The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Hard frost

 frosted purple sprouting broccoliWe’ve had some very hard frosts for a few days now. The grass hasn’t unfrozen before the crisp dark sky freezes each strand again with tiny shards of ice.

I am hoping these frosts will kill the blight spores that attacked our potatoes last year. The plants were black within days and the tubers didn’t last long before they softened and rotted.

Irish grown potatoes are much more floury than ones raised in England. D’s father planted earlier – mid March and lifted the first potatoes in mid July. I discovered by chance that if I left our potatoes in the ground for longer they became more floury. Danny’s Pa grew English varieties. A quarter of our kitchen garden is dedicated to raising floury spuds. Planted in March and harvested later in the season, most potatoes will be floury and store well if they escape the dreaded blight.

Danny can trace his ancestors back to the time of the potato famine in Ireland. Then the trail goes cold. Even he was shocked how quickly the blight took hold and destroyed our crop.

Bordeaux Mixture can be used to control blight and fungal growth. A weak solution of Bordeaux Mixture can be sprayed on potatoes and tomatoes in the organic kitchen garden. I am tempted to try this in the spring as, despite the recent frosts, the winter has been so mild and blight spores may well be hovering.

Last summer our tomato plants survived but only with intensive daily tending from me (I picked off any leaf or fruit with signs of blight and burnt them). The blight attacks knocked them back a lot. The day to day pickings were sparse and the final 10 kilo crop should have been at least 20-30 kilos. But we were lucky. We didn’t lose the lot like so many others.

So this morning, when I peeped through the small window on the stairs and saw the white wash of frost on the lawn, I was delighted.

I like the feel of frosted grass under my wellies. The crunch and the quick creeping chill. My daily trip down to the chicken run takes just a matter of minutes. No chance of frostbite.

Today I lingered in the kitchen garden. The broad beans are good strong plants and some garlic that I planted last spring has finally germinated and is peeping through. The parsley has died out in D’s bath, although the thyme is flourishing. When I saw the frosted purple sprouting broccoli it was hard to believe that in a matter of weeks we will be savouring the first crisp florets.

I returned to the cottage for breakfast and a started to sketch out a seed list.
Parsley, coriander (cilantro), tomatoes (a good range), aubergines, cucumber, lettuce (several), Swiss Chard, Brussels Sprouts, sweet corn, purple sprouting broccoli, potatoes, garlic, cabbage, chervil, mange tout peas, runner beans, leeks, radishes, beetroot. Squash.

And onions, spring onions, shallots and yet more garlic.

Jalopy and I drove to Saffron Walden in a happy glow until I worked out that we didn’t have room to grow all these things. I dropped the Brussels sprouts immediately.

Perhaps we could dig up some of the drive? I forgot the courgettes and marrows.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Michelle

    Thank you so much for this recipe. It looks great. Danny says thanks too!

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