May in Strathconon. Will the snow and frost stop anytime soon? The days may be warm but the nights are still cold. Tender plants in greenhouses will need a little warmth. Fleece should be kept to hand for coldframes just in case.
If starting a new area for veg and fruit, prepare the soil well. digging over and removing all weeds. If making new raised beds for the first time consider their height. If you have a bad back you wont want to be bending more than you need to. A spade depth of soil is fine for most veg. If the bed is higher than this then fill the bottom with stones aiding drainage and conserving compost. John innes does a good range of soil composts(but can be expensive) mixing muilt-composts with grow bags work well and are cheaper.
The best advice for new beginners is to only grow what you enjoy eating. once you have made your list then remember to only grow what you can eat, preserve or give away.(friends and neighbours can only use so much lettuce....)
Now that the weeds have started to grow you could consider making compost tea. Compost tea is an instant pick-me-up for your plants, encouraging growth and boosting your harvest. Nettles are full of nitrogen and potast and make a fantastic compost tea for leafy plants like cabbage and broccoli. Comfrey is a great favourite, which i grow and use regular. The easiest way is to pick the leaves and fill a hessian sack and dunk the lot into a dustbin filled with enough water to cover. Leave for 3-5 weeks by which time it will have a VERY pungent smell. Strain off the dark brown liquid and dilute before watering on your plants 1:20 of tea to water is a good ratio.
Rhubarb is the crop of the month. It is very iast to grow with very little effort. A little manure around the plant and a good feed with compost tea after each pulling will see you with pounds of rhubarb over a long season. Always remember to pull the stems, never cut them. If you cut the stems the piece left will rot and encourage slugs and diesease.
SOWING AND GROWING PEAS
It can be tricky to decide among a bewildering array of varieties and types which ones to grow. Earlies tend to be lower growing so can be excelent for pots. Maincrops are taller and heavier yieldingMake a 4ins(10cm) wide flat bottom drill, and water well before sowing the peas. choose on open sunny site, with soil thats rich in organic matter.
Set the pea seed about 2ins(5cm) apart in a five figure along the drill. Mark the row and label it. At this stage i put finely chopped gorse all over the peas to stop mice, and find it very effective. finely cover with sieved soil and water. Provide support with special pea netting. Or as i do you can use shrubby branches from birch,beech or even hazel. We live in a forrest after all so its logical. Growing peas in pots. Long planters are excelent. Choose an early low growing variety. grow bags mixed with mulit-compost to fill the pots.Push peas in and water well. cover with chicken wire to protect form mice. use twiggy support. You can grow delicious pea tips. Sow fast growing early cropping dwarf peas. Push seeds in evenly across the pot, cover and water well,cover with wire. Harvest the top 2is of the plant,eat them raw in salads, or cook lightly in a stir fry. They also make a brillient peatini. Continual sowing through the season.
Ingrdients (serves 4)
110g/4oz digestive biscuits
225g/8oz young pink rhubarb
70g/21/2oz brown sugar
110g/4floz double cream
180g/61/2oz cream cheese
2tbsp orange juice
1) Crush the digestive biscuits with a rolling pin. melt the buter, and mix the biscuit crumbs into the butter. Press the mixture into the base of a seven inch(18cm) diameter loose bottomed cake tin.
2) Cut the rhubarb into one inch(2.5) sections. Put 125g(41/2oz) of the rhubarb into a pan with 45g(11/2oz) of the sugar, and cook it over a gentle heat until the rhubarb has broken down into a smooth puree. Allow it to cool.
3) Whip the double cream until it is just stiff. Add the cream cheese and the cooked rhubarb and gently mix them together.
4) Spread the topping mixture evenly over the biscuit base. Put the cheesecake into the fridge to chill.
5) Put the remaining rhubarb and sugar, with the orange juice into a pan. Poach it over a gentle heat intil the rhubarb chunks are just tender.
6) Serve each slice of cheescake with some of the poached rhubarb drizzled over it.
Rhubarb and cream is a proven combination, so adding cream cheese and a biscuit base seems like a logical step up. The results is a yummy cheesecake in a perfect shade of baby pink.