Tag Archives: gardening

My German Garden

To be honest, I haven’t done a lot in the garden this year. First the arctic winter dragged on… then there were dry spells which seemed to coincide with weekdays when I was working, but pouring rain and decidedly gardener-unfriendly weather on days when I could have got my wellies on.

But nevertheless, as summer approaches, there are still some signs of a good harvest coming up.

My tomatoes are being very Teutonic this year – they are growing in formation. They line up on the stalk in a very orderly fashion.

germany

German tomatoes... neatly growing in orderly rows

My first aubergine is not so orderly. In fact Birgit has accused me of having a positively disorderly aubergine. “It’s all wonky, there’s a definite list to the left,” she said to me yesterday, having subjected my entire crop to a military-style inspection. Pah! It’ll still taste lovely … even if it doesn’t live up to Germanic expectations.

On the fruit front, the strawberries have pretty much finished now and the rhubarb-season is past. But the grapes are starting to show a lot of promise… maybe it’s time for another doomed attempt at wine-making…

Meanwhile, down in the jungle orchard there are very promising developments on the apple and plum front…

Lovely plums... ooooh...err....

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My apple trees have gone mad this year!

No sooner are we over the courgette glut than the apple glut starts…

We have three apple trees. Two James Grieves and one Cox. In particular the Cox has decided that we need to eat about 1000 apples within the next month or so.

This morning I went out and picked a huge pot full. But there are still hundreds left on the tree.

I anyone has any good apple recipes… this is the time to post them! Please!

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A very German botanical garden

When I was in Münster at the weekend with Eldest Daughter, we went to visit the university’s botanical gardens. In my defence, I should state that this was, in fact not the cruel act of a heartless parent… dragging a reluctant teenager around the most boring sightseeing available.  No, Eldest Daughter actually wanted to see the botanical gardens. Of her own free will. Really.

You see, as of October, she will be studying biosciences there and her course will involve her making the acquaintance of plant life for the first time.

Like most teenagers, Eldest Daughter’s knowledge of plants to date has been pretty much limited to a life-long mission to avoid broccoli or sprouts. So the Münster University Botanical Gardens will have its work cut out to fill in all the gaps.

The entire park is laid out like a massive pop-up botanical textbook. The plants are lovingly labelled and huge notices provide more information than you could ever wish to know.

Parts of the gardens focus on particular families of plants and particular habitats….such as the moorland section or the sand dunes. These areas are actually laid out to look like natural heathland or scrubland. There are no tidy flowerbeds, just swathes of moor, with heathers and sedges… or rolling sand dunes with tufts of scrubby grass or spiky plants clinging to the sheltered side of each hillock.

There are also swamps…

…meadows…

…and wooded streams.. to name but a few.

Then there is the medical section. This includes extensive information on the medicinal uses of plants – grouped according to the ailments which they cure… here, for instance, an exhibition of plants used to cure sex-specific diseases.

Each plant is carefully labelled, not just with its name and basic botanical data, but also a set of symbols outlining how it is used. I can see that students will never again need to visit a doctor or pharmacy… they can just pop down to the botanical gardens and find out which flowers or leaves to steep into a healing potion!

I was very excited to see that courgettes (of which I still have several billion growing in my garden) have significant uses in the cure of ailments relating to the prostate.

I shall make a note to renew my efforts at offloading them on my elderly male neighbours. Citizens of Meerbusch…I come to heal your prostates…

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Growing weird vegetables in Germany

One of the intriguing things about growing your own fruit and vegetables is that you can experiment with varieties which you don’t normally find in the shops.

This year I’m trying out a new type of pea. What could be different about a pea?  Well… for a start, instead of the normal white flowers, these have pretty pinky purple blossoms.

What’s slightly more alien though is the pods which are now starting to form. They’re purple.

It’s actually a Dutch variety, called blauwschokkers (blue shockers!). Apparently the peas inside will be green… or greyish if I dry them for winter storage. I like them because they’re unusual and pretty… and also because I can find the pods more easily on the tangle of pea plants in the garden.  It won’t be long before they’re ready for eating. Can’t wait…

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A vegetable jungle

I posted in April about starting a vegetable garden. It seems that two months is a long time in gardening.

Those pictures of bare soil and a windswept wasteland of a vegetable patch are now distant memories… today the vegetable patch looks like this.

The greenhouse is nearly impassible…

We’re already almost self sufficient in vegetables.

Every conceivable piece of waste space where I put a tub has now sprouted triffids…

I shall need a machete just to get to the gate soon! Herr Doktor Livingstein I presume?

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Creating an English vegetable garden in Germany

Do you ever take on home improvement projects which seem like a doddle… but somehow turn into monstrous multi-headed hydras that eat you up and spit you out exhausted and twitching in a corner? Let me show you my beast of a project…

There’s a patch of land next to our house which was nurturing ambitions to become part of the Amazon rainforest. Late last year I decided to do the rapacious logger thing and chop it all down in order to cultivate it. A vegetable garden was my goal. Fresh produce straight from the garden, I thought… Yum!

Of course what looked like a simple thing on paper, turned out to be much more complicated and arduous than I’d ever imagined. For a start the soil in my garden consists of 50% earth and 50% weed seeds. The moment I’d turned over a clod of earth, I found I’d inadvertently planted another few dozen nettles or buttercups. An epic battle started which involved grubbing out roots and sifting soil…   by Autumn the entire plot looked… frankly quite dismal.

Fortunately (from an aesthetic point of  view) for much of the Winter, the entire thing was blanketed in snow.

Unfortunately (from a practical point of view) it was in January that I ordered the new headquarters of my vegetable empire… the greenhouse. Delivered flat packed… it sat desolately out in soggy cardboard boxes under a mound of snow for a month while I waited for the thaw to set in.

Building a greenhouse is a complicated task. One look at the instruction manual (which ran to 70 pages) told me that this was not something I should take on when my best qualification was once making a small garage out of lego.  Luckily I have a delightful,  practical-minded and adept neighbour who came over and systematically worked through the instruction manual page by page until the greenhouse was up… in all it’s glory. Of course I’d love to claim credit for this achievement… but my only role was providing cups of hot soup and bowls of pasta.

The vegetable beds were a different matter. That was all down to me.  Once again I dug over the whole plot (why is it when you’ve dug it once it doesn’t seem to stay dug?). I also sacrificed the compost heap that I’d been building aimlessly for years… and spread that all over.

Meanwhile, inside Veg-plot HQ, I’ve started off a whole lot of seedlings, ready to plant out when the weather will allow it. Plus some like tomatoes and melons which will enjoy the warmth inside the glass for the whole summer.

Now if only the warmer weather would kindly set in….  pretty please….

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Growing grapes

The weather has been kind over the last week.  The autumn sunshine has started to bring some colour to my grapes.

Of course we’ve been eating them non-stop. With around 600 bunches of grapes to deal with, you can’t let up for a day. You need to eat grapes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve made grape jam, grape juice, wine…. I’m even starting to create recipes for grape ketchup and grape pickle….

Anyone got any more ideas…?  Bearing in mind the following of course:

– my grapes are full of pips. Life is too short to de-pip grapes manually… though cooking and straining them is OK

– Life is definitely too short to skin grapes. Unless you want to come round and do it for me, of course.

I think by the end of this week, I won’t be able to look at another grape….

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