A special prize of a packet of seeds to whoever gets that particular pun...
The weather has turned here in North Lincolnshire, there's a chill in the air & blight on the tomatoes. So it's autumn, my favouritest time of year. Sod your sticky, sleep deprived summer and your colder than a well diggers arse winter, autumn is the time for me. The corpulent pumpkins dotted around the garden are ripening (some are so big that they've developed a gravitational pull), the bean frames are heavy with swollen, leathery pods of fat, speckled beans and I'm tearing around the garden digging, harvesting, clearing soil & working my way through the pile of produce that needs storing or preserving.
I've already blogged a fair amount about chutneys & pickles, but there are other ways of saving your home grown delights, and even some that don't involve vinegar (shocking, isn't it?!). This week, I've been making clamps.
A clamp is basically a way of storing root veg as far from marauding slugs & other root-chompers as possible. There are a few different methods, the most common being to put the veg in a pile in a dry, sheltered spot in the garden & cover with layers of roots & straw or soil, but I prefer to use boxes.
You can use wooden boxes, crates, banana boxes, basically anything you have lying around. I managed to fanangle a big, sturdy lidded beer box (it's basically a large plastic crate) which lives next to the wood store.
I tend to use sand when making a clamp, but you can use garden soil (you might want to sieve it or check for root-chomping beasties, though), shredded newspaper or straw.
The box can be stored in a sheltered part of the garden, or in a shed or outhouse. Anywhere dry and protected from frost. Wherever that is, be sure & put the box there before you start filling it - it will get pretty heavy when it's full!
Pretty much any root crop can be clamped - beetroot, carrots, turnips, parsnips etc. Make sure your roots are in good condition, no mysterious burrowings, nibblings, soft spots or brown bits. You'll also need to make sure that the thready end of root is still intact too. Don't worry about cleaning off the soil. Twist or cut the leafy parts an inch or two from the top (beetroot is less likely to 'bleed' if the leaves are twisted rather than cut). Put a layer of sand (or whatever you're using) in the bottom of your box and arrange the roots on top, making sure there is space between them.
Cover with sand, arrange the next layer or roots & keep on going until you run out of roots or space. Cover & make a note of when it was filled. With luck, they should be good for up to 3 months (so do it now & you can have have home grown beetroot for Christmas dinner!)
Next time - potatoes!