September V: courgette, chard and kale soup…

Using up those fresh ingredients in September:


2oz cooking butter

1 large or two small onions

1 garlic clove, crushed

(2 rashers back bacon – vegetarians omit)

0.75lb courgettes

8 small chard leaves plus stalks

4 leaves plus stalks Cavalo Nero kale

750ml boiled water

1 tsp dried dill, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 2 cardamom pods, salt, pepper to taste


Chop onions, slice bacon if included, crush garlic and soften on low heat in melted cooking butter (3-4 mins). Meanwhile, slice courgettes, kale and chard.

When onions etc are soft, add the courgettes and leaves, add the herbs and spices, stir until everything is coated with liquid and leave to sweat for 10 minutes, stirring twice.

Then add 750ml boiled water, add salt and pepper to your taste and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.

Liquidise and serve as is (for wholesome types) or strain and serve looking beautiful.


Time from start to finish: 40 minutes.

This is a light nutritious soup that uses up excess fresh ingredients beautifully.

September IV: Hillingdon Borough Show prizes…..

Saturday 16th September saw the London Borough of Hillingdon host its fifth Autumn Fruit and Vegetable show, this year in the magnificent Great Barn at the Manor Farm site in Ruislip.

The quantity of entries and standard of produce increase each year, making winning prizes more satisfying and meaningful each year.

This year, I entered seven classes, including the highly competitive salad tomatoes, stump carrots, dessert apples and trug of vegetables, in all four of which I was delighted to secure prizes. In addition, my entries to the shallots >30mm and non-white potato classes received Highly Commended awards. Only in the beetroot class was my entry unclassified, which taught me that perfectly formed roots score higher than large ones……

I was delighted to hear from the Mayor and Councillor Jonathan Bianco that my Trug was a big hit with the judges as we posed for obligatory photos for the Council’s publicity department.

It is an excellent event going from strength to strength, not least due to the generous prizes on offer.

Prize winning pictures are shown below:

September III: the compost season so far

Back in the spring, I talked about how I needed to generate about 2 cubic metres of compost to prepare the garden for the 2018 season.

How am I doing in early September?

Not too bad, as it turns out.

I created a pile of horse manure and straw by February 2017, which now looks like this:

This is around 0.5 cubic metres and will be used for potatoes in 2018.

I made two full heaps in my wire cages in early April using grass, horse manure, straw, cardboard and leaves plus twigs. These were combined at the end of April into the larger cage and used to top up daleks which were receiving kitchen waste and harvested haulms through to the end of June. A third heap was created during May and June in the emptied cage.

At the beginning of August, both cages, having been regularly turned, were progressing well and were combined in a one cubic metre builders bag to store/mature until the autumn. The feature image shows that compost, it being another half a cubic metre.

The four 220 liter daleks with over-wintered compost were spread on the garden between early March and the end of June 2017, providing the garden with its first proper compost feed of 4-5cm depth.

These four daleks were then regularly filled through spring and early summer with kitchen waste, tree prunings, grass cuttings, cardboard and partially matured compost from the heaps created in March. All were full by the end of July and by late August, two were combined to free up one for ongoing kitchen waste etc.

These four, when mature, should give a third half a cubic metre, bringing the total up to 1.5 cubic metres.

In the meantime, the two cages have been filled again with potato haulms, tomato haulms, grass, spent flowers, tree prunings etc, as well as the spent compost from tomatoes and potatoes grown in pots.

As I have now got a fresh supply of horse manure and straw from the stables, these will be combined with the caged material to provide material for another 0.5-1.0 cubic metres of compost by the end of November.

It just shows how much compost you can make from your own back garden!

Finally, I am well on the way to creating my own leaf litter compost, starting with four 35 litre pots stuffed full of wet leaves in November 2016, combined into one pot in April 2017 and now only about half a pot full:

This will be tested in spring 2018 as a seed compost.

So overall, I think I am showing you can be nearly self sufficient when it comes to compost for the garden.

2018s challenge will be creating enough in addition for all the tomatoes, potatoes and carrots grown in pots and bags…..

September II: 7.5lbs of Sweet Candle Carrots from one polypot

Back in April, I sowed eleven triplets of Sweet Candle Carrot seeds in a vermicompost layer atop 17 litres of Multipurpose Compost containing some friendly bacteria, fungi, rock dust and a smidgen of Nutrimate in a Polypot bag, which I usually use to grow show potatoes.

I did a post about how well the seeds had germinated after about 3 weeks and then I thinned each station to one plant.

Over the summer, the polypots lived on a plastic tray in our front garden. After letting the roots develop for 6 weeks through minimal watering, I started to fill the plastic tray regularly with water, allowing the roots to swell through absorbing moisture from below.

I also fed the roots twice with comfrey tea on root days, once in July and once in August.

I harvested the first polypot on Saturday 9th September, the morning of the village show. The feature image shows the eleven roots, which weighed in at 7.5lbs.

The largest two roots had cracked, making them unshowable, so they and the smallest root were turned into carrot and coriander soup.

The other eight formed two groups of four to exhibit, winning a first prize for carrots and a second prize as part of the four vegetables class:

Given that one pot only occupies between one tenth and one twentieth of a square metre, you could in theory grow 75-150lbs of carrots on an area of just one square metre!!

For those limited in space to garden, this may be a valuable option in freeing up space for other vegetables best grown in soil.

September I: 9 entries at the village show

Early September means the Ickenham and Swakeleys Horticultural Association Show.

I have been competing since 2013, steadily increasing my range of entries from a start solely including tomatoes and apples.

This year I entered 9 classes and achieved 5 first prizes, 3 second prizes and 1 third prize, with the greatest satisfaction coming from winning the stump carrots class against high quality opposition (the overseer of the village allotment sites).

Pictures are below:


Although not all crops are optimal in the first week of September, shows like this do add a discipline to growing, allow experimentation and give you an indication as to whether your growing skills are progressing or not.