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Dublin: 8 °C Friday 6 December, 2019
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From the Garden: Taking care of your plants and getting an early crop

A hardy crop of broad beans and homemade herbal tea is on the agenda from the garden, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

IT’S FAIR TO say that laziness is never particularly rewarding or productive in the long term. This fact was brought home to me this week when my decision not to put up supports for my broad bean plants came a cropper.

They were laid low by a particularly nasty little wind which felled most of the crop. Over-wintering broad beans is always a good plan because you end up with an earlier crop.

Sown in October last year, the beans grew on quickly for six weeks or so, and then stopped – the little seedlings were hardy enough to withstand the heaviest frosts the winter could throw at them.

Then in the spring they burst in to life and gave us a really early crop – we were eating our first broad beans by May.

Generally speaking a fairly basic bamboo cane/twine frame is enough to keep a double row of broad beans supported. I’ve even seen people supporting the individual plants with twiggy sticks, but I think that’s overkill.

I just put a bamboo cane on each corner of the bed and run a few lengths of twine around them to box in the plants and stop them falling over.

With the over-wintered plants, I was lulled in to a fall sense of security by their all-round hardiness. The plants seemed tougher and sturdier than normal.

Though there was part of me that knew it was folly, I decided I would try growing them without support. But then along came a gusty night, and the wind knocked down well over half of the plants.

Most of the felled plants were killed off by this incident so last evening I had to remove them and belatedly put a support in place for the remaining plants.

Ultimately, a much bigger job than it would have been had I done it right in the first place. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, which one would hope I will learn from (but there are no guarantees).

The Basics – Make your Own Herbal Tea with Lemon Verbena

Lemon verbena has the most refreshing lemon aroma, much superior in my view to the more common lemon balm.It makes a wonderful tea herb. All you need to do is to put a few leaves in a mug, pour boiling water over it and drink it a few minutes later.

In South America it is also used medicinally to treat fevers, headaches as well as for its relaxing properties.

It is an excellent crop for your polytunnel, greenhouse or conservatory, but it will also do okay outside as long as it’s somewhere sunny in a relatively dry, free draining soil.

Recipe of the Week – Kohlrabi Carpaccio

I reckon I’ve come across the secret to cooking with kohlrabi – don’t cook it! Raw dishes make the most of its wonderful crunchiness and flavour. This healthy lunch or supper can be put together in minutes and serves four people.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium (or 2 small) kohlrabi
  • 4-6 anchovy fillets cut into thin strips
  • 50g hard goat’s cheese
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Peel the kohlrabi, slice it into thin slivers with a vegetable peeler and divide these between four plates (or even one larger platter).

Scatter the strips of anchovy fillet on top of the kohlrabi, then shave the goat’s cheese over, again using a vegetable peeler.

Sprinkle on the thyme leaves, squeeze over a spritz of lemon juice and trickle on a little rapeseed oil.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve at once.

Michael Kelly is an author, broadcaster and founder of GIY.

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Michael Kelly  / Grower

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