2 August 2021
Tools and veggies
The vegetable patch has been more productive this year and the elephant garlic in particular is a real success. It tastes like mild garlic but is actually more closely related to leeks rather than ‘proper’ garlic. We roast it in the oven for about 40 minutes and the huge cloves are delicious, soft, and creamy and a perfect match for some potato wedges or in with other vegetables.
I planted the garlic last Autumn with a generous handful of grit for each bulblet to ensure decent drainage in our very heavy clay soil. The first bulb was harvested mid-July. I have tried planting garlic in early Spring but with no success: they seem to need a good cold spell to encourage them into growth.
The soft fruit has been bountiful too, so I was able to make my all-time favourite jam: gooseberry and orange. The addition of the juice and rind of an orange or two complements the gooseberries beautifully. Redcurrant Jelly is next on the list, gravy isn’t gravy without a spoonful of that! If I get enough chillies, I’m going to make some chilli jam too: great in soups, as a dip and to put a little oomph into casseroles.
Outside our study window as I write, the Inula rises tall and magnificent with its beautiful, rich yellow daisies, 10 or 12 on each stem. It is full of butterflies, bees, and various other insects and if you leave it to set seed in winter the birds will love you. Inula is a big family, and this is the big bold one, standing a good 2 metres high. It doesn’t seem to be too fussy and is reliably perennial, but you do need some space for it. I’ve seen it planted in a wildflower meadow in a little shade and it looks grand there too.
I confess that I’m no good at properly caring for my tools and, after years of neglect, my secateurs and trusty trowel I inherited 18 years ago from my father-in-law were all looking rather sad. So, Peter made some special purchases: some Camellia oil, a bar of ‘Crean Mate’, which is described as a ‘rust and sap eraser’ and a whetstone to clean them up, sharpen the edges and get them in proper working order again. So, if you’re wanting a gentle job over the summer and your secateurs are getting blunt like mine, have a look at the Niwaki website where you can see a fine range of tools as well as the kit to keep them in tip top condition. They also have a small handheld bamboo rake that is brilliant for clearing the debris out of your borders when you start clearing them at the end of the season. Peter uses ours to clear blanket weed out of the pond too.
The Spring bulb catalogues have been arriving since late May so I’ve a little pile to look at soon. If you order early and in decent quantities, you can get them at a much better price. My favourites last year were ‘Pueblo’ jonquil daffodils (see photo, Pueblo in large pot, Little Witch behind)and ‘China Pink’ hyacinths, both good quality bulbs from de Jager www.dejager.co.uk or 01622 840 229. The Sarah Raven catalogue is seductively laid out: she is more expensive than most but it’s pretty much all good quality. I bought some white peonies from her several years ago and they have flowered beautifully from the first year. This year they were magnificent, a real showstopper for a few short weeks in early summer www.sarahraven.com or
0345 092 0283.
Enjoy your garden in the rest of the Summer!