Archive | February 2014

Carrots, Carrots And More Carrots

I wanted to start by saying ‘thank you’ for your lovely comments after my post on Monday.  I love receiving your comments as they spur me on to continue writing.

I’m also sorry there was a bit of a delay before I answered your comments this week, but unfortunately my laptop broke and I had to borrow one, which was a bit inconvenient.  Luckily Mr Thrift works in ICT and he and his friend have managed to fix it.

The first daffodil to show at my allotment

The first daffodil to show at my allotment

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One of the comments I received this week was from ‘Mum’, who incidentally writes a beautiful blog called

‘Mum’s Simply Living Blog’.

Following on from my post on Monday about slowing down, ‘Mum’ wrote the words to a poem that I had long forgotten about.  This is a poem that we read at school, but unfortunately it meant nothing to a teenager…but now, I see how powerful these words are so I thought I would share the poem with you:

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Leisure

By William Henry Davies

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What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

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Thank you for sharing this ‘Mum’

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This week at my allotment I weeded around my ‘Woodland’ area.  I noticed that my bluebells are beginning to grow around my plum tree now, you can just see them in the photo below.

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Unfortunately, I bought the bulbs a couple of years ago, paying extra to make sure they were ‘English’ Bluebells and I was very dissapointed to find that they were actually ‘French Bluebells’, which I wasnt very happy about.  I did however contact the suppier and complained!

My primroses are flowering lovely too now and it’s lovely to have a bit of colour, together with the snowdrops:

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I also noticed my Christmas Rose (Hellebore) has a flower on too

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and the daffodils will soon be flowering

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I also noticed that I have the first little flower on my Aubretia.  I moved my pond to the far (sunny) corner of my Woodland area and transplanted the Aubretia around it in the Autumn…it’s nice to know it has survived the move:

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Finally, I also noticed that one of my favourite flowers is beginning to grow, the Aquilegia.

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So you can see that this week, as the poem said, I did make time tostand and stare’.

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This week I also moved my one raised bed that I use to grow carrots in.  I had no luck whatsoever trying to grow carrots until I used a raised bed.  So now, each year I move the wooden frame to another part of my plot and fill it again.

I started by removing the environmesh and pulling up the remaining carrots

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I then moved the wooden frame to another part of my allotment plot, to avoid the build up of pests and diseases e.g.carrot fly.

I refilled the wooden frame with a mix of my own homemade compost (made from all types of perennial and annual weeds) and leaf mould that had been sitting decomposing for the last year.

I then covered it up with black weed suppressant to let the worms do their work and mix it all thoroughly.

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In May I will mix in some sand to help to ‘lighten’ the soil, before sowing my carrots.

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I froze the carrots without blanching them.  I had two large trays altogether, which I open froze so they didn’t stick together in the bags.  After freezing all of my left over carrots, I had orange hands!

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I also pulled some carrots up that were growing in my polytunnel this week and froze them.  The carrots were smaller in my polytunnel as I had sowed them later than the ones outside:

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I gave my polytunnel a good weed ready to spread some of my homemade compost over the empty soil next week.  I also removed the old Cape Gooseberry plants and removed the last few berries to keep for seed.

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  All I did was cut the berries in half and spread the seed on a piece of paper towel to dry.  When it is dry I will put the seeds in an envelope to keep.  When I am ready to sow them, I will just plant the seed with the paper towel still attached (incidentally, this method also works exactly the same for tomato seeds).

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In my polytunnel I still have beetroot, perpetual spinach, mizuna, corn salad and winter hardy spring onions.  I also found another two rows of carrots that I had forgotten that I had planted, but I will leave these in the ground for the moment.  Unfortunately we have eaten all my winter lettuces now, so I will have to make sure I plant more next time.

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I found that the mizuna had started to flower, probably because it has been such a mild winter.  So I removed the flowers in the hope that I can keep it going a bit longer.

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One last thing I did this week was to plant the garlic that I sowed in January.  I’m hoping it is wasn’t too late to plant it as it needs a period of cold to enable the bulbs to split into cloves.

I planted the garlic into ridges to help with the drainage incase the wet weather we have been having so much of continues.  This area had been covered in a plastic sheet for the last few weeks, so the soil wasn’t as waterlogged as the rest of my plot.

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So that is enough for this week (I do seem to get carried away and write long posts).

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Monday.

Have a good weekend.

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A Holiday In Scarborough And ‘Slowing Down’

Last week I spent four nights away with my family and it was a really welcome break, as I had been feeling really tired lately.

We went to Scarborough in Yorkshire and stayed in a Travelodge.  We booked the holiday last July and managed to pay just £153.20 for bed and breakfast for all four of us in a family room.  We like the Travelodge as we know exactly what we are staying in, as they are all vitually the same…the rooms are basic, but they are clean, warm and have an ensuite bathroom.  The breakfast is nice and filling too.

Our family room was a bit on the small side, but the view from the window definately made up for it.  It was lovely sitting watching the sea from the window:

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We expected the weather to be wet and windy at best (especially after all the storms we have had recently), or extremely cold, but it was really amazing.  When we arrived on Sunday it was sunny and it stayed dry the whole time.  In fact, most days we walked along the seafront eating ice creams!  Even my youngest daughter could join in this luxury as we actually found a shop that sold ‘lactose free’ ice cream which made my daughters holiday, as this is so unusual.

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We also expected most places to be shut in February, but everything was open and it was busy too.

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I really enjoyed this holiday with my family, even though we didn’t do an awful lot, it was wonderful to just spend time together.

We walked, talked, played bingo on the seafront and lost a few 2p’s in the arcades togther.  We visited the shops and my eldest daughter spent some of her birthday money and in the eveings we played board games.  To me it was sheer bliss.

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We took pasta salads to eat the day we arrived and then we used our Tesco vouchers to have a couple of free meals at ‘Ask’ and we also had fish and chips whilst sitting on the seafront.  We took crisps and drinks to have whilst we were in our room and out and about, so it really was a cheap holiday.

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When the sea went out it revealed some fantastic rock pools, so we spent quite a bit of time walking around these.

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All in all it was a fantastic holiday.  I know it wouldn’t be everyones ‘cup of tea’, but we had a lovely, relaxing time.

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The last of my stored apples

The last of my stored apples

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While I was there, it gave me lots of time to think about ‘this’ and ‘that’.  Recently, I have felt like I haven’t been able to see the wood for the trees and I have once again found myself rushing everything and generally feeling run down and tired.  I have also felt like I’ve not been achieving as much as I usually do.  So I decided to go back to basics and think about the things that are important to me.  Obviously my family are important as they mean the world to me, but other things that are important to me are:

My allotment and living simply.

Reducing mine and my families carbon footprint.

My blog and sharing recipes and gardening tips, in the hope it will help one or two people out there.

My music – I play the violin and last month I started piano lessons.

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Just by writing this down, it made me feel a bit better and more focused about what I want to acheive.

  I then went on to work out what ‘living simply’ means to me and what I needed to do to acheive it and I actually realised I was doing quite well, except for ‘slowing down and enjoying the moment’…and that’s when the penny finally dropped…I have once again gone back to multi-tasking and rushing.  I have been trying to do too many things in a day and I have stopped enjoying what I have been doing, as it now feels like a ‘chore’ instead of a pleasure.

So I realised things have got to change.

The first daffodil to show at my allotment

The first daffodil to show at my allotment

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Since coming home on Thursday I have made a real effort to slow down and enjoy each and every job I do.  I have spent time checking my stock of food and making sure I know exactly what is in my cupboards and freezers.  I have meal planned and batch baked, made our meals from scratch and washed and ironed our holiday clothes.  I have also spent time at my allotment.

Homemade Rolls

Homemade Rolls

Each job has been completed slowly and on it’s own, without multi-tasking.  Strangely, I actually feel like I have achieved quite a lot, even though I have slowed down, but more importantly, I have enjoyed each and every task.  I’m not sure if it’s because I have slowed down or if it’s because I have finally had the time to focus on my goals and what is important to me…but it doesn’t really matter why.

I once again feel like I have a spring in my step, looking forward to each new day.

Viburnum tinus, spotted laurel and vinca flowers from my garden

Viburnum tinus, spotted laurel and vinca flowers from my garden

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Friday.

Tackling A Problem Area on Plot Four (Part Two)

Don’t forget I will be back on Monday 24th February.

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Happy Valentines Day!

I did my romantic bit today and gave Mr Thrift some homemade shortbread hearts.  Shortbread is Mr Thrift’s favourite biscuit and they are so easy to make and taste really good too.  The recipe I used is here.  I just ‘poshed’ them up by using a heart cutter and sandwiched them together with buttter icing and jam to make them a bit more special.

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Well it’s been another wet and windy week, but I am grateful to say that we haven’t been suffering from floods as some parts of the country have been.  I really feel for the people affected.

In between the rain this week, I did manage to get down to my allotment a few times and finish off the area outside my polytunnel.  This is the area I began to write about on Monday, that I have been working on for the last few months between other jobs.

Just in case you haven’t seen my blog post on Monday, I took on plot number four in January 2012:

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  The area outside of my polytunnel had bugged me since I took on the plot, but I had concentrated on other areas of plot number four first.

The area was made up of a mixture of crazy paving, mowed couch grass, slabs (of different shapes and sizes) and little round pebbles which I have slipped on at various times, nearly injuring myself.  This area was also plagued with ‘horsetail’ (Equisetum arvense), which is really hard to eradicate.

January 2012 after strimming the weeds and grass.

January 2012 after strimming the weeds and grass.

At first I put my cold frame in this area, as I didn’t know what else to do here, but I found that this made it even harder to weed between the slabs, as my seed trays were in the way.

So after two years of weeding between the slabs and crazy paving and weekly sessions of strimming the couch grass, I decided enough was enough and it was time to do something about this area.

I started in Autumn by lifting the slabs and crazy paving (which is when I strained a ligament).  Most of the slabs were normal sized slabs, but one of them was enormous.  You can see it in the photograph below in front of the two blue waterbutts on the top right hand side.  I haven’t got a clue how it got there.  My brother-in-law managed to move this slab for me as I would never of managed it on my own.  He also re-laid the row of slabs directly outside my polytunnel afterwards too, which I was very grateful for.

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I used some of the slabs to widen the path near to my blackberries:

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And Mr Thrift helped me to lay another row of slabs outside of my polytunnel, so it would be easier to get my wheelbarrow into it.

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I also dug up all the couch grass.

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I then cut back my blackberries as they were becoming overgrown.

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You can see from the photo above that I had a piece of weed suppressant underneath the blackberries, which was held down with some old bits of wood.  I decided I needed to neaten around my blackberries too, so I did this with wood that I had sitting around my plot.

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The area next to my blackberries used to be an old ‘dyke’ that dried up many years ago.  Occaisionally when we have excessive amounts of rain in one go, then the ‘dyke’ runs again as you can see in the photo below, taken in November 2012:

I decided to lift all the old carpet that was in the dyke and replaced it with weed suppressant.  The carpet shouldn’t really have been there as it is banned from our allotment site due to the chemicals it can contain.

I am now planning to grow some plants through the weeds suppressant, when I get around to it, to pretty the area up.

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I had spent many hours wondering what to do with the area outside my polytunnel, now that it was cleared.  I have quite enough growing space on my other three plots for all the vegetables I want to grow, so I didn’t really want to use this space for that and after all, as I said previously, this area was plagued with weeds, especially ‘horsetail’.  I also thought about planting a tree here, but I didn’t want to shade my polytunnel either….

I mentioned on Monday that plot number four was turning into my ‘pleasure plot’, as here I have my wildflower area, my woodland area, my dad’s area, my polytunnel and my fruit tree area.  So after lots of thought I decided to have a ‘peaceful’ area, where I can have my lunch or just sit and relax when I am tired.

So I bought some weed suppressant from my allotment site shop  (it’s really cheap from there) and laid it over the area

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I used prunings again to edge the two fruit bushes that I planted here last year and made three more small beds too

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Then I laid wood chippings over the area

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I split and transplanted grasses from my other plot and added some stepping stones.  I also made a low fence all around the area made with prunings from my apple trees:

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Finally I moved my old bench from behind my polytunnel to finish it all off and I am really pleased with the result:

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I am really looking forward to sitting in this area.

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Next week is half term for my daughters, so I will be taking a week off blogging to spend some quality time with them.

So I will be back on Monday 24th February

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Parsnips, celeriac, cabbage and swede from my allotment this week.

Parsnips, celeriac, cabbage and swede from my allotment this week.

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Just before I go, I thought I would share something with you.  It was my eldest daughters 16th birthday this week.  I can’t quite believe that I’ve a sixteen year old daughter…the years have flown by.  She has turned into a beautiful, caring young lady who I love spending time with.

My daughter loves the pop group ‘One Direction’ and again asked for a ‘One Direction’ cake.  I cheated a bit and bought the pop group figures made of icing, but the rest of the cake I made and she was really pleased with it.

Just in case you are wondering, the hearts all say ‘1D’ which is short for ‘One Direction’:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

Don’t forget I will be back on Monday 24th February.

Tackling A Problem Area On Plot Four (Part One)

I took over my fourth plot at the beginning of 2012, as it became free.  This plot was next to my other three plots and I’ve got to say I really wasn’t sure I wanted another plot, but it had the advantage of a polytunnel (which was only four years old at the time) and some wonderful fruit trees at the back.

(Just in case you are wondering, all over the country there are waiting lists for allotments, but where I live, there are always some available to rent, so I don’t feel guilty for having four plots).

Below are some photos from when I first took the plot, in January 2012:

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As you can see there was a lot to be done.

I have worked really hard on this plot over the last two years and most areas are coming along nicely.  There isn’t lots of growing space on this plot due to the trees and I have found that, as it has developed over the past two years, it has become my ‘pleasure plot’.

  I now have an area under my large plum tree that I call my ‘woodland area’, where I planted lots of spring bulbs.  In fact, you may remember me planting lots of snow drops in this area to remember my dear friend that passed away in February last year. I also recently transplanted lots of for-get-me-nots in her honour too.

  During the last year I have transplanted lots of surplus plants from my garden at home and from around my other plots and I am gradually filling the area with beautiful perennials.

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In September last year I also moved my small pond to a well lit corner in this area and transplanted aubrietia all around it, so hopefully this will look beautiful in the Spring too.

So overall, this area is becoming a beautiful, peaceful place, where I now walk past and remember my old dear friend.

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At the front of my fourth plot is a small area which I have given to my dad to look after.

For those who are new to my blog, my dad had his own allotment for many years, but sadly age caught up with him and a full plot became far too much to manage.  Not long after taking on my fourth plot, he asked if he could possibly have a small part of it to look after and I thought this was a great idea, as I can make sure he doesn’t do too much.

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Last winter I laid two woodchip paths either side of my dads area and I brought our old garden chair from our back garden at home.  I put the chair in a small area next to my dads patch, so he can sit down when he is tired.  I also made a little table out of bricks and an old piece of crazy paving, so he now has somewhere to put his flask of coffee when he sits down.

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  I absolutely love spending time with my dad at my allotment.

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The area at the back of this plot is great.  I have two apple trees (an early and late variety), a golden gage tree (which make delicious jam) and a pear tree.  I have also inherited a row of worcester berries.

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This area just needs mowing each week and it’s a lovely shady place to sit in when the weather is too hot and it’s time for a rest.

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In 2012 when I first took the plot over, there were two sheds that stood in the middle.

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I already had a shed on my first plot, so I gave one of the sheds to my sister who also took on the plot next to mine and I gave the other one to one of my friends at my allotment site as he didn’t have a shed.

This area had terrible soil on so for the last two years I have used this area as my wildflower area, with fantastic results:

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I also have an area where I have inherited some summer raspberries.  This area had couch grass growing all through the raspberries and in between the rows, so it was a hard area to tame.

I started by covering as much of the area in between with weed suppressant and left this down for a season to kill the couch grass.  I have spent two years now pulling up the couch grass from underneath the raspberries, in the hope that it will eventually weaken and die.  I certainly have an awful lot less of it now, but I still have a long way to go with it.

I then prepared the area in between the raspberries and sowed grass seed in Autumn 2012 and by Spring 2013 I had a much better, uninvasive lawn in between the plants:

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And then I also have my wonderful polytunnel.  Inside the tunnel was great when I took it over and I just added compost to the beds before planting.

My polytunnel is really my pride and joy on this fourth plot and it’s the main reason for taking this plot on.  I have had so many crops from it in the last two years, but it is particularly brilliant for overwintering salad crops.

I wrote about my first year in my polytunnel here if you are interested.

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So, my fourth plot has been hard work so far, but it is beginning to come together, though it is far from complete.

I have one more area that I have been working on over the last few months (in between other jobs)….it is the area outside of my polytunnel.  This area has bugged me for the last two years as it was a mixture of crazy paving, mowed couch grass, slabs (of different shapes and sizes) and some little round pebbles which I have slipped on various times and nearly injured myself.

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There is also a row of blackberries which I have recently cut back.

This area is also plagued with ‘horsetail’ (Equisetum arvense), which is incidentally a fasinating weed… It has descendants (a group of ancient tree like plants) that thrived 300 million years ago. Fossil evidence has been found that shows some of it’s ancestors reached over thirty metres in height (you can read about it here).  But this explains why this weed is so difficult to eradicate, as it’s been around so long and also it’s roots go very deep into the soil, in fact several meters down. It likes moist clay soil and thrives in these conditions, which is exactly why this area outside of my polytunnel is perfect for it.

So I have spent two years weeding and weeding between the slabs and crazy paving and I decided enough is enough and it was time to do something about this area….

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As this has turned into a very long post I have decided to continue telling you about this area and what I have done with it, on Friday.

So have a good week and thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Friday.

How To Plant A Bare-Rooted Tree And The Humble Cress Seed

Parts of the country have been battered by storms this week and my heart goes out to the people that have had to be evacuated from their homes due to flooding.

I have also seen some pictures this week of allotments that have flooded around the country.  I really feel for the people this has happened to, as I know I would be devastated if this happened to mine.  I also can’t imagine how the farmers in Somerset must be feeling as some of their fields have been under water for weeks now.

Thankfully, it hasn’t been quite so bad here.  The ground is very wet but we don’t have any major flooding and our families, homes and gardens are safe.  In fact despite the wet, the garden is beginning to wake up and I have noticed it is a little bit lighter in the morning and it stays lighter in the late afternoon now too…so hopefully Spring will be on it’s way soon.

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The Snowdrops at my allotment are flowering beautifully now and I am really pleased with them.  Hopefully they will spread in a few years around my woodland area.

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And so too are my primroses

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The ground underneath my old plum tree, in my woodland area isn’t too soggy, so I have been transferring some ‘For-get-me-nots’ around the tree.  Again, this will remind me not to forget my good friend that died a year ago this month.  Hopefully they will self-seed this year and I will have more next year.

I keep transplanting as many plants as possible into this area, as the more ground cover I have, the less weeding I will have to do in the warmer months.

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The Poached egg plants (Limnanthes douglasii) that line my central path, self seed like mad.  You can see in the photgraph below how they spread.  So at this time of the year I always dig in the plants that I don’t want, as it acts like a green manure.  But before I do that I transplant some of the plants to other areas on my allotment.

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This year I have started to transplant some of them into my woodland area too.

I have so much of this plant growing at my allotment, as it is great for attracting Bees and other beneficial insects to my plot.  The bees will pollinate my crops and also insects like hoverflies and ladybirds that are attracted to the plants, will then eat the blackflies that are attracted to my crops too.

And not forgetting they also look pretty when they are in flower.

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At home my seeds are beginning to show.  The broad beans that I planted on the 28th January are already showing, but unfortunately the ones I planted on the 21st January aren’t for some reason.  Even though they are all a variety called ‘Aquadulce’, I used a different packet of seed for each tray so I’m wondering if I have a bad pack?…I’ll have to wait and see.

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The leeks I planted on the 21st January are also showing now:

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The garlic that I sowed in modules in my greenhouse on the 21st January is now also racing away.  I will plant these out as soon as the ground is workable at my allotment:

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The onions that I sowed on the 28th January are just showing through now too.  They have been kept in my house where it is warm:

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I received my order from Garden Organic as well this week.  I only ordered one pack of seeds from their ‘Heritage seed Library Catalogue, as this is all I needed.

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I planted these cauliflowers last year and they have overwintered well.  They will hopefully give me a good early crop of cauliflowers in April/May this year and if I sow my new seeds in Spring, then I will hopefully get a good crop again next year.

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Don’t forget the humble packet of ‘Cress’ seeds.

Last week I sowed some ‘Cress’ seeds.  I remember doing this as a child in an old margarine pot.  I did it exactly the same way now.  It’s easy to forget about this really easy seed to grow.

All I did was line the pot with a folded tissue and wet it (pouring away any excess water) and I sprinkled the cress seed thickly on top of the tissue.  I put the pot in a cupboard (so it’s dark) and waited for the seeds to germinate, being careful to not let them dry out.

As soon as they germinated, I put the pot on the window sill and I just watered them when they needed it.

In a couple of weeks I have lovely cress to add to my salads or egg sandwiches:

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I also picked up a bargain this week.  I wanted to buy an oregano plant as it’s a herb we eat a lot of it in our house and I was lucky enough to spot a bargain, healthy plant at Wilkinsons this week.  I only paid £3 for it which I was really pleased with.  I will leave the plant inside for a while yet though.

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I don’t know if you remember, but back in the autumn we moved my shed from one place at my allotment to better place.  I have been left with a bare bit of ground that is sheltered and very sunny and I have spent the winter wondering what to plant there.

I finally decided to buy and plant a bare-rooted Quince tree.  Bare-rooted trees are perfect to plant at this time of year (unless your ground is soggy of course).  The advantage of bare-rooted trees is that they are usually cheaper than pot grown trees, but they can only be planted while the tree is dormant.

A couple of years ago, Rob Carter (the head gardener at Eco House in Leicester), gave me some Quinces to try and I made Quince jelly and it was wonderful.  So this was my inspiration for buying the tree.

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I actually bought the tree on Ebay from ‘Beechwood Nurseries’ for £19.99.  I had recently been selling one or two things on ebay and I decided to treat myself with the proceeds.

The tree arrived and when I had finally unwrapped it (I have never seen so much wrapping in all my life), the tree appeared to have a good root system.

For those that have never planted a bare-rooted tree before, this is how to do it:

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Planting a bare-rooted tree

It’s important not to let the roots dry out, so as soon as I unwrapped the tree, I then soaked the roots for a few hours in water.

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I dug a hole large enough to spread the roots out and deep enough so the soil sits just below the ‘bulge’ where the top part of the tree (the scion) was grafed onto the rootstock.

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I then made holes with my fork, all over the area at the bottom of the holes to help with drainage.

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At this stage you can coat your tree roots with ‘mycorrhizal fungi’ which you can buy from most garden centres.  This helps the tree roots to establish better, but I’ve got to say I never bother with it.

I then put the tree in the hole and positioned the tree stake.  I find it better to put the stake in now, so I don’t damage the roots by hammering it in later.

I then fill the hole with a mixture of the soil I had taken out of the hole and lots of my homemade compost.

After half filling the hole, I tread all around the tree to make sure there are no air pockets

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Then I continue to fill the hole and repeat with my foot when it is full.

I then give the tree a good watering to allow the compost/soil to settle around the tree

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I then use a tree tie to secure the tree to the stake.

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And then I gave it a quick prune.

There is some really good advice about ‘formative pruning’ here on the RHS website.

Please remember, you can’t prune plum or cherries at this time of year.

And now I look forward to lots of Quinces in a few years.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

What To Do In The Kitchen Garden In February

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. Therefore, this is a general guide.

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February:

January has been a very wet month and it is said that if February starts with cloud and rain then winter is virtually over, especially if there is a westerly wind.  Though it is also said that if the wind is in the east at the beginning of the month then winter will be here for some weeks to come.

February can be one of the coldest months of the year, with afternoon temperatures not rising much above freezing.  Blustery winds can bring heavy snow fall too.   However in a milder February, afternoon temperatures can reach 10C in the Midlands.

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Vegetables and salads to harvest:

Brussels, kale, cabbages, parsnips, celeriac, leeks, cauliflowers, swedes, Jerusalem artichokes, hardy lettuces, corn salad, land cress and winter purslane, mizuna, chicory, endive and early sprouting broccoli.

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Vegetables and salads to sow:

Broad beans can be sown outside if the soil is not frozen or waterlogged.

Hardy peas can be planted outside in milder areas or undercover.

Onions can be grown from seed in modules, but they must have a minimum temperature of 10C.

Early varieties of Kohl rabi, brussel sprouts and sprouting broccoli can be sown this month indoors and Globe artichokes, rhubarb, lettuce and salad leaves, leeks, radish, coriander, parsley, basil, spinach and greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers too.

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Things to plant (if the soil is not frozen or waterlogged):

Garlic can be planted outside.

Bare-rooted fruit trees and bushes can be planted.

Jerusalem artichokes can be dug up and re-planted and rhubarb sets can also be planted this month.

Shallots can be planted this month too (though I prefer to plant mine undercover in modules).

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Jobs to do:

Lift your remaining Jerusalem artichokes and dig in some compost or manure.  Replant them 10-15cm deep, 30-40cm apart.

Warm the soil where you will be soon planting crops e.g. broad beans or shallots, by covering with plastic or cardboard.

Continue to plant bare-rooted trees and fruit bushes.

Cut down autumn raspberries to just above ground level, as they produce fruit on new growth during the summer.

Give your compost heap a turn and water it if it is dry.

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Finish digging your plot over if it is not waterlogged or frozen, incorporating compost or manure if required.  If it is just a little bit wet, use a plank to stand on while you dig, to spread your weight evenly.

Don’t forget to feed the birds and top up water for them to drink.

Keep removing any yellow fallen leaves around your brassicas as these can harbor pests.

Order any seeds for the coming year and plan this year’s crop rotation.

Weed and mulch around established fruit trees.

Continue to fill your runner bean trenches with old peelings.

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Check the fruit and vegetables that you have stored. Remember that one bad fruit or vegetable can destroy the whole crop if you don’t remove it quick enough.

Bullfinches love the newly forming buds, especially on gooseberries, apple, pears and plums. If you have had a problem in the past then nets are the only solution.

Continue to cover the white cauliflowers with their green leaves bended over them, to protect them from frost and light.

Finish pruning fruit trees and bushes (except cherries and plums) unless the weather has turned very cold.  They will start to come out of their dormancy in March.

Buy seed potatoes and ‘chit’ them by putting them in egg boxes or trays with their ‘eyes’ facing upwards.  Leave them in a cool, light room.

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Check all your tree stakes and fruit supports are stable and repair if necessary while plants are dormant.

‘Force’ rhubarb by covering the crown with an upside down dustbin.

Feed fruit bushes with a high potash feed or blood, fish and bone and then mulch.

If you grow apricots, peaches or nectarines in a sheltered, south facing spot, then they may start to blossom in February.  Cover them to protect them from rain and frost.  You may have to hand pollinated the flowers.

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February pests and diseases:

Mice and rats love to dig up and eat newly planted broad beans, early pea seeds and garlic.

Slugs can still be a problem even in February.

Pigeons are hungry and love eating brassicas so keep them netted.

Bull finches love the new buds on gooseberries, so net them early.

Check apple and pear trees for signs of canker and cut out any diseased wood.

Check for ‘big bud mite’ on blackcurrants.  The buds will actually look big and swollen if affected.

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I hope this information has been helpful.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.