Christmas Dinner

This is what it is all about folks! Digging up your very own veggies on Christmas Day and serving them up alongside the turkey. It doesn't get much better than this.

Merry Christmas. Posted by Picasa


I was able to see a pomegranate on a tree in the hotel garden in Madeira. This one is not quite ripe, but beautiful nevertheless. They are in season over here right now and well worth buying. I have a bee in my bonnet about supermarkets selling fruit out of season. Just think of all the air miles involved in selling us tomatoes or courgettes in December! It's criminal!

If you fancy a pomegranate (and now is the time) go for it. I have found the cheapest ones are Spanish, the next best are from Turkey, and the best come from Iran. Memories of childhood come flooding back. Happy Christmas! No stocking should be without one! Posted by Picasa

Exotic Fruit

My favourite place in Madeira is the Mercado dos Lavradores - the main fruit and veg market in Funchal. These long green fruit that look like a pine cone are the fruit of the common house plant , Monsteria or cheeseplant. These are absolutely delicious. Peel off the green scales and underneath is a sort of a slippery sweetcorn - it tastes like a cross between a pineapple and a banana. I did see them in the Kitchen Garden magazine a few months ago. Posted by Picasa

Scrumping Mangoes in Madeira

I have been suffering 72 degrees of sunshine for the last few days on a short break in Madeira. What infinite diversity there is in the fruit and veggie world! It is such a thrill to see stuff growing on trees that hitherto has only been available wrapped in plastic in Tesco! Took quite a few fruit photos while I was there - here is a mango tree in the hotel garden. One morning I was scraping ice off my car windscreen and that afternoon I was scrumping mangoes in Madeira. Funny old world, innit ? Posted by Picasa

Greenhouse Heating

And I was wondering what I will take pictures of during the Winter! I must admit this was a little contrived, but you get the picture?

Alternatively you can make a solution from Sulphate of Ammonia, or any high nigrogen feed, and soak the bale with a watering can. Over the Winter you will be amazed at the heat that it will throw out - and in the Spring you can plant cucumbers on it. Posted by Picasa

Seed Catalogues

I have been phoning round in the last couple of weeks. Lots of adverts in the back of gardening magazines produce a wide variety of veggie catalogues. Something to read on a cold, dark, Winter night! I have found a company which sells "Queensland Blue" squash - something I have been looking for for ages. Lots of other exotics as well - shall I try growing peanuts?

Can anyone recommend a really firm, sweet squash variety? Posted by Picasa

Dung Repository!

You read it correctly! On a recent visit to Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington I snapped this picture of GW's compost heap! (I can't help it, I get excited). Way back then he was experimenting with soil fertility and sustainable farming techniques. Whattaguy !

This brings me back home. I have been making a good effort to practice "no dig" gardening wherever possible, so have laid carpet and roofing felt around in permanent paths, and do not walk on my veggie beds. I have laid compost and manure on the surface and let the worms do the rest. It really does work!

On the subject, I am about to gain custody of a straw bale in the next couple of days - blog readers will know why.... Posted by Picasa

Sweet Potato cuttings

I took some cuttings from an old shop-bought sweet potato a few weeks ago. They all seem to have rooted perfectly. Now I am not sure how to get them through the Winter. I think they will be coming into a cool conservatory to protect from frost, but not too warm so they get leggy. Posted by Picasa

Seed Catalogues

This time of year when the garden is slowing down, what I love to do most is to read through seed catalogues and dream of what I am going to grow next year!

Any spare minute in these short Winter days, you will find me thumbing through the vegetable catalogues. I am looking to try something different and unusual every year. I have grown physallis, tomatillo, salsifis, scorzonera and sweet potatoes in the past.

Can anyone please recommend a good website or company where I can send off for a seed catalogue?

Brussels Sprouts

Q. What is the difference between brussels sprouts and bogeys?

Answer: Little boys won't eat sprouts! Posted by Picasa

Salad Leaves

I have a perfect selection of spicy salad leaves at the moment. This seems to be a mixture of mizuna, rocket, and mustard. All I need to do is hold a bunch and cut off at the base with a pair of scissors. There are no critters this time of year and most of the time they are so delicious that they do not make it all the way indoors and I have to cut a second lot.

I'm still struggling with the discipline of successional planting. These are perfect right now, but they will be going over in a couple of weeks and I haven't planted the next lot. I intend to do some seed sowing in the greenhouse propagator in the next few days, maybe some pak choi and some more salad leaves. Posted by Picasa

My hungry gap

I am so pleased with these Winter Density lettuce. Lovely dark green colour and as hardy as you like. So far it is too cold for slugs. Posted by Picasa

Straw bale urinal...

Yes you read that correctly! I heard a TV personality talking the other day about his "straw bale urinal" and it got me thinking. Take a straw bale, keep it in a greenhouse over Winter, and ask your friends (if you have any left) to make contributions for an eco friendly cause. There is a sound science behind this madness. Nitrogen + Carbon = HEAT.

This really does work. A straw bale "treated" in this way really can heat your greenhouse to a certain extent. If you don't fancy using re-cycled tea, coffee or beer.. for this purpose then you can surely wimp out with some liquid high nitrogen liquid fertilizer. Treat the straw bale and over the next few months it will throw out an astonishing amount of heat.

In the Spring, you can hollow out two small holes in the top of the straw bale, fill them with potting compost and plant your greenhouse cucumbers in them!.... Now I am sure that I have a spare toilet seat up in the attic...I'm sure I do.

Dried Chilli

I strung up my chilllis this afternoon. Just a strong needle and some thread is needed. These are the Numex Twilight and Joes Long that I grew this Summer. They need to be dried off completely otherwise they will go mouldy. They need to be somewhere warm like an airing cupboard or over a radiator until they are completely dry, then they will keep forever. Very attractive - may hang up as Christmas decorations! Posted by Picasa

Winter Density

Have planted 3 different Winter lettuces a few weeks ago. Valdor, Norwegian Brown and Winter Density. The best by far, in both greenhouse and outdoors is Winter Density. Lovely darker green cos type leaves, very healthy and streets above the other two. Photo to follow.

I'm still thinking about my hungry gap! So I am going to plant some pak choi in the propagator in the greenhouse to give it a good heads start, then plant seedlings out into a growbag in the greenhouse. Does anyone have any suggestions for hardy Winter edibles?

Puppies or parsnips ?

I can't decide either ! Posted by Picasa


They say that horseradish roots go down about 6 feet! I'm not so sure that is far off the mark. It is fine to leave a patch of the stuff in a forgotten corner, it does not die - really! Abuse it all you like IT DOES NOT DIE. Having said that, it is wonderful stuff. My Mother told me that back in the 192os... when she was a little girl she used to have to grate the horseradish with a grater! Can you imagine the pain? Thank heavens for food processors.

Recepie - horseradish root, evaporated milk, malt vinegar - into the food processor and whizz. Posted by Picasa

First parsnips

I was thrilled today to see a decent sized parsnip. I waited till the first frost, after which the starch turns to sugar and they are much sweeter. I was so pleased because during the hot, dry Summer there were huge, deep cracks in the ground and I did not think they would do well. I think the secret must have been the big hole I forced with an iron bar into which to plant the seed. Lots and lots of mulch and tender loving care. Roast leg of lamb with roast veg tomorrow. Yum! Posted by Picasa

The last of my Sweet Potatoes

I dug up the remaining 4 sweet potato plants this morning. The tops had completely died back and I did not know how they would respond to this under the ground. The variety, Beauregard is a wonderful rich salmon colour inside and out. The taste is also superb. Posted by Picasa

Fall Leaves in Virginia

I didn't have to go up as far North as New England to see the glorious Fall colors (aka Autumn Colours!) Stunning colour changes all over Virginia and Maryland. Posted by Picasa

First Frost of the Season

The first frost of the Autumn was last Thursday 2nd November. As expected the sweet potato foliage died back almost completely. I have been thrilled with the crop this year. They were of the variety "Beauregard" from Thompson & Morgan. they really do need at least 4 months to produce a decent crop. The difference between the ones I dug up a month ago and this week is quite marked. Hope to get some pics in the next couple of days.

Still harvesting late Autumn raspberries this morning. None left now but have had half a dozen this week. Green peppers are still going OK in the greenhouse - will leave them as long as possible with a little help from a heated propagator as I beleive they will last through Winter if kept warm enough. Picked my last Chilli "Joes Long" today. They are spectacular - very decorative. Have brought them all indoors now to dry off over a radiator for a while.

My Norwegian lettuce is hardy!!!! Despite 3 nights of frost the leaves are untouched and still delicious. Look like they are going to seed now, the stalk is about 3ft tall now. Tasty elongated soft salad leaves. More in the greenhouse coming along.

Worm compost

Now where else in the world could I open the lid of a worm compost bin, stick my digital camera inside and take a photo? This is fantastic stuff! Almost good enough to eat. A few little critters lurking in the bottom left hand corner are coming up to say hello. I lead a sheltered life - I know, but this really lights my candle. Posted by Picasa

What is this?

Does anyone have an idea what this is? Many were found lying on the ground under several trees in the Washington DC city centre. They are not fungus, they have a short stem and must have fallen from a tree. Inside looks rather like a breadfruit. Outside looks like a brain....

Can anyone help? Posted by Picasa

George Washington's veggie garden

Yes! even the founder of the nation had a veggie garden. At Mount Vernon, 16 miles South of Washington DC GW was experimenting way back in the 1790s with soil fertility, and took a keen interest in fruit and vegetable growing.

Anyway, as is my habit.... when no one was looking.... I nabbed some bean pods from his garden. The label said "poinciana" not sure at this stage if that is the bean name or something previously in the book. will have to look it up. Quite attractive green pods with pink/red flecks. Posted by Picasa

What do you do with a loofah?

My Sister has a loofah trailing all round the back of her house in Chesapeake Virginia. It is a member of the curcurbit family and the vines are self clinging - winding its way up the back of the house and all over the balcony. You can eat the little ones as a veggie, but if they grow up to be bath sized... You are supposed to wait until they turn yellow then leave them immersed in a bucket of water till all the flesh drops off and you are left with the scratchy thing for your back.

They have only started producing fruit in the last 3 weeks though, the climate is similar to over here but at a lower latitude, so is much brighter. Plants like this fruit when the day and night length is equal. Over here it would be too cold. Posted by Picasa

Virginia Veggie Blog

Just a quickie now. Having a fun holiday in Washington DC and the surrounding Virginia countryside. Yesterday I went to Mount Vernon which was the home of George Washington himself. I was thrilled to learn that he was a keen gardener, farmer and veggie grower and that even back then in the 18th century he was a pioneer in organic gardening and was very much interested in soil fertility. So much so that he wrote long letters from the battlefield back to his staff on what to sow and demanding updates on his farm. George Washington had a "dung depository" built on his farm to stack manure as he found this improved the soil - clever guy!

Photographs to follow.

PS. I liberated some seeds from his garden! ssshhhhhh!


Ah! the wonders of food hanging from plants and trees, just ready to eat! I went to a local orchard this week and bought some apples. Freshly picked in season, these apples were not just apples, they were APPLES!

To those of you who have never grown your own anything - please please, give it a try! Posted by Picasa

Last pickings

The last few weeks have been very mild here in West London. Today it was about 66F. I still have some sweet potato plants yet to be dug, they have been excellent! I have about a dozen Sungold cherry tomatoes left to eat and 3 or 4 "crystal lemon" cucumbers from the greenhouse, along with a small cucumber.

I picked the rest of my aubergines, indoor and out - there were about a dozen in all and they were made into a moussaka today. There are still a few beetroot yet to be picked, and some golden ball turnips.

I planted out some winter lettuce seedlings both indoors and out, let's see which ones the slugs prefer eh? Leeks are going great guns - have eaten a couple of them, taste divine. Swiss chard is a lifesaver - still going strong.

I await the harvest of my scorzonera in a few weeks' time. Hard to describe, they are related to salsify and taste somewhat like a parsnip or a Jerusalem artichoke. Real gourmet food.

Blueberry Bush

Not only does my blueberry bush provide a good crop of delicious fruit through the Summer, but the foliage puts on a stunning display in the Autumn too! Posted by Picasa

Swiss Chard

What a wonderful sight to cheer up an Autumn garden. The rain in the last week has cheered up my Winter veggies. So much to look forward to.

Today I started to clear out my greenhouse. The automatic watering system was taken apart and scrubbed, and I moved in some growbags and planted some of my Winter lettuce seedlings. I don't seem to have remembered the successional planting rule... so there are about 30 lettuces all ripening at the same time... suppose I will have to get a rabbit! Posted by Picasa

Jerusalem Artichokes

I cannot get rid of these! Not a big problem seeing as how I love Jerusalem Artichokes. Only downside is that they give you wind - not just the average 'blow a candle out' wind - I'm talking megawats of alternative energy - type wind. Nevertheless, huge fun with a group of close friends on a rainy day..

Jerusalem artichokes are named from the Italian word for sunflower - gira soleille - meaning turn towards the sun. This time of year there are attractive yellow flowers at the top of the plant which is about 12ft tall at the moment. Should be ready to dig up in December. Posted by Picasa