"Having turned up with my only claim to cooking being beans on toast I can now prepare, make and cook a fabulous meal!"

Harvey Lawless

The Kitchen Garden in September

September is harvest festival month and the veg beds in The Green Apron kitchen garden are certainly playing their part. The courgettes, tomatoes, beetroot and green beans are still coming quick and fast and the sweetcorn, carrots, leeks and pumpkins are not far off.

Runner beans in full swing

Runner beans

In the kitchen garden August and September are when runner beans are at their peak.  They are certainly a demanding plant, needing lots of water to stay healthy and strong.  Right now the beans need picking more or less daily to ensure they keep producing through the next month or so.  This year I am really trying to pick the beans young and small or they can be just too chewy.  I am growing 3 different varieties this year – butler, desiree and the old favourite – scarlet emperor.  The scarlet emperor if definitely the most prolific but can be very chewy if I don’t pick them young.  Having to spit out a mouthful of stringy beans is never a good look.

Sweetcorn

It’s the first time I’ve grown sweetcorn this year in the kitchen garden.  I missed the seed planting window so ended up buying some little plugs from the garden centre in May and planting them straight outside.  I was surprised how well they did.  I got really good germination (never plant them in a straight line apparently – little tip from Gardeners World – thank you Monty). Sweetcorn picked straight from the plant and cooked within hours – absolutely gorgeous.  Barbecued is my favourite way to eat them.  Don’t strip off all the outer leaves encasing the cob,  and then barbecue.   They effectively steam in their own juices.  Lovely!  Another tip I learnt this year when someone cooked me a barbecue for a change was to roll them first in a lime and natural yogurt mix and then into parmesan.  I think that is a Jamie Oliver suggestion?  You can keep your burgers and sausages, the humble sweetcorn was the best thing about that barbecue.

Sweetcorn ripening

Tomatoes

It’s not all been good news in the kitchen garden.  There has been some heartbreak as well.  I’ve grown both outdoors and greenhouse tomatoes this year.  The ones in the greenhouse have been a bit disappointing.  I’m not really sure why.  The cherry tomatoes (Gardeners Delight) have been ok but the slicing tomatoes (Harbinger) have never got very big, much smaller than last year and the plum tomatoes I grow for sauce (San Marzano) all rotted from the bottom.

My outside tomatoes however looked amazing.  I had fantastic fertilisation on all the varieties I grew, all the plants were heavy with really good sized tomatoes and after our lovely summer everything was ripening nice and early.  But you know what they say about pride coming before a fall.  One day they look fantastic – then within 3 days blight tore through the lot and ravaged all the plants.  The whole crop ruined.  I’d nurtured those plants from seed planted back in early march.  Just devastating!  I picked off what
fruit I could to ripen indoors and then just had to pull all the plants out and bin them.  I’m questioning whether I bother with outdoor tomatoes next year but they look so amazing standing proudly in their veg beds.  It won’t quite be the same without them.

Tomato blight

The Girls – Fat Jane and Shirty Gertie

Continuing the theme of disappointment in the garden – my rescue chicks seem to be having a bit of a break from laying.  Fat Jane is molting so she has an excuse I guess.  Although she has been molting for quite some time now. Its about 5 weeks since she laid.  Chickens don’t lay while they are molting.  She looks really quite pathetic with her one remaining tail feather.  Come on Jane – I am missing my boiled eggs for breakfast.

Chicken with no tail

I’m not quite sure what Shirty Gertie excuse is.  I guess she is just in her normal bad mood.  I also suspect she may be eating the eggs she lays.  I have found a few fragments of shell in the nesting box and she definitely has a guilty look about her.  I’ve borrowed some golf balls from my dad and put them in the nesting box.  Next time she tries to eat and egg she should get a very sore beak – that will hopefully put her off.

So all in all mixed month in the kitchen garden – highs and lows.  That’s the excitement of being a gardener I guess!  The cabbage white butterflies are launching their annual attack on my brassicas so next month the story of my daily adventures in caterpillar hunting!  Can’t wait!!  I can sigh with frustration but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Enjoy the last of the sunshine in your gardens.  We’ll be back in fleeces and welly boots before you know it.