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This afternoon we popped down to the Walton Lea Garden Party in Warrington.  We went last year and it’s always a lovely opportunity to go and enjoy their pretty walled garden and buy some gorgeous homegrown vegetables and fruit. 

We had a nice wander round the walled garden whilst munching on teeny tiny cupcakes – literally a mouthful.  I so enjoy seeing vegetables and fruit growing in such a beautiful old walled garden and going to the Walton Lea Project is almost like going to a National Trust garden.

Everything is looking a lot more parched and dry than last year what with all this steaming hot weather we’ve been having recently. 

But there is some gorgeous vegetables – like these stunning onions, all of which are for sale in the shop…

There is also a lovely selection of bedding plants and some good sized fruit bushes (redcurrant, whitecurrant and jostaberry) for a very good price – I would like to come back and get a few for the allotment.

We came away with…a selection of yellow and green courgettes, a punnet of redcurrants (destined for the pot to make a relish to go with a bacon and brie sandwich Mr Rigg fancies) and a punnet of blackcurrants (possibly for blackcurrant cordial)…

They were out of blackcurrants when we arrived, so whilst we enjoyed a stroll around the walled garden, someone went off to collect us a punnet of them!  Where else do you get service like that?!

And this gorgeous bunch of sweetpeas picked from their walled garden – and for only £1!

Our allotment is beginning to take shape – finally it looks like an allotment.  That might sound funny, but it’s true.  Until the other week it wasn’t much more than a strip of motorway verge.  All overgrown and unloved.

Now it has a small lawn (currently suffering under the baking sun) for us to sit and eat lunch on, a herb garden (thyme in full flower), potatoes about to flower, sunflowers, courgette and pumkin plants, slender sweetcorn plants, and the beginnings of bark pathways.  It is so exciting!

Mr Rigg and I have had a lovely weekend with my family.  Yesterday before we left my mom and I made a delicious pasta dinner using green spring inspired vegetables.  Simply dreamt up with the ingredients we had.  Here’s how we made it…

Spring vegetable pasta

Feeds 2

2 small to medium leeks
Half a bunch of asparagus
Small bowlful of frozen peas
2 handfuls of shelled broad beans
2 spring onions
Long thin pasta for two
2 rashers of bacon (optional)
Parmesan to serve
Butter, olive oil, salt and pepper

Melt a generous knob of butter in a saucepan.  Finely slice the leeks and saute in the butter until soft.  You can also add a couple of teaspoonfuls of the pasta cooking water.  Season with salt and pepper.

If you are having bacon, cut it into small pieces and fry until crispy.

Put on a pan of boiling salted water and cook the pasta accordingly.  About 3-5 minutes before the pasta is ready, add the broad beans and peas.  Slice the asparagus diagonally into small slithers and add them to the pasta, peas and beans to cook for a few minutes.

Slice up the spring onions and add to the leeks. 

When the pasta and vegetables are cooked, drain the water and tip the pasta into the pan with the leeks.  Stir well, add a little olive oil and season to taste if needed.  Add a little more butter if the pasta is a little dry.

Eat the pasta topped with crispy bacon and shards of Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Better looking photos thanks to the little sister’s camera!

I took these photos about a week ago but haven’t got around to posting them yet.  Up until this year, the only type of radishes I’ve grown (and my favourite) are French Breakfast – those gorgeous elongated pink bulbs which fade to white around their middle.

This year, I was tempted by a packet of Rainbow radishes and here’s the first harvest.  So far we have pulled up pink ones, red ones, purple ones, yellow ones and white ones.  They are all very fiery – especially the yellow and white kind.  However, they are so pretty I can’t complain.

We have nearly finished with the first lot I planted, and the next lot are nearly mature.  Other than herbs and the odd baby leaf, these are the first harvest from our garden.

Last weekend I planted my first vegetable seeds of the year…peas…broad beans…little gem lettuce…and Angelica (a first for me).

As you can see the first signs of life are poking through – how exciting!

Pea seedlings

Pea seedling

Pea seedling

I feel like I have fallen off the planet for the past few weeks.  Last week I was delivering a week long conference, then I caught a terrible bug that was going round – I lost a lot of weight, didn’t eat anything for two days, slept for days.  I am now only beginning to get my appetite back, one small mouthful at a time.

Food hasn’t been my best friend for the past week so I haven’t got anything lovely to post, however, I do have some pictures of the first signs of new life on the allotment.

Here’s what the allotment looks like at the moment…

And the first signs of life…

rhubarb

rhubarb

No matter how weird-looking rhubarb is when it’s emerging, there’s something comforting about these first signs of life amongst the dreary greys and soggy browns of the allotment.

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Over the last 24 hours I have seen my energy levels slowly creeping back up.  I was so fed-up of being stuck in bed all week, and felt completely starved of fresh air, that I took advantage of a spell of sunny weather yesterday afternoon and headed to the bottom of the garden.

My goal: clear the pea bed.  I have been very pleased with my peas this year.  They are undoubtedly my favourite vegetable and I have enjoyed podding the sweet peas from their crisp pods for the last couple of months.  Finally, they have come to an end.  I have been holding off clearing the bed to allow the remaining peas who had started to wrinkle to dry out.  My intention: to save them for planting next year.

So yesterday I spent about half an hour pulling out all the old pea plants and saving any remaining pods that I popped in my basket. 

Below are four pictures taken at different stages of clearing the pea bed:

peabed
1. happy peas growing earlier in the summer
2. peas dying back and me starting to fill the wheelbarrow with the old plants
3. the bed emptied and almost a basket full of dried pods
4. newly prepared bed planted with some late summer crops

N finishes at lunchtime on a Friday, so we have spent some time this afternoon finishing off the pea bed.  We raked it over, added a couple of bags of donated soil that we had left over, dug it in (there were loads of big fat worms!), and raked it again. 

Once the bed was prepared, we planted seven rows of late summer crops – we shall see what grows and what doesn’t: rocket; wild rocket; oriental saladini; spring onion guardsman; lettuce marvel of four seasons; spinach matador; and lovage.

We have covered the whole bed with some pea netting in a bid to keep the nasty fat cats off it.  Last time I prepared a bed and carefully planted a neat row of carrot and basil fino seeds a fat cat used it as his toilet the following night.  I was not impressed!

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I must admit that although I did have time to post last night after the stinky boyfriend went to bed, I instead curled up on the sofa with a very cuddly bunny to watch recorded episodes of the Great British Menu.  Borage was unusually friendly last night, and even relaxed enough to rest his chin on my arm – he even had a little snooze and did lot of eye fluttering and paw twitching…I can only guess he was running through lush green meadows in his dreams.  Funny bunny.

Borage watching tv

Borage watching tv

It was only two weeks ago when I posted my April garden update and yet the garden has changed so much since then – the photos were in fact taken at the beginning of the month, but still the changes are notable.  The incredibly warm sunny weather we have experienced recently has probably has something to do with the growth spurt.  I realise my last garden update was pretty dull, so I have taken lots of photos this time – I do enjoy documenting the changes that the garden goes through as things sprout, grow, fruit and eventually die back.

Those delicate little lettuce seedlings that I bought and carefully protected under improvised cloches are doing really well, with gorgeous glossy leaves.  You might notice I’ve suffered two losses of the green batavia (one rotted early on, and the other snapped off, but left a couple of tiny leaves which seems to be recovering well if a little behind the others):

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It is becoming very difficult to resist picking these luscious frilly leaves:

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The first set of radishes are starting to plump up nicely into small rubies:

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These are small cos lettuces that I have sown from seed:

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And beautiful burgundy coloured red oakleaf lettuce:

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This is one of my raised beds.  I have planted to rows of peas, and in between them rows of different salads – some baby leaf, some whole lettuces. 

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The peas are doing so well and I can’t wait to shell my first pod and pop the first pea into my mouth:

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I adore the way they curl their tendrils around the pea sticks and twine.  You can almost watch them stretching out their delicate tendrils, and wrapping their fingers around whatever they can find.

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I have sown two types of spring onion – ‘Guardsman’ for salads and ‘Paris Silverskin’ for pickling.  Both rows are looking healthy:

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The tiny carrot’s have unfurled their frothy green foliage :

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The rows of oriental saladini and baby leaf salad are starting to form their individual leaves – some round, some spiky, some lush green, others deep purple:

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Enough of salads and onto fruit.  My strawberry and raspberry ‘jungle’ has transformed from just a month ago:

strawberrybed

The wild strawberries are flowering and the raspberry’s have sent up lots of new suckers:  

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I will certainly be netting my blackcurrant bush this summer – last year the birds got most of the fruits:

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In the ‘greenhouse’ the seeds that I have sown are coming along.  There are sweetcorn seedlings:

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Uchi Kuri squash:

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Jack-Be-Little pumpkins:

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And my first cucmber seedling has sprouted:

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I will leave you with this lovely shot of Mr Blackbird sitting on ‘his’ spot as he does every evening as the sun sinks, singing his beautiful tune to us.

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With the lovely warm weather and sprinkling of rain that we’ve had recently in the UK, my garden has been busy growing.  My blackcurrant bush has lots of bright green leaves and pretty lilac buds forming…

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While waiting for my own tiny lettuce seedlings I have ‘cheated’ by buying some plug plants.  My mom has a really good garden centre near her and they always have a fantastic selection of plants and plant paraphenalia.  I choose two different varieties: red baby gem lettuce and green batavia. 

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Because the tiny lettuces had been living in a greenhouse at the garden centre I was a bit concerned about putting them outside.  So I kept them for a night in our lean-to/porch, and then managed to recycle these glass jars (that had previously had bulbs in) by turning them upside down and making them into mini cloches. 

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I am so looking forward to the first salad of the season.  It is such an exciting time of year in the garden, plus with our new allotment we have also been busy digging, but more on that another day.

Recently I have taken on an allotment.  It’s in the small town next to us, about a five minute drive away – I put my name down on for all the allotments in our town, and the next, because I was told it would be about a three year wait (!!!) for allotments here.  Back in February, when I’d given up all hope on the allotment front, I received an email from the council and went to visit a couple of allotments that had become available.  For a start, the plots were a lot larger than I imagined the would be – a full plot is 250 square metres!!  The first plot I was shown was overgrown and had been unloved for over a year – this one filled me with fear, I just didn’t have the time to sort it out.  The next looked more manageable, so I signed up and I now have an additional 125 square metres in which to grow.

my new allotment

my new allotment

There are a lot of raspberry canes at the bottom of the plot, in amongst the rubbish.

raspberry canes and rubbish

raspberry canes and rubbish

And quite a lot of rubarb.  It’s quite exciting to be given a plot that already has things growing on it.

rubarb coming through the weeds

rubarb coming through the weeds

A couple of weeks after I’d taken it on and still hadn’t been down to do any digging, I was beginning to think I’d taken on too much.  I finally managed to spend a couple of hours there on Monday last week and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

freshly dug raised bed

freshly dug raised bed

I dug over a number of the raised beds that were left by the previous owner, and put in all my garlic and shallots, and half the onions I’d bought. 

rows of garlic, shallots and onions

rows of garlic, shallots and onions

N dropped in on his way home from work on Friday afternoon to check that they hadn’t been decimated by some naughty bunnies (wild ones, not the cheeky pets this time), birds or mice.  They were fine – thank goodness! – and still sat neatly in their lines.  I’ve never grown shallots or onions before, so I shall keep you posted with how they go.  I adore all things onion-ey and couldn’t live without them in my kitchen, so I am looking forward to the day in autumn when I can (hopefully!) cook some of them.  Garlic I haven’t had much luck with in the past, so fingers-crossed I’ll do better this year.  If anybody has any garlic growing tips – please leave me a message in the comments as I would love any help I can get!

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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All pictures are my own unless stated. I would kindly ask that you don't use them elsewhere unless you ask permission first. Many thanks x

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