Archive | May 2013

Photograph’s Of My Allotment

As it’s bank holiday Monday, I thought I would have a break from writing and show you some photographs of my allotment.  I took the photo’s yesterday, so it will show you how my fruit and vegetables look at the moment.

I hope you enjoy looking at them all and I would love to hear your comments.

I won’t be posting on Friday, as it’s half term and I like to spend the week with my family.

I will be back a week today ( Mon 3rd July ).

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Thank you for looking at my photo’s.

My Back Garden And My Allotment Too

I have finally taken some time this week to do some weeding in our back garden.  Unfortunately, I don’t spend as much time as I should in our back garden as i’m always at my allotment.  So the garden really has to look after itself.


We are very lucky as our house isn’t overlooked and there is a lovely view from my daughters bedroom window:


You can see from the photo above that the lilac tree is in full flower.  I love lilac trees, they remind me of the first house I owned, as it had one in the back garden too.

If you look closely at the photo below, you can see my ‘clematis montana’ climbing through the photinia ‘red robin’.  I planted the clematis about five years ago and I had forgotten all about it until I spotted it this week.

What a lovely surprise:



This week at my allotment I have been earthing up my potatoes.  I have twelve rows to do altogether and as I find it such hard work I earth up one row a day:



I planted some spring onions that I have grown in modules.  I always had a problem getting spring onion seed to germinate in my heavy clay soil, so now I grow them in modules filled with compost.  I put a small pinch of seed into each module and I don’t bother to thin the seedlings out, as the spring onions grow in a bunch.

When the spring onions are large enough, I transplant them:

Spring onions transplanted next to my garlic

Spring onions transplanted next to my garlic


This week I have planted my runner beans.  I sowed the seed at the beginning of May and I have been hardening the plants off.  As it is still quite cold for this time of year, I have put old panes of glass around them to give a bit of protection.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will remember I dug trenches in the autumn and filled them with all my old peelings, etc until they were full and then I covered them over with soil again.  My runnerbeans were planted exactly where the trenches were, so this soil will now hold the moisture and runner beans like to grow in moist soil.

The runnerbeans I planted this week

The runner beans I planted this week

A runnerbean trench

My runner beans trench in autumn


As my comfrey was coming into flower, I cut it all down and added it to my compost bins.

Comfrey is a fantastic compost activator and anything that speeds up compost making, is good to me.  What is even better is, it is free!  You can read about growing comfrey and making ‘comfrey tea’ here.  (Comfrey tea is a fabulous organic feed that is high in potash, which means it is good for fruits and flowers e.g. tomatoes)

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I also chopped some of my chives down this week.  My daughter used to love chives so I dedicated a whole bed to them….yes you have guessed it…she doesn’t like them now, a typical teenager!

I haven’t dug them up as we still use loads of them and the flowers are so pretty and the bees love them.

I have three rows altogether and I find if I chop them down after they have flowered, then they start to re-grow again.

As my three rows were about to flower, I decided to chop two rows down and leave the middle row for the bees.  I will chop this after the flowers have gone over, so I can stagger the crop.


Just before I did this, I managed to take a photo of the female blackbird that has been following me around for the last couple of months at my allotment.  She must have a nest nearby.  She comes so close to me sometimes that she makes me jump.  She doesn’t seem scared of me at all, which is unusual for a blackbird.

My blackbird friend

My blackbird friend


I repotted my mint a few weeks ago and I finally planted the pot back into the ground.  I find it is better to keep mint in a pot as it helps to stop the plant from taking over, as it does spread rather a lot.

I have two mints, a normal mint and an apple mint.  I also planted an oregano plant that my local garden centre was giving away free a few weeks ago:



I have given my strawberry patch a good weed this week.  These strawberries are three years old now, so I I have planted some new ones in a different place.  Strawberries usually only last three to four years, as their yields become less after this time due to a build up of pests and diseases.

My daughter loves strawberry jam, so I grow loads.

They are flowering well now.  I will shortly buy a bale of straw and put it all around the fruit.  The straw acts as a mulch, so the fruit isn’t sitting on cold wet soil and it also helps to keep the weeds down.  I will then net the plants so the birds don’t eat all the lovely fruit.


One of the last jobs I have done this week, is to refill a plum moth trap on my big old plum tree.  The picture below shows the sticky paper that trapped all the plum moths last year.  As you can see there is obviously a problem on this tree:



To finish off I thought I would show you a few pictures of my woodland area.  This area was part of my fourth plot that I took over in January 2012 and it was covered in overgrown couch grass.  I covered the area in weed suppressant straight away to kill the couch grass and by autumn it had worked well.  From then on, I planted loads of bulbs and transplanted different flowers that I had.  Afterwards, I covered the whole area in leaves to suppress any weed seeds from growing.

This is how it looks today:


The bulbs have nearly all finished flowering now, but there are still a few around.  I have noticed it’s now the turn of the aquilegia’s, together with my wallflowers and the English bluebells (that I bought in the autumn with my birthday money).  I’m very pleased with my woodland area so far, but it still has a long way to go:

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Thank you for reading blog today.

I will be back on Monday.

Tomatoes, Carrots, Brussels And A Bit Of What You Fancy

Over the last week, I have finally got round to sorting my tomato bed, ready for the end of the month when I plant out my outdoor tomatoes.

A variety called 'Outdoor girl'

A variety called ‘Outdoor girl’

I have been growing a variety called ‘Outdoor Girl’, which I have used over the last few years.  These tomatoes fruit a bit earlier than most outdoor varieties and I find this helps to get a good crop before the dreaded ‘blight’ hits.  You can read about blighted tomatoes here.

Before I could dig the patch over, I had to clear the last of my winter cabbages.  They have given me a great crop, but now it’s time to start to harvest my spring cabbages that are coming along nicely.

My last winter cabbages

My last winter cabbages

After clearing the cabbages and a few weeds, I forked over the patch.  I had a small amount of manure left over from my old pile, so I also forked this in as it was well rotten and will help to improve the soil around my tomatoes.

Afterwards I sprinkled some blood, fish and bone, which is a slow release fertiliser and raked it into the soil.

I had some weed suppressant left over, so I laid it in-between the two rows, as this will help to keep the weeds down.   The cabbages were the first crop I had grown in this area, so there are lots of weed seeds in this soil.

So now I will wait until the end of May to plant my tomatoes.  I always wait until the end of the month to plant my tender crops and even then I check the weather forecast for the next week or so.  I remember one year we had a late frost in the first week of June that killed all of my tomato plants, so I have certainly learnt from this.



Another job I did, was to plant my brussel sprouts.  Last year I tried using an ‘F1’ variety to help stop my Brussels from ‘blowing’, which is when the brussel leaves don’t stay tightly together.  This certainly helped, as I had a good crop.

My brussel sprouts

My brussel sprouts

On the 7th March this year, I sowed a variety called ‘Igor’ .

Brussel sprouts need firm, fertile soil, so I began the preparation of this bed back in the autumn.  I started by digging manure into the bed and allowing the soil to settle over the winter.

Two weeks ago, I sprinkled some blood, fish and bone over the area and raked it in.

Also, to stop the brussels from ‘blowing’, I tread down the soil by walking all over it, before I plant them.  In fact, I walk, dance and jump on it, just to make sure.  After planting the brussels, I also tread down lightly around the plant with my boot, just to definately make sure the soil is firm around them.  I do the same for cauliflowers as they grow best in firm soil too.

I put a  homemade cabbage collar around each plant (you can see how to make them here) and then covered the plants with a net, using my usual ‘bottles and canes’ method and I will keep a close eye on the plants for a while.



This week I sowed my carrots outside.

I go to a lot of trouble to grow my carrots and I know some of you will think that it isn’t worth it (as carrots are so cheap to buy), but there is nothing like the taste of a home-grown carrot, they taste so sweet.

Some of last years carrots

Some of last years carrots

I never had any success growing carrots in my soil.  I’m not sure if it is because it is heavy clay, but nothing I did helped the seeds to germinate.  So now I grow them in a raised bed, which I have great success with, though it is hard work.

Over the winter, I filled my raised bed with homemade compost and I mixed in a lot of leaf mould.  Finally, I mixed in some horticultural sand to help with the drainage.  I left the raised bed for a few weeks, to let any weed seeds germinate and then I removed them.

I raked and raked until I finally had a fine tilth (which just means it looked like crumbs) and on Friday, I finally sowed my carrots and then covered them with environ mesh, to stop the carrot fly.


I will keep my fingers crossed now that they germinate.



Finally, I sowed some climbing annuals on the other side of my ‘swing’.  I planted clematis last week.  Hopefully they will look good in the summer:

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A Bit Of What You Fancy Does You Good.

I haven’t had a piece of Madeira cake for ages and suddenly out of the blue I fancied a piece.  So I indulged myself and made one.  It was lovely.  Here is the recipe:


Madeira Cake

175g margarine (or butter)

175g caster sugar

3 eggs

250g self-rising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2-3 tablespoons of milk

The zest of 1 lemon


Preheat your oven gas mark 4 / 180C / 350F

Grease a 7-8 inch cake tin and sprinkle flour over the fat, tap the excess flour off.


Cream the margarine and sugar together


Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Add a tablespoon of the flour to the last egg to stop the mix from curdling.


Sift the rest of the flour and the baking powder into the bowl and fold it in.

Mix in the milk a little bit at a time, until the mix falls slowly off your spoon.  Fold in the lemon zest.


Put the mixture evenly into your cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes.


Leave to cool on a cooling tray.




Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday.

Stop And Appreciate What You Have

I realised this week that I have been rushing around so much lately, that I have become very tired and I needed to re-charge my batteries.   With this in mind I decided to take a day off from the allotment.

My sping cabbages.

My sping cabbages.

As you have probably guessed by now, I’m not very good at sitting still and resting.  In fact I only managed to sit down for about five minutes, before I stood up to do something.

I sorted my three freezers out and made a list of what was in them.  I then made nine pots of jam with strawberries that I had grown last year and froze.  I changed the beds and afterwards I made some dairyfree ice cream for my youngest daughter (you can find the recipe here).

I did these things slowly as I didn’t need to rush, after all I hadn’t planned to do them today.  Strangely, this made me feel better, as none of the things felt like a chore, though recently they had.

It made me realise that I have somehow got into this routine of rushing everything, without stopping to take stock of what I need to do, or why I even do it.  I wondered why this had happened.

My homemade strawberry jam

My homemade strawberry jam

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will remember that one of my oldest friends passed away in February.  I wrote a tribute to her here.  Since then, I have been trying to get on with things as the British do, ‘with a stiff upper lip’.  What I realised today, is what I have actually been doing, is to do as many things as possible so I don’t have time to think about what has happened.

While I was slowly doing my jobs today my friend kept popping into my mind, probably because I finally let myself think of her and how much it hurts that I can’t see her again.

I have lovely happy memories of our times together, so why on earth would I want to lock these memories away so I can’t remember them?…I’ll make sure I don’t again.  I suppose this is part of the grieving process.

A robin that visits me daily at my allotment.

A robin that visits me daily at my allotment.

So today I have learnt that sometimes you need to stop and become aware of what is happening in your life and within you.  I concentrated on ‘just today’ and how I was feeling and now I feel better for it.

It has reminded me that I love the way we live and I feel so blessed to spend my days growing salads, fruit and vegetables and looking after my family.

Over the years money has been tight, as we chose for me to give up work, when our first daughter was born.  Looking back, I am very proud of how we managed. We have two beautiful daughters and a nice home. It doesn’t have posh furniture or the latest gadgets, but it is a ‘home’, where we have shared so many happy memories together.


I wonder how many of you reading this blog today, have found yourself rushing around so much that you can’t see the wood for the trees?  Life is so short and it’s important that we stop and appreciate what we have.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I’ll be back on Monday.

A Plant Sale, Comfrey Tea And An Easy Chocolate Traybake Recipe

I hope you all had a good weekend.

Today I thought I’d start by saying a big “welcome” to people that have recently followed my blog.  I noticed yesterday that I have over three hundred followers and I feel very privileged to have this many.  Thank you to all of you that read my blog, I hope I will continue to write things of interest for you.

I love receiving feedback and questions, so please feel free to leave comments on my blog.  If there is anything that I can help you with e.g. any questions about something I’ve written about or any non-related gardening questions etc, please do not be afraid to ask…after all, if you don’t know the answer then I will guarantee there will be lots of other people that don’t know the answer too.


The appletree at my allotment

The apple tree at my allotment


And now for some sad news….


 Last week I received the very sad news that ‘Groundwork Leicester and Leicestershire’ had ceased trading and was set to go into voluntary liquidation.

Groundwork was based in offices at Western Park, in Hinckley Road, Leicester, next door to the city council’s Eco House, which it also manages and which is currently closed.

Groundwork Leicester and Leicestershire was an environmental charity which worked with schools and other organisations to promote a greener lifestyle.  It has closed with the loss of 26 jobs.  This is what the Leicester Mercury said about them:

“Since 1987, the Leicester charity – previously called Environ – has helped thousands of people, organisations and businesses improve their neighbourhoods, learn skills, improve their job prospects and create a greener county.

One of its key areas has been helping students and young people get into work. It also helped to manage the Bikes4All and Allotments4All initiatives.

It has worked with various organisations including councils, schools and universities as well as local and regional businesses.”

You can read the full article in the Leicester Mercury here.


My friend Rob Carter was regrettably one of the 26 people.  Rob ran the ‘Organic Gardening Course’ that I talked about last year on my blog.  He is one of the most knowledgeable organic gardeners, that I have ever met and what he doesn’t know about gardening, really isn’t worth knowing.

Rob was planning a plant sale this month and volunteers have been helping him to grow plants in readiness.  Even though Rob has lost his job at Eco House, he is still going ahead with the plant sale, which I think is admirable.  Volunteers (including myself) will be there to sell the plants we have grown, all in peat free composts and will answer any questions you have about the plants.

So if you are in the area on Sunday, please consider visiting the sale for cheap, good quality flower and vegetable plants.  After all, unless a miracle happens, this will be the last sale.


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Better news now… this weekend I harvested my first ever asparagus.  I know there isn’t much here, but I’ve waited three years to get a crop and hopefully there will still be some more to come.

It tasted wonderful with a knob of butter melted over it.



My comfrey is growing well now, so a few days ago I made some comfrey tea so it will be ready in a couple of weeks.


Comfrey tea is a wonderful organic fertiliser which is high in potash and free to make.  The deep roots of the Comfrey plants absorb the potassium from the subsoil. Therefore it is great for using on most fruits and flowers.  I use it so much that I have a water butt that I use purely for comfrey tea.

All I did was collect a few leaves and stalks and wrapped them up in an old net with a rock to weigh it down.


I tied it securely and lowered it into my water butt and covered it in water.


I put the lid back on the water butt and I will leave it now for at least two weeks before I use it.

You can find more information about this wonderful plant and how to grow it here.


Another job I managed to do at my allotment, was to put some chicken wire on my daughters’ old swing.  I moved the swing a couple of months ago, so you can walk under it, along my central path.

I then planted a Clematis Montana, so it can grow up and over it.  Hopefully, it will be covered in flowers next spring and look beautiful:



Finally, it’s been a while since I posted a cheap and easy cake recipe on here.  So below is a very simple tray-bake (I try to make sure all my recipes are easy to make).

This cake is ideal if you have kids coming for tea, or to freeze ahead ready for packed lunches.  If you freeze them, slice the cake into squares and put them into the freezer on a tray.  Put them into a bag or container when they are frozen, so they don’t stick together.  This way it is easy to take one piece of cake out of the freezer in the morning and pop it into the kid’s lunch boxes still frozen, as they will defrost in no time:


A Quick And Easy Chocolate Tray-Bake Recipe:


6 oz. of Margarine

6 oz. Caster sugar

6 oz. Self raising flour

3 Eggs

1 Tablespoon Cocoa powder

1 Teaspoon of baking powder

Cooking chocolate and sprinkles to decorate.


Preheat the oven Gas Mark 4 / 350F / 176C

Lay a piece of greaseproof paper over a tray, approximately 9 x 12 ½ inch in size.

Sieve the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder into a bowl.


Add the caster sugar, eggs and margarine.


Mix all the ingredients until they are combined. Add a little bit of water if needed, to achieve a good dropping consistency (i.e. it drops off the spoon easily).


Smooth the mixture over the greaseproof paper in the tray and cook for approximately 25-30 minutes.


When it is cooked, slide the greaseproof paper off the tray and onto a cooling tray and leave to cool.


When cooled, melt some cooking chocolate in the microwave and spread over the cake and use sprinkles or whatever you want over the top to decorate.


Slice when the chocolate has set.


Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at approximately 4pm.

Homemade Cabbage Collars, Dandelions And Sad News About A Hedgehog

I thought I’d start by showing you one of the pots in my garden at home.  My pots are giving a good display of spring bulbs.  I planted the bulbs in layers last autumn and the daffodills flowered first and now it’s the turn of the Tulips and Muscari (better known as the Grape hyacinth).


The bulbs were courtesy of ‘Spalding Bulbs’ as I joined their bloggers club.  So thank you ‘Spalding bulbs’, your bulbs have so far been beautiful.


I also thought I would show you my dahlia plants that I grew from seed.  It really is easy to grow dahlias from seed and you get flowers from the plants in their first year.  I find it easier to grow the plants from seed each year, as it’s cheaper than buying tubers and saves all the hassle of storing the tubers over winter (especially as all my room for storing things is taken up by vegetables).

I sowed my seeds on the 7th March and when they germinated I transplanted the seedlings into small newspaper pots.  This week, as they were out-growing their original pots, I potted them on into slightly bigger pots:


These dahlia’s are ‘doubles’, which I wouldn’t normally buy as the bees can’t get to the pollen, but my dad kindly passed the seeds onto me, so I thought I would use them, I’m looking forward to seeing them flower.



At the allotment this week, my apple tree is beautiful with all it’s blossom:



This week at my allotment site, I have noticed that there are thousands and thousands of dandelions.

Dandelions are amazing plants.  Did you know that a flower can actually fertilize itself and seeds can often be carried for up to five miles 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.

It’s not all bad either, no less than 93 different kinds of insects use Dandelion pollen.

Also, young leaves can be blanched and used in salads or boiled and eaten as spinach and the flowers can be made into dandelion wine. In fact every part of the dandelion is useful for food, medicine or even it’s colour for dye.

You can read more about this wonderful weed here

A plot on my allotment site

A plot on my allotment site


Last week I planted out my first red and white cabbages of the year, at my allotment.  A couple of weeks before, I raked some blood, fish and bone into the soil ready for planting.

I covered my plants with my usual ‘DIY’ cage of bottles, canes and a net:


I thought I’d point out to you my cheap and easy cabbage collars that I use.  By using cabbage collars, you can avoid the cabbage root fly from laying eggs at the base of your plants.  The Larvae are white, headless and legless maggots and they feed on the roots of brassicas.  This will cause your brassica’s to either grow weakly or just wilt and die.

The following year, cabbage root fly will emerge from the pupae which overwintered in the soil.  This is a good reason to rotate your crops each year.

Cabbage collars cost between £3 or £4 to buy a pack of 30.  To save money you can easily make your own by cutting a square of thick cardboard and then cutting a cross in the middle where the stem will go.  As the stem grows it can expand because of the cross in the middle.


Place each collar around the stem and eventually it will decompose into the spoil, after it has stopped the cabbage root fly from laying it’s eggs.



A Hedgehogs Attempted Rescue:

I try really hard to attract wildlife to my allotment.  I grow flowers and wildflowers to attract beneficial insects to my plot over the year, I feed the birds and have bird boxes, I have two ponds to attract frogs to eat the slugs, I garden organically and I have bug boxes and two hedgehog boxes.

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I love to watch the wildlife and if you were reading my blog last year, you will remember the hours I would spend watching the bees and other insects around my wildflowers (you can see my wildflowers from 2012 here).


Yesterday I came across a poor hedgehog that had somehow managed to crawl into my wire netted cages, that were protecting my peas from the birds.  I am really not sure how he managed to get in there, as there is wire all the way around, he must have squeezed into the smallest hole.  You can see the cages below:


When I found it, the poor little thing was breathing, but it wasn’t doing a lot else.  I called my friend Judy, (one of my allotment neighbours) and we decided to give it a drink in case it was dehydrated.  Judy picked it up and put it next to some water that I fetched, but the poor thing still didn’t move. It didn’t even try and curl up.

We checked it over and we thought that maybe one of its legs was hurt, so we put the hedgehog in a tub with newspaper.  Judy rang her husband who then rang their local vet, who agreed to check the hedgehog over.  Judy’s husband then very kindly came and took the hedgehog to the vet.

Unfortunately after checking the hedgehog over, the vet said that as his leg was badly hurt and it was extremly cold and dehydrated, he decided that the kindest thing to do was to put the animal to sleep.

I am really upset that the animal may have hurt it’s leg somehow on my wire cage, though I just don’t know how it could have done this.  Yesterday, I made sure there are absolutely no holes under, or in-between the cages, in the hope that this doesn’t happen again.


Thank you for reading my blog, I am sorry it’s not a happy ending today.

I’ll be back again on Monday at approximately 4pm.

Codling Moths And Growing Parsnips

    Last week, I refilled my pheromone trap with a new sticky paper and a ‘lure’, in the hope that it will attract the male codling moths to it.

My pheromone trap

My pheromone trap

After mating, female Codling moths will lay single eggs on fruit and leaves in June and July.  The eggs hatch 10-14 days later and the larvae burrow into the fruit to feed.  They stay there for approximately a month.  After this time they crawl down the trunk and cocoon under loose bark or even tree ties, etc.  The majority will emerge the following spring, however the earliest ones may emerge from their cocoon as adults in August or September and start the cycle again before winter.

Codling moths cause damage to the apple when the larvae tunnel into it and the apple often falls off the tree early.  There is a wonderful picture of a damaged apple on the RHS website here.

Natural pheromones lure male moths into a sticky trap, so they are unable to mate with the female moth.  The trap will only attract the codling moth, so it is not a danger to other wildlife, though small birds have been known to be attracted to the moths and become wedged inside the traps, so if you use one then please check it regularly.


Pheromone traps are supposed to be used as an early sign of codling moth, to indicate how big a problem you have.  This is a photograph of the sticky card that I removed from last years’ pheromone trap on my apple tree:


There does seem to be a lot of moths, but my apples didn’t seem to suffer too badly last year.  So I am happy that the traps are killing the moths that I need to, and I don’t think I will need to do anymore than hang another trap.  I will keep checking this year’s trap regularly.



Other ways to help avoid the codling moth:

Pick up windfall apples and remove fallen leaves asap, just in case they contain the cocoons.

Try and attract birds to your plot as they are great at finding and eating the cocoons (Blue tits especially).

Replace tree ties in autumn in case they contain cocoons.

Don’t kill earwigs as they love to eat codling moth eggs.

In July, cut a 50cm strip of corrugated cardboard and wrap it around your tree trunk approximately 45cm from the ground so the corrugations are vertical.  In autumn when the codling moths are nicely cocooned in the cardboard, remove the cardboard and burn it.  This method is best used on smooth tree trunks.


Hopefully we will all have a better crop of apples to harvest this year, than we did last year.

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Freshly pressed apple juice

Freshly pressed apple juice which I freeze, ready to pop in my daughters lunch boxes.



I thought I would update you on how my parsnips are doing.  I have tried various different methods of growing parsnips over the years, but the one method that seems to work the best is to start the parsnips in kitchen rolls.  You can read how I do this here.


I think that I get a better rate of germination this way and to prove this to you, you can see from the picture below that I have had a 100% germination rate this year.

On the 6th April, I sowed the parsnip seeds in kitchen rolls and put them on my windowsill.  As soon as the seeds germinated I moved them into my cold frame.


I find that toilet rolls are not long enough for parsnip roots, as the root is quite long by the time you actually see the little seed leaves emerge.  If the bottom of root touches anything hard e.g. the seed tray at the bottom of the cardboard tubes, it will cause the root to ‘fork’, so you won’t have straight roots.

I thought I would show you an example of a parsnip seedling that I took out of the compost, the day its seed leaves emerged:


The root is 10cm long already and an average toilet roll is approximately 11cm, so if you use toilet rolls, very soon the root will hit the bottom of the seed tray which will cause it to ‘fork’, which means your parsnip will not be straight.

A couple of weeks ago I planted my seedlings out, just under three weeks after sowing my seeds.  You can see from the photograph below, how long the root is.  The shorter tube (which I didn’t plant as I wanted to use it as a comparison), shows where the root reaches down to in the cardboard tube and the longer tube is there to show the length of an average kitchen roll tube, so you can compare the two together.  So you can see there is still a small arount of room for the root to grow down.


    It is hard work planting the tubes out as you need deep holes, but the compost in the tubes helps to stop the parsnip from ‘forking’ as the root won’t hit any stones or lumps in the soil.


I make sure that none of the cardboard tube is above the surface, or this will act like a wick and dry your compost out.

I think the hard work is worth it when you harvest lovely straight parsnips.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at approximately 4pm

What To Do In The Kitchen Garden In May

When I first started to grow vegetables I really needed the information to be in one place, so I could look it up easily. However, I found I had to search for lots of little bits of information, scattered between internet sites and books. It used to take me a long time to find the information I needed.

I thought it would be useful to have this information altogether in one place. So for the benefit of the UK gardeners, I write a list of things to be done each month and any useful information I can think of.

It is worth remembering that different parts of the UK have different weather conditions e.g. the last frost is expected earlier in the south than the north.

It must also be noted that it has been very cold lately and this year’s plants and seeds are a few weeks behind than normal, therefore please remember that this is a general guide.




Lighter evenings mean we have longer in our gardens and with temperatures rising in May, we will hopefully experience some beautiful sunny days.  However, there are still some overnight frosts which can kill tender plants, so we still need to be careful.

May is a good month for sowing seeds outside, but only if the ground has warmed up or the seeds will just rot in cold wet soil.

Be careful not to sow all your seeds in one go, as you will end up with a ‘glut’ of vegetables and salads all ready to eat at once.  It is far better to ‘stagger’ your sowings to spread out your harvests.

My first wallflowers this year in bloom

My first wallflowers this year in bloom


Vegetables and salads to harvest:

Lettuces, radishes, mizuna, and overwintering spring onions can be harvested this month, together with spring cabbages,  spinach beet, swiss chard and spinach leaves.  Rhubarb, turnips, cauliflowers, asparagus, tiny globe artichokes and if you are really lucky you may have garlic while it is still ‘green’.



Vegetables and salads to sow indoors:

Sweetcorn, French beans, corn salad, beetroot, runner beans, cucumbers, patty pans, pumpkins, courgettes and gherkins.  Herbs include coriander, basil and parsley.



Vegetables and salads to sow outdoors:

Turnips,  kale, Florence fennel, cauliflowers, peas, mangetout, swiss chard, spinach beet, spring broccoli, brussel sprouts, swedes, carrots, radish, rocket, kohl rabi, calabrese, beetroot, cabbages (red and white), chicory, land cress, lettuces and salad leaves, oriental leaves, spring onions.



Things to plant:

Be careful when you plant out tender seedlings this month, as there can still be frosts in some areas up until the end of May.  If you have planted out seedlings and a frost is forecast, make sure you cover them with fleece or cloches, though it is better to wait to plant them out, if at all possible.

Also, make sure all seedlings are fully ‘hardened off’ before you plant them out.  ‘Hardening off’ is a process where you gradually acclimatise the plants to outside temperatures and conditions over two or three weeks.  You can find details of how to do this on the RHS website here.

Brassica’s can be planted out, these include brussel sprouts, red and white cabbages, cauliflowers, kohl rabi, spouting broccoli, calabrese and kale.  Leeks and peas can be planted out too.  Lettuces and salad leaves can be planted but beware of frosts and cover them if necessary.  Towards the end of the month, when frosts have passed, you can plant aubergines, peppers, chilli’s, outdoor cucumbers, pumpkins, courgettes, marrows, patty pans, runner beans, French beans, asparagus pea, celery, celeriac, summer squashes, sweet corn, tomatoes, Florence fennel and sweet potatoes.

Offsets from globe artichokes should be planted this month and rhubarb plants can be transplanted.  Strawberry plants can still be planted this month, together with blueberry plants.  Cape gooseberries can also be planted but they need protection from frosts.

Herbs that can be planted outside are thyme, parsley, dill, fennel, borage and coriander.

Overwintering spinach

Overwintering spinach


Jobs to do:

Keep sowing seeds and pricking out seedlings.

Water seedlings when required as May can be a dry month.

Harden off seedlings ready to plant them out.


Watch out for late frosts and protect plants if need be.

Hoe and weed regularly.

Weed and mulch fruit bushes.

Thin out seedlings, so they have room to grow.

Support broad beans to stop them from falling over.


Earth up potatoes.

Pot on plants that are becoming too big for their pots, but are not ready to be planted out e.g. squashes, before they become ‘pot-bound’.

Pick off the flowers on new strawberries, so the plant puts its energy into a making good root system instead of producing fruit.

Remove new raspberry suckers or shoots that are unwanted.  If your canes become too thick and dense it stops the sunlight and air from getting to the inside canes, which can cause disease or under-developed fruit.

Feed globe artichokes with a high potash fertiliser and mulch them.

Transplant vegetable seedlings, keeping an eye out for frosts.

Weed and mulch around fruit bushes.

Remove any dead, diseased leaves from strawberry plants.

Put up supports for climbing peas and climbing French beans and runner beans.



May pests and diseases:

Pigeons are hungry and will eat brassicas, peas, strawberries and even lettuces if they are really hungry, so keep them netted.

Slugs and snails will eat newly planted seedlings.  Wet weather will bring them out, especially at night.

Flea beetle can be a problem this month, leaving tiny little holes all over leaves.  They especially like brassica seedlings.  Plants do usually recover, though when they are badly affected it can stunt their growth.  Keep the seedlings moist so they grow as strong as possible.

Cabbage root fly can cause a problem by laying their eggs at the base of brassicas, so it is best to fit cabbage collars around the base of them.

Homemade cabbage collars

Homemade cabbage collars

Check gooseberry and currant bushes for the sawfly larvae which look like caterpillars and pick them off.  Also, check for currant blister aphid (you can see an example here) and American gooseberry mildew (you can see an example here).

Blackfly love the soft new growth on broad beans.  As soon as the first tiny pods start to form at the base of your plants, ‘pinch off’ the top couple of inches of your broad bean plants, which will help to deter the blackfly.


Protect early carrots from carrot flies, as they are laying their eggs this month.

Lay a mulch of dry straw around your strawberries, this will keep the strawberries off the wet soil and dry straw will help to deter slugs and keep annual weeds from germinating.

Check apple and pear trees for canker (you can see an example here).

Hang pheromone traps in apple trees to attract and catch the male codling moths, to prevent them mating with a female this month.

A pheromone trap

A pheromone trap

Thank you for reading my blog today.