The Queen in Bruton

The Queen visited “my” work kitchen garden yesterday, so I spent time on Wednesday making sure it was all weeded and spruced up. Ok, so perhaps the purpose of her visit to Bruton wasn’t to gaze upon my herbs and veggies but it’s not every day that one of the most famous people in the world pops down my high street!

It was thirsty work, so I enjoyed a refreshing cup of tea sitting in the sunshine on the wide timbers of the raised beds.

The Queen was in Bruton to open a new music building at The Kings School, a public (ie: private and very expensive for my international readers) and celebrate 500 years since the school received its Royal Charter. HRH also took time to visit Hauser and Wirth Somerset – where I run the kitchen garden for Roth Bar and Grill – and local race horse owner, Paul Nicholls’ stables. Charles had been invited to the lunch at Kings School but was unable to attend because he was running a day course. I also missed the visit (on the high street, I wasn’t invited anywhere fancy 🙂 ) because I had the Water Board coming round to install water meters – my life is wild! However lots of people had a great time in the sunshine waving flags and being cheerful. Regardless of one’s views on the role of royals in a modern society, it was nice to have something jolly to enjoy, gorgeous weather and a great atmosphere according to friends there. A much needed change from wondering what on earth is happening next in you-know-what-xit!

I loved this photo taken by Simon with my son Ruairi in sunglasses reflected in the window of her car. I think he looks very handsome (and so does my mum!) You can see Simon too, just above the Queen’s hand.

Ruairi and the Queen
Photo by Simon Taylor

We have a one way system here in Bruton which meant that there were two flag waving opportunities for enthusiastic school children and local people, one before her lunch and one afterwards.

My new garden water meter and stop cock

Meanwhile I enjoyed the spring sunshine in my garden, pruning various triffids and mulching the perennial bed. The guys from the Water Board installed two meters, one for the house and one for my garden tap which bizarrely is not connected to the house stop cock. It will be interesting seeing how much water I use in the garden as this tap, which is a standpipe close to the polytunnel, is only used for watering the garden. I have been redesigning my water harvesting systems – more in another post.

This year, I am experimenting with two different mulches on the perennial bed nearest my house: Strulch on the mainly strawberry bed (they are underneath the mulch!) and Bloomin Amazing on the rest of the area which includes soft fruit bushes, various perennial alliums, asparagus and fruit trees – a plum, greengage and quince, all on dwarfing root stocks. New soft fruit here includes a Pinkberry and Chuckleberry, both gifts from Marshalls.

Both mulches were given to me as samples – I used more Bloomin Amazing simply because I had 7 bags of that and 1 of Strulch – and this is the first time I have used them.

It’s been a while since I have blogged, lots has been happening. A couple of weeks ago Charles and I flew to Norway where he was one of the speakers at a soil conference at the university in Stavanger organised by Dag Jørund Lønning. I’ve got some great photos so will make a blog of the visit over the weekend. The other speakers were Joel Salatin and Elaine Ingham, who had the room next to ours so we got to spend some time together. She is an absolute blast as well as being an extraordinarily interest soil scientist – fascinating! We also got to see some snow and, from a distance, a fjord.

tomatoes, aubergines, chillies and peppers

It’s all systems go in the garden! The greenhouse heat mats are covered with module trays full of tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and chillis which will need potting on soon. There are trays of peas, greens and onions ready to plant, some more almost big enough and the outdoor first early potatoes to put in (a week later than planned!)

At the allotment, I’m finishing the mulching 3 months later than I had hoped, but it’s still fine. It will be finished tomorrow when I will also be sowing parsnips, carrots and radish.

polytunnel

Every day I am picking so many delicious veggies, from the garden and my polytunnel – especially loving the brassica shoots and purple sprouting broccoli. I’m pulling fresh carrots from the polytunnels and have very early first early potatoes growing in the ground and potato bags.  They are either Swift or Rocket – I bought them from a local garden centre loose in a brown paper bag, didn’t write the name on and by the time I got home had completely forgotten which they were!

The dead looking things probably are – they are the overwintered lemongrass left as an experiement. They don’t like the cold.

Every morning I go to the greenhouse, turn off the heat mats and water if necessary – modules can dry out quite fast in the sunshine. Next, the polytunnel doors are opened at both ends so that bees and other insects can enjoy the flowers, including bolting brassicas. In the evening I close everything up, turning the heat mats back on. The nights are cold, with frosts most mornings this week and the tender aubergines etc could die without the gentle warmth underneath. My greenhouse is old and quite draughty, too.

Frosty morning at Homeacres – the tulips are next to some fleece, it hasn’t been snowing!

Time to go out into the garden now.  I’ve got more pruning to do, some mulching and planting including a potted crab apple which will be much happier in the soil and a blackberry “Black Cascade” from Marshalls, which has been bred for hanging baskets – that will be a bit different!

Loving the spring sunshine! Whatever you are doing this weekend, I hope you have a happy time and a big shout out to all Mothers on Mothering Sunday! I’m visiting my sister, niece and mum with my daughter and her boyfriend for a celebratory lunch.

The double pack special offer continues until midnight on Sunday!

The Creative Kitchen now has 35 reviews on Amazon, all but one are 5*. If you have enjoyed my book and have an account with Amazon, it would be amazing if you could leave a review there. It really does make such a difference, especially for authors with small publishers.

Just like soil, publishing benefits from diversity and we need small publishers as well as the large ones 🙂

Thank you!!

13 comments

  1. Hi Stephanie, I covered my allotment last Autumn with composted farmyard manure. So when I start to sow things in the next few days/weeks do I need to add chicken manure or is the compost enough on it’s own. Many thanks for any help

  2. Sounds perfect to me! You don’t need to add anything else, the composted manure will be good for feeding the soil and plants for the whole year.

  3. Hi Stephanie,
    I purchased you excellent book a few weeks ago on the back of the culinary content (The appetizers.) contained in a previous purchase, the “No Dig Organic Home & Garden.” I must say that I was amazed by the “The main course” and had the good fortune to be able to thank you in person during your recent trip to Norway. Both books have been written in a pleasant informative style and they are beautifully illustrated. Your passion shines through! Now I´m just itching to growing the main ingredients and work my way through your vibrant and inspiring vegetable based recipes. Thanks again and thanks also for the effort that you put into your blog.
    Best regards, Trevor

    1. Thank you so much Trevor, really lovely of you to say this 🙂 Glad you’re enjoying the books – best of luck with your veg growing this year!

  4. As always you entertain and inform me with your interesting blog. Today I have learned I should be turning off my heat mat on a warm day. Oops. Thank you and enjoy Mother’s Day

    1. It helps with watering, they dry out less

      Top tip – turn th4 heat mats in the off direction, discovered yesterday I’d accidentally turned them to max!

    1. Don’t think that will be the case here as we are a very small town, it was all haphazard and cheerful on the high street. Most people dug out flags left over from events ages ago. No one did any painting – I got some new water meters but the queen didn’t visit those 🙂

      I would have made sure the beds looked nice anyway as that’s my job there, but this week made sure it was before the visit not after.

  5. Interesting that you are talking about water meters etc for your garden … here in Australia where i live water is an ongoing struggle as a gardener.

    Even with the water restriction the no dig garden method has still managed to produce good crops even though I had to shut down a few areas due to lack of water available to me.

    With $400 dollar fines and critical town water restrictions I have had to make the decision after 2 or so years to move the gardens to a nearby property that has a permanent water supply. Its going to be a lot of work but with the forecasts of continued drought conditions it is better the pain of the move than seeing the gardens suffer as they have done …watching things die as you hope for rain is not a pleasant experience.

  6. Steff great blog & as always very informative. I am missing my allotment up at Cuckoo but planting salads at mine & chard , spinach in Steve garden, our favorites thats all we have room for ! Did u see Gardner’s World last nite she hasnt read your No dig Book !!! Lol

    1. I miss seeing you up there! I didn’t see the programme, don’t have a TV and was out at a wine tasting supper 🙂 but have heard that there was rather a lot of digging going on….!

  7. I’ve often had the same thought as Skyeent, whereever the royals go everything is shined and spruced up so they don’t really get to see the “real” world 🙂 although I can’t imagine that your garden is ever really messy – I saw in the papers that she’d been to Hauser and Wirth and was wondering whether you would write about it. It was reassuring to read on your instagram feed, I’m not on instagram so cannot comment there, that you had only spread compost now, I haven’t gotten round to doing either until now, so it was good to read that it is ok.

    1. It does make you wonder, true!

      The work garden is usually tidy but my at-home garden is quite messy at the moment because I’m moving things about!

      I’ve still got 5 beds to mulch at the allotment and 3 to do at home 🙂

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