• Madeleine's Garden 10th Jan 2018

    January 10th 2018 – inspecting plants and writing.

    The storms have died down for the moment and the sun is creeping out from behind the mist.  So I am eager to have a look at my garden and see what jobs I could possibly do while the weather permits.

    The fence has been blown down and snapped by the harsh winds on one side of my patch, so that will need rebuilding, and for the moment the wooden entrance is leaning to the south in a rather relaxed looking way.


    I haven’t yet pruned the raspberries from late Autumn, I must have forgotten.


    After inspecting the plants the patch generally needs tidying up.  I don’t want to do too much yet as the ground is very wet though.  And I don’t want to make it any muddier than necessary.

  • Madeleine's Garden

    Madeleine’s Garden 2018

    January 8th 2018 – Inspecting the Patch and buying seeds

    I haven’t had a minute to even look at my vegetable patch for at least 6 weeks, Christmas has been time consuming and the weather has been grotty.

    I passed a garden centre and had a good rummage through their seed selection, in between the left-over Christmas decorations, choosing which tomatoes to sow this year and finding any new fun seeds to sow. For some reason butternut squash seeds are outrageously expensive £3.99-£4.99 for about 8-12 seeds. I chose some normal courgette seeds as actually having tried so many different varieties I decided that I like the green ones best.

    I also saw some onion sets and bought some giant onions and some red onions, wondering when I should plant them. It looks like I shall have to wait until March unless of course I use a Haxnicks poly tunnel………

    Haxnicks Garden Tunnels



  • Spring is in the air

    Spring is in the air, throw open the windows! We should be out in the garden getting some fresh air and exercise. There is plenty to do from clearing winter debris - twigs on the ground and hedge cutting - as it is time to smarten up your gardens and get ready for planting very soon.
    Jobs to do:
    Sow seeds inside: such as aubergines, brussels sprouts, celery, cucumber, fennel, kale, lettuces, melons, nasturtiums, marigolds, peas, rocket and tomatoes – if you haven’t already.
    You can begin to sow seeds outside too but to be on the safe side I would cover them with cloches to give them a better chance. You can sow, onion sets, parsnips, potatoes (if they are chitted), spinach, rhubarb(crowns) and strawberry plants.
    Chit your seed potatoes: this means place each seed potato separately onto a tray or in egg boxes and leave them somewhere cool and light. They must be kept away from any chance of a frost. You will notice that in a couple of weeks they will start to sprout shoots, when this happens you can plant them out into the ground.
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    Get your beds ready: Remember in order not to ‘do your back in’ only do the tiring jobs for twenty minutes at a time, such as digging. I have dug mine and added loads of manure and compost to raise the height of the bed, as last year it was so water logged and everything drowned. I am determined to give everything a better chance this year. Positive thinking. So digging an adding compost/manure are things that need to be done over the next couple of weeks.
  • How to bake Apple Biscuits

    Post by Madeleine Cardozo
    glorious weather to weather that you can hardly stand up in because the wind
    has boon blowing so hard, these two extremes are a complete sample of winter
    life. This last week I have found that I have only been outside to do the bare
    necessities and that I have opted for the kitchen.
    So, here is
    a recipe for some of the remaining apples, yes I still have some under the
    apple trees that I can cook with.
    Apple Biscuits
    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought onlineThese
    biscuits are delicious at tea time with a nice cup of tea or you can use them
    to jazz up a bowl of ice cream.
    175g butter
    soft is better
    75g caster sugar
    75g light brown sugar
    – large
    tsp vanilla essence
    225g plain flour
    tsp salt
    tsp bicarbonate of Soda
    tsp ground cinnamon
    cooking apples
    time: 20 minutes Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes Makes 20 biscuits
    1.      Turn
    the oven on to 150°C, 300°F, Gas mark 2 (low - medium sort of heat).
    2.      Grease
    a baking sheet or two with butter.
    3.      Put
    the butter and all the sugar into an electric mixer or bowl if doing it by hand
    and beat until soft and creamy.
    4.      Slowly
    add the egg and vanilla essence.
    5.      When
    this is mixed in add the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon.
    6.      Peel
    the apples, and then grate them with a cheese grater.
    7.      With
    your hands squeeze the juice out of the grated apples. When you have done this
    add the apple and the oats to the mixture.
    8.      Mix
    it all in then, roll the slightly sloppy dough into large balls, flatten them
    and place them quite far apart onto the baking sheets. 6-8 per sheet.
    9.      Put
    in the oven for between 15-20 minutes, until the biscuits are a golden colour.
    Leave them on the trays for about 5 minutes and then put them on a wire rack to
    finish cooling.
     If you have any questions about this article, or would like more kitchen garden recipes then please get in touch via the comments boxes below.  You can also send an email to Madeleine via [email protected].
  • How to make Mulled Pears

    Excerpt from 'Plot to Pot' by Madeleine Cardozo
    To Bottle or not to bottle...
    It is all very well enjoying the fruits of the garden during the summer months, but of course you can enjoy them in the winter as well by storing them, this is a great last minute pudding, all you have to do is to take out of the cupboard and serve it either warm or cold.  Mulled pears are delicious with vanilla ice cream, cream or crème fraîche.
    Preparation: 20 minutes | Cooling time: 40 minutes | Serves: 8
    4lbs (1.8kg) firm pears
    1 orange
    1 lemon
    2 cinnamon sticks
    12 cloves
    5cm (2") piece of fresh root ginger
    11 oz (300g) granulated sugar
    1 bottle of fruity red wine
    - top this up with water if necessary
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     Ø  Peel the pears, but keep their stalks.
     Ø  Peel the rinds of the lemon and orange using a
    potato peeler.
    v To Bottle:       
     Ø  Stuff as many pears as
    you can into your storage bottles.
     Ø  Divide the spices and
    rinds between the bottles.
     Ø  Put the sugar and wine
    into a pan and heat up on a low heat until all the sugar has been dissolved.
    Then boil for 5 minutes.
     Ø  Pour the wine syrup
    completely covering the pears.
     Ø  Secure the lids.
     Ø  Put into the oven and
    cook for about 30 minutes at 100˚C/200˚F/gas mark 3
     Ø  Take the jars out, watch
    out because they are extremely hot.
     Ø  When they are cool check
    that the seal on the jars has worked.  You can do this by gently trying to
    open the jar, if it is not possible they are sealed.
    Not to
     Ø  Put all the pears into a
    pan, add the spices sugar and wine.
     Ø  Put a lid on.
     Ø  Simmer the pears for approximately 20 minutes.
     Ø  When the pears are cooked, you can either serve them
    hot or let them cool.


    'Plot to Pot' is out now - available online and in garden centres and bookshops (check with our stockists first).
    Madeleine Cardozo's Plot to Pot
    Click to find out more
  • What to do with your pumpkin seeds

    Post by Madeleine Cardozo

    I am really hoping that you didn’t just throw away all those wonderful pumpkins seeds.

    I keep about 50 of them, placed in a saucer to dry out on the windowsill ready for sowing in April next year.

    With the rest you can bake them and eat them as a nutritious snack:

    Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

    1. Separate the seeds from the flesh of the pumpkin but don’t wash. 
    2. Place them onto a baking tray
    3. Pour a little olive oil over them and then sprinkle with salt 
    4. Mix them about. 
    5.  Put them into the oven (375°F, gas mark 5, 190°C) for about 20 minutes until they are golden brown.  You can keep them for months but they will tend to lose their flavour after 6 weeks.


    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    Haxfact!: Pumpkin seeds are a super food full of iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium and are also a source of protein and omega 3.

    Storing Apples
    If you want to store apples, you need to store them directly from the tree. The apples need to be handled very carefully, each one wrapped in newspaper and then place in a dark cool place such as a shed, cellar or garage. They need to go somewhere where they will not be disturbed until you need them. Alternatively you can peel, core and slice them, then put them in the freezer ready for that wonderful French apple tart that you are dying to make.

    Other things to do in the garden this week:
    If you would like onions for the summer you had better get your skates on and plant out the sets now.
    You can still sow winter lettuces under cloches, when these have come up plant them out in the greenhouse or under poly tunnels, my rocket is doing amazingly well.

    The next post will be about protecting your garden from frost and winter weather - subscribe to the blog to be notified as soon as it has been posted!

  • Madeleine's Corner: Get the Cloches Out!

    Post by Madeleine Cardozo

    As a result of rapidly cooling temperatures, the amount of growth in the garden has slowed down enormously. This has meant that I have been a little lazy recently. So I forced myself to go outside and see what needed to be done. There was so much.

    Haxnicks Garden Tunnels

    Mowing needed to be done around the vegetable patch, weeding around the lettuces and rocket. It's important to harvest as much as you can and either freeze the vegetables or store them.
    Throw a little soil over the tops of the carrots to stop them going rubbery or green and I am happy to report that there are fewer caterpillars gnawing at my purple sprouting broccoli than last week.

    Courgettes, squash and pumpkins need to be on placed onto something solid like a tile or paving, they do not want to linger on the damp soil for too long as they will rot. This is a way of hardening the skins and they could last for a few months if you let them ‘dry’ in the sun.

    I really want to grow tulips and spring flowering bulbs, but I always seem to lose them and not look after them in my flower beds so I thought why not plant them in a space in the vegetable patch, they would have flowered by May which is when you begin to plant out your summer vegetables, so perhaps I can do both.

    So I cleared a patch, fed it with old manure, spent a few bob on matching coloured tulips and now I will wait and see what happens.

    Use cloches and small poly tunnels to keep your rocket and lettuce warm and growing. Spinach is hardy so you can leave that to the elements.

    Lastly, collect your seeds! I wonder round the garden every now and then with a couple of envelopes, in them I put seeds from flowers and vegetables. Or if I cut up a courgette, tomato, bean or melon, I put them on a saucer and let them dry on the window sill and then put them into an envelope for next Spring. It saves you lots of money so why not.

    Any questions related to this post, as ever, let us know in the comments box below and we'll answer as soon as we can.

  • Madeleine's Corner: Harvesting vegetables & making leaf mould

    Post by Madeleine Cardozo

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought onlineThis week we have all had a new lease of life in the garden, the plants are growing like mad as this extra bit of warmth has given them another chance. If you were worried about your tomatoes never ripening or your squash not getting large enough, your worries are over!

    So back to the nitty gritty of harvesting to keep your crops coming, like courgettes, raspberries, rocket and beans. Clear any unwanted weeds from the bases of your vegetables and while it is still dry mow the grass.
    Water anything you have in the greenhouse regularly as this weather is drying everything fast.

    Leaves are starting to fall and it is a good time of year to make leaf mould. To do this rake up the damp leaves and put it into aerated bags, you can use a bin liner having stabbed lots of holes into it or you can buy fairly cheaply jute ones that look much nicer and rot down completely. In a years’ time from now this will have decomposed to a wonderful compost that is incredibly good for your vegetables.

    There is a 'comedy gardener' called Rabbie, who shows you how to use the sacks in YouTube video if you like that sort of thing.

    As you harvest more and more you will obtain space in your patch, I recommend forking it over, some people like the no dig method, but not me, it doesn't seem thorough enough. Do this little by little, 20 minutes at a time, as you do not want to spend the next few weeks nurturing a bad back. Add any well rotted compost/manure to it as you go along.

    Plant: garlic, onions, sweet peas, broad beans, lettuce, rocket and radishes.

    Any questions, please put them in the comments box below!

  • Madeline's Corner: Harvesting Potatoes, Pickled Pears and something brutal about Tomatoes!

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    Well I don’t know about you but for me it has been a blustery week and I have been forcing myself to go out and get fresh air and to keep up the garden in a minimalistic way. I do feel that as soon as it is nice you should spend hours in the garden and when it is horrid only do the bare minimum.

    So I have been harvesting potatoes, putting them into jute storage bags and then hanging them in the dry part of the garden shed. You can do the same with your beetroot, carrots etc, but only if they are suffering in the ground. If they are still growing, I would leave them in the ground for as long as possible, until the first frosts.

    I have also been harvesting pears and bottling them, apples and freezing them in slices or bottling them, raspberries and freezing them. I am collecting enough raspberries to make jam, but it will take me about a week.

    Get rid of any unwanted pea and bean plants, some of my beans turned to rubber - as they do when they become old – so I have got rid of them onto the compost heap. In this space I have planted out more rocket.

    Now many of you will be worried about your tomatoes ripening. I cut off all the flowers and ½ of the leaves, I have been brutal, but I believe that all the energy now created will head towards the fruit and help to ripen them. If this doesn’t work them I find that green tomato chutney makes an excellent Christmas present.

  • Madeleine's Corner: Picking Courgettes, Herbs and Raspberries

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    This week my courgettes have started to enter our lives – they are ready to be picked when they are small 10cm (4”) as baby courgettes or as large as 30cm (12”). I normally go for something in between. There are so many different ways of eating courgettes, I shall include a new recipe in an adjacent article.

    If you are like me and have planted nasturtiums as a companion plant in your vegetable patch, did you realise that you can eat the flower in a salad, or add them to a bacon sandwich to give them a fiery taste?

    Herbs need trimming, weather it is a perennial like rosemary or an annual like basil, so if you are not trimming them to eat, you should trim them so that they don’t grow leggy and start to flower. Trimming them will encourage a better bushier plant.

    Autumn fruiting varieties of raspberries will now be beginning to fruit, don’t let the birds get them, either place a net over them or get some birdscare ribbon. I find that the ribbon works for me; others may need something a little more in the way of a fruit cage.

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