Sunday, 6 May 2012

Dandelion Wine

Dandelions are out in force at the moment, so why not benefit from them and make yourself some wine. There are so many of them that there will still be plenty of little rays of sunshine left to brighten your day, or not, depending on where they are growing!

Best picked in the morning, in sunshine. It will take you about half an hour but all that bending will be good for the waistline.

Pick enough heads so that the petals loosely fill a gallon container
4.5 litres of water
1.5kg sugar
Zest and juice of 4 lemons
500g raisins, chopped or squashed by putting in a carrier bag and pounding, or 200ml can of white grape juice concentrate
1 sachet of white wine yeast
Yeast nutrient

Hold the base of the head of the flower and snip the petals off. You will get sticky fingers!
Boil the water and pour over the petals, cover and leave for a couple of days, giving the mixture an occasional stir.
Pour the mixture into a large saucepan and add the lemon zest (try not to include pith as that can make it bitter).  Bring to the boil then stir in the sugar until dissolved. Continue to boil for five minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and the crushed raisins or grape juice concentrate.
Pour the mix into a clean fermenting bucket and cover until cool, then add the yeast and yeast nutrient and cover once again. If your fermentation bucket has a lid, still cover it with a cloth to make sure fruit flies can't enter it. 
Ferment for three or four days then transfer into a demijohn using a sterilised sieve and funnel. Fit a bubble trap and allow to ferment for a couple of months. Rack off into a fresh demijohn, leave it until clear then bottle. Enjoy.

Compost Awareness Week 6-12 May

It's International Compost Awareness Week from 6-12 May 2012, so a compost blog seemed apt.

Instead of filling up the bins for the council and increasing what goes to landfill why not have a go at making your own compost. You can compost most things – green waste includes
uncooked kitchen waste, i.e. vegetable and fruit peelings, teabags, eggshells, grass clippings (don’t add too many) and brown waste is low density cardboard such as toilet roll tubes and cereal boxes, old bedding plants and shredded paper. Some scrunched up paper can also be added. Whatever you do, make sure you have a good mixture of contents, including green and brown waste. Twiggy material is best chopped up as you’re adding it, or it will take longer to break down. Nettles soaked in water and added to the bin act as a good, natural activator and will help to break down the contents.

Compost bins are readily available at garden centres, DIY stores and online. Your local council will also have reasonably priced bins on their website. Alternatively, you can make your own bin from wood. We have created three large bins in a screened area of our garden. The front of the bins have removable planks to enable easy
emptying of the bins. When we decide a bin is full, we cover it with some old carpet or cardboard which helps to keep the heat in and break down the contents into lovely, friable, compost. You do have to wait though but it’s definitely worth it. It should be ready after 6-12 months but may need longer if the mixture is not quite right. If your bins are too dry add some more green waste or add some water.

Leaves can be added to your bin in small quantities but are better dealt with separately. You can fill old compost bags (well, you’ll probably still have to buy some) with leaves. Make sure the bags have plenty of holes in them and leave in a corner until they’ve broken down.  A small amount of grass clippings can also be added, making sure you mix it well. After a year you have your own soil conditioner.

We also have a wormery which we put uncooked food waste in, but don't add anything from the onion family as they think they're icky. Wormeries produce compost but also a liquid feed which should be watered down by half before using.

If you’re making new beds and taking grass up to do so, create a loam pile. Add the sods face down. The outside of the loam pile may look a bit hairy (unless you cover it) but when you dig into it, the resulting loam can be put back onto your borders.

Weeds are slightly more difficult to deal with. Annuals can be added straight to the bin, if they haven’t already seeded. These include my pet hate, chickweed. For perennial weeds such as dandelions, couch grass, mare’s tail and bindweed, chop these up into an old compost bag or bin liner, again making sure they have plenty of holes in. Leave in the sun and once broken down in a messy sludge, add to the compost bin. To be honest you’re probably best dealing with all the weeds in this way as it is extremely difficult when weeding to separate them, well it certainly is in my garden! And yes, you can add rhubarb leaves to the compost.

Make your own seed compost by mixing one part sharp sand, one part compost and one part well rotted leaf mould. This will give you an ideal blend to plant your seeds and young plants in.