co.uk, which combines fun and facts with easy-to-navigate areas such as the Fun Zone, Little Gardeners’ Academy and Meet the Gang page. The Little Gardeners range is available from garden centres, supermarkets and leading DIY stores and at www.johnsonsseeds.com

We have 27 prizes of an Indoor Cress Garden, a Super Giant Pumpkin Starter Pot and a Mini Sunflowers Complete Grow Kit, each worth a total of £11, to give away.

Say goodbye to weedy borders with Gro-Sure Smart Cover, an innovative new wood-fibre mulch that has the appearance of freshly dug soil. Wind, animals and sloping ground can make other mulches look messy quickly. Gro-Sure Smart Cover uniquely locks together, staying neat and tidy for longer. Offering 75% better weed protection than bark, it is ideal for those looking for a natural yet easy method of weed control. It protects plants from frost and drought by creating a microclimate to keep roots insulated in winter and moist in summer. One 100-litre bag of Gro-Sure Smart Cover (RRP £9.99) will treat 50% more ground than an equivalent bag of bark. Gro-Sure Smart Cover is available from all good garden product retailers. Find your nearest supplier using the stockist locator at www.gardenhealth.com It is also available from www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk We have six prizes of five bags of Gro-Sure Smart Cover, each worth a total of £49.95, to give away. www.kitchengarden.co.uk

KG FEBRUARY GIVEAWAYS Simply fill in the details below and return to us at: Kitchen Garden February-18 Giveaways, Mortons Media Group Ltd, PO Box 99, Horncastle, Lincolnshire LN9 6LZ. You can also enter online for free at: www.kitchengarden.co.uk Closing date for entries: Wednesday, January 31, 2018 Name Address Postcode Telephone Email Address To enter: Once you have supplied your details, cut out and send this coupon to the address above and you will automatically be entered into the following competitions: Borders made easy (p.94) ✔ Winter gardening wrapped up (p.94) ✔

Growing range for little gardeners (p.95) ✔ Smart alternative to mulch (p.95) ✔


Only tick this box if you do not wish to receive information from Mortons Media Group regarding or relating to current offers of products or services (including discounted subscription offers) via email/post/phone ❑ On occasion Mortons Media Group Ltd may permit third parties, that we deem to be reputable, to contact you by email/post/phone/fax regarding information relating to current offers of products or services which we believe may be of interest to our readers. If you wish to receive such offers please tick this box. ❑

❚ For full giveaway terms and conditions please visit: www.kitchengarden.co.uk ❚

FEBRUARY 2018 | 95


DIARY DATES VISIT A SHOW, TAKE A TOUR, ENROL ON A COURSE POTATO DAYS BRIXHAM POTATO EVENING FEBRUARY 1. Brixham Town Hall, New Road, Brixham, Devon. Large range of seed potatoes, heritage seeds, sets, fruit trees and bushes; organised by Stoney Park Allotment Association; 2.30-7pm. 01749 860039 www.pennardplants.com SKELMERSDALE POTATO DAY FEBRUARY 3. Concourse Shopping Centre, Skelmersdale, Lancashire. Many potato varieties, veg seeds, sets, soft fruit, fruit trees; organised by West Lancashire Allotment Federation; 10am-3pm. www.wlaf.btck.co.uk SHROPSHIRE POTATO DAY FEBRUARY 10. Montford Village Hall, Montford, near Shrewsbury. Around 50 varieties seed potatoes, seeds, sets, fruit bushes and other stalls; light breakfasts, lunches and cakes; 9am-3pm. 01939 260935 www.shropshireorganic gardeners.org.uk ROOTS & SHOOTS POTATO DAY FEBRUARY 11. Walnut Tree Walk, Kennington, London SE11. Potatoes, seeds, sets, fruit trees and bushes and other stalls; great refreshments; 11am2pm. 020 7587 1131 www.rootsandshoots.org.uk MARPLE POTATO DAY FEBRUARY 11. Senior Citizens Hall, Memorial Park, Marple, near Manchester. Many potato varieties, veg seeds, sets, soft fruit, fruit trees; 10am-2pm. www.marpleallotments.org.uk MOLD POTATO DAY FEBRUARY 17. Daniel Owen Centre, Earl Road, Mold, Flintshire. Many potato varieties, veg seeds, sets, soft fruit, fruit trees; 9am-3pm. 07884 430732 www.brighterblooms.co.uk PRESTON POTATO DAY FEBRUARY 18. Brighter Blooms, Walton Flats Nursery, Gillibrand Street, Walton-leDale, Preston, Lancashire. 90+ potato varieties, veg seeds, sets, soft fruit, fruit trees; 10am-2pm. 07884 430732 www.brighterblooms.co.uk 96 | FEBRUARY 2018


Mid-Suffolk Showground, Stonham Barns, Stonham Aspal, Stowmarket, Suffolk. Many varieties of potato, onions sets, tools and other stalls; seed swap, chip tasting; organised by Ipswich Organic Gardeners; 9.30am-1.30pm. www.eapd.btck.com SE ESSEX POTATO DAY FEBRUARY 24. Growing Together Westcliff, Fairfax Drive, Westcliff-on-Sea. Over 30 varieties of seed potato (some organic), onion sets, advice, seed swap; organised by South East Essex Organic Gardeners; 10am-2pm. http://seeog.org.uk/ CALDBECK POTATO DAY FEBRUARY 25. Village Hall, Caldbeck, Cumbria. Many potato varieties, veg seeds, sets, soft fruit, fruit trees; organised by Caldbeck Gardening Group; 10am-2pm. 07884 430732 www. brighterblooms.co.uk DAMERHAM POTATO DAY MARCH 4. Damerham Village Hall, Fordingbridge, Hampshire. Seed potatoes, seeds, onion sets, fruit; organised by Damerham Horticultural Society; 10.30am1.30pm. www.ddhs.co.uk

WAKEFIELD RHUBARB FESTIVAL FEBRUARY 23-25 Town centre, Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Wakefield celebrates its famous rhubarb heritage; local food and drink, cookery demos, visit the rhubarb forcing sheds. www.experiencewakefield.co.uk

For more potato days in February visit our website: www.kitchengarden.co.uk and click on the Diary Dates tab


We have made every effort to ensure these details were correct at the time of going to press, but recommend you check with the organisers before travelling www.kitchengarden.co.uk


SHAFTESBURY SEED FAIR FEBRUARY 17. Town Hall, High Street, Shaftesbury, Dorset. Seed swap, plants and seeds for sale, books on gardening and cooking, gardening advice; 9am-12.30pm. www.beansandherbs.co.uk TARLAND SEED SWAP FEBRUARY 24. MacRobert Hall, Tarland, Aberdeenshire. Seed swap, seed potatoes; 10am-1pm. www.tarland.org.uk/gone-to-seed

SEEDY SATURDAY LEWES FEBRUARY 3. Town Hall, High Street, Lewes, Sussex. Seed swap, plants and seeds for sale, talks and workshops, cafe; 10am3pm. www.commoncause.org.uk/ seedy-saturday HEREFORD SEED SWAP FEBRUARY 3. Courtyard Theatre Foyer, Hereford. Seeds, plants, tool sharpening service; talk by Chris Collins; 10am-2pm. 01531 VEG & FRUIT 671004 www.swapseeds.org.uk GROWING SEEDY SUNDAY BRIGHTON GROW VEG NO DIG FEBRUARY FEBRUARY 4. Brighton & Hove 10, 11 OR 21; MARCH 3,10,11 6th Form College, Dyke Road. OR 31. Alhampton, Shepton Seed swap table, seed potatoes, Mallet, Somerset. Day course with and many stalls plus speakers, Charles Dowding; 10.30am-4pm. cookery demos, cafe; 10.30amBook on 01749 860292 www. 4.30pm. www.seedysunday.org charlesdowding.co.uk SEED SWAP SUNDAY GET GROWING FEBRUARY 16 WELLINGTON OR 23, MARCH 9. River FEBRUARY 11. Cotttage HQ, Park For a full list Dolphin Pub, arm, nr Axminster, Fa of shows, festivals, Waterloo Road, Devon. Skills and D events and courses Wellington, techniques to this month please visit Somerset. Bring make the most our website www. & swap seeds, of your growing kitchengarden.co.uk gardening tips, space; 9.30amand choose the Diary heritage seeds 5pm. 01297 5 Dates category. available; 2-4pm. 30300, www. 63 www.ttw.org.uk rive cottage.net

SIMPLIFYING THE RULES FEBRUARY 17. West Dean College, West Dean, Chichester, West Sussex. Easier ways to a successful vegetable and fruit garden, with Charles Dowding; 9.30am-3pm. Book on 01243 818300 www.westdean.org.uk BASICS OF VEGETABLE GROWING FEBRUARY 27. Barnsdale Gardens, The Avenue, Exton, Oakham, Rutland. Tips for beginners; 10.30am-12.30pm. Book on 01572 813200 www. barnsdalegardens.co.uk

THE VEGETABLE GARDEN MONTH BY MONTH FEBRUARY 27. RHS Centre, Pershore College, Avonbank, Pershore, Worcestershire. Covering February-April; talk from Pennard Plants; 2-4pm. Book on 01386 554609 rhs@warwickshire.ac.uk GROW YOUR OWN VEG MARCH 7 OR 10. Waterperry Gardens, near Wheatley, Oxfordshire. Practical course for any size of plot; 10am-4pm. 01844 339254 www.waterperrygardens.co.uk

ORGANIC GROWING FEBRUARY 21 Ryton Organic Gardens, Wolston Lane, near Coventry. Introduction to the principles; 10am-1pm. Book on 02476 303517 www.gardenorganic.org.uk



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GRAFTING OF APPLE TREES FEBRUARY 7 East Malling Research, Kent. Whip and tongue grafting to produce maiden trees, change varieties, add pollinator branches, tree repair. Day course. Book on 01732 523755 www.emsc.org.uk

FEBRUARY 2018 | 97

It might be the shortest month of the year but Anna Pettigrew is not short of ideas for scrumptiouss dishes, starring our best seasonal veg


A lovely and rich cake with plenty of flavour thanks to zesty oranges and sweet pecans.

Preparation time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 35-40 minutes ■ 300g/10½oz soft light brown sugar ■ 300ml/10½fl oz sunflower oil ■ 3 medium free-range eggs ■ 300g/10½oz plain flour ■ 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda ■ 1 tsp baking powder ■ 1 tsp ground cinnamon ■ ½ tsp ground ginger ■ ½ orange, zest of ■ ½ tsp salt ■ 300g/10½oz carrots, grated ■ 100g/3½oz pecans, chopped FOR THE TOPPING: ■ 150g/5oz full fat cream cheese ■ 30g/1oz unsalted butter, softened ■ 200g/7oz icing sugar ■ ½ orange, zest of ■ 50g/2oz pecans, chopped 1. Preheat the oven to 170C/fan 160C/ gas mark 3. Line a 23 x 33cm (8½ x 13in) tray with baking parchment. 2. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, oil and eggs together until smooth. Slowly add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt, and continue to beat until well mixed. 3. Stir in the grated carrots, orange zest and chopped pecans until they are evenly dispersed. Pour into the lined tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 20 minutes, then cool fully on a wire rack before icing. 4. To make the icing, use an electric whisk to blend the cream cheese and butter together. Add the icing sugar in a few separate additions until it is all combined; then add the orange zest and whisk on high speed for five minutes until the mixture is thick, pale and light. 5. Spread the icing over the cooled cake and arrange pecans around the edge of the cake.


Serve as tapas! Served as a tapas, or part of a bigger salad spread, these tasty little carrots are flavoured with bay leaf and garlic, and are a great addition to your lunch table.

Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 12 minutes ■ 750g/ 1½lb carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into rounds ■ 1 bay leaf ■ 2 cloves garlic ■ 1 tsp cumin seeds ■ 3 tbsp good olive oil ■ 1 tbsp white wine vinegar ■ Salt & pepper ■ 1 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped

1. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the cumin, bay leaf, carrots and a pinch of salt. Cook them for 10-12 minutes until tender. 2. Meanwhile finely slice the garlic and mix together the oil and vinegar. Set aside. 3. Drain the cooked carrots and immediately pour over the garlic, oil and vinegar while they are still steaming hot. Set aside to let the flavours marinade for five minutes. 4. When ready, season the dish with salt and pepper and add the coriander. Transfer to a serving dish, and serve. ➤

FEBRUARY 2018 | 99


Add extra greens to your fish pie

One of the most comforting winter soups around – this chowder will ensure you feel all warm and cosy this month!

Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes ■ 280g/10oz undyed, smoked haddock ■ 500ml/17½fl oz milk ■ 1 tbsp olive oil ■ 1 tbsp butter ■ 3 medium leeks, washed and sliced ■ 2 bay leaves ■ 2-3 large potatoes, peeled and diced ■ 500ml/17½fl oz fish stock ■ 125g/4½oz sweetcorn ■ 142ml/5fl oz carton single cream ■ A large handful of roughly chopped fresh parsley ■ Pepper to taste 1. Lay the haddock and bay leaves in a pan and pour over the milk. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer for one minute. Remove from the heat and leave undisturbed for about five minutes, until the haddock is just cooked. Lift the haddock from the milk, remove the skin and bones and flake on to a plate. Reserve the milk for later. 2. Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and gently fry the leeks, followed by the potatoes. Pour in the stock and reserved milk. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. 3. Next add the flaked haddock, sweetcorn and cream. Season with pepper and stir in the parsley. Heat through gently, then serve with crackers or bread. 100 | FEBRUARY 2018

Add some extra greens to your fish pie with this leek topped recipe – delicious served piping hot straight from the oven

Preparation time: 25 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes ■ 500ml/17½fl oz milk ■ 200ml/7fl oz single cream ■ 300g/10½oz white fish fillet such as pollock or coley ■ 200g/7oz smoked salmon pieces ■ 75g/2½oz butter ■ 30g/1oz plain flour ■ 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley ■ 1 tbsp grainy mustard ■ 100g/3½oz peas ■ 800g/28oz peeled floury potatoes ■ 1 large leek, thinly sliced and washed well

1. Put the milk into a large pan and bring to the boil. Add the white fish fillets and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until just cooked through. Lift the fillets on to a plate to cool slightly and strain the liquid into a jug. 2. When the fish is cool enough to handle, break it into large flakes, discarding the skin and any bones. Spread over the base of a 1.5-litre shallow ovenproof dish and scatter over the smoked salmon pieces. 3. Melt 50g (1½oz) butter in a pan, add the flour and cook, stirring, for one minute. Take the pan off the heat and gradually stir in the reserved milk. Return to the heat and slowly bring back to the boil, stirring all the time. Simmer the sauce for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste, stir in the parsley and mustard, then pour over the fish. Set aside. 4. Boil the potatoes in salted water for 20 minutes or until soft. Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a small pan, add the sliced leek and cook gently for 3-4 minutes, until tender. 5. Drain the potatoes well, return to the pan and mash with the cream until smooth. Stir in the buttery leeks. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 6. Preheat the grill to medium. Spoon the mash over the top of the pie and spread it out in an even layer. Rough up the surface with a fork or the back of a spoon and grill the top of the pie for 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.


Serve up at the weekend!

A great alternative to couscous or rice, blitzing up raw cauliflower makes a great side dish or salad

Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 10 minutes FOR THE SALAD ■ 1 medium cauliflower head ■ 1 small red onion, finely diced ■ 2 garlic cloves, minced ■ 1 small bunch fresh coriander ■ 4 small radishes, cut into small cubes ■ A few leaves of kale, finely shredded ■ 1 tsp coconut oil Cauliflower cheese is amazing, so is cheese on toast – here you get to eat both at once!

Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes ■ 1 small head of cauliflower, sliced into flat, 1cm (3/8in) thick pieces ■ 1 tablespoon olive oil ■ Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste ■ 2 tablespoons butter, softened ■ 6 slices wholegrain bread ■ 3 thick slices mature Cheddar ■ A few rocket leaves FOR THE MAYONNAISE: ■ 3 tbsp mayonnaise ■ 1 small garlic clove, minced ■ 2 tsp wholegrain mustard ■ 2 tsp fresh lemon juice ■ Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas mark 6. 2. Place the sliced cauliflower on a large baking sheet and season with salt and black pepper, and drizzle with a tbsp olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes or until cauliflower is golden brown and tender. Remove from oven and set aside. 3. Meanwhile, make the mayo by adding the mayonnaise, garlic, mustard and lemon juice to a small bowl. Stir until combined. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. 4. Butter the outsides of the bread. Spread the insides of the bread slices with the mayo mixture. Layer the cheddar, roasted cauliflower, and a few bits of rocket. Top with the other slice of bread. 5. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and place the sandwiches butter side down. Place a chopping board on top to flatten the sandwiches slightly. Cook for 4-6 minutes, or until the cheese starts to melt and the bread is golden brown. Carefully flip the sandwich over and cook for an additional about 3-4 minutes on the other side. 6. Cut sandwiches in half and serve immediately.

FOR THE DRESSING ■ 2 tbsp peanut butter ■ 1 inch ginger piece, peeled ■ 2 limes, juice only ■ 1 tsp organic honey ■ ¼ cup water ■ ½ tsp sea salt 1. Remove the cauliflower greens, cut into florets, rinse and drain well. 2. Place the florets in the food processor and pulse until you obtain what looks like rice. 3. Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and garlic and fry for a minute. 4. Add the cauliflower, mix to combine and cook for five minutes on low heat, until the cauliflower is tender. 5. Remove from the heat and add the cauliflower, kale and coriander to a large bowl and mix to combine. 6. Place the dressing ingredients in the blender, and whiz to obtain a smooth, creamy liquid. 7. Pour over the cauliflower salad and toss carefully, to combine. Set aside to cool. 8. Serve cold. ■

FEBRUARY 2018 | 101


KNOWING ME, KNOWING HUGH An advocate of all things organic and artisan, and a passionate ecological activist to boot, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall wants the world to wake up to the wonders of vegetable variation


t’s no secret in the culinary industry that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is obsessed with where food comes from. His dedication to ecologically sourced meat and fish has spawned a host of TV series and books wherein the Hampstead-born foodie investigates the people behind the ingredients. That aside, however, there is one aspect of cooking that seems to ignite FearnleyWhittingstall’s exacting passions more than any other – growing your own. “My mum and dad and I were living in London until I was almost seven years old,”

the 52-year-old reminisces. “My parents made a decision to move out of the city and go and live in the country. We moved to a little rented farmhouse in Gloucestershire and when we arrived, there was already a vegetable garden there. We moved in the summer and the vegetable garden was a little bit overgrown, but it had some stuff in it that was ready to eat. “I was at a very impressionable age and I was very surprised that you

could actually grow food! I remember podding baby peas and eating little carrots – just wiping a carrot on the wet grass to get the dirt off and munching it. That stuck with me as being a real pleasure and when I got a chance to grow some food of my own, I jumped at it.”

“I was at a very impressionable age and I was very surprised that you could actually grow food!”

Hugh’s culinary career was inspired by a simple love of growing your own

LAST WORD RIVER COTTAGE This fledgling fascination with finding food in your own back garden has seen FearnleyWhittingstall’s business – River Cottage – expand into one of the UK’s foremost creators and curators of sustainable, healthy produce. With three restaurants and a cookery school now making up his growing brand, the journalistcum-activist-cum-celebrity-chef is hoping that the ideas being promoted by the team at River Cottage can inspire individuals to cast away their lifeless cans of processed pap and create their own ecological idyll – however small. “River Cottage has been about showing people ways of making differences to your food,” he enthuses. “It could be making a pizza oven in the back garden or doing some of your shopping at a farmers’ market where you can meet the people who grow the food and give you confidence about where it’s come from. Then you get the excitement when you get home and say: ‘I met the guy who grew this.’ “That’s not a luxury you get if you purchase all of your food day in, day out at the supermarket. But even within the supermarket there are choices you can make that connect you a bit more – things like fair trade or organic foods, artisan products, cheese with a bit of a story behind it... You can get a bit more excited about it than the anonymously packaged stuff.”

NEW HEIGHTS FOR VEG Fearnley-Whittingstall’s admiration for the humble vegetable has reached new heights. His latest cookbook – River Cottage Much More Veg – is a veritable cornucopia of innovative and interesting ways to banish the long-held assumption that your greens are a dutiful daily occurrence. Instead, he wants us to relish making plants and fruits the heart of any meal. “Putting meat and fish to the side made me a more creative cook,” he reveals. “It massively increased my repertoire of veg-only dishes. It was so clear to me that veg cooking is absolutely not about denial – the only reason people sometimes think veg is boring is because they’re so used

to having a plain bit of steamed veg next to a great glistening piece of meat. In that particular competition, the meat’s going to win! But when you give the same love and attention to your vegetables as you give to the roast or the piece of fish you’re frying in a pan with a few herbs, the flavours of the veg really take off.”

KEEPING IT SIMPLE While people caught up in the humdrum of their busy lives may cast an envious eye over the Eden-like example of country living that FearnleyWhittingstall and his team cultivate at River Cottage, its figurehead has gone to great lengths to make his rustic repertoire of ecologically sourced eats as accessible as possible – and a guaranteed way to improve your culinary skills to boot. “I’ve worked very hard to make these recipes very accessible and very easy,” he declares. “For this book I made a really special hard-andfast rule that the recipes would not have too many processes. When we were in danger of a recipe getting complicated, I would say to myself and my collaborators: ‘I bet we can make that just as delicious, but easier – let’s take a process out or put them all in the same tray together’; or ‘put this in and then take it out or put it in a separate pan.’

“Putting meat and fish to the side made me a more creative cook. It massively increased my repertoire of veg-only dishes”

There is nothing boring about colourful, well cooked veg

“If you cook and you enjoy cooking then vegetable ingredients are not particularly expensive and not necessarily that timeconsuming at all. Once you’re prepared to spend a bit of time in the kitchen on a tight budget, you can still cook amazing food – but even more of a reason to make veg a greater part of it.” ■

River Cottage Much More Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury, £26) is out now. Photography © Simon Wheeler www. i c engar en.co.u

FEBRUARY 2018 | 103

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