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Sweeping into Summer

An excerpt from ‘Stephanie’s latest’, first published on the Kitchen Garden Foundation website. The full text is available here.

It is such a busy time in the garden, cleaning up after the last of the brassicas (although I still have sprouting broccoli to pick) and planting out eggplant, sweet peppers and zucchini or squash. And of course basil. Every available bit of free space in my front beds is taken up with magnificent self-seeded lettuce. Even though I share with my friends it is impossible to eat it fast enough. I am still waiting for my beans and cucumber to start growing strongly up the bamboo tepees I have waiting for them.

Like all gardeners I have been delighted by the great rain we have had over the last few weeks. One downside is that the snails in my garden have taken over my empty bamboo teepees for their own personal gymnasium. I am disposing of them ruthlessly.

As always the last few weeks of the year seem to start speeding up and here we are nearly at the end of another school year, and already deep in planning mode for 2012. We hope that every school has a water plan to carry them over the vacation so that students will return to a bumper harvest. We may be in for a hot summer this year so all gardeners will be thinking of the best way to protect their gardens over the long holidays. Mulch, mulch, mulch I hear you all say. And maybe some of the fruit trees should be netted to frustrate the birds.

Some schools will have some crops ready to pick just before going on holiday. It is rare for any berries to make it to the kitchen – the perfect treat to enjoy in the garden. But maybe cherries or early apricots or nectarines, or even a first crop of tomatoes. Fruit can be poached and the chunks frozen, or it can be turned into a purée, or bottled. Tomatoes can be cooked to make a very fast tomato sauce, which is a fabulous resource to come back to.

Once again the messages we are promoting have proved irresistible to a wide range of media and many schools have featured on television and in print. I have spoken to a very wide range of audiences. But the most pleasurable moments in my year have been visiting schools and watching and listening to the students. Enthusiasm, excitement and pride in achievement are what I see and hear, wherever I go.