May 302014
 

Fermented mustard greensI wish I’d got to know mustard greens (and reds and goldens) much earlier in my growing adventure. They are such a tasty, versatile and good-hearted vegetable. And some of the varieties are great green manures, ground cover and biofumigants.

Here at Legge Towers we sow them in mid to late summer so that we can put them in the polytunnel to over winter. They get cut down by frost outside in winter, but in the polytunnel, sometimes with a little extra fleece protection they do fine.

They make a good quick green manure which may survive a kind winter, but you can also re-sow early in spring. Certain varieties (like Caliente) are good before potatoes as the gases given off by the leaves when cut down can help prevent wire worm and other pests – this is the biofumigant. You need to cut down and work in the leaves quickly though. More info on this here.

Just to say, we don’t tend to use them in the spring and summer. This is because there’s plenty else around and because we find they bolt quickly if it gets hot or dry for long (it does occasionally happen).

The mustards give us with little leaves for salads to start with. Then we get bigger leaves to use in stir fries or as a steamed/wilted veg. You can also make a lovely mustardy pesto with them. In the spring they produce wonderful flower shoots to use like sprouting broccoli.

Very tall mustard greens at end of seasonThen, as you can see they climb!

By this time, I’m thinking of the next crop that will occupy the space for the summer months. This year, I didn’t want to just compost the remains (after shredding the woodier parts). I thought I could use the more tender parts to ferment to make a tasty snack and accompaniment.

And did that work well? Oh yes. Read on to find out more. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:21
May 272014
 

Three poultry feeder hangin baskets in the polytunnelSometimes the most obvious solutions are at my feet. Which is ironic, as I was after a high-level solution.

We’ve grown tomatoes in the Big Polytunnel for a few years now. They take up quite a lot of bed space and we felt we could use the bed space more productively. But we like tomatoes and have had limited success growing them outside with the awful summers we’ve had and the associated blight. So we thought about growing some tumbler tomatoes from hanging baskets.

Now hanging baskets outdoors in a place like North Wales is asking for trouble. High winds mean they are more likely to be a missile than a useful gardening asset. So we don’t have any conventional baskets. And I needed a solution for my tomatoes that needed a proper home.

Abandoned Poultry Feeder I fell across the solution when walking in one of our fields that we’d kept chickens in years ago. The large feeder broke when the high winds (did I tell you about those?) brought a big branch down from a sycamore. But it wasn’t that broken and would still hang… And a thorny ramble through other former chicken realms yielded up two other feeders that were not in the prime of life.

I gave them a bit of a spruce and drilled some drainage holes in the bases. Some 550 Paracord (olive drab, of course) was ideal to attach the baskets to the polytunnel hanging bars. A top piece of recycling I’m sure you’ll agree 🙂

#ShowsOfHands Tying up the poultry feeder hanging basletAnd this is my contribution to Michelle Chapman’s wonderful Chelsea Fringe project for 2014: Shows of Hands. Michelle’s project aims to highlight the most precious tool of every gardener – their hands. You can read more about the project here at Michelle’s blog.

I filled the baskets with Vital Earth peat free compost with some vermiculite. I slotted in the tomato plants as I filled, leaving a good 5cm space at the top for water. The feeders/baskets come with a useful ledge and so I put some spare nasturtiums in the big one and some self-seeded thyme plants in the other.

I’m very pleased with the result and can’t wait for the tomatoes to ripen. If you look carefully at the plant in the big basket, we already have a baby tomato…

Poultry feeder hanging baskets

 Posted by at 09:46
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