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JUNE 2015 | ISSUE 87



Salad & Veg 8

Plan your Plot!





Handy Herbs E













elcome to the June issue of Home Farmer – the first of summer and harvesting. To make the most of your produce we have a new month-by-month preserving guide from Gaby Bartai, together with lots of other sound, green-fingered advice, from permaculture and growing in pots, to creating a herb garden and making seed mats and tapes, and our recipes and projects don’t let the side down, either. I hope you enjoy our wide range of subjects and have fun putting them into practice. On a more serious note, tenants of Farm Terrace Allotments in Watford have been having problems with their council. They were told the land was needed to extend the neighbouring hospital, and acknowledged this as a good cause. Many tenants left, and maintenance by the council ceased. The remaining tenants, however, learnt that the land was actually needed for new apartments. They took the council to the High Court twice, and won twice, but the council are now suggesting they might build a primary school on the land – apparently, they can do this as many times as they wish until they eventually get the decision they want. The concerned tenants made a freedom of information request for figures regarding applications to close allotment sites, and found that, of 198 applications made between 2007 and 2014, 194 were granted by the Secretary of State, and other green spaces could be under threat, too. Consequently, the campaign has now gone national, and the tenants are using their experience to push for a strengthening of the law regarding the deregulation of allotments.

Home Farmer Magazine PO Box 536, Preston, PR2 9ZY Tel: 01772 633444 Publisher: Ruth Tott Editor: Paul Melnyczuk We welcome feedback and questions. Please email: Subscription enquiries Tel: 01772 633444


Gaby used to run Organic Gardening magazine and is now a freelance writer and editor. She has homefarmed in Somerset and Shetland and is currently a city gardener in Glasgow.

Please support the campaign by going to page 14 of this issue, where you can find a poster, or download it at, if you don’t want to cut up your copy of Home Farmer. They ask that you display the poster at your allotment site, on a shed, or in your garden, and that you take a photo of yourself in front of it. You can then upload it to #shedfie to show you are participating‌ after you have signed the petition at, of course. Also in the news this month we have some valuable research from The University of Sheffield, which confirms that soil under allotments is far healthier than soil under our farms, and it is the sustainability of our allotment culture that may help feed us once our farmland has been drained by industrial monocultures. Our allotments have supported the nation during difficult times in the past, and will no doubt be called upon to do so again in the future. This is a campaign that really is worth supporting, and it sounds fun, too, so what are you waiting for? PAUL MELNYCZUK Editor

Contributors Adriana Fraser, Claire Waring, David Winnard, Dot Tyne, Gavin Cole, Elizabeth McCorquodale, Gaby Bartai, John Butterworth, John Harrison, John Mason, Kate Collyns, Liz Aitken, LizzieB, Michael Wale, Mark Abbott-Compton, Mike Clark, Paul Melnyczuk, Ruth Tott, Terry Beebe, Seren Evans-Charrington.

Copy Editor Phil Offord Tel: 01257 270512

Advertising Ruth Tott Tel: 01772 633444

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DAVID WINNARD David is never happier than when he has a camera in one hand and a foraging basket in the other. He organises tours and workshops, including wildlife photography trips to the Hebrides. More information can be found on his website:

LIZZIEB When not busy in the kitchen creating her fabulous recipes for Home Farmer, LizzieB is running her online vintage fabric shop from her home in Malvern, Worcestershire. If you love crafting, beads and all things vintage, head over to

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WHAT’SueINSIDE? contents June iss

68 LIZZIEB’S MOBILE KITCHEN This month LizzieB prepares some delicious Herefordshire and Worcestershire treats, including delicious ‘Herefordshire Beef’ Burgers.

03 THE EDITOR’S BIT Paul ponders… 06 NEWS AND EVENTS Home Farmer related news and events.

72 SMOKING ON THE BBQ Paul Melnyczuk COVER STORY uses a kettle barbecue to create richly smoked chicken and mackerel.

10 IN THE KITCHEN GARDEN John Harrison discusses the sowing and planting duties for June. 14 SAVE OUR ALLOTMENTS Your poster to support the national ‘Save Our Allotments’ campaign. 15 SMALL-SPACE GARDENING Mike Clark picks the COVER STORY best container salad and veg, and looks at successional growing. 20 CONSTRUCTING A POLYTUNNEL Kate Collyns takes us through setting up the frame and ‘skinning’ it. 24 A HANDY HERB GARDEN Elizabeth McCorquodale COVER STORY plans an aromatic kitchen herb garden. 30 THE POTS ZONE Chef Rachel Green’s window salad bowl box from the Pots Zone at this year’s BBC Gardeners’ World Live. 32 SEED MATS AND TAPES Ruth Tott makes her own seed mats and seed tapes using standard kitchen items. 34 SUPPORTING YOUR PLANTS Mark Abbott-Compton COVER STORY creates some substantial support for his peas, beans and squash. 38 BBC GARDENERS’ WORLD LIVE 2015 We take a sneak peek at some highlights to come at this major gardening event.


75 COOKING WITH FLOWERS With the garden in bloom, Seren Evans-Charrington prepares some floral fare. 40 CREATING A PERMACULTURE GARDEN Three experts outline COVER STORY the essential requirements for a working permaculture garden. 44 GARDEN FACTS AND FABLES Elizabeth McCorquodale finds out if lining our pots with crocks actually does any good. 46 SEASONAL FORAGING David Winnard checks out some threatened forager’s plants to grow in his own garden. 50 POULTRY PARASITES Terry Beebe looks at red mite and other external pests, with tips on keeping them at bay. 55 THE ARAUCANA CHICKEN This month Terry Beebe features a bird of South American origin that lays blue/green eggs. 57 A SMALLHOLDER’S DIARY Dot Tyne’s March diary entries are dominated by lambing and the annual lambing course. 62 ALL ABOUT HONEY Claire Waring considers the origins and purposes of honey.

79 PRESERVING THE HARVEST Gaby Bartai begins a COVER STORY new series on preserving the seasonal harvest month by month. 83 WARTIME DRINKS Seren Evans-Charrington looks at some innovative kitchen solutions to WWII shortages. 86 DRYING FLOWERS Liz Aitken’s guide to bringing any room to life with dried flowers. 88 LEGAL FOOD HERO Michael Wale checks out a new book by Steven M. Druker, who took on the US GM industry. 91 LIGHTING UP A SHED Our ‘fixer’, John COVER STORY Butterworth, uses the latest developments in solar panels to light up a large shed. 96 COMPETITION TIME Win a garden smokehouse WIN and smoker kit from The Posh Shed Company. 98 SMALLHOLDER GROUP LISTINGS 99 NEXT MONTH What’s in next month’s issue?




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J U N E 2015




SAVE OUR ALLOTMENTS SPURRED ON BY a recent High Court victory to overturn their local council’s decision to deregulate their allotment site for development purposes, allotment holders at Farm Terrace Allotments in Watford have launched the Save Our Allotments campaign in response to recent government legislation which makes it easier for councils and landowners to close existing allotment sites. Ironically, the new rules from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) were described as intending to change the guidelines affecting allotment decisions to add greater protection and transparency to the process, but actually have the opposite effect. The allotment holders were first informed that their land was required for an expansion of the neighbouring hospital, and agreed that it was a worthy reason. People began to drift away and the council ceased maintaining the site, but then it was discovered that most of the site would be turned into

apartments, and the hospital could not expand. This would have meant 700 new apartments in one of the most densely populated parts of the town, replacing one of the few urban green spaces in the area. The remaining allotment holders decided to challenge the council, which has now twice submitted plans to deregulate the land, with the most recent decision to do so from the Secretary of State quashed by the High Court. The council has now suggested that a primary school may be built on the site; unfortunately, it is legal for councils to submit such requests as often as they like until they eventually get the response they want. Using the experience gained locally, the campaign has now been extended to cover the UK, with the principal goal of strengthening the law regarding the deregulation of allotments. A freedom of information request found that between 2007 and 2014, a total

of 194 out of 198 applications to close allotments had been granted by the Secretary of State – an alarming level of consistency! The process of taking protected land to feed the appetites of developers is clearly happening across the UK, and a national petition has now passed 13,000 signatures. The ‘Sign for Victory’ campaign is asking people to display a poster (see page 14) on their shed at the allotment or in the garden, and to take a picture of themselves with it and share it at #shedfie, to let everyone know that there is a desire to protect our allotments – please don’t forget to sign the petition, too! Allotments have been vital to the UK as a means of feeding the population in historical times of crisis, and they provide physical and emotional

GRASS A POTENTIAL ANTIDOTE TO FRACKING Anaerobic digesters have been criticised in the past for creating waste in order to feed them, for extra heavy lorry traffic, and for volatility in food prices due to removing land from agricultural use, but an idea for state-ofthe-art digesters producing natural gas from grass feed stocks could provide a carbon-neutral alternative to intensive fossil fuel extraction, according to green energy provider, Ecotricity. Later this year the company will submit plans for a new Green Grass Mill in Gloucestershire, and if given the go-ahead, it could be up and running


by 2017, providing power to 6,000 homes created using grass from within fifteen kilometres of the actual site. The company is specific about not using virgin agricultural crops for the venture, and plans to use only marginal agricultural land and pasture which has fallen out of use. Ecotricity is also confident that the venture will provide a waste product that can be returned to fields to improve soil quality, and company founder, Dale Vince, said: “Green Grass Mills will produce gas that is carbon neutral,

care for citizens; the national removal of this resource will be an act of vandalism by which future generations will judge the present. Green spaces and allotments are the lungs of communities, and nestled in between residential areas they ensure that young people experience food growth and natural development in a world becoming more distant from the natural process. You can download the poster at, or you can send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to c/o Evolve, 77 Vicarage Road, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD18 0EJ, and we will send you a poster. Visit, or http://savefarmterrace.wix. com/savefarmterrace, to find out more about the campaign.


supports food production and is sustainable – with the process actually improving the local environment rather than damaging it, it’s the antithesis of fracking. If both the energy and agricultural sectors can grasp this opportunity, this can end the debate around fracking because we simply won’t need it.” Vince is also confident that Green Grass Mills can be up and running considerably faster than shale gas.

VITAX’S NATIONAL SALES Manager, Colin Wetherley-Mein, has become the president of the Garden Industry Manufacturers’ Association (GIMA), one of the industry’s leading bodies. Colin has worked at Vitax for over twenty years and has been on GIMA’s council for four years, serving as Honorary Treasurer for the past twelve months. We wish Colin, Vitax and GIMA well.


ALLOTMENTS KEY TO SUSTAINABLE FARMING PROVIDING STRONG SUPPORT for the Save Our Allotments movement, there is clear evidence that the soil under Britain’s allotments is significantly healthier than that on any intensive farm. Research from The University of Sheffield demonstrates that an increase in urban allotments could help meet rising demand for food throughout the world, and without damaging soil in the way that monoculture farming has been shown to do. The research, conducted by ecologist Dr Jill Edmondson on twenty-seven plots on fifteen allotment sites in Leicester, also sampled local parks, gardens and surrounding agricultural land, with a view to measuring a range of soil properties, including organic carbon levels, total nitrogen, the amounts and quality of organic matter in the soil, and soil compaction. Allotment soil had 32 per cent more organic carbon, 36 per cent higher carbon to nitrogen ratios, 25 per cent higher nitrogen, and was significantly less compacted. Commenting on the figures, Dr Edmondson praised the management of soil by allotment holders while highlighting how damaging modern agricultural practices could be.

Allotments on the Regent’s Park Estate, Camden. Photo courtesy of Sheila Madhvani.

Worldwide, an estimated 800 million people produce urban food, and Dr Edmondson’s research suggests that this is a far more effective and sustainable way of meeting increased demand. Sadly, allotment numbers have reduced dramatically since their World War Two heyday, when 10 per cent of food came from allotments, and, today, Leicester’s allotment plots cover only 2 per cent of its urban green space, although the city is actually the second highest provider of allotment space nationwide. Yet allotment

holders produce good yields without sacrificing soil quality by using sustainable techniques, composting allotment waste and recycling nutrients and carbon more effectively back into their soil. Dr Edmondson commented: “Using urban land (including domestic gardens), allotments and community gardens for own-growing is an important and often overlooked way of increasing productivity whilst also reconnecting urban dwellers with food production.” It’s also the essence of home farming!

2015: INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF SOILS THE FOOD AND Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has declared 2015 as International Year of Soils, but I’ll confess I wasn’t aware of it, so don’t feel too bad if you weren’t, either. The purpose is to grow awareness and understanding of the profound importance of soil for human life. Around 95 per cent of all our food comes from the soil, and we need healthy soil to feed the world. Yet our soil is depleted and

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much of it retains very little goodness – there are even estimates that much of the

UK’s agricultural land now has only 100 harvests left due to intense overfarming, but it can take 1,000 years for just a single centimetre of topsoil to form, and every minute we are apparently losing the equivalent of thirty football pitches of fertile soil. The Soil Association has started a soils campaign to try to improve the health of our soil and to reduce soildamaging practices. Visit http://www.soilassociation. org/soils/oursoilscampaign to find out more.

STRAWPOWERED CARS? I’M NOT SURE what Jeremy Clarkson might make of a strawpowered Ferrari, but scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have been conducting research into creating renewable biofuel without competing with food production by using straw, sawdust, corn and other agricultural by-products. They have located five strains of yeast that could potentially be used to convert these items into bioethanol, and estimate that crop wastage alone could provide in excess of 400 billion litres each year. In Brazil, vehicles have been run on bioethanol since 1979, and during the apartheid years, South Africa used sunflower oil to provide a replacement for fuel that was in short supply due to an international embargo. There is, however, a push to limit biofuel due to its adverse effect on food supplies, but the researchers at UEA hope that their findings will help create a biofuel that is more environmentally friendly than earlier versions, primarily because it will rely on waste products. Of the five yeast varieties that proved most promising, the best prospect is a strain linked to that used in the production of sake, the Japanese rice wine.



BVA SUPPORT FOR CULL TECHNIQUE WITHDRAWN THE BRITISH VETERINARY Association (BVA) has withdrawn its support for controlled shooting of free-running badgers, describing it as neither effective nor sufficiently humane to warrant their seal of approval. This was always a far cheaper option than shooting caged badgers, but was apparently chosen to develop a ‘farmer-led’ cull. The removal of support is a major blow to supporters, but the government

has set aside any decision on the future of the pilot culls until after the election, although Environment Secretary, Liz Truss, has said they would extend the cull to new areas, if elected. The Labour Party has stated that it would end the trials if it came to power. Although it is opposed to the shooting of free-running badgers, the BVA does still support the principle of culling, but has

warned that a disproportionate focus on culling has eclipsed other measures, stating that the problem will not be tackled by any one single measure. It has called for a comprehensive strategy, including, in addition to culling, surveillance and control of both cattle and other species such as camelids, biosecurity, vaccination and research and development.

This is in line with views expressed by John Bourne, Chair of the independent scientific group appointed to assess the first year of the culls, who suggested that cattle-based measures were the appropriate response to bovine TB, rather than culling, largely due to the inaccurate TB tests used.

SLUG TREATMENT TEST CAN READERS HELP with some research we are doing here at Home Farmer HQ? We have always had problems with slugs here in Lancashire, and decided this year to check out some wholesome treatments that might discourage the little blighters. The most promising so far has proved to be a thin drizzle of chilli flakes, and this seems to be getting

results. If anyone troubled by these creatures would like to help verify our research by doing the same and letting us know if it does the trick, we would be very grateful. We have used East of Eden chilli flakes, but other varieties are available. For any humane gardeners out there, given the heat of the stuff, you might prefer a beer trap

filled with lager for the duration of the experiment. Please email your results, stating either ‘yes’ (if effective) or ‘no’ (if ineffective), together with where you live and any pertinent observations, to Dr Tott at ruthƒ, and we shall endeavour to keep you up to date with the trial.

Read more about Ruth’s struggle with slugs on page 32.

BALCOMBE’S COMMUNITY POWER! EVER SINCE THE attempts by dirty-energy companies to exploit the land around Balcombe last year, the residents have taken on a new zeal in their desire to buy their power from a local co-operative, and to power their community cleanly. In spite of legislative difficulties (bad laws, which apparently do not hinder similar ventures in all other European countries but ban the practice in the UK), the residents’ first share issue to raise £49,000 to power two local schools with clean solar power hit the target within a month and went on to reach £67,500. In addition, 100 per cent of the accepted


Balcombe. Photo courtesy of Charlesdrakew.

investments come from the RH postcodes, meaning that the money has been raised within a twelve-mile radius by Balcombe residents. They describe it as a compelling case for can-do communities all over the UK, with a village once divided by fracking now united by the prospect of clean community energy. They believe it can happen everywhere, but to make it possible they are asking people to sign a petition calling for the next Secretary of State to introduce a new law bringing in a right to supply for community energy groups. Visit ourpower to sign the petition.


THE ARDINGLY SHOW THE SMALLHOLDERS SHOW takes place at The South of England Showground in Ardingly on 4th–5th July. Now in its 29th year, the event is a great place to get everything you need to enjoy the ‘Good Life’. There will be lots of experts there, together with goats, sheep, pigs, cattle, llamas and alpacas, and poultry traders from across the region. The highly regarded Small Farm Training Group will be on hand, displaying animals and products, and giving free talks on husbandry, and members of West Sussex Smallholders’ Association and Kent Smallholders’ Association will put on displays of animals, sell produce from their smallholdings, and will be happy to chat about smallholding. And if you fancy beekeeping, the Reigate bee-keepers will be there, too, complete with a working hive. Renowned for fun and entertainment, the event will have the Grey Goose Archery Group, with displays of archery; mediaeval traders selling copper bracelets; beadwork displays and mediaeval face painting; and the Blackfeet Lodge Western


Society will be there with their magnificent teepees, demonstrating traditional North American Indian crafts and skills. The Queen’s Jubilee will have food traders selling delicious foods, and the Wealden Craft Group will be there with a selection of local quality crafts. The Show is a showcase of craft demonstrations, and will include greenwood working, stick-making, blacksmithing, basket-making, lace-making, spinning and weaving, cane chair restoration, willow work, fly fishing and hedgelaying,

among others. This year the arena will be home to Mules R Us, demonstrating how mules can be used in the rural environment, and there will be a birds of prey display from Huxleys, a lurcher show on Sunday, and a companion dog show on both days. Complete with a funfair, live Irish music, vintage cars, a circus workshop and ferret racing, the event is a fun day out for all the family! Visit for up-to-date information and a chance to buy tickets in advance.

ROYAL CORNWALL ’15 THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING for every member of the family at the Royal Cornwall Show, the county’s biggest annual event, and it’s always packed with exhibits, activities, entertainment, competitions, information, shopping, and all that’s best in the region’s food and farming. It’s a time and place to meet old friends, conduct business, enjoy Cornwall in all its glory, and to welcome thousands of visitors from outside the county. This is the event’s 222nd year, and it’s the organisers’ aim to keep raising the standard – it’s good for agriculture, good for tourism, good for the economy, good for the environment, and good for the soul! The event has always stuck close to its agricultural roots, each year attracting increasing numbers of animals, which are all entered

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into hundreds of different classes that are themselves refined each year, and year-on-year, with people travelling to the event from further and further afield in the hope of coming away with an award. But it’s not only the usual livestock; the event has specialist dog and goat sections, and a rare breed section, too, together with rabbits, cage birds and bees.

With a top quality flower show and a thriving countryside area, the event supports and promotes Cornish grown/produced food and crafts, both in the trade section and in the many cafes and restaurants. It’s a shopper’s paradise with over 1,000 trade stands to browse. Main-ring entertainment is always mounted on a grand scale – the traditional steam fair is a colourful extravaganza, and there are stages and avenues alive with music, song and dance. In truth, whatever your interest, you’ll find it all at the Royal Cornwall Show, and you are always sure of a very warm welcome. The Royal Cornwall Show takes place at the Royal Cornwall Showground, Wadebridge, on 4th, 5th and 6th of June. Visit to find out more about the event and for all the most up-to-date information.

THIS YEAR’S EVENT (the fourth, but the second at Alexandra Palace) was a great success, with the new format of two shows in one – The Edible Garden Show and Good Life Live – enabling the organisers to cover far more ground, and it also facilitated the welcome return of livestock to the event with the new Pop up City Farm. There was also the usual wide range of familiar experts on hand conducting entertaining and informative demonstrations and giving talks from the many stages throughout the day; these included James Wong, Rachel Green, Pippa Greenwood, Charles Dowding, Jeremy Dore, Jonathan Moseley, The Skinny Jean Gardeners, and children’s favourite, Mr Bloom. There was also just about everything you could possibly have wanted in order to put into practice all that wealth of expert gardening advice, and there was a chance to try out many new innovations or even some deliciously original craft foods. It’s a triumph to just get a show started from scratch today, but to then move it across the country and continue to go from strength to strength is superhuman. We look forward to seeing what the organisers have up their sleeves for next year’s event. Visit www. to find out about this year’s event and for updates in the run-up to next year’s event, which will return to Stoneleigh Park on 11th–13th March, 2016.



ON THE PLOT Jolly June John Harrison considers the sowing and planting duties for June, and sets out the stall for ‘middle-way’ gardening – possibly the horticultural equivalent of the ‘silent majority’


was going to start this month by saying that June is here and we’re safe from frost, but knowing my luck we’ll have a freak frost and I’ll probably get the blame. The solution is to be prepared for unusual weather at all times of the year. I tend to use horticultural fleece a lot early in the season to shelter plants, and when it comes off it is carefully folded and put away in large black sacks. That way, if a sudden frost does strike, it can be pressed rapidly into service as soon as the weather forecast gives the warning. Laid over foliage or wrapped around bean canes, fleece will provide shelter from even quite severe frost, but don’t forget to put it away folded and dry, ready for next year. Incidentally, I used to use pegs to hold the fleece to the ground, but they can damage it, and I’ve never found them particularly effective at holding it in place in high winds. I did try using bricks to weigh the fleece down, but the sharp edges would tear the fleece and away it would fly. I now use plastic milk cartons filled with sand – they’re smooth, so they don’t tear the fleece. Wrap the edge of the fleece around them and they’ll hold it down however much the wind blows.


WATERING AND FRUIT Our holiday this year was in France, where we stayed with an old friend. When you reach my age, most of your friends do tend to be old! When I was in her garden I noticed the watering system she’d set up for the fruit garden – basically a hosepipe with a connector sticking up from the soil. During dry spells in the hot summers they enjoy there she waters at night, plugging a hose into the connector that leads into a leaky hose. This runs up and down rows, and it circles around trees a few centimetres below the surface. It’s probably the

Above left: An old hose is never beyond use – bury it and water your plants just where they need it! Above: Horticultural fleece comes in handy when faced with a sudden frost.

most efficient irrigation system you could have, as the water goes exactly where it’s needed and none is wasted by evaporating in the heat of the day. It took her a few days to set it up, but it only takes a couple of minutes to water quite a large plot. Of course, it wouldn’t see much use here in Snowdonia – one of the wettest areas of Britain – but it could be worth thinking about if you live in the much drier south-east of England.



THE MIDDLE WAY – ORGANIC GROWING vs CHEMICAL GROWING I’ve been accused in the past of being both an ‘organic beardy weirdy’, and of being a grower wedded to chemicals and uncaring about the environment. Hmm… talk about being all things to all men! The fact is that organic growing has come to mean following a set of rules laid down by organisations like Garden Organic and the Soil Association, and based on those criteria I can’t really describe myself as an organic grower – and I don’t have a beard since it turned white and children started following me, asking for presents and to see the reindeer. But neither am I a great user of sprays and artificial fertilisers, although I do believe they have their place – anyone who has ever tried to clear a plot infested with bindweed or couch grass by hand knows how timeconsuming and disheartening it is: as fast as you can hoe and dig the plot, it just keeps on popping up behind

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you. However, a quick application of an effective translocated weedkiller, which is taken in by the leaves and travels down to kill the roots (a process known as ‘translocation’), will do the job, killing quickly and with a minimum of effort. Over the years I’ve seen many people take on an allotment, only to give in just a few months later, handing back the key and leaving a sea of weeds behind them when one quick spray would have put them in control. And, yes, I know you can kill off most weeds by covering them to exclude the light, but many allotment sites also ban the ‘old carpet’ method – and with good reason, as if left too long the weeds will grow right through the carpet, making it an absolute nightmare job to clear it. And as for black plastic sheeting – which, incidentally, is made from oil – as a light excluder, this often ends up as fragments of plastic flying around in the wind, so I really can’t accept that as a green solution, either. Then there’s the use of artificial

June is always a busy month for both sowing and planting out, but luckily the days are at their longest around the summer solstice, so we have plenty of daylight to work in. In dry weather, draw your drill (I use a draw-hoe for this) and water well prior to sowing. Sow your seeds, covering them as required with fine soil, then water using a fine rose on your watering can to settle the seeds in. With some crops it pays to make a sowing every fortnight to give a constant supply of salads and vegetables at their peak for your plate – beetroot, French beans, early carrots, kohlrabi, early peas, lettuce, rocket, turnips, endive, radish and spring onions, for example.

ESSENTIAL JUNE SOWING June is the ideal time for sowing French and runner beans, maincrop peas, beetroot, carrots, turnips, swedes, cauliflowers (winter), cabbage (spring), Chinese cabbage, calabrese, chicory, endive and kohlrabi, so get your skates on!

A draw-hoe makes light work of creating drills.


IN T HE K ITCHEN G ARDEN chemical fertilisers, which is also a definite organic no-no. But don’t get me wrong; I’m all in favour of composts, manures, comfrey tea, etc., and crop rotations with legumes used as a means of restoring nitrogen, but today’s vegetable crops have been bred to be very productive, which means they demand high levels of nutrients to give their very best, which is where some additional fertiliser comes in useful – when necessary. Generally, I do prefer traditional organic fertiliser, like fish, blood and bone, but that is because it is a slower release than artificial Growmore. I also know that artificial fertilisers are energy-intensive to produce, but I’m not wholly convinced they’re significantly less green than

Pot-started sweetcorn can go in now under a cloche, with some high-nitrogen fertiliser spread around to get it off to a really good start.

John Harrison


We’re now into the gardening season, so it’s really time to get your skates on if you’re going to pursue that New Year’s resolution of self-sufficiency. John Harrison’s special offer to veg growers, both new and experienced, combines the absolute best of both worlds – his own extensive expertise in a pocketsize, portable form, together with a generous selection of seeds courtesy of Suttons to put it all into practice. John will even cover the postage costs too. Visit to find out more and to chat online and exchange growing tips with other like-minded home farmers everywhere.

Here are just a few of the comments his popular books have attracted: A great value no frills book packed with knowledge. Written by a genuine kitchen gardener. As a horticultural lecturer this is one book I would recommend to those new to vegetable gardening. J. TRIM

The best-selling gardening book... information-packed and down-to-earth. THE MAIL ON SUNDAY

This book is a bit like having the most experienced veg grower from the local allotments in your pocket. WHICH? GARDENING






many traditional organic ones, and as far as I know, no one has yet produced a report on the comparative energy costs etc. of producing artificials against organics. If you do know of one, please let me know. However, there is one class of chemicals I’m very wary of – pesticides and fungicides. Happily, there are some very safe organically approved solutions for quite a range of problems, such as nematodes for slugs, and the breeders are coming up with more resistant varieties every day, such as blight-resistant tomatoes and potatoes, clubrootresistant brassicas, and carrots that are resistant to carrot fly. I know I’m not alone in this

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Above left: We’ve all had loads of these containers, so use them to protect any vulnerable young seedlings as temperatures drop. Above: Keep your squashes, pumpkins and marrows watered during dry spells. Top: We all want to use fewer chemicals, but when faced with an overgrown plot like this one, too many people just give up.

approach; many home-growers these days aim for minimal chemical and artificial fertiliser use, and work with nature wherever possible, but have not gone completely organic according to the official rules. So, whenever you’re asked if you’re an ‘organic gardener’, don’t feel guilty and hum and haw – just tell them in a reverent tone of voice: “I follow the Middle Way.”

❋ All those pot-grown brassicas, including broccoli, calabrese, Brussels sprouts and summer cabbage, can now go out, together with a dusting of lime in the planting hole to help ward off clubroot. Incidentally, the old idea of putting a piece of rhubarb in the planting hole to prevent clubroot has been shown not to have any effect. ❋ Pot-started sweetcorn can go in now under a cloche, with some high-nitrogen fertiliser spread around to get it off to a really good start. If you plant them so that they are in a slight depression, it will assist with watering and, as they grow, make earthing up more effective in encouraging root development. ❋ Runner and dwarf beans should be safe to plant out now, and outdoor tomatoes can also go into their final position, once hardened off. ❋ Leeks can go into their final position, too. I like to follow the first early potatoes with mine, giving a good handful of pelleted chicken manure per square yard to see them through. I like to just dib holes for them using an old spade handle, then drop them in and water well. ❋ Courgettes can either go directly into the ground or in large pots, where they can do really well as a patio plant. ❋ Squashes, pumpkins and marrows, however, will need more than a pot to do really well. Dig a large hole – 60cm wide and 60cm deep is ideal – then put rotted manure in the base and top up with compost, finishing in a slight hill. Plant into the top of this hill, which will eventually sink as time passes, and I guarantee you a fantastic crop so long as you keep them watered during dry spells.





POT-GROWN ds and veg sala

Mike Clark considers the best pot-grown salads and veg, and he looks at successional growing as a way of making the most of limited space


et’s begin this month with some suggestions. As always, your only limit is your imagination, but for beginners, let me give you some ideas of which vegetables to grow in your pots and containers.

LETTUCE AND SALAD LEAVES Perhaps an obvious place to start; they are easy to grow, quick to crop, and will continue to produce over

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a long period. Choose loose-leafed or cut-and-come-again varieties of lettuce like ‘Oak Leaf’, Leaf ’, ‘Lollo Rossa’ or ‘Salad Bowl’. Just pick the outer leaves, but not too many at a time, and allow the plant to keep producing new leaves from the centre. As an alternative, buy a packet of mixed salad leaves and add an element of surprise! Other than lettuce, you can include annual rocket (left), coriander and chervil in your salad container, and again, just pick a few leaves at a time.



Above: Chervil. Above middle: Annual spinach. Above right: Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’.

OTHER SALADS Annual spinach is fast growing and produces delicious baby leaves. Sow or plant these around the outside of the container with some slightly slowergrowing Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ and radicchio in the middle. Use the young leaves. This mixture will give you both a colourful container and a colourful salad.

MORE ‘SALADY’ THINGS Radishes are rapid and reliable – ‘French Breakfast’ is a favourite. Sow them round the outside, and sow spring onions in the centre. Or for a different flavour, sow leeks instead of spring onions, but don’t thin them out; just pull and use them young, at spring onion size. Don’t go for a bulky one – ‘Musselburgh’ will work well.

Above: Dwarf French beans. Right: Runner beans. Below: Dwarf French beans ‘Tendergreen’.

ROOTS Baby beets (beetroot harvested young) work well in pots. Use a bolt-resistant variety like ‘Boltardy’. Carrots, too, will do well if you use an early, stumprooted variety. Look for the names ‘Nantes’ and ‘Amsterdam’.

BEANS Now, in the spirit of small spaces, I must recommend dwarf French beans for pots – I like ‘Tendergreen’, but you could also try ‘Nomad’ or ‘Opera’. However, in a bigger container, and with some support, there is nothing to stop you growing climbing French or runner beans. Broad beans will work, too, but I’ll look at them in another issue, when I consider extending the season.


BRASSICAS The cabbage family generally takes up a lot of space, and you may think of them as too big for container growing, but there are smaller varieties – dwarf and mini versions – which will work well in pots. A spring cabbage like ‘Pixie’ will produce spring greens readily and quickly in a confined space. And it is not just for sowing in the traditional way (in August or September for overwintering and cropping in spring); sown in spring, it will give you cut-and-come-again leaves throughout the summer. The perfect mini cauliflower for container growing is ‘Igloo’, or try a dwarf sprout like ‘Peer Gynt’, or a compact summer cabbage like ‘Minicole’. For winter use, try kale ‘Dwarf Green Curled’.



I cannot speak from experience, because here on the north coast of Scotland I have more chance of winning The National Lottery than growing tomatoes outdoors. And when I tell you I don’t even do the Lottery, you’ll understand what I mean. But in most parts of the country, tomatoes in pots on a patio or

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doorstep will be fine. It is probably best to grow them in a bush manner, rather than a cordon (single stem). You can buy specific bush varieties like ‘Cherry Belle’, but most varieties traditionally grown as cordons will grow as bushes if treated in the opposite manner. Instead of pinching out the side-shoots to favour the single leader, pinch out the leader

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, you tuce rocket, t e l n l ur r tha nnua n yo Othe clude a chervil i y pick l in can der and r, but on n e coria contain t a time. d a l sa sa eave l w e af

to encourage the side-shoots. Do thin them out, though, and don’t let them become overcrowded. An open bush gives increased air circulation, which in turn reduces the risk of fungal infections like botrytis. I have tried this with my old favourite, ‘Gardener’s Delight’ (albeit under polythene), and produced a bountiful bush.



Above: Spring cabbage ‘Pixie’. Above right: ‘Little Gem’ lettuces. Right: Mini cauliflower ‘Igloo’.

AND FOR SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT… For something different, try Chinese leaves or Oriental greens. Chinese cabbage, tatsoi (a variety of pak choi), mizuna, Chinese broccoli or choy sum are all fast growing, perfectly happy in pots, and produce a regular crop of leaves to give you something different in your salad, or to enhance a stir-fry.

SUCCEEDING WITH SUCCESSION In much the same way as I like to get value for money, I like to get maximum value from space. The key to maximising the potential of a few pots is through a second cropping or successional sowing. In principle, this simply means harvesting a fast-growing crop when young, and immediately sowing or planting something else in its place. This works particularly well if you raise the second crop to transplanting stage in small pots or trays, then move them into their permanent container when the first crop is harvested. Similarly, it is an advantage to raise the

NEXT MONTH We’ll think a little further ahead. Can we grow veg in containers into the winter months? Well, this is certainly the time of year to be planning our approach.


first crops on a windowsill, as described in a previous issue. This gives them an early start, so they will be ready sooner. This frees up the space earlier for the second crop, and allows it a longer growing season. It’s all in the planning! Here are some first- and second-cropping suggestions: ❋ Follow early-sown beetroot with salad leaves and annual rocket. ❋ Follow autumn-sown or early-springsown broad beans with beetroot. ❋ Follow early carrots, like ‘Nantes’ or ‘Amsterdam Forcing’, with dwarf French beans. ❋ Try mangetout peas followed by salad leaves. ❋ Sow spring onions early, and follow them with carrots for an autumn crop. ❋ If you prefer a cos-type lettuce to salad leaves, use ‘Little Gem’, then follow with leeks for autumn and winter.

❋ Once you’ve enjoyed your early potatoes, plant spring cabbages for greens in the autumn. The whole concept of second-cropping is based on using varieties of vegetables that are quick to mature. That generally means using early varieties, because a seed packet labelled ‘early’ doesn’t refer to the time of year it is ready – that depends solely on the time of year it is sown. An ‘early’ vegetable is simply one which takes a shorter time from sowing to harvest, irrespective of when it is sown. Never be afraid to try sowing early vegetables in midsummer for an autumn crop. It may not always be successful, though – as ever, it is down to the weather, but it’s certainly worth trying. Baby carrots or succulent young peas in September? That’s something for which it’s got to be worth taking a gamble!


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BUILDING l e n n u t y l a po It might seem daunting, but putting up a polytunnel is easier than you think. Kate Collyns takes you through the steps of building a steel-frame polytunnel


teel-frame tunnels are very durable, and can cope with being taken down and moved around; the steel tubes and fixings slot together pretty easily, and when bought new they will come with a manual. Replacement parts for secondhand tunnels are usually available from the original tunnel manufacturer, so the tunnel has a very long life and is a good investment. However, the plastic ‘skin’ or cover will not survive being taken off, so you will need new plastic to cover your tunnel; skins generally last for 6–10 years if well looked after. Straight-sided tunnels are the best, since you can better utilise the very edges of the tunnel. Most tunnels have rounded roofs, but some have pointed, Gothicstyle tops, which could help shed heavy loads of snow in winter.

PREPARING THE GROUND Depending on the size, you could go over the polytunnel area with a rotavator or dig it with a spade if you will be planting directly into the soil. Alternatively, cover the area with cardboard and lots of compost or manure, and allow it all to rot down, thereby killing off any turf or weeds.

If you won’t be planting in the soil, a covering of landscaping fabric or woodchips will be fine. You can also put up a tunnel over a concrete base, then screw footings into the concrete and cover the tunnel using the base rail method below.

BUILDING THE FRAMEWORK If you get the footings right, the rest should follow. Using Pythagoras’s theorem (a² + b² = c²), mark out an accurate rectangle for your tunnel with perfect right-angled triangles – this is also called the ‘3, 4, 5 method’. For a tunnel 3m wide and 4m long, the length of the diagonal will be the square root of the width squared, plus the length squared (3² + 4² = 9 + 16 = 25; the square root of 25 = 5). Using some pegs and string, mark out 3m for the width, then from one of these pegs, run a 4m length of string at a rough right angle. Run another length of 5m string from the other peg marking the width, and where the ends of these 5m and 4m lengths of string meet, is where the third peg should go. Do the same for the remaining peg, but with the lengths of string swapped over – these

two last pegs should be 3m apart. Now, dig holes for the footings: these will usually be some kind of foundation tube, which may well be tapered to allow you to dig a hole for the footing and then easily bang them in further using a sledgehammer and some scrap wood placed over the top of the tube to prevent damaging it. If you are using a




Foundations in place.

The first rib in place…

…more ribs erected.




base rail at soil level, to which you will batten your polytunnel skin rather than digging a trench around the tunnel and backfilling it, your footings will need extra grip in order to stop the tunnel blowing away; many have metal plates already fitted to them. Otherwise, drop some cement mix in the holes with the footings, with a long


Bracings and ridge-pole in place – trench dug!

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Steel-frame tunnels can cope with being taken down and moved around, but the plastic ‘skin’ or cover will not survive this.


A chunky door-frame.

nail or similar hammered across the tube diameter at the bottom, so there is something to key into. To work out the correct footing distances, divide the length of the tunnel by the number of ‘ribs’ or hoops minus one (for the end); so if the tunnel is 4m long and you have 5 ribs in total, your spacings will be 1m apart.


Volunteers helping to fit the skin.


UNDER COVER G ARDENING Once your footings are in and any concrete or cement has gone off, and the holes are firmly backfilled, you can put the rest of the frame together. Most ribs are easily assembled and fixed in place with screws or bolts, as is the ridge-pole and bracing at each end. If you are also fitting crop bars, now is the time to put them in place; and if you are using a base rail, screw that in place, too. If you are trenching-in your tunnel – and I really recommend this method – dig a trench one spade wide and one spade deep all around the outside of the tunnel.

DOOR-FRAMES If your tunnel only covers a few metres and is small, you won’t need a massive door-frame: 2 × 4 timber that has been treated so it doesn’t rot will be ample, although larger tunnels may need 4 × 4 timber. Dig footings for the uprights about 50cm deep and to your desired width, remembering to leave enough room for what you will need – for example, wheelbarrows, rotavator access, etc. – then cut the timber to size, add a lintel and fix to the end hoops. Doors could be a simple hinged affair, stable doors, sliding doors or louvre panels, with some ventilation netting desirable for hotter days, and perhaps even a window – whatever best suits you. Some companies will provide these ready-made, or you could make up your own design! Don’t fit the doors until you have skinned the tunnel, though.

SKINNING THE TUNNEL Wait for a warm and windless day to put on the plastic skin: the plastic will stretch in the heat. Beforehand, you’ll need to cover all the outsides of the steel that will touch the skin with anti-hotspot tape, to prevent the metal scorching and weakening the plastic on sunny days. The more volunteers you have to help


Skinning almost complete.


PEPPERS AND CHILLIES Peppers and chillies (both capsicums from the Solanacea family) love the heat, and need some effort to get them producing well. Sow seeds in February or early March in a warm place, and pot on once the true leaves have formed. Plant in pots or in the ground under cover, and keep warm but well ventilated. Once flowers start to appear, tie the plants to a stake, and feed with comfrey or seaweed every fortnight while fruit sets. Start to harvest peppers and chillies while green, and nip off excess flowers in September to encourage ripening. Peppers get sweeter when they ripen to yellow, orange or red, and chillies get hotter as they ripen (some people prefer to wear gloves while harvesting). with skinning, the better. The easiest method is to roll out the plastic alongside the tunnel, then everyone grabs one side of it at the top and bottom ends and pulls it over the tunnel – someone inside with a soft broom to guide it over the hoops helps, too. Make sure you have roughly the same amount of slack on both sides and at both ends (there should be plenty). Cut rough rectangles in the plastic at each doorway, roll the slack plastic round the wooden battens, then tack tightly to the lintel of each door-frame. If trenching-in, weigh down the plastic in the trenches, then, working in pairs on opposite sides of the tunnel, start from the middle of the sides and backfill with


The corners backfilled.

Good varieties to grow are ‘Corno di Toro Rossa’, ‘Long Red Marconi’ (Ramiro-type, long peppers), and ‘California Wonder’ (blocky, bell peppers). Cayenne peppers such as ‘Ring of Fire’ are pretty hot, but are less painful than ‘Scotch Bonnet’; Jalapeños are early with lots of juicy flavour. Ants and aphids love pepper leaves, so plant tagetes and other ladybird and hoverfly favourites nearby, and don’t let the soil dry out too much. earth as you move to one end, putting one foot on the plastic in the trench and pulling as tight as possible as you fill it in. Then go back to the middle, and do the same to the other end. If you are using a base rail, wrap sections of plastic round some thin batten, and pull tightly (with someone pulling the other side, ideally) before tacking to the base rail. The corners and door-frames are more tricky: using more thin batten, roll excess plastic round it and tack sections to the door-frames, pulling as tight as you can, folding the plastic into pleats and cutting off any excess plastic. Now celebrate!


Stable-style doors complete the task.




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HERB BEDS n e d r a g n e h c in a kit A herb garden is the cornerstone of any complete kitchen garden, providing flavour and aroma. Elizabeth McCorquodale considers the different herbs that might take pride of place in it


t the risk of making a grand statement, herbs are an essential part of good living and good eating; using herbs is a true pleasure, as they fill the kitchen with a fragrance and flavour that you just don’t get from any other group of plants. These plants, by the very fact that they are categorised as herbs, are over-endowed with flavour, very often highly scented, attractive, and, for some reason, very easy to grow, too. An added bonus with herb gardens is that they can be beautiful; there are several variegated and yellow- or purple-leafed forms of common herbs, and many with flowers or attractive habits: the herb bed isn’t just practical, it’s pretty, too. There are a vast number of herb


species and varieties to choose from, but a perfectly adequate, flavour-filled garden can be grown, even if you restrict yourself to only a handful. A herb garden also lends itself very well to being arranged in either a formal, geometric design, or simply as a cottage garden border, so a dedicated herb patch can fit seamlessly into any sort of garden. Choose a spot near a doorway, if you can, or by the garden gate, or perhaps next to your patio, so that your herbs are within touching distance each time you pass by or sit down. A lovely trick is to plant up a circular herb garden and set a bench in the middle so that you are surrounded by scent and colour, and you will also be perfectly placed to watch all the insect activity that naturally occurs


Herb seedlings.

around these nectar- and pollen-rich plants. If you can site your herb garden (and your bench!) close to your kitchen, it also makes it much easier to pop out to pick fresh herbs when it is cold or dark or rainy – plant in haste, repent in the cold and wet! One great misconception about growing herbs is that they all like full sun. Plants like mint, rocket, French sorrel, parsley, chervil, and even basil, prefer a little shade, especially at midday, although thyme, sage, rosemary, French tarragon and oregano would all choose to grow in full sun. If your garden is wet in winter, consider raising the level of the soil by at least 15cm to improve drainage, and whenever planting up a new bed, add a few shovelfuls of well-rotted manure and kitchen and garden compost to feed the new crops and improve soil structure at the same time. Many herbs can be enjoyed fresh from the garden year round, though some will require a little coaxing and TLC in the form of winter protection to keep them cropping all through the year. You can extend the picking season of some herbs by placing a cloche over them in late autumn, but others will have to be picked and dried or frozen to preserve the flavour. The best time to pick herbs for drying is on a sunny day after the dew has evaporated from the leaves and the sun has warmed the essential oils. Dry the leaves or seeds as quickly as possible, out of the light, then as soon as they are dry, pop them into glass jars. Some herbs, like mint, just aren’t suited to drying, and these can be chopped, pressed into the sections of an ice cube tray, then flash-frozen. Once frozen, decant them into a ziplock bag and keep them in the freezer until needed.

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An idyllic herb garden that would provide both relaxation and fantastic flavours.

❋ FRENCH TARRAGON (P) French tarragon is an irreplaceable herb with a strong liquorice flavour. It is hardy as long as it is very well drained in winter. If there is any doubt, grow it in a large pot, sink it into the garden each spring, then lift it to store in a cold greenhouse each winter. French tarragon is traditionally teamed with chicken, but my favourite ways to enjoy it are sprinkled on a green salad or added to a fruit salad. Provide some winter protection.

❋ GARDEN MINT (P) (Mentha sativa) This is the traditional cottage garden mint (pictured below), and it is vitally important with this plant, along with the other mints, to try before you buy to get the mint that really wakes up your taste buds. All mints need to be planted either in the corner of a lawn and away from any beds (where regular mowing will keep the plant in


check), or they should be planted in a deep, bottomless bucket in the flower bed or herb bed to stop them from suckering and taking over.

❋ PEPPERMINT (P) (Mentha piperita) Used to flavour sweets, this group includes such delights as chocolate mint and grapefruit, lemon and lime mints, among many others.

❋ SPEARMINT (P) (Mentha spicata) Spearmint is used with potatoes or in mint sauce, and it has many different varieties.

❋ SAGE (P) This comes in many different types (below middle), from frost-tender plants with pineapple- or tangerinescented leaves, to hardy, narrowleafed species, as well as the more


❋ DILL (A) (

Above: Marjoram, not to be confused with oregano.

familiar plant that we know as a flavouring for stews and stuffings. Sage should be pruned hard each spring to keep it pretty and compact, and it is very beautiful in flower.

❋ LEMON BALM (P) Easy, forgiving and tasty, lemon balm will grow almost anywhere, and with its yellow-splashed leaves it is a valuable plant for brightening up a dark corner. Use it to add to fruit salads and to make a refreshing hot tea (below left).

❋ ROSEMARY (P) Comes in all shapes, sizes and habits, from tall and statuesque, to bushy or trailing. It may surprise you to know that it also comes in several different scents and flavours, including ginger! It is one of the culinary essentials. Most rosemary plants benefit from regular pruning to keep them neat and tidy.

❋ THYME (P) Can be prostrate or upright, large

or small, and it comes in a myriad of flavours and scents, from lemon and orange to caraway and pine. Thyme, like the mints, can be very variable, so to get ones you really like, you should go to a nursery and pinch a leaf or two to test them for scent and flavour.

❋ OREGANO (P) / MARJORAM (P) These are often confused, and the names are sometimes used interchangeably, although they are distinctly different species. The hardy plants are often deemed to be marjoram, and the Mediterranean species oregano. Take time to taste the different varieties of the different species; some are particularly strong and peppery, and others are sweet and mild, while others can be quite bitter.

Dill is a delight (below), and is grown both for its ferny leaves and for its seed. Start it off early in spring and then keep on sowing and planting every three or four weeks until September. There are several dwarf varieties that have been bred to be harvested just for their leaves, and these varieties can be sown thickly in trays. A nice, easy way to grow dill for rapid transplanting is to borrow the old idea of using some guttering: sow the seeds in the guttering, then, when ready to transplant, simply slide the whole lot off into a ready-dug trench.

❋ FRENCH SORREL (P) A perfect plant to use as a base for sauces, its bright-green colour and lemony flavour team very well with chicken, and it is a great sauce over pasta, as well as a lovely leaf to add, shredded, to fruit cups. Provide some winter protection to allow it to crop through the winter. If you prefer the stronger, more astringent flavour of wild sorrel, remember to keep on cutting it down to encourage the growth of young, tender leaves (pictured above middle).

KEY P Perennial. TP Tender perennial – can be lifted and overwintered in a frost-free greenhouse. B Biennial – for seeds, start seed off indoors in late autumn to flower the following spring; for leaves, pinch off all flower spikes as they appear, to extend the season. May require some winter protection. A Annual – start from seed each spring to flower the same year.

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HANDY HERBS ❋ BASIL (TP, A) Basil comes in many different types, but one of my absolute favourites is the tender, small-leafed Greek basil, followed by the very spicy Thai and ‘Siam Queen’ basils. Grow basil from seed, or if you find a very nicely flavoured one in the supermarket, use that and transplant it into good, soil-based potting compost until it develops a satisfactory root system, then plant it in the garden or, perhaps, around the base of greenhouse tomatoes. One, which I have yet to try, is the new hardier variety ‘British Basil’, which may be handy for cooler gardens.

❋ PARSLEY (B) This is sometimes preferred in flatleafed form, in the belief that it is superior to the curly-leafed variety, but it really all comes down to a matter of personal taste. Although biennial, as long as you keep on pinching off the flower spikes and stop it from setting seed, it will keep on supplying you with leaves for three or four years. That said, when at last you have reaped all you can from any one plant, let it flower and set seed, then sit back and enjoy the wildlife: it is a favourite of bees and hoverflies. If they are in an exposed spot, popping a cloche over your plants in late autumn will allow you to pick fresh parsley all through the cold weather.

❋ CHIVES (P) Chives (below) will grow in sun or part shade, and will usually grow on for ever. There are several varieties: some with different coloured flowers; some short and some tall; and some with the flavour of onions or garlic, but all are worth growing. Cover the clump with a large cloche in winter to extend the season by two months or more.

❋ ROCKET (P) Can be very strongly flavoured, although some are a little gentler on the palate, so the important thing to do is find the right one for you. Left to itself, rocket will self-seed happily. Grow it in a row so that you can hoe along the edges to keep it in check.

❋ BORAGE (A) Borage is a lovely plant (pictured below middle). Grown from seed it can be a little variable, so to keep it nice and neat it is a good idea to provide it with some support to stop it flopping around. The flowers are delicious in salads and in drinks, and it is an essential addition to an authentic Pimm’s Cup.

❋ ANISE HYSSOP (P) This is a real star of the herb border. Flowering for the whole summer, its minty, anise-flavoured leaves are a tasty addition to both fruit and green salads, and the plant itself is beautiful.

❋ SALAD BURNET (P) Small and neat with a delightful cucumber flavour, salad burnet is best planted as a group or arranged along the front of a border as an edging plant, so that you have enough leaves to include in salads.

❋ FENNEL (P) This is an essential ingredient of any herb border, even if only because its ferny leaves are so attractive. The leaves team up very well with fish, and the seeds, added to cooking brassicas, reduce the attendant windiness of cabbages and their kin. The purple- and red-leafed forms are just as tasty. Children, both large and small, like picking herbs because of the immediate reward of the scent and flavour; for this reason herbs are a great introduction to both gardening and cooking. The best for immediate gratification are chocolate mint, lemon balm, one of the aniseflavoured herbs such as fennel or French tarragon, or the tart lemon flavour of French sorrel – all of these herbs can be picked and popped in the mouth, or used to make warm or cold drinks. Below: Golden anise hyssop.



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s ’ n e e r G l e h Rac

WINDOW SALAD BOWL BOX To celebrate the new Pots Zone at this year’s BBC Gardeners’ World Live event, TV chef Rachel Green gives us a sneak preview of her own easy-to-produce, attractive window salad bowl box


his year’s BBC Gardeners’ World Live event at the NEC in Birmingham on 11th–14th June will feature the all-new Pots Zone, created and presented by the editors of BBC Gardeners’ World magazine, and dedicated to helping you get great results from container gardening. At the heart of this area you’ll find the Potting Shed, a stage with an expert line-up including Monty Don and Mary Berry, exciting head-to-head ‘Pot Offs’, and practical demos from the magazine team. Visitors will be able to discover their own favourite look in the ‘Find Your Style’ trail, and can get ideas for colour, veg, wildlife and scent from the Container Gallery. Hailing from a family with fourteen generations of farming means that

food production has always been in Rachel Green’s blood, but what she has become famous for, and really loves doing, is cooking with and utilising the fabulous ingredients from her garden. You’ll be able to see her own flavoursome container at the show as part of the Container Gallery; however, Home Farmer managed to get a sneak peek at her window box, together with all the details you will need to recreate it at home.




RACHEL GREEN’S WINDOW SALAD BOWL BOX YOU WILL NEED ❋ Wicker trough/window box with a liner ❋ Tomato ‘Tiny Tim’ ❋ Nasturtium ‘Empress of India’ ❋ Lettuce ‘Lollo Bionda’ (or any similar frilly green lettuce) METHOD 1 Pierce the liner in the window box and fill it with peat-free multi-purpose compost. 2 Plant the tomatoes and nasturtiums at the back and the lettuce at the front. 3 Fill any gaps with more compost, then water well. 4 Water daily and support the tomatoes with small sticks, if needed. 5 Harvest the lettuce little and often, and use the nasturtiums to add colour to your salads. 6 Pick the tomatoes as they begin to ripen.

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sing seed mats and tapes helps you to place your seeds exactly where you want them, and prepared in advance, they can be a great time-saver. Making them is a good project for a windy or rainy day, because, come the sunshine, you can then go out and lay down your measured-out mat or tape in just seconds, rather than having to use up precious good-weather time doing the measuring up. And using chilli acts as an effective ‘keep off’ sign for slugs and other soil-dwelling critters, too!

SEED MATS YOU WILL NEED ❋ Squares of paper towel ❋ Plain flour ❋ Chilli powder ❋ Water ❋ Cocktail sticks, wooden spatula, or even better – a pipette ❋ Seeds


Mix up a paste of flour and water with a smidgeon of chilli powder.

RUTH’S TIP! If you are using seeds from wild flowers or other plants that would normally scatter randomly, mix your paste reasonably thinly so you can spread it with a pastry brush


Seed mats and seed tapes seem to be the must-have gardening aids of the moment. Ruth Tott makes her own using only basic kitchen items and seeds

as a wash over the paper towel, then scatter the seeds randomly on top. If, on the other hand, you are looking for regular-interval planting for veg, then measure out the towel (I just folded it in equal parts) and, using the pipette (or a cocktail stick/ spatula), place blobs of ‘glue’ on the towel at the appropriate intervals, followed by the seeds. Measure out the towel and use a pipette to place blobs of glue.

2 3


Write the name of the variety/ varieties on the mats (always useful!) and allow them to dry out completely. Once they are dry, you can fold them up and store them in an airtight bag until ready to use. You could even cut them into smaller squares for individual planting, or leave them as whole towels and use multiple sheets to cover larger areas. When ready to plant, place the seed mats in position in your bed or pot and cover lightly with soil and water.

SEED TAPES Use exactly the same materials as for the seed mats, but replace the squares of paper towel with strips of paper towel or newspaper, then, when dry, roll them up, label and store in a cool, dark place.

RUTH’S TIP! I’ve recently been experimenting with chilli powder and chilli flakes. Usually blighted by slugs of the very hungry kind, my young, fresh and green plants this year have remained slug free and have been left to grow in peace. When I planted the plugs I simply scattered chilli flakes around them, and so far it seems to have worked! See page 8 to help with this vital research.


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BUILDING m a w g i w e n a c a Mark Abbott-Compton creates a sturdy wigwam to support peas, beans and squash


ne of the best ways to increase the amount of growing space we have in the garden is to use wigwams or frames to create a vertical growing space. These wigwams can be used for growing vegetables such as peas, beans and squash. Because this method of growing is intensive, results are improved by preparing the ground underneath your wigwam or growing frame. Use good quantities of well-rotted compost or farmyard manure to provide nutrients to your wigwam crop – especially beans and squash.

STEP 1 If you’re growing in the open ground, your wigwam should be 0.9–1.5m (3–5ft) in diameter, and canes should be spaced approximately 15–30cm (6–12in) apart around the diameter of the circle. The canes need to be 2.4–3m (8–10ft) long and of a thick girth – don’t be tempted to use very thin, cheap canes, as the weight of the growing plants is quite substantial and it is vital to construct a solid and robust structure. If you are using canes that are more than a couple of years old, make sure that they haven’t become brittle – you Mark a circle on the ground, inside of which we are going to erect the wigwam.

don’t want your canes to fail just before your whole crop reaches maturity. This is when your plants will be at their heaviest and totally reliant upon the structure holding them up. An alternative to bamboo canes are hazel sticks, which can look very attractive, but tend to be more expensive unless you have facility to cut your own. You will need 6–10 of these canes. Additionally, you will need some strong

STEP 2 The next step is to mark a circle on the ground, inside of which we are going to erect the wigwam. The easiest way to do this is to take




Take a piece of twine and place it across your leg.

Pinch the ends of the twine.


Cross your hands on top of each other.


twine to tie onto half of your canes about 30cm (1ft) from the top, and I would recommend you have this cut ready in lengths of about 60–90cm (2–3ft) long.


Uncross your hands, forming a flat, figure of eight.


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Place the bottom loop on top to form a single hole – this crosses the twine, forming the X-shaped clove hitch.


Place over the cane and pull the opposite sides to tighten.

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Above: You need to push the canes about 30cm (12in) into the ground so they are vertical.

a length of string that measures half the diameter of the circle in which you want to plant, tie one end to a cane pushed into the ground in the middle of where you want your wigwam, then take the other end of the string and, keeping the string taut, scribe the circle on the ground.

STEP 3 With a 90cm (3ft) circle, I would put 2 canes opposite each other and then 2 canes on either side of them, leaving a roughly equal distance between them. With a 1.2m (4ft) circle, it is easier because you can use quarter points and then split those again in the middle of the quarter, which would give you eighths. You need to push the canes about 30cm (12in) into the ground so they are vertical. Be careful when doing this because if the canes are not vertical they can easily snap unexpectedly. There is no benefit to be gained by having your canes more than 30cm (12in) apart.

STEP 4 We now need the pieces of twine that we cut into 60–90cm (2–3ft) lengths in STEP 1. Tie these pieces of twine about 15cm (6in) from the top of each cane using a clove hitch knot. A clove hitch knot is the most secure knot to use, and over time it will tighten against itself and make the structure more solid.





AN ALTERNATIVE METHOD An alternative to make best use of space is to construct a tunnel along the edges of two parallel beds and grow your beans up these, which means you are growing over the paths and increasing your growing area. In this case you will need to brace along each row of canes by simply tying a horizontal cane across all of the verticals. Then you would cross the path with shorter canes and tie these in to create a tunnel.

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Now it’s time to create the structure. Take 2 opposite canes, bend them so that the tops are together, then tie them to form an ‘X’. The best way to do this is by creating a figure of eight, with the canes inside the ‘8’. Repeat this process by taking another cane at right angles to the first, bend this in and secure it by tying it; now do the same with the cane opposite this one. Repeat with any remaining canes. Always tie in with the opposite cane, as this creates tension within the wigwam, which helps with rigidity and stability. When you have completed this, you will have a perfect structure for vertical growing. Classic plants you can grow using a wigwam structure are runner beans, pole beans, borlotti beans and butter beans, but a wigwam can also be used very successfully to grow smaller varieties of squash such as ‘Sweet Dumpling’, and there is a variety of courgette called ‘Zucchetta Tromba D’Albenga’, which grows wonderfully well using this method.

MARK’S TIP! One of the ways to increase your crop is by companion planting, using either sweet peas or climbing nasturtiums, as these will attract beneficial pollinating insects and ensure a good crop.


GARDENERS’ delight!

The BBC Gardeners’ World Live event is one of the gardening highlights of the year. Here’s a brief preview of just some of the things to look forward to


he BBC Gardeners’ World Live event, sponsored by Lexus, on 11th–14th June at the NEC in Birmingham, is the ultimate destination for anyone who loves gardens and gardening. You’ll find the Gardeners’ World presenters sharing their top tips, inspirational show gardens, over 100 nurseries selling stunning plants, exhibitors of the latest tools and gadgets, and even free entry to the BBC Good Food Show Summer. It’s a great summer day out! Home Farmer readers will especially enjoy the Gardeners’ ‘Grow & Eat’ zone, centred around the Kitchen Garden Talks Tent, where Jim Buttress hosts an array of gardening and culinary experts. From Monty Don and Carol Klein, to Michael Caines and Thane Prince, you’ll get the low-down on getting bountiful crops with delicious results! Look out, too, for the brand-new Pots Zone (see page 30). Created and presented by the editors of BBC Gardeners’ World magazine, it contains everything you need to get great container-gardening results. Whether you’re after pots of flavour or colour, or ones to attract wildlife, you’ll be inspired by experts including Monty Don and Mary Berry, exciting ‘Pot-Offs’, the Container Gallery and ‘Find Your Style’ trail (complete with plant shopping lists), plus the hands-on ‘Have A Go’ demo stage hosted by GQT’s Matt Biggs. Favourite perennials at the show

include: the RHS Floral Marquee and Plant Village, combining well over 100 specialist nurseries, with beautiful displays and literally 1000s of plants for sale; show gardens packed with canny ideas, great planting and inspiration to take home to your own garden; and the BBC Gardeners’ World Theatre sponsored by Wyevale Garden Centres, where Monty Don, Carol Klein and Joe Swift share their top tips (book seats in advance – £2).

What’s more, you also get free entry to one of the best summer food shows the country has to offer – the BBC Good Food Show Summer, featuring Michel Roux Jr (this year for the first time), Mary Berry, James Martin and more, alongside hundreds of exhibitors selling the finest seasonal fayre. We can’t wait to pay a visit to the Bakes & Cakes area and the Producers’ Village for some tasty treats.

Garden Walk in the show gardens with James Alexander-Sinclair, BBC Gardeners’ World Theatre seats, and places on the ‘Have A Go’ workshops with Matt Biggs. Please visit us on stand G92 to say hello and to let us know what you have enjoyed at the event.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS * 15% off Adult and Over-65s advance standard, Any-Day, 2-Day and Child Weekday tickets, but not valid on VIP or with any other offer. Offer ends 14/06/15. Not all experts appear on all days, so please check the website for up-to-date details.

TICKETS As a Home Farmer reader, you can save 15% off advance tickets* by quoting HF15. Book online at, or by calling the box office on 0844 581 1340. When booking tickets you can also add a place on an exclusive



J U N E 2015



Permaculture tutors, John Mason, Adriana Fraser and Gavin Cole, outline the principles and practicalities involved in setting up a permaculture system


ermaculture is an ethical and sustainable approach to providing for our needs. It recognises human requirements such as food, fuel and shelter and attempts to supply them without degrading anything else in the environment such as air, water, animals, plants and soil. In a broad sense permaculture attempts to establish diverse environments that are productive, stable and resilient in order to provide people with food, shelter, energy and income, and also to build communities in a healthy, balanced, sustainable and integrated way. As such, permaculture stresses both a positive approach and an attitude of cooperation, with respect to the environment and all living things. It embraces the ethic that all life has an intrinsic worth, regardless of how useful an organism is to us as humans – and uses that as a basis for the three main ethical principles as follows:

❋ CARING FOR THE EARTH All living things (animals and plants) and the systems they live in (land, water and air), which make up the environment, should be allowed to prosper.

❋ CARING FOR PEOPLE Permaculture systems are designed to encourage the promotion of self-reliance, along with community responsibility.

❋ SHARING FAIRLY This follows the above two aims by limiting consumption, reproduction and sharing surplus by redistributing excess (e.g. food, labour, information or money).

KEY ELEMENTS Permaculture started out as an innovative idea which identified and


DEMYSTIF Y permaculture incorporated farming, gardening practices and philosophical ideas from many different places around the world. It adopted, adapted and combined these various practices to form what we know as ‘permaculture’ today. A permaculture system is made up of land, water, trees, soil, buildings, etc. It doesn’t concentrate on the conventional notion of aesthetics like other areas of landscape design. Instead, function is the key factor in permaculture, and appreciation of beauty is given low priority. A permaculture system needs to serve its purpose, not to serve a notion of aesthetics. Key elements of permaculture are low-energy and high-diversity inputs: principles that are equally relevant to a small home garden or a large commercial farm.

The arrangement and layout will mostly depend on personal preferences, providing the nine key guiding principles are followed: 1 RELATIVE LOCATION – all things in a design are connected, and by placing individual components in a design in the right position it encourages a desirable relationship between them. 2 MULTIPLE FUNCTIONS – a design will have numerous functions (provide shelter, food, energy, etc.). Each function in a design should be considered individually in support of the whole, and each function is supported by many elements. 3 MULTIPLE ELEMENTS – biological diversity is a key principle of permaculture. The way in which


OTHER TECHNIQUES USED IN PERMACULTURE Permaculture uses other techniques to help achieve sustainable land practices: ❋ COMPANION PLANTING Using plants to influence the health and growth of other plants. This includes using a diversity of plant-life to encourage beneficial predatory insects, improving soil fertility by planting deep- and shallow-rooting crops (to access nutrients at different levels), using cover crops and legumes to improve nutrient stores within the soil, using plants that are known to benefit other plants, or using those known to suppress weed growth. ❋ KEYHOLE PLANTING Creating beds within a circle, with the edge of the bed accessed through a ‘keyhole’ pathway to increase the productive area and make harvesting and maintenance accessible (pictured above right).

F YING plants are arranged in a system affects the environment, i.e. the temperature, frosts, winds, soil fertility and energy. 4 ELEVATION PLANNING – a permaculture design is threedimensional; it considers the width, length and the height of the elements within the system – enabling appropriate placement to, for example, encourage energy impacts. 5 BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES – it uses only renewable energy sources (e.g. timber grown in wood-lots) that are produced and reproduced within the system. 6 ENERGY RECYCLING – energy use is minimised through collection, storage and reuse of waste energy within the system from animals and plants. For instance: vegetation is used for compost; animal droppings for manures, etc.; and plants (e.g. legumes) are used to store energy in the form of nutrients in the soil.

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❋ SWALES Gullies dug across a slope to channel rainwater to a point where it will reach plants which need it. Instead of wasting rainfall by letting it soak into the ground, where it is not needed, it runs down the channel to a hollow, where it concentrates and soaks in around the roots. ❋ ORGANIC GROWING Avoiding chemicals and using natural techniques like composting and cover crops to improve the soil. ❋ LIVING SOIL Encouraging earthworms, beneficial bacteria and any other organisms that help to make the soil nutritious and fertile for plants, as well as providing food for other animals. ❋ NO-DIG GARDENING This technique was practised in many places before permaculture, but it has been embraced in a big way by permaculture enthusiasts. No-dig gardening uses layers of organic matter (manure and compost topped with straw) to form crop beds above the ground, in which plants are grown. ❋ USING NATURE TO ACHIEVE BALANCE To control pests and diseases, birds and predatory insects can be encouraged. However, it is recognised that some pests and diseases are needed to feed the predators. Moveable housing can be relocated to different zones as needed, allowing chickens to feast and clean up garden pests.


PERMACULT URE 7 NATURAL SUCCESSION – this means encouraging new life when old organisms die. 8 MAXIMISING EDGES – because they abut other parts of a system (there are two different components on either side), edges have greater diversity and therefore more components of influence than other parts of a system. It is important that edges are well designed, to create greater diversity within the system. 9 DIVERSITY – this is needed to ensure greater biological variation. A permaculture system is always a polyculture, i.e. made up of many and varied components (never a monoculture).

PLANTS AND THEIR FUNCTION IN A PERMACULTURE SYSTEM As outlined above, one principle of permaculture is diversity. In a permaculture system you should grow a variety of different plants together. This ensures greater biological stability. For example, using beans in permaculture helps fulfil this important principle because beans have multiple functions – they help improve soil fertility and can also be harvested for food. The size, shape, density, arrangement and diversity of plants influences: ❋ Temperature – plants make air and soil temperatures cooler in summer and warmer in winter. ❋ Water – soil is less likely to dry out under a tree canopy. ❋ Wind – the direction can be changed and the strength reduced. ❋ Deciduous trees – the trees lose their leaves in winter, creating different environmental effects across seasons. Below: If a garden is poorly designed, the gaps will become filled with undesirable weeds, but if planned properly, they will fill with other desirable and useful plants.


Right: Raised beds provide vegetables, fruit and flowers, and at the same time provide an enclosed, protected spot to sit, relax and eat as you harvest.

❋ Frost – there is far less chance of frost alongside other plants, or under a canopy of plants.

TECHNIQUES OFTEN USED IN PERMACULTURE One way to plan a permaculture system involves seeing it as a series of zones that each have specific characteristics and purposes. The zones might be thought of as concentric rings radiating out from a home or from a central pathway through the permaculture system. Components that need to be accessed most often (e.g. vegetables, chickens, nut trees) are in Zone 1 and are located closer to a central Zone 0 (e.g. a home and any buildings associated with the house). They are located further away if they are accessed less often, e.g. Zone 3 may be the fruit trees, and Zone 4 may be the wood-lot and be farthest away from Zone 0 because it is not often used. However, zones should be flexible and flow into each other. Permaculture design also uses sectors. Sector planning aims to channel external energies such as wind, fire, sun and flood in a desirable direction. Good design will protect property from strong winds, flood or extreme heat, if these factors are potential problems. In a cold climate, the same considerations will ensure that the sun’s energy is caught and used where and when it is needed. In a dry climate, limited rainfall must also be caught and used to maximum benefit. Concepts such as sectors are far more site-specific than the conceptual ideas of zones. Sectors are identified by existing factors that affect the property, such as Below: A permaculture system is three-dimensional; plan for what happens at different heights as well as the area the garden covers.

winds, sun direction, good or poor views, access, water sources, and the like.

EDGES As in natural forests there should be areas without large trees in a permaculture system. The ‘edge’ between a treed and non-treed area will be a different environment again to the areas with and without trees. These ‘edges’ provide conditions for growing things that won’t grow fully in the open or under the canopy of trees. The southern edge of a treed area is sunny but sheltered, while the northern Below: Tomatoes in a hanging basket need watering frequently, so are best located close to the house in a central zone. Right: As they grow, large trees like this chestnut create more shade and the ground below becomes less productive. This is succession.


characteristics of the natural forest to our advantage. This is known as stacking. Plants of different height can be used for stacking to make the most use out of vertical space. This is referred to as ‘guild planting’. Stacking helps to: ❋ Prevent weed growth through dense layering. ❋ Save space. ❋ Improve crop yields. ❋ Prevent soil erosion. ❋ Use water, light and nutrients effectively. ❋ Revitalise degraded land. Stacking can also refer to the careful selection of plants in the design. Thought should be given to how plants are stacked, e.g. plants that supply nitrogen, plants that use nitrogen, plants that repel insects, and plants that climb using other plants for support. For each, guilds should be selected carefully.

edge is cold but still sheltered, more than in the open. Pioneer plants are used initially in a permaculture system to provide vegetation and aid the development of other plants that take much longer to establish. These pioneer plants are often short-lived. For example, legumes grow fast and fix nitrogen (raise nitrogen levels) in the soil, which increases the nutrients available to nut trees growing beside them. Over time the nuts will become firmly established and the legumes will die out.

GUILDS AND STACKING Ecosystems can be stabilised, and use of vertical space becomes more efficient

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through ‘stacking’. In natural forests, large trees dominate the system. They occupy the canopy level (overstorey). These trees will affect everything else below in the understorey. They create shade, reduce temperature fluctuations below through insulation, and they restrict light intensity and water loss from the surface of the ground. In permaculture we use the

ENVIRONMENTS DO CHANGE It is inevitable for environments to change – nothing is static in nature. Permaculture plans for change and tries to achieve a relatively predetermined and managed succession. Succession is natural in uncultivated environments. Primary succession occurs slowly in nature. It may be the weathering of rocks, or the way the overstorey of a forest influences the growth and the environment beneath it. It may be that wet areas become dry, or dry areas become wet, and the biological life of those areas changes along with it. Or succession may be secondary, i.e. caused by floods, fires, winds, or mass tree lopping. To use succession in permaculture to your advantage is exceptionally complex, and achieving a perfect control may be impossible, but attempting to manage change is much better than letting it happen without any forethought.

FURTHER INFORMATION The founders of permaculture established a Permaculture Design Certificate – widely known as the PDC. This internationally standard course teaches the same basics all over the world and was set up a little like a ‘pyramid scheme’, with graduates from the first certificates going on to teach PDCs to others, and so on. Today, there are millions of PDC graduates around the world and there are opportunities for people to study the PDC in all sorts of different ways. Visit to find out more.

J U N E 2015



CROCKS IN POTS As gardeners, we probably all hoard broken pots for later use as drainage when potting new plants, but is it fact or fable as regards doing the job? Elizabeth McCorquodale investigates


hen I set out to undertake this trial, I wondered if many people still put crocks in their pots, so I conducted a quick straw poll among friends and family to test the waters, so to speak. Of the twenty people I asked, eleven said they always used crocks, four said they felt they should but usually didn’t, and five said no, never… so I set out to see who was right.

THE THEORY Putting crocks or gravel in the bottom of pots is supposed to improve drainage in the pot because excess water flows out of the denser soil material into the large cavities between the crocks. They are also supposed to plug the drainage hole and stop soil from being washed out of the pot, or, conversely (and depending on who you talk to), they cover the drainage hole, thereby stopping it becoming clogged with soil.

THE TEST To test the theory I took fifteen 1-litre plastic pots and filled five of them with a 2.5cm layer of terracotta shards, another five with a 2.5cm layer of coarse gravel, and then I filled them with a well-known, soil-based potting medium. The final five pots had no drainage material and were completely filled with the potting medium. Then I set them all on a wire screen and placed a saucer under the screen beneath each pot so that I could accurately measure the run-off from each one. I then watered each pot with 0.75 litres of water, waited half an hour and then measured the amount of water that had drained out of each pot. I also conducted an experiment that I used to carry out with gardening club students when discussing what size and shape of pot


to choose; I took a large rectangular sponge, saturated it and laid it down horizontally on a saucer filled with coarse gravel, then I waited until no more water dripped out. When it stopped dripping, I turned it so that the sponge was standing upright on its short edge and observed the result.

THE TRUTH First off, there was no discernible difference between any of the pots with regard to the amount of soil that was washed out of the drainage holes. As regards drainage, the amount of water that drained away was, on average, the same for all the pots. At first glance this doesn’t seem to make sense: there is, after all, less soil in the crocked pots to hold on to the water because some of the room is taken up with crocks, so it seems sensible that more water should drain from them. The trouble is, it all comes down not to common sense, but rather to physics. Gravity and capillary action govern the way water moves around the pot, and it can be a little odd. To see this clearly we can go back to the experiment with the sponge – positioning it horizontally, I allowed the sponge to

drain until no more water dripped out, then I turned it on end, and, lo and behold, as soon as I did, more water dripped from it. When the sponge was lying flat it was able to hold more water than when upright. It obviously had the same volume, but the weight of the water combined with the pull of gravity dictated that more water was drawn out of the sponge when vertical. Coupled with this is the physical problem with water movement between areas of finely textured materials (the soil or the sponge) and coarsely textured materials (the crocks or gravel below the sponge). Water will not flow from the finely textured soil into the space below until it has exceeded saturation point in the soil, and as there is no capillary connection between the soil and the coarser material, it cannot be drawn down, either. In addition, the shape of the space the soil occupies in the crocked pots is shallower than it would be without the crocks, so it will drain differently; just like the horizontal sponge, the soil in the crocked pots is able to hold on to more water than a similar amount of soil in a more upright shape.


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The truth is that crocks (or any other drainage material, for that matter) in the bottom of pots do not aid drainage, and could even result in the remaining soil in the pot being wetter for longer than if no crocks were used. A pot partly filled with crocks is simply a pot with less room for valuable potting medium. It is matching the species of plant to the correct potting medium, the size of plant to the correct size of pot, the amount and frequency of watering and whether or not the pot is left sitting in a saucer of water for long periods, that determines if a pot becomes waterlogged or not, rather than the presence or absence of crocks!



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FORAGING n e d r a g e h t n i When planting, include a few forager’s favourites such as edible flowers, suggests David Winnard. Many, such as cornflowers, are sadly in decline in the wild and will benefit from a break


’m a forager, not a gardener, but it all involves plants, so it can’t be that different, right? Gardening is a bit like foraging in your own garden, right? Well, it is at the start, but then it just gets silly… let me explain. This last week, all I have done is create raised beds for some veg and other edible plants, for that is the only rule about what gets planted in this garden – it has to be edible, medicinal, or at least useful to me – pretty just doesn’t cut it, although, as you will see, pretty and edible can work together. But why raised beds? Well, because the soil in the garden is something Tony Robinson and the Time Team would love – it’s full of all sorts of things from the past: slag iron, coal, brickwork, the remains of a Roman villa (no doubt), and endless amounts of fine china, clearly from some ancient Chinese dynasty! One thing it is lacking, however, is any shred of useful soil in which to actually plant anything, which is apparently the key to successful gardening and making plants grow. Consequently, late last summer (or early last autumn) I put in some raised beds and I have added more this year. What interested me is how quickly the older raised beds attracted ‘weeds’ – wavy bittercress, ground elder, nettle and a few odd things that are now growing through my neighbour’s fence. Although the plants I have mentioned are edible, my beans and peas apparently like it ‘weed free’, so naturally I dug up these so-called weeds; but while my neighbour just threw his in his brown bin, I made egg and wavy bittercress sandwiches, nettle soup and a delicious ground elder pesto, then I carried on with the hoeing


Wavy bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa). Photo courtesy of

and digging and all the other things that evolution should no longer have required me to do – you can probably tell I don’t really get this gardening thing! Anyway, I now have some lovely empty beds – in other words a blank canvas or a fresh start; and then comes the easy bit – just add plants! Wrong! What plants should I add? What makes the grade and what doesn’t? People have mentioned growing wild garlic, but I get lots of wild garlic from my local wood, and anyway, it would take up too much space in my very modestly sized garden. Sorrel, perhaps? Again, the meadows nearby are covered in it, so why plant it. After planting the usuals (rosemary, sage, mint, thyme, and copious amounts of lavender alongside my established blackcurrants and gooseberries), I decided I wanted to add some colour, and to have some edible wild flowers – not only will these act as garnishes, but they will attract insects, too.

Even the pond must be a source of edible plants, and there really is no shortage of water-loving edibles to be found; water mint and meadowsweet are both in the pond and thriving there, and I am very much looking forward to doing something with them later in the year. Personally, I want my garden filled with plants which are useful and colourful, and that have a wonderful aroma that brings back memories of amazing days in the countryside looking for plants and wildlife. After considerable thought I have chosen several species of wild flower to plant, because not only are they stunning, they are also now in decline, and I am getting to the stage where locally I will not pick them because they need all the help they can get after losing much of their natural habitat already. This month I have chosen four edible plants to look at in detail; three of which I am actually planting in my garden. Let’s see if I can convince you to plant the same three…

HEARTSEASE (Viola tricolor) Many of you may know this plant as wild pansy, but I prefer the name heartsease, which accurately sums up one of its uses – it helps with heart problems. In fact, throughout history it has been used to treat a whole host of ailments: urinary problems, skin problems, gout, asthma, coughs, nerve inflammations, tiredness, and even bedwetting. But more than that, it’s just so pretty to look at! I don’t actually use it for treating anything; I just love it because it makes salads look so attractive. I also use it crystallised on cakes, and sometimes I even freeze it in


Heartsease ((Viola Viola tricolor). tricolor).

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SE ASONAL FOR AGING ice cubes to add to a G&T. As well as a garnish, it also makes a lovely addition to herbal tea. The flavour is subtle but slightly peppery, and I honestly think that it looks like the ‘happiest’ of flowers. I have planted it in the garden, as it’s sadly in decline. Heartsease loves arable farmland and set-aside, but these are becoming much harder to find – certainly around Manchester. There are some lookalikes such as the field pansy, which likes the same sort of habitat, and this is also edible.

CORNFLOWER (Centaurea cyanus) People often ask me if I have a favourite flower, and I have to say that I have a real soft spot for cornflowers. I think that any blue flowers are stunning, but this is something really special. Sadly, it has declined dramatically since intensive farming began, and wild plant conservation charity, Plantlife (, has declared it as one of the species they want to bring back from the brink. It is often included in wild flower seed mixes, and is now more often seen in people’s gardens than in the wild. For this reason it is another species I have included in my edible garden. The striking flowers will ‘wow’ anyone who comes over for one of my summer salads, and the edible flowers have a lovely taste. It does have some historic medicinal uses for things like conjunctivitis, but more impressively, it is the national flower of Estonia, and also the logo for the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia, no less. With its impressive and dramatic colour, it also attracts insects and is simply stunning to find in the wild, but it should also look great in my garden.

BABINGTON’S LEEK (Allium ampeloprasum subsp. babingtoni) For many in t’ North, this is a plant you won’t find in the wild. It’s very much a plant of the South West, where in certain areas it can be very common. It is a variety of wild leek, itself a very south-westerly species, and it can be used in similar ways

FURTHER INFORMATION David Winnard runs foraging and wildlife photography courses. Visit to find out more about his activities.


Above: Babington’s leek (Allium ampeloprasum subsp. babingtoni). Left: Wild pansy (Viola tricolor spp. curtsii).


– the leaves can be used to add flavour, and they can also be used just like normal leeks before the flower emerges, although they tend to have a much more intense garlic flavour. It is a tall plant, sometimes reaching 2m in height, and where I usually find them in Cornwall they grow on roadside verges and along the slopes of cliffs. It is often grown in gardens as an edible plant, and the seeds are easy to get hold of, but sadly in my small garden a plant which can grow to 2m is difficult to justify, so it will have to remain something that I look forward to tasting on my annual visits to Cornwall.

LOUSEWORT (Pedicularis sylvatica) Before we discuss this, let’s be clear that lousewort is a parasitic plant which can live off numerous hosts. If there are any poisonous plants growing close to lousewort, leave well alone, as it can absorb some of the toxins. I have to say, though, that I have not found it growing near to any as of yet – there’s always a first time, though. Lousewort is mainly a plant of heathland and moorland, preferring wet conditions. The leaf is lovely raw, and the flowers, too, are edible. With their quirky shape, they offer something a little bit different from the usual flower garnishes. The flowers can appear as early as July, and I have often found specimens still flowering in late August/early September. It can also be encountered right across the country in suitable habitats.

IN CONCLUSION… So, there we have it – four wonderful plants which are all edible and that will certainly impress your friends if you use them. I strongly believe that our gardens are hugely important for wildlife, and they should be seen as extensions of the wild, although there is also absolutely no reason why you can’t have lots of fruit, veg and herbs growing in the garden alongside wild flowers. I always get immense pleasure from seeing butterflies and bees enjoying these tasty edibles as much as I do. It is important to make people aware that some of these wonderfully impressive wild flowers, which we often take for granted, are having a hard time in their natural habitat, and although they may look fabulous in the garden, they always look even better in the wild. So, if you are thinking about what to plant in the garden, think wild edible flowers – you certainly won’t be disappointed!

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Above: Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus). Left: Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica).



INSECTS y m e n e e l b i s i v n The i

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Most keepers will end up fighting an insect problem at some point. This month Terry Beebe looks at some of the more common ones, and at how to control or eradicate them RED MITE

Red mite is one of the major warmweather problems faced by poultry keepers, and it has increased at an alarming rate over the last few years. There are a number of possible reasons for this: the changes we are experiencing in climate mean that winters are no longer as severe as they once were and no longer destroy bugs, pests and their eggs, and the removal of certain insect sprays and treatments from the market, principally creosote and related chemical products. Whilst acknowledging that finding alternatives to toxic chemicals is important, it is equally important to provide alternatives that actually work.

PREVENTION This can be difficult, as red mite thrive in any timber, and seem to love new timber, so new housing is always a target, even though this might be the last place you would expect problems. Red mite, however, are spread by wild birds, and as such are never far away. You really need to treat any housing during both the summer,

when they are active, and the winter, when they are at their most dormant, and this includes any new sheds. Red mite are ectoparasites, which means they live outside the animal. They hide during the hours of daylight, remaining behind timber joints and in other nooks and crannies, unless you have a really major infestation, when you will see them in daylight. They especially love to hide under the felt on the roof, which creates a problem, as you have little chance of destroying them under the felt. The only way is to remove and replace it – a major job. Soaking the shed regularly in a suitable disinfectant and a proven antimite product such as Poultry Shield is the only way to realistically control and reduce infestation, but this is never just a one-off treatment and needs to be repeated regularly throughout the seasons. You will never actually eradicate red mite, but they can be controlled effectively through a regular regime of treatment. If you adopt such a regime from the start you can control the

Right: Replacing this roofing felt will deprive red mite of a hiding place!



Above: Dead mite and mite eggs on a hen’s egg. Left: Chickens can’t tell you when they have a problem, but their behaviour and condition will.

problem, but although you may kill off adult mite, the eggs remain hidden and will eventually produce the next wave of infestation. Years ago, using creosote, diesel and even old engine oil were common solutions – my grandad used to paint old engine oil on the ends of the perches and in the joints of the coop, and it worked really well – but present-day rules and regulations frown upon such activities.

THE BREEDING CYCLE The breeding cycle of red mite is about 7–10 days, and for this reason spraying every other week is not enough – as fast as you kill the adult insects, the young will continue hatching! This is why major infestations can appear quickly and catch poultry keepers unaware. The typical red mite female has a reproduction capacity of approximately 120,000 eggs, and when multiplied this will result in millions of insects if no action is taken.

PREVENTING INFESTATIONS Coops should be cleaned regularly, disposing of any loose feathers that can harbour hatching eggs (nits). Limit visits from fellow poultry keepers, who can transport the insects on their clothes, footwear or equipment. Keep poultry feed in a secure location so as not to attract wild birds, which carry parasites and diseases. Quarantine new birds for at least 14 days before introducing them to an existing flock. Provide adequate dusting areas for chickens to care for their skin and feathers naturally. A dust-bath is the chicken equivalent of a daily shower. It helps maintain skin and feathers and controls parasites. Some claim that adding food grade diatomaceous earth (a product such as Diatom) to the dust-bathing area combats external parasites. ❋ Consider investing in housing made from man-made materials such as plastic or recycled materials – they are far less attractive to mite and are easier to clean. ❋ ❋ ❋ ❋ ❋

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POULT RY on the nest. When she removed the dead birds she found the place teeming with red mite. Prior to this she had not even noticed a problem. You need to be very diligent when checking the birds and the housing. Mite crawl out in the dark as the birds roost, climbing onto them and sucking their blood for 1–2 hours each night. If it remains uncontrolled, the birds will gradually become pale, and they can die in extreme circumstances – especially younger chicks. They can also have a drastic effect on egg production. I think of them as little vampires – when they emerge from their hiding places they are a buff/grey colour, but after feasting, their bodies turn red as they gorge themselves on blood, hence the name ‘red mite’.


TRANSMISSION Wild birds are the main culprit, but going to a show, buying from a sale or auction, or even visiting another breeder, can result in bringing home mite, and they can live away from their ideal host for several weeks. They can be carried on your hands, clothes and shoes, so always be careful if you have visitors or visit another breeder yourself.

THE CURE If you have a serious infestation, empty the shed completely, then clean each corner and the timber joints as thoroughly as possible, ideally with a power washer. Once this is done, soak the inside thoroughly with a suitable anti-mite

treatment. Poultry Shield and Diatom (diatomaceous earth) are both safe to use even in an organic regime. To get it right, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter, and make sure it penetrates all the joints – it is no use skimping, as the problem will return to bite you. Repeat the process on a weekly basis so that you remain ahead of the 7- to 10-day life cycle. You could also use a heat gun, such as those used when paint stripping, but be careful – you wouldn’t be the first person to burn down a poultry coop! Red mite are incredible survivors and can live undetected in chicken housing for up to 34 weeks, and then as soon as you add livestock they appear. Recently, I had a call from a distressed lady who had had a broody hen and her chicks die

❋ Mild or severe irritation in birds and a loss of egg production. ❋ An increasing number of eggs laid on the floor (hens will avoid an infested nest box). ❋ An increase in vent pecking, cannibalism and general distress. ❋ Anaemia (pale faces) and lifeless, dull birds. ❋ Pale egg yolks. ❋ Eggs covered with red staining and mite faeces. ❋ You find yourself itching and, in the worst cases, suffering from skin irritation. There is no simple answer to a red mite problem, and it will affect most of us at one time or another. Keep your eyes open and try to control them before they are identified, through a regular weekly regime of treatment. As you feed daily and clean each day, take note of the way your hens are behaving, and if they are not their usual selves, take time to find out why; this is nothing more than basic, good poultry husbandry. Below: Non-wooden items are more resistant to mite and easier to clean, but even plastic drinkers can become overrun.

Above: Red mite on a door-frame. Right: Birds affected by red mite look unhappy, uninterested and huddled.



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OTHER EXTERNAL PARASITES Other external parasites include lice, fleas, ticks, flies, mosquitoes and a range of other mites, including fowl mite, skin mite and feather mite, with each category having a few ‘sub-mites’ listed under it. The type of mite that infests your flock is often dependent on where you live. Some mites spend their whole life cycle on birds, while others spend it mostly off them. All mite infestations can cause low egg production, anaemia, reduced fertility, plumage damage, skin irritation, increased appetite and, ultimately, death.

❋ FOWL MITE Fowl mite, including northern fowl mite, are one of the more serious and common types of mite affecting poultry. They are found in cooler environments and become more serious as the weather gets colder. They are often mistaken for red mite but live their entire life on the bird. Evidence of northern fowl mite includes seeing them crawling on eggs in nest boxes, darkened vent feathers, and blackened or reddened and scabby skin around the vent. Large numbers may be present on the skin of birds during the day. Treatment for fowl mite includes washing each bird in a suitable mite shampoo (dog or cat shampoo will work fine), then dusting the bird with Diatom or any suitable dust approved for use on poultry. Coops, including perches and nest boxes, should be dusted well with a disinfectant such as BioDri. I also use Poultry Shield sprayed directly onto the birds, but I part the feathers so the spray reaches the skin.

❋ SCALY LEG MITE Scaly leg mite attack the unfeathered Below: Scaly leg mite.

skin on legs and feet, causing the scales to thicken, crust over and eventually fall off. They spend their entire life on the chicken. Once they invade, you can have a hard time getting rid of them. Scaly leg mite spread slowly and are more common in feather-footed breeds like the Cochin and Brahma. The treatment I prefer is to wash the legs using dishwashing soap in warm water. Dry the legs, then soak the feet in vegetable oil. It’s best to do this in your bathroom tub. Dry the legs once again after you have soaked the feet in oil. I then coat the legs with Vaseline, and recoat them a few times each week, which soothes the legs and at the same time suffocates the mite. You can alternate the Vaseline with specific scaly leg treatment, using a brush to rub it into the scales. I have used Ivermectin as an internal defence against scaly leg mite, and this is also what I use as a wormer. Your vet will always give you a suitable product for both insects and for worming birds. There is a withdrawal period for egg and meat birds, but Ivermectin has been a great paste for both internal and external parasites.

❋ FEATHER MITE Feather mite live on and eat a bird’s plumage, ruining feathers by chewing stripes across them or by damaging the feather base. Treatment includes a mite shampoo product that can be used in a bath; follow this with a good lice/mite powder treatment. All coops, roosts, and nest boxes will need to be dusted as well. Spraying could work, but if you have a coop made of wood I would not recommend spraying it for long periods of time.

Above: Crest mite damage. Below right: Lice on a bird’s skin.

TREATMENT FOR OTHER EXTERNAL PARASITES Flies, ticks, fleas, lice and mosquitoes are not quite as bad as in really hot countries, but we do suffer from them during the summer months, and a single treatment will usually be effective against all of them. For fly control I use the Redtop Fly Trap. I have tried many other products, but this is the one that really works. Follow the directions, but be sure to hang the trap away from the infested area and not close to the house, as it smells quite bad after a short while. They can be purchased from most main poultry suppliers or online. Fleas can also be treated with insect sprays and powders.

PREVENTION Monthly, or bimonthly, inspections of each bird should be performed to identify parasites, ideally before birds begin exhibiting signs. Pay particular attention to brooding hens, as they dust-bathe less frequently than usual, but are especially vulnerable to parasites. Roosters are also more susceptible to mite infestation, possibly because they are too busy watching the hens to dustbathe as often as they should.

Middle: Feather mite.






Terry Beebe features the Araucana, a breed that lays stunning blue/green eggs


he Araucana takes its name from the Arauca area of northern Chile and was the result of crossbreeding Mediterranean chickens (brought by the Spanish) with indigenous breeds. In addition to large and bantam varieties, there are two distinct variations – one with a standard tail, and the other rumpless, with no tail. Introduced into Europe in the early 1900s, the modern Araucana was created in the 1930s by Mr George Malcolm, who produced a true-breeding Lavender colour alongside other colours that also bred true. The breed produces a great number of blue/green eggs, with a strong shell that permeates throughout. The unusual colour was recorded in South America as far back as the 16th century, but some owners have experienced colour variations, suggesting the strain may have been crossed with other breeds. Blue/green eggs are said to be lower in cholesterol than other eggs, although there is no specific evidence to back this up. Araucanas are strong, fast growers and happy in confinement, making them a good choice for newcomers, but they do enjoy fresh grass. They are vigorous and hardy, but with a placid temperament, and are available in a range of colours. There was an active UK breed club, which was formed around 1915, but this faded away by 1960, as interest in blue/

THE RUMPLESS ARAUCANA This version is born without a tail. It is a short, rounded bird with an upright stance, and has a broad skull and unusual wart-like features, called ‘plicae’, on either side of the head where the ear lobes would normally be. These are covered in feathers, making up ear tufts that slant backwards, which are unique to the breed. They lay a large egg in relation to body size and are as productive as the tailed varieties.

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green eggs decreased. However, a few breeders never lost interest, and by 1972 popularity increased once more and the club was relaunched.

BREED DESCRIPTION The carriage needs to be alert and active, and the long body firm to handle, but not too heavy, with a moderately long back and large, strong wings. The tail should be well developed (except in rumpless birds), with full sickles carried at an angle of forty-five degrees. The head is moderately small with a strong beak, bold eyes and a small pea-type comb. The face and ears are covered with thick muffling, with strong, small ear lobes concealed by the muffling. A compact crest is carried well back on the head, away from the eyes, and there are no wattles. The neck is medium length and well furnished with hackle feathers. The feet are medium length, strong and well apart, with four toes that are straight and well apart, and the shanks are free from feathers. The eyes are dark orange and the face and comb bright red, with the beak and nails a horn colour. The legs are willow to olive or slate, except the Cuckoo colour, which has white legs with blue spots.

Colour variations include Lavender (the most popular), Blue, Black Red, Silver Duckwing, Golden Duckwing, Blue Red, Pile, Crele, Spangled, Cuckoo, Black and White.

WEIGHTS ❋ Cock: 2.7–3.2kg (6–7lb). ❋ Hen: 2.25–2.7kg (5–6lb).

FOR Great layers; blue/green eggs; an ideal exhibition breed; an unusual, goodlooking appearance; excellent broody, which makes a very good mother.

AGAINST Can become broody on a regular basis, and the egg colour cannot always be guaranteed.

FURTHER INFO The British Araucana Club Telephone 01535 645083.





A WAY OF LIFE er’s Diary A Smallhold

Dot Tyne’s March diary entries record the preparations for lambing, the lambing itself, and the annual lambing course, with Buttercup and Bluebell ready to calve early next month 1ST MARCH Tim was away on the last day of his deerstalking course. Despite hideous weather he passed the practical test and the written exam, too. He was mightily relieved! Did some preparatory cooking for the forthcoming lambing course. 2ND MARCH Checked and fed the sheep and took fresh silage bales out for them. Took down some gates and hayracks in the shed and started mucking out. It’s too late to spread muck on the fields, as we’ll be putting sheep in them soon, so Tim took trailer-loads and tipped them in the corner of one field so we can spread it later in the year. Made plum and blackberry jam – it set really well and it’s delicious! Took some sloes and elderberries out of the freezer to make into wine, and baked bread rolls for the freezer. 3RD MARCH Checked and fed the sheep.

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Went to town to do some shopping and discovered a new shop opened by a local small farmer, primarily stocking veg, woollen items and goat’s milk soap products. Had a chat with them, and they seemed keen to liaise with other local small-scale producers to increase their range of products. Good luck to them. One of our neighbours is in the thick of his lambing and has a filthy cold – never a good combination – so Tim lent him a hand for a couple of hours this morning. Let’s hope he doesn’t bring the cold back here! Continued with mucking out, and it’s now almost complete – just a bit more floor scraping and tidying around the edges. Rhian made a cake for Tim’s birthday tomorrow. 4TH MARCH No lambs here for Tim’s birthday, so he went to help our neighbour, again. Fed and checked the sheep – need to get them home soon, as they are due to start lambing in less than a week. Finished tidying up and mucking out the shed. Put the hayracks and gates

back in place to set up the yards for the ewes, then cleaned out and set up the water troughs. Spread lime on the floor, then strawed down. All ready to bring the twin-bearing ewes home tomorrow. The Rayburn is temperamental at the moment – hope it doesn’t do this during the lambing course, when I have to cater for an extra six people! Had lamb hotpot for dinner and then made cookies and bread rolls. The birthday cake was delicious! 5TH MARCH Tim was helping our neighbour again this morning, then he gathered in the twin-bearing ewes and carried them home. Turned them into the shed where they will stay until they have lambed. They look relaxed indoors. 6TH MARCH Finished sorting out pens in the shed, so the ewes carrying singles can come in. Gathered them off the hill, brought them home and unloaded them into the shed. The job would have been simple but for


V IABL E SEL F-SUFFICIENC Y a van coming along the lane while we were moving the ewes, which turned a number of them back in the wrong direction. Tim and the dog got them back to where they were supposed to be, but it would have been less stressful if the van driver had shown more common sense! One young single-carrying ewe appears to have slipped her lamb in the last day or two. One of the twin ewes that were brought in yesterday had a touch of calcium deficiency this morning, so Tim injected her with calcium borogluconate, which put her right. It was a very windy day and we spent the rest of it tidying up and sorting out around the yard. More lambing course cooking this evening, and had sausages for dinner. 7TH MARCH Collected a load of straw this morning to see us through lambing time. Moved the hay bales out of the lower part of the shed, as we will need this area to set up individual pens for the ewes, post lambing. Decided the ewes that are not due to lamb until mid/late April would be better off housed now as well, because it will be very difficult to find the time to check them regularly once lambing gets underway. Gathered them down off the hill and put them in the shed. As they still have at least six weeks before they are due, we decided to feed them ad lib silage from a ring feeder, rather than rationed hay and concentrates. This way we can keep an eye on them without adding to our workload. Iestyn dispatched a few more ducks and prepared them for the freezer. Made gooseberry jam, but it was not as successful as last week’s plum and blackberry – struggled to get a set. Received a cancellation from one of the couples booked on the lambing course. With only a week to go until it begins, it will be difficult to fill these places. Posted messages on a number of forums and social media sites in the hope that we can get a late booking. 8TH MARCH Did the animal jobs. Gave Heptavac-P and mineral drench to the ewes in the shed. Weighed them as well… at least most of them: a few twin-bearing ewes were too fat to fit in the weigh crate! Washed out the livestock trailer



in case we need extra penning space during lambing, and started putting up individual pens. A friend’s daughter in the final year of studying for a fashion degree took some photos of us for her project based on workwear. It’s amusing to think we are of interest to a fashion student! More duck killing and plucking. 9TH MARCH It was a nasty day weather-wise, and the first lamb arrived. Tidying up in the top shed ready to kill one of the two remaining pigs. Fed the shearling rams. Lots of cooking this evening. 10TH MARCH Tim went to get a load of feed, which he unloaded and stacked under cover. Put the sloe and elder wine into demijohns and put them on the windowsill in the sitting room. Gathered in the stock rams and gave them a Heptavac-P booster. Moved them to a fresh field – the one they have been in over winter will be rested until the cows go out in early May. Got everything sorted in the top shed, then killed one of the pigs, and scraped, de-bristled and gutted it – it was huge! When it came to moving it to our butchery area we had to cut it into six bits in order to carry it. We really must learn to kill our pigs before they get so big! One more ewe lambed today. Made a chocolate sponge, choc yum and lemon biscuits. 11TH MARCH The sheep are slow to get going – only three have lambed so far, but that means that there will be plenty left to lamb during the course. Cut up the pig we killed yesterday,

then bagged it and put it in the freezer. The chops are massive – two of them fed five of us for dinner this evening! 12TH MARCH Sorted out and tidied up in the classroom and the dairy, ready for lambing week – if nothing else, running a course makes us clean the place up! Tim went out this afternoon to get the last few things we need to see us safely through lambing. Spent most of the day cooking, which I don’t feel guilty about, as the weather was filthy all day. 13TH MARCH Stopped milking Buttercup. Checked up on the calving dates. She’s due to calve in about a month, and not milking will make life easier while we are busy with the sheep. A few more lambs today, but still slow – surely they must kick off soon? Enough lambs are being born to keep us out of bed, but not enough to keep us busy! Pea and ham soup for dinner, and made bread, little curranty cakes and biscuits. 14TH MARCH Spent most of the day doing housework. Tim was busy with the sheep. Quite a few lambs were born today. Turned out the first ewes with lambs – twins to a field at home, and the singles to a piece of rented grazing not far away. Lambing fairly busy all night. The lambing course starts tomorrow. 15TH MARCH Quite a few ewes lambed overnight. Did the final preparations for the course and turned out more ewes and lambs.

The lambing week students arrived at about 2pm. We have five: three ladies and two gents. It was agreed that the ladies would have the first night shift. One young ewe that lambed during the day doesn’t seem very taken with one of her lambs. We were not sure that it had had sufficient colostrum, so we stomach tubed it just to make sure. 16TH MARCH The second half of last night’s shift was quiet. We have had a couple of weak lambs, but with a bit of TLC they seem to be improving. Our students had their first session with our artificial ewe (affectionately known as Mavis) this afternoon, learning the basics of obstetrics. Hopefully, tonight’s overnight shift with the chaps will be busier. The kids have been brilliant over the last few days – so helpful. They deserve medals! 17TH MARCH The lambing course continues – we were busy with lambs today. Turned out two trailer-loads of singles, and put out some more twins. Our only really skinny ewe lambed today – a great big, healthy lamb, but she has virtually no milk, so we need to look for a foster mother for the lamb. One of our vets came over this afternoon to talk to the students about sheep health, diseases, medication and vaccinations. Had a phone call this evening enquiring about next year’s course! 18TH MARCH Day four of the lambing week – lambs trickling along, but could do with being a bit busier to keep everyone on their toes. One lamb became poorly overnight – no idea what was wrong with it. Tim treated it with a broad-spectrum antibiotic and gave a multivitamin jab. It seemed to do the trick, as a few hours later it looked much perkier. Had a visit from a livestock feed specialist, who talked to the group about sheep nutrition, and they had another session with ‘Mavis’ after tea. The sheep were quite busy this evening. 19TH MARCH Busy with lambs overnight. Took the lambing course group to visit a local small farm that has particularly good grassland management. It was very interesting. The course finished

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at teatime, when they all went home and we heaved a sigh of relief for a good job done! One ewe that lambed earlier today is rejecting her lamb quite forcefully – it looks as if she has butted it and broken its ribs. It’s very unusual for us to have a ewe that behaves like this. 20TH MARCH The lamb with the broken ribs died – we will not be keeping the mother! Turned out two loads of ewes with singles today. It was much quieter without the lambing course people, and we now have more time to concentrate on the sheep without having to explain things all the time! 21ST MARCH Lambing going steadily – not too much of a rush, but enough to keep us busy. Just under a third of the flock left to lamb. Went to the garden centre and bought potting compost, seed potatoes, onion sets, and broad bean, tomato and sweet pea seed. Sowed the tomatoes in modules in the propagator and also the broad beans after soaking them for a few hours. More lambs this evening. Llinos has offered to do the early shift in the lambing shed tomorrow so Tim and I can get a bit more sleep tonight! 23RD MARCH Turned out more ewes and lambs; not too many left now – they should all lamb by the end of the month. One of the ewes we have earmarked as a show potential for the Spring Festival has lambed. She’s a bit scatty and we weren’t sure if the lamb had suckled. She has got loads of milk, so Tim hand-milked a little colostrum from the ewe and gave it to the lamb by stomach tube.


24TH MARCH There was a little flurry of lambing activity today. Brought in one of our best ewes – one of her lambs has gone lame. There’s no swelling or heat in the joints and the belly button is clean and dry, so joint ill is unlikely. It’s probably just bumped itself while running about the field and needs a bit of rest. Tim made provisional arrangements to go down to Suffolk after Easter to collect and bring home the yearling ewes. 25TH MARCH Another busy spell during the day. There’s only about fifteen left to lamb in the first group now. Tim cut the grass on the lawn (something he doesn’t usually do until midsummer – if at all!) and I did another load of baking – made chocolate orange cake, flapjacks and ginger biscuits. 26TH MARCH There was one lamb in the wrong field when I checked the singles – had to go very gently in order to catch it, but I managed. All the lambs were OK after a very wet and windy night. Did the Heptavac-P booster and the mineral drench for late-lambing ewes. Did a bit of moving around in the shed to give the late-lambers more room now that most of the main group have lambed. Brought the rams in and trimmed a couple of horns that needed attention. 27TH MARCH Turning out more twins and singles. More strimming and tidying up

around the lawn – we are trying to get on top of it before everything starts growing too fast. Just twelve sheep left, and the lame lamb we brought in a few days ago seems fine now, so it went back out again. 28TH MARCH No lambs today. Tim mucked out some of the pens in the top shed to make room to kill the last pig. It was wet today, so we didn’t turn anything out. Sowed some more things in the conservatory – sweet peas, nasturtiums, calabrese, and also potted up some small gooseberry bushes. 29TH MARCH Tim finished mucking out in the top shed ready to kill the pig. Did some tidying up in front of the extension. Several lambs born today – less than ten ewes left. 30TH MARCH Turned out a few more ewes with their lambs. Killed the last pig this evening. It was even bigger than the other one! 31ST MARCH Another rough night of weather, but the lambs looked fine this morning. The last twin-bearing ewe lambed today, so just three singles to go now. Buttercup and Bluebell are due to calve in just over a week and are now visibly bagging up – we’ll need to sort out calving pens fairly soon. Made bread and Welsh cakes.


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HONEY ! s d o g e h t f o Nectar


Claire Waring considers the origins of honey


hen you tell people you are a bee-keeper, they usually ask two things: “How much honey do you get?” and “Do you get stung?” To deal with the second one first – yes, you do, and, however long you have been keeping bees, even though you may not react and swell, it still hurts! We all know that bees make honey – that sweet, sticky stuff we see on the shop shelves that we enjoy putting on our porridge or toast, but where does it come from? How is it made? What do the bees use it for? Why does it come in different flavours and colours? What is the difference between clear and set honey? That’s a lot of questions, and in this series I will try to answer them all.

WHAT IS HONEY? A precise definition of honey can be found in ‘The Honey (England) Regulations 2003’: ‘Honey means the natural sweet substance produced by Apis mellifera bees from the nectar of plants or from secretions of living parts of plants or excretions of plantsucking insects on the living parts of plants which the bees collect, transform by combining with specific substances of their own, deposit, dehydrate, store and leave in honeycombs to ripen and mature.’ I hope you took a deep breath before reading all that! Honeybees produce honey so that they have a food that they can store and that will keep, so that they can use it during times of nectar shortage. With the thousands of occupants of the colony requiring food, the bees cannot be entirely dependent upon the weather and the flowers to provide this. Honey is sugar – two main sugars to be precise: glucose and fructose. However, it also contains a small amount


Pollen deposited on the underside of this worker bee’s abdomen is transferred to the stigma of the flower (the purple line).

A butterfly can access an everlasting sweet pea’s nectaries with its long tongue. Pollen grains get stuck to the tongue and are then transferred to the next flower.

of sucrose, traces of other materials such as minerals, and a larger proportion (around 18%) of water.

process, grains would stick to their bodies and be carried to the next flower visited. The second attractant was sweet nectar. Again, as the pollinator worked its way down to the nectaries at the base of the flower, its body would brush against the anthers, picking up pollen. Different flowers evolved into different structures to achieve this aim. Some developed open flowers with a ring of stamens (the anther carried on a stalk called the filament) standing above the nectaries. Others became more complicated, making the pollinator push past the stamens and come into contact with the stigma to reach the nectar. Some became even more specialised, so that they now rely on a single insect species for pollination.

WAYS TO ATTRACT POLLINATORS Honey begins its life as nectar produced in the nectaries in flowers. As flowers evolved, they developed ways of attracting pollinators – bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, birds, bats – because they wanted to be more certain that their (male) pollen, produced by the anthers, would be transferred to the (female) stigma of a plant of the same species in order to fertilise the seeds and ensure the next generation. Some plants use the wind to effect pollination. They produce vast quantities of pollen, which is then blown by the wind, with some, hopefully, landing on other flowers. One thing that attracted pollinators was the pollen itself, which they ate as a source of protein. However, in the

NECTAR GUIDES You will have noticed that some flowers have distinctive lines on their petals that lead down to the centre of the


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so ney hey o h tt ce odu od tha p r p fo es ee eybe have a at will k s of n o H they d th time that store an during t can y use i age. e t – th ar shor t nec

Left: These nectar guides are very obvious, leading the pollinator to the nectaries at the centre of the flower. The stamens are arranged so that pollen is deposited on the insect and carried to the next flower it visits. Below: The internal view of an oilseed rape flower showing the structure – the stigma is in the centre, supported by the style. It is surrounded by the stamens, consisting of pollen-producing anthers at the end of filaments. Fresh nectar produced by the nectaries can be seen at the base of the flower.

flower. These are nectar guides and are used in the same way as landing-lights on either side of an airport runway. Some flowers are cunning and use the fact that insects can see the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, and their nectar guides are visible to the pollinator. We can’t see them, and it is sometimes surprising to look at a UV photo of a flower that we regard as being a plain colour.

FLOWER-SPECIFIC HONEYBEES Our main focus is the honeybee, which is a very efficient pollinator. Since humans manage bees in moveable hives, it makes

Oilseed rape is naturally wind-pollinated. The flowers at the bottom of the plant that open first are therefore pollinated first. By the time the flowers at the top open, the seeds at the bottom may have developed, ripened and been shed. With honeybees (and other insects) working the crop, experiments have shown that the plants are fully pollinated over a shorter time and there is a greater seed yield.


them a very useful pollinator because colonies can be moved to different crops as required. While some pollinators, such as solitary bees and bumblebees, will visit different flowers, apparently at random, the honeybee is ‘flower specific’. This means that when a worker starts collecting, say, nectar and pollen from oilseed rape, it will continue to do so until the flowers are over. This is very good for the flower and, as an aside, also for the farmer.

So, honey starts life as nectar, but why do plants produce nectar? It could be a means of removing excess sugars or surplus water from sap, as the plant needs to keep the concentration of solutions inside it in balance. Nectar is water (30–90%) containing a number of dissolved substances such as sugar, vitamins, minerals and enzymes. The main sugar is sucrose, but this is broken down into glucose and fructose by plant enzymes. The proportion of these monosaccharides (sugars that cannot be broken down further) differs from plant to plant. For example, nectar in oilseed rape contains no sucrose and




Above: Cherry laurel is one of the plants which has extrafloral nectaries, seen here as a pale patch on the back of the leaf. The honeybee is collecting nectar from the one on the other side of the leaf’s midrib. Right: This honeybee has extended her tongue to form a tube up which she sucks the nectar from the flower. The tongue is held in place by the mandibles.

more glucose than fructose, and Robinia pseudoacacia, or false acacia, has more fructose than glucose. The proportion of different sugars can have an influence on the honey produced. Nectar production is also influenced by weather and soil conditions. If it is very dry, nectar dries up; if it is warm and humid and the soil is damp, then the nectar flows. Soil moisture is built up over time, and nectar production can thus depend on weather conditions months before the plant starts flowering. In dry conditions, deep-rooted plants such as trees fare better than those with shallower roots.

EXTRA-FLORAL NECTARIES There are plants which have extrafloral nectaries. These are found on parts of the plant other than flowers and therefore have no connection with pollination. Structures called hydathodes are found on the edges of leaves at the ends of tubes that carry water through the plant. They are used to remove excess water from the plant, such as that drawn into the plant in spring. It is thought that some have developed into producing nectar, and these are the extra-floral nectaries. For whatever reason they evolved, pollinators take advantage of this additional nectar source. The generally accepted theory is that extra-floral nectaries are used by the plant as protection. The nectar attracts ants, which can act as a deterrent to other animals that might otherwise eat the plant’s foliage.


Right: This bee died in the winter and was found on the mesh floor of the hive. It shows how the tongue is folded behind the head when not in use.

COLLECTING NECTAR The honeybee tongue (proboscis) consists of a flexible tube surrounded by another tube. Saliva can run down the inner tube, and nectar and honey are sucked up the outer one. When it is using it, the bee holds the tongue in place with its mandibles (jaws). When it is not in use, the tongue swings back and folds up behind the bee’s head. Liquid food is sucked up into the mouth and then passes into the oesophagus. Here it is stored in the crop or honey stomach so that it can be transported back to the hive. The crop can expand to carry an average of 40mg of nectar. It is also used to carry

water back to the hive when the colony needs it. There is a neat, one-way valve at the rear end of the crop, which is used to control the passage of materials to the rest of the gut.


Above: A returning forager regurgitates nectar from her honey crop for a house bee to suck up and transport elsewhere in the hive for processing and storage. Right: House bees deposit nectar in cells until it can be processed into honey. Here nectar is seen in the brood nest alongside cells of sealed brood and honey. This could indicate the colony has swarmed and is waiting for the new queen to emerge and mate, or in a strong nectar flow the colony could be running out of room to store the nectar.

BACK AT THE HIVE When a worker carrying a load of nectar arrives back at the hive, she passes it over by regurgitating it onto her tongue and passing it to one or more receiver bees. These take it and place it in a cell in the honey storage area. Some of the nectar may get eaten on the way! The water content is reduced by workers in the honey storage area. A bee takes a drop of nectar and rolls it up and down her tongue, exposing it to the high temperature in the hive, so that the water is evaporated. After treatment, the drop of nectar is returned to its cell. This process is repeated many times until the water content is around 18%; the cell containing the honey is then ‘ripe’ and is sealed with a wax capping that keeps out air and moisture. In this state, honey will keep for a long time. It also takes up a lot less space than the original nectar.

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As mentioned earlier, nectar usually contains some sucrose. This is a disaccharide, which can be split into its component parts – glucose and fructose. This is achieved using sucrase, an enzyme the bee secretes from hypopharyngeal glands in her head. The foraging bee starts the process on the way back to the hive, and by the time the honey is ripe it contains little sucrose. Another change is the breakdown of some of the glucose in the nectar by glucose oxidase, also produced by the hypopharyngeal glands. This produces hydrogen peroxide, which is important in that it destroys bacteria and hence helps to preserve the honey in the cells.

Above: When the worker bees have reduced the nectar’s water content and transformed it into honey, the cells are sealed with a wax capping that prevents air and moisture entering

NEXT MONTH Having seen how nectar is produced, collected and transformed into honey, next month we will look at how the bees use it, some of its properties, how bee-keepers extract it from the combs, why some is clear and some granulates, and how different plants can affect the taste.



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J U N E 2015




This month LizzieB samples the culinary delights of Herefordshire and Worcestershire, two counties famous for their fruit, with one also celebrated for a legendary sauce and the other for its rare breed beef cattle HEREFORDSHIRE AND WORCESTERSHIRE Close neighbours, both geographically and in a culinary sense, Herefordshire and Worcestershire are two counties best known for their green pastures and fruit production. Both counties are major players on the world food stage, with the world-renowned Herefordshire beef and the iconic Worcestershire sauce. Throughout the year, both Herefordshire and Worcestershire actively harvest a wide range of local produce, and many towns and villages host regular farmers’ markets and food festivals which celebrate the best of these rich and fertile counties.


MALVERN PUDDING Originally created in Georgian times, Malvern Pudding is a real heritage dish and a firm college favourite, having been served at Malvern College for over thirty years. A number of variations on this pudding exist, but I have found this version to be one of the easiest to produce, and it’s possibly the tastiest.


FOR THE BASE 50g butter 1kg cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced 50g sugar

FOR THE TOPPING 110g butter 50g cornflour 825ml milk 50g granulated sugar 2 eggs, beaten 50g demerara sugar ½ tsp ground cinnamon

METHOD 1 To create the base, heat a large frying pan until medium hot. Add the butter and apples, then cook for 6–7 minutes, or until the apples have coloured and softened.





5 6 7

Add the sugar and cook for a further 2–3 minutes, stirring well, then transfer the apples to a shallow, ovenproof dish. Heat the grill to medium. For the creamy topping, place half the butter in a pre-warmed pan and cook until melted and bubbling, then stir in the cornflour and beat together, cooking over a low heat for 1–2 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened and is smooth. Gradually add the milk to the pan, whisking continuously, until all of the milk is incorporated and the mixture has a smooth and creamy custardlike texture. Cook for a further 2–3 minutes until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the granulated sugar and eggs until well combined. Spoon the mixture over the apples in the ovenproof dish. Mix the demerara sugar and ground

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cinnamon together, sprinkle over the top of the dish and dot with the remaining butter, then grill for 5–6 minutes, or until golden-brown and bubbling. Serve hot.

LIZZIEB’S TIP! This recipe is also delicious made into mini custard tarts. Simply chop the apples into smaller pieces, add to 12 pre-prepared shortcrust pastry cases, then top with the custard and sprinkle over the sugar and cinnamon. Place in a hot oven for 5–6 minutes until the sugar is golden and bubbling.

LEA & PERRINS ONION RELISH Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce was first created in the 1830s and, today, is known worldwide for its unique flavour. From cocktails to gravy, this diverse and versatile sauce adds a depth of flavour to a wide range of dishes. This sweet, tangy, spicy relish is quick and easy to make and is the perfect accompaniment to cheese and cold cuts of meat.

INGREDIENTS 2 tbsp sunflower oil 2 white onions, thinly sliced 3 tbsp dark muscovado sugar 4 tbsp red wine vinegar 2 tbsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce





Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan, then add the onions and fry gently for 5 minutes until they begin to soften and colour. Add the sugar, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, then increase the heat until the mixture is boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5–6 minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture looks rich and sticky. Ladle into a clean, sterilised jar, then seal the lid and leave to go completely cold.

It will keep for 3 months if left unopened in a cool, dark place. Once opened, store in the fridge and use within 1 week.

LIZZIEB’S TIP! This relish is delicious as an ingredient in Welsh rarebit – simply spread some on your bread or toast, then top with cheese and place under the grill – or try adding a spoonful to a spaghetti bolognese.

POACHED PEARS WITH WORCESTERSHIRE PERRY ICE CREAM A county famous for its apples, Worcestershire is now also on the map for its pears, and in particular the EU-designated Worcestershire Perry. This pear cider can be used in a range of savoury dishes, and it works wonderfully well with pork; it also makes a delightfully refreshing ice cream.

INGREDIENTS 500ml full-fat milk 225g caster sugar 9 egg yolks 250ml double cream 50ml Worcestershire Perry 4 firm pears, peeled and cored 400ml water





Heat the milk and half of the sugar gently in a heavy-based pan until simmering, then remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. Whisk the egg yolks and the remaining sugar together in a bowl, then slowly whisk in the hot milk mixture until well combined. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over a low heat (not boiling) until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, stir in the double cream and perry, then leave to cool completely.



Once cold, whisk the mixture, then pour into a sturdy, plastic, freezerproof container and place in the freezer for at least 6 hours, or until the ice cream has completely frozen. (Remember to stir the mixture every 2 hours to break up the forming ice crystals.) Place the pears in a heavy-based pan, cover with the water and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and continue to cook for 6–8 minutes until softened. 7 Remove from the liquid and serve warm with the Worcestershire Perry ice cream.

LIZZIEB’S TIP! If you would like a slightly more alcoholic dessert, you can replace the poaching water with perry, or for a non-alcoholic but fruitier flavour, you could use apple juice.



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, both hbours in a culinary ig e n e and Clos phically hire and a r g o e g yers rds Herefo are major pla , e s n e s e. tershire Worces orld food stag w on the

basic additional toppings, these burgers can be enjoyed simply as a celebration of the great taste of Herefordshire beef.

INGREDIENTS 500g Herefordshire beef, minced Salt and pepper 1 egg, beaten 4 white bread buns (floury) Cheese 2 tomatoes, sliced 1 tbsp creamed horseradish 3 tbsp mayonnaise Oil (for frying)

METHOD 1 2 3

‘HEREFORDSHIRE BEEF’ BURGERS Herefordshire beef is world renowned for its quality and taste. Grazed on rolling green fields, Herefordshire cattle produce a beef that is high in antioxidants and rich in omega-3, making it healthy and tasty. Nothing beats home-made beefburgers, and using Herefordshire beef makes these extra special and very tasty. They are great to make with the kids, and you can customise them as much as you please – try adding some finely chopped onion or some fresh chopped chilli. Together with just a few

Add the beef, seasoning and egg in a large bowl, then mix well using your hands until combined. Form into patties 2–2.5cm thick and 10cm in diameter. Heat a drizzle of oil in a frying pan and fry the burgers for 5–6 minutes per side until fully cooked. 4 Mix together the horseradish and mayonnaise until well blended, then layer a bread bun with the burger, cheese and tomatoes, and top with a dollop of the creamy mayonnaise.

LIZZIEB’S TIP! To freeze raw burgers, place in a rigid container, then label and seal. To freeze cooked burgers, place them between layers of greaseproof paper and store in freezer bags or a container. To cook the burgers, defrost fully, then reheat in a preheated oven at 200°C for 8–10 minutes until piping hot.




SMOKING on the BBQ Paul Melnyczuk gets the most out of a typical kettle barbecue by smoking a chicken and some mackerel fillets, and he’s over the moon with the results


couple of years ago we bought our first serious barbecue; it was nothing special, and not one of those immense contraptions with shelves and a fourfoot-wide heat chamber – just a mediumsized Weber kettle barbecue, and one that relies on charcoal as the traditional means of cooking. I don’t know if it was a moment of madness – we live in Lancashire, well north of Birmingham – but the purchase, like many other barbecues, was made during a brief spell of great weather. It’s now about three years old and still looks like new, although it has had a reasonable amount of use. But it’s not on the subject of simply barbecuing a couple of burgers that I’m writing: it’s about getting the most out of your barbecue by using it for different forms of cooking, principally smoking your food, and for this you will need the use of a lid to direct the smoke from the woodchips over the target meat or fish – you really couldn’t do anything other than meat or fish, as that would involve cold-smoking, which really is beyond a standard barbecue. Certain websites suggest you can even smoke cheese by having a metal container of ice in the barbecue, but you would need a phenomenal amount of ice to last the course!

If you think about it, a typical barbecue has all the requirements of a smoker – heat and a chamber to contain the food to be smoked. The difference is that you want it to be done over time, so you’re not looking to grill directly over the coals as you would with anything from sausages to chops. You’re actually looking to keep the food away from the heat, and direct a continuous blast of rich, aromatic and very hot smoke over it to impart the desired taste. Most people only use ‘direct’ heat from a barbecue to grill sausages, burgers, chops, kebabs, etc., but here we are looking to use ‘indirect’ heat – but more on that later. Weber actually suggests that you should always barbecue with the lid on, but that’s not the philosophy of all manufacturers; however, it’s our aim here. The first step, as usual, is getting the charcoal up to the right temperature, and that either involves patience or a special gizmo called a ‘chimney’ that directs the heat up a tubular chamber to get your charcoal going extra fast. Sadly, for me, it’s never worked, so I’ll go for the traditional method and patience. I’m not going to tell you how to get your charcoal burning, but I use food grade firelighters and lots of charcoal, then close the lid

with the vents open and have a beer or two and a natter, then I come back about half an hour to forty-five minutes later to see how it’s doing. For indirect heat you will need to shield the food to be cooked from the heat, and that means arranging the coals around the edge of the kettle on the charcoal grill, with a metal or foil container with boiling water to sit beneath the food. This will keep it moist, prevent fat dropping onto the flames and, most importantly, ensure that the heat is not directly beneath the food, with the hot smoke swirling around inside the container so the food cooks slowly – it needs time to acquire the smoked flavour throughout – and evenly. Once the temperature is right, with the charcoal white or grey rather than burning, scatter some damp woodchips over it. These should have been soaked for a minimum of an hour. I use apple woodchips, which impart a sweet smell to poultry and other meats, but there are other woods available. Sawdust is to be avoided, as are blocks of wood, and don’t use too much or you might harm the neighbourhood and end up with something extremely pungent on your plate. I close the lid with the vents open until the woodchips begin to smoulder once they get to a certain temperature, and while this is going on I put the meat to be smoked – a chicken in this case – on the cooking grill so I can put it in place as soon as the smoke is circulating. Once the food is inside and the lid is in place with the vents still open, a simple way to tell if you are doing it effectively is to keep an eye on the vent: white smoke is a positive sign – as with papal elections – but black Far left: The food is shielded from the direct heat by the foil tray, which is filled with boiling water, once it is in place. Left: This is after just fifteen minutes.



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J U N E 2015



Above: This is after forty-five minutes. Right: Succulent, tender and beautifully smoked throughout – our chicken just prior to eating.

smoke is not, usually implying that you are incinerating rather than hot-smoking. If the smoke is black, check inside and close the vents for a short time until the ferocity reduces – as long as the meat is still OK. Try not to open the lid while cooking, as you lose a tremendous amount of heat each time, which will lengthen the cooking process by as much as a quarter of an hour with each peek. Typically, the process should take an hour to an hour and a half, depending on what you are smoking and the size of your pieces of meat – a joint will obviously take longer than fillets. You really want it to cook slowly, though, as uncooked, moist meat will take on the flavours throughout, but a rapidly cooked outside will prevent the flavours getting inside. According to forums,

people who smoke food regularly often soak a joint in brine and then use a rub, but with a basic joint or a chicken this is not necessary, although you may wish to experiment as you become more familiar with the process. There are many websites – including the Weber site – which contain information on this and how to get the most from your equipment, including roasting and baking, which both require indirect heat. For example, you could use a baking stone to cook a pizza and add a smoky taste in the same way you might with a brick oven. Although opening the lid frequently is not recommended, check on the water

SMOKING MACKEREL After preparing the chicken, the embers were still alive, so I added a few more woodchips and placed seven mackerel fillets on the food grate. These were all bought (reduced) from a supermarket some time ago and had been frozen for quite a while and then defrosted the night before. The process was very quick and simple, although I did turn them all over once – whether or not this was necessary I don’t know, as the heat was again indirect, but it’s a habit with mackerel fillets, and old habits die hard. Anyway, the results were great, as the photo will confirm!


in the foil tray at some point, and keep a handful of soaked woodchips aside in case you need to add more. Adding dry woodchips will simply create a short-lived fire inside the chamber, and this will adversely affect the taste and may singe the meat. The chicken will already look well cooked after an hour or so, but always check to ensure that it is fully cooked – this is not quite as scientific as using a modern oven, and safety is critical. If the embers are low and you find that it is not quite ready, stick it in the oven for twenty minutes – it will already have a marvellous smoked flavour, so the main part of the exercise will have been achieved. Once you have done it a number of times, you will probably be able to judge the process more accurately. In no way am I setting myself up as an expert on smoking using a barbecue. I have only just begun to experiment, but an important part of self-sufficiency is getting the most from what you already have; plus it’s also great fun to do new things – especially outdoors in spring and summer. Give it a try, and let us know your own favourite barbecue recipes so others can enjoy them – simply email them to Do remember to be safe, though: chicken is an easy starting point for smoking – and tastes great – but it must still be checked, and any doubts should be backed up by a brief spell in the oven. I wish you all a long, warm summer and many successful barbecues!



COOKING s r e w o fl e l b i d e with With gardens in full bloom, there is no better time to cook with edible flowers, writes Seren Evans-Charrington


lowers have long been used in cooking and add a beautiful and interesting dimension to many dishes. The ancient Egyptians believed the gods used flowers to infuse mankind with positive energy, the Romans prized lavender for use in sauces and used mallows and alpine pinks in their dishes, and the Victorians were interested in the symbolism of flowers, taking avid interest in floriography – the language of flowers. Even the manner in which they were sent had meaning: a flower presented in an upright position represented a ‘positive’ thought, and you could say ‘yes’ by offering a flower with the right hand, or ‘no’ by using the left – it’s a complicated and wonderful subject. The mediaeval still-room was where the mistress of the house would ‘brew’ and mix syrups, cordials, ales, medicines and many other herbal and floral concoctions, and the pantries of fashionable Tudor households would have contained rose waters and oils as well as syrups made from borage flowers, lavender, rosemary and violets,

J U N E 2015

with gillyflower (the old name for alpine pinks) water a particular favourite. Marigolds and rose petals would have been scattered over blancmanges, and rose water was used to flavour custards and pies; and as salads became fashionable in Britain, elaborate ones decorated with edible flowers and herbs became a feast for the eyes and the stomach. Violets and roses were adored by the Victorians for use in chocolates and cakes, and I must admit to a particular liking for crystallised violets. The Victorian age was perhaps the true age of flower power, as edible flowers adorned salads, were candied, preserved in vinegar, and transformed into wines or cordials – from cowslips to cornflowers, and rosemary to primroses, the Victorians embraced them all in their full gastronomic glory. For me, cooking with flowers starts with crystallising primroses in spring, but it need not be limited to the summer, as flavours can be preserved by infusing. I also like to cook with more unusual

flowers such as hollyhocks and tulips, and with such a variety of edible flowers I am spoilt for choice. Start with the subtle flavour of pansies, or for a bit of spice, try nasturtiums for their delicious peppery kick. I enjoy cooking with roses, too, and throughout history they have been used in a wide range of sweet treats. I love to create highly scented delights using rose water, rose sugar, rose butter and rose petal jam, and on a hot summer’s day I can think of nothing better than rose petal sorbet.

ROSE PETAL SORBET This requires a little processing, but the end result is well worth the effort.

INGREDIENTS 115g caster sugar 300ml boiling water 300ml dry rosé wine Petals of 3 large red roses (washed) Juice of 2 lemons Mint leaves or crystallised rose petals (to decorate)





Place the sugar in a bowl and add the boiling water. Stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rose petals to the mixture and leave to cool completely. Take the cool mixture and blend for a few seconds in a liquidiser, then strain into a bowl. Add the lemon juice and wine, then stir and transfer to a freezer container with a lid. Freeze for several hours. Transfer the frozen mixture to a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Put the mixture back into the freezer container and refreeze until frozen around the edges. Repeat this process until it has a good texture and is pale and smooth.

Decorate with the mint leaves or crystallised rose petals before serving.

SEREN’S ROSE PETAL TIPS! ❋ Scent imparts flavour, and heady scented roses such as David Austin will provide a better flavour in your dishes. ❋ Always remove the petals from their bitter base (the white part at the base of the petal). ❋ Avoid eating petals from sprayed bushes.

INGREDIENTS 1 tbsp vegetable oil 8 chicken thighs 2 tbsp plain flour 225ml chicken stock Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon 225ml Madeira (dry sherry or port also work well) 6 shallots, finely chopped 1 garlic clove, crushed 2 tsp lavender seeds 6 tbsp honey Freshly ground pepper Freshly ground sea salt 4 sprigs of fresh thyme Sprigs of lavender (to garnish)


NASTURTIUMS In summer I want something quick yet gratifying for evening meals, and nasturtiums are wonderful for pepping up ordinary salads. They are often used as a decorative garnish because of their bright colour, but they have a wonderful peppery taste and are a great replacement for rocket in salads; they also work well with mozzarella or goat’s cheese, and are great on pizza, too.

LAVENDER HONEY CHICKEN CASSEROLE Besides producing perfumes and pomanders, lavender can also be used in the kitchen. It is used mainly in sweet dishes, from crème caramel to biscuits, and from scones to shortbread, and its strong, floral flavour is perfect for infusing into sugar to preserve its summer scent all year long. It can taste medicinal if too much is used, so the trick is to use just a little. Its heady scent can also work well in savoury dishes such as my Lavender Honey Chicken Casserole.







Preheat the oven to 220°C. Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan and brown the chicken thighs all over, then transfer them to a large casserole dish. Cook the shallots and garlic in the frying pan until they are soft, but not coloured. Add to the casserole dish with the chicken. Bring the Madeira, lavender and honey to a boil in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook for a few minutes or until the sauce smells fragrant. Do not reduce the wine. Set aside for 30 minutes in order to allow the lavender seeds to infuse with the honey and Madeira. Add the flour to the frying pan and stir and cook for 2 minutes, then pour in enough stock and lavenderinfused Madeira to make a thin sauce. Bring it to the boil, stirring continuously, then season with fresh black pepper and coarsely ground sea salt. Pour the lemon zest and juice over the chicken, add the thyme sprigs, then pour over the sauce and cook for 35–45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until tender. Garnish with sprigs of lavender.

CRYSTALLISED FLOWERS For decorating cakes, you cannot beat crystallised flowers – my primrose cake is always a seasonal favourite. Crystallised rose petals will transform a simple Victoria sponge into something extra special.

INGREDIENTS 1 large egg white 1 tbsp water Fresh pansies, violets, rose geranium petals or rose petals 55g superfine caster sugar


Stir the egg white and water together in a small bowl. Pick the petals up carefully and gently brush the egg mix onto them, lightly coating both sides. Be careful not to use too much egg mix on each petal – they should be coated not saturated.


Flowers SAY IT WITH FLOWERS Be aware of what you might secretly be saying through the language of flowers:

❋ A bouquet of withered flowers – rejected love. ❋ Hyacinth (blue) – constancy. ❋ Hyacinth (purple) – sorrow. ❋ Hyacinth (red or pink) – play. ❋ Hyacinth (white) – loveliness; I’ll pray for you. ❋ Hyacinth (yellow) – jealousy. ❋ Chrysanthemum (red) – I love you. ❋ Chrysanthemum (white) – truth. ❋ Chrysanthemum (yellow) – slighted love. ❋ Begonia – beware. ❋ Geranium – stupidity, folly. ❋ Cyclamen – resignation and goodbye.


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Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and place over a medium heat, then stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the primrose flowers and bring gently to the boil. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and leave to reduce for 2 hours until the syrup becomes a caramel colour and the flower petals form clumps. Skim the ‘honey’ and remove the clumps, then pour into a jar.

The honey is great spread on toast, drizzled over yoghurt, or – my favourite – drizzled over meringues before decorating with crystallised primroses.

SEREN’S TIP! I often make a large meringue and sprinkle it with leftover primrose petals during the baking process. Once baked and cooled, I drizzle it with generous lashings of Primrose Honey and decorate with crystallised primroses.


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In a separate bowl, dip the petals in the sugar and carefully coat them, then transfer to a rack. Leave to dry for at least 8 hours. Do not place them in the fridge, and do not allow the petals to touch each other on the rack.

SEREN’S TIP! Before adding the cake mix, place rose geranium leaves and petals in the bottom of a prepared cake tin to give a delicately scented cake, once baked.

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PRIMROSE HONEY After collecting primroses for crystallising, I generally have a few flowers that are a bit squashed, and this is when I make a batch of Primrose Honey.

INGREDIENTS Whatever primroses you have left over – aim for ½ teacup 200g caster sugar 570ml water A pinch of patience

When it comes to cooking with flowers, the recipe I get asked for most is Violet Syrup – not only is it a beautiful colour, it just tastes of yesteryear and of endless summer. It’s also delicious when added to buttercream for filling cakes, and is an essential for elegant cocktails.

INGREDIENTS 40g sweet violets (roughly 4 handfuls) 150ml boiling water A 450ml bottle (sterilised) 300g white caster sugar


Remove the stalks and leaves from the violets, place them in a large mixing bowl and cover with the boiling water, then put a tea towel





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over the bowl and allow to steep overnight. The next day, place the violets and water in a bowl that will sit snugly on top of a saucepan of boiling water (a simple bain-marie), then add the sugar, stirring continuously over a constant heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Strain the violet mixture through a fine nylon sieve, then bottle and label.

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The syrup will keep for up to 12 months in a cool place.



It is amazing how many flowers are edible, but exercise caution and make sure that any you cook with are safe. Avoid daffodils, crocus petals, foxgloves, rhododendrons, lily of the valley and wisteria. If you do cook with flowers, you will be in good company, as many top restaurants use them to add colour, flavour and intrigue. They make excellent garnishes that are very pretty and taste wonderful, too, and once you start, your garden becomes a treasure chest of delicately flavoured treats to add to your baking, salads and other culinary endeavours.

INGREDIENTS 120ml chilled Prosecco 15ml violet syrup 30ml gin A dash of lemon juice Ice 2 candied violets (to garnish)


EATING FLOWERS SAFELY ❋ Consume only flowers you are certain are edible – consult a reference book if in doubt! ❋ Only consume flowers you have grown yourself or know to be safe – those from a florist or garden centre have probably been treated with pesticides or other chemicals. ❋ Do not eat roadside flowers – they may have been polluted by car exhaust fumes. ❋ Eat only the petals, and remove pistils and stamens before eating. ❋ If you suffer from allergies, introduce edible flowers gradually, as they may exacerbate allergies. HEALTHY REASONS TO EAT FLOWERS ❋ Violets contain rutin, a phytochemical with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that


helps strengthen capillary walls. ❋ Rose petals contain bioflavonoids and antioxidants, as well as vitamins A, B3, C and E. ❋ Nasturtiums contain cancer-fighting lycopene and lutein, a carotenoid found in vegetables and fruits, which is important for vision health. ❋ Lavender contains vitamin A, calcium and iron, and is said to benefit your central nervous system. EDIBLE FLOWERS Angelica (Angelica archangelica); anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum); borage (Borago officinalis) – sugar and use as a decoration on baked goods – borage flowers taste like cucumber; calendula (Calendula officinalis); carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) – remove the bitter white base of the petal and use the rest in desserts; chrysanthemum






Combine all the ingredients in a shaker (except for the Prosecco and candied violets) and shake until well chilled, then strain into a cocktail glass. Top up with chilled Prosecco and garnish with the candied violets.

(ChrysFIRST anthemum coronarium)) – great in salads; cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) – use as a garnish; dandelion (Taraxacum officinale); fuchsia (Fuchsia × hybrida); lavender (Lavandula angustifolia); nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) – sweet, spicy and peppery, and wonderful in salads and simple sandwiches; pansy (Viola × wittrockiana) – attractive sugared on baked goods, but also makes a simple salad something special; peony (Paeonia lactiflora) – the petals are a nice addition to punches and transform a standard Pimm’s and lemonade; and primrose (Primula vulgaris). This is of course only a partial list, but it gives you a few with which to get started.



MONTH BYWhMONTH ? e r o t s n i s ’ t a Gaby Bartai embarks on a season dedicated to making the harvest last, beginning with the month of June

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here’s always a moment in the gardening year when selfsufficiency is real, achievable and coming to a garden near you. The catch is that while the timing of that moment varies from year to year and garden to garden, chances are it’s not in February. It’s easy to dream of the good life when the harvest is rolling in, but less so when the choice for supper is between cabbage, kale and the supermarket – if you can translate the summer surplus into stores to see you through the leaner months, the dream starts to have substance. There are two sides to preserving. One is making your crops last as long as possible by providing optimum storage conditions, or preserving them as raw ingredients by freezing, drying, bottling or salting. The other is processing the crops into ‘added value’ products: chutneys, pickles and relishes; jams and jellies; flavoured oils and vinegars; wines and juices; soups and sauces for the freezer. Taken together, starting today, these two approaches let you build up a larder which will ensure that, come February, the good life is still on the cards.

JUNE CROPS ❋ RHUBARB Because it’s a perennial, rhubarb can’t really be said to produce a surplus; any excess growth will simply fuel next year’s crop. Once you’ve taken your fill (and never more than two-thirds of the stalks from any one plant), make it up to the plants with a mulch, and leave them to grow on unmolested. That said, a good year will give you stalks to spare, and rhubarb is useful for bulking up less profligate fruits later in the season, so it’s well worth freezing or bottling some adolescent stalks, either raw or cooked. Rhubarb is especially good


as a partner for strawberries (the combination makes an excellent jam and a delectable crumble). It also makes a good jam on its own or with ginger, or you can use it (less successfully, in my experience) for chutney or wine.

❋ ASPARAGUS The quality of asparagus declines rapidly after cutting, so short-term storage is to be avoided. If you must, it can be kept for a few days in the fridge; standing the stems in a jug of water will keep them crisper for longer. Freezing is the only option for long-term storage; blanch the spears for two minutes, then pack them into plastic containers. Don’t be greedy; even with mature plants, you need to stop cutting by mid June to allow the plants to regenerate for next year.

❋ GOOSEBERRIES Like all of the later-ripening berries, gooseberries can be frozen either raw or cooked, or they can be bottled. You can also make them into jam – younger, firmer berries are better for this, as they are higher in pectin – or into chutney.

❋ PEAS The sugars in peas start to convert to starch within minutes of picking, so if you’re freezing them, aim to pick, blanch, freeze and then stop for breath. Blanch podded peas for one minute and mangetouts and sugar snaps for two. You can also dry peas for use in winter soups and stews; leave the last, past-it pods on the plant until they have turned yellow, then cut the plants at ground level and hang them up indoors. Once the pods are brittle, shell the peas, leave them to dry on trays for another few days, then store them in an airtight container.


Top Tips

❋ It should go without saying – but apparently doesn’t, judging by several items skulking at the bottom of my own freezer – that freezing does not improve produce; anything past its best when it goes into the freezer will be even less appealing when it comes out. Try to see surpluses coming and preserve crops at their peak, rather than eating the best and freezing the rest. ❋ All vegetable crops should be blanched before they go into the freezer, to destroy the enzymes that cause food spoilage. Freezing slows enzyme activity dramatically, but if you don’t blanch produce first there is still enough activity to cause a gradual deterioration of its flavour, colour and nutritional value. ❋ Blanching time is crucial and varies with the crop. Under-blanching stimulates enzyme activity and is worse than no blanching at all. Over-blanching causes loss of flavour, colour and nutrients. ❋ Use 5 litres of water to 450g of produce, and bring the water to a rolling boil before adding the vegetables. Only start timing when the water comes back to the boil (if this doesn’t happen inside 1 minute, you’re trying to blanch too much in too small a quantity of water). Once the time is up, plunge the produce into cold water to halt the cooking process. Allow it to cool completely before bagging it up. ❋ Fruit should not be blanched, as it will then go mushy when you defrost it. Most fruits can simply be frozen as they come; some last better if you add sugar, either dry or as a syrup, to the raw fruit. ❋ Open-freezing produce on trays, and then bagging it up once it has frozen, gives you free-flow produce rather than a solid lump that you need to attack with a mallet! For more information, including blanching times, see

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STORING AND PRE SERVING ❋ LETTUCE I’m including lettuce here because by the end of the month we’ll all have a row of ‘Little Gem’ lettuces that look like they’re on tiptoe, not because I have insider knowledge of some miraculous storage solution. You can keep lettuce in a plastic bag in the fridge for a week or so, but that’s its storage limit. There is, however, an escape clause; lettuce can be cooked, but there are provisos: the lettuce needs to be a robust, well-flavoured variety – a cos-type, not a looseleaf or butterhead, and most definitely not an iceberg – and you need to keep the cooking to a bare minimum. I mention it here because braised lettuce with peas and cream, or a stir-fry with prawns and oyster sauce, can use up a pleasing quantity of leaf, and because lettuce can also be made into a surprisingly good soup, and in that form you can freeze it.

4 Add the crème fraiche, then season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice, and reheat the soup to serving temperature.

❋ BROAD BEANS Freezing is really the only option for preserving broad beans – broad bean wine is a malicious rumour that should be ignored! Pick them young and tender, blanch them for one to two minutes, depending on their size, and open-freeze them on a tray before bagging them up.

LETTUCE, PEA AND MINT SOUP Peas are the first choice of partner for lettuce in any cooked dish. By way of a bonus, this recipe will also use up any of last year’s peas that are still lurking in the freezer.

To serve, garnish with the sprigs of mint.


SERVES 2 25g butter 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed 150g peas (shelled weight), shelled 600ml vegetable stock 250g cos or other well-flavoured lettuce, finely shredded 10 mint leaves, finely chopped, plus a few small sprigs as a garnish 90ml crème fraiche Salt and freshly ground black pepper Lemon juice


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Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and fry them gently for 5 minutes. 2 Add the peas and the stock, bring to the boil, cover the pan, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. 3 Add the lettuce and let the soup simmer for a further 5 minutes. Add the mint, let the soup cool to a safe temperature, then liquidise it. (If you are making the soup to freeze, do that now, and complete the recipe when you come to use it.)

RHUBARB AND GINGER JAM Later, naturally produced rhubarb stalks make better jam than forced early ones – which is fortunate, as that’s probably what you’d be using anyway.


MAKES 2 × 454g (1lb) JARS 700g rhubarb, chopped 700g sugar 40g crystallised ginger, finely chopped 2 tbsp lemon juice




Mix the rhubarb and sugar together in a bowl and leave them to sit for several hours (or overnight). Put the rhubarb and sugar into a heavy-bottomed pan over a moderate heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the ginger and lemon juice. Increase the heat and boil rapidly until setting point is reached. (Test for this by letting a few drops of the syrup cool on a saucer. If the cooled surface wrinkles when pushed with a finger, it is ready.) Transfer the hot jam to warmed, sterilised jars and then seal.



Seren Evans-Charrington looks at the ingenuity of replacements for scarce and rationed items during the Second World War, and she tries out a few


artime has always brought out the best in women’s resourcefulness, and the number of ‘mock’ recipes is reflective of this home-front ingenuity. There were mock recipes for everything from venison to crab, and whilst they were not exact taste substitutes, many of the ‘mock’ recipes were delicious in their own right. They were often the creation of resourceful World War II housewives, who had to make do with meagre rations, and cooks improvised with basic ingredients and home-grown produce to create dishes that were otherwise unavailable.

MOCK SALMON The following recipe is not entirely authentic to the original wartime recipe, and I sometimes add half a teaspoon of smoked paprika to the mix just to pep it up.

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METHOD 1 Blanch and skin the tomatoes and simmer in the butter until tender, then remove from the heat. 2 Add the grated cheese and breadcrumbs, then stir in the egg and seasoning. 3 Return to a low heat and stir until the mixture thickens, then put into a dish and cover with a knob of melted butter (if available). Serve with hot toast.


INGREDIENTS ¼lb fresh tomatoes, skinned ½oz butter (plus an extra knob – rations permitting) 2oz breadcrumbs 2oz grated cheese 1 egg, beaten Salt and pepper

Whilst many food and beverage provisions were in short supply, carrots were not. In 1942, a carrot surplus of some 10,000 tons prompted the British government to instigate a large-scale publicity campaign designed to educate people on the benefits of eating carrots. The campaign featured Doctor Carrot, who reinforced the belief that carrots helped you to see in the dark.


WART IME WHIST L E WE T T ING The Ministry of Agriculture promoted carrots as a substitute for other more scarce vegetables, and also as a sweetener in desserts in the absence of sugar, with the Ministry of Food’s War Cookery Leaflet Number 4 providing recipes for culinary delights in the form of curried carrot, carrot jam, and even a drink called Carrolade, made from the juices of carrots and swedes. This wartime substitute for lemonade was made by grating equal amounts of carrot and swede and then squeezing the gratings through muslin squares. If you really don’t fancy this, then you could just try plain ‘mock orange juice’.

INGREDIENTS Swede, sliced Sugar



Toss the slices of swede in a few teaspoons of sugar. Place the slices in a bowl, then cover and allow to stand overnight. By the morning, the sugar will have extracted a clear liquid from the slices of swede. This liquid has a swede-like smell, but a slightly orangey taste. If you can get past the smell, it is actually rather pleasant.

The liquid can also be used in any recipe that calls for orange juice.

BLACKBERRY LEAF TEA The importance of tea was acknowledged by the government during both World Wars, but during the Second World War the government took drastic action to safeguard this essential moralebooster. Just two days after war broke out, it took control of all tea stocks, and ordered that the vast reserves then stored in London must be dispersed to warehouses outside the capital in case of bombing. When, during 1940, enemy blockades prevented ships from getting through, the Ministry of Food introduced a ration of two ounces of tea per person per week for those over the age of five. For a nation of tea drinkers, two ounces of tea was not a lot, being only enough for two or three weakly brewed cups a day. George Orwell published an essay called ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’ in the London Evening Standard, in which he listed his eleven ‘golden rules’ for tea making; these included sensible advice to make the two-ounce ration go as far as


possible, with tips including using water that is still at the point of boiling in order to make the strongest brew from the least tea. For those that still struggled to make the tea ration stretch sufficiently, it could be eked out with some dried blackberry leaves – known as ‘blackberry leaf tea’. When picking blackberry leaves for drying, select the youngest green leaves, then split the leaves themselves from the spiny midrib and chop roughly. Arrange on a paper towel or some kitchen towel

and place in direct sunlight for an afternoon to dry. Alternatively, arrange them on baking trays and place in an airing cupboard for up to five days. Once dry, place the leaves in a jar, then seal and store.

INGREDIENTS Blackberry leaves, dried Boiling water



Place a teaspoonful of dried leaves per person in a warmed teapot, then pour over the boiling water and set aside to infuse for 5 minutes. Pour through a strainer into a teacup, then sweeten to taste.


ROASTED DANDELION ROOT COFFEE Once made, this recipe very closely resembles coffee in both flavour and body if brewed properly, and it’s also a good use of all those dandelions that like to spring up all over the garden. Look for the biggest, thickest clumps of dandelion leaves – these are usually fed by a big, fat root – and dig them up. There are no quantities of dandelion root specified in this particular recipe because there are no rules as to how many you need – it’s simply a case of the more roots you collect, the more roots you’ll have to roast, and the more coffee you will create.

PREPARING THE ROOTS Place the roots in a bucket or bowl, fill it with water and agitate the roots with your hands until the water is very muddy. Pour off the water, fill the bucket again and repeat the process a few more times until the water runs clear. At this point you should have a pile of beautiful, golden, dandelion roots. Don’t worry if there is still some dirt left on them – a quick scrub with a nail-brush will soon attend to any soil that is determinedly clinging. Using a large kitchen knife, cut the roots into chunks, then place them in a large bowl and fill with water. Agitate them with your hands until the water becomes cloudy, then pour it off, repeating the process until the water is clear. Although you have already washed the roots, it is important to follow this step, as it will ensure that you don’t get a gritty and muddy coffee. Finally, chop up the roots coarsely or give them a quick whizz in the food processor.

ROASTING THE ROOTS Spread the chopped dandelion roots on a baking sheet and place in a moderately hot oven set at 160°C –

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keep the oven door slightly ajar so that any moisture can escape. You will be both drying and roasting the roots in this step, which takes about 2–3 hours. As the roots dry, they will shrink to around a quarter of the size when fresh. After they dry they will begin to roast, going from a pale golden colour to a dark coffee colour. Make sure that you stir them frequently throughout the process with a wooden spatula to ensure even drying and roasting, and as they get close to the desired coffee colour, be careful not to let them burn – it’s all too easily done. Finally, cool the roasted roots and store them in glass jars in a cool, dark place.

BREWING THE COFFEE I am sure that there are many different ways of

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brewing dandelion coffee, but I always opt for the following method as one that works well.

INGREDIENTS Dandelion roots, roasted Boiling water



Use 1 level tablespoon of roasted dandelion root coffee for each 225ml of boiling water. Once you have made it a few times you can adjust the amounts to your taste and make it either stronger or weaker. Place the roasted roots and water in a saucepan and simmer gently over a low heat for 10–15 minutes, or until it yields a rich, coffee-coloured brew.

Serve hot with milk and sugar to suit your taste.

SEREN’S TIP! This coffee is particularly good made with all milk and sweetened with honey.

AND FINALLY… Although quite a few recipes from the Second World War diet may sound alien to our twenty-first-century ears, it has been shown to be an extremely healthy way to eat and is very close to what nutritionists advise us to eat today. Perhaps we should pop a Woolton Pie in the oven and raise a glass of Mock Orange Juice to the ingenuity and health-giving properties on the Second World War kitchen front. Stay calm and eat and drink up!



SAY IT s r e w o fl ) d e i r d ( with

With a little thought and planning you can enhance your home with dried flowers. Liz Aitken takes you through the process, from growing to arranging dried blooms


ried flower arrangements can brighten up any room, particularly at a time of year when there isn’t much colour outdoors, and drying your own flowers, grasses and seed heads is very easy. Not everything needs to come from your own garden – a walk with the dog through fields and along the river can yield a rich supply of grasses, reeds, rushes and seed heads, but only take a tiny amount of what is available. What’s more, after an initial outlay on perennials, annuals or packets of seed, drying your own is cheap or even free.

GROWING Perennials such as lavender and roses work well; helichrysum, statice, acroclinium and cornflowers are staples in dried arrangements because they practically dry themselves and keep their colour well; nigella, honesty and poppies have lovely flowers to enjoy in the garden, and they will produce interesting seed heads, along with more seeds for next year than you will ever need!



Always cut flowers in the early morning and just before they are in full bloom, when the heads feel firm. Roses are best dried while they are buds. Only pick perfect specimens, as any imperfections will be magnified when dried. Always strip the leaves straightaway.

DRYING The easiest way to dry flowers is to simply hang them up in conditions similar to those you would use to store root vegetables – cool, dry and dark (below). Tie bunches of one type of flower tightly because they will shrink as they dry. Any delicate material can be lightly sprayed with hairspray or floral sealer when dried. Grasses and grain such as wheat will dry well when laid flat on an absorbent surface (below right). The drying process can be accelerated by using borax, glycerine or silica, or you can put them in the microwave or oven.


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ARRANGING The beauty of drying your own material is that you can be both creative and original in your arrangements; a small, pastelcoloured arrangement in a simple container with some soft grasses suits a bedroom; and bolder colours, height and contrasting textures will create a more dramatic look.


Keep a mind on next year and save seed. If you want to control where it grows, raise seedlings in pots and then transplant as required.




DRUKER ! r e d a s u r c M Anti-G Usually, a food hero might be a butcher, baker or a farmer, but Steven M. Druker is an American public interest lawyer. Michael Wale reports on his fifteen-year fight against the GM sector


teven M. Druker recently told the All Party Agroecology Committee at the House of Commons how he has packed fifteen years of research into an anti-GM book, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth, and how GM has no future. The book is published at a crucial moment in the GM controversy, as both the EU and the UK are considering the commercial planting of GM crops. Although SNP Agriculture and Environment Minister, Richard Lochhead, has announced that GM is to be banned in Scotland, Defra Minister, Liz Truss – backed publicly by government adviser, Lord Krebs and previous Defra Minister, Owen Paterson – wants the go-ahead to be given for GM planting in the UK. Druker was backed at his London appearances by Dame Jane Goodall, who had flown in specially from Tanzania. She suggested: “Some people might want to know why a chimpanzee lady is here” – a reference to her work as the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, based on over fifty years of research in Gombe Park, Tanzania. She went on to explain: “GM crops came into my life because people were very divisive. I know some organic farmers. I know when the wind blows seed onto organic farms from GM crops they lose their organic status. They are gagged because they would settle out of court. I was involved in the environment. These crops are affecting other insects as well.” Druker did not mince his words, saying: “We’re announcing the birth of a book, and the risks of GM food and the death of the massive enterprise that is producing it.” He noted that both the European Union and the UK Government were pressing to allow the planting of GM crops, which he said should be ended because, “It is founded on falsehood”.


Druker’s book is thorough and detailed. Particularly poignant and fascinating are the near 100 pages spent recalling the story of Dr Arpad Pusztai, a renowned food safety expert, who headed a group to research the possibilities of GM potatoes in the 1990s. The project was based at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen and had a £1.6 million grant. At the outset, Pusztai was optimistic that tests to show the advantages of GM would be successful, but gradually the experiments on feeding normal and GM potatoes to rats began to show something was going very wrong. The example is effectively used by Druker to underline his belief in the power over the media and industry of the GM lobby. In August 1998, ITV’s leading current affairs programme at the time, World In Action, featured a short clip of Pusztai, who noted some of the adverse effects that had been induced by the GM potato tests on rats. More importantly, he expressed his concerns about GM foods and strongly criticised the fact that they were on the market, even though their safety had not been adequately demonstrated. The book records: “As he put it, I find that it is very, very unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs. We have to find the guinea pigs in the laboratory.” His words caused a huge stir. What happened next is really interesting, and makes it little wonder that Jane Goodall said she had found the book as riveting as any novel. Things quickly became political, as Pusztai’s television comments threatened to damage the multi-million pound public relations campaign of the biotech industry to create public confidence in GM foods, and a few days later Pusztai was fired and gagged by the same Rowett Institute that had earlier welcomed the televisual publicity.

Steven M. Druker and Jane Goodall. Photo courtesy of Beyond GM.

Greenpeace and Avaaz hand over a petition containing 1 million anti-GM signatures to the EU Commission. Photo courtesy of Greenpeace and John Novis.


Further info

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public by Steven M. Druker is published by Clear River Press and is priced at ÂŁ14.26. The book details his fifteen-year-long battle with the GM industry and how, in spite of its immense power, he has won some very significant legal battles with them. It is available from all good book retailers and has the ISBN number 978-0-9856169-0-8 (paperback). There are two YouTube videos which feature interviews with Dr Arpad Pusztai. These can be found by keying KNjMJIvI3RY and Onw72ShqbP4 into your search engine. Also of interest may be a film on the subject of the GM industry by Gary Null, which can be found by keying in B_XtCcMeWrw.

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FOOD HERO The Rowett Institute quickly pointed out that the GM potatoes were never intended to be used as food, and asked a scientific committee to review Pusztai’s study. It returned the verdict that there were important deficiencies in his study. Undeterred, Pusztai sent his findings to twenty-four independent scientists in different countries. They found that his research was of excellent quality and justified his conclusions. The Rowett findings, on the other hand, claimed that he had messed up, suggesting that his age – he was in his sixties at the time – had also affected the quality of his work. A report in the Daily Mail, the one UK newspaper to remain steadfastly anti-GM at the time, confirmed a rumour that Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office had rung the Rowett Institute, and was behind Pusztai’s sacking, although his research had actually been commissioned by the Scottish authorities – a political decision apparently made in pro-GM-industry America and pushed by President Bill Clinton phoning Downing Street on the matter: another reason to be concerned about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations currently underway between the US and Europe! What really angered Druker in this entire sorry story was the fact that The Royal Society – an organisation held in esteem as the UK’s national academy of science – also attacked Pusztai. He writes: “By the mid 1990s it had become a partisan defender of GM foods, and embraced a proactive policy on their behalf.” He goes on to say that not only did the Society impugn Pusztai and his research; in addition, as part of their campaign against him, nineteen Society members wrote a letter attacking his work. The Society also convened a review panel to examine Pusztai’s research, which, as he pointed out, lacked any member with the appropriate expertise in nutritional matters. It had now become a bitter battle, and the review panel, naturally, found against him and his research. It took the erudite medical journal, The Lancet, to declare that the Society’s action was a “gesture of breathtaking impertinence”. Druker feels very bitter about the role played by The Royal Society, and says: “I’m issuing a challenge to The Royal Society to first acknowledge the misleading statements it made in the unfair attacks on the research by Arpad Pusztai and the tests he made on GM potatoes. He fully expected at the time that there would be no problems, but there were, and The Royal Society was at the forefront of the attacks on Dr Pusztai”.


Above: A Greenpeace activist takes genetically engineered maize samples on a Monsanto field, near Borken, Germany, containing a herbicide which not only kills the European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis), but is also believed to kill butterflies and honeybees. Photo courtesy of Greenpeace and Jürgen Siegmann. Top right: A genetically modified potato in Sweden, which contains an antibiotic-resistant gene. Left: A protest against Monsanto in Washington DC. Photo courtesy of Sarah Stierch.

He added that the government of the time had ordered all the potatoes used in Pusztai’s research to be destroyed, because they really did not care to find out what was actually happening. “This claim by the proponents of GM that they want science is baloney. They only let opinions be voiced that they approve of. Science must be restored. The attack on science has been mounted by the scientific community. That’s why I challenge The Royal Society. They cannot legitimately ignore this book.” He pointed out that he had worked with the organisation Roots and Shoots, which Jane Goodall had started in 1991, with the goal of bringing together youth from pre-school age to university age to work in environmental, conservation and humanitarian issues. He admitted: “The harm we have done to the world makes me ashamed. How is it possible the GM industry has managed to fool so many people? Is it money? Is it that we worship money so much that we don’t think straight?” For me, his book is depressing in that

it shows the power of the GM machine, how it can influence governments and the media, and through them the public. I asked Druker what hope there was for the future. He replied: “I tend to be optimistic. I have hope. Ultimately, in the long run, truth will triumph. It’s an emperor’s new clothes situation. It’s really hogwash. Baloney is baloney. GMOs are safe because we say they are! Their own chart shows that GM engineering is the most risky way of creating new lines of crops. It’s spin… and much more than spin at times. I try not to accuse individuals of fraud. Many people have been speaking irresponsibly, and we know what they are saying is false. It’s not just Monsanto; it’s the scientific establishment. If they had not twisted the facts and lobbied the government in the US, we would not be here today.” Jane Goodall was more worried, saying: “I’m worried about the impact on the environment. There has been the development of ‘superweeds’ as a result of GM crops. I’m very concerned about the future.” For anyone concerned about the past and future of the GM experiment, Steven M. Druker’s book is an absolutely essential read.





for the shed!

John Butterworth checks out recent developments in solar panels as he provides solar-powered lighting for a tractor shed


wrote about using a solar panel to power a hen-house light in 2008, so now it’s time to see how things have moved on, and to get up to date with a newer, bigger installation, for a newer, bigger tractor shed! The main difference is affordability, though they are not yet what I’d call ‘cheap’ – £100 bought you a feeble 25watt panel in 2008, and now it buys you a 100-watt panel, but that’s peak power at midday in midsummer. The rest of the time it will produce much less, so you still couldn’t run energy-hungry items such as a 12-volt fridge using a single panel – or at least not for long. The second difference between now and 2008 is the cost and easy availability of LED lighting, which has improved to the point that a




BATTERY rechargeable 10-watt LED lamp for around £25 is now very bright – about the same brightness as an old 60-watt incandescent light bulb.

Thirdly, the ‘solar controller’ that you’ll need has improved since 2008. The original controllers used high-power semiconductors, which had a fairly short life, and the first two I got only had half the circuitry they really needed – they stopped the battery over-discharging, but the circuitry to prevent it over-charging had been left out! Presumably, the sellers wanted to keep the price down to a nice round £25. For the same £25 or less now, you get a much cleverer ‘Pulse Width Modulation’ controller, which stops the battery both overdischarging and over-charging using much cheaper circuitry. Pictured left is the little schematic that came with the new one. Left: An LED worklight. Below: Fixings in the channelling.

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It’s a simple task to wire up solar power in a shed or outbuilding – all you need is a solar panel, a car battery and, in my case, a lamp. In the diagram it’s called the ‘DC load’ for good reason, as it could be anything we want that is powered by 12V DC. The controller sits in the middle, and they come in different power ratings: typically 10–30 amps – the one I used is 30 amp. To calculate the maximum power you could supply to your ‘load’, multiply volts (12 volts) by amps (30 amps), which gives 360 watts, but I wouldn’t risk going up to that theoretical rated maximum – you can bet your life it’s optimistic, given the controller only cost £25. Still, 250–300 watts would be quite useful. The solar panel is cabled to the controller, which regulates voltage coming from the panel – it doesn’t allow it to go above about 13.5 volts. If it did, pretty soon the battery would be ruined, as it would overheat and the electrolyte inside – dilute sulphuric acid in the case of a ‘lead–acid’ battery – would boil away. Likewise, the ‘load’ (in my case a worklight), if left switched on when the battery isn’t charging, would eventually wreck the battery by over-discharging it, so that, too, is connected via the controller. When the battery gets down to about 10.5 volts, the controller protects it from discharging further by the simple expedient of switching the light off!

The going rate on eBay for a 100-watt panel is £85–£90. On a shed, a ‘rigid’ panel is perfectly acceptable, so don’t pay extra for ‘semi-flexible’ panels, which are aimed at the motorhome and narrowboat market. You’ll need a mounting frame to fasten it to your roof. For flat roofs, the cheapest option is four plastic corner brackets costing about £20, but my shed roof is corrugated, so I had to use aluminium brackets. There are loads of aluminium mounting kits for sale, at about £30. The panels themselves have an alloy frame with four holes underneath the panel, and with the mounting kit that I got, I had to bolt four L-shaped brackets to the panel, and then bolt these to aluminium channelling. I know this is the right mounting kit for large panels, because I scrounged it from the fitters who put the 250-watt panels on our barn roof, so it’s a bit oversized for a titchy little 100-watt panel, but it was free, which makes all the difference. There are some clever fastenings to attach the L-shaped brackets to the channelling, which I’ve shown in profile (see page 91), as they’re very commonly used – there’s a rubber bung in the end; you push the fastener into the slot in the channel, then turn it through 90 degrees, at which point the bung acts like a little spring and holds the fastener in place – a nice design. Not so clever was the fact that the holes in the panel frame were too small for the bolts that I had, so I used a ‘cone cutter’ to enlarge them, rather than buying more bolts. Cone cutters are exceedingly useful. It’s nearly impossible to enlarge an existing hole with a drill, as it wobbles off-centre, even using a pillar drill. A cone cutter has a gently stepped profile so always

Below: A cone cutter.

sits dead centre. The drawback is the cost – around £20 and upwards – but nothing else does the job so well. Be careful not to push right through and bust the panel! Once the holes were drilled out, I bolted the four L-shaped brackets on, then, to get the position on the roof just right, I used the packing that the panel came in rather than the fragile glass panel itself. The brackets have slots rather than holes, to give a bit of movement. This allows you to position a piece of channelling on the tops of two corrugations and then slide the brackets in or out to suit the width of the panel. Why the tops of the corrugations, which means using longer screws? This is to stop water leaking in through your roof. I used 150mm ‘Structural Timber Screws’ to screw through the channel into the wooden joist below, and I also put a ring of sealant round the hole and a rubber washer under the screw head. Fasten them down using a spanner, or socket driver (easier!). When both are in place, the panel can be fastened to them by sliding the fixings into the right position to fit the L-shaped brackets on the panel.

WIRING THE PANEL These solar panels produce a low DC voltage (about 20 volts) at quite a high current (power = volts × amps, so for a panel to produce 100 watts, there must be 5 amps flowing in the wires). High current needs thick cables! Some panels come with cables attached that are long enough to get from your roof to inside the building, but some don’t, so buyer beware! If you have one that needs cables attaching, as this one did, either buy extension cables with connectors already fitted (easiest), or fit your own (sometimes cheapest). The connectors need to be special, waterproof, highFar left: Getting the spacing right. Left: Fixing the channel. Below: A socket driver.



Left: Soldering the pin. Above: MC4 connectors. Right: Crimping tool.

current jobs called ‘MC4 connectors’, so don’t be tempted to bodge, especially as MC4s are cheap and easy to fit. They come in ‘male’ and ‘female’ variants – one plugs into the other. The pin should be crimped using a crimping tool or pliers, and soldered as shown above – easier than it looks. We’ve looked at soldering previously, and a soldering iron should really be part of any home farmer’s toolkit. If you don’t fancy doing it yourself, buy cables with connectors already attached. Plug them into the panel and run the cables from the roof to wherever you intend to fit the controller and battery, being careful not to let any bare ends short out by taping them with insulation tape first. A wiring tip – when you run wires into a building, often through a hole in a wall (though, in this case under one of the roof corrugations), make a loop with them first. This gives a bit of spare length, should a connector corrode and need re-making at a future date, and it stops rain from creeping down the wires and into the building – it drips off the loop.

BATTERY BOX I made a little box to shelter the battery, controller and connector, as my shed is

‘Yorkshire Boarding’, so the rain blows in on very windy days (which is most of them!). I used plastic sheet for the back and the top, and plywood for the sides, as I’d run out of plastic sheet! The base is made from thicker strips of timber to take the weight of the heavy battery; the timber was jointed using a biscuit jointer – a great way of making good use of odd offcuts of timber. Once the box was constructed, I first screwed the controller, which says ‘mount vertically’ on the instructions, onto a little steel panel, then screwed that into the box – controllers have metal heat sinks on the back, and screwing something that gets hot straight onto a plastic panel seemed like asking for trouble. You need to be able to see the display on the controller, and to leave room to poke six cables into the connectors on the bottom of it. The rechargeable LED lamp I got for the shed has a 12-volt car cigarette lighter plug, so I got a matching 12V socket (£2 on eBay) to mount on the battery box. I made a little plastic panel for the socket and screwed that to the front of the battery box – formerly part of a bath panel, hence the tasteful avocado colour. The battery is an old tractor battery I thought I’d destroyed by leaving the sidelights switched on for several days. Miraculously, it came back to life after a long charge on the battery charger,

so this set-up should give it a new lease of life. To make connectors for the battery, a crimping tool is best (£2 on eBay), then you can use these DC connectors (see above). There are spade, bullet and ring terminals, and it’s the latter that’s best for a semi-permanent connection to a battery. Crimp a ring terminal onto a piece of thick wire (I used some solar panel cable offcuts), drill a small hole in the centre of each battery terminal, then screw the connector to the battery for a good connection. Wipe a smear of Vaseline or grease on it to stop it corroding.

JOHN’S TIP! It’s a good safety precaution to put an in-line fuse in the battery power supply, as shown overleaf. It’s a ‘10amp 20mm glass fuse and holder’; these cost pence on eBay. Use a higher-rated fuse, up to the rated power of your controller (in my case

Left: Battery box. Below: 12V plug socket. Right: 12V socket on the panel.

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Above: In-line fuse. Middle: Snapping the insulation.

30-amp), if you intend to run more powerful 12V equipment than my LED lamp. It also lets you disconnect the battery without having to find a screwdriver – simply unscrew the fuse holder. There’s already a fuse in the 12V ‘car’ socket.

FINAL WIRING Now all that remains is to wire the leads from the solar panel, the battery, and the socket, to the controller. Do it in the order the controller instructions


recommend, being very careful not to short the battery or the panel connectors together. The best way to strip insulation from electrical cable is to cut round it with a sharp knife, but not quite through, then bend the end back to ‘crack’ the insulation. That way you don’t cut through the strands of copper wire. Here’s the wiring into my controller (above right). The panel is the left two connectors, the battery the centre two, and the socket for the ‘load’ (to plug my lamp into) is the pair on the right. This controller allows you to alter the over-charge and under-charge voltages,

but the factory settings should be OK.

COMPLETING THE INSTALLATION I varnished the timber on the box to waterproof it, and rather than sit all that weight on one of the shed’s structural timbers, I made legs with brackets on them for the box to stand on. Now I can just leave it to its own devices, but if I need to go into the shed in the dark, I know I have a charged-up worklight, and as an extra bonus – a spare charged-up tractor battery for the tractor!


J U N E 2015


! e s u o h e k o m S COMPE T I T ION


HOW TO ENTER… To enter, answer the following questions: What is the roof of the smokehouse made from? What are the dimensions of the smokehouse? Also, finish off the following sentence: The first thing I would smoke in my new Posh Smoker would be…

The Posh Smoke House allows you to cold-smoke: a process of flavouring and preserving food by exposing it to smoke created by a burning or smouldering material, usually wood. The most common foods to be smoked are meat, fish and cheese, but ingredients for making drinks such as tea or beer can also be smoked. The possibilities really are endless! This new smokehouse from The Posh Shed Company is made from the highest quality treated timber and is finished with a cedar shingle roof in keeping with the company’s style. It measures 1,750mm (h) × 1,000mm (w) × 650mm (d), and the door has a height of 1,300mm, which provides plenty of access room. “Knowing where our food comes from and how it is produced is fast becoming a key purchasing decision for many people. Growing our own food is one way of ensuring we know exactly where it has originated from, and it was because of this that we wanted to create the Posh Smoke House,” explains Richard Frost, CEO of The Posh Shed Company. “Our Smoke House will allow customers to create their very own smoked fish, meat or cheese in their back gardens, and you cannot get more local than that!” adds Richard.

Send your answers on a postcard to: ‘Garden Smoker Competition’, Home Farmer, PO Box 536, Preston, PR2 9ZY. Please remember to include your name, address and contact details, too. All entries must arrive no later than July 31st 2015. The lucky winner will be notified in early August and will be announced in the October issue.

For further information on the new Posh Smoke House, as well as other products from The Posh Shed Company, call 01544 387101 or visit



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NOT JUST FOR SMALLHOLDERS! Smallholder Associations are a great way to meet like-minded people, share ideas, gain access to training, and in some cases share equipment. In almost all cases you don’t have to be a ‘smallholder’ to become a member. Membership can be anything from £10–£20 a year. Please note: WHERE POSSIBLE WE HAVE INCLUDED TELEPHONE NUMBERS. However, phone numbers are not always readily available – this is not because the organisations do not want you to contact them, more it’s because the role is voluntary, with the people often doing a full-time job elsewhere. If any group listed below does have a phone number and we’ve not listed it, please email with a membership contact number so that we can include this in the future. Although these are smallholder groups, most of them welcome anybody with a genuine love of the countryside. Our thanks go to Richard Thompson for the listings. Please follow Richard’s blog (Small Plot, Big Ideas) for inspiration Please remember to mention Home Farmer when contacting these organisations. Many thanks. BASH – BIGGAR AREA SMALLHOLDERS A group of like-minded people all of whom work the land in some way. The smallholdings they run are diverse: some are small, others quite large; some grow only vegetables, others have significant amounts of livestock. CENTRAL SCOTLAND SMALLHOLDERS’ ASSOCIATION The CSSA are a group of aspiring and existing smallholders who get together to share knowledge, experiences, and to socialise. CHESHIRE SMALLHOLDERS’ ASSOCIATION A dynamic and enthusiastic group of small-scale and hobby farmers, horse enthusiasts and countryside lovers. (CASP) CORNISH ASSOCIATION OF SMALLHOLDERS AND PRODUCERS This is a group of smallholders and craft producers in the south-west with the aim of bringing support to each other and a shared outlet for the fine produce and crafts that are produced and sold locally to ensure quality and fair prices. www.cornishassociationsmallholdersand For membership enquiries telephone 07886 839785. CORNWALL SMALLHOLDERS GROUP A group with members mainly in the Western half of Cornwall, with interests including all forms of livestock, orchards, veg and soft fruit, woodland, and the cooking and processing of produce. Meetings are held monthly, usually on the first Thursday of the month, with talks and discussions in winter and visits to members’ holdings and elsewhere in summer, with home produced food and drink a key feature! Website is undergoing a revamp. For further information contact 07794 978693. CUMBRIAN SMALLHOLDERS A facebook group which provides a place to meet other smallholders, share information, advertise stock for sale and appeal for items wanted. cumbriansmallholders. DERBYSHIRE SMALLHOLDERS’ ASSOCIATION Derbyshire Smallholders’ Association was formed by a group of like-minded people with the aim of providing the opportunity for fellow smallholders, and those with just an interest in smallholding, to network and to pass on skills and information. For membership enquiries telephone 07871 189889.


DEVON ASSOCIATION OF SMALLHOLDERS (DASH) DASH was established in 1986 to serve the needs and interests of smallholders and those planning to undertake any kind of country living. DYFED SMALLHOLDERS’ ASSOCIATION Est. 1986, the DSA is open to anyone in S.W Wales who enjoys a rural way of life. Monthly mtgs covering a wide range of topics + soc. events, farm walks, workshops & support from fellow members. EAST ESSEX SMALLHOLDERS’ GROUP A group of micro farmers who operate different size ‘smallholdings’; some of them have a few backyard chickens, maybe grow a few fruit or vegetables, while others may have a pig, small herds/flocks, sheep or even a cow. EAST RIDING SMALLHOLDERS’ SOCIETY A society of smallholders, ‘home’ farmers, small-scale agriculturalists, horticulturalists, self-sufficiency enthusiasts and country crafts people who have rural interests or are motivated to make productive their own small portion of the Earth’s surface. For membership enquiries please telephone 01757 638155. FENLAND SMALLHOLDERS’ CLUB The Club was originally started as a goatkeepers’ society in the early 1970s and has gradually transformed over the years into the more general smallholders’ group it is today. We have regular monthly meetings and a wide range of interest/training groups, including Gardening, Craft, Pigs, Home Butchery and a Blokes’ Baking group. Our membership is mainly drawn from the geographical area of Fenland encompassing North Cambridgeshire, West Norfolk and Lincolnshire, but also includes members from the wider area. Tel: 01945 773929. GUERNSEY SMALLHOLDERS’ ASSOCIATION The Guernsey Smallholders’ Association is a practical and social club, which forms a network of people who can offer each other advice, support and help, and which also facilitates the exchange of produce, skills and ideas. HERTS & ESSEX SMALLHOLDERS AND GARDENERS The group holds informal friendly meetings once a month, and members have a wide range of expertise on smallholding and gardening issues. Tel: 01279 815044.

KENT SMALLHOLDERS The group was formed in 1987 by Hadlow College, to whom they are affiliated. They hold monthly meetings at the college with like-minded people who enjoy the countryside and the rural way of life, which is their only criteria for membership. LINCOLNSHIRE SMALLHOLDING AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY CLUB The purpose of Lincolnshire Smallholding and Self-sufficiency Club is to bring together like-minded people within Lincolnshire who are interested or involved in any aspect of smallholding or self-sufficiency. Tel: 01205 290829. MONTGOMERYSHIRE & DISTRICT SMALLHOLDERS A friendly group of like-minded people who meet on a monthy basis, with guest speakers on a variety of subjects. New members and visitors are always welcome. We meet at Cobra Rugby Club in Meidod (Sat Nav SY22 6DA). Tel: Barrie 01691 648406 Email: mmrjd£ NORFOLK SMALLHOLDERS’ TRAINING GROUP NSTG was set up in the late 1980s by a group of volunteers and now has members all over Norfolk (and beyond). Tel: 01953 483734. NORTH SHROPSHIRE AND BORDERS SMALLHOLDERS’ GROUP A friendly group with varied interests – from window boxes to acres. Welcomes new members to their monthly meetings. NORTH YORKSHIRE SMALLHOLDERS’ SOCIETY This group was set up to help the smallholders of North Yorkshire and the North of England. NORTHUMBRIA SMALLHOLDERS’ ASSOCIATION A group of like-minded people from the north-east of England who enjoy the countryside and all that goes with it. The group formed following a smallholders’ course at Kirkley Hall College. ROMFORD SMALLHOLDERS’ SOCIETY They run a very large and popular allotment site in Romford and have been providing allotments for over one hundred years. growyourown.

SCOTTISH SMALLHOLDERS’ ASSOCIATION The Scottish Smallholders’ Association has been established for over 15 years. They are a small group based in the south-west of Scotland, and their aim is to share knowledge, experience and ideas about smallholding, and they welcome anyone with shared interests. SEVERNVALE SMALLHOLDERS’ ASSOCIATION A group of people whose main interests are: flora and fauna, the environment, conservation and organic growing. SHROPSHIRE SMALLHOLDERS’ GROUP A non-profit organisation providing members with information and mutual support on all aspects of smallholding, including animal husbandry, growing fruit and vegetables, and general smallholding interests. SMALL FARM TRAINING GROUP The Small Farm Training Group (SFTG), based in Sussex, aims to enable members to learn better farming, smallholding and horticultural skills. Members are enthusiasts who want to know how to care for land, livestock and equipment in an efficient and professional manner. SOMERSET SMALLHOLDERS’ ASSOCIATION The association was set up more than thirty years ago to bring together folk who have an interest in rural activities. Whether you have a flowerpot or a farm, you are welcome to join this friendly group of Somerset-based working smallholders. Tel: 07758 827869. SOUTH WEST WALES SMALLHOLDERS A facebook group page for all those who have a smallholding in SW Wales. You can advertise items for sale, or appeal for wanted items. groups/218380055007087. STAFFORDSHIRE SMALLHOLDERS’ ASSOCIATION A small but lively group of families and individuals who share an interest in the small-farming way of life. Tel: 01889 881377. SUFFOLK SMALLHOLDERS’ SOCIETY A non-profit group of like-minded people interested in smallholding, self-sufficiency, allotments, fruit and vegetable growing and animal husbandry on a small scale. Tel: 01449 711178. WEST SUSSEX SMALLHOLDERS’ CLUB A friendly smallholders’ support group serving West Sussex, East Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire. Tel: 01293 863508.


















T • EN






Create your own nectar garden to encourage bees and other pollinators, as we show you how to plant up some ‘wildlife magnets’ for the garden.

COMPOST COURGETTES How to make the most of free heat from the compost to grow courgettes and other veg.

GUIDE TO HOME DYEING Revamp your wardrobe or dye your yarn with our guide to using natural dyes.

GROWING UNDER COVER Maximise the space in your polytunnel or greenhouse with these useful tips and ideas for getting more out of less space.

WILD COCKTAILS Recipes using home-grown and foraged produce to create interesting drinks.

PRESERVE AND STORE The best tips for preserving and storing this month’s seasonal produce, and there are readers’ recipes, too.

ICE CREAM AND WAFERS Produce delicious ice creams and sorbets without an ice cream maker, and also make your own wafers and sauces.


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U LY R J ect: E M ir FAR b uy d E M HO ock to 015 t 2 s: In s M ay e nt g a 5 s 29 ew 201 In n Ju ne 4

J U N E 2015

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Home Farmer June 2015  
Home Farmer June 2015