Tag Archives: Resilience Garden

Growing Rocket

Rocket leaves are good in salads. Once you are used to the slightly peppery taste, you may find ordinary lettuce too bland.

It’s this taste which makes it resistant to slug attack. Rocket is easy to grow, and can be sown any time of year for a crop of fresh leaves. These contain the essential vitamin C not found in preserved foods.

If sown in autumn, the plant will overwinter as a small form, about 20cm (8 inches) high, with many leaves. These are densely packed, providing good ground cover so that little weeding is required.

You can use this as cut and come again for winter salads. Even if covered by snow, the plant can quickly regroup to produce more leaves. If it is protected from frost, you can browse on it all winter.

When spring arrives, though, it will grow quickly, with long tough stems. Flowers, as shown in the picture, appear. The energy of the plant will be directed to seeding, so the leaves will gradually become tatty from the attacks of small pests. All parts of the plant remain edible, though, and the flowers make a pretty decoration for summer salads.

The leaves become more fiddly to collect, so once the wild garlic is out and if you can use the space for more seasonal vegetables, dig up most of the rocket at this point. Leave the best looking plants to carry on flowering. They’ll produce seed, which you can harvest when the seed pods are dry. You can use this seed to sow your next crop of rocket.

It is a prolific self seeder as well, so learn to distinguish these seedlings from inedible weeds. If you allowed any rocket to go to seed this spring, the seedlings will be coming up right now. Sowing on a different patch with saved seed can be left until September.

flowering rocket plants

This article was written to accompany packets of rocket seeds donated to the Fair Frome Food Bank in Somerset.  For more information about this project, please visit here

Not too late to grow food!

The rain has finally eased off in Somerset and the sun even comes out occasionally. The soil is saturated and the legions of molluscs are emerging from their winter caves. Yet the intrepid gardener must make the best of it and see what can be grown.

Adding some dry compost or soil improver before sowing will help to soak up the water in seed beds. Circling these with a ring of dry bran discourage slugs. Try and avoid resorting to chemical pellets, though the neighbourhood cats have probably put paid to any natural predators.

If you have windowsill or greenhouse space, start some plants off there. Don’t put them all out at once. Grow enough to have a reserve, and be careful to harden them off before planting out. Healthy plants are the best defence against pests.

It won’t be a good year for the more delicate vegetables. Potatoes can hold their own in most circumstances. Plant them around the edges. The hairy leaves of pumpkins and squash are also resistant to attack, though it is too early for these to go outside. Sow a catch crop of radish or cress in the large patch of empty space they will need later.

Remember to feed your soil. The liquid fertiliser you made last year from comfrey and nettle leaves will do just fine. Peas and beans make their own nitrogen, however, so don’t overdo it around them. Avoid treading on the soil to keep its structure intact. Keep to marked paths in large beds. Once the soil is properly aerated, the difference is obvious.

Brassicas will need constant attention this year. They’re worth some trouble for their winter leaves and the delicious sprouting heads in the following Spring. However, if they can survive the mollusc army, the caterpillars will be next. Planting nasturtiums in the same bed distracts these creatures, who will munch on them by preference.

Leeks do better in clay soil than onions. They develop slowly but steadily, requiring little maintenance apart from weeding. Root vegetables prefer sandier soil, which you can mix yourself to cultivate carrots in pots, or the larger parsnips in tyres.

Finally, don’t forget to sow some borage and marigold. The colourful flowers attract bees and make the vegetable patch look decorative. Happy gardening!

© Elizabeth J Walker 2014

 

Roast dinner and leftover stew

You’ll find that collecting vegetables from the garden adds to the preparation time for a large meal. They need to be dug up, washed and trimmed. You can economise on effort by cooking more than you need and adding the surplus to a stew the next day.

Buy a bird or joint for a roast dinner. You can afford organic free range, as you’re going to be able to get up to twelve adult meals from under £10 worth. While it is cooking, use the oven to roast trays of potatoes, onions, parsnips, carrots and squash – whatever you have available. Keep enough room for a tray of Yorkshire puddings to go in later.

Timing is crucial. Wash all the vegetables. The meat will take longest to cook, so put it in first. Read some recipes for more exact times. After the meat has cooked for awhile, the roast potatoes are next. Put them on the shelf above the meat until they start to brown when you can move them lower. If you get fed up waiting for this to happen, you might be able to finish them off under the grill. Don’t forget they are there.

Make a Yorkshire pudding mix using one egg, two tablespoons of plain flour and four fluid ounces of milk. It needs to stand for at least half an hour before cooking. Longer is better.

Prepare the vegetables for roasting. They can go in when the potatoes are getting soft nearly to the middle. You could move the meat down a shelf now. Do use hand protection when moving hot oven shelves, always take the trays off and set them on a heat proof surface first, and be careful of hot oil.

Cut up some cauliflower, shred brassica leaves, spinach or chard ready for steaming on the hob. Take your Yorkshire pudding trays, add a teaspoon of oil in the bottom of each and put the empty tray near the top of the oven for the oil to heat up.

Check the progress of the other things in the oven. The meat should be nearly ready to take out and the vegetables almost edible. If not, this is a good time to tidy up. When everything else is up to speed, take out the trays and carefully add a couple of tablespoons of the batter mix to each. The above amounts should make six, just share it around, they don’t need to be very full. Return them to the oven, near the top. Start steaming the vegetables.

The idea is to smother everyone’s plate with vegetables so that they do not notice there is only a small piece of meat each. The Yorkshires are for filler, and if you can make a thick gravy using the juices from the roasting dish, so much the better.

Hide the rest of the meat, or otherwise ensure no-one is going for seconds or midnight raids. There should be a mixture of vegetables left over. Keep these for the next day’s cooking, when you will be making leftover stew, possibly with dumplings. If you bought a bird, you can make a stock with the carcass and use this as a base for a broth on the third day.

An expanded version of this strategy, along with recipes for vegetables, has been included in ‘Recipes for Resilience’, to be published in 2018.

Mince and Barley Broth

This is incredibly cheap and can be put together in minutes, then left to cook while you do other things.

Use a large pan. Take a half pound (about 250 grams) of mince, preferably from your local butcher, and brown it in a little oil. A dash of soy sauce at this stage improves the colour. Add a couple of finely chopped onions, herbs and garlic.

Stir till the onion is soft, then lightly sprinkle with plain flour and stir some more. Slowly add a litre of hot water as you stir, then crumble a stock cube into the broth. Throw in a couple of handfuls of dried barley grains and simmer on a low heat for at least half an hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve with bread. This broth provides a nourishing meal for at least four people.  Increase the quantities to feed more.

At this time of year you will find that your stored potatoes begin to soften and sprout. Soon they will no longer be a reliable source of carbohydrates and the resilient household will need to turn to grains.

The leeks you planted last year will be ready to use now, and can be substituted for onion in this recipe. For extra vitamins, add shreds of new brassica leaves or throw in a handful of chopped wilted rocket just before serving. Use up the last of the potatoes, carrots and parsnip over the Spring to bulk the broth up into a stew.

Dedicated survivalists can, of course, strip the meat from a lightly roasted rabbit or squirrel and make a stock from the carcass instead of using mince and hot water.

The Resilience Garden Open Day September 2013

The Resilience Garden Open Day September 2013

The Resilience Garden project develops ordinary gardens to provide an emergency supply of fresh food for the immediate neighbourhood. A significant amount of home grown food for the householder all year round is a useful side effect.

This garden, in Coxley, was built using reclaimed materials, at very little cost. A raised bed system is used as the local soil is a heavy clay, difficult to raise vegetables on. The growing area was created in stages over five years, using tyres as a retaining wall to enable easy expansion as soil became available.

It took quite a lot of soil to get a good depth in the vegetable beds. This was mainly reclaimed from building sites. Structure was added by mixing it with kitchen waste and manure. A home-made spray of comfrey, nettle and seaweed provided extra minerals. All the food is grown using organic methods and applying permaculture principles for low maintenance.

The garden was in a useful state of transition for the Open Day as the initial tyre layout had reached the final stage; the shape and size of the plot was now fixed. The tyres were being emptied and replaced by a low brick retaining wall. The higher stacks on the windy corner were still in place, demonstrating how versatile these temporary structures can be.  When the permanent wall is complete, willow hurdles will provide a wind break.

A new bed was being formed on the other side of the garden, using the old tyres to surround a patch of gravel ready to fill with soil. An edible green manure, such as rocket or cress will be planted there by the end of September

new-garden-13-3

Despite the cold rain setting in about lunch time, we had a dozen visitors over the course of the day, all of whom braved the outdoors to explore the garden. The plant identification game did have to be abandoned and the workshop became a lively kitchen table discussion, but all told, it was a good day!

Gardening for Resilience

Convert your garden into a year round food supply!

 Open Day at the Resilience Garden is on Sunday 15th September from 11 am to 5 pm at Harters Close in Coxley, Somerset. Entry is free as part of the Incredible Edible Somerset Open Gardens Day.

Visitors will have the opportunity to test their skills at plant identification and there will be a talk on community resilience at 2 pm, with demonstrations of useful and easy to learn crafts.

Save money, keep fit and be prepared

A visit to the supermarket, even for a pint of milk, rarely leaves you change from a £20 note, it seems. Shopping carefully on a budget, you’re better off only having to go there once a week! Having fresh vegetables to hand just outside your back door cuts down those extra shopping trips, as well as being healthier and involving no food miles at all.

Gardening is a good excuse to spend some time outside, taking gentle exercise. Modern no-dig techniques take much of the heavy labour out of maintaining a garden. Using home made organic fertilisers and recycling your food waste as compost reduce costs while companion planting and a healthy soil cut the need for expensive pest control products.

In the event of a national emergency, through extreme weather or hostile actions, our delicate and extensive food transportation network could be badly affected for some weeks. Rural areas could become isolated and dependent on limited stores. There may be no electricity, which would destroy frozen supplies and force reliance on tinned and dried food.

Growing your own would help your community through this, by providing a small but necessary amount of fresh produce with its vitamins and minerals.

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 Learning how to survive in the 21st century

The Resilience Garden is one of a series of projects designed by Elizabeth Walker, a teacher and writer with many years of experience in living ‘off the grid’. Her Resilience Wheel concept links all the factors necessary for a robust and sustainable community based economy into a single framework. No positive effort, however small, is wasted and everyone can do something straight away to bring a better world closer, while saving money and improving their quality of life.

She trains volunteer event stewards in emergency procedures during the summer, organises workshops around adapting traditional crafts to the modern world, and writes educational materials, articles and stories set in strange landscapes.

For more information on the Open Garden or on planned courses with Carymoor Environmental Centre and Somerset Skills and Learning, please follow this blog.