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An hour in the garden 5

Listen to “An hour in the garden 5” on Spreaker.

This week we look at my fruitless blackcurrants, they don’t fruit. What’s going on? Is it a fungal infection – any ideas?
Nursing an apple tree only to have a disaster at the last minute.
What did and didn’t work in containers.
The pitfalls of growing green manures.
Growing in the shade.
A rant about land grabbing and allotments!!!





Search for Gardening on your mobile device and look for the bunch of carrots!



Yorkshire Parkin

Listen to “Yorkshire Parkin” on Spreaker.

Just in time for bonfire night! Lovely, sweet, sticky, unctuous cake with ginger.

Just for Bonfire Night!


130 g self raising flower
Level teaspoon ground ginger
130 g oatmeal
80 g butter
2 Tbs each of black treacle and Golden syrup
50 g soft brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
Splodge of milk

Image by Spider.Dog

Pumpkin soup

There really is no waste with pumpkins. The whole of the fruit can be eaten, the seeds can be saves and the throw away bits can be composted, fed to hens etc.

Try making toasted pumpkin seeds:

You can eat them as a snack – they really are gorgeous!

Pumpkin soup

Easy to make pumpkin soup

1 litre good quality stock
100 g lentils
3 onions
2 red chillis 🌶
4 cloves garlic
1 medium 🎃 pumpkin and its seeds
1 dessert spoon butter
Fresh thyme
Salt & pepper
Splash of brandy
Zest of lemon 🍋

Roast the pumpkin with a chopped chilli and three garlic cloves, salt and pepper for 40 minutes for extra flavour, then add to the soup.

Foolproof delicious Christmas Cake

This foolproof delicious Christmas Cake is a real winner. You need to get organised, stay calm and success is guaranteed every time.

Prepare your tin. As it has a long cooking time, the cake needs to be well protected from the heat source and a lined tin is not sufficient to do this.
Lightly grease a 24cm/9inch round or 20cm/8” square tin. I find spring form tins are easiest to use for this purpose but any type will do.
Line the tin with 1 layer of baking paper and wrap aluminium foil round the outside squeezing it round to fit closely.
Tie a double layer of brown paper or greaseproof around the outside over the foil and above the tin lip to extend about 5cm/2”.
225g/8oz butter
225g/8oz soft brown sugar 1 tablespoon black treacle
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
265g/9oz plain white flour plus 2 rounded teaspoons baking powder, sieved together in a bowl 1 level teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
5 eggs well- beaten
1kg/2lb2oz dried fruit of your taste, raisins, currants, sultanas, glace cherries, cranberries, pineapples etc
50g/2oz ground almonds
50g/2oz chopped almonds
Brandy for feeding the cake after cooking. Pre-heat oven to 160C/GAS 3/320F

1. Cream butter, sugar and treacle together in a large mixing bowl.
2.Stir in 4 tablespoons of the flour and beat in the eggs, lemon zest and juice.
3. Add the spice to the rest of the flour and baking powder and stir well.
4. Add fruit and nuts to the flour to coat and stir into the creamed mixture. Make sure all the fruit and nuts are well distributed through the mixture.
5. Spoon cake mixture into tin carefully pressing down gently and smoothing over the top. Make a small depression in the centre of the cake. This gives a level top to the finished cake.
6. Place the tin on a baking sheet and place in the centre of the oven. Turn heat down to 150C/GAS 2/300F and bake at this heat for 30 minutes.
7. Turn heat down again to 140C/GAS 1/280F and bake for 2 hours. Check after this time how it is progressing and test to see if it is cooked by pushing a metal skewer down through the centre of the cake. If it is cooked it will come out clean with no cake mixture attached to the skewer. If it isn’t cooked and bits of mixture are clinging to the skewer, then cook for a further 30 minutes and test again. Repeat this as necessary until the cake is completely cooked.
8. Remove from tin and leave to cool completely before removing all the paper. If you don’t let it cool completely some of the cake may stick to the paper.
9. When cool, and frequently until you ice the cake, spike the cake with a skewer and pour 4 tablespoons of brandy into the cake. Repeat fortnightly until Christmas. Wrap the cake in foil and store in a tin.

An hour in the garden 4

Listen to “An hour in the garden 4” on Spreaker.

This week we are dealing with the huge privet hedge, cutting them down, digging out the roots and having a long series of bonfires to shift the debris.
Bonfires are really good for your beds, if you don’t live in a smokeless zone. They fertilise and condition the soil as well as removing any surface nasties that might consume our crops.

We are also in leaf dropping season. A couple of tons of leaves have fallen on us so far, and we are making leaf mould from them in string bags – because they need lots of air to rot down and even then they take a year!

Other crops in the garden, broad beans, garlic and strawberries are under way – well, nearly!

To find the podcast in your mobile player, search ‘Gardening’ and look out for the bunch of carrots!


Chillies keep on giving, really worth growing them

Chillies keep on giving. Been away for a week only to come back to find the chillies ripening nicely, but where there has been harvest, replacements have appeared. They simply keep on producing fruit. That is also with a full week without watering!

They really are so much better than tomatoes for growing! Who would get new toms in October?

The chilies are easily dried out in the kitchen, which is what I am doing with the browns – they came described as Challock Chilli, but I think they are really Brown Douglah Chillies.

THey are quite hot and really flavoursome, and I am going to use some of them to make a hot harissa sauce, and dry the rest.

My favourite of all is the sweet jalapeno which simply hasn’t stopped producing. This is my fourth crop from the same plant, and it is still heavy with flowers. Who knows, peppers for Christmas?

The other two peppers we have are sweet capsicum, long ones, and they are very mild and a long brown chilli that I don’t have the label for, and I won’t be growing it again because it simply refuses to colour up – it’s remained green throughout. It’s mild and tastes just like the sweet capsicum, and I simply don’t have space for lots of different types that basically taste the same.

I would like to keep them over winter, but I want to grow from seed next season, and therefore I will, eventually, pop these on the compost heap. Seems a shame, but gardening for me is more than just having stuff, it’s the interest too.

However, I might save some of the seeds from these babies, they have been such a brilliant plant, and have saved my flagging faith in the summer season, this cold, wet, horrid summer that was 2016!

What to do in your garden in November

What to do in your garden in November

Normally the time for slippers, cocoa and autumn fires, there’s too much to do in the garden for all that!


There’s still time to sow lettuces, broad beans and cabbages inside or under cloches – or even in the open as long as you protect them in bad weather.

You can still sow peas in early part of the month for a late spring crop.

Onions can be started in small pots indoors to have them ready for planting out in spring. (You have to persevere with germination).

You can grow field beans as a green manure.


Plant garlic corms and you can continue planting Japanese onions in the first week. Cover them with fleece. (The best onions I have ever grown were on ash from a bonfire.)
Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb and horseradish can all be planted now. Artichokes and horseradish can both be invasive, so choose out-of-the-way sites, or prepare to manage them! All enjoy well-drained, rich soil, so work as much manure or organic matter you can.


Work on your bare earth.

A layer of chicken manure and perhaps leaf mold, and then a layer of compost on top is the best way to encourage the aeration of the soil by worms. By the spring you will have a perfect bed for potatoes.

If you have the space, place a bulk-order for manure and leave it to rot down over the winter. If you have a choice, use horse manure for heavy soils, cow for lighter conditions.

Take a good long look at your beds. If you’ve been adding plenty of compost and manure you are making soil. The levels will creep up and you might want to re-appraise the way the garden is organised.

Still time to clean out the greenhouse and disinfect your tools with a horticultural disinfectant and give your greenhouse heaters a good cleaning to make sure they’re working. If you live near an agricultural merchants then ‘udder wash’ is by far the cheapest way to disinfect your greenhouse or polytunnel.

Bring in your delicate plants at night, put them out if the weather is good during the day.

After the apple harvest, prune both these and pears.

Prune gooseberries, if you don’t have a problem with birds. If you do, then put this off until March otherwise they’ll steal all the buds. Take any crowded side-shoots down to two or three buds, leaving any which are in the right place at full length. When pruning remember the aim is to have an open centre in each bush, to make it easier to pick the fruit later in the year.


Net brassicas to protect them from pigeons, indeed all your appetising crops, salads, late carrots, onions.

Remove dead leaves from brassicas to keep infections down and firm-in sprouts with your heel to keep them firm.

If you had clubroot give the soil a heavy dressing of lime. (A big cupful to every square foot. Wear rubber gloves and eye protection) Then cover with a good four inches of compost if you can.

Cleanliness is next to…

If you can, stop walking on your soil. The human foot is responsible for moving more disease around the plot than any other means. Get yourself a few planks and walk only on these. And more than anything else, don’t go walking over everyone else’s plots – especially their compost.

Pick up your rubbish and burn it. If it has spent some time lying on the ground then it isn’t worth composting. Have a bonfire and use the ashes in compost, directly on the ground or mix with leaf mold. Make sure you check for hedgehogs when lighting fires or moving heaps of old material.

Hot beef sausage

Hot Beef Sausage

There are all kinds of variations you can do for this sausage. Try replacing the horseradish with a teaspoon of English Mustard, or a half a teaspoon of chilli powder.


1Kg (2.2 lbs) beef – any cut will do – I use shin
100g (4oz) breadcrumbs
100 – 150ml (3 – 4oz) water


15g (3 level tsp) curing salt 

3g (1 level tsp)
grated horseradish 
chopped coriander a handful

Use the chill grind,mix and chill, regrind method and stuff into pork casings.

Cooking chicken

This is just my two penn’oth for what it’s worth.
I got involved in a conversation about cooking chicken. Someone said they cooked their chicken at 60 something degrees, and I said it wasn’t hot enough.

Their argument was that it is both time and heat that kills bacteria. Personally I don’t believe it is safe unless the meat is at least 75C.

Well, they went on about having perfect chicken, not stringy chicken. Well, in my mind, I think I would enjoy stringy chicken much more than ‘perfect’ chicken if I was constantly worried it was going to make me ill.

Now I know, many will not agree with me. If you don’t please do tell me in the comments.

I think it is really important to cook chicken (and pork for that matter) well. Very well. Hot, really hot.

I really do think it is down to television chefs giving out the impression that there is somewhere out there a culinary experience that is perfect. People are exposed to this idea, that this way or that way is the best, you can only get ‘perfect’ food like this…..

And then it’s the macho too. There are a lot of food bullies out there. Well, to be honest, I don’t really care how you cook your chicken, it’s obviously up to you. But for me, the chicken needs to be really hot, 75C as a basic minimum – stringy or not.