Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Comeback Gardener

One of the many wonderful things about gardeners is that when a crop fails or a plant turns up its roots, we dust ourselves down, work out what happened, and look forward to next year when conditions will be better. We might be in this optimistic state of waiting for an improvement for several years until we reluctantly call time on that crop or plant and move on to a more reliable substitute. This happened to me with a whole group of plants: the brassicas. Sick of slugs, snails, pigeons, caterpillars, greedy hens, ugly netting and dangling CDs, I ruled out pretty much every brassica known to gardenerkind and welcomed other edible lovelies onto my veg plot. 

Broccoli Harvest Circa 2008
This year I have reneged on my anti-brassica stance and depending on the outcome, I have The Blogosphere to thank or blame for this. After all, there is a limit to the number of seasons that a gardener can sit back and watch glistening white cauliflower curds and beautiful broccoli florets paraded across a computer screen before a toe is tentatively dipped back into the brassica pond. So far this gentle return to brassicas has involved seventy broccoli raab plants, more red cabbage than there is the spirit to braise, four varieties of brussels sprouts and a whole bed dedicated to swede or rutabega. I say so far because turnips are waiting in the wings along with kale, cauliflowers and winter cabbages. 
Red Cabbage and Scarlet Kale
I am embracing nets in a manner I had never previously thought possible - not physically obviously, that would make for a rare sight in rural Norfolk, or anywhere else for that matter. The chickens have been given a stern talking to and the slug pubs are stocked and ready to welcome their first guests. 

In the unlikely event that these brassicas should make it to harvest, there will be a glut to manage so I have been scouting around for delicious recipes. Love Your Greens is a site dedicated to brassicas and I am salivating in an unseemly manner at the prospect of swede cake and swede ice cream (not necessarily together, but I am happy to give it a go). 

Perhaps it's time to sow another bed of swede... or three.


Love Your Greens may be found at: http://www.loveyourgreens.co.uk/recipes/#top


36 comments:

  1. I tend to feel (as a non-lover of cabbage, kale and their ilk) that the big brassicas aren't worth the bother. I make an exception for purple sprouting broccoli, which I love. I didn't net it last year, and spent some time picking off caterpillars and more time looking at lacey leaves, but the plants came back fine once caterpillar season was over. This year I may remember to net them... :)

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    1. I'm pleased that you finally harvested some PSB for your troubles. I had been using a cold frame with the top slightly ajar to protect young brassicas, but one of the hens discovered my secret stash of seedlings and managed to squeeze into the cold frame for a meal. It seems that whatever I do to protect brassicas, they will get eaten!

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  2. Hoping for a good harvest for you, I'm drooling right along!

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    1. Thank you! If I manage to harvest enough swede for ice cream and cake I will share it (virtually, not physically... then again, if there is a glut, there may be enough to go round!)

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  3. I hope the nets do the trick for you!

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    1. Thank you. They're not exactly creating the look I was hoping for, but then again I can't have brassicas without them. I swear the pigeons are lining up on the gate waiting for me to forget to protect the plants!

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  4. Good luck, Sarah, I hope all the various critters out for brassicas will be foiled by your nets and you'll have a not-so-mean harvest! We're currently sticking to fruit shrubs and trees, which I know come with enough of their own problems!

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    1. You might want to get that fruit covered soon! I hope that the late frosts haven't done for the harvest this year.

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  5. Oh brassicas are SO tricky aren't they, literally everything likes them. I gave up on them for a while, but I'm back to sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli now. I hope yours do well. CJ xx

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    1. A fellow returner! You have inspired me!

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  6. That is some serious netting. Good luck.

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    1. Thank you, Lisa. It didn't look so serious when I was wrestling it into position. I swear it was being awkward and pinging out of the ground to amuse itself! ;-)

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  7. At least on the allotment the aesthetics of using netting isn't an issue. If only we didn't have a club root problem.

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    1. Now that is a serious problem. I saw one of your photos of club root. Such a shame.

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  8. We're all optimists, Sarah, you're right. I use nets too, especially on tomatoes and zucchini. Good luck!

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    1. Thank you! My tomatoes were stolen by Basil the dog last year. Whole vines of fruit whether ripe or not. It wasn't good for him. This year the toms will be in the kitchen garden with the chickens. Hens might steal a few fruits, but nowhere near the quantity that Basil did... and they won't get ill if they eat them.

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  9. Do dogs eat brassicas ? If so you will have to strengthen your defences! We have Heath Robinson networks of canes around EVERYTHING to stop Gus doing what he loves best - digging and chewing. He is eleven years old. ELEVEN. There is no excuse.
    I wish you good luck with all your brassicas and may your ice-cream always be swede ...

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    1. ELEVEN?!! Now I'm abandoning hope. I was optimistic that Basil would grow out of this phase, now I discover that it's a lifestyle choice. On the upside, the garden has been looking marginally better since he took up escapology and we were compelled to keep him on a lead for his own safety.

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  10. I'll take any extra red cabbage on offer. Love it braised with bacon, sliced apples, brown sugar, and vinegar. Yum!

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    1. I'm with you there, Jason. I braise huge batches of it and then eat it cold all week (should I be confessing this here?)

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  11. I gave up growing brassicas for all the reasons you mentioned Sarah. I have only been growing spinach and chard for several years but have now been persuaded to grow some spring cabbage by cook!

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    1. Is there any hope for us? We know that we are signing up to hours of net assembly and months of disappointment. Why do we do it? May your spring cabbage heart and may there be no little eggs languishing on it.

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  12. The scarlet kale looks so striking, I like it.

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    1. They are pretty. Ruby chard is also attractive and looks wonderful grown in an ornamental border. Perhaps I should do that rather than juggle with nets.

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  13. I think brassicas must be the hardest veg group to grow as there's always something waiting to thwart your efforts, just about everything is attracted to them. I gave up with most brassicas when I had the allotment, yet it's the veg I most enjoy.

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    1. That's exactly my problem. We probably eat brassicas every day of the year, but sadly we are not alone in doing so. I left the perennial kale un-netted for a few hours recently and it was reduced to a stalk by the time I realised my error.

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  14. This is a very serious determined effort to grow brassicas, I hope you manage to harvest them, good luck Sarah.

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    1. Thank you! I have just taken delivery of more nets.

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  15. I think I buy some at the greengrocery! Groetjes,
    Hetty

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    1. That's probably a more cost-effective idea! If you want a sound investment, buy shares in net and hoop companies - their business is in for an upturn in this little corner of Norfolk!

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  16. Good on your for dusting off the problems and giving it another go - hope they all grow well for you! I am battling squirrels as my main enemy and they seem to have an appetite for just about anything alive at the moment. I sowed carrots, spring onions and radish 3 weeks ago, the seedlings were so pretty until the squirrels ate them all - except for the spring onions, they were apparently not to their taste so they threw them on the ground instead. Bastards!
    How easy it would be in the garden without any pesky uninvited 'guests' ....the strawberries have now got chicken wire around the raised beds, seems I might have to buy more.
    Good luck with your vegetables!

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    1. Squirrels are so clever, so whatever you try will only last as long as it takes for them to figure out how to get at the goodies that aren't on offer. James Wong writes about using chilli spray to deter mice, rabbits and squirrels in his book, The Homegrown Revolution. I have never tried it, so am unable to comment, but he does write that it deters them without causing them any harm.

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  17. It will definitely be worth all and any trouble you encounter. Freshly picked is just yummy. I may have to be sensible and net my broccoli this year although a neighbour kindly grows swathes of walking stick cabbage leaves so the cabbage whites are less interested in what's going on over in the veg patch. Last year that worked, the year before less so. Good luck and let us know how you get on. Caro x

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    1. You can't beat a sacrificial crop! I hope that it works again for you. Don't worry - if I get any harvest at all, I will be parading it proudly across the internet!

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  18. Sarah, your not half going for it this year, hope the season is kind and gives you the rewards you hope for.

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    1. Thank you. I am hoping to overface the pigeons!

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