Category Archives: Garden

Mostly garden pictures and maybe the odd poodle

Charles Dowding Open Day at Home Acres

Open Day

Open Day

First a confession : in the age of sat nav all sorts of odd things happen. Yesterday Charles Dowding had an Open Day at his home, we had last visited in 2012 at Lower Farm .

Flourishing beds

Flourishing beds

We went with a couple of friends from Blaise Community Garden who were interested in learning more about the no-dig method and it was only after about half an hour, that Brian remarked this isn’t the same garden we went to last time. I was slightly baffled and Brian continued   –  it’s a different house and the garden was on a slope and it was bigger – I looked around and thought, yes, when we arrived it looked a bit different and I remembered there had been a yard and apricot trees up against the house, so we asked Charles who said with a huge beam and trying to keep a straight face that he had moved and he was very glad we hadn’t gone to the old house!

Vegetables to be envious of

Vegetables to be envious of

So how do these things happen?  I am used to gardens changing, to old overgrown places being restored from woodland and decay to open healthy spaces, I have seen a few of those in my lifetime and I have a poor visual memory also; I would make a bad historian and I ignored the name change and the landscape and the house and focussed as always on the plants and the beds and ignored the bits that didn’t fit with my memory. In a way they weren’t important. But it was yet another lesson in how fallible memory can be.

Anyway, Charles has worked his magic and his skill in three years to make a new garden and productive growing space and it is as wonderful and enviable as the photos show here. Lots of information on his methods can be found on his website No dig Gardening – Charles Dowding and in his books.

These are some of Brian’s photos from our visit yesterday which I hope convey a sense and taste of the place.


Apple Trees in a strip bed

We were particularly interested in his notes about growing fruit trees in strip beds and keeping them carefully pruned so they didn’t get too tall and the fruit remained pickable by hand.

apple trees

apple trees

Polytunnel tomatoes

Polytunnel tomatoes

The tomatoes grow beautifully up strings in the polytunnels, there was a very interesting experiment with a tumbling tomato growing in a mushroom box on a shelf that seemed to be going well.

tumbling tomatoes

tumbling tomatoes

I was very envious of the celeriac and the cabbages were remarkably hole free and quite glorious. Brian wanted his beetroots, I wanted everything!

polytunnel envy

polytunnel envy

There were flat yellow beans that we had for supper; a variety called Golden Gate.  There were borlotti drying on their stems, masses of basil and herbs, oca, salsola, tree spinach, a huge feathery asparagus bed, all sorts of wonderful vegetables in amongst the carrots, parsnips and more.

lettuces being harvested on a regular basis by picking the outside leaves for salad bags

lettuces being harvested on a regular basis by picking the outside leaves for salad bags (and the lower half of Sara Venn)

onions drying

onions drying

Could I do it? maybe not, but I can always dream !

Ham Hock and Kale Soup

IMG_0447.JPGOn Saturday we made soup. It was a joint effort. I stared out into the garden (it was a cold day inside and out as misted window panes were being finally replaced and so it was like living in a barn as the saying goes)  and noticed that there was still a small cluster of dwarf kale plants in the raised bed. Continue reading

Growing and Eating Salsola Agretti (aka Salsola Soda)

In which a post mysteriously appears on my old blog, slightly obsessive in detail but that’s me!

salsola agretti steamed

Salsola agretti, opposite leaved saltwort, Friars Beard is a joy of a vegetable to discover if you are like me, always looking over the fence – in this case the internet fence  – and seeing what people eat in other countries. I don’t think I could ever fit a rice paddy in my suburban garden and I don’t really have space for growing melons and other ground hungry plants much as I would love to try, but this plant, which kept appearing here and there on my Instagram feed, really took my fancy so I tracked down some seed and read as much as I could and looked for photos and based on what I found I had a go at growing it last year. I have to say I love it. Continue reading

Bits and pieces : kitchen and garden


This is the noonday sun on the last day in August.  Today is the first of September, the beginning of the new year in my head.


In my kitchen there is a box of meringue fingers studded with toasted hazelnuts from Normandy – a gift to Brian from my sister, Brian likes them crumbled up on top of fresh fruit with yoghurt as a dessert.


And there were also some very useful indeed sachets of yoghurt starter enzymes (another thoughtful gift from my sister)  for when your old home made yoghurt has gone a bit beyond being used to seed a new batch. Still wondering why no one in the UK stocks these. Lakeland stock EasiYo, all the way from the Antipodes but not these made in Europe. Funny old world….

asier gurk pickle

Pickled Danish cucumber, the asie gurk, from seed sent me by the lovely Misky,  grown by me outdoors here at home in pots with local manure to help them along, peeled and brined and made according to this recipe  and then lovingly waterbath processed by Brian. I don’t think I would make them without his help as I don’t like handling hot jars, damp with boiling steam from the oven.

I use the pickle juice to thin down our current salad dressing, which is a tsp of dijon mustard mixed in a little home made yoghurt and does a very good impression of a mayonnaise with no oil worked into it. The cucumbers are a joy and a delight and much nicer (variety name : the Langelands Giant) than many of the other varieties I have sampled this year. So many cucumbers are full of seeds and surprisingly bitter, these ones have always been sweet and crisp.

I left a tray of my own home saved angelica seed at the Community Garden at Blaise, where I do a bit of volunteering,  hoping it would germinate and the magic of the place has made it happen already. It is supposed to need a period of cold before coming up and this has taught me that books are not always right.

IMG_6992 I was delighted! I suspect not many people have the patience to grow it, it can take up to three years to get stems large enough to candy, or even that much interest in candying and eating it I got there this year having waited patiently for several years and felt great personal satisfaction and one of these days will make some buns or some icecream and use the angelica I candied at home.


Angelica archangelica coming into flower earlier this year.


Candied stems drying, they will keep for ages now.

If you want to know how to do it, you could pop over to my acquaintance Dan at the Apothecary’s Garden as I learnt the basics from him.


Here is my little old mushrooming basket, given to me by my dear friend Hazel, who passed away many years ago now, I remember her when I pick it up and carry it with me, as I carry her in my heart always. Here it is filled with tomatoes and herbs and some wild blackberries, calendula flowers and cucumbers, and a fairy lights chilli plant coming home from Blaise Community Garden.


Apples are falling off the tree before ripening for some reason and the pear tree has long spindly branches and too many pears so I took a whole lot off the other day and bottled them and hope the pear tree won’t break too many more of its branches. I need to get a lesson from someone in pruning.


A squirrel has had most of the nuts off the red hazel but has left me a symbolic handful


and here is the eternal game being played out by my hairy friends and companions, another good prompt to get out of the house and breathe fresh air.


Thoughts in June

Buttercup with Oedemera nobilisOut and about with Zeb and Lulu there are buttercups everywhere, pale pink wild roses and hawthorn blooming, clover and hogweed, dandelions and buttercups, the usual parade of summer white frothy stuff and yellow frothy stuff in the parks and meadows, the bluebells were very early this year and the wild garlic has vanished back underground once more. The leaves are becoming less translucent and more opaque by the day as the tenderness of May gives way to the humidity and high sun of June. Continue reading

Yoghurt, Wheat and Spelt Bread

Yoghurt, Wheat and Spelt Bread from Zeb Bakes

I have adapted my date kefir levain bread for those of you who don’t have kefir grains and are maybe not as fond of tending small bubbling pots as I am!  This is an experiment to see if I can approximate the same loaf using  a small quantity of dried yeast and yoghurt to replace the kefir. Continue reading

Spring Green

Gardeners Delight

On the windowsill it is all happening.

artichokeSowed our first seeds on 22nd February and more to sow this week.


I love seeing them coming up full of promise and full of life.

1 contorta

It is one of the best things in the world.

1 primulaThe sun has got his hat on and we are going out to play! Hip Hip Hooray!