The cutting border in July

What a difference two months make. Below are pictures of the cutting border just after it was planted in May and one now in July. I’ve a constant supply of flowers, for the house, as gifts and for my little honesty stall. The cutting border

The cutting border in May

Cutting border in JulyThe cutting border in July

Most of plants in the border have been a great success, the sunflowers, calendula, cosmos, centaurea cyans ‘black ball’, clary, antirrhinums and bells of Ireland have stood out. They are the mainstays of my flower arrangements, producing constant beautiful blooms on lovely long stems, perfect for cutting. To prevent the plants going over each flower must be picked or deadheaded preventing them from going to seed and giving up for the season. The other key to the borders success has been the watering system, now hidden under the lush foliage. We’ve had a very dry spring and summer in Kent, our lawn (football/cricket pitch) is yellow, dust clouds rise as herds of kids run over it! My ornamental borders which I don’t water are looking limp and barren. Without a watering system the cutting border would have been a disaster, carefully positioning sprinklers to water under each plant has ensured every drop is put to good use. I turn the water on for an economical 3 minutes each evening and it has worked a treat.

It’s not all been ‘rosy’ in the cutting border; we’ve had a few disasters. Zinnia ‘envy’ (lovely acid green flowers) are festering two inches from the ground, I don’t know where I’ve gone wrong, they will not be appearing again next year! Both varieties of nigella look stunted and sparse, I have been cutting from them but they’ve not taken off this year. I usually have great success with nigella, so they will be making an appearance next year. I suspect they have been too cosseted as they are one of the few plants that thrive in hot arid conditions.Honesty stall

The honesty stall outside our house


This year I’m trialling tomatillos. The husband’s idea, his tummy makes many of his decisions in life, I believe this is the definition of a ‘foodie’! Tomatillos are virtually impossible to buy in the UK and he tells me they make the most amazing salsas, perfect for dipping or accompanying any South American food. So we had to give them a go.

I grade all of my kitchen garden crops on three key criteria, space they require, the quantity of produce and the quality/value of their produce. Cut and come again salad scores high on all three criteria, minimal space required, cropping for a long period and the taste of daily fresh salad from the garden is an essential in our household. Courgettes score low on space, high on crop yield and high and quality, I could not imagine a summer without courgettes. Those who read my last posting will know that the tomatillos were not scoring high, the end of my greenhouse is a tomatillo forest swamping other nearby crops and I was yet to harvest them. Following this post I thought I’d do a bit of tomatillo research and discovered that the fruit is ripe when it has filled its husk and is still green. If it starts to go yellow and splits the husk open it’s gone over and won’t have the same tangy flavour.

Tomatillo in its huskA ripe tomatillo in its husk

Armed with this knowledge I went to examine our tomatillo crop and came back with a bowl of lime green tomatillos in their beautifully delicate husks.

Bowl of tomatillosOur first tomatillo crop

There are two approaches to tomatillo salsa, they can either be roasted giving a richer deeper flavour or served raw for a fresher zing. We have of course had to sample both methods.

Roasted tomatillo salsa

8/10 Tomatillos

1 head of garlic cloves separated and peeled

2 jalapeno chillies (alter this to your own liking)

A bunch of coriander

Salt and pepper

Lime juice

Pop the cloves of garlic, tomatillos, and jalapenos under the grill for a few minutes, remove garlic cloves first, as soon as they are toasted, to avoid developing a bitter flavour. Continue to roast jalapenos and tomatillos until evenly charred, turning occasionally. Set aside to cool. Place all ingredients, including charred tomatillo and chilli skin into a blender; add a little lime juice until you get the consistency you like.

Roasted tomatillo salsaOur roasted tomatillo salsa

Tomatillo salsa Verde

8/10 tomatillos

A bunch of coriander

1 small onion

1 jalapeno chilli (alter to your liking)


Juice of one lime

Pop all the ingredients in a blender and whizz until you get the right salsa consistency.

Tomatillo salsa verde

 Our tomatillo salsa verde

We are very fortunate in the UK to have the opportunity to taste and enjoy many different cuisines; our supermarkets are packed with ingredients from all over the world, so it is a rare occasion that you actually get to try something completely new. Tasting our first roasted tomatillo salsa was one of those rare and special occasions, it was fabulous. The tomatillo has turned my past experience of tomato salsa on its head, there is a far greater depth to the flavour and tang which you don’t get from tomato salsa. The Salsa Verde is a quicker and easier salsa to make, it tastes fresher and there is more of a zing from the tomatillos which is removed when they are roasted. Another gorgeous salsa which we’ll definitely make again.

The result, our tomatillos grading on the quality front is sky high, quantity of crops are looking good too, we have lots of flowers and more developing tomatillos in their husks soon to be enjoyed. There is an issue with space but I’ll just have to plan the planting in the green house better next year. Tomatillos are now an essential crop in our kitchen garden.

The husband has shown an interest in this blog posting and wanted me to call it ‘Is this the way to tomatillo’, I of course vetoed his attempt at humour!



Picking black currants and many other distractions

I should have the hoe out and be tackling the weeds that have sneaked into my dahlia bed, but the hot humid weather is better suited to picking blackcurrants and pottering in the kitchen garden. On my way to the soft fruit bed I noticed I was starting to get a few sweet pea flowers. Those of you who read my sweet pea posting will know that I sowed the seed late so the flowers are in turn a bit late too. I also made a silly error placing sunflowers (for cutting) next to them; they’re thriving, taking up lots of space and shading the sweet peas. So I’m not expecting huge posies of sweet peas this year, but even a few are enough for their English summer scent to drift through our home.

Sweet peasA few sweet peas

I popped into the greenhouse, where I’m greeted by a tomatillo forest; I blame the husband as he insisted I try them this year. They’re not endearing themselves to me, taking up too much space, overcrowding my gorgeous mini cucumbers and we’re yet to feast on them as I’m not really sure when they’re ripe. Every plant in my kitchen garden has to perform well to be allowed the following year, at the moment the tomatillos are out, let’s hope they make the most delicious salsa to redeem themselves.

TomatillosThe tomatillo forest!

Whilst wandering down through the kitchen garden I noticed Artichokes looking so stately, elegant architectural structure with a sophisticated colour palette. Shame about the black fly!

ArtichokesBeautiful artichokes

Then I’m drawn to my agapanthus attracting a bee. It’s a lovely cut flower which has a long vase life if the water’s changed frequently.

Agapanthus and a BeeAgapanthus and a bee


Finally I made it to the soft fruit border at the bottom of the kitchen garden; to reward me for focusing on the job in hand I spotted one of our first ripe raspberries, Yum. RaspberryOur first raspberry


I have three bushes and they are laden this year, I plan to bake a black currant cake for the weekend, if it’s successful I’ll pop the recipe up on the blog next week. In one of Sarah Raven’s books she suggests to prune the oldest 1/3 of branches whilst harvesting, you can then strip the fruit off with a fork at your leisure. Traditional thinking is to prune in the winter months when the bush is dormant. I’m always up for trying out new ideas, the theory of pruning early during harvest allows new growth to mature sufficiently before winter and will produce fruit the following year. Fingers crossed for increased productivity.


Harvested blackcurrantsHarvested blackcurrants

Flowers in jam jars

Today is the last day of pre-school before the summer holidays for my youngest. It’s a fabulous nursery, based on a farm and run by a lovely group of teachers. I have just picked some flowers from my cutting border and popped them in jam jars, to say thank you for the wonderful year my sons had with them.

Flowers in a jam jarFlowers I’ve just cut, popped into jam jars.


I have always grown climbing french beans; I love how they create structure and height in a kitchen garden. Their height has always led me to think they’ll provide far greater croppers than the smaller dwarf french bean varieties. To test my theory which I have come up against opposition with, I’ve grown a mixture of climbing and dwarf French beans.

Climbing french bean plantsClimbing french beans

Dwarf french bean plantsDwarf french bean plants

My theory has been blown out of the water. The dwarf plants are the most amazing bean factories, under their canopy of foliage they seem to pop out beans from no-where. I think this will be the last year of climbing french beans. I will rely on my runner beans and mangetout for the stately structure in the kitchen garden from now on.

French beansFrench beans harvested from the dwarf plants

My broad beans have been delicious this year and we’ve had a huge crop. The plants are now starting to yellow and go over so I have just harvested the last broad bean pods, too many for us to eat so I’ll blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute and then freeze.

BroadbeansBroad beans waiting to be shelled

When digging out the plants be sure to rub all the nitrogen fixing nodules off the roots, it’s great fertilizer for the soil. I’ve just popped cape gooseberries or physalis in after them, I fear there’re going in too late in the year, but fingers crossed we’ll get a late September harvest.

Physalis plantsThe physalis plants taking up residence after the broad beans

My Aunt who has always grown lovely fruit and vegetables, sent me her recipe for baby summer vegetables, we tried it out last night on friends who popped round for a BBQ supper, a great hit and will become one of our mainstay summer dishes.


Auntie Deb’s baby summer vegetables

Broad beans – shelled, blanched and skins taken off

Fresh baby or chantenay carrots


Bulbous spring onions

Mint and chives

Dressing ingredients

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Grated zest of one lemon

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

8 tablespoons of olive oil

2 teaspoons of mustard powder

Put all the dressing ingredients in a jam jar, fasten the lid tight and shake vigorously until well mixed. Steam the carrots for 4 minutes; add the spring onions and peas, steam for another 3 minutes. Remove steamer and water from pan leaving the carrots peas and spring onions, add the broad beans and dressing, cook over a gentle heat for a minute or so. Add the herbs, stir and serve.

Dahlia ‘Cafe au Lait’, your garden needs one!

This posting is for my great friend Jaynie who gave me this magnificent beauty of a Dahlia, ‘Cafe au Lait’. It’s the size of my outstretched hand ( and sadly I don’t have dainty ladies hands!). It has knocked Dahlia ‘Thomas A Edison’ off my top spot. Dahlia ‘cafe au lait’ is a stonker and now my all time favourite, every garden should have one or ten! Thank you Jaynie!

Dahlia 'cafe au lait'

The Kitchen Garden in June

A week into July, my June round up is a little late! This is the time that you start to reap the rewards of your labour. The cut flowers including my dahlias are in full swing and the veg patch is filling the kitchen with seasonal treats. We’re cropping, cavolo nero, perpetual spinach, courgettes, bowls full of salad, french beans, mangetout, broad beans, runner beans and tomatoes packed with flavour, only possible from the soil of a well tended kitchen garden.Tomatoes and basil in the greenhouse

Tomatoes and Basil

My June favourites have been, the climbing purple pod peas, with an exquisite, fresh, sweet taste. They are so fine that they are yet to find their way to the kitchen, all pods seem to be picked and nibbled by friends, family and myself as we potter round the kitchen garden. Next year production needs to be tripled!Purple podded peas


Purple podded peas

Courgette flowers, lightly fried in tempura, a gourmets delicacy, not often found as the flowers must be cooked fresh from the plant. My most relished indulgence so far this year from the kitchen garden.

Courgette flowerCourgette Flower

I had forgotten how fantastic young home grown beetroot is. Boiled whole with a long stem helping to prevent bleeding from the root. The sweet, rich flavour is the highlight of my lunch time salad.Beetroot plants


I’m thrilled with the kitchen garden, I started landscaping and building 6 months ago, with a vision in my head. In a short space of time it’s come to fruition. It works well as the multi functional space I dreamed of. Somewhere to grow flowers and veg, relax, enjoy, entertain, cook and dine. You really can’t ask for much more from a garden.Kitchen Garden - lower veg patch


The lower veg patch in the kitchen garden

Kitchen garden - upper veg patchThe upper veg patch in the kitchen garden

Lastly, a bunch of cosmos in a jam jar, ready for my pound stall on the road.Cosmos in a jam jar

Jam jar of Cosmos

Nature to the rescue

At last nature has come to my rescue. Those of you who regularly follow the blog, will know the battles I’ve been having with blackfly, gooseberry sawfly and cabbage white caterpillars. Ladybird larvae have landed on my runner beans and are munching away at the blackfly, hurrah!

Ladybird larvaeLadybird Larvae (quite hard to photograph as they move quicker than I thought!)

I wouldn’t call myself an organic gardener, but, I don’t use chemicals on food that I’m going to feed my family. I am a strong believer in the organic principle that if you look after your soil, it will in turn look after your plants. Nature also has it’s way of creating a fair balance. I fall down on the organic side as I use glyphosate to control perennial weeds such as bindweed.

Thank you Ladybird Larvae!