Archive | June 2015

A Tour Of My Kitchen Garden & A Bradgate Park Dog Walk

Last weekend we took part in a ‘Bradgate Park dog walk’ with Judy our rescue dog.  This is what their website says about the walk:

“A chance for you and your dog to get out for a walk at Bradgate Park in the company of one of our Rangers who will talk about the history and wildlife of the Park while dog behaviourist Steven Havers gives tips on how to ensure that a walk in the park is a positive experience for you, your dog and any other people and animals you may meet.”

I have got to be honest and say the only reason we went was because Steven Havers is our dog trainer and I feel confident when he is around.  The last time we attempted to walk Judy on our own in Bradgate Park a few months ago, we ended up hiding up a hill behind trees as Judy reacted so much to each and every dog, regardless of how far away they were!…….but not this time.

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At the start of the walk she barked a bit as there were lots of dogs, but after a few minutes she behaved really well and took time out to relax and have a lie down….I was so proud of her!

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Bradgate park is beautiful and the views from ‘Old John’ are spectacular as it stands on Bradgate’s tallest hill and Leicestershire’s second highest point – some 690 feet above sea level:

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Old John:

This Folly or Prospect Tower was built in 1784 by the 5th Earl of Stamford. The circular stone tower replaced a former wooden windmill (which had been made unsafe in an earlier storm).

On the 31st October 1786 a huge open-air fire was built on the Hill by the 5th Earl of Stamford to mark the coming of age of his son, George Harry.  Legend has it that a bonfire timber burnt through, falling amongst the guests and accidentally killing an old retainer of the Bradgate Estate called John.

After the accident, the 5th Earl is reputed to have decreed that the Tower be named in affectionate memory of “Old John”. It is said that the stonework at the side of the Tower was altered so it looked like a handle – perhaps knowing the old man’s liking of ale, it was deliberately modelled to give the Tower its familiar beer tankard shape of today”

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You can read more about Old John here if you are interested.

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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This week I planted some Cosmos just behind the new wire fence that I put up last week.  Hopefully they will grow and look pretty later in the season and because they are behind the wire fence my daft dog won’t be able to destroy them.  Again I planted them through the weed suppressant:

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I also had four spare tomato plants which I planted in this area as well.

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As I said last week, I’m not sure how well these plants will grow as I haven’t prepared the soil in this area at all….I just dug a small hole for each plant and used a small amount of blood, fish and bone and filled the hole with compost…..it will be interesting to see the results!

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I also decided to give my old garden chair a face lift by buying a new piece of wood for it and giving it a new coat of paint.  It does need a second coat but it certainly looks better already:

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My new kitchen garden:

Considering it is the first year of the garden, it is doing really well.  I thought today I would give you a tour:

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In the photo above you can see the whole kitchen garden with the new area in front that I created last week.

The new front area has mangetout, dwarf peas, a bag with potatoes growing in it, strawberries, sweetcorn and four tomato plants:

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In my onion and root beds I have onions, garlic, parsley, parsnips, spring onions, beetrrot, radish and lettuce.  The lettuce will shortly be replaced with leeks:

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I have two beds with potatoes in – ‘Marfona’ a second early and ‘Desiree’ a late main crop potato:

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In my legumes beds I have broad beans, french beans, runner beans, climbing peas and lolla rossa lettuces:

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And in my brassica beds I have cabbages, curly kale, swedes, kohl rabi, outdoor cucumbers and two butternut squashes that will hopefully grow up my washing line post:

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At the back of my plot I have herbs in pots and fruit trees (apple and pears) and I have autumn raspberries along the side fence:

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On the shady side of the garden I have rhubarb, comfrey and jerusalem artichokes.

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And at the front I have blueberries, red and black currants and a gooseberry bush too:

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In my greenhouse I have cucumbers, tomatoes, radish, peppers, basil and two melons:

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And elsewhere in the garden I have courgettes, patty pans, outdoor tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, corriander and two dwarf plum trees…..

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….and as usual I have squeezed as many flowers in as possible to attract bees and other beneficial insects to my plot:

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I’m sure I have missed one or two things, but never mind I’ll write about them another time when I remember them.

So I am hoping over the next few weeks I will get some lovely crops, but for the moment we are enjoying some delicious salads:

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

Have a good weekend!

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Open Gardens And A Rethink!

Last Sunday we had a lovely few hours visiting the ‘Desford and Botcheston Open Gardens 2015’.

I love visiting open gardens as you can get so many ideas for your own garden and it doesn’t cost much to look around.  Also the money goes to charity.

I must say the all the open gardens were really nice, but some of the gardens (and houses) were absolutely gorgeous … and massive compared to my little back garden:

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But one back garden showed how you can make a small garden beautiful:

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I have never really liked topiary very much, until I saw this:

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I thought it was brilliant and it was just one of many in this garden….it has really changed my mind about topiary.

If you would like to visit the ‘Open Gardens’ in your area, there is a really good website here.  It will find your nearest gardens to visit, giving you dates and times the gardens are open.

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This week I have spent a lot of time removing all the wallpaper from our front room and I must say I am very tired.

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This is the room that we have been saving like mad to do, since we had the building work in our kitchen approximately eighteen months ago.  When the builders knocked the chimney breast down in our kitchen, they had to put in a steel support, which meant knocking a hole through to our front room….so we finally have a plasterer coming on Monday to skim the walls and ceiling over for us, as there are so many lumps and bumps everywhere.

I thought it would be easy to remove the wallpaper, but it took me ages as there were two layers of wallpaper and the bottom layer had been painted over a few times….but I got there in the end:

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Because of the time it took to remove the wallpaper, I didn’t get into the garden until yesterday.

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A Problem Area And A Bit Of A Rethink:

I had been a bit concerned that Judy (our lovely rescue dog) is still going mad running up and down barking when next door’s dog comes out into the garden at the same time.  I am still working on this with our trainer Steven Havers, but I know this is going to be a hard habit for Judy to break and it will take quite some time to stop it completely, though she is improving slowly.

Unfortunately you can see in the photo below, she has completely worn away the grass in the corner and I have had to put whatever I could find to protect my plants from Judy, as she jumps madly at them when our neighbours dog is outside.

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So this area was just not working!

Now when next door’s dog isn’t outside, Judy doesn’t run around the garden.  She just likes to sit and watch the world or fall asleep lying in the sun.  So this week I decided to bring forward the wire fence, so she is even further away from the dog next door.

I brought some heavy duty PVC coated wire fence for £17 and spent yesterday putting it up and moving the gate forward:

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I was then able to move the glass away from my peas as Judy could no longer get to them and I tied them to the chicken wire with some string to give them some extra support.

I just wonder now if the birds will find them instead!

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I then covered this area with weed suppressant to kill the grass underneath (this is the weed suppressant I won last year).  The weed suppressant will kill the grass by autumn and it will then be easy to just dig over the area without removing it.

As you can see in the second photo, Judy liked the weed suppressant too:

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When the weed suppressant was down I couldn’t help thinking it felt like a waste of space….so I nipped to my local nursery and managed to get a tray of twelve sweetcorn plants for £1….I thought this was a bargain!

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I cut slits in the weed suppressant, dug the grass out and put a little bit of blood, fish and bone in each hole and topped it up with compost.  I then planted the sweetcorn, gave it a good watering and then pulled the weed suppressant back around each plant:

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I am really not sure how well the sweet corn will grow as I only really prepared small holes for the plants to grow in and I have no idea what condition the soil is in ….but for £1 I thought it would be a fun gamble to take.

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The only other thing I did in my kitchen garden this week was to ‘pinch out’ the side shoots on my outdoor tomato plants.  This just means removing the side shoots that produce between the leaf and the main stem, using your index finger and thumb.  You can see my ‘before’ and ‘after’ photograph below:

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I then tied the tomatoes to their canes for support:

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So that’s it for this week.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog.

I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a good weekend!

 

Our Rescue Dog Judy & A Paint Job

My blog is a little bit longer than normal this week …. I hope this is ok with you.

A Bit Of Good News:

A lot of people have been asking about Judy, the rescue dog we brought home in October.

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Her first day home looking very thin!

I have written about her a few times, but for those who don’t know, it was clear from the start that she had a lot of problems and by December she had bitten a dog and we had to contact a behaviourist for help.  We tried training her with treats, clicker training etc. and she had a ‘kalm aid’ in her food and a pheromone diffuser plugged in the house all day long.

We were beginning to think we were getting somewhere and then the next day for no apparent reason she would go backwards again and we were no further forward.  I have shed a lot of tears over this dog and I have been shouted out so many times for not controlling her (even though she was always muzzled and on a lead).

By February our behaviourist suggested we should think about re-homing her as she felt she was in the wrong environment.  However, as a last attempt to help her we decided to take her to the vets for tablets to calm her down, which did help her a lot in the home, but outside she still couldn’t tolerate cars, lorries, bikes, dogs, birds, men in dark clothes or hats etc. etc.

I have got to admit at this stage we found ourselves thinking that we couldn’t do anything to help her and we were devastated.

A 'cheeky girl' found cuddling my daughters teddies

A ‘cheeky girl’ found cuddling my daughters teddies

Then six weeks ago, a wonderful person called ‘Michelle’ from my gardening forum, emailed me to say she had just listened to ‘Steven Havers’ on Radio Leicester and he was a dog trainer / behaviourist and sounded really good.  I rang him and he visited on the 27th April.

I have been taking Judy to his classes each week since and in just five weeks, Judy will now walk along side other dogs on her extendable lead without reacting.  Mr Thrift counted twenty two dogs surrounding her a couple of weeks ago in his class and she wasn’t barking, lunging or taking any notice of them!…It is absolutely incredible to watch.

Previously in the home we had also blocked all our windows with a plastic ‘film’ to give a frosted effect so she couldn’t see out and bark at everything she saw…..this week we have also managed to remove the film and she really doesn’t bark too much at all.

We still have a long way to go, as she isn’t so good on the short lead yet and though she is better with cars she still doesn’t like the lorries and motor bikes and next doors dog is still a big problem for Judy, but we have come an awful long way in a short time.

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 We are very pleased with her progress and I’ve got to say Steven Havers training is brilliant….it is obvious that he has so much experience with dogs and right from the start he said that Judy wanted to learn.  He concentrates on training the ‘owner’ rather than the dog and he uses praise to reward the dog and not food treats.

Hopefully very soon we can also try and wean her off the tablets that the vet gives her.

So thank you Steven for your continued training and advice and thank you ‘Michelle’ for emailing me with his details.

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A Walk In The Park:

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Last Sunday I woke early and took Judy for a walk in Western Park at 6.45am.

The sun was shinning, there was no one around and it was so peaceful.  I felt like I had discovered a place that no one else knew about, it was absolutely magical.  I have never heard the birds sing this beautifully before.

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“In the 19th Century ‘Leicester Corporation’ purchased the land for £30,000 to create a park for the people of the ‘West End’ of Leicester and it is one of the largest parks in the City covering 73 hectares.  The park was opened in 1899”.

Leicester City Council work hard maintaining this park and they have recently put lots of signs around giving interesting information about the wildlife here:

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I have lived in this area for nearly twenty years now and it is only since October (when I have been walking Judy) that I have realised how beautiful the park is and how lucky we are to have it on our door step.

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There is also a 400 year old Oak tree in the park, that is nick named the ‘Old Major’.  I have walked past this tree many times without really taking much notice…..but when I stopped and actually took the time to look at it, it is absolutely magnificient.  My photograph below doesn’t really do the tree justice:

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There are so many beautiful places around me that I have walked past without noticing or never bothered to go and see.  I feel it is time for me to take more notice of the things that are right under my nose and I will write about them as I do.

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare”.

William Henry Davis

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This week in my garden:

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I started by thinning out my kohl rabi and my beetroot.  I used a pair of scissors to just ‘snip off’ the unwanted plants:

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My wall flowers had finally finished flowering, so I dug them up and planted the dwarf peas I was growing in guttering.  They were a bit ‘leggy’ but I’m sure they will be fine.  I am trying to plant in every area possible, so I thought the peas would grow nicely using the chicken wire fence as a support.  All I need to do now is stop Judy from destroying them!

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This week I also planted my french beans and some more lettuces:

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….And gave the area under my bay tree a bit of a tiny up:

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In my home this week:

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At the beginning of the week Mr Thrift was poorly with a viral infection.  When he started to feel a little bit better, I made him a vegetable soup to get him to start eating again.

I had an ’emergency’ bag of mixed vegetables in my freezer that I used and I’m glad to say Mr Thrift enjoyed it.

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(You can find the recipe for the soup here.  I didn’t use all the vegetables in the recipe, I just used the pack of frozen vegetables together with potato and onions).

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In the home this week I also made a big batch of pasta sauce to freeze.  I love the days when I can take something out of my freezer, defrost it and then just reheat it in the microwave and add it to pasta.

This recipe also doubles up as a pizza sauce too.

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I had also ran out of my dishwasher liquid, so I made some more.  I make it with ‘soup nuts’ and it saves me a lot of money in the long run.

You can find the recipe here.

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As you have probably guessed, I struggle to sit still and I like to keep myself busy….On Sunday I mentioned to Mr Thrift that our bathroom looked awful.  I gave it a lick of paint when we first moved into our house thirteen years ago and it hasn’t really been touched since then. The plan has always been to have a new bathroom suit as the bath, sink and tiles are really old and have seen better days, but we certainly can’t afford this for a very long time.

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Over the years our window blind had also become discoloured in places too:

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…..So on Monday I decided to spruce it up a little by giving it a lick of paint….it actually took two coats in the end, but I was very pleased with the result.

I put up a new blind and changed the light and shower cords, so they looked fresh and new.

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After I put the shelves back up I gave all the families toiletries a good sort out and put them back neatly.

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I then put our shower curtains back up….unfortunately we have to use the curtains to stop any water from going down the side of the bath.  We have tried numerous times to seal between the tiles and the bath, but unfortunately it never works as the bath is slightly too far away from the wall!…so we have resorted in lining the shower area with two large shower curtains.  Unfortunately this area doesn’t look good, so I cover it with a ‘nicer’ shower curtain on the outside of the bath:

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Incidentally, you can see in the photo above my handwash.  This is a Marks and Spencer ‘luxury’ hand wash bottle that I refill each time with cheap ‘value’ bubblebath…..no one ever knows and it saves me buying expensive handwash.

So overall, I am very pleased with our bath room.  It still needs ‘gutting’ in the future, but until then it doesn’t look quite as bad:

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

Have a good weekend!

Farm Visits & Growing Herbs

Before I start today I wanted to remind anyone that is interested, that my usual monthly blog post of

‘What To Do In The Kitchen Garden In June’ can be found here.

There is loads of information in this post e.g. weather conditions expected, what to sow / plant / harvest in June, jobs to do and pests / diseases that you may encounter this month.

I hope it helps someone out there.

My 'free' azalea that I have grown from a tiny little plant

My ‘free’ azalea that I have grown from a tiny little plant

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I have loads to talk about this week, but firstly I want to say an enormous “thank you” to all the people that commented on my blog last week after my ‘blog wobble’.  I was absolutely overwhelmed by the lovely things you all said and it really has spurred me on to keep blogging.

All I can say is I am very lucky to have your continued support…thank you for this.

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Out and about during the week:

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Last weekend I visited two working organic farms with my friends from the ‘Western Park Organic Gardening Forum’.

Firstly we went to Oakley Grange which is a 660 acre farm, just outside Hathern in Leicestershire and a gentleman called Richard gave us a guided tour and it was most interesting to hear about his farm.

We had a lovely lunch too in his cafe.

You can read about the farm here.

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We also visited Manor Organic Farm in Long Whatton, Leicestershire:

“We have been farming organically since 1989 and believe that organic farming is a positive philosophy, and is more than just avoiding the use of artificial chemicals and fertilisers. It is a sustainable approach to farming which views the farm as a whole system in harmony with the natural surroundings and nature itself as well as the local community”.

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The farmer (Graeme) again showed us around the farm and told us all about his animals and the meat they sell.  One of the things he said really stuck in my mind……he said when he goes out for a meal he will only eat vegetarian meals as he doesn’t know how the animals have been treated by other people.  He said he only eats the meat that he has produced, so he knows that the animals have been treated well.

The butcher in their shop was also very knowledgable about the meat they sell and spent time showing me what I could buy and how much it would cost me.  Organic meat is a lot more expensive to buy, but I can now see the benefits of buying it……the hard bit will be convincing my family, so I need to think about this.

This farm also had a cafe and we all had a lovely drink and cake to finish the day off.

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I enjoyed both farm visits immensly and it was great getting so close to the animals.

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In my Kitchen Garden:

As it’s June I have been planting some of my more tender plants outside…..I started with my two butternut squash plants.

Our family love butternut squashes and I had the luxury at the allotment of growing lots of these as I had plenty of space:

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However, it would be impossible to grow this amount in my new kitchen garden, but I wanted to try and grow at least a couple of plants.  I decided to have a go at growing them up the post that holds my washing line.  So a few a weeks ago I tied some chicken wire around the post and dug some organic manure into the soil.  This week I planted two plants at the base of the post and as it was still quite cool at the beginning of the week, I placed a bottle over the plants to act as a mini cloche to help them establish:

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As the plants grow I will tie them to the support…..I will keep you informed on how they are doing.

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I have also planted out the tagetes that I grew from seed, along the edges of my paths.  I think they look good when they are in flower and their smell helps to confuse pests, which help to protect my vegetables.

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I had a few outdoor tomato plants left, so I decided to put these in pots as I couldn’t bare to throw them away.  I didn’t really want too many pots around my garden as it means daily watering, but I do love tomatoes so I decided to keep them:

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This week I planted some more spring onions that I grew from seed.  Again I sowed a few seeds together in modules and didn’t bother to thin them out, as they ‘push’ apart as they grow:

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The first spring onions are not yet ready to eat, but we have started to eat the onion sets that I planted closely together in March.  I don’t know if you remember but I  planted 66 onions very close together in the hope that I could harvest them over a longer period, by picking some when they reached ‘spring onion’ size and leaving the remaining onions to grow to a good size:

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Well I’m pleased to say my plan worked and I have been picking some lovely onions to put in our salads:

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Herbs:

This week I also planted the parsley that I grew from seed.  I love parsley as it’s easy to grow and I like to freeze it to use for the garlic bread I make in the winter months.

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The apple mint that I also brought home from my allotment has finally began to put on some growth.  I will leave it in its pot so the roots are contained and don’t become invasive.

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My daughter likes to put mint in her drinks to make them refreshing and I must say it’s nice now for her as she can just nip outside to pick a few leaves instead of having to remind me constantly to bring some home from the allotment:

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I wanted to include lots of herbs in my new kitchen garden but I didn’t want to use the small amount of ground that I have to grow them – so I have been wondering what to do with them for a while and then I found these pots in Poundstetcher a couple of weeks ago:

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As you can see the pots only cost me 74p, but when I got them home I found that they did look really cheap and nasty when I put them up.  So after a bit of thought I got some old white, outdoor paint from my shed and sponged it on lightly to make the pots look a bit older….and I think it worked and they now look a lot better:

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I then bought some herbs from my local garden centre and planted them in my new pots.

So I now have oregano golden french, marjoram gold, oregano country cream, thyme compact, sage and dill in the pots – though I do know that some of them will need to be moved when they grow larger in a year or two.

I also have lavender and rosemary in bigger pots in between my fruit trees:

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And I have chives growing along my path, which are looking beautiful at the moment as they are in flower and the bees love them…..and the flowers are adding a lovely colour to my salads:

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This week in my kitchen garden I also planted out the calendula that had self seeded in the compost that I brought back from my old allotment.

Calendula looks beautiful when they are flower and the bees love them and you can also eat the flower petals too.  They look great in salads or sprinkled on pasta.

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And finally in my kitchen garden this week I removed the top couple of inches of growth on my broad bean plants.  I do this when the first tiny beans are visable on the plants.

Blackfly absolutely love the top, soft growth on broad bean plants and this stops them:

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In My Home:

This week I decided to do a job that I have been putting off for some time….I have been cleaning the top of my kitchen cupboards for the first time since they were installed 18 months ago….so they were very dirty!

I used white vinegar and a scubber to clean them and they cleaned up well:

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I really don’t want to put this amount of effort into cleaning my cabinets like this again, so I have lined the tops with a sheet of newspaper.  When the paper is dusty and dirty I will remove it and replace it quickly with another one, without having to do any hard work:

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Since we have had the new kitchen I have thought the area above my cupboards looks quite bare, so this week I put some old baskets on the top of the cabinets and I have used some cheap wooden hearts to decorate them….and it now looks much more homely (and I have somewhere to store my jars for jam making too):

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

Have a good weekend!