How to grow : Garlic.

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Garlic is an essential ingredient in so many of the meals we cook here on Franger Farm. Every year, we try to plant enough to see us through to the following year, and if I’m honest, we don’t always get it right. The good news is that it’s really simple to grow and we’ll tell you how.

Separate your cloves for planting.

Separate your cloves for planting.

Garlic takes quite a few months to grow, it’s planted in the Autumn/Fall and harvested in late spring or early summer. You can grow an entirely new bulb of garlic from a single clove, simply separate your cloves to get them ready for planting.

plant pointed end up.

plant pointed end up.

Garlic likes a sunny position in well drained soil, you should plant the cloves pointed end up about 15cm/3ins apart. It doesn’t like competition from weeds, so make sure that you keep the area around your garlic nice and weed free.

The garlic will send up shoots quickly.

The garlic will send up shoots quickly.

It won’t take long for your planted cloves to send up shoots and the bulb development to begin.
It’s time to harvest in the late spring or early summer when the foliage has died back. It’s fairly easy to loosen the bulbs with a small hand fork to harvest them, simply brush of the dirt, allow to dry a little and store until needed.

Brush of the dirt and allow to dry before storing.

Brush of the dirt and allow to dry before storing.

It doesn’t take a lot a room to grow quite a large crop of garlic and the flavour is far superior to shop bought garlic. Find yourself a nice little sunny spot and get growing.

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Space savers : growing lettuce in hanging baskets.

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Here at Franger Farm, we are lucky to have a very large suburban block of an acre in size. A large amount of it, however, can’t be easily cultivated because it’s steeply sloping or covered in bush, we are also very enthusiastic veg growers and still find ourselves running out of space. Many of you will have much less space than us, but you can make use of the space under your eaves by planting hanging baskets with lettuce.

Water storage crystals will stop your basket drying out.

Water storage crystals will stop your basket drying out.

First, select a large hanging basket with a liner, the larger the basket, the better, as it won’t dry out as quickly, always a potential problem for pots and baskets. To help your basket retain water even more efficiently, you can add some water storage crystals. These swell up with water when they are wet and then release it into soil if it starts to dry out.

Plant with a mixture  of seedlings and seeds.

Plant with a mixture of seedlings and seeds.

Your baskets will be more productive if you add a pelletized manure to the potting mix, along with the crystals, when you plant them up. To give your baskets a really long productive time, you can plant them with a mixture of seedlings and seeds. As your seedlings are nearly used up, your grown from seed lettuce should be ready to harvest.

Hang close to the kitchen.

Hang close to the kitchen.

Once your basket is planted, water in well and then hang on a sturdy hook. You could make life really easy for yourself and hang the basket right outside your kitchen so that you can grab lettuce quickly, whenever you need it.

Fresh lettuce.

Fresh lettuce.

Give this simple idea a go, you’ll love having fresh lettuce right outside your door without having to find any extra space for it.

How to freeze fresh peas and beans.

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It’s so easy to freeze your home grown peas and beans to use all year round. So, if you have a glut, or even if you’ve bought a large amount of fresh peas and beans, here’s how to deal with them.

Wash and shell your peas.

Wash and shell your peas.

Begin by first washing and then shelling your peas, don’t freeze any that are not perfect. It’s best to begin this process as soon as you pick your peas to make sure that you freeze them when their flavour is at it’s best.

Peas ready for blanching.

Peas ready for blanching.

Once you have shelled all your peas, you need to prepare a pan of boiling water and a bowl with ice water in it. Put the peas into the boiling water and blanch for no longer than two minutes. Drain the peas and immediately transfer into the bowl of ice water. This cools them quickly and stops them from cooking any further. You should leave them in the ice water for a further two minutes.

Bag the peas for freezing.

Bag the peas for freezing.

Drain the peas again and put them in sealable or zip lock freezer bags. Don’t be tempted to over fill the bags, they will freeze better if they can be spread out flat in the freezer with the peas separated. If possible, use the quick freeze function on your freezer, the faster they are frozen, the better they will taste when they are cooked. Once they are completely frozen, they no longer need to lay flat and can be stored in your freezer as normal, ready for use throughout the year, as tasty as the day they were picked!

Growing veg in bales

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Ever wanted to give a bale garden a go? Don’t know where to start? It’s easy, we’ll show you how.

Select the bales, uses as few or as many as you like.

Select the bales, uses as few or as many as you like.

The first step is to purchase the bales you’ll be using, straw is best as there are fewer weed seeds in it, it is possible to use hay, just be prepared to pull out the grass as it grows. You can use as many bales as you wish, use just one if you don’t have the space for more.

Condition your bales to get them ready for planting.

Condition your bales to get them ready for planting.

Once you have arranged your bales on a firm bit of ground, they need to be ‘conditioned’ ready for planting. In order for your veg to grow, the bales need to begin breaking down so that the nutrients in them are available for the plants to take up. Conditioning your bales can be a lengthy process of watering your bales, adding manure and waiting until they start to break down, however, we have a super fast, Franger Farm, cheaty method that works just as well.

Thoroughly soak the bales, then add a good amount of chicken manure to the top of the bales and water in well. Next, add at least an inch thick layer of potting compost to the top of the bales and water again. You are now ready to plant your seeds.

Seeds germinating on the bales.

Seeds germinating on the bales.

Using the potting compost means that the seeds have something to get started in while the chicken manure aids the breakdown of the bales as the plants mature. It’s essential that you don’t let your bales dry out, they need to be kept wet so that the breakdown continues inside. After a few weeks, the bales will begin to feel soft and you will be able to push your hand into them easily.

A few weeks later.

A few weeks later.

All you need to do from now on is keep your bales well watered and they will provide you with a wonderful harvest of veg.

Fantastic harvest from our bale garden.

Fantastic harvest from our bale garden.

We have been able to get a second harvest from our bales, although here in Australia, we have very mild winters and a long growing season, if your bales are covered in several feet of snow over the winter, you probably won’t be able to use them again.
Once you have finished planting in your bales, you can use them as mulch on your garden or add them to your compost.
You can get so much out of a few bales of straw, why not experiment with this instant garden bed in your backyard.

Rhubarb Crumble, the ultimate comfort food!

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We had a serious Rhubarb glut the other week, this is never a problem here because Mr Franger Farm swings into action to make us a delicious Rhubarb Crumble. Served with custard, this really is great comfort food, here’s the tried and tested recipe from Delia Smith, you’re going to love it!

Chop your Rhubarb into chunks.

Chop your Rhubarb into chunks.

Ingredients.
900g (2lb) Rhubarb
75g (3oz) soft brown sugar to cook with Rhubarb
225g (8oz) flour
75g (3oz) butter
75-110g (3-4oz) brown sugar to make the crumble

Method.
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). To make the Rhubarb for your crumble, first, cut the Rhubarb into chunks, then place in a saucepan with the sugar. Make sure that you cook it over a gentle heat, and keep it covered, for about 15 mins. be sure to stir it every so often so that it cooks evenly.

Transfer your cooked Rhubarb to a pie dish.

Transfer your cooked Rhubarb to a pie dish.

When your Rhubarb is cooked, transfer it to a pie dish. It’s now time to make your crumble topping.

put your crumble ingredients into the food processor.

put your crumble ingredients into the food processor.

Place the flour, butter and sugar into the food processor and whizz until combined and crumbly.

Whizz until combined.

Whizz until combined.

Spread the crumble mixture over the Rhubarb mixture in the pie dish and bake in the oven for 30-40 mins, or until browned on top.
Serve with custard and enjoy the feeling that all is well with the world!

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