Archive | May 2014

What To Do In The Kitchen Garden In June

As it’s been a wet and miserable week and half term for my daughters, I didn’t get to visit my allotment other than to water my polytunnel and pick salads.  So I thought I would bring my usual monthly post forward by a couple of days, which I think will be helpful anyway at this time of year:

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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.

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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My potatoes

June

June is the midpoint of the year and the days are at their longest, so plants will be enjoying the extra hours of sunlight.

Temperatures should be steadily rising and the risk of frost should have just about passed for all areas.  This is a good time for plant growth, but it is also a good time for pests and diseases to attack, so keep checking your plants.

 Spring cabbages

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Vegetables and salads to harvest:

Broad beans (overwintering varieties), spinach beet and chard, peas, asparagus (traditionally up until midsummers day), globe artichokes, kohl rabi, calabrese and summer sprouting broccoli, overwintering onions, beetroot, garlic, early potatoes, cauliflowers, turnips, carrots and florence fennel.  Lettuces, radishes, mixed salad leaves and spring onions.

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Fruit to harvest:

Strawberries and gooseberries.

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Vegetables and salads to sow:

Sprouting broccoli and calabrese, beetroot, french beans, turnips, carrots, kale, swedes, runner beans, kohl rabi, peas, spinach, perpetual spinach, fennel and swiss chard.  Pumpkins, courgettes, marrows and other squashes can be sown now still, if you are quick.

Lettuces and salad leaves (though they are harder to germinate in hot weather), mizuna, mibuna and other oriental leaves.  Rocket, spring onions, radishes.

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Things to plant:

Brassicas can be planted out, these include brussel sprouts, red and white cabbages, cauliflowers, kohl rabi, spouting broccoli, calabrese and kale.  Leeks, peas, lettuces and salad leaves can be planted too.

Also, aubergines, peppers, chillis, outdoor cucumbers, pumpkins, courgettes, marrows, patty pans, runner beans, french beans, asparagus pea, celery, celeriac, summer squashes, sweet corn, tomatoes, florence fennel, sweetcorn and sweet potatoes.

Cape gooseberries, melons and strawberries can also be planted this month, together with container grown herbs.

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Jobs to do in June:

Keep weeding and mulch with compost if the ground is damp.  Mulching will suppress the weeds and help to keep the soil moist.

Thin out any seedlings you have grown, so they have room to grow.

Earth up potatoes.

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Water if it is dry.  It is better to give a ‘good’ watering once a week, rather than water a small amount daily, as this will help the plant roots to grow deeper to find water.

Cut back herbs such as chives, mint, thyme, sage, etc. to remove old leaves.  New growth will then appear with fresh leaves for you to enjoy.

After midsummers day, stop picking asparagus and give them a feed with a general purpose fertiliser.  Let them grow until autumn, then cut them down when the top growth has died and is completely brown.

When your peas or beans have stopped producing, cut down the foliage leaving the roots in the ground, as these have lots of nitrogen in their modules, which will be good for your next crops.

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Feed tomatoes when you can see their first little tomatoes forming.  Use a high potash feed, a comfrey feed is perfect for this.  See how to make a comfrey feed here.

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.

Prune the side shoots on grape vines and thin out fruit so remaining fruit will grow larger.

The ‘June drop’ takes place this month, but your apples and pears may need some help with this.  So thin out areas that are overcrowded so the remaining fruit will grow larger and branches won’t break with the weight of the remaining fruit.

Tie in blackberry canes.

Put up shading in your greenhouse to protect plants from the heat of the sun.

Keep pinching off the sideshoots on your tomatoes.

Remove any strawberries that have been affected by grey mould.

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June pests and diseases:

Protect your brassicas, peas, strawberries and even lettuces from pigeons, by keeping them netted.

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

Pick off and remove asparagus beetles and their larvae.

Flea beetles will leave tiny little holes all over leaves of radishes, rocket, beetroot and 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 still be a problem this month, as they lay their eggs at the base of brassicas, so it is best to fit cabbage collars around the base of them.  See here how to make your own cabbage collars.

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Remove any yellow leaves from brassicas to stop pests from hiding in them or diseases from spreading.

Check brassicas for caterpillars.  Pick them off or squash them.

Check gooseberry and currant bushes for the sawfly larvae which look like caterpillars and pick them off. Also, check gooseberries for American gooseberry mildew.

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 from your broad bean plants, which will help to deter the blackfly.

Blackfly also love globe artichokes, runner beans and french beans and beetroot.  Wipe the blackfly between your fingers and thumb to squash them and/or grow sacrificial plants next to them that the black fly love more e.g. nasturtiums next to runner beans.

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Carrot flies are still around this month, so protect your crops with environ mesh.

If you haven’t already done this, lay a mulch of dry straw around your strawberries to keep your strawberries off the wet soil.  Dry straw will help to deter slugs and keep annual weeds from germinating.

Pea moth can be a problem this month.  Cover peas with a layer of fleece to protect them.

 My pheromone trap

If you didn’t do this in May, hang pheromone traps in apple and plum trees to attract and catch the male codling moths and plum moths, to prevent them mating with a female.

Net your cherries to protect them from birds.

Check grapes for mildew and scale insects.

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I hope this post will be useful.

I will be back next Friday at 4pm.  Have a good week.

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A New Gadget & Blogging Once A Week

At the beginning of the week it was really warm and I decided to take a day off from the allotment.

Mr Thrift very kindly took me to Barnsdale Gardens in Exton, Oakham.  This is where Geoff Hamilton filmed Gardeners World from 1983 until he sadly passed away in 1996.

It was Geoff Hamilton’s series called ‘The Ornamental Kitchen Garden’ that inspired me to have a go at growing vegetables, which has obviously grown into a passion of mine as I now have four allotment plots.

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The gardens were beautiful and so peaceful.

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I particularly enjoyed seeing the gardens that I remember Geoff Hamilton constructing on Gardeners World and it was great to come away with some new ideas.  One such idea was to grow ‘Lady’s mantle’ (Alchemilla mollis) around the base of fruit trees, which will act as a weed suppressant and a mulch to retain moisture around the roots of young trees.  You can see this in the photo below:

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If you are ever passing, the gardens are really worth a visit.

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I had a lovely visit from my nephew at the allotment this week.  He is rather good at photography and he took a photo which I thought I would share with you.  There are quite a few empty beds at the moment waiting for the more tender plants which will be planted at the end of this month, after any risk of frost has passed:

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You can see in the photo above that the lavender hedge that lines one of my paths will soon flower and look beautiful.

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This week I purchased a new gadget to try…. A ‘Bentley patio, paving and decking weed brush’ for £12.99

I get fed up of spending hours on my hands and knees each week weeding in between my paths.  As you know I am an organic gardener and I won’t use weed killers (glyphosate) on my plot.  Therefore I decided to treat myself:

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I didn’t buy the cheapest weed brush I could find, as I wanted to make sure it was a good quality brush that didn’t break after a few uses.

This brush is like magic as the hard wire bristles simply ‘brush away’ the weeds in between your slabs, as you can see in the photographs below.

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Obviously perennial weeds will grow again as the roots are deep below the slabs, but if you brush regularly then even the hardiest perrenial weeds will ‘give up’ growing after a while.

I found this brush particularly good at ‘brushing’ away horsetail (Equisetum arvense) that grows between the slabs outside my polytunnel.

An hours job per week has now turned into a five minute job and I think this brush is worth every penny.

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I have noticed a few things at my plot this week:

The first thing is my oriental poppies have started to flower.  My friend gave me a cutting a few years ago and it seemed to take a long time to become establshed, but last year I had a few flowers and this year it seems to be even better.

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You can read about oriental poppies here on the Gardeners World website.

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Another thing I noticed was a lovely Iris that has popped up in one of my flower beds.  I can’t for the life of me remember planting it, but I shall leave it there as it is beautiful:

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The perennial cornflowers (Centaurea montana) are now flowering in my flower patch, together with the aquiligias.   I always think perennial cornflowers are like ‘marmite’….you either love them or hate them….I love them:

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When I looked, I noticed my strawberries will soon be ready ro ripen:

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And I also noticed that the fruit trees and bushes seem to be doing well.

The golden gages, pears and apples all developing nicely:

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I have also checked the pheromone traps and I can see that the plum moths and codling moths are active, as some have already been ‘lured’ into the traps:

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One sad thing I have noticed this week at my allotment is that I think a few of my onions are suffering from the ‘allium leaf miner’ again.  The tell tale signs are white dots on the foliage and the foliage seems to twist.

I wrote about the allium leaf miner here if anyone is interested.

There is nothing I can do about it now but I think I will have to reassess how I grow my onions next year if there is alot of damage to my crop from this pest.

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This week at my allotment I planted out my runner beans.  I don’t usually plant tender plants out until the end of May, but they were getting a bit big (due to all the hot weather we have had) and I have sheets of glass ready to cover them if we have a late frost.

I also planted nasturtiums in between the runner bean plants as a sacrificial plants.  Blackflies prefer the nasturtiums to the beans, so it keeps the beans clear of the flies.  Also as a bonus, if there are no blackflies around, you can eat the peppery nasturtium leaves and flowers in salads.

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I also prepared the area where I will be planting my tomatoes at the end of this month.  At the end of March I spread manure over this bed and then covered it with weed suppressant as I hadn’t got time to fork it in.  I have found if I don’t fork the manure into the soil then it just dried in clumps on the top of the soil.

By covering the manure I was hoping that the worms would do some of the job for me…and indeed they did:

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….but there were still the odd bits that needed forking in, so I set to work turning the soil with my fork:

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This is the area that had my wildflowers in for the last two years, so this is the third time I have dug it over and I was astonished to find this in my soil:

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How on earth did I miss it before?  You can see how big it was next to my fork.

Another one of those crazy allotment mysteries!

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My chives have been looking beautiful this week and when I have stood and watched I can see lots of insects buzzing around them:

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But unfortunately as beautiful as they are, they now aren’t providing me with any chives to pick for our salads.  So at this time of year I chop some of the stems back and this allows the chives to regrow and provide me with another lot of fresh pickings in a few weeks time.

I also leave some of the chives in flower, for the beneficial insects to still visit.

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I don’t know if you remember that back in March I started to re-vamp the area at the back of my allotment.  This is the area that I moved my shed from last year.  I planted a quince tree here and also dug a small area at the back where I transplanted some rosa rugosa from my garden at home (so I could use the rosehips when they are established) and I also transplanted some ‘vinca minor’ (periwinkle) from home to cover the bare soil around rosa rugosa.

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I’m not sure at the moment whether I will woodchip this area or grass it…I will decide later on in the year when I have more time.

Until the plants become established, the ground around the vinca and rosa regosa is quite bare.  So I decided to transplant some calendula, that self seeds freely around ‘Calendula alley’.  You can see the established flowers in this old photograph below:

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I also transplanted some calendula in the old tubs at the back of this area too

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I think this area will be a lovely area to sit down and have a picnic, when it is finally finished next year.

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When I started my blog nearly two years ago, I wrote a post every day to get my blog established.  In January 2013 I decided to write just twice a week, however I am finding this incredibly difficult with other commitments that I have.

  One of my new commitments is learning to play the piano and I really enjoy practising every day as I find it a good way to relax (especially after stressful days).  I also enjoy writing my blog though and I don’t want to give this up.  So after lots of soul searching, I have decided to write my blog just once a week now and publish it on a Friday only.

I think this is a good solution which will allow me time to still blog and do other things (and write about them for you).

I hope nobody minds this too much.

I will still answer all your comments, as this is my favourite part of blogging.  If you haven’t left a comment before I would really love to hear from you.

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One other thing I wanted to mention, is my followers on ‘Twitter’ are growing rapidly, which I am very pleased with.  Therefore I have started to use Twitter more by posting little ‘chestnuts’ of information or ‘top tips’ on there every few days when I think of them.

So if you have a Twitter account you can follow me by clicking on the ‘follow’ button on the right hand side of this page or visit my twitter account ‘@Mrs_Thrift’

I was a bit nervous about using Twitter in the beginning as it sometimes gets bad press, but there really is nothing to it.  You can ‘follow’ or ‘unfollow’ people whenever you like.

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Anyway,  thank you for reading my blog today.

Don’t forget I will be here every Friday from now on.

Welcome Guests To My Plot….Bumblebees

On Friday I told you about the bees that have taken residence in my ‘darlek’ compost bin that I store leaf mould in. After some research, I have found out that the bees are bumblebees rather than honey bees.

I am very pleased with this as bumblebees usually vacate their nests at the end of November, so they won’t be a nuisance to me when I need my leaf mould in the winter.

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I have been reliably told they are a species called ‘Bombus hypnorum sometimes known as the ‘tree bumblebee’.

Bumblebees are important to our crops as they have very long seasons and therefore pollinate our early crops and winter crops.  They are also important to our pea and bean crops as they have very long tongues which help to pollinate these crops.

They are also particularly good for our self-pollinating crops e.g. tomatoes. as the bumblebee places its upper body close to the anthers of a flower and vibrates, this shakes the pollen down onto the flowers below.

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It has been proven that bumblebees can actually pollinate more flowers than honey bees as they are superfast pollinators.

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The Life cycle of a bumblebee:

  • A queen bumblebee will emerge in early spring and search for pollen and nectar in order to give her energy and replace body fats.

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  • The queen then finds a place to nest and she builds a small wax cup inside it, which she fills with nectar to sustain her whilst she incubates her eggs. She also builds a wax cell and puts a mound of pollen in it and then lays her eggs on top of it and incubates them by lying on the eggs and vibrating her flight muscles to generate heat. The queen continues to lay eggs.

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  • After four days the first eggs hatch and then after 14 days the larvae produce cocoons and they pupate. After another fourteen days they have transformed into bumblebees that bite their way out of the cocoons. The first bees are female worker bees which will help the queen to rear the rest of the brood. An average colony of bumble bees can have between 120-200 workers.

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  • At some point the queen stops producing worker bees and produces males and young queens. The males will leave the nest to mate and the queens will remain for a while longer to lay down fat reserves and then vacate the nest and fly off ready for winter hibernation.

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Bumblebees are in decline due to modern farming methods (that have resulted in less hedgerows and wildflower landscapes) and building and road developments and the loss of woodlands. So it is important we help them as much as possible by growing ‘bee friendly’ flowers and in return they will pollinate our crops for us.

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Bumblebees are no problem to have around as they will only sting you if they feel threatened and will vacate their nests at the end of the year, so they are best just left alone.

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I feel very privileged and proud that the queen has chosen to set up home on my plot, as this shows me that the flowers I grow have attracted this beneficial insect by providing a constant supply of pollen and nectar.

My wildflower patch

My wildflower patch

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

 

Homemade Cleaners and Homemade Cabbage Collars

I don’t really know where to start today.  After I had a rest last weekend (as I felt under the weather) I have been working in ‘overdrive’ mode ever since and I have achieved such a lot.

  The rest obviously did me some good.

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At home I made some more dishwasher liquid, using the soap nuts that I bought a few years ago.  I use the liquid for two washes and then I use a ‘value’ dishwasher tablet for one wash and this seems to stop the grease from building up inside the dishwasher.

You can read about how I make the liquid here.

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I also made 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.  It is really cheap to make and it lasts ages, but more importantly I know what goes into it.

All I use is distilled white vinegar (which most supermarkets sell for approx. 45p a bottle), and 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 also decided it was time to add a couple more shelves in my pantry, in the hope that I can store more food in there (instead of our bedroom, which isn’t very romantic).

I bought a couple of cheap shelves from B & Q, put them up in a couple of hours and then painted them with some leftover white paint that we had in our shed.

I am very pleased with them and I will fill them when I do my next ‘big’ shop:

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At the allotment the poached egg plants (Limnanthes) are looking beautiful lining my centre path.  They are providing a much needed early source of pollen for the bees and it is wonderful watching them.  There are also loads of ladybirds around the flowers, which is brilliant as they are such a beneficial insect to have around the plot, eating any aphids that come my way.

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I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but at the beginning of the year I contacted Leicester City Council and asked them if I would be allowed to keep bees at my allotment.  As I have four plots, I have ample room and I had spoken to my allotment neighbour who thought it was a brilliant idea and he was quite happy for me to do this.

I wanted to make sure it was ok with the council (who I rent the plot from) before I spent money on a bee keeping course and equipment, as my garden at home is not big enough.

Unfortunately, Leicester City Council said I can’t keep bees at my allotment plot because bees are classed as ‘lifestock’ and the rules say that lifestock cannot be kept on their allotment plots, but more importantly to them – keeping bees would cause ‘health and safety’ problems.

I was dissapointed, but I felt there was nothing more I could do.

But to my surprise this week, I have found that some bees have now set up home in one of my leaf mould compost bins….I find this really amusing and I wonder what Leicester City Council would say to that?…..surely this causes a health and safety problem?

It’s nice to see that nature doesn’t bother with health and safety regulations….if it did then mankind would be in a mess!

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This week at my allotment I have been ‘earthing up’ my potatoes.  It is a job I hate as I find it really hard work….it’s the only time I wish I had the strength of a man!

‘Earthing up’ the potatoes helps to protect them from any late frosts and it also increases the length of underground stems that will bear potatoes. 

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I have also been planting things at my allotment this week.

I planted red and white cabbages first:

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I make my own cabbage collars to avoid the cabbage root fly from laying eggs at the base of my plants.  The Larvae are white, headless and legless maggots and they feed on the roots of brassicas.  This will cause your brassicas 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 I make my own by cutting out 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.

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I place each collar around the stem and it will stop the cabbage root fly from laying it’s eggs and eventually it will just decompose into the soil.

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At the allotment this week I also planted the last of my peas and mange tout that I sowed into guttering on the 21st April.

The birds love the tops of pea shoots at my allotment, so I make sure that they can’t get to them.

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I also planted out some more spring onions and some beetroot that I started in newspaper pots…

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…And a pumpkin plant that was getting a bit too big for it’s newspaper pot.  It is a bit early for planting out tender plants in this area, as it’s possible to get frosts here until the end of May.  However, I have planted it in my old compost area and surrounded it with glass for protection, so hopefully it will be ok:

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Another job I did was put a new sticky paper and ‘lure’ into my pheromone traps, in the hope that it will attract the male codling moths and plum moths.

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You can read about the codling moth here.

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I also started planting in my polytunnel.  I raked in some blood, fish and bone over the new compost I added a week or so ago and as the ground was so dry I dug holes for the plants and filled them with water and let it drain away before planting into them.

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I planted four melons which are a variety called ‘Outdoor Wonder’.  I planted them last year in my polytunnel and they were a great success, so I thought I would have another go this year.

‘Outdoor Wonder’ can actually be grown outdoors but I thought I would have better results growing them in my polytunnel.

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Below is a photograph of one of the melons I harvested last year and they tasted lovely:

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I also planted my gherkins, peppers and basil…

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…and some more lettuces:

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Every year I like to try something different, e.g. last year I grew the melon I wrote about above and a couple of years ago I tried growing shark fin melons:

You can read about my shark fin melon plant here and here.

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….And this year I have decided to have a go at cucamelons.

Apparently, they look like grape sized watermelons that taste like cucumbers with a hint of lime and they are supposed to be really easy to grow….I will let you know.

You can read about cucamelons here.

I sowed the seeds on the 10th April and I planted two of them this week in my polytunnel:

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I will let you know how they do in my polytunnel and if the ‘Thrift’ household likes the taste of them.

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The polytunnel is fully planted for the moment, but I’m sure I’ll squeeze some more plants in somewhere as time goes by.

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I have been picking a few leaves from the salads in the above photograph and some radishes from my polytunnel and this week I picked our first spring cabbage.  I know it’s silly, but I still feel excited when I pick the first of each vegetable when it’s ready to eat.

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To finish off with, I noticed a couple of things at my allotment this week:

First my watercress that I sowed a couple of weeks ago has appeared.  You can read how I grow watercress in a pot here if you are interested.

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And secondly I have flowers on three out of four of the clematis I planted to climb up the old swings that are no longer in use.  They will be better in a couple of years when the plants are more established, but for now I am happy with a few flowers:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

 

I Forgot To Stop And Smell The Roses

 

I’ve didn’t feel too well this weekend and so I decided to take a rest from my allotment.  I think I am just feeling a bit run down and needed some time to relax.

So today I was wondering what I could write about and decided to look through some of my older posts.

As I have lots of new followers now I thought it would be a good idea to share my favourite post, which I wrote not long after I started to blog.  I wrote this post knowing my good friend was very poorly and as you know in February 2013 she passed away.

  For a while after my friend died, I spent a lot of time pondering whether I needed to change things in my life and how we live as a family.  Last month as you know, another family friend passed away and the same questions surfaced in my mind.

Last week we spent time with old friends and I was asked why I don’t get a ‘proper job’…this really threw me, as I didn’t know how to answer.  This isn’t like me at all and I have been feeling really unsettled since…..but reading my post below has made me put things back in perspective and reminded me of why we chose for me to stay at home and run my four allotments.

For a while now I have forgotten to ‘stop and smell the roses’ and this post has made me realise I need to make a bigger effort to take time out every so often to do this.  I will then be able to answer confidently, that I don’t have a ‘proper job’ because I am one of the luckiest people on earth.

I hope you enjoy reading the blog post below:

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Stop and smell the roses

(written Sept 18th 2012)

This is a phrase that we are all familiar with.  It simply means that we should take time to appreciate something we have, or to pay attention to the good things that happen right under our noses.

If we are all honest, how often can we say that we do actually ‘sit back and smell the roses’ ourselves.  I would put money on it, that it’s not that often.

Life is so so busy now for everyone.  Time goes so quickly and we are all trying to get ‘this and that’ finished, before we go on to the next ‘this and that’.

Today I did sit back and smell the roses:

Remember my wild flowers?  You can read about my wild flower patch here.

They are still flowering beautifully and there are so many insects still flying around.  So much activity is going on, it takes my breath away to just stand still and watch it.

I feel very privileged to be able to just ‘stop and stare’, especially on such a beautiful sunny morning.

We chose for me to give up work, when our first daughter was born.  This was very scary at the time, as money was a big issue.  But 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.

What we didn’t realise when I gave up working and our so called ‘luxuries’, was how much happiness it would bring.

In fact, looking back at our old life, ‘keeping up with the Jones’ gave us a ‘carousel’ life, that just went round and round:

‘We worked hard to pay for new gadgets and expensive holidays and worked more hours to pay for the gadgets and expensive holidays, we brought more things, worked more hours, became more in debt, so we worked more hours and took a bank loan to pay off the credit cards and then had another expensive holiday, bought more gadgets etc. etc.’

  All the time we thought the holidays and new gadgets etc. would make us happy, but if they made us so happy then why did we keep on spending money on more and more things?  The carousel would never have stopped if we hadn’t made that life changing decision, for me to give up my job and we would never have known about the surprising benefits.

Do I have any regrets?…  NO.  If we had the chance to go back in time, with the same circumstances and the same money coming in, we would live exactly the same.

When I reach those pearly gates, my only regret is that I didn’t meet my husband earlier and live this life with him sooner.

My blog was a little bit different today.   I hope you still enjoyed reading it.

Growing Cauliflowers And Making Comfrey Tea

On Tuesday this week I dug up my cauliflowers, which were a heritage variety called ‘English Winter’, which I sowed in May last year. They stood all winter long and I was a bit concerned that I would just have leaves without the lovely white cauliflowers….but finally in April the cauliflower heads began to form and the result was beautiful large white caulis.

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The ground where they had stood for a year was as solid as a rock and it took me ages to fork the soil over. I then raked a dusting of Blood, fish and bone over the area and then planted the red onions that I sowed back in January this year.

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This week I planted some more cauliflowers that I sowed on the 14th February. They are a variety called ‘All year round’. As usual I walked, danced and jumped all over the area, as cauliflowers especially like firm soil and this helps to stop them from ‘blowing’.   It also helps to add organic matter in the autumn, so it has time to settle.

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After planting the cauliflowers I tread around the plants with my foot and then I cover the cauliflowers with environmesh to stop any little flies getting into the curds when they form.

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I noticed my curly kale is now flowering beautifully. If I don’t need the area straight away, I leave the kale to flower as the bees love it:

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This week I picked our last purple sprouting broccoli, which is quite sad as my youngest daughter loves it….but I also picked our first asparagus of the year which is great.

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When I walked around my plots I noticed my first globe artichoke is forming which is also great….my in-laws love these so I make sure they have the first ones of the season:

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One of the jobs I completed this week was to cut down my comfrey before it flowers, so it doesn’t self-seed everywhere.

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I put some of the comfrey into my compost bins as it is a great compost activator and I used some of it to make an enormous pot of comfrey tea.

Comfrey tea is high in potash as the deep roots of the Comfrey plants absorb the potassium from the subsoil. Therefore it is great for using on most fruits and flowers which is why I have a whole bed dedicated to comfrey plants, which I cut down three or four times during the growing season.  If you are buying comfrey to grow, the experts tell you to use a variety called ‘bocking 14’ which doesn’t self-seed, however I just took a root cutting from my neighbours allotment to get me started and I didn’t have a clue which variety it was.  Self-seeding has never been a problem for me as I always cut it down before it flowers.

To make comfrey tea all you have to do is fill a bucket with the comfrey leaves and stems and weigh it down with a brick and pour over cold water.  I cover it (to stop flies getting in) and leave for approx. two weeks. Be warned, by this time the smell is revolting!  Strain the comfrey tea liquid into another container and put the remaining comfrey in your compost bin. I then put 2 cups of comfrey tea into a watering can and then fill with water.  I use this feed once a week after the first tomatoes begin to form. 

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As I use a lot of comfrey tea, I made mine in a water butt. I put the comfrey into an old curtain and then weighed it down with a brick and I will leave it for a couple of weeks with water covering it.  I always make sure I cover the liquid with an old piece of wood or a lid, as once I didn’t and I ended up with maggots in it!

After two weeks I will remove the comfrey and put it into my compost bin.  The result will be lots of smelly comfrey tea liquid, which is free to make and the plants love it.

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This week I also sowed my wildflower seeds. I had previously raked the area to remove any large clods of earth.

I mixed the seed with dry horticultural sand and then scattered the sand & seed mixture over the area and raked them in.

I then covered them with bird netting until they germinate.

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If they are half as good as the last two years wildflowers, then I will be pleased.

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I also noticed that one or two strawberries have started to form, so I surrounded the strawberries with straw.

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The straw stops the mud splashing on the strawberries but it also acts as mulch, keeping the moisture in and stops annual weeds from germinating. I made sure it had rained before I spread the straw to ensure that the ground was moist.

The bale of straw only cost me £3.40 from my local plant nursery, so it was really worth it. I also had some left over to use elsewhere if I need it too.

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When I looked closely I noticed that a few of my strawberry flowers had turned black….these are the ones that the frost caught last Friday and sadly they won’t turn into strawberries now:

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But not to worry, there are plenty that beat the frost:

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Inside my polytunnel I removed the perpetual spinach that had turned into a triffid …it had gone to seed and was now huge!

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I dug it up and replaced it with a couple of barrows of compost from my homemade allotment compost, ready for my next crops.

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I noticed next to this area, the two rows of carrots had started to germinate with the radish in between that I sowed on the 11th April.

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The lettuces in my polytunnel will also soon be ready.

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The only thing I am disappointed with so far is my tomato plants. I had four greenhouse tomato plants spare, so I put them into my polytunnel. Unfortunately, even in the polytunnel last week’s frost managed to damage some of the leaves which is a shame, but I can already see new growth in the centre so hopefully they will be ok.

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Finally, I planted some lavatera that I have grown from seed. These are the hardy annual type that do not become thugs and they will live and die in one season. They grow to about 60cm high and will hopefully look beautiful and again attract beneficial insects to my plot.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Monday.  I hope you have a good weekend.

An Easter ‘Catch up’

Hi to everyone reading my blog today.  It is nice to be back in ‘blogging world’.

On Friday evening, the temperature fell low enough for a ground frost to occur….I knew it was coming because I follow the BBC weather very closely at this time of year.

There is always some confusion about when a ground frost occurs…people typically think the temperature needs to be below zero degrees for a frost to happen, but this is only true for an ‘air’ frost.  A ‘ground’ frost can happen when the temperature falls below 3 or 4 degrees celcius.

Unfortunately, after walking around the allotment site I noticed that not everyone was aware that the frost was coming and the frost had damaged some of their potato shoots poking through the soil.  You can see in the photograph below that some of the leaves have been blackened by the frost.  If you know there is going to be a frost then it is best to earth your potatoes up to limit the damage.

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I was lucky as I only planted my potatoes over Easter so none of mine are showing yet:

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Over Easter I also planted the peas that I sowed in my guttering a few weeks ago.  This is how I get my peas out of the guttering:

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First I use a draw hoe to make a small trench the size of the guttering, ready to plant the peas.  If it’s been dry I water the trench.

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Then I use a spare bit of guttering and I lift one end of the compost to slide the guttering underneath the roots of the peas.

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The spare piece of guttering ‘pushes’ the peas out into the trench that you made with the draw hoe.  This is much easier when you use smaller bits of guttering instead of larger pieces.

  I then use the draw hoe again to push the soil back around the peas and the compost that they are growing in.

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I like to support my dwarf peas with chicken wire and canes and then I use cages to stop the birds from eating my pea shoots:

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I also planted my climbing peas.  They are a variety called ‘Peashooter’ which give lovely big pods with large juicy peas inside.  I planted the seeds at the beginning of April in toilet rolls and left them to germinate in my greenhouse and they have all germinated well:

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I usually use pea and bean netting to support my peas, but I get fed up of throwing it away each year as it’s impossible to untangle all the peas without it ripping…so this year I have invested in some plastic coated chicken wire in the hope that I can use it again and again, so eventually it will pay for it’s self:

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After planting the peas I used the same cages to protect the pea shoots from the birds…

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Things are growing well in my polytunnel now.  I also planted four spare tomato plants and a spare cucumber too

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In the right hand photo you can see the red lettuce that I sowed last month is growing nicely now together with the Webbs wonderful lettuces in the same photo.

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This weekend I prepared the ground for my wildflowers and sowed them.  I am hoping they give me a good display again this year.

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During the last week I have also planted my parsnips.  I sowed them at the beginning of April in kitchen rolls and they germinated well.  I make sure I plant the parsnip before the root reaches the bottom of the tubes to avoid the roots from ‘forking’.

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When I plant the parsnips I make sure that none of the tube shows above the ground, as the cardboard works like a ‘wick’ and dries the whole tube out underground, so I use scissors to cut off any excess tube above the compost.

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I covered the parsnips in plastic bottles just to give them a little bit of protection while they are small.  I find that plastic bottles need a bit of support so they don’t blow off, so I push a stick in each one at an angle so it doesn’t damage the plant underneath.

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My curly kale is flowering now so I have packed away the netting that was covering it and I will leave it for the bees to enjoy for a while, as there aren’t too many nectar rich plants around yet for them.

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Over easter I had some great harvests from my allotment.  It does take some planning to have vegetables to fill the ‘hungry gap’ but the planning is worthwhile:

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‘Hungry Gap’ Vegetables

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The cauliflowers were sowed a year ago, together with the spring broccoli….but they are worth the wait.

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At home my garden is starting to look like a garden centre with all the plants that I am in the process of hardening off!

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And my greenhouse is rammed full of plants too:

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A couple of weeks ago I planted up my hanging baskets.  I don’t bother with proper hanging basket liners, I just use a compost bag with the black side on the outside.  It works a treat because the plants grow over it so it can’t be seen and because it is plastic, it helps to keep the moisture in during hot spells.

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Finally today I thought I would show you something I made for our friends funeral last Monday.  I decided to have a go at making a wreath using the same method I used for my Christmas table wreath.

I bought some white chysanthemums to use, but everything else was from the garden as I knew he loved his garden.  He also absolutely loved Leicester City Football club and had supported them for many years and it’s such a shame he didn’t see them promoted to the premier division, which happened just after he passed away.   With this in mind I used forget-me-nots, so that the wreath was blue and white – the Leicester City colours.

I know it wasn’t perfect like the florists flower arrangements were, but I put a lot of time and thought into it so it was special to Dan….the last gift I could give to him.

I hope he looked down and saw it.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday.