Archive | March 2014

What To Do In The Kitchen Garden In April

I hope all the Mothers reading my blog today had a lovely day yesterday.  I know I did.

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My Daughters ‘Mothers Day’ cards

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I love this time of year when we put our clocks forward an hour, as lighter evenings will give us more time to spend in the garden.

As it is April tomorrow, I decided to write my usual monthly blog post a day early:

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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.

Please bear in mind that different parts of the UK have different weather conditions e.g. the last frost is expected earlier in the south than the north.

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April

April is a ‘lean’ month as there isn’t too much around to harvest from your kitchen garden, but it is a busy month with all the seeds that need to be sown.  It is probably best not to sow most seeds outdoors yet, unless it is an exceptionally mild spring, as it is more likely that your seeds will rot in the cold, damp soil.

In general, the weather in April is very similar to March and there is still a big difference between the weather in the North and the South of the UK.

Sleet and snow showers are common in April and it is possible for snow to settle, though it rarely lasts for long.   There may be one or two thunderstorms during April, with heavy rain and hail, but there can also be dry periods too with warm sunshine.
Daytime temperatures in southern England will rarely fall below 10C, but be careful as there can still be heavy frosts at night.

A reading on my 'Minimum/Maximum' thermometer on the 3rd April

A reading on my ‘Minimum/Maximum’ thermometer in my polytunnel, on the 3rd April 2013.

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Vegetables and salads to harvest:

You may still have some leeks to harvest and curly kale.  Hopefully you can harvest your spring broccoli and your first asparagus this month, together with spring cabbages and cauliflowers.  Winter hardy lettuces, corn salad, mizuna, etc. can be harvested and winter hardy spring onions will be ready now.  Rocket can be picked when the leaves are approximately two inches long.  Perpetual spinach sowed in Autumn will be ready too, together with Swiss chard.

The first rhubarb can be picked this month too.

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Vegetables and salads to sow outdoors:

The following seeds can be sown outdoors under cover, i.e. a cloche, cold greenhouse or a polytunnel, provided the soil temperature is beginning to warm up.  This is usually when the annual weeds begin to grow again, however if you are unsure you can invest in a soil thermometer.

The soil can be warmed for a couple of weeks before sowing, by placing plastic sheeting on the ground.

Turnips, salad leaves e.g. corn salad, rocket, land cress and lettuces, radish, beetroot, mangetout and peas.  Broad beans, brussel sprouts, cabbages, calabrese, cauliflowers, kale,  watercress, sorrel, kohl rabi, parsnips, spinach, spring onions, sprouting broccoli, swiss chard, leeks, spinach and carrots.  Most herbs can be sown now too.

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Vegetables and salads to sow indoors:

These seeds can be sown on a warm windowsill or a heated greenhouse.  Remember most of these plants are frost sensitive and you will probably only be able to plant them out around the end of May, depending where you live in the country, so don’t sow them all at the beginning of April unless you have somewhere warm to keep the plants until the risk of frost has passed you by.

Celeriac, Tomatoes, Celery, peppers (sweet and chili), sweet corn, runner beans, all squashes e.g. patty pans, cucumbers, pumpkins, courgettes, marrow, gherkins, shark fin melons, french beans, endive, aubergines, fennel and chicory.

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

New Jerusalem artichokes tubers should be planted by the end of April and so should asparagus crowns or it will be too late for them.

Offsets taken from established globe artichokes plants can be planted this month.  Lettuces and salad leaves can be planted out, but they will still need a bit of protection if there are frosts.

Kohl rabi, kale, onion sets, peas, potatoes, radishes, spouting broccoli, cauliflowers.

Plant container grown fruit trees and fruit bushes too.

Plant greenhouse crops e.g. tomatoes towards the end of the month.

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Jobs to do:

Keep sowing seeds and pricking out seedlings.

Water seedlings when required.

Pot on plants that are outgrowing the pot they are in, before they become ‘pot-bound’.

Harden off plants ready to plant them out.

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

Hoe and weed regularly.

Earth up early potatoes to make sure the tubers stay underground, as they turn green if they are exposed to the light and can become poisonous.

Remove the covers that you put over your rhubarb to blanch the stems and  enjoy lovely pink stems.

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April pests and diseases:

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

Slugs will eat newly planted seedlings

Flea beetle can be a problem this month, leaving tiny little holes all over leaves. Plants do usually recover, though when they are badly affected it can stunt their growth.

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.

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

Check gooseberry and currant bushes for the sawfly larvae which look like caterpillar’s and pick them off.

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I hope this information has been helpful.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

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Shallots, Onion Sets And Peas

I have seen one or two beautiful things this week and I thought I would share them with you.

The first thing is a sight I look forward to every Spring…the sight of the a Magnolia tree in flower.  This tree belongs to one of our neighbours and the photograph was taken from my daughters bedroom.  We have quite a small garden but we are very lucky not to be overlooked by other people’s houses.

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I also noticed this week that the Bergenia plant in my garden is flowering nicely too.  It seems to like the shade from our fence.

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And at my allotment the bees and butterflies are taking advantage of the sun when it is out:

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One thing I found this week shows how amazing plants can be…I found this self seeded Primrose growing next to our old shed door in a ‘crack’ in our wall and it is so pretty.  I couldn’t bring myself to disturb it, so I have left it there:

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Last weekend, Mr Thrift and I dismantled the old swing in our garden at home.  I must admit I did get a bit sentimental about it, as I have lots of lovely memories of my girls playing on it.  But time passes quickly and my 14 and 16 year olds just do not want it anymore and it’s also quite an embarressment for them when their friends come around.

You can see the swing at the bottom of our garden, in this old photograph below:

The swing wasn’t really good enough to pass on to someone else, so I decided to move it to my allotment.

Those who have been reading my blog for a while, may remember that I also used to have a swing for my girls at the allotment too.  Last year I also moved this over my path and I planted a Clematis to grow over it and I also grew some Sweet peas up the sides:

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  So I decided to do the same with the swing from my garden and I have put the swings together.  I am hoping that the plants will cover the top and create a sort of tunnel over the path to walk through:

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So this week I have given the swing a quick lick of brown paint and next week I will attach some chicken wire for plants to grow up….and then I need to decide what to grow over it to compliment the Clematis.

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Back in the middle of Febuary, I planted my shallots in modules to start them off early.  This week at my allotment I decided to plant them all out.

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I started by preparing the soil by raking in some Blood, Fish and Bone fertiliser over the area.  I then planted my shallots.

Please note, Blood, Fish and Bone is really best applied two weeks before you plant into it, but unfortunately I didn’t get around to it then.

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You can see from the photograph below that the roots on the the shallots are not too congested, but there is enough root structure to plant them:

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I then prepared the soil in another bed exactly the same and planted some onion sets.  Onion sets are planted so the ‘head and shoulders’ of the bulbs are poking out of the soil, but you must check them every few days as birds will sometimes pull them out of the ground thinking they are worms.  If this happens, you just need to pop them back in.

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We have had some lovely things to eat from the allotment this week.

I have been trying to use the kale up and I have really enjoyed eating this, as it’s one of my favourite vegetables:

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My youngest daughter was happy as we had our first purple sprouting broccoli of the year and this is her favourite vegetable:

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And we had a lovely little salad picked from the allotment this week, with red veined sorrel, mizuna, corn salad and the first chives of the year:

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At home I have been ‘pricking’ out the seedlings that I sowed last week (annual lavertera, dhalia’s, marigolds, cosmos etc):

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I am very glad I have a greenhouse:

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When I was in town a few weeks ago, I found some seed trays in the ‘pound shop’ that I thought I would give a try.  I must say they are really easy to fill with compost and to use but I’m not sure I would buy them again, because I don’t think I can reuse them as they look like they would be difficult to wash (though I will try).

  My friend gave me a stack of plastic trays a few years ago (the type that bedding plants come in) and I have washed them and re-used them time and time again.  In fact you can see some of them in the photos above as I find them great for putting my flower seedlings into.

The photographs below show the ‘Pound shop’ trays I bought:

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Finally, this week I have sown some dwarf peas.

I have tried different ways of sowing my peas, but over the years I have found it best to start them off in my greenhouse at home, in small lengths of guttering.  This way I get a better germination rate than I do when I sow them direct into the ground at my allotment.

I use small pieces of guttering (approximately 70cm in length) as I find the compost slides out easier from the smaller pieces than the long lengths of guttering.  I seal each end of the guttering with a piece of ‘Duct tape’, to stop the compost falling out:

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I fill the guttering with compost and sow my peas into it:

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My guttering will sit in my heated greenhouse until I just see them poking through the compost and then I will move them into my coldframe.

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Below is a picture of the peas when they germinated last year:

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When the peas are fully hardened off I plant them out, but I will show you how I do this another time.

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Well I think that’s enough for today, except I just wanted to show you one last thing.  The photo below shows the mixed salad leaves that I sowed on the 6th March.  I used an old grocers wooden box with an opened compost bag filled with compost and they are doing fine.  They sit in my greenhouse where the temperature falls no lower than 10C at night and they are growing well.  It just shows you can grow salad leaves in just about anything:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

Back To Basics & Making My Own Cleaning Products.

This weekend I spent a happy hour checking our finances were in order.  I regularly make sure that I have entered every little purchase to make sure we know exactly where every penny has gone to.  This helps us to save money in the long term as we can see if there are any problem areas that we need to concentrate on.

Unfortunately we are not perfect and one thing I noticed this time, is we are starting to visit the shops more and more often.  Each time is for something I have forgotten to buy on my ‘big’ shop at the beginning of the month.  This wouldn’t be quite so bad if we just bought what I needed, but the supermarkets are clever and we nearly always come out with an extra something that we don’t really need and it uses up more of our food budget.

Recently, I have been working so hard on my allotment (due to being poorly in Autumn) that I have started to take shortcuts when I come home and I have been making ‘easier’ meals and not sticking to my meal plans.  So I know this is at the root of the problem and this has got to stop and it’s back to strictly keeping to a meal plan for us.  Luckily I have just about ‘caught up’ with my winter jobs at my allotment, so hopefully I can get back to normal now.

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Regular visitors to my blog will know that one thing I do regularly to save money, is to make laundry liquid.  On Saturday I ran out of my last batch of liquid, so I made some more.

I prefer to wash our clothes using homemade laundry liquid, as I know what goes into it….I suffer quite badly with excema and I used to find that shop-bought powers and liquids always made my excema worse.  My homemade laundry liquid doesn’t seem to affect me all, which is great and it is really really easy to make.

The laundry liquid only takes 10-15 minutes to make and it lasts for weeks.  It is great for every day washing and the last time I worked it out a few months ago, it cost me approximately £1.75 to make and I managed to get 71 washes out of it.  This works out at a staggering 2.5p per wash….the supermarkets can’t beat that!

The recipe for the liquid is here.

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I use old ‘pop’ bottles to store the liquid in, which I label and keep under my sink.

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This weekend I also made some more dishwasher liquid using ‘soapnuts’:

I know there will be people reading my blog today who use them regularly for washing clothes, but unfortunately I didn’t think they washed our clothes very well even though I followed the instructions to the letter and I did try using them various times before I decided to give up.

So my soap nuts sat unused for ages, but I couldn’t bare to throw them away as I had paid good money for them.

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In January I discovered that you can use soapnuts to make a dishwasher liquid and this is something I have been trialing since January and I have found it works really well.  When my stash of soap nuts finally run out, I will definately buy some more.

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  I find that if I use the liquid in my dishwasher every wash, then grease builds up inside my dishwasher, so I have found that it works best if I use it for two washes and then wash once with a shop-bought dishwasher tablet once and then use the dishwasher liquid twice etc.  This way it still saves me quite a bit of money.

You can find how to make it here.

My Dishwasher Liquid

My Dishwasher Liquid

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Incidentally,  I also topped up the rinse aid compartment in my dishwasher this week.  Again I don’t buy a shop-bought rinse aid, I use white distilled vinegar which is very cheap to buy from your local supermarket and works just as well.

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Another thing I did at the weekend was to make some more ‘multi-purpose vinegar spray’.  I use this to clean down my work surfaces in my kitchen, our table mats, my cooker hob etc.  Again it is really cheap to make and it lasts ages, but more importantly I know what goes into it.

All it is made of is distilled white vinegar (which most supermarkets sell), with a few drops of ‘Tea Tree Oil’ (which I buy from Wilkinsons).

Distilled white vinegar is great as it’s cheap to buy and cuts through grease and dirt and is antibacterial too, so it kills most germs.  It does smell when you first spray it, but the smell doesn’t linger and no one will know you have used it.  White vinegar is milder than malt vinegar and dries odourless.

I mix the vinegar with a few drops of Tea Tree Oil which has anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties too.

This makes a fantastic natural multi-purpose cleaner and it lasts for ages:

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I use a lot of ‘old fashioned’ cleaning methods as I like the thought of not using chemicals and saving money at the same time.  I wrote about all the ‘old fashioned cleaning methods’ I could think of here if anyone is interested.

I find that I feel rather smug now when I see people with expensive chemical cleaners and washing powders in their trollies, knowing that I wash and clean for a faction of what they are paying.

My cleaning cupboard consists of only a few things that clean eveything in my house…and that’s the way I like it..

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

How to Make Newspaper Plant Pots

It has been a showery week at my allotment.  On Tuesday it lashed down with rain for half an hour and even hailed.  I sat in my car and had lunch watching it, but soon afterwards the sun was shining again:

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Yesterday was officially the first day of spring and spring flowers are looking beautiful.  I noticed my Hyacinths at my allotment are flowering lovely in my flower patch.  I bought these bulbs for just 10p in a sale, approximately four or five years ago and they have given a good show each spring:

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This week I have been concentrating on tidying up last year’s brassica beds, where I will shortly be planting my shallots and onions.

I started by digging up my remaining brussells and freezing them. I am very pleased with my sprouts this year, they are an F1 variety called ‘Igor’.  For years I couldn’t grow sprouts without them ‘blowing’ (which means loose, open sprouts), even though I tried everything that the experts told me to do.  In the end, I tried growing an F1 variety and I now have success:

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I washed and prepared the brussells, blanched them and then ‘open froze’ them (if you are unsure how to freeze vegetables, you can read about it here).

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I also lifted my remaining swedes this week.  I have lots of people tell me that their swedes become ‘woody’ if they leave them in the ground too long.  I have never had this problem, but I have read that two reasons for ‘woody’ swedes are either a lack of water at some stage while they are growing or a lack of nutrients in the soil.  I must admit I only ever water mine if it’s really, really dry, but I do plant mine where I have manured the autumn before and I give the ground a feed of blood, fish and bone a couple of weeks before I plant my swedes out (I sow my swedes in mid-April in newspaper pots).

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I noticed the kale at my allotment is about to flower.  It usually lasts a bit longer before it flowers, but I can only assume it is because it has been mild for the last couple of weeks.  I chopped the flower buds off in the hope it will last a bit longer as it doesn’t freeze very well and I have so much of it left for us to eat.

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I also noticed that my spring broccoli is nearly ready to pick (my youngest daughter will be pleased as it is her favourite vegetable):

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I spent time this week making the edges of my paths neat, where my ‘poached egg plants’ grow.  I love the poached egg plants I have, as they have a pretty flower (that looks like a poached egg) and they attract hoverflies which eat aphids. They also attract lots of bees too:

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But on top of this, the plants are also useful, as excess plants can be dug into the soil like a green manure.  So I think it is a very useful plant to grow and self seeds easily every year.

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Finally this week at the allotment, I forked my old brassica beds over lightly, ready for this years crops:

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At home this week I sowed some spring onions.

We all have one crop that we can’t grow at our allotment and Spring onions is my crop.  I always found that hardly any seeds would germinate, even though Spring onions are supposed to be so easy to grow.  I eventually learnt a trick to get around this…I plant a small pinch of seed into modules full of compost, which I grow on until they are a couple of inches high.  I then plant them out in bunches and they grow just fine this way:

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 I also spent time ‘pricking out’ my seedlings that I sowed on the 6th March.  These are red cabbage, white cabbage and some brussel sprouts.

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I planted the seedlings in paper pots that I made:

Newspaper Pots

Newspaper pots are great to make as they are extremely cheap and environmetally friendly to use, as the recycled materials decompose when you put them in the ground.  This also helps the plants that do not like root disturbance, e.g. swedes, that can be sown in the pots and then planted a few weeks later, still in the newspaper pots.  The plants find it easy to grow their roots through the damp pots when they are in the ground.

I was once asked if I used a special tool to make my newspaper plant pots…the answer is “no”.  You can buy a ‘Newspaper Pot Maker’ for approximately £10, but I prefer to make my pots using either a baked bean tin, or a soya sauce bottle, depending on the size of pot that I require and some masking tape…(the masking tape decomposes along with the newspaper in the ground).

I thought it would be useful to write how I make the pots again, as I have a lot of new people reading my blog now.  So this is how I make easy newspaper pots:

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How To Make Newspaper Pots:

 

You need a newspaper, some masking tape and a soya sauce bottle for small pots or a baked bean tin for larger pots

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Fold a sheet of newspaper into thirds

(if the newspaper is very large you may need to fold the sheet in half first)

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Roll the paper around the bottle, so the newspaper is over lapping the base of the bottle

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Ensure you don’t roll the newspaper too tightly, or it will be hard to remove the paper from the bottle.

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Use a small piece of masking tape to secure the paper at the top and then fold in the newspaper over the bottom of the bottle.

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Secure the bottom of the pot with a small piece of masking tape.

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You can use different sized tins and bottles depending on the size of pot required.  For example, I use a baked bean tin to make pots ready for when I ‘prick out’ my tomato plants.

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I find it’s best to make the pots and use them straight away, as sometimes the masking tape becomes ‘unstuck’ if you make them too far in advance.

Important:

When your plant is ready to go into the ground, make sure all of the newspaper is under the soil, or the paper will act like a wick and dry the compost out.

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I hope this has been useful.

Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

Have a good weekend!

Batch Baking, Fixed Beds And Celeriac

Before I start I thought I would show you a couple of photos that I took yesterday out of the car window, whilst my husband was driving.  I think the display of daffodils that Leicester City Council planted a few years ago, really look beautiful this year.  I think the daffodils are the variety called ‘Tete-a-Tete’ and they look stunning planted all along the central reservation.

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Yesterday morning I did my usual weekend ‘batch baking’.  I love baking all in one go, as it saves me time during the week and energy as I cook things together.

This weekend I made fruit scones and weetabix chocolate brownies for lunch boxes and a chocolate cake for tea. I butter the scones before freezing them as it makes it easier in the mornings, as I just take a couple of scones out and pop them a lunch box.

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I also made a large pot of vegetable soup to take to the allotment with me in my flask.  I love having homemade soup with a homemade roll, sitting in the sunshine at my allotment watching all the birds and insects buzzing around….and it’s full of vitamins and cheap too.

My homemade soup has whatever I fancy from the freezer when I make it.  Yesterday’s soup has my homegrown swede, turnip, courgettes, runnerbeans, broadbeans, pumpkin and leeks in it.

I just fried the leek in a tablespoon of olive oil until it was soft and threw everything else in and just covered it all with vegetable stock and left it to simmer for thirty minutes.

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I then used my hand blender to ‘blitz’ it until it was smooth and divided it into portions which I froze when it had cooled down.

It really is an easy meal to make.

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At my allotment this weekend I noticed lots of ladybirds appearing.  In this particular clump of overgrown grass there were loads of them together, though the photograph actually only shows three.

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I have ‘fixed beds’ at my allotment, which just means I have paths either side of my beds so I don’t need to walk on them.  This makes it far easier for me to manage the soil, as I can just lightly ‘fork’ over my beds if I need to.

I chose not to have raised beds as I couldn’t afford the wood for raised beds (as I have four plots) and I would also need to buy in the top soil to fill them.

My top soil is nice and deep and I don’t think raised beds would be an advantage for me.  The only exception is my one raised bed that I use to grow my carrots in, as I can not grow carrots in my very heavy soil.  This one and only raised bed is made up each year of my homemade compost, leafmould and a bag of sand and this is the only way I have managed to grow carrots.

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So this week I have been busy finishing the weed suppressant paths that I talked about here and I have been ‘forking’ over this area ready for my legumes.

I think this area looks much better without the bricks holding the weed suppressant down and it will be lovely not to have the weed suppressant ‘fraying’ all over the place as it gets caught up in my fork, which is very annoying as it makes the job harder to do.

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There was one area that I had been treading on all winter, as I had put the prunings that I took from my plum tree late last summer there.  This wasn’t a wise move as it was really hard work forking the soil over, as it had all compacted and the water was slow to drain from this area.

  I thought I would show you the difference between the soil that I had trod on lots over the winter and the soil that I hadn’t trod on.  Both photos were taken when I had turned the soil over with my fork.  You can see the soil structure where I hadn’t walked, in the right hand photo. This was far better than the soil on the left hand photo, where I had walked.  So this is really enough proof to me that my ‘fixed’ beds do actually work.

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This weekend I had been transplanting some of my plants at the allotment.  I have divided my chysanthemums and planted them through my weed suppressant next to the boxes that I made last week to edge my plot:

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I have also been transplanting some of them to the outside of my woodland area, together with foxgloves that have self seeded around my plot.  Hopefully they will look lovely when they flower.

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And finally, I transplanted some Michaelmas daisys that had outgrown their spot, to the back of my plot around the Hazel trees which I coppiced this winter…

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…I do already have Lavatera and Buddlia growing at the back of the Hazel, so hopefully with the  Michaelmas daisys,   this area won’t look so bare whilist the Hazel is growing back.

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One last thing, I picked the last of my celeriac this weekend.  I don’t usually leave it in the ground overwinter, but I somehow over looked it….but I have got away with it as it has been so mild.  The celeraic does have one or two slug holes in, but I am really pleased with it overall.

So my next job is to freeze it this week.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

Planting Broad beans And Homemade Planters.

It’s been beautiful weather at the allotment this week.  Each day has started off cold but by the afternoon I have been working in my short sleeved T-shirt.

I noticed my Forsythia has started to flower:

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and the daffodils are looking lovely too:

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It’s has been feeling very much like Spring.

I noticed that there are buds on some of my fruit trees.  I was especially pleased to see the Quince tree I planted last month is growing.  I always worry a little bit just in case trees that I buy bare-rooted don’t grow (even though I have never had one that doesn’t).  So it is always a relief to see the little buds in spring:

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The area underneath my large plum tree is looking ‘spring-like’ too with daffodils and primroses:

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The ‘Christmas rose’  (Helleborous) is flowering well now and I noticed the first ‘For-get-me-nots’ (Myosotis) are starting to flower.

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Last week I ordered some ‘snow drops in the green’ and they came on Tuesday so I planted them.  ‘In the green’ just means that they have been lifted just after flowering so you can see what you are buying and it’s easier to plant them where you want them in Spring, rather than planting bulbs later on in the year.

I ordered more Snowdrops this year for my woodland area, in memory of my old friend who passed away last February when the Snowdrops were flowering.  I would like lots and lots of Snowdrops in this area, so I decided I would buy a few each year until I have enough.

Snow drops are really easy to plant ‘in the green’.  I just dug a hole and dropped them in and watered them well.

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This week at my allotment I planted my broad beans that I sowed at the beginning of January.  The variety is called ‘Aquadulce’, which is an overwintering variety.

I like to make sure my broad beans are well supported, as they do sometimes ‘flop’ over.  I use small canes and string to support the beans.  I use two strings at different heights:

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I also put little balls on my outside canes to stop me from poking my eyes when I bend forward to weed or pick the beans.  These balls were brought in the sales a few years ago from Argos.  They are balls that are used in children’s ball pits, with a slit cut in each one so I can place it on the canes.

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This week at my allotment I also decided it was time to neaten up the area at the front of my plot.

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At the front of my plot is an area full of couch grass, where I can park my car when I bring it.  It is really useful to have this space as it is great for unloading my plants etc.  However, where it ends it is scruffy.

After lots of thought I decided it would be nice to have some flowers here, in long thin planters.  This would stop the couch grass from growing through the soil, but I found that this would be expensive to do….so I spent a good few months wondering how I could do this cheaply and last week I finally had an idea:

A few years ago my dad gave me some wooden grocers boxes with the bottoms removed.  The idea was to use them as mini cold frames with a piece of glass resting on the top.  For a few years I used them like this and they were great, however I stopped using them when I inherited my polytunnel.  So they have sat on my plot unused for three years, until this week:

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I took the sides off the boxes and used a saw to cut them down to the size I wanted and then put them back together.

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I then gave them a paint.

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I removed some of the grass at the front of my plot…

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…and put the boxes in place.  I hammered posts in the ground to stop the boxes from moving and covered the soil at the bottom of each box with weed suppressant to stop the couch grass from growing up through the boxes.

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I then filled the boxes with my homemade compost.

I think the boxes will look lovely filled with some flowers over the summer….I’ve just got to decide which flowers.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.  I will be back at my usual time on Monday.

Have a good weekend!

                                                       

Seed sowing And How To Prick Out Seedlings

The weather has been beautiful over the weekend here in Leicester.  Yesterday I was actually working in a short sleeved T-shirt.

I noticed quite a few ladybirds moving about and one or two early bumblebees on my daffodils.  I also saw this lovely butterfly basking in the sun right at the back of my plot:

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The sunshine is a timely reminder that it will soon be time to sow or plant vegetables outside (though it is still too early yet as my soil is still too cold), so I have been finishing off digging manure or compost in beds that needed it.

I have also been feeding my fruit bushes, strawberries and trees with ‘potash’ which is great for fruiting plants.  It is also great for flowers too, so I have also used it to feed my flower beds.

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I sprinkle a handful around the trees and bushes and then hoe it in.  I will also mulch the plants with some homemade compost too when I get around to it.

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Since my last blog post, I have been sowing the following seeds at home:

Brussels

Red Cabbage

Greenhouse Cucumbers

Coriander

Mixed Salad Leaves

Lettuce – Webbs Wonderful

I germinate the seeds in unheated propagators next to my window.  When the seeds have germinated, I take the lids off the propagator and move the seeds to my heated greenhouse.  I keep my greenhouse at a minimum temperature of 10C which is just right for most of my seeds, though this weekend in the sunshine the temperature has reached well over 30C with the door and window open.

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And I have also sown a couple of rows of Lollo Rosso lettuce and a row of radish in my polytunnel, just to test how warm the soil is in there.

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I have also been busy making plant lables using old plastic milk bottles.  They are free and easy to make.  All you do is wash the plastic milk bottle and cut them to the right shape.  I use a permanent marker to write on them, the same way I would normally write on a shop brought plant label:

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I sowed some greenhouse tomatoes (Moneymaker) and some cauliflowers on the 14th of February and they were both ready to transplant.

Any plants that need a bit of extra heat (like my peppers) I leave them next to the window with some silver foil wrapped around cardboard, behind them.  This helps reflect the light which helps to stop the seedlings leaning towards the window so much.

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Just in case you are new to growing your vegetables from seed, I have written below how to transplant seedlings:

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How to transplant seedlings:

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First use a ‘dibber’ or an old pencil to ease up your seedlings from out of your pot.  Try and ease the seedling up from the bottom by going underneath the roots with the dibber.  Hold the seedling only by its seed leaves.

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Fill a clean pot with compost and make a hole in the compost with your dibber.

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Ease the root into the hole using the dibber and ease the compost around it gently.

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Water and move to a warm place, out of the sun for a few days.

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Then watch your seedling grow!

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Just to finish off, last week I dug lots of compost into my dad’s bed at the front of my fourth plot, ready for him to plant into soon.

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Unfortunately, he has been having more and more problems with his back and legs and after discussing this at length with him, he has decided to just use his garden at home to grow his vegetables in.  I must say this is a relief to me as I have been worrying about this area being too much for him, but I also feel sad as I will miss him at my allotment.

 April 2012

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at my usual time.