It’s all about the Babington: The perennial leek

I didn’t always understand that there were perennial vegetables for me to grow, but when I did start to learn about them, the Babington’s leek was one of the first I tried to locate. I was ecstatic when I discovered that I could actually grow a perennial leek. It was like Christmas when I planted my first one too! I absolutely adore this plant and so should you! It’s easy to grow, maintains itself and doesn’t really mind partial shade! Just refrain from planting it in very boggy soil! You wouldn’t want your babingtons to rot!

Native to the shorelines of the British isles, the Babington leek is one of the most attractive of all alliums and the bees adore it. Named after Charles Cardale Babington (1808 – 1895) who was renowned for his studies on leeks.

Best planted in autumn, you will find the foliage die back in June and resumes growth in September.

So what the Babington do you do with it?

Well, harvest the leaves or cut at ground level, and dare I say you simply use them as you would any other leek, but with the sweet satisfaction that so long as you leave the bulb underground and intact, it shall crop again year after year, and whats more, from the flower head it will produce a crop of bulbils which will spread and gracefully form a nice little colony of perennial leeks for you! My advice is to ensure that the plant is 2 to 3 years old before it is harvested so that the plant is strong and sturdy enough to recover and resume growth. By the way, as well as obviously tasting ‘leeky’, it has a nice garlicky taste to it!

For our American friends, it like to live in zone 5-9!

 

Apple and rhubarb crumble

So I thought I would begin a series of recipes using perennial fruit and vegetables with an old favourite of mine, apple and rhubarb crumble. Who on earth wouldn’t want to dive right into that?

Ingredients

  • 1 eating apple…I tend to use granny smith
  • 3 or 4 stems of rhubarb
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 100g of flour
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 60g butter
  • 60g rolled oats (optional)

 

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C or gas mark 6
  2. Chop up the apple and rhubarb into thick chunks, sprinkle on the 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar and place into an oven-proof dish.
  3. in a food processor, combine all of the other ingredients and pulse until you have a crumble mixture.
  4. Spread the crumble mix on top of the apple and rhubarb and bake for 45 minutes until the crumble is molten and bubbling.

 

Enjoy

 

The art of penny pinching for the gardener…part one

Being an utter cheap skate, there is nothing I find more rewarding than knowing that I have prevented a financial catastrophe. Money seems to run through our hands like water, or our pockets haemorage endless banknotes…bills bills bills…buy me buy me buy me…this is not an option for me! My purse has very tight strings, and so shoud everyones.

So my quest has begun to find ways to become the savviest gardener in town! I am very motivated to achieve this…but can you too? Here is the first blog post I will write on my journey down to cheap street! Enjoy!

Plant pots

Those cheap and nasty plant pots that always seem to rip or tare within less than a season are utterly annoying! Don’t you agree? You know the type! The ones that are always sold in abundance in the local pound store. No…I avoid these like the plague, and for good reason – they are a complete waste of my money!

Instead, if I wish to part with any money I will buy sturdy plant pots and I do have a supply of these which I reuse year in year out! However, I have other ways of recycling materials to ensure I avoid loosening the purse strings…newspaper! Let me explain…

I own a plant pot maker and it is absolutely fantastic…not only does it prevent me from wasting money on new pots, but it is biodegradable and I don’t even have to disturb the roots of my delicate seedlings as they get planted! A triumph of an invention and I insist that every gardener purchase one of these.

There are alternatives of course. Toilet paper rolls are a further option to make plant pots. These are possibly the best kind of root trainers for peas and beans in my opinion. Egg shells are another, but I think the most ingenious has to be paper mache pots.

Paper mache pots are stronger and if you have a little trick up your sleeves, you can make these totally organically without the need for glue! The secret ingredient is actually flour and water! Check out this post for more details.

 

Free fertiliser and mulch

There are many many mediums we can draw upon to use for fertilisation in our gardens, and many of them are chemical free and totally natural. Let’s begin by looking at…

Tea bags and coffee grounds: you’d better believe it, for these beauties who are mindlessly tossed into the trash can be used to mulch and fertilize your garden! They help retain moisture in the soil, are great for acid loving plants and both are packed full of slow release nitrogen. The worms absolutely love this stuff too! You can go so far as to contact your local coffee shops who have been known for saving tea and coffee grounds for gardeners. All you need to do is ask!

Muck/Urine: Yes I hear you…I am stating the obvious. But it is definitely one to explore further. If you live closeby to a farm, you can easily find yourself with a free supply of muck, all you have to do is build a friendship with the farmer! Bargain!

Another valuable and underused resource is liquid gold, yes, our own urine! It sounds utterly disgusting, but simply peeing into a bucket from time to time and diluting with water (10 parts water to 1 part pee) you are adding a powerhouse of nutrients. Would you turn your nose up at an NPK of 11-1-2.5? Human urine is actually sterile (just use it immediately rather than storing it up, because that WILL go rancid and stink). The way to use it is to pour it onto the ground around the plant, NOT the leaves of the plants. Always make sure to wash your produce and don’t use urine on crops you will be cropping within a couple of weeks either!

Fallen leaves 

We have all heard about the magnificent plant comfrey and what it can do for us, but what about other leaves? I love autumntime, it’s the beautiful colours in the trees. The yellows, the reds and oranges…utterly breathtaking. Who doesnt look forward to walking through the fallen leaves, hearing them crunch under your feet, kicking them here and there…and then all of a sudden, they’re all gone. Well, mother nature knows more than us and is the thriftiest of us all. She uses those fallen leaves as fertiliser and mulch. What better use is there for this free resource but to mulch our gardens? Get out there and bag up those leaves. What a fun activity that could be!

 

 

 

 

 

Reliable, prolific and damn nice for your salads…the welsh onion has it all

I was dawdling around the supermarket the other day, and whilst browsing the aisles I stumbled across the fruit and vegetable section and staring me in the face were a rather pathetic bunch of spring onions! Why someone would want to pay good money (£1 usually) for some of these is beyond my comprehension really, not when you can grow your own at home and eat them year in year out for free! Yes! I am cheap and I am proud! A pound saved in the supermarket is a pound saved in the bank!

A common herbaceous allium (allium fistulosum for the eager latinist out there) wrongly thought to be from Wales, it originates from Asia. These ‘must have’s’ bunch up to form a clump which will grow year in year out (best to move every few years though to prevent onion related diseases)!

You can grow welsh onions from seed (in spring), or buy plants ready for planting up to harvest that very season. They typically grow to be approximately 50 cm in height and are not the fussiest of plants to grow, being able to thrive in full sun to light shade. There are many many differing varieties, but two distinct types of welsh onion exist. One is multi stemmed, but its stems are thinner, the other single stemmed but with great, fat leaves and stems.

The leaves and stems can be harvested all year long, whereas the bulbs can be dug up and cropped in late summer/autumn time.

Photo credits

Maximizing Omega-Level Diversity

Hail the Turkish Rocket (bunias orientalis)

The Turkish Rocket is indeed a member of the brassica family, a plant that once planted is definitely there to remain…but if you enjoy eating cabbagey mustard greens then I dare say that won’t be an issue. What with its tasty clumps of edible leaves (eaten raw or cooked) and seemingly everlasting flowers (looking much like its sister, broccoli or broccoli raab), this rather boisterous rogue is a must in all perennial gardens. Tragically, and very unfairly (in my humble opinion) it is also known globally as ‘warty cabbage’.

Seemingly unfussy, easy to grow, low maintenance and likes to give and give, it can live in full sun to partial shade in moist, well drained soils. With its long tap root it mines the soil for minerals, much in the same way as comfrey, providing you with an abundance of essential nutrients.

It’s simply a must have perennial vegetable

 

Photo credits

http://apiosinstitute.org/polyculture/turkish-rocket-broccoli-production-polyculture

 

Why should we all get into growing perennial vegetables?

Naturally, we all enjoy our free time, time in the sunshine, time away from the mundane of work…and wouldn’t it be nice to worry less about the state of the allotment or garden? So much work goes into annual vegetables, from sowing to pricking out, potting on and so on and so forth, not to mention the turning over of the soil year in year out, but with our perennial vegetables we can cut ourselves a little slack and grow a hell of a lot more, in a shorter space of time with greater harvests!

Before we list the benefits of perennials, I suggest we look at the difference between an annual and a perennial…not to suggest that the ardent gardener doesn’t understand the difference, but to merely introduce the difference to newer gardeners who may be unsure.

An annual is a plant that grows for one growing season, grows rapidly then flowers and sets seed for us to collect.

a perennial is a plant that will grow every year, producing bulbs, buds and tubers to bring on growth in the next season.

So let’s list the benefits:

  1. There is much less work, low impact and  the plants are more robust.
  2. The food is much healthier for us due to their larger and deeper root systems capable of mining the soil of important minerals and nutrients. The vitamin levels in perennial vegetables seems to be better too.
  3. The soil is going to give a big thank you to you! It’s structure is maintained, nutrients are not eroded and the plants act as a protector of the soil by covering it.
  4. The harvesting season just got longer with much more cropping and a less of a ‘hungry gap’ in the early spring.
  5. They’re better for our pollinators due to them being allowed to come to flower and they get less pests.

This is not to say that annuals don’t have a place, of course they do. They’re just as important. But shouldn’t we start to put more importance on plants that can work for us, year in year out? I surmise that many gardeners run dry of naming perennials after old faithfuls such as rhubarb, globe artichokes and asparagus. But as we get deeper into this blog I will introduce some of my personal favourites, and of course many others.

Watch this space for the first in the series of posts introducing some of these plants.

A little introduction…

I think that most gardens have a little area set aside for the odd fruit tree or bush, maybe even the odd annual here and there, but perennial vegetables seem to have been relegated to the insignificant for many years. Why is that, I inquire? Well, it baffles me as ever since I started my journey on growing my own food and trying to live a better, and more self sustaining lifestyle I have tried to accumulate as many low maintenance crops as I could. What possibly could be more rewarding than growing your own food, for free and with little to no effort? I ask you!

So starts this blog, a journey into my digital garden if you will, where I will be sharing, with you (my readers and subscribers) all the experience, hints, tips and a plethora of information about the different kinds of perennial vegetables you can grow here in the United Kingdom. I will also provide a range of recipes for using your perennial vegetables. You see, this is important to me, as is encouraging others to start growing perennial vegetables. This is something that we all ought to engage in. After all, they’re practically free (once you acquire the initial plant/seed).