Wednesday
Jul062011

Growing Strawberries

Growing strawberriesAs you may all know Mrs McGregor has bought some strawberry plants for me to grow, just in time for the Wimbledon tournament. It’s a family tradition of ours to indulge in some home-grown strawberries whilst watching the tennis, so as soon as Mrs McGregor walked in bearing her plants I instantly got myself into the garden.

The strawberry variety she bought was Everbearing, which produces a crop during the spring, summer and fall seasons. I have planted them in a container in a cool place and made sure they have plenty of moisture so they will provide the McGregor household with plenty of crops. 

Planting your strawberries

1.    To avoid the strawberry plants drying out during planting, I have found it’s best to soak them in water first. After removing the plant from the pot, spread the roots out well and plant them in your container so that the soil level is at the base of the crown. Press the soil down firmly around the base of the plant.
2.    Water your strawberry plants so the soil settles around the roots.
3.    To prevent moisture loss, mulch the plants with straw. However, I have found that snails love to hide in damp straw, so keep a watchful eye for the pests. If straw is hard to come by, black plastic is a good alternative, but ensure the water applied can get to the plants.

Caring for your strawberries

•    Top-dress your strawberry plants with some manure when the flowers begin to emerge.
•    To keep the plants flowering remove any runners as soon as they appear (this tends to happen in mid-summer).
•    Pick the fruit as soon as it’s ripe as this will encourage the plants to yield more strawberries.

Have fun growing your strawberries,

Mr McGregor



Monday
Jul042011

Harvesting the first lot of Garlic

I began to plant my garlic crops back in November and thanks to the dry weather they’re ready for harvesting. As soon as the garlic plants begin to die back you need to stop watering; a dry spell can help cure the garlic giving you a better crop to lift up. The lower leaves have started to wither and turn brown, which is the sign I have been waiting for to tell me I need to harvest them.

Top Tip: If you harvest your garlic too soon it will result in small cloves that don’t store very well. I have found if you dig up a few bulbs and cut them in half you should find the cloves fill out to the skin. If they do then you can harvest the rest of your garlic.

Once you have lifted your garlic, leave the bulbs on the surface of the soil to dry for a day. If rain is forecast (hopefully it is) move the bulbs to a greenhouse or cold frame for a couple of days to dry instead.

I’m so happy to be finally harvesting, with all this dry weather I have been quite anxious about my plants. In Suffolk we have been getting spots of rain here and there, which has been wonderful, but I don’t think it’s enough to sustain the growth of my crops. A lot of the afternoons after work have been spent with me heading to the allotment to water and feed my plants. With all this work I hope they will yield a good crop.

In the next few weeks or so I will find out if all my hard work has paid off. Fingers crossed.

Mr McGregor


Monday
Jul042011

Our Favourite BBQs

Rio Stone BBQ - Masonry BarbecueSummer wouldn’t be the same without a good old British BBQ; they’re the talking point of many summer weekends and can sometimes be the subject for light rivalry between neighbours. Some believe it’s all about the way you cook your food that makes a barbecue; some prefer a gas BBQ, others a charcoal.

However, at Notcutts we believe they are all as good as each other and are proud to offer our customers a fantastic range of all types of barbecue, as well as all the accessories from barbecue covers to tableware.

It can be tricky to choose the right barbecue for you. So to make life a little bit easier, we have selected our favourite BBQs that we think will impress your guests and have you cooking some mouth watering dishes.

Gas Barbecue

Salsa 3 burner Gas BBQ – Medium sized and impressively built, this barbecue not only offers three burners, a griddle plate and a stainless steel hood, for the time being it’s half price! This spectacular gas BBQ is now only £249.99 or just £224.99 for Sage members.

Why not take a look at our full range of gas barbecues to see what else we have available for you?

Charcoal Barbecue

Weber One Touch Original Charcoal BBQ – This classic charcoal barbecue is manufactured by the well respected brand Webber and operates a very clever system. Webber’s patented one touch cleaning system opens all three vents, which gives you control over the temperatures inside the barbecue and ensures easy cleaning as it catches the ashes onto a removable plate.

Not the right barbecue for you? Why not view our full range of charcoal barbecues?

Masonry Barbecue

Tuscan Stone BBQ - If you’re looking to make your BBQ a focal point in the garden, this is the perfect barbecue to have. Not only is the Tuscan Stone barbecue aesthetically pleasing, it also produces mouth watering food. You can even customise it so it fits in with the rest of your garden furniture. Simply paint the exterior to match your garden and you’re ready to get your barbecue season going.

There is a great range of masonry barbecues for you to view that can cater for most requirements and budgets.

Notcutts

Saturday
Jul022011

Barbecue Recipes

bbq recipesTo help your summer sparkle we have brought together some brilliant BBQ recipes from across the world. Ditch the dull supermarket bought sausages and burgers and instead throw some locally sourced fresh fish, home-grown vegetables and even fruit onto the grill. With these fantastic recipes you can be outside and enjoying the sunshine quicker than you can say ‘barbecue’.

BBQ Fish recipes

Why not find out how flavoursome fish can be when you put it on the barbie with these recipes? They’re simple, but will always make an impact when served onto the table.

Salmon with soy and brown sugar marinade

Ingredients

1 tbsp lemon zest                                     1 tbsp garlic (finely chopped)

Freshly ground black pepper                      5 tbsp soy sauce

4 tbsp dark brown soft sugar                     5 tbsp water

4 tbsp vegetable oil 700g                           Salmon fillets

Method

  1. Mix all of the ingredients listed above (apart from the salmon) together in a bowl until sugar is dissolved.
  2.  Place the fish in a large resealable plastic bag, along with the marinade and seal. Make sure the marinade is covered on both sides of the salmon.
  3.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until ready to BBQ.

Stuffed Red Snapper

Ingredients

3 tbsp butter                                               5 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs

1 spring onion (chopped)                             1/8 tsp salt

1 stalk celery (diced)                                   1 clove garlic (finely chopped)

110g cooked prawns                                    110g cooked crab meat

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley                        Fillet red snapper

1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper       

Method

  1. When making the stuffing, melt 2 tbsp of butter in a frying pan and then add the breadcrumbs. Sauté and stir the mixture over medium to high heat until the breadcrumbs are browned and put into a mixing bowl.
  2. Melt the rest of the butter in the frying pan and sauté the spring onion, celery and garlic until tender.
  3. Add them to the mixing bowl with the breadcrumbs and add the prawns, crab, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss gently.
  4. On a cutting board lay foil on the surface area and place the fillets of red snapper on top. Mould the stuffing on top of the fillets and curl up the edges of the foil.

Indian spiced sea food (Medium-hot)

Ingredients

Fish of choice (whole)                    1 tbsp red chilli powder

1 tsp garlic paste                           1 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp black pepper powder             1 tsp chaat masala powder

1/2 tsp gram masala powder          1 tbsp white vinegar

1 tbsp soy sauce                            1 tbsp lemon juice

Salt to taste                                   2 tbsp olive oil

Method

  1. Wash the fish and remove the fins, leaving the tail and head intact and score the fish to the bone three times.
  2. Apply the ginger and garlic pastes between the fish cuts and leave to marinate for 10-12 minutes.
  3. Whilst you’re leaving the fish to marinate, mix the rest of the ingredients (apart from the olive oil) together in a mixing bowl.
  4. Now apply the rest of the spices to the cuts you previously made to your fish and leave to marinade, again for another 10-12 minutes.
  5. Before cooking rub olive oil over your fish.

Barbecuing Vegetables and Fruit

When you grill vegetables on a barbecue the flavour intensifies as the moisture evaporates and the sugars become condensed. Vegetables should be grilled on a medium heat until it has grill marks and is tender when pierced with a knife. The amount of time a vegetable takes to cook depends on the size and how it’s been prepared.

When it comes to fruit, you should wait until the coals begin to die out. It’s important to know that soft fruits such as bananas and plums just need to be heated and not cooked and benefit from having their skins still on as this prevents them becoming mushy. With hard fruits a great tip is to brush them with butter to prevent them from sticking to the grill. Again the time it takes to cook them relies heavily on the size and how it’s been prepared.

TOP TIP: Due to many fruits having a high level of water it’s a good idea to let them cool for a while, otherwise the fruit may cause serious burns to the mouth.

Cooking Techniques

When cooking fish people tend to wrap their fish in foil to help capture all the flavours and prevent the fish being burnt. However, there is another way that keeps your fish moist and makes for an interesting barbecue display – this technique is called Plank Cooking.

Plank Cooking

  1. Ensure you have a good set of wood planks (these tend to be cedar or alder) and give them a good wash.
  2. Before you use them lug some olive oil in the hollowed out areas to stop them from cracking and soak them for at least 30 minutes.
  3. When your barbecues reaches roughly 180°C (350°F) place the planks in and leave for 10 minutes so they can warm up.
  4. When your planks are warm remove them using tongs, place your fish and return to the BBQ to cook for roughly 15 minutes, depending on size.

Notcutts

Wednesday
Jun292011

In the Garden

in the garden in juneThe weather over the past few months has been splendid and I have been enjoying some wonderful weekends in the garden. Not only have I been tidying up borders and mowing the lawn, I have been entertaining family and friends by serving up, if I do say so myself, my best barbecue dishes. I think I have truly surpassed my barbecuing techniques (I might be blowing my own trumpet now), but I’m very proud of myself.

However, as the early flowering perennials have begun to stop flowering I’m going to be spending my time pruning them back to the base and hope I get a second round of flowering. With the spring starting to turn into the summer season, I can now begin to fill my borders with some summer plants that will really bring a burst of colour into the garden. I’m really looking forward to getting my clematis, pansies, marigolds and busy lizzies planted up as I’m sure they’re going to look magnificent.

Mrs McGregor’s roses are wonderfully trained up to the trellis, but to encourage further blooms I will deadhead a few of them and try not to go overboard. I will have to keep a watchful eye on them as during this time of year roses are prone to insects and diseases. Luckily there are no signs yet, but if you have noticed anything make sure you act quickly and treat them with a fungicide or systemic insecticide.

Other Gardening Jobs on My To-Do List

  • ·         Feed fuchsias weekly to encourage growth and flowering
  • ·         Continue to weed (my favourite job of all)
  • ·         Prune forsythia, weigla, philadephus and pieris
  • ·         Dig up and divide primulas

There is a lot to do in the garden this month and if the weather continues like this Mrs McGregor is sure to have a challenge getting me to come inside.

With my to-do list complete, I better hop to it!

Mr McGregor