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Archive for the ‘vegetable garden’ Category


Yesterday after work I went home and started packing up for a weekend in the garden, and here’s mu luggage, photographed after 1 bus and 2 train rides (with the final bus ride to go):

  • 1 fuchsia – purchased in pot
  • 5  dahlias grown from tubers
  • 24 dahlias grown from seed
  • 2 dahlias grown from cuttings
  • 7 tomatoes grown from seed
  • 25 sweet peas grown from seed
  • 2 lavenders – purchased in pots
  • 20 or so gladiolus corms
  • 2 dahlia tubers

-So you know; just your average luggage when going on public transport!

Good thing nobody stared at me during the journey. No sirree, nobody at all… Except, of course, everybody who saw me logging around more plants than you find on your average well-planted balcony!

Today I’m planting out the dahlias in the Sunny Border; the forecast is for fairly mild nights during the next week, so I hope they will survive the change…  The Sunny Border will have no shortage of plants, that much is sure, especially if I sow a second batch so I have some spares to fill in any gaps. (Gardeners are like the royals; we should always have “an heir and a spare”, just in case… What with weather and wildlife doing as they please, we might as well be prepared!)

The fuchsia will go in a pot in the courtyard. I have no idea if it will be hardy enough for the Danish winters, so I might have to bring it inside when the frost begins, and that’s just simpler with a pot. (Plus the courtyard definitely needs some colour, and fuchsia is good at that.)

I’ve got doubts about the tomatoes; last year I grew them in a self-watering Styrofoam box, and that was actually my intention again this year, but I’m beginning to wonder whether to just plunk them in pots in the courtyard instead, or even in one of the vegetable beds (though I probably won’t do that, as space is limited there). We’ll see what happens!

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On Friday I left for the garden straight from work, and as I was walking from the bus to the summerhouse I suddenly noticed something…

The woodland anemones are beginning to bloom. It’s still just a few dots of white on the forest floor, but soon it will be a veritable carpet. I will make sure to take a proper walk in the forest the next time I go up there!

I arrived in the garden just in time to have a couple of hours of daylight left to enjoy the garden before retreating inside to a warm fire and a Scottish coffee (as they say in Scotland, it’s like an Irish coffee, just with better whiskey).

I do enjoy the calm and quiet of sitting in front of a warm fire in a small wooden house with no TV, no people, no nothing. Just me, being there in the moment and feeling my mind de-clutter itself.

Mind you, that was the Friday evening. Saturday I was hi-jacked by one of the neighbours who seemed to be in a mood for sitting around a fire with a few too many beers, so that’s what we did from the afternoon into the late hours. The weather was excellent on Saturday; warm sunny spells interspersed with  mild snow showers.

imageWhile I wasn’t being laddish around a fire I did get something done. The vegetable beds are now in decent shape for sowing, perhaps on Easter Monday, perhaps later. (The forecast threatens with freezing nights down to minus 5C, so I have to wait for the temperatures to rise a bit.)

I think I still want to work in a bit more compost in the vegetable beds, both to lighten the soil and to bulk up the volume a bit.

There will be peas and beans in these two beds, like there was last year, but given that a great portion of the soil has been replaced I think it will be okay. And under the beans I will try my luck with some curly kale and some kohlrabi. And marigolds, of course, for what would a vegetable garden be without marigolds?

I think this will be an all right little vegetable garden.

I’ll finish off with a small – but significant – visitor to the garden; the first ladybug sighting of the season! These little fellows are always welcome in the garden!

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Today started out with a nice, mild, sunny morning with barely a wind, but then this afternoon the wind picked up and it started to snow. *sigh*

-And then as I was leaving the office the snow turned to rain… *sigh*

But: My dahlia seed order arrived today! That makes up for the weather, at least in part. *YAY*

(I also received a text from my optician that my new prescription sunglasses are ready to be picked up, but given that the weather forecast hasn’t a sun in sight before possibly Saturday, I decided that it’s not urgent to pick those up.)

I may try to limit myself (only four different packets of dahlia seed, and each packet will be split evenly between my mother and me), but at heart I think I might be a seed hoarder; I feel like buying all the seeds I can get my hands on – flowers, vegetables, perennials, annuals – even though I know there’s no way I will have the time – or space – to prepare enough beds for them. So I’m trying to make a list of what I need, and I guess I only really NEED to buy beans, and maybe some peas in case the seed I collected last year isn’t viable.

Last year I had three kinds of beans – or rather, I had two and the slugs had the low yellow beans before they had even reached 5 inches – and this year I think I will restrain myself to two kinds. I need to have normal French climber beans, and then perhaps runner beans, broad beans or some other slightly more rustic bean type. (The slugs stayed away from the climbing beans last year, perhaps because I sowed a row of marigolds between the two rows of beans; I shall repeat that this year and hope that it was the scent of marigolds that kept the slugs away. I collected plenty of seeds last year, so there should be enough to sow a row in each of the vegetable patches.)

I’ve already bought brassica seeds (radishes, kohlrabi and kale), so basically that will be my vegetable garden this year. I will need to watch the slugs, though, which is very difficult when I can only get up to the garden every one or two weekends… Slug pellets WILL be used, though of the sort that is approved for organic farming and is supposed not to harm any other animals than gastropods. They contain only wheat flour and iron phosphate, and I hope they are as harmless as they claim to be – except of course for the slugs.

(One summer evening shortly after we bought the summer house I collected – and killed – 179 Iberian slugs, a highly invasive species of slugs that seem to have a much greater appetite for plants – and procreation – than our native slug species… They are now endemic throughout Denmark and like cool, damp areas like, say, our garden! Wikipedia says: “The main reason behind problematic invasions of gardens by the Spanish slug is that it has adapted to a dry climate, where most eggs will dry out before hatching. The slug lays hundreds of eggs so that at least some may hatch. In the less dry regions of Northern Europe and Britain, the constraints of drought do not limit reproduction to the same degree.”)

(God, I have a lot of parentheses in this post!)

Anyway… Where’s my spring? And my weekend so I can get up to the garden and ger cracking with all the stuff that needs doing, including digging out a new bed from the lawn, extending the Ambitious Border and getting the raised vegetable beds into some sort of shape before the growing season starts!

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On this Valentine’s day I have received not as much as a dandelion from my husband! Then again, nor have I sent him anything, so I guess that makes it fair enough, especially since we really don’t give a d*** about this date. However, to all of you who do celebrate Valentine’s, please receive my best wishes for a lovely day with or without romance.

Anyway, as the title of this post indicates, purchases have been made! Seeds!!! Though only one of the packets was actually flower seeds (stocks); the rest were radishes, kohlrabi and kale, since I need some brassicas to fill the beds where I had beans and peas last year. And kale is pretty, isn’t it? Perhaps not as showy as flowers, but it has a lovely texture to its curled leaves.

(And since the slugs didn’t attack my radishes last year I’m hoping they’ll also leave the kohlrabi and kale alone, though this might be wishful thinking. I’d much rather have my kale eaten by butterfly larvae than by slugs!)

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I’ve got lists and lists of stuff that needs doing at work, in the apartment and in the summerhouse, but here I will just give you the list that’s relevant for the garden:

  • Finish removing the lawn for the semi-circular flower bed at the South-West end of the house. This will contain clematis and perennial sweet-peas against the patio and tulips and annuals in front, perhaps with a few structural perennials added here and there to give some interest once the annuals die away.
  • Mow the lawn for the last time this year. This should have been done the last time I was up there, but I just didn’t get around to it. (The lawn is rather an unwanted step-child in our garden, at least as far as I’m concerned, hence the desire to carve out flower beds here and there and as much as possible!)
  • Plant the perennials from my parents’ old garden – this might initially be in a temporary location in the semi-circular bed, just because that’s where I have room for them right now. I can work on creating a more permanent bed for them over the winter and then move them in spring.
  • Lift lily and gladiolus corms and dahlia tubers and pack them up in newspapers for the winter. I’m not sure where to store them, but I think they might come back to the city with me and be stored in our attic box room; it’s neither heated nor insulated, but I would think the heat of the five stories beneath should keep it frost-free.
  • Cut down the bean stalks and pea plants in the vegetable garden mix them with compost before spreading it in the vegetable beds. Also, some compost will be worked into the semi-circular bed, so combined with a digging loosening up the soil, this should make for a nice “fluffy” soil to plant in.
  • Weed the Ambitious Border and mulch it for the winter.
  • Sweep up leaves etc. to mix with compost to CREATE mulch for the Ambitious Border…
  • Collect fir cones, random twigs of interesting shapes, seed stands etc. that might be used for Christmas decorations. Let’s face it, I’ve got a large apartment to decorate this year, and my husband has requested that I go all in with the Christmas this year since my mother-in-law will be spending Christmas with us (as will her brother and his girlfriend), and perhaps also my parents if my dad’s fit to travel.

Now, don’t worry; I’m not intending to get through the list this weekend! I just want to make a dent in it, and especially concerning the things that needs urgent attention. Getting the semi-circular bed dug out and dug through so the perennials from my parent’s garden can get into the ground, rather than living in plastic bags in a suitcase in the attic room is definitely the main issue.

I promise, after next weekend I will try to make a post with some pictures – perhaps even of what I’ve gotten done so I can use that as a motivational prospective Saturday and Sunday.

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Apples and Pears


-Or rather, a distinct absence thereof. Our little apple tree that gave some 30 apples last year have not produced a single one this year, possibly due to some late spring frost that killed off the blossoms. The pear tree, on the other hand, gave no fruit last year but produced 5 pears this year, only one of which got to stick around on the tree long enough to ripen – and then it fell to the ground and was inedible when got up to the garden last weekend.

You win some, you loose some, right? So here are the wins:

The French beans are beautiful, both the classic green ones and the purple ones. The yellow French beans never really got started, since the plants where eaten as soon as they emerged from the ground, and for some reason the other beans fared better, perhaps because of the marigolds that I sowed between the green and purple beans? I cannot know, of course, but I will definitely sow marigolds between my beans next year as well, just in case this was the determining factor.

The cherry tomatoes also did well, though I had to pick them all this weekend as there is little point in letting the green ones ripen, only to leave them to drop to the ground before the next time I have time to get up to the garden. I’ve eaten some of the red cherry tomatoes and preserved the rest by scolding them and putting them in a jar of oil with a touch of salt. And I love the fragrance of green tomatoes, so I’ve brought them back to Copenhagen and might try pickling them somehow. Maybe whole in a sweet vanilla-infused vinegar like my mother used to do? Or maybe as a jam of sorts.

The yellow mirabelle prunes are generally dull-tasting, but the ripe ones seemed to have already fallen to the ground (making for a few drunken bees and wasps on the lawn) with only sour, unripe fruit left on the tree, so I tried making a jelly of it. It turned out nice and clear and with just the right consistency, but the taste was just not very interesting – though bitter! – so I scrapped it and made a mental note to just consider this fruit ornamental in coming years.

I also got some weeding done, though mainly “large” weeding. There is a large perennial that is very invasive and self-seeds all over the place, so I’ve been ripping that out everywhere I could find it, throwing the plants in the compost and the roots in the trash. And another potentially invasive weed, the Himalayan Balsam, got the opposite treatment, with me trying to gather seeds from it so I can sow them in the spring; it grows to 2 meters and has very pretty flowers that supposedly attracts bees and butterflies, so I’m willing to overlook the fact that it will spread wherever it wants. (Also, it’s FUN to gather balsam seeds, since the seed pods “explode” when touched, sending the seeds flying all over the place so you really need to be careful if you want them to end up in your seed collection, rather than everywhere on the ground.)

The rudbeckias are blooming now, but I forgot to take a picture. Many of the rudbeckias that I brought from my mother’s garden last autumn died over the cold winter, but enough have survived and have established themselves that I think I can make an acceptable block of them in one of the borders.

In shopping news my spring bulbs have arrived! 250 mixed tulips and 500 mixed crocus… Now I just need to store them in a cool, dark place until I go up to the garden the next time, which will be in a few weeks.

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>I went up to the garden yesterday with a friend who hadn’t seen the summer house yet, so I’d scheduled an afternoon and evening of indulgence in order to give him the best possible impression.

Instead of the mediocre (at best) weather forecasted, it turned out to be a sunny and warm afternoon, and we even chose to retreat into the shade of the blood mirabelle tree in order to get out of the heat. That’s always a sign that it’s a nice day!

Anyway, for dinner I made a pea risotto with Serrano ham wrapped chicken filets, and I thought I’d share this with you.

First, grow your peas!

(I’ve cheated a little and grown some previously…)

Pea Risotto (2 portions)

  • 2 cups shelled peas (fresh or – if it must be – frozen)
  • The pods from the peas (or if using frozen, another two cups of peas)
  • Some chicken or vegetable stock (or a stock cube, or indeed just a roughly chopped onion)
  • A few herbs – I like to use a tiny sprig of fresh thyme, but 2-3 sage leaves also works a treat. Just don’t over-do it, as the herbs can easily over-power the subtle pea taste.
  • 1/2 litre of water
  • 1 cup of risotto rice (arborio or similar)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion (or a handful of shallots if you have them)
  • 1 lump of butter (for frying the onions, garlic and rice, so you decide how much a “lump” is…)
  • 1/2 glass of white wine for the risotto, and 1 glass of white wine for the cook
  • 1 cup grated hard cheese – I like to use pecorino (a hard Italian goat’s cheese), but obviously Parmesan or Grano Padano would be just as suitable
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste

So we start with the peas :

Shell the peas and put them aside while dumping the shells in half a litre of water along with the thyme, stock (or just chopped onion). Turn up the hob to maximum and let the broth boil for 10 minutes, then turn it down to the lowest heat and simmer for two hours.

And yes, by the time the pea shells have cooked for a few hours they will look disgusting, a sort of brownish green. No worries; you won’t be eating those, but the both will have a nice subtle taste of peas, and that’s what matters. Strain the broth and pour it back into the saucepan and keep it on a low heat while you cook the risotto. Discard the shells.

Chop the onion/shallots and the garlic as finely as you feel like. No need to be too fuzzy, I think. Put the garlic and onion in another saucepan with the butter and gently turn up the heat to sauté them until clear. Then add the rice and stir until it’s evenly coated with the butter. Add half a glass of white wine to the pan and pour yourself a glass as well, as this is the point when you will be stuck at the cooker for the next twenty minutes… You might as well enjoy it, right?

For the next 10-15 minutes you need to stir the rice every few minutes, adding a ladle of broth whenever the risotto starts to thicken.

When the rice is nearly tender, add the peas and continue as above for another 5 minutes until the rice is completely cooked. Add as much cheese as you feel you can do without tainting your conscience (in my case that’s a LOT of cheese!) and stir it in. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper, but remember to be generous with the pepper…

Serve with some grated cheese on top and another grinding of black pepper.

In theory risotto ought to be served on its own as a starter, but I like to serve it as a main, so I normally break the protocol and serve some flesh on the side, in this case chicken filets wrapped in Serrano ham and pan fried. Oh, and if anybody is wondering, the glass at the top contained a lovely crémant de Bourgogne (Paul Delane – not very expensive, and nowhere near the price of Champagne) which went well with the dish, the bubbles undercutting the richness of the risotto rather nicely.

Mrs. Beeton’s Rhubarb Jam Recipe:

I mentioned at one time that I’d made some rhubarb-and-ginger jam after a recipe from Mrs. Beeton’s Every-day Cookery, and somebody asked for the recipe. Well, in Mrs. Beeton’s own words:

INGREDIENTS – To each lb. of rhubarb allow 1lb. of preserving sugar, 1/2 a
teaspoonful of ground ginger, and the finely grated rind of 1/2 a lemon.
METHOD – Remove the outer stringy parts of the rhubarb, cut it into short lengths and weigh it. Put it into a preserving-pan with sugar, ginger, and lemon rind in the above proportions, place the pan by the side of the fire, and let the contents come very slowly to boiling-point, stirring occasionally meanwhile. Boil until the jam sets quickly when tested on a cold plate. Pour it into pots, cover closely, and store.
TIME – From 1 to 1 1/2 hours, according to the age of the rhubarb.

The rhubarb jam is in the tall jar, whereas the shorter jar contains a strawberry-and-lemon jam of my own invention. (If you’ve made jam once, surely you can then start improvising, right?)

And let me tell you… The ginger packs a punch! To my taste buds, the rhubarb jam is not for breakfast use, but much more suited for afternoon tea. TEA, not coffee… Coffee clashes with the ginger in quite a bad way, I can tell you, whereas a cup of Earl Grey tea becomes even more perfect with a slice of toast with rhubarb-and-ginger jam. If you have rhubarb in your garden, give this a go! You will not (I hope and believe) regret it…

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