Archive | April 2015

Chewing Gum And A Homemade ‘Soup In A Mug’

I thought I would show you my daughters school trousers that she came home with this week….

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She had managed to sit in chewing gum at some stage during the day!….my heart sank.

I tried the usual advice of freezing the trousers, which I did overnight.  However, the chewing gum didn’t peel off in the morning at all as it was supposed to.  I had nearly given up when I read online to iron the chewing gum face down onto a piece of paper with a medium hot iron (no steam) ….the theory is the chewing gum sticks to the paper instead of the fabric when it is warmed up.

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So I just thought I would share this with you as it did actually work.  Though it did take me a long time and there is a tiny bit of residue on the trousers, but the trousers are thankfully now wearable again.

Afterwards

Afterwards

I hope this is useful for someone out there one day.

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I don’t know if you remember Judy (our lovely little rescue dog) is very reactive to other dogs and goes mad when she sees one.  Unfortunately our next door neighbour decided to get a dog of their own in January and this has been causing us a big problem every time their dog is in the garden.

As there was only a wire fence between our gardens, our behaviourist advised us to block the end nearest our house off so both dogs can’t stare at each other, as in ‘dog world’ this is threatening behaviour.

So I used the weed suppressant I won last year to cover the wire.  Unfortunately it hasn’t really helped our dog and back in Febuary we were advised to block the other end of the wire fence off too.

The wire fence before

The wire fence before

So after much debate, this week we decided to give it a go and again I used weed suppressant (that I won) hung onto the wire fence with curtain hooks…and it looked awful!

Mr Thrift and I decided it was too awful to live with and so we bought some cheap brushwood to cover it.  We know that brushwood doesn’t last too long, but we are hoping it will last long enough for us to correct Judy’s behaviour…..though it hasn’t had an effect yet!  However after putting it up we actually now think the garden looks much better…what do you think?

After

After

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Another job I finally managed to do, was the stepping stones in our grass (or what’s left of the grass).

Back in January when I cleared the shrubs at the back of our garden it was very wet and I was treading on the grass over and over, which made it extremely muddy.  We also then had workmen treading up and down the grass on the day it snowed in February, replacing the fence for us.  And to make matters worse, our dog runs up and down the grass, over and over again when next doors dog is out……so our poor grass has really taken a beating!

When it was muddy we bought some stepping stones that B&Q were selling off cheaply (as they only had a small amount left) and we just shoved them on top of the grass until the grass dried (or should I say until the ‘mud’ dried).

So I finally bedded them into the ground this week.  I know you are supposed to use sand underneath each slab, but I didn’t have any and just bedded them into the earth, but I’m sure they will be fine.

I just need the grass to re-grow now (but I doubt that will happen until we sort our dog out):

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This week I purchased two ‘garden tidy bags’ for £5.00.

Unfortunately my greenhouse has a solid concrete base and I wanted to grow more in there than I usually do, so I filled each bag with compost.

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One of the bags will have basil growing in it and the other I have already planted with my peppers:

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I have also been sowing seeds again.  I have sown spring onions, perpetual spinach, courgettes, patty pans and coriander.

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I also sowed swedes, in newspaper pots as they don’t like to be transplanted….when they are ready I plant the newspaper pot into the ground as well, so there is no root disturbance at all.

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Another vegetable I sowed was my dwarf peas and mangetout.  If you have been reading my blog since I started, you will know that I sow these in guttering, which I keep in my greenhouse until it has germinated.  This way I get a really good germination rate and it is easy to slide the plants off the guttering, provided I use only small lengths (you can read about it here if you are interested).

I use duct tape to seal each end of the guttering.

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Around my new kitchen garden:

This week I noticed that the radish, beetroot and kohl rabi that I sowed directly into my soil, have started to germinate which is brilliant, however there is no sign yet of the baby turnips that I sowed at the same time:

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I have also found calendula growing in the pot where I planted my Jeruselum artichokes last month.  I thought I reconised the seedlings a few week ago, so I left them growing just to make sure.

I used some soil from my allotment in this pot, it was the soil I brought my J. artichokes home in and it obviously had some calendula seeds from my allotment.

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I love free seeds, but I love these even more because they traveled home with me….so I have ‘pricked’ the seedlings out into new compost to grow on and plant somewhere special.

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Elsewhere around my new kitchen garden, the plants that I brought back from my allotment are growing well.

My rhubarb:

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My Globe artichokes:

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My black currants, white currants and gooseberries too:

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And I am really pleased with my autumn raspberries, as I have only two that are not growing out of the twenty three plants that I brought back home with me:

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So things seem to be going ok so far.

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This week I also managed another cut from the salad leaves in my greenhouse, that I sowed in March in plastic containers from the supermarket.  I also added some chives from my garden to the salad leaves too.  It feels so nice to be serving fresh, homegrown food to my family once again.

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And Finally:

I thought I would share a bargain that Mr Thrift found a few weeks ago:

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Carrot and swede, ready to use for just 10p per bag….he bought four bags.

I used one in my steamer and I’ve got to say it wasn’t very nice- I don’t know why, but it just didn’t taste nice.  So I froze the other four bags, not really knowing what to do with them.

A few weeks ago my daughter asked me to get her some packets of ‘soups in a mug’ for when she comes home from school and I have started to have the odd cup, so I decided to make my own with the carrot and swede:

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Carrot and Swede Soup with Chili and Coriander:

4 x 500g bags of ready cubed carrot & swede

2 ¼ pints of vegetable stock

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 small onions

4 teaspoons of ground corianda

2 teaspoons of mild chili powder (add more if you like it hot)

Salt & pepper to taste

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Put the olive oil and onions in a large pan and fry until soft.

Then add all the other ingredients into the pan and simmer until the carrot and swede are soft:

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Blend the soup with a hand blender or liquidiser until smooth:

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Divide the soup into ‘mug’ size portions and freeze.

I got ten portions out of my soup.

(I remove the plastic margarine pots when they are frozen, so the bags don’t take up so much room in my freezer)

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Defrost and then pop it into a microwave safe mug and microwave for 2 to 3 minutes on high.

Then serve your home made ‘soup in a mug’:

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Enjoy!

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

I hope you have a lovely weekend!

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My First Crops And ‘Pricking Out’ Seedlings

My life has changed so much over the last year for one reason or another and at times I have found the changes very hard to come to terms with, especially having to give my four allotments up.  But my family mean the world to me and this is the way it has to be for the moment.

I have tried very hard not to think about my old allotment plots and make the best of what I do have, which is why I created my new kitchen garden:

(Below are my ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos):

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In the beginning I think Mr Thrift thought I was mad digging up the back garden, especially as it looked like such a small area.  However, I knew it was bigger than it looked because I had crawled under the bushes at the back of the garden to see where the boundary fence actually was.

The soil was awful too….a very heavy clay which I could easily have made a few ‘clay pots’ out of, but I forked in lots of council ‘green waste’ compost (£2 for a very large bag) and a few bags of organic manure, I can already see how much the soil has improved.

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I have started to put some flowers into my new plot to attract some beneficial insects to it.  It is beginning to look pretty in places now and I have already noticed some bees buzzing around.

The Forget-me-nots and Aubrietia that I brought back from my allotment

The Forget-me-nots and Aubrietia that I brought back from my allotment

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The weather here has been lovely over the last week or so and I have started to see some benefits to have a vegetable plot in my back garden.  I have found that I can pop out and pull up a few weeds when I want to, or just check my plants over when I have just a few minutes to spare and I can also go out very early in the morning or at dusk to finish off a few jobs…..I have even walked around it sometimes in my dressing gown and slippers (I hope my neighbours didn’t see me, as I do look a sight in the morning).

I have found it is also lovely to be able to go inside to warm up with a hot drink if it’s cold or to cool down in the middle of the day when it’s hot (like it has been this week).  And I mustn’t forget to say that it is really nice to go to the toilet when I want to as well.

I couldn’t do these things at my allotment.

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I am having to learn how to cram as much as possible in a small space and use every bit of space that is available in my garden and my greenhouse.

The photographs above show the cut and come again salad mix that I sowed at the beginning of March in old containers from the supermarket.  They have been growing in my greenhouse and this week we had some for tea.

We have also been eating a few of the chives that I brought back from my allotment in January and planted along my new path.

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It really is nice to nip out and pick something when I feel like it, rather than planning what I must pick each day and bringing back it home from my allotment.

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So even though I am still sad to have given my allotment plots up, I am seeing some lovely benefits for having a small kitchen garden at home.

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In My Kitchen Garden This week…..

This week my new compost bins were delivered.  I ordered two galvanised metal bins to replace the plastic ones I used before in my garden as compost bins.

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Unfortunately my neighbours recently had a rat set up home in their shed and this made me worry that the compost in my new kitchen garden (that is close to our house) would attract the rats too.

  For years at my allotment I had problems with rats in my black darlek compost bins (even though I never put anything into them that I shouldn’t have).  At one stage I purchased rodent proof bottoms for the darlek bins and the rats just bit a hole through them to get in!

The only way I managed to deter them from going into my darlek compost bins at the allotment was by taking the lids off all winter and making sure the contents were wet (as rats don’t like the wet and cold).  However at home, I didn’t want to attract the rats at all, which is why I have bought the metal bins, which hopefully they won’t be able to bite into.

I have already started to fill them and I can see I will need to buy more in the future:

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This week I have started to ‘harden off’ some of my plants, ready to plant out soon.  The cabbages, spring onions and peas are now sitting in my cold ‘mini’ greenhouse which I leave open in the day and shut at night:

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I have sown some seeds directly into my soil outside this week too….kohl rabi, turnip, radish and beetroot.  I always had problems sowing seeds directly in my heavy clay soil at my allotment as the germination rate was so low – so this is really a trial and i’m not sure what will happen.  I have covered the seeds with wire to protect them from the birds (I brought the wire back from my allotment in January):

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I have also planted my potatoes.  If you have been reading my blog for a long time you will know I usually plant three varieties at my allotment- Marfona (2nd early), piccasso (early main crop) and Desiree (a late main crop).  Obviously this year I don’t have the luxury of space and I can only plant a very small amount of seed potatoes, so I chose to grow twelve Desiree potatoes (as these are the least suseptable to slug and eel worm) and six Marfona seed potatoes, as I do love the taste of these new potatoes.

As usual I pulled a trench out of the soil with my draw hoe and then used a bulb planter to make the hole deeper:

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I also had four Marfona seed potatoes spare, so I put them in one of my old plastic compost bins:

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I covered the potatoes with compost and I will add more to the bin each time the foliage grows.

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I also planted some sweet peas this week.  I put some pea netting up for them to climb and I covered them with bottles to stop the slugs while they are establishing themselves:

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I also sowed some wildflower seeds around them – this is earlier than I normally sow these seeds, but the wall should bring the temperature in the area up a degree or two.

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One of the other things I did this week was to make up my hanging baskets.  I must confess, I did buy the small plants from our local nursery (as I have been so disorganised this year), but it is still alot cheaper than buying a ready made basket.

Hopefully  next year I will grow the plants myself from seed.

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As you can see, I use an empty compost bag turned inside out for my baskets.  I like to reuse things when I can and the trailing plants I have used will hopefully cover the bags anyway.

I have already started to harden the baskets and pots, by leaving them outside for a few hours each day.  Even when they are fully hardened off I will continue to bring them back inside my greenhouse if a low temperature or frost is forecast.

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I have also been ‘pricking out’ the seeds that have germinated this week.

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I now have cherry tomatoes (which will eventually go into a hanging basket), outdoor tomatoes which I will grow in pots, some basil to grow in my greenhouse and finally some more lettuce.  All of these will stay in my greenhouse until they are bigger and the risk of frost has past, except for the lettuce that will be hardened off a lot sooner than the others:

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I have also ‘potted on’ my greenhouse cucumbers into large pots….I can’t wait for these to produce fruit as we eat a lot of cucumbers in our house:

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So it’s been another busy week in the ‘Thrift’ garden.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.  I will be back as normal next Friday.

Have a good weekend!

Seed Sowing & General Garden Jobs

I hope you all had a lovely Easter.  The weather here was beautiful on Easter Monday and we even dug out our BBQ, which is something we haven’t done for an awful long time…..maybe giving up my allotments will bring nice advantages like this.

My Easter Cake

My Easter Cake

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This week I have been seed sowing again.  However I had to make some plant labels first.

I make plant lables by cutting up empty plastic milk bottles and they work a treat:

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I then sowed some spring onions, butternut squash, outdoor tomatoes, melon, basil, coriander, lettuce and parsley.

I keep some of my seeds in the greenhouse which is heated to 10C and some of them inside our house to germinate:

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I also sowed some climbing peas in toilet roll inners.  These are a variety called ‘peashooter’ which are quite expensive to buy, so each year I save some of my own seeds – these are seeds I saved last autumn.  The pea pods grow lovely and big and the peas are beautiful:

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I also sowed my parsnip seeds in kitchen roll tubes.  I sow them this way so I get a good germination rate and lovely straight parsnips…I have tried lots of different ways to grow parsnips and this way is definately the best.

You can read all about growing parsnips this way here if you are interested.

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This week I decided to cover my onions and garlic to avoid the allium leaf miner, which is a relatively new pest in the Midlands.  It attacks all alliums and over the last couple of years it did quite a bit of damage to my onions at my allotment.  The alliums in my back garden may be protected as it’s pretty sheltered here away from the allotment, but as I have lots of enviromesh I thought I may as well cover my onions to protect them, just in case.

You can read all about the allium leaf miner here.

I made the cage for the environmesh exactly the way I used to at the allotment, using canes and bottles:

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This week I also planted some lettuces.  I will keep them under glass until they are a little bit bigger as the nights are still cold at the moment.

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I also planted out the spring onions that I sowed on the 18th March.  I always had problems getting my spring onions to germinate in my heavy clay soil and I found that by putting a few seeds in modules really helps.  I don’t bother to thin the onions out as the bunch will grow happily together until you are ready to pull them up:

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It’s lovely to see more and more things growing in my new kitchen garden.

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Last week I tried to set up my first water butt, but I found it has a leak around the tap.  I fixed the leak last week and now it is finally set up and waiting for rain:

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This week I set up a second water butt next to my shed.  I spotted an old grey piece of guttering hanging from the back of my shed and so I hooked this up to some guttering to make a ‘makeshift’ channel to my waterbutt.  It looks a bit daft, but it will do the job for now:

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Another job I finally got around to doing this week was to sort out the nets I brought back from my allotment.  I measured them and labeled them, so I would know at a glace which one I should use in the future.

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I also washed some of my environmesh and folded it up ready for use:

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I managed to store them all in my storage boxes where I would normally store all my potatoes during the winter:

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Now that my nets had been put away neatly, I was able to start to fill the large containers that I brought home from my old allotment plots.  I put as much rubble as I could in find in the bottom of each pot together with a bit of polystyrene that I found.  This will help with drainage and also reduce the amount of compost that I will need to use to fill each deep pot too.

I used the council green waste compost to half fill the pots (as this is only £2 for a large bag) and I will then buy some compost to top the pots up as this will have more nutrients in than the council green waste compost:

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This week I also thinned the leeks that I sowed last month.  I don’t need too many this year so I will thin them out a bit more in a couple of weeks so I get nice, strong healthy plants.  The leeks are still very small as I only sowed them last month, which is later than I usually do, but I’m sure they will catch up:

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And finally this week I planted some Primroses in my new kitchen garden.  I love these plants as they look so beautiful in Spring with the daffodils, they are good for the bees and the plants grow year after year…..so I think they are a good plant to have in my kitchen garden:

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

I hope you have a good week.

Removing A Conifer And Planting Onions & Garlic

I thought I would start by mentioning that my usual monthly blog post which covers ‘What to do in the kitchen garden in April’ can be found here if anyone is interested.  It covers what weather to expect in a  typical April, which vegetables and salads to harvest, which seeds to sow and what to plant and also jobs that need to be carried out this month.

So it’s well worth a read to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

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October 2014

October 2014

Last weekend we began chopping down the conifer on the left hand side of the photograph above.  This was a small conifer I bought approximately 14 years ago when it was about 30cm high.  The label said it was a slow growing conifer that should grow no more than a meter high!

Obviously I wasn’t expecting it to grow as tall as it did and it was totally unsuitable for the place I had planted it in…. I had to tie the tree to our wall to stop it leaning over, as there wasn’t enough soil for the roots to keep it stable.

So we spent a happy morning chopping it down and poor Mr Thrift nearly wore himself out sawing the trunk across:

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But we eventually managed it and I rebuilt part of the dry stone wall that the previous owner of the house built and I replaced some of the compost.

I have decided this year to plant some sweetpeas to climb up the wall and I will be planting a few wild flower seeds underneath.

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It’s been a real wet and windy week here in the Midlands and all the rain reminded me that I still hadn’t set up my two water butts that I brought from my old allotments.

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I decided to catch the water from my house with the first water butt and so I bought a ‘Rain water diverter’ to fix onto my drainpipe.

I have got to admit I have never done anything like this before, but I thought I would have a go.  Thankfully it wasn’t too difficult and I managed it on my own.

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I tested it to make sure it worked by asking my daughter to pour water out of her bedroom window into the drainpipe (not very technical) and I am pleased to say it worked.

The rain water diverter should channel rain water into the waterbutt until it’s full and then it will go down the drain as normal.  The plan is that I will add another waterbutt at this stage though.

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It rained the following night and it did capture some of the rain and I was very proud until the morning when I noticed that the seal around the tap was now leaking….I must have caused some damage transporting the water butt from my allotment back home.

I had to empty the water butt again to repair the seal and it will now take a couple of days to dry so I am still unable to use the waterbutt.

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Next week I am hoping to set up my second water butt to capture the water from my greenhouse.

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This week I tried desparately to plant my onions and garlic which I started off at the beginning of March in my cold greenhouse (I was a bit late planting my garlic, but I thought I may as well give it a go).  Every time I started to plant them, it rained so I had to stop. Finally we had a lovely day yesterday and I managed to complete planting them.

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Both the onions and garlic had grown well in my newspaper pots and I had prepared the grown where I planted them a couple of weeks earlier by raking in some blood, fish and bone and covering the area with clear plastic to warm the soil up.

I decided to plant the onions 10cm apart and each of the rows just 10cm apart too (usually I plant each row 30cm apart).  If you plant onions closer together you will get smaller onions, but there is method behind my madness……as my kitchen garden is so small, I have decided to harvest the rows in between and eat the onions when they are ‘spring onion’ size in salads etc.

I have planted 66 onions altogether and I am hoping that this way I will have more to harvest over a longer period and the remaining onions can then grow to a good size (this is the plan…I hope it works).

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I also made two ridges using my draw hoe and planted the garlic into the ridges.  Garlic tends to rot in very wet soil and I was very conscious of how wet the soil in my garden was.

(I am keeping my fingers crossed that I have got away with planting my garlic so late):

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On the ground next to my garlic I have used some old grocery boxes (that I brought home from my allotment), to warm the soil ready to sow some beetroot seeds next week.  The boxes are great as it’s easy to rest glass on top of them and they have a small area just under the glass which lets the air circulate too:

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Dispite all the wind this week, my broadbeans seem to be doing well, though I do still need to provide some support for them, to stop them from falling over when they are bigger.

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At the moment they are still looking quite perfect and I am not used to this, as usually at this time of year on my old allotment, I would always see the tell tale sign of the ‘pea and bean weevil’….. maybe because I am away from the allotment I may not suffer so much?

  You can see in the photograph below, that my broadbeans last year had little notches in the edges of the leaves.  This is the work of the ‘Pea and Bean weevil’.

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The adults are beetles that are approximately 4-5mm long, but they are very hard to find as they drop to the ground when they are disturbed.  Their larvea eat the root nodules of the plant in the soil.

I have never yet lost any plants due to the Pea and bean weevil as most broad beans seem to tolerate the damage, but in theory a bad attack could kill your plants.  I make sure that when I overwinter my plants, they are healthy by giving them a feed in the Spring with a general purpose fertiliser (I use blood, fish and bone) and if the weather is dry then I water them.  This way I ensure my plants can cope with an attack without the need to use chemical sprays.

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Elsewhere in my kitchen garden my autumn raspberries are now starting to grow.  I am very relieved as the soil was very cold and wet when I brought them home from my allotment:

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My chives will soon be ready to pick if them keep growing at this speed:

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And the daffodills that I planted a few weeks ago are still producing a lovely display, together with a pot of bulbs that I planted two years ago:

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So all in all the new kitchen garden is starting to come to life.

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At home this week:

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This week I have been making my laundry liquid again.  I get a real buzz when I think about how much money I have saved by using it over the last few years and it is so quick to make.

You can find the recipe for laundry liquid here.

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I also made some more dishwasher liquid using soapnuts, as this also saves money and washes our pots and pans well.  Again it is quick and easy to make.

You can see how I make the dishwasher liquid here if you are interested.

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So all in all it’s been another busy week and I am looking forward to a rest over the Easter holiday….but I’m not very good at sitting still when there is so much to do.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today, I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great Easter and a good week!