Monday, 3 February 2014

February in the garden

I've never written about my vegetable growing on this blog, which is a shame as a lot of the produce in my recipes comes from my garden.  I first starting growing vegetables about 14 years ago when we rented a house just behind the coast in Spain.  I was a complete novice but went out and bought a book called 'El gran libro del Huerto Moderno', the big book on the modern allotment.  I understood none of it but with the help of diagrams and the dictionary I proceeded.  There was a farmer called Louis who looked after the surrounding fruit farm who started to give me help.  Off I went and bought tomato and pepper plants and spent hours planting them in neat rows, only to be told by Louis that I'd done it wrong.  When did you plant these he'd ask, yesterday I'd reply, well they all have to come up, you've planted them wrong. In Catalonia things are planted down in a trough and watered by the flooding method, it's so dry it's the best way to get water to the roots.

So I proceeded with planting and thanks to beginners luck, sun, water and advice from Louis, everything grew really well. As Louis used to say I was growing a bit of everything, things that weren't normal to grow in the area, I loved it.  Then disaster struck and my husband was admitted to hospital with a serious health problem and my days were taken up in the hospital, I just had enough time to water the garden.  He recovered but during this intense time my allotment was coming to fruition, the tomatoes were dropping off the vines, the melons were exploding, the lettuces were being eaten by the snails, all my hard work was going to waste.  Then one day when I came back from the hospital, I parked the car by the allotment and slouched over the steering wheel and wept with stress and worry.  I didn't see Louis on the land but I heard him tap on the car window.  He took one look at me and said 'Nena, hay que aprovechar la cosecha', you must take advantage of the harvest.   It really stuck in my mind, I'd spent money on manure, plants and not to mention the hours of work.  So off I went to the ironmongers and bought loads of jars and a tall saucepan and started to bottle the produce.

This was the start of a passion in my life.  Working the land is like marmite, you either love it or hate it.  I still marvel at how you plant a seed then a few months later you have food on your plate.  Everyone has the way of doing it but more or less we all have to follow the same road for growing.  Respecting the seasons and crop rotation.  It's a shame that more people don't have access to land.  It's a constant learning curve, I'm always picking up new tips.  I confess to looking at other people gardens, so I can learn more from how they plant things.  I can spend hours looking at seed catalogues, dreaming of growing all the vegetables.  One thing I have learnt is that try not to grow more than you need.

This winter I don't have much growing, I'd normally have a lot more winter lettuces, endives and escarolas but I missed the planting in November.

I had my manure delivered this week, so I have been busy ploughing this into the land.  I'll be planting my potatoes at the end of this month.


Broad beans


 Purple sprouting

Cavolo Nero

Almond Blossom

Managed to plant the potatoes at the weekend just in time with the moon.

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