Monday, July 14, 2008

Review: Grow Your Own Veg by Carol Klein

I got this book for my birthday, and I couldn't do without it. Not only is the book set out beautifully, but it's full of brilliant advice on all sorts of things - how to choose a variety, where and when to plant, pests and diseases to look out for...In short, everything you need to know. Carol covers all the usual vegetables, and some more unusual ones. My only problem with it is that it doesn't give any advice on celery! Although I do consult other books and research on the internet too, this is always the first book I turn to; it's clear and conscise, without being too basic.

And not only do you get all this, the book is also full with Carol Klein's own thoughts and experiences, which are sure to really inspire you to get growing.

9.5 / 10.

(I got the picture from Theirs is a good price).

Friday, July 4, 2008


I have finally discovered Willow's secret. I now know how she manages against all the odds to get into my celery bed and dig a whopping great warren. She leaps! She flings herself bodily over the top of 1/2 a metre of metal net, between bamboo sticks that could impale a rabbit, through the plastic netting and voila! In the celery!!! Well, now that I know this, there can be only one outcome. I will be victorious, and she will have to find somewhere else to dig. All I need now is a plan.....

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


I don't know. You give a queenless hive a lovely new Hawaiian queen, and next time you and open them up and are expecting them all to greet you by saying "aloha", it turns out that they must have stung her to death, and are making their own queen, who will of course turn out to be the most evil, angry insect ever to have waddled from frame to frame.

RIP Her Majesty

Oh well. The plan is now to set up another nuc with a nice, friendly queen and then unite the two colonies, after having squished the new grumpy queen.
The good news is however that everyone else is doing well, and most of the hives are in for a population explosion, which will be good once the summer crops start flowering. We are set for a brilliant honey harvest this year.

After Dad went to a disease recognition day with our regional bee inspector (turns out Hampshire is one of the worst counties in terms of contracting foulbrood, poo) we came up with several ways of improving our practice and ensuring that there was less chance of our hives contracting disease. These include:
  1. Keeping the ground around each hive clear and clean
  2. Removing all waste wax from the apiary in a bucket with a lid
  3. Sacrificing several frames of brood to completely disrupt the varroa lifecycle at an appropriate time in the year
  4. Checking for small hive beetle with our s.h.b trap

So far, we've forgotten all about all of these. However, we already do some good stuff, such as reducing drifting by spacing our hives far apart, using mesh floors, and disinfecting the old marigolds between each hive, not just each apiary.

We will probably be abandoning the smoker, as well, and using a water squirter instead. It has the same effect as using smoke, but instead of making the bees panic, it provokes a cleaning response, apparently. Which can only be a good thing. Also, as long as you remember to fill it up, I suspect that using the water squirter will involve fewer burned fingertips. Which would also be good.

The garden is magnificent at the moment. There is so much to eat. Whenever I go outside I head straight to the peas, becuase at the moment they are absolutely perfect; both the petit pois and the mangetout are just pure sugar at the moment. Delicious. I've planted a second crop now, so hopefully we'll have another few pods to eat in late summer. (I chose perhaps the least impressive one to take a pic of, btw).

We also harvested our gooseberries, which we beefed up a bit with some shop-bought ones. However, just being able to pick your own is so satisfying. Most of them went into a fool, but there are some left over which I may use to try out Hugh F-W's gooseberry icecream recipe. Yum.

My blackcurrants are ripening up, too, and some of them need to be picked. I can see them being mixed with some apples and turned into a crumble.

The courgettes are coming thick and fast, although the pumpkins and squashes keep falling off the plants...I think this may be lack of water or lack of nutrients, as they're all in pots. So some of them have been planted into the ground now, and hopefully that will sort them out.

Also, we have our first cucumber flower!! Hooray!! There are lots more on the way so hopefully we'll be putting our own cucumbers in the Pimms this year.

This afternoon my sister and I have been making a minestrone soup. I'm so excited about eating it tonight, coz it's full of homegrown stuff! The onions, carrots and potatoes we used in it were bought, and we used a veg stock cube instead of making our own, but apart from that everything else was grown at home. Here's a list:

  1. Homegrown celery; a bit stringy but really intense flavour

  1. Homegrown courgette
  2. Homegrown cabbage; lovely waxy dark green leaves, brilliantly bitter
  3. Homegrown swiss chard; just plain beautiful (not a v good pic, sorry)

Oh yeah, and bought tinned tomatoes. But you can't grow tins at home.

Next door's extension is under question a bit, but that doesn't stop the builders, who have broken our fence. Oh well. We won't be the ones paying for it to be repaired.