A Hard Post To Write…..

11/06/19 Update:

Since writing the post below an awful lot has changed.  Our dog is lovely and my daughters have grown into beautiful, wonderful adults.  I now have three allotment plots again, which I absolutely love.

Unfortunately I still do not have the time to write my blog at the moment, however I do have a facebook page and an instagram page for NOTJUSTGREENFINGERS and I will be posting photo’s etc so you can see my new plots.

Maybe one day things will change and I can go back to writing, but for now I will leave you with the blog post I wrote in August 2016:

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My life has changed enormously since I started to write this blog four years ago when my daughters were just 12 and 14……they are 16 and 18 now and have turned into beautiful young ladies who we are very proud of.

Three years ago I lost one of my best friends to cancer and then two years ago my father-in-law passed away too.

After this I then had to give up my lovely four allotments in January 2015, due to family problems and our rescue dog, who turned out to be highly reactive and took up an awful lot of my time (and our money) to train.

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On top of this I have recently developed a lower back problem that is causing me a lot of pain when I bend.  I visited a physiotherepist and he said it is just ‘wear and tear’ and I should continue doing everything as normal, taking pain killers when I need to…..and this is what I have been doing.

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The last few years have really been hard for our family, though I have tried to put a smile on my face and carry on as normal…. but things are now settling down in the Thrift household and life is finally beginning to calm down again.

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Time to be honest:

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However recently I haven’t really felt myself, but I have struggled on regardless.  Quite often I have felt very drained of energy and tearful and I have been really struggling to sleep at night which doesn’t help.

Mr Thrift and I have come to the conclusion that either the last few years have finally caught up with me or it is simply that ‘time of life’ that all women my age go through….or a mix of both!  Either way I feel I need to sit back and relax a bit more and take some time out for myself, instead of my usual rushing around.

So for now I have decided to take a break from my blog for a few months (as it does take me quite a lot of time planning and writing it each week).

I really hope you don’t mind me making this decision, but hopefully it won’t be for too long.

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A quick update before I go:

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My kitchen garden continues to do well and I am harvesting fruit and vegetables every day in small amounts:

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This week I have taken up my onions and I have had a great crop….I am very pleased with them:

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My outdoor and indoor cucumbers are doing well too and we are picking them daily:

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My beetroot, kohl rabis and cabbages are just about ready to pick:

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And so too is my one and only butternut squash that I grew in a pot this year:

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And I am picking raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes and runner beans almost daily:

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The flowers are doing well around the garden as well, which is great for beneficial insects that pollinate the crops…… it also looks very pretty and I’m hoping to spend more time enjoying it all:

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And Finally…..Judy:

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Lots of you ask about Judy our rescue dog.  In October 2014 we brought her home from the RSPCA – we were fourth owners and she had a hugh amount of problems that became apparent two or three weeks later.  The poor dog was scared of everything, but unfortunately it all came out as barking and lunging.

She reacted to traffic, men, bikes, birds, prams, the TV, men in hats, walking sticks, litter pickers, any little noise in the house etc. etc. but the worst thing of all was her reaction to other dogs….which caused many dog owners to shout and yell at me when their dogs approached Judy (even though she was on a lead and muzzled).

The two photos below were taken on her first week home with us in Oct 2014:

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As you know we tried everything, kalm aid in her food, pheromone deffusers and collars and even doggie ‘prozac’ from the vets and nothing worked….until we found Steven Havers.

Steven trained me to deal with all of Judy’s insecurities and we will forever be in his debt as Judy has now turned into a wonderful dog, who we all love very much.

She hasn’t worn a muzzle for over a year now and over the last few months Judy has made lots of doggie friends and calmly socilises with them, sometimes in groups of ten or more dogs at a time.  She is now off-lead on the field in the park and nearly always comes back to me when I recall her……I am so proud of her and other dog walkers comment on how well she is doing nearly every day.

I am so glad we perservered and didn’t give up on her.

Judy now

Judy now

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Well that really is it for the moment.

In the meantime I want to say a big thank you for your continued support over the last four years and I really hope you understand my reasons for taking a break.

Thank you for reading my blog today…….I hope to be back in a few months time.

Look after yourselves and enjoy the rest of the summer.

XXX

Tomato Blight & A Cake Sale

My small garden is continuing to produce crops.

This week I have been picking cucumbers (both indoor and outdoor ones), raspberries, runner beans courgettes, patty pans and I dug up the rest of my early potatoes (marfona) and a few of my main crop potatoes (desiree):

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I also picked my first kohl rabi of the season – which my daughters love to eat raw, dipped in salad cream, hopefully there will be more soon:

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I have also continued to pick tomatoes from my greenhouse and chery tomatoes from my outdoor hanging baskets:

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However, I spotted the dreaded ‘blight’ on my outdoor tomatoes.  I grow a variety called ‘outdoor girl’ which usually give me a good crop each year before blight strikes, however this year they didn’t grow as quickly as usual due to a colder start in late Spring and so all the tomatoes were still green.

Tomato blight:

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“Tomato blight is caused by the same fungus as potato blight.  It is called ‘Phytophthora infestans’, but it is more commonly known as ‘late blight’.  It is a windblown fungus that can travel long distances.  It spreads when the temperature is above 10C and the humidity is above 75% for two consecutive days, known as a ‘Smith Period’.   In the UK outbreaks can occur from June onwards and apparently it is usually seen in the south west first.

The disease is common on outdoor tomatoes – tomatoes grown in a polytunnel or greenhouse have a bit of protection from it, as the spores have to enter through doors and vents.

The early stages of blight can be easily missed and not all plants are affected at the same time, however it will spread rapidly”

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For some strange reason, the tomatoes next to my shed and my cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets haven’t yet succumbed to the dreaded blight, though I am checking them daily, together with my greenhouse tomatoes:

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However the cherry tomatoes that are growing in pots, began to show blight symptoms a couple of days after blight was first spotted in my garden:

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What to do if you spot blight on your plants:

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“If you catch blight early you can strip the tomatoes from the plant and ripen them on a windowsill.  Be careful to check them every day as some of them may already be affected.

If you have caught it really early, you can use the green tomatoes to make chutney, as provided they haven’t turned brown, the tomatoes are safe to eat.

Take up your blighted tomato plants straight away and dispose of them, so you don’t help to spread the spores to your neighbour’s plots.

 According to ‘Garden Organic’ the stems and leaves of affected plants can be added to your compost heap, as the spores won’t survive on dead plant material, but do not compost any blighted fruit (the tomatoes) as the spores survive in the seeds inside”

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My tomatoes are now on trays waiting to ripen….I always pick them off the plants when I first spot blight and this way I manage to save approx 75% of the tomatoes…provided blight is spotted early enough:

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I’ve been busy in the garden this week, summer pruning and cutting back overgrown plants.

I started with the pyracantha that was trying to escape over the fence into next doors garden.  The trunk was quite thick at the top so I had to ‘saw’ the top off.  Unfortunately I did lose most of the berries that would have ripened in autumn, but it needed to be done before it upset the neighbours:

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I then removed the sweet peas that were growing in a pot…they have given a wonderful display, but they sadly succumbed to mildew and were hardly producing any more flowers:

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 I also removed the sweet peas that were growing over the arch I made, again they gave a wonderful display but they also succumbed to mildew and had stopped producing flowers.

At the end of May I had also planted two pumpkin plants (that produce small pumpkins) alongside the sweet peas……these are growing nicely now and I made sure they tied onto the arch for support:

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I also gave my bay tree a summer prune and it smelt lovely as I was cutting the leaves.  It looks much neater now:

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One final job this week was to remove the lettuces that I tried to grow in guttering.  Unfortunately they didn’t do very well at all.  When I first planted them it was very wet and as they were so close to the fence…. I thought that they would stay really dry, however this was not the case and they were too wet and I suspect the roots began to rot.  This was followed by really hot weather and  the compost was really really dry even though I watered them every day.

So I removed the compost and drilled drainage holes along the guttering so the new compost wouldn’t become water logged in bad weather:

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I then thought about how I could keep the compost from drying out too much and came to the conclusion I should use water retaining granules…but I didn’t have any.  Then I remembered that in a gardening program once, Christine Walkden said she used old sponges that she cut up…..so this is what I did:

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I then mixed the sponge with compost and put it in the guttering……

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…..and then I sowed some more lettuce seed.

Unfortunately the local squirrel came along then and buried some monkey nuts in a couple of places, so I had to put some wire over the guttering too:

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I will let you know if this now works.

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This week in the home:

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This week has been a baking week.  My youngest daughter did a cake sale with her ‘NCS’ friends to raise money for ‘Wishes 4 kids’ and my eldest daughter and I helped by making some little cakes for her.  I also made a chcolate cake to raffle off and altogether they raised £120, which is incredible.

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However an hour after starting the sale they were beginning to run out of cakes and I quickly made some more.  I made 28 chocolate chip fairy cakes, 12 double chocolate muffins and a massive tray of cereal cakes and I defrosted some cheesy courgette scones from my freezer (which defrost quickly).  I somehow managed to deliver them all in the car within 65 minutes…..I didn’t know I could bake that quickly, but it helped that I knew the recipes off by heart.  Unfortunately when I got back home the kitchen was in a right mess with pots and bowls everywhere, but at least they raised some more money at the cake sale.

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This week I have also been doing my usual baking…

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And I also made some cheesy courgette scones which I froze for another time (though most of them went to the cake sale in the end):

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I also made some laundry liquid as I had run out (I still love making this as it is so cheap and I really can’t understand why I brought expensive powders for so long when laundry liquid is so cheap and easy to make):

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And finally I made some homemade burgers to freeze for another time and some to have for tea.  Homemade burgers are delicious as they actually taste of beef (I never think shop brought ones do).

They are so easy to make……I mix good quality lean mince beef with a couple of grated onions and a chopped garlic clove and I then mix in an egg to bind it altogether.

You can mix in any herbs and spices too if you want….a teaspoon of chilli powder makes them taste delicious too.

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I then take a handful and roll it into a ball and then flatten it into a burger shape (make sure your burgers aren’t too thick or they won’t cook evenly).  At this stage you can freeze the burgers between pieces of greaseproof paper for another time, or you can fry them until they are cooked.

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I served ours inside homemade rolls with salad, mayonaise and a slice of cheese.  I also added a side portion of sweet potato wedges and they were a real treat!

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back next week as usual.

Have a great week.

XXX

A Summer Harvest & A Cheap Makeover

It’s nice to be back blogging after two weeks of decorating.  Unfortunately I started painting on the hottest week of the summer and I have got to say I struggled with the heat.   I wasn’t the only one to struggle with the heat, poor Judy didn’t know what to do with herself and most of the time she sat in front of a fan we constantly had on:

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Though we have had some cloudy days since, the ground was still dry and the rain we had on Tuesday this week was very welcome….though not enough to fill my water butts.

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In my garden over the last two weeks:

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I finished picking the last broad beans in my garden and the last peas and mangetout (though I let the mangetout grow a little bit too big, but I won’t waste them)…..

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….And I froze most of them to use another time:

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I chopped the old broad beans down to ground level, leaving the roots in the ground to rot down.  The nodules on the roots will provide the ground with extra nitrogen as they rot, which will benefit future crops:

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I then added some blood, fish and bone and gave the area a really, really good water and then added some home made compost to the area:

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Incidentally, I now make the compost in galvanised dustbins as I am very conscious that the compost I used to make at the allotment always seemed to attract rats (even though I was very very careful what I put onto the heap).  The galvanised dustbins don’t have any holes in the base and yet they still make wonderful compost as you can see below:

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I then sowed some more french bean seeds as I use a lot of these during the year and they are great to freeze.  I decided to put the seeds under bottles in the hope that they germinate pretty quickly as I am really a bit late sowing them – however, if we have a good Autumn with late frosts then I should get a good harvest.  The bottles will also give them some slug protection too.

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The french beans I sowed earlier in the year are giving me a harvest now and I am picking them often:

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And my runner bean harvest is just beginning:

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 I absolutely love this time of year when the flowers I have grown from seed are all in bloom….

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…..and my vegetable plants that I have also grown from seed are producing lovely fruits and vegetables daily e.g. my greenhouse cucumbers, greenhouse tomatoes, oudoor cherry tomatoes, courgettes and patty pans:

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I have also picked a few raspberries this week too:

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And the chives that I cut back after they flowered have once again grown and we are now picking them yet again for salads, together with nasturtium leaves and the pretty petals on the calendula flowers:

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“When I am in the garden amongst the fruit and vegetables that I am growing, I feel very privaledged to share this area with the wildlife that visit our small backgarden. 

Each day there is something new for me to see and I still feel excited when I spot something that will soon be ready to harvest……Nothing else gives me as much satifaction than growing and cooking with home grown produce”

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….This week I noticed that my blueberries are nearly ready and I also spotted some outdoor cucumbers growing:

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Extra jobs this week in the garden:

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I have continued dead heading every few days around the garden so the plants produce more flowers.

I have also removed some of the lower leaves on my tomato plants this week, so the tomatoes can now ripen better in the sun:

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And I also ‘summer’ pruned my apple and pear cordons. My trees are quite young so I’m not expecting any fruit for a while:

  Summer pruning of apple and pear cordons / fans and espallier trees,  restricts growth, whilst winter pruning encourages growth”

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A problem with my Busy Lizzies…

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I’m not sure if you remember, at the beginning of June I planted some Busy Lizzies around my bay tree.  To begin with they flowered well but the last few weeks I have noticed the leaves all began to fall off  the plants:

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After doing some research it seems they have suffered with an airbourne fungus that you can read about here.  So I destroyed all the plants and nipped to my local nursery and found they were selling off trays of twenty four bedding begonias for just £3….a fantastic bargain!

So I planted these around my bay tree and even had spares to dot around the garden too…..so I was very pleased:

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Over the last two weeks at home:

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About a month ago at a car boot sale I spotted some curtains with nice material to use around the house, so I brought them for £2.  It wasn’t until I got home that I discovered they were Marks and Spencer, fully lined and ‘weighted’ curtains (dated 1995) with a pelmet included and they were in excellent condition…. they weren’t even faded……they must have been really expensive when they were first purchased!

I quickly measured the curtains and found they would fit perfectly in our bedroom around our bay.  The curtains we already had were very cheap and they had been in the bedroom for fifteen years already and didn’t really fit properly.

So this is when we decided the bedroom needed a new lick of paint…..which I did on the hottest week of the year so far this summer!

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I attached a new curtain rail in front of the exisiting rail to hang the pelment up too.  But I then found the pelmet was too long so I set about altering it:

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With the bits of spare material, I made a matching pair of tiebacks…..and I am really proud of how it all looked in the end (it may not be everybodies cup of tea, but we like them):

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Our furniture in the bedroom is really old and nothing matches, but we will have to wait and save up for new furniture another day.  However we decided to make the best of what we do have:

I store al ot in our bedroom e.g. birthday and christmas presents, toilet rolls, photo,s etc. and so up until now we have used ugly plastic boxes and our daughters old toy box…..so I set to work to glam them up:

First I painted the toy box white and used an old wall paper off -cut to paste around the sides:

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And then I again used wall paper off-cuts to line the inside of the plastic boxes so the contents can’t be seen:

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And I was really pleased with the results.

The bedroom isn’t quite complete, but I’ll tell you about it next week.

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Finally (while my paints were still out),  I painted an old bedside table to finish off my daughter’s bedroom that I decorated last October.  I sanded it down and gave it three coats of paint and painted the ‘knobs’ black (using a tester pot) to match the furniture we brought for her last year for birthday/christmas.

Mr Thrift laughed at me as I used potatoes to paint the knobs so they were easy to handle and could dry without touching anything:

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I was very pleased with the result (the photo on the right is the chest of draws we brought last year and the photo on the left is the newly painted bedside cabinet):

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I must say, her bedroom looks like a showhouse bedroom now and I can’t quite believe I managed to do it so cheaply by decorating it myself, making the curtains and cushions and now by ‘up-cycling’ the bedside cabinet!….I’m very pleased and she loves it:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week!

XXXX

Nature Is Wonderful….

This week has been another week of sunshine and showers.  It has also been quite windy at times and I have had to tie up some of my peas and sweetpeas, as the wind blew them away from their supports…..though no harm was done as you can see in the photograph below:

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I think nature has a way of dealing with all situations and the sunshine and showers are certainly helping my plants grow.  Rain is full of nitrogen so the garden is now looking lush and green.

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The sunshine and showers also produced the most spectacular rainbow in the sky (though my camera doesn’t really show the pure beauty of it as well as I would have liked).

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 Nature really is wonderful, but it is all too easy to take it for granted….I firmly believe that global warming is happening – every gardener has already seen the changes in the seasons – but it is so easy for us all to ignore and pretend it isn’t happening…..I know a lot of people think that it is a problem that just the goverment should be dealing with and yes I do think they should be doing more… however if we all did our own little bit e.g use our cars less, buy less ‘stuff’, recycle where possible, eat less meat, be mindful about using electricity, etc. then maybe it would make a difference.

I realise people won’t agree with me and I know how hard it is when you have children / teenagers in the house wanting ‘this’ and ‘that’, but every little bit we do (even the smallest things) will all add up.

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This week in the garden:

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This week I finally got around to using the extra comfrey feed that I made last year.  I never got around to using it as I still had some left over from the first batch that I had made last summer.

I really expected it to stink as it had been there since last year, but amzingly it wasn’t too bad:

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I strained it through and old rag and I managed to get three bottles of comfrey feed to use on my fruit and flowers around the garden, as it is so high in potash.  It is particularly brilliant for tomatoes.

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As my comfrey is still growing well, I started another bucket of comfrey tea off.  It only takes a couple of weeks to make, though I do tend to leave it stewing until it is needed:

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“To make comfrey tea all you have to do is fill a bucket with the comfrey leaves and stems and weigh it down with a brick and pour over cold water.  I cover it (to stop flies getting in) and leave for approx. two weeks. Be warned, by this time the smell is revolting!  Strain the comfrey tea liquid into another container and put the remaining comfrey in your compost bin.

To use it I put 2 cups of comfrey tea into a watering can and then fill it with water and give it a good mix”

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This week I noticed that my runner beans were flowering and they look very pretty.  However, I also noticed that they had climbed to the top of their supports, so I chopped the top of each plant off:

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By nipping off the top of each plant, they will become bushier and produce more beans lower down.

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Now that I had harvested my last spring cabbage, I decided to plant my curly kale seedlings….but first I decided to give the area a quick weed and remove the yellow leaves from the cabbages under the same net.  The yellowing leaves can harbor pests and diseases so it is always a good idea to remove them every so often:

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Incidentally the cabbages are growing well this year, probably to do with all the rain we have had:

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After this I raked in some blood, fish and bone and then planted three curly kale plants that I had grown from seed.  Hopefully if the plants grow ok then three plants will be enough for us over winter:

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I also tied up my jeruselum artichokes as one of them had fallen down……they are planted in a bottemless deep pot, to stop them from spreading and it seems to be working:

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Another job I finally got around to doing was to ‘prick out’ my wallflowers that I sowed a few weeks ago (they really should have been done by now).

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If you look really closely at the photo on the right, you will see tiny holes on the leaves…..these holes are made by the flea beetle….

“The adult flea beetle eats the leaves of most brassica’s (including wallflowers) and their larvae will eat the plant roots.

Bad infestations can kill the plants, however this is unusual.  I have found that seedlings are more suseptable to flea beatles, so if my plants come under attack I feed them regularly with a seaweed fertliser until they grow bigger and stronger.

In my experience the flea beetle will set back your seedlings, but it is very rare they don’t recover with a bit of care”

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I also transplanted the fox gloves I sowed a month or two ago, into bigger pots to grow on:

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  Foxgloves (digitalis) and wall flowers are both biennial plants, which simply means they grow one year and flower the next and then die.  When my plants are big enough in autumn I will plant them in the ground where they will hopefully give me a good display next year.

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Another job I did this week was to repair a bare spot on my lawn.  I raked over the area and then spread some grass seed that I had already mixed with compost.  I then covered it with my heavy plastic propagator lid to protect it from Judy (our dog) and I have made sure it has been well watered.

Hopefully the grass will grow well:

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I have also continued to tie up my outdoor tomato plants:

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And I have continued to dead head all the old flowers around my garden, so they produce lots more new flowers:

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This weeks harvest:

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The strawberries are doing well considering it is their first year (I ignore the books and don’t remove the flowers the first year and I have always had good crops).  I have had two harvests this week:

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The courgettes have finally decided to grow and I have picked two from my two plants this week:

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And I am still picking broad beans from the plants I sowed in January:

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I noticed that some of the pods were suffering from ‘Chocolate spot’, but the beans were fine inside:

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“Chocolate spot is a fungus that only affects broadbeans.  It leaves red-brown spots on the plants and the pods.  It usually affects plants in damp humid conditions, so if you have space you could put your plants further apart so air can circulate around.

In my experience chocolate spot rarely affects the beans inside the pods, so I actually ignore it and don’t do anything except give the plants a liquid seaweed feed to help them along”

I froze my broad beans to use over the winter when there isn’t too much around.  I always blanch them and then open freeze them on a tray until they are frozen….then I put them into a freezer bag:

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I have also been harvesting my peas.  I have been picking my dwarf peas and my climbing tall peas (which are an old fashioned variety called ‘peashooter’).  All my peas have done well this year and there are lots more still growing:

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It always amazes me that a whole basket of pea pods produce so few peas….but the peas are so sweet and delicious I can’t help growing them each year!

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My eldest daughter and Mr Thrift helped me to pick the pods this year and remove the peas…….I so love my family helping as it is a time we also chat about ‘this and that’ and laugh together.  I hope my daughters remember these time fondly when they are older.

I froze the peas in the same way I froze the broad beans….but I bet the peas won’t last until winter as we all love them!

Frozen broadbeans & peas

Frozen broadbeans & peas

I didn’t want to waste the pea pods so I made a ‘pea pod soup’, which my daughter loves.  You can find the recipe here

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I used rapeseed oil this time instead of olive oil, which made a darker soup…..it tasted the same but didn’t look quite so appertising so I will use olive oil again next time:

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This week I have noticed:

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This week i have noticed my first raspberry on my ‘autumn’ raspberries (not sure why this one decided to grow early):

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My first mangetout are ready to pick (my youngest daughter has already spotted this and has been picking and eating them raw this week):

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My ‘mini’ pumpkin plants are covering the ground around my sweetcorn well – this keeps weeds down and the moisture won’t evapourate as quick if we get any more hot days:

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The dahlia tubers that I grew from seed last year and then overwintered in our brick outhouse, are starting to flower:

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And finally this week, I have noticed that the garden has lots of different types of bees and hoverflies visiting and this week I have spotted two different little frogs:

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This is a wonderful site to me as it shows me that my organic gardening methods are working and the beneficial insects are now coming to my garden, helping my garden to become more and more productive by polinating my crops and eating the pests, such as slugs and snails etc.

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Thank you for reading my blog this week.

I will be decorating our bedroom over the next week or two, so I have decided to take a two week break from my blog….I hope you don’t mind.

However I will be back on the 5th August as usual.

Have a great weekend.

XXX

Four Years Old This Week!

Four years ago this week I wrote my first blog post.  I wasn’t really sure if anyone would want to read it, but amazingly people did and now I average approx. 2500 views per week (which isn’t massive figures compared to some of the ‘big’ bloggers out there-but I still find it incredible).

From the beginning I wanted my blog to be a mixture of simple living, vegetable growing, money saving and old fashioned cleaning with a modern day twist.  But overall I wanted  the blog to be helpful and easy to understand, as I had to learn the hard way from endless book reading and lots of ‘trial and error’…. I wanted people to be able to learn these skills easily.  I hope I have acheived this.

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When I started blogging my daughters were 12 and 14 years old and now they are young adults at 16 and 18 years old.  I am so glad I wrote about our birthdays, christmases and special events, as I now have reminders of these wonderful celebrations on my blog (and smaller details in life are so easily forgotten if they aren’t written down).

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Many people over the four years have commented on my blog and the comments are the one thing that spurs me on to carry on writing….it is so lovely to hear from you each week.  In fact I was only planning to write for one year in the beginning and because of your wonderful comments it spurred me on to continue writing.

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There have also been some sad times and low periods over the last four years that I never expected to write about when I first started my blog in 2012….

…….One of my oldest friends passed away three years ago after a long battle with cancer and my father in law passed away after a long illness two years ago…..your comments were beautiful on both occaisions and I will never forget the kind words you all left for me and my family.

There was also a low period when my dad gave up ‘his patch’ at my allotment as it was getting too much for him……

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And the awful time I had to make the aganising decision to give up my lovely four allotments…….

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And not to forget Judy our highly ‘reactive’ rescue dog (the main reason for giving my allotments up).  I didn’t know how much she would change our life as she was so scared of everything (incl. dogs) when she came to us in October 2014.  Unfortunately it all came out as barking and lunging and I had many people shout at me while I was walking with her…..but it wasn’t her fault, she just needed time and love….and lots of training……and thanks to Havers Dog Behaviour Judy is so much better than she was and you can see in her ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs below that she looks a lot less timid and scared and whole lot more healthy and confident.

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Each week during these low moments, your kind words kept me going….thank you!

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However, there has also been many, many happy things I have written about too, such as family events….

Halloween parties……

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Fund raising for charities…..

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And being one of the runners up in the ‘Grow it’ magazine allotment competition….

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And featuring in the Kitchen Garden magazine….

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As you know I love to bake using my allotment / kitchen produce and I hope you enjoyed reading my recipes, such as my lavender cakes, courgette tray bake, beetroot cake and also my cheesy courgette scones …..

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….we have enjoyed eating them!  Together with all the jams and pickles I have made over the years:

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One enormous change to our life was when we knocked the wall between our kitchen and back room down, to make our kitchen diner…..it has made such a difference to our house and it is a room where we all spend many hours together.  Though I am still amazed we managed to live without a kitchen for six weeks and ate meals using our microwave, slow cooker and a ‘one pan’ camping stove…it definately took some organising, but it was worth it.

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Finally, my biggest passion in life is growing vegetables in an organic garden with LOTS of flowers to attract beneficial insects.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading about the many ‘highs’ (and ‘lows’) that I have experienced in my allotment and my new kitchen garden…..

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….And the produce that I have managed to harvest over the years…..

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I feel truely blessed to have enjoyed many moments that I have written about over the last four years and I am so glad that people seem to enjoy sharing these moments with me.

Thank you for your continued support!

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 I will be back next week as usual.

Have a great week!

XXX

A Cheap Pair Of Curtains & A Harvest

Yet again it has been wet and miserable this week……the slugs are having a party in my kitchen garden!

But as I write my blog today the sun is shining beautifully, so I have taken advantage of this and hung out two loads of washing.  My daughters think I am mad when I sit watching my washing blowing in the wind …… watching it always makes me feel so ‘grounded’ as though life is somehow ok when my washing is out ….. daft I know.

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The last lot of laundry liquid that I made seems to have lasted me ages, but soon I will have to make some more.

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As it’s been wet this week I spent a bit of time in my greenhouse tying up my tomatoes and removing any side shoots.

I also nipped off the tops of my plants as they have all reached the roof of my greenhouse.  I then removed a few of their lower leaves so the air could circulate and the sun can get to the tomatoes to ripen them.

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I also tied my cucumbers to new string supports that I tied to my roof….hopefully they will grow along the string and produce even more cucumbers (you can just about see the string and cucumbers growing in the left corner in the photo below):

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I then put two plastic bottles that I had cut in half, into the compost next to the cucumber plants.  Cucumbers easily die when the compost around the stem is too wet (stem rot) and as it has been damp in the greenhouse (as we haven’t had much sun) I have been concerned that my cucumbers would sucumb to this.  When I now water, the water bottles allow the water to drain to the roots of the plants instead of sitting on the surface of the compost:

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I also continued to tie up the melon plants I have been growing in the greenhouse as well:

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So the greenhouse looks a lot neater now and I am so looking forward to the first tomatoes ripening.

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This weeks harvest:

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I started the week by picking my last spring cabbage.  The cabbage looked lovely on the outside but there was a fair bit of slug damage inside, however we had a meal from it and I managed to make some coleslaw with the remainder so it wasn’t that bad:

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I will be planting my curly kale next week in the space that is left in my brassica bed.

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This week the strawberries have been ripening well and they taste so lovely:

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 Most of the strawberries didn’t last more than five minutes before we all ate them.  However a few did make it into strawberry and chocolate pancakes that my daughters made….

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I have also been picking broadbeans (a variety called aquadulce) that I sowed in January:

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Normally I ‘pinch off’ the top three or four inches off each plant as soon as the beans start to form, as usually this is when I always see blackfly on the plants (blackfly love the soft growth at the top).  This year I left the plants as there really was no sign of blackfly and still there is no sign and the plants look so healthy….this is very unusual:

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My courgette plant has produced one more courgette……hopefully if the weather warms up I will get more.  However the courgette was quickly used in an omelette with the broadbeans and it was really tasty:

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The other squashes in my garden (patty pans and pumpkins) are also sulking in the wet weather too, however the butternut squash that I planted in a big pot is doing great and I have one butternut squash that is growing bigger each day:

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I also pulled up a few small onions this week to use as spring onions.  When I planted my onions out I spaced them very closely so I could pull them up and eat the thinnings, while the remainder could continue to grow to full size:

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And this week the first gooseberries were ready to pick.  I laughed at my eldest daughter when she ate one, as she said they were so sour……..she used to eat gooseberries like sweets and obviously her taste has changed as she has got older…..this happened to me as I grew older too.

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As it’s the beginning of July now, I decided to pull a few more stalks of rhubarb up.  I won’t pull any more stalks up this year now, so the plants can build their energy up again ready for next year:

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And finally this week in the garden I noticed my second early potatoes were starting to flower, so I decided to have a root around to see what I could find and I found these:

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These are a variety called ‘Marfona’ and my goodness they were delicious….but we always love the first potatoes of the year in our house!

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So all in all it was a good week for harvesting produce from my kitchen garden and homegrown fruit and vegetables always taste better than shop bought fruit and vegetables.

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This week in the home:

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I don’t know if you remember, but back in August / September last year my dad was throwing out two garden chairs and I asked him if I could have them as there wasn’t much wrong with them.

  I decided to go to a car boot sale to look for some cheap curtain material to cover the seat pads as they had marks on them.  I found some curtains for £3 which I was very pleased with:

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For one reason or another I didn’t get around to re-covering the seat pads and at Christmas I even used one of the curtains to cover a plastic box, so I could stand the Christmas tree on it:

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This week I finally decided to get the material out again and I realised that the curtains would actually fit across the bay window in our front room and the colour also matched the room too (though the curtains were far too long so they would need altering).  I have been looking for a pair of cheap curtains for this room since ever since I decorated it last summer, as our existing curtains were fifteen years old and VERY faded in places.

At the bottom of the ‘car boot’ curtains was some white paint, which is why they sold them so cheaply.  So I decided to get my sewing machine out and have a go at altering them.  The curtains were lined so I had to unpick the linning first and alter this as well as the curtain material:

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I have got to be honested, I didn’t really know what I was doing and I made it up as I went along….but it worked!

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I also made a couple of tie backs with the material that I had cut off (making sure I didn’t use the bit that had paint on) and I’m really pleased with these too:

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So for £4.55 (£3 for the curtains and £1.55 for the thread) we now have a nearly new pair of good quality, lined curtains that will hopefully last quite a few years and I did this with just a few basic sewing skill.

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So nearly everything in the room is second hand – the TV, the TV cabinet, the nest of tables, the lamps, the pictures, the cabinet, the settee and now the curtains.  It just goes to show that you don’t have to spend lots of money to furnish a room nicely.  Our room my not be everyones cup of tea, but it’s homely and we love it ……though we are still saving up for a new carpet to finish the room off!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week!

XX

A Kitchen Tidy & This week In The Garden….

This week my sweetpeas are flowering beautifully around my arch and they smell gorgeous when I brush past them.

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The bees are regular visitors now to the flowers in the garden and I am really pleased with this.  Unfortunately my Jack Russell is an excellent ‘bee catcher’ and I have to watch her like a hawk as she actually manages to catch them in her mouth and chews them before spitting them out….I really don’t know why she doesn’t get stung!

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The bees have been enjoying the flowers on my chives, but as the flowers are now going over I decided this week to remove them so they don’t self seed everywhere.

By chopping the chives to an inch off the ground, the chives will regrow and give me another crop later on in the summer:

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My comfrey has been growing very well this year and the bees have also been been loving these flowers too.  Unfortunately the comfrey has started to lean all over my runnerbeans and so I decided to cut some of it down, but I have still left some of it at the back:

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Comfrey can be used to make a comfrey tea to feed fruit and flowers, or it can be chopped up and put on the compost heap to act as a compost activator, however this time I chose to place it around my potatoes as a mulch.  The comfrey will break down and I will dig it into the soil when I have harvested my potatoes:

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This week I have been planting lettuces again.  Unfortunately I lost a few lettuces to slugs in our recent wet weather, so I filled the gaps with new ones:

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I then decided to use an old bit of guttering along our fence to grow lettuces in, so I bought some clips and attached it to the fence.  I am not sure how they will grow, but if they grow well then I will be very pleased….I will let you know.

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I have also continued to tie up my outdoor tomatoes and remove any side shoots:

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  And I have started to tie up my outdoor cucumbers (burpless tasty green).  These cucumbers are already doing better than last year:

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My courgettes and patty pans are also doing better than last year too:

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And I have noticed I have my first butternut squash growing too.  I am growing the plant in a large pot this year and tying it up my washing line post as it grows.  This is a trial so I am keeping my fingers crossed it works:

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In my greenhouse the slugs have unfortunately destroyed two of my basil plants and I caught the culprit still eating them!  Luckily I still had a couple of plants left over so I could replace them:

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 However my moat with my radish in is working well…..I found a dead snail in the water and my radish is untouched!

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My strawberries are growing well and I’m picking a few every day:

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And I am also picking my broadbeans as well now:

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So overall it’s been a good week in the garden.

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This week in the house:

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This week I have continued sorting my kitchen cupboards as I never completed this job previously.  I washed all the food containers and boxes and replaced the contents neatly:

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I also sorted all my storage boxes in my pantry too, so I now know where everything is and I feel more organised:

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I also decided to give some of my recipe books to our local charity shop as I never use them…..I feel much better for doing this and my cupboard looks better for it too:

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Now my eldest daughter has finished her A-levels and my youngest daughter had just one exam left (which she took today), I decided to reclaim my kitchen.  My girls tidied away their workbooks and revision guides and I spent the week giving everything a really good clean.

The kitchen has been great for my daughters to work and revise in and I have tried very hard not to nag them to clear away their books over the last few weeks……. but now it feels good to have a clean and tidy kitchen and some order in our lives again:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday as usual.  Have a great weekend.

XXX

Radish In Guttering & Sweet Potato Wedges Recipe

Last week the weather was so hot and my soil was bone dry.  The greenhouse reached temperatures of 45 degrees celcius and I had to quickly put up some greenhouse shading….this week it has rained nearly everyday and there has been floods in the County…what a difference in just one week!

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Up until the last few years June was always sunny and warm, but in recent years we have had record rainfalls recorded in June and July…..is this climate change or just the seasons changing?

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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This week in the garden I picked our first strawberry of the year….and it was delicious (though I did have to share it with my daughters):

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I also picked our first courgette this morning….we always get excited when I pick the first courgette of the year (even though we know that soon we will be groaning when they are coming thick and fast in a few weeks time).

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I have one last spring cabbage to pick and eat this week….the cabbages have been in the ground since last year so I always find it quite sad when I pick the last one, however next week I will be planting my curly kale in this area:

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Also I will now start to use some of the onions that I am growing….I planted them close together so I could use some of them as spring onions.  The onions that I leave will then develop into full sized onions:

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The rest of the garden is growing well and my broad beans are nearly ready to pick as well:

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My dwarf pea plants are ladened with pea pods ready to fatten up…

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And I have currants, gooseberries, blueberries  and a few plums growing (I can’t wait to taste these when they are ready)…..

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My cherry tomatoes are flowering well in my hanging baskets….so hopefully I will soon have some tiny tomatoes growing.  As soon as I see mini tomatoes growing on my plants I start to feed them once a week with a high potash feed (e.g comfrey which is perfect for tomatoes):

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I have my first flower on one of my potato plants, however I didn’t get around to earthing my potatoes up this year and I think it is too late now as I can hardly see the soil around them.  It will be interesting to see how much my yield is affected….my old friend at my old allotment site never earthed her potatoes up and she said it never affected her yield….we will see.

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The greenhouse is doing well too.  I have cucumbers and tomatoes growing and I spotted my first peppers growing too this week:

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Over the last week in the garden I planted my sweetcorn and pumpkins.  I sowed the sweetcorn in April in newspaper pots and they have grown well, though I am a little late planting them out.  In the space where I needed to plant my sweetcorn was my ‘lollo rossa’ lettuce, which has been providing us with an outstanding amount of cut and come again salad leaves this year and I just couldn’t bring myself to pull them up until now.

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I planted the sweetcorn and then I planted three pumpkin plants in between them.  The pumpkins will hopefully produce small, palm sized fruit that I can roast, but as I have never grown this variety before I am not sure how big the foliage will grow….so it’s a bit of a trial:

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I have also planted some leeks this week, but unfortunately I did have to buy them from my local nursery as I had somehow missed watering mine when the weather was really hot and managed to kill my lovely seedlings – which I was gutted about!…but at least it proves I’m human.

As normal I trimmed the roots to make them easier to plant and then pushed each leek seedling into a four inch deep hole made with my dibber and then I just watered the hole….don’t worry if you can still see the roots as the soil will fill around the leeks as they grow helping to blanch the stems:

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I then covered them with environmesh as last year I lost a lot of leeks to the allium leaf miner:

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Two weeks ago I sowed some more radish.  I decided to have a go at planting them in a piece of guttering as I have read this works well.  I didn’t want the slugs to eat them so I made a ‘moat’ around the guttering in the hope the slugs won’t swim (this was a tip I learnt at the ECO House Garden Forum a few years ago before the ECO house shut)….

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…..And this week the seeds have emerged and so far there has been no slug damage:

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I have also continued to sow coriander, for my windowsill,  spring onions and lettuce over the last couple of weeks and I have been surprised at how quickly they have germinated:

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And finally this week in the garden I have finished planting my remaining bedding plants (I couldn’t plant them before in this area as my wall flowers were still flowering):

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Hopefully they will grow well now and flower soon.

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This week in the home:

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This week I decided to give the basil on my windowsill a good haircut as it was getting too big.  I placed all the leaves in a paperbag and hung them in a warm place to dry.  In a few weeks I will pass the dried leaves through a seive to remove any stalks and put the dried leaves in a jar to use over the winter:

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This week I also started some elderflower champagne…. as there are plenty of elderflowers around on our local park.  I have never made it before and I chose to use a recipe they gave on ‘River Cottage Bites‘.  I won’t tell you how I made it yet as I want to make sure it works…..but it smells wonderful at the moment.

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Over the week I have also been making large batches of food to freeze.  I made pasta / pizza sauces and spaghetti bolognaises and a big pot of soup to freeze in portions:

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I have also been trying very hard to use the herbs that I have been growing….

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I have used them in meals such as omelettes etc. and sprinkled them over our roasted vegetables before I cook them.  I have also been chopping a bit of mint to sprinkle over our vegetables when I serve them.

  It is so nice to have fresh herbs to use, especially as the herbs I grew last year in a different place were a disaster due to our local squirrel population digging them up every five minutes at the end of my garden!

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This week I made some sweet potato wedges and they were really nice.  I made them in exactly the same way as I make normal potato wedges, except I only cooked them for 30 minutes on Gas 6 / 200C.

(The normal potato wedges recipe I used can be found here).

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I cooked the sweet potato wedges to accompany a homemade pizza, which I served with homemade coldslaw and salad.  My sister gave me the idea of making the base with half strong wholewheat flour and half strong white flour to make it a bit healthier and she was right as it turned out really, really nice.

I have written the recipe I used in my breadmaker below…..it makes two large pizza’s so I froze half of the dough for another time.

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Wholemeal Pizza Dough Recipe

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300mls water

2 tablespoons Olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

340g strong white flour

290g strong wholemeal flour (plus some for rolling out)

2 teaspoons yeast

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Put all the ingredients into your breadmaker and put it on a ‘pizza dough’ setting:

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Split the dough in half and put half in your freezer for another day:

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Roll out the dough and and place it in a greased pizza pan:

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Leave to rise for 30 mins in a warm place with a clean tea towel over it.

Spread a pizza sauce over the base.  You can find my pizza sauce recipe here (it’s the same recipe as pasta sauce).

Top the pizza sauce with whatever topping you choose and then mozzerella cheese, either grated or sliced.

Sprinkle with basil and organo to give it an italian pizza taste and cook for 14 minutes on gas mark 6 / 400F / 204C.

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Enjoy!!

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Well that’s it for today.

Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great weekend!

XXX

Why Flowers Are Great To Grow On Your Vegetable Plot…

It has felt like summer has finally arrived this week and it’s been too hot for me in the garden, though I am not complaining as my garden has loved the sunshine at last and so has Judy….

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What I have noticed at our local park this week:

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This year the park keepers have left some grass areas uncut at our local park and for the last few weeks I have seen different wildflowers growing.  These flowers may not be unusual, but on mass they have looked stunning.

It started with the dandelions which are a common perennial herb that are part of the sunflower family.  This is the weed we all tend to dread in our gardens as they spread so easily, but they have so many uses and they really are a fascinating plant:

“Dandelions prefer chalk and loamy soils above a pH of 7.0. It has been found in prehistoric deposits, and has been recorded up to 2,700 feet in Britain.

The flower opens in the morning and then closes in the evening and a flower head can produce up to 400 seeds, but the average is 180. A plant may have a total of 2,000 to 12,000 seeds and individual plants may survive for 10 to 13 years in undisturbed sites”

No wonder the average gardener doesn’t like them!

(Below is a brilliant photo that my daughter took):

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After the dandelions the buttercups emerged coating the field with pretty yellow flowers which are still there at the moment and look spectacular on the field backed by the bright white cow parsley.

I also noticed the buttercups at the side of a busy main road road last week as we were driving home….nature is so wonderful!  I wonder how many people in cars have driven past this display without even noticing.

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But this week it is the turn of the red clover flowers and the ox-eye daisy and the display is the most impressive of all to me:

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I’m not sure if the council are trying to save money by not mowing the grass in certain areas, or if the flowers were intentional….whatever the reason, the outcome is beautiful and there are insects buzzing all around!

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Flowers in my kitchen garden this week:

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Nature manages to put flowers in every little suitable spot it can.  Unfortunately, our allotments and kitchen gardens need most of the space to be taken up by fruit and vegetables, but by leaving a few nettles at the back of your plot and adding flowers in every suitable spot available (as nature does), we can attract many insects to out plots – which in turn will pollinate our crops and feed on the ‘nasty’ bugs that we don’t want AND look pretty:

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Four of the ‘good’ bugs attracted to flowers:

Bees – Flowers encourage bees, which in turn pollinate your crops.  They are active from late winter until autumn, so I try really hard to have plants in flower during all these months.

Lacewings – These are voracious predators as the larvae and adults feed on caterpillars, thrips, mealy bugs and aphids.  They are especially attracted by Cosmos flowers, coreopsis and sweet alyssum.

Soldier Beetles – Unfortunately these beetles do eat the good bugs as well as the bad, but they do help to control aphids and caterpillars.  They particularly like catnip and goldenrod.

Ladybirds (sometimes called Lady beetles or lady bugs) – Ladybirds love to eat aphids, scales, spider mites, mealy bugs, etc. which is why most people recognize these as a beneficial insect.  It’s their larvae that eat the most of the ‘bad’ insects and can get an infestation under control in no time.  Ladybirds are attracted to the parsley family i.e. parsley, dill, fennel, carrots etc.

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If you look closely in the photograph above you can see two bees on my comfrey flowers.  It was easy to take photo’s of the bees as there were so many buzzing around the plant….this also applies to the chive flowers which line my central path and lookgreat at the moment:

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For years I have grown Calendula as they look so pretty and self seed like mad so you only need to buy a packet of these seeds once….and the flowers are edible and the petals look fabulous scattered over a bowl of salad.  This week my first two flowers appeared:

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 I used to grow nasturtiums around my dalek compost bins at the allotment, as these help to surpress weeds nicely….they also provide great ground cover around longer growing vegetables like brussells, spring broccoli and kale.  They attract blackfly so I continue to plant them in my kitchen garden around my runnerbeans as sacrificial plants (so the blackfly stay away from my beans) and as a bonus, the nasturtium leaves taste ‘peppery’ and again they are nice in a salad.

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At my allotment I used to grow sweet peas near runnerbeans to attract beneficial insects to pollinate them, so I get more beans to pick.  This year in my much smaller kitchen garden I have planted the sweetpeas in eight different places to attract insects, to look pretty and to pick a few to bring into our house as they smell wonderful….they are just beginning to flower now:

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Previously at my allotment I lined my paths with lavender and poached egg plants, again to attract beneficial insects that love the flowers.  The poached egg plants surpress weeds by covering the ground and self seeds easily….any plants that I didn’t want to keep would be dug into the soil and act as a green manure…..I really must find a place for some of these flowers next year in my kitchen garden:

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Previously I also grew Sunflowers at the allotment as the birds loved to feed on the seed heads in autumn…again I will be looking to see if I can fit a dwarf variety in my garden somewhere next year too:

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This year I planted tagetes and marigolds near my tomatoes in my greenhouse and along my central path in my kitchen garden as these help to deter white flies.  Both of them are now beginning to flower:

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Years ago when I took on my first allotment I was told I grow too many flowers and plots were for fruit and vegetables.  I am really hoping that my blog inspires other people to grow a few flowers around their plots, as there are so many benefits for the organic grower.

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I’ll finish today with a few photo’s of flowers growing in my small kitchen garden at the moment.  However, I am hoping there will be plenty more still to come over the coming weeks:

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great weekend!

XX

My Kitchen Garden So Far This Year….

This week the weather hasn’t been good, but the plants in my garden have been loving the rain.

Other than tying my peas and tomatoes up and removing the odd sideshoots from my tomato plants, I haven’t really been able to do a lot in the garden.  I have also been trying hard not to do too much in the house this week, so I don’t disturb my two daughters as they are revising hard for GCSE / A-level exams.

So I thought it would be nice to give you a slide show of my kitchen garden, so you can see how it is doing at the moment.

For those who are reading my blog for the first time, I started my new kitchen garden in January 2015 after giving my four allotment plots up (due to family circumstances).  Previously my little garden was a mix of large shrubs and so I dug the whole lot up to start my new vegetable plot:

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You can see from the slideshow below that I have tried hard to fill every space possible in my kitchen garden and I am still growing plants from seed to replace any spaces that become available.  Also (as always) I have squeezed in as many flowers as possible to attract beneficial insects to my plot and I now  have four bug boxes to encourage them to stay in the winter.

I have tried to remember that our garden is a not an allotment, so I have also used flowers to make it as pretty as possible so my family enjoy being outside in the summer…..As well I made sure we have a small lawn for our dog to use, by removing a slabbed area in the garden last year.

In 2015 (my first year) I managed to grow far more than I expected in my small garden, however this year my garden is a lot more organised so I am hoping to grow even more…..though I can still see I have plenty of room for improvement…..but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I hope you enjoy the photo’s.

 I will be back next Friday as usual.  Have a great week.

XXX

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