Well my first summer as a gardener has just about come to a close. It feel like a long time ago that I started, back in April, on my little balcony adventure. Now's the time to ask....what have I learned? Here's my roundup.
Strawberries - total rubbish, despite having an awesome pot to plant them in. First I discovered that they don't fruit in the first year, then they got powdery mildew. One is still alive though, despite me never watering it, STILL being covered in mildew and the leaves constantly dying so that's quite amazing. However, I think I will stick to pick your own next year.
Lettuce - absolute winner. So much cheaper than in the shops and you get loads. I need to remember to plant at intervals though as I either had too much or none all summer.
Beans - I had 3 healthy plants but they didn't produce many beans which I think is because we don't have many bees up here. Then I overwatered them and they died :(
Peas - possibly my favourite of all the plant I grew this year. Beautful flowers, a big crop and gorgeous tasting peas, but then I overwatered them and they died :( Yes, there's a theme - lesson well and truly learned.
Tomatoes - I think I am most proud of these. I definitely enjoyed watching them grow the most - it's incredible that you get such a big plant and so much produce from a tiny seed. We had a lots of fruit which was great, it tasted ok, not as sweet as I had hoped, and they got blight near the end. Going to try cherry tomatoes next year.
Chillies - in my opinion, the easiest plant and the best crop for the least effort. I'm lucky to have a large sunny windowsill where these were really happy. We had so many chillies from these, we've frozen them and they should last for ages.
Spring onions - a definite yes. Just plant, water, wait - you can grow loads in a small space and they don't care if you under/over water them (much) and don't get diseases - my kind of plant.
It's been a lovely summer and it's not over yet - I still have some yellow peppers and mini chillies on the way in the kitchen. Plus I'm going to try to keep things going during the winter on our windowsills. Now to clean out grow bags and dead plants from the balcony - fun!
October is the perfect time to make sloe gin. The best time to pick the berries is after the first frost, but you want to leave enough time for it to mature by Christmas, so I'm doing it now.
You will need:
Half a bottle of gin (British, of course)
Lots of sloe berries
100g caster sugar
I am lucky to have a lot of sloe berries growing near my house. The best place to find them is in hedgerows out on country walks in the autumn. You might also be able to find them at farmer's markets.
Wash the berries and prick them with a cocktail stick so that they can infuse with the gin. This is the laborious part of the process and the real reason why they call it sloe gin. Fill up most of the bottle and pour in the sugar and shake well. You'll need to shake the bottle once a day for a couple of weeks, and then once a week until Christmas.
In late December, strain the liquid into another bottle (or back into the cleaned bottle) and enjoy with ice or in cocktails on snowy nights.
You can use sloe gin in a G&T, or alternatively a great cocktail is a sloe gin royale. Use 25ml sloe gin, 75ml champagne and decorate with a raspberry or such like. Cheers!