Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Vindication at Last !

Stuart from the Marketing Dept writes ...

I’ve not really ever been much of a gardener ( what an admission), I dabble a bit and definitely start the season with good intentions but as the year goes on I always seem to lose my way.

I also get those begrudging comments of encouragement from the wife, “why didn’t you read the instructions … really helpful!

This year the worm turned, everything I touched seemed to grow and flourish. My Runner beans, French beans, Courgettes, Beetroot, (see how possessive I’ve become), all burst into life, my carrots grew long and straight and my Tomato’s just took over the greenhouse. The Pak Choi was a revelation but I think I need to thin them out next year- any tips gratefully received.

However, my saving grace and salvation came from the humble Damson. Having just moved into our new house I can’t take credit for the planting or nurturing of the trees, they were just part of the fixtures and fittings when we arrived. However it was I who harvested the little beauties and it was I who paraded into the kitchen to announce that from now on, we were to become self-sufficient in Damson Jam!

In a flurry of excitement and activity, the recipe book was read, the saucepans were arranged and the sugar weighed. A peek in the cupboard and hey presto- six Burgon & Ball’s ‘Delicious Jam Jars’, these are great as they can transform a humble jar of jam into something stylish and presentable. 

Everything went well- sort of!  What on earth was a setting point? What did it look like, it tasted nice but I’m a 6ft rugby player and I was never prepared for this. A call to my mother and sanity was restored, eventually the point was reached and the jars filled with a wonderful luscious deep crimson molten goooooo. Labelled and with the lids screwed tight I not only have a wonderfully full larder but also the beginnings of a sustainable source of affordable Christmas presents. For peace of mind may I suggest you download Burgon & Ball’s Harvest Recipe Book before you begin?

At this point I think my wife finally understood why I persisted with the garden and why I wanted to ‘grow my own’. As the jam cooled we couldn’t resist it anymore, spoonful’s later we were busily planning the next kitchen garden adventure- Chutney seems to be the firm favourite – to be continued!

Finally, as a resident of Dorset I have come to love the local speciality- Dorset Apple Cake, I’m sure there are regional variation’s but whatever recipe you follow it’s a great way to use up the apples from the garden. Top Tip the NEW Apple Picker is superb, take a peek; it really helped me to safely reach the ones at the top of the trees.

I’ll let you know how I get on but if you have any recipes you can recommend then please post them back to me.

Happy Gardening and Good Luck in the kitchen.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Spud Harvesting Time for our South East Sales Representative and his special helper!

Jason writes......I have always grown veg from an early age but mostly concentrated on tomatoes, marrows and runner beans. Now with a 3 year old in the household we decided to build a raised bed and give him a say in what we grew for the table.
In February we took Archie to the local garden centre and amongst the basket full of seeds and plants he chose were lettuce, carrots, potatoes, courgettes, pumpkins, peppers and broad beans (the latter being his favourite veg - a 3 year old with very sophisticated tastes!).
We started most of the crops indoors and moved them out when things warmed up a bit.
Now after a few weeks of careful watering we are ready to dig out our first early potatoes.

Out came the Potato Harvesting Scoop and being pirate mad, Archie had great fun sifting for pirate potato treasure which he has now stored safely in his loot sack (or Spud Sack for non pirates!).

The potatoes are fantastic and you can really taste the difference to shop bought. We will definitely be growing these again next year as they are so easy to grow and it's fanstastic to know no herbicides or pesticides have been used on them.

5-A-Day Garden at Hampton Court

Our 5 A Day Garden, which has been delighting visitors to the RHS Wisley Plant Centre since April of this year, moved to Hampton Court last week to entertain and hopefully inspire, the 150,000+ visitors to the worlds biggest flower show.

The aim of the garden is to show how it can be possible to grow enough fruit and veg to provide 2 people with their recommended 5 a day portions, from just 10m2 of growing space.
The key to such heavy cropping is the deep bed method of cultivation - where plants grow in very deep loose soil or compost so the roots are encouraged to grow downwards instead of out and as a result, far greater density of spacing is possible. Our Home Allotment Willow Planters replicate the conditions of the deep bed method as well as allowing greater light to the plants and warmth to their roots.

A wall planner showing the crops we recommend growing and a month by month schedule for planting is available to download from our special website http://www.5adaygarden.co.uk/
We took the opportunity at Hampton Court to vary a little from the schedule and show what an enormous variety of crops you can grow in planters - there were over 64 different varieties on show. Here's a few of my favourites:
the totally delicious and very productive crystal apple cucumber (thanks Bob Flowerdew for your suggestion here)

the striking globe artichoke

and turnips - just ready to harvest

The garden is now back at Wisley - if you get the chance, go. Its a brilliant day out and the gardens are just amazing - but even the shops themselves make a visit worthwhile - and you might get to see the great Tina who grew all the wonderful veg plants in the garden.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Grow Your Own makes an appearance at Glastonbury

Known more for it's music, headlining superstars and wellington boots, this year's Glastonbury festival celebrated it's 40th anniversary, by departing from the traditional and welcoming not only the sunshine but also the Grow Your Own movement.

Throughout the site, an array of colourful flags and banners reminded festival goers about the benefits of self sufficiency. We'd like to congratulate them on their sentiments and indeed their creativity.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Burgon & Ball's Yellow Book Opening

This Sunday is the first open day under the National Gardens Scheme for one of the gardens in the Burgon & Ball stable - this one home of our Chairman Peter Jackson. Peter is completely mad about gardening and all Burgon & Ball tools have been thoroughly field tested in his garden! We think this is about the 27th year he and Pauline have opened the garden and this year it has featured in a beautiful new book - The Gardens of Dorset.

Lots of work goes into making the garden look its best before an opening and I thought I'd share some before and after pictures of cloud pruning topiary bushes. These box bushes have an interesting history - well over 50 years old they were fantastic and huge balls until 2 years ago. Then almost overnight they suddenly collapsed under the weight of their foliage. Various attempts to prop up the stems failed and so the drastic decision was taken to chop away all the green growth, revealing beautiful white stems and start to cloud prune them. Sadly one didn't survive this harsh treatment - but the other 3 did. Year one after the chop and they resembled rather ghostly sculptures. Year 2 and they are now well on their way to being rather marvellous re-incarnations.  The pictures below show one of the original bushes first and then the replacement for the dead one - I think in a couple of years it will have caught up with the other 3.

Friday, 11 June 2010

The best Birthday Cake Ever

Yesterday was my birthday and in time honoured office tradition, my brilliant comrades in arms burst out of the kitchen with a blaze of candles and a lusty rendition of the classic song.

Knowing that I'm probably the only person in the world that doesn't like cake, but that, to me, there is (almost) nothing sweeter than a good tomato this was their birthday offering....

Absolutely perfect!

After Derby Day

Gardening lore has it that the time to trim topiary is after Derby Day. We're often asked about the significance of this timing - the reality is that it's nothing more equine than that the likelihood of a frost being deemed to have passed - across the whole country. While it's a good rule of thumb, gardeners in milder areas may be able to start trimming well before this day, especially given a warm spring.

There's lots of topiary in the garden at B&B HQ so I tend to spread the job out a bit. Having worked my way around the bigger bits I turned, Topiary Shears in hand, to a raggedy bit of hedge I planted a couple of years ago.

The original plan was to create a nice squared up edging to a bed, but the more I looked at it the more I decided this hedge had other plans of it's own....so I decided to go with the flow and we now have the beginings of a free form hedge edge!

A tip for us cheeseparing gardeners; Box topiary for free........box is very easy to root, so if you have any biggish offcuts like these , put them to oneside.

Then pot them up and you should get a reasonable success rate in creating brand new plants.

A couple more tips on topiary:
Don't trim on a very bright sunny day as it has a tendency to turn the cut edges brown.

Do ensure your blades are sharp before you start trimming - the cleaner the less likelihood of disease getting in.

Fertilise after trimming to give your plants an extra boost.