Friday
Sep022011

Interesting Article

Forget Me NotAs well as providing my family with nutritious organic food, maintaining a garden and my love for football, whenever I have a spare moment I love to read. Nothing is better than sinking your teeth in a good book, but recently through having a regular spot (gratefully) with Notcutts, I have been getting more involved in personal blogs.

Reading the Gardener’s World blog, I came across one piece in particular that sparked my curiosity. ‘Plants that evoke memories’ was the title and it instantly got me thinking of all the fragrances that remind me of past events. The smell of freshly cut grass reminds me of the summers lazing on the lawn, the smell of damp leaves remind me of kicking autumn leaves off the ground and the scent of daffodils generate fond memories of spring.

In this article, Kate Bradbury talks about her experience of how the gardening world can evoke personal memories after her trip to the community orchard at Haggerston Park.

“Planted in one of the tree pits was some monarda, (commonly known as bee balm or bergamot). My partner hadn’t seen these flowers before and the name was on the tip of my tongue. I smelt them to jog my memory and, instead of coming up with the name of the plant, I was instantly transported back to the kitchen of the house I grew up in. On red floor tiles just inside the pantry, next to bottles of squash and my mum’s wine-making kit, was a brown ceramic vase containing dried flowers. Some of those flowers must have been monarda.”

Continuing to read, I found myself relating to the article through my own experiences. When Mrs McGregor and I took a trip to the RHS Flower Show at Tatton Park I subconsciously familiarised myself with plants by the means of my memories. I remember walking past a beautiful display of Crocosmia x croc. George Davison and for the life of me I couldn’t recall the name. However, looking back, I do remember reliving a memory; I was somewhat younger and a lot more youthful when I was first introduced to this plant. I can recall a vivid image of my mother wearing her tatty old gardening gloves, kneeling on a matt and removing the weeds that surrounded the plant. 

It’s fascinating how much I can remember by just the scent of a flower and slightly odd that a scent can trigger an encyclopaedia of memories. It proves how personal gardening is and that no matter how common a plant is, it can mean different things to different people.

Mr McGregor


Wednesday
Aug312011

The Art of Gardening

I find gardening inspiration in lots of different places especially art. I remember when I was a young man walking past a painting by Claude Monet whilst visiting Paris, it was so inspiring. Now that some time passed I haven’t quite achieved my dream garden, but I can see how this artwork Iris Bed in Monet’s Garden has influenced me. In the spring and summer months shades of blues and purples are dominant, especially in the rockery as blue bells and lavender fill the gaps.

Claude Monet painted this masterpiece back in 1900 when he purchased the Giverny estate. He redesigned the existing garden at the front of the house and became extremely passionate about surrounding his home with flowers. His preference for blue and violet flowers inspired him to plant spring beds with irises, which you can see in this painting.

In a way gardening is art, it takes time, dedication and knowledge to create a beautiful outdoor area. You need to know what plants are best suited next to each other, the seasons they blossom, the soils and positions each plant desires and the tailored care they require.

The similarities of a gardener and a painter are uncanny. Like Monet, I have specialist tools for my craft; I have a close relationship with my hand tools, whereas Monet and other artists grow a strong bond with their brush. However, the main similarity is the end result. We both want to accomplish something beautiful that can be enjoyed for many years to come, that can evoke different emotions and hopefully, one day it might just inspire someone else.

Mr McGregor

Friday
Aug262011

In the Garden

Not only is the end of summer is a busy time on the allotment, I’ve had my fair share of jobs in the garden as well. This is the perfect time to begin making your own compost; after pruning, take cuttings and frequently mowing the lawn you have almost all the ingredients you need to make your very own organic compost.

The hanging baskets have also received a lot of attention over the course of the last few weeks. Maintain your baskets by de-heading, watering and feeding them regularly as it will help them last through autumn.

Mrs McGregor has even found herself in and amongst our garden tending to her roses and the rockery. A small section of our rockery has been dedicated to growing herbs, so Mrs McGregor has been keeping her hands busy taking cuttings from them, as well as cutting back the lavender plants. The roses have been doing considerably well and we work well as a team, tying back the climbing roses to ensure they withstand harsh winds.

This summer we have experienced a bit of a drought with irregular showers, so watering has been a main priority.

To end on a positive note, now all of this has been done and the new football season has begun, I can concentrate on supporting Ipswich Town. Seeing them win the league title and return to Premier League football (where we belong) will be the highlight of the year for me.

I’m singing the blues.

Mr McGregor


Wednesday
Aug242011

Veg of the Month

Earlier in the year I began to grow an abundance of vegetables for the family. I sowed a few peppers, onions, calabrese, garlic and my veg of the month, leek. I have chosen this vegetable before in my monthly post, but it was harvested as a winter crop. However, this summer the family and I have enjoyed my young leeks as a mild substitute for spring onions.

This is why I love to grow leeks, they’re so versatile; they can be chopped up and chucked into any dish, hot or cold. The leek is an easy to grow vegetable, that isn’t troubled by the likes of frosts, diseases or pests (although moths are becoming more of a problem over recent years) and they need little attention, especially if you’ll be growing them as a winter crop.

If you like the idea of having leeks as an alternative to one of summer’s finest vegetables, now through to early October is the time to harvest.

Harvesting Young Leeks

When harvesting young leeks simply lift when required, wash them thoroughly and remove leaves and roots. It’s also possible to freeze your beloved young leeks. After lifting, chop the trunks of your vegetables into 2.5cm sections, put each portion in a freezer bag and place in the freezer. Leeks can be kept frozen for up to three months.

Young Leek Spring Rolls Recipe

I found this superb little recipe, which shows just how wonderful the young leek can be. With young spring leeks, nothing goes to waste; you can eat every part of it, especially the leaves and stems, which become extremely tender once they’re cooked.

Ingredients for 10 rolls

•    Spring Leeks
•    150 g (5 oz.) fresh Goat cheese
•    Sesame seeds
•    100 g (3 1/2 oz.) alfalfa sprouts
•    Salt and pepper

Method

1.    Open up the leeks in half lengthwise.
2.    Cut off the ends. Separate the leaves and blanch for 4-5 minutes.
3.    Drain and stuff with a mixture of goat cheese, sesame seeds and alfalfa sprouts.
4.    Roll up the leek leaves and fasten with a wooden pick.
5.    Serve cold with soy sauce.

Enjoy!

Mr McGregor


Monday
Aug222011

On the Allotment

Just like April is the month to start sowing your vegetable seeds, August is the month where you harvest your bumper crops. The sheer amount of yields you can harvest this month is unlike anything else. Beetroot, peppers, radish, lettuce, peas, French beans, sweetcorn and so much more will be ready for lifting.

Last month I had a slight set back; my lettuces bolted. However, I did sow some more and in a few weeks I should hopefully have a fantastic crop to feed my family with. You can sow lettuce seeds in August through to October, but I prefer to plant them during this time of year as it reduces the risks involved. However, if you do want to sow seeds later on it is best to have them protected by a cloche, polytunnel or greenhouse – it’s also best to choose a hardier variety of lettuce, such as the Lettuce Arctic King.

I have been busy organising my allotment too. It hasn’t just been all fun and games sowing and harvesting. I have been in desperate need of a new on-site shed and luckily for me Notcutts have just launched their 20% off all sheds deal. Thankfully now I will be able to organise all my tools and seeds.

One crop my children are very persistent in being kept up to date with are our pumpkins. Last year, it wasn’t my greatest moment as to my children’s disappointment I forgot to grow the king of autumn vegetables. Instead for our Halloween party we had to resort to the supermarket to stock up.

If you’re just as keen to know how they’re doing, you’ll be pleased to find out they’re on the road to becoming a healthy sized crop. Early last month they were planted outside. With squashes (the pumpkin’s family) I have learnt from trial and error that the key to a bumper crop is the soil. You can grow pumpkins in virtually any soil type, but it needs to be fertile. Alternatively you can dig a 30cm deep hole and back fill with either some well-rotten manure or garden compost. Then heap a half mix of soil and compost into the hole and form a mound on top. The pumpkin can now be planted (deep enough to support the stem) into the hole made in the top of the heap.

I will keep you up to date with my pumpkin process. Hopefully when it comes to 31st October I will have some prize worthy pumpkins to gloat about.

Mr McGregor