Elderflower extravaganza!

The hedgerows are filled with creamy elderflowers. It’s time to forage!  Choose elderflower heads that are in full blossom and at their most fragrant to make delicious drinks, skin care and preserves.

I’ve been busy in the kitchen making elderflower champagne, liqueur, vinegar, sugar, oil and dried elderflowers too.  Here are the recipes.

A cornucopia of summer soft fruit … with recipes for homemade cassis and blackcurrant wine

Perennial fruit bushes play a key role in my garden, producing an abundance of delicious berries during summer months. These I preserve, to enjoy year round: jewel coloured jams, cordials, liqueurs, chutneys and other delicious additions to my homegrown larder.

Exciting times!

Friday 21st April was uniquely special for Charles and myself. Two very exciting events happened quite by chance on the same day: our book arrived at the publishers and Charles was featured on BBC Gardeners’ World. Life has been so busy since that it has taken a week to be able to find the time write this post 🙂

Our publishers, Permanent Press, released gorgeous photos on social media of our book. It was quite a challenge focusing on other tasks over the weekend, with the anticipation of delivery on Monday, wondering what it would look like ‘in real life’ and looking forward to holding a copy.

Meanwhile, Gardeners’ World were busy promoting the evening’s programme on Twitter, with the help of Monty’s dog Nigel. We were delighted to read the BBC describing Charles as “legendary”!

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 14.22.34
Nigel getting no dig a bit confused
Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 13.43.24
Tweet about the programme

Neither Charles not myself own a tv, so we had arranged to visit a friend to watch the programme. Charles’ part was filmed at Homeacres on 10th August 2016; we were looking forward to seeing how they had edited a whole day’s filming into around 6 minutes.

We thought it was great – loved Monty’s introduction, calling Charles a “guru” (!!) and afterwards, explaining that he has been convinced by Charles’ work. The programme included footage of Charles with Geoff Hamilton back in the 1980s, when a whole episode of Gardeners’ World was filmed from his then garden, an 8 acre organic no dig market garden. Fun to see Charles as a young man, too! You can see the programme on You Tube here.

The feedback has been fantastic: lots of discussion and a massive increase in people wanting to find out more about no dig. I had the briefest appearance on the programme too, captured here in a screenshot by my daughter. There’s been a lot of interest in this little bed, people wondering whether it was made just for the programme and then removed. I’m happy to say that it cropped until mid-winter and recently we planted potatoes in it. Charles and Ed made a video about creating and planting the bed here.

We were thrilled when the courier arrived on Monday afternoon and we could finally see the result of all of the work done by ourselves, the editors, proofreader, designer, indexer, etc. The book was much bigger than we’d anticipated (it is so full of information, photos, ideas…) and looks lovely.

There were a lot of boxes, we were so glad it was a dry day!

After carrying all of these boxes into the conservatory for storage with the help of Finn, Charles’ helper who took these photos,  it was time to start signing copies for all of the pre-orders and package them, ready for the post office the following morning. The envelopes Charles had bought were a fraction too small which created a bit of a problem initially, solved when we worked out a way if making larger envelopes using the existing ones and packing tape. (Larger envelopes have arrived now!)

By 6 pm, our hands were getting tired and the champagne was calling us – also, we hadn’t properly looked through the book yet! So we drank champagne and have a first real look at our new book. We love it 🙂


No Dig Organic Home and Garden has received some really wonderful feedback, I’ve hardly stopped smiling all week thanks to the many kind, enthusiastic responses to our book. It was a best seller on a certain online store one day after being published and today is also #2 in Organic Gardening (#1 is Charles’ Diary) Copies has gone to the distributor in America, we have been sending them worldwide too. We are so delighted with the sales, it is fantastic.

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 15.31.36Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 17.49.28

The best way to support authors is to buy direct so if you would like a copy, please consider buying from Charles’ website here. We can sign it for you, too! Alternatively, the book can be bought from the publishers. Both ways support everyone who has worked to produce the book. (Some online retailers have policies which means that they get most of the proceeds.)

Basil flower tips and recipes

Basil flowers are beautiful to look at, smell gorgeous and attract bees and other beneficial insects. It is tempting to leave the flowers on because they look so pretty, but removing them encourages the plant to put its energy into continuing to produce abundant leaves for longer – for salads, pesto, preserving and summer cooking.

Edible flowers and a rose vinegar recipe

On Friday I harvested the first of my roses to dry the petals. The edible flowers here are beginning to bloom in abundance, adding beauty and colour to the garden and food, with the added bonus of smelling amazing and feeding the bees. My article on growing and using edible flowers, including many recipes, is in the current issue of Permaculture Magazine (International) and the new publication, Permaculture  Magazine, North America.

How to make tooth powder

I first came across the idea of using a powdered clay based toothpowder when I met a woman selling it at the Offgrid Festival three or four years ago.  Until then, I had been using a  fluoride free toothpaste from the local whole food shop (no artificial sweeteners, SLS etc) which was fine – however trying this was a revelation! It made my teeth feel really clean and felt so much healthier and pleasanter in my mouth than toothpaste. I love making things for myself rather than buying them where possible (I had to buy the ingredients but you know what I mean…), it lasts a long time, is cheap to make and can easily be stored in old jam jars, so doesn’t require any fancy storage or equipment.

When the powder ran out, I bought Bentonite clay from  Earthfare in Glastonbury in order to make my own using just three ingredients – Bentonite clay, sea salt and bicarbonate of soda. This toothpowder keeps my teeth clean, helps to remove toxins and also can help (according to what I have read) remineralise my teeth. It is also very cheap and easy to make.

Bentonite clay naturally detoxes and can help eliminate toxins, it is also full of minerals which are beneficial for gums and teeth.

Bicarbonate of Soda, which gently whitens and polishes teeth, is an ingredient found in many commercial brands of toothpaste too.

Sea salt is also rich in minerals, removes tartar, whitens teeth and is beneficial for oral hygiene. I make a sea salt mouth wash sometimes, a teaspoon dissolved in warm water, a technique recommended by my dentist.

_MG_5914

You need:

1 tablespoon of sea salt, finely ground (mine is pink because I used Himalayan sea salt)

4 tablespoons Bentonite clay

4 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda

A glass jar

Put everything in the glass jar.



Shake it to mix well!


And there you are – a jar of toothpowder. If you like, you could add some finely ground dried mint for flavour but I like it just like this. I keep a small jar of this in my bathroom cabinet, refilling it from the larger jar when needed. This helps to keep the powder dry and fresh.

To use, just dip your toothbrush in the powder and brush and rinse as normal.

Please read the disclaimer!!

Homemade fertility – Comfrey

Here in Somerset and across much of England comfrey grows wild, providing an important source of food for bees feeding from the clusters of droopy flowers and other wildlife including moth caterpillars and ladybirds. The large hairy leaves can be spread as a mulch, added to the compost heap (make sure there are no seeds otherwise it will invade everywhere), dried for winter use and made into an excellent plant food. Comfrey is a key element in making more of fertility for the garden at home.

 

Comfrey roots which reach deep into the soil, it is rich in minerals and healing properties – one of it’s traditional names is ‘knit-bone’. I make comfrey oil from the root and shall blog the recipe when I make it soon.


Comfrey is incredibly invasive, it is best to grow Bocking 14 at home. At my allotment I have a battle every year with invading comfrey planted by a previous allotment neighbour, right on the edge of my plot. Every few weeks during the summer and autumn I have to remove it to stop it spreading. There is plenty of useful comfrey along the top of my plot and in the hedgerow there. At home, I have some Bocking 14 and also the dreaded invasive sort, planted when I first moved here and thought it was the less invasive sort. Most of it has gone but some persists.

The plants growing in my garden and allotment receive an annual mulch of an inch or two of well rotted compost, either homemade or manure, which provides them with enough food for the year and they don’t need any addition liquid feeds. I use comfrey in the compost heap and to make a potent feed for plants growing in pots and will be exploring ways of using it more widely as I try to make most of the fertility needed at home in the back garden.

As well as comfrey, nettle and dandelion leaves are good additions to this potion – make sure there are no seeds though!

The usual method of soaking comfrey leaves in a bucket of water for 2 or 3 weeks works well but the resulting liquid is notoriously smelly. You simply put leaves in a bucket, cover with water and put a lid on, wait for 2 weeks, strain and use.

 

Another way using no water makes an intensely powerful brew but without the smell and is very easy.

You will need one or more containers with holes at the bottom – plant pots are good – and a bucket.

Stuff the pots with comfrey leaves (plus nettles etc if you are using them).

Put a brick in the bottom of the bucket for drainage and stability. Add your first pot and squish the leaves down.

Add the other pot/s.

Store somewhere dry and safe. I usually put a lid on top of the uppermost pot.

After several weeks, the leaves will have rotted to produce a dark liquid. Store in a sealed bottle or use immediately. Dilute in a watering can 1 part comfrey liquid to 20 parts water.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(These photos were take a couple of years ago at Charles Dowding’s garden, Homeacres, for an article I was writing for Permaculture Magazine)