Archive | February 2016

A Blogging Rest…

The Last few months have been extremely hectic in the Thrift household due to family illness, dog training, Christmas, birthdays, etc and I feel that this has all finally caught up with me.

Mr Thrift and I are in the so called ‘sandwich generation’, as we have teenagers and elderly parents who rely on us (three sets as my parents divorced when I was young and then re-married).

Unfortunately I have found this all leaves me ‘frazzled’ at times and lately I have been feeling very run down…….I’m sure there are a lot of people reading this that have felt the same.

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I have therefore decided to have a quiet few weeks, to give myself a chance to rest and re-charge my batteries.  This means I will be saying “no” to people for a change if they ask for something that isn’t urgent or life threatening.  I know I will find this very hard to do, but I’m not alone as most women struggle to say “no” and it’s time I became more assertive….

During the next month I have decided to make myself a priority for once, which I think is not selfish, but a necessity.  After all, as ‘Ovid’ said….

” A field that has rested gives a beautiful crop”.

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So I hope you don’t mind but I have decided to take a month off writing any new blog posts.  Instead during March I will post some of my favourite blog posts that I have written….I will try to find some old ones that most of you won’t of read before.

But please keep reading as I will be back in April, Hopefully full of beans again.

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In the garden this week:

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This week I have been trying to add a bit of colour.  My local nursery has been selling primroses for 40p a pot, so I bought a few to dot around.

I try really hard to only buy flowers that come back year after year and primroses and daffodils do this nicely:

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I’ve just got to stop Judy (my dog) from jumping on them now.

I also bought some posts to support my autumn raspberries and new summer raspberries.  Autumn raspberries don’t really need support but I did find they leant over my path last year, making it hard to walk down.

I used washing line between the posts as this worked wonders at my old allotment:

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This week I also decided to see what had happened to the jerusalem artichokes that I planted last March in my garden.

I don’t know if you remember but I planted five jerusalem artichokes in an old metal pot that had no bottom as it has rusted away.  I thought this would be good to contain my jerusalem artichokes as they are well known for spreading and I didn’t want this to happen.

I dug a great big hole to sink the pot into the soil and wiggled my fork deep into the bottom of the hole to help with the drainage on my heavy clay soil.

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I then filled the pot back up with a mix of soil and compost and planted five jerusalem artichokes into it.

This area is in shade all day, so I wasn’t sure what I would find when I started digging about…..but this is what I found….

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Some of them were bigger than I ever managed to grow at the allotment!  So I was very pleased with this.

I picked five of the best and replanted them adding some new homemade compost to the mix:

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I continued to seed sow this week.  I sowed my greenhouse tomatoes.  I had a pack of ‘Moneymaker’ which I decided to use up, so they are sitting warmly in an old margarine tub inside a propagator, again on my radiator.  Hopefully with some bottom heat they will germinate quickly:

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The flowers that I sowed on the 3rd of February are ready to be ‘pricked out’.  There is information here that tells you how to prick out seedlings.

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The flowers are french marigolds, antirrhinums and dahlias.  I will prick them out in the next few days.

During March I will be planting my onion sets in newspaper pots.  I will keep them in my cold greenhouse until they start to grow, as this will give my soil a bit more time to warm up before I plant them.

When I do plant them, they will go into the soil, pot and all – this stops any root disturbance and the pot will just rot away.

You can read how to make newspaper pots here.

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(Last years onions sets)

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During March I will sow red cabbages, white cabbages, corianda, mixed salad leaves, lettuce, greenhouse cucumbers, tegetes, sweet peas, cosmos and calendula.

None of the above will be sown directly outside as my soil isn’t warm enough yet.  They will sit either inside my cold greenhouse or inside my house for the moment.

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This week in the home:

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I have continued cleaning my kitchen cupboards and this week it was the turn of my knife and fork draw….I had things in it I had completely forgotten about!

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I also did a spot of sowing to repair Mr Thrifts coat pockets and our seat cushions in our kitchen.

I always find sowing so thereputic.

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Well that’s it for now.  Don’t forget for the next few Fridays I will be sharing some older posts with you.  However I will still be around to answer your comments.

Thank you for reading my blog and your continued support over the years.

I will be back as normal in April.

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Manure & Odd Job Week

We have had a mix of wet and dry weather this week here in the East Midlands, but Wednesday was absolutely glorious and it felt like Spring was here already…the sun made everything look more beautiful, especially the waves of snop drops and crocus in our local park:

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One thing I wasn’t expecting to see this early was my first dandelion of the year….this is a reminder that soon it will the time to weed my kitchen garden on a weekly basis:

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The dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is actually a wonderful plant, though we do tend to see it as a nuisance weed.  In actual fact it is an excellent food plant for many beneficial insects and it provides an important food source to bees…and bees need our help in every way possible at the moment due to their decline in numbers over recent years.

I wrote a lot of interesting facts about dandelions here if you have a spare five minutes to read them….it does make you see this ‘nuisance’ weed in a completely different light.

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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This week I have been spreading manure over the beds that I will be growing my brassicas and potatoes in this year.  This is usually a job I start to do when the beds become empty in November, but I am a little bit late this year:

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I decided to buy bags of composted organic manure as I have nowhere to store fresh manure while it composts down.  Ironically, the six bags I bought from the garden centre cost me £24 which is just £1 less than I used to pay the organic farmer who would deliver manure to my four allotments….his manure used to last me two to three seasons when I used it on all four plots:

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“Animal manure is a wonderful soil conditioner which also adds a small amount of nutrients to the soil.  Some animal manures add more nitrogen than others and if you apply it fresh, the nitrogen will ‘burn’ and kill plants.  Compost fresh manure for at least six months before using it”

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I lightly forked my new bags of organic manure into my beds and it looked and felt like compost.  This is a long way from the manure I used to use from the farmer, as this was heavy and stuck in clumps, where as my ‘bagged’ manure could be raked easily over the soil….but it was expensive.

As I forked it into the soil I found quite a bit of different bindweed roots.  I know from experience that you need to keep on top of this weed if you don’t want to use chemicals to kill it.  I keep pulling it out as soon as I see it, as it spreads very quickly if I don’t.  Eventually the plant will weaken and give up, but this can take a long, long time.

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Eventually I want to stop using manure and just use compost (mainly made by me), but for now I wanted to put some ‘umph’ in the soil (as my wonderful old allotment friend Eric used to say to me), to improve my soil and add a few nutrients (though I will still be using a slow release fertiliser like blood, fish and bone before I sow / plant my crops).

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This week in the home:

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This week I have continued to clean my kitchen cupboards.  I am very sad to say amongst my recipe books I found two of the same books, they were just printed at different times but have exactly the same recipes inside.  This just shows me I don’t read my books enough after buying them, so I am going to try and make a conscious effort to look through and use all of my recipe books from now on!

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I have also caught up with a few little jobs that I have been putting off, like cleaning my fridge:

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…..And fixing the hook in the kitchen that for two years has twisted round and around when you hook the curtain tie back on to it!  It took me less than five minutes to fix it with ‘hard as nails’ adhesive:

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I also fixed the curtain holdbacks in the bedroom I recently decorated for my daughter:

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So this bedroom is completely finished now and I am really, really pleased with how it looks and so far my daughter has kept it tidy:

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 This week I also made Mr Thrift some valentine chocolates.  I managed to get a silicone mould in the sales last year for £2.  I just melted a bar of Mr Thrift’s favourite chocolate in the microwave and then poured the melted chocolate into the silicone mould (I didn’t bother tempering the chocolate either).  I let the chocolate set (out of the fridge) and then pushed the chocolates out of the mould.

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I also had enough left over chocolate to make my daughters a few chocolate lollies using a silicone lolly mould I had tucked away.

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If you look carefully at the hearts above, you can see that each heart has a couple of ‘valentine’ words on.

I wrapped them up in cellophane and gave them to Mr Thrift on valentines day.  He really liked them thank goodness.

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It just goes to show you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a gift…..it really is the thought that counts!

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Finally last weekend we celebrated my daughters 18th birthday at a Toby Carvery.  I wanted to mention this as the manager was absolutely brilliant.

My daughter said she didn’t want a party and asked us to go for a quiet meal with her….but then two weeks ago she decided she wanted to ask this person and that person, until the number of people she had asked totalled forty!

So we spoke to the manager at the restaurant and he arranged for everyone to be seated in just one area and allowed us to come a couple of hours earlier to decorate it with banners and balloons:

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The manager even gave us a table to place the cake and presents on, which he could have quite easily given to someone else.

Everyone had a lovely time, the food was great and the staff fell over themselves to help.

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My daughter certainly had a wonderful birthday!

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Well that’s it for this week.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week!

Winds In The Park & A Special Birthday

What a windy few days we had this week with storm ‘Imogen’.  Here in the Midlands we weren’t hit as hard as the southern half of the country, however I did see a couple of trees that had lost large branches in our local park which was sad to see.

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The weather really has been strange this winter with more storms than usual and it has been very mild.  I think a lot of plants are quite confused about the time of year, though I’m sure they will adjust.

Whilst walking my dog this week I saw my first daisy….I don’t think I have ever seen one flower this early:

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Also I saw rhododendrons beginning to flower which is also a bit early, but beautiful to see on a cold damp day:

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Another thing I found on one of my walks this week was a Christmas rose (Helleborus).  This is about the right time for it to flower, but I would have missed it if I hadn’t walked through a quiet wooded area in the park for a change:

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This week in my garden at home:

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This week I have noticed that my rhubarb is growing well now (and I still haven’t got around to mulching it all with manure – I better hurry up).

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I transplanted this rhubarb from my allotment last January so this will now be its second year, so I will be able to harvest a small amount this year and I am already looking forward to it!

“If you transplant rhubarb it is best not to harvest any the first year and only a small amount in the second year to avoid weakening the crown”

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I have also noticed that my spring cabbages are beginning to grow a bit and it will soon be time to give them a feed.  I need to lift the net and remove the yellowing leaves first though:

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The garlic that I planted in the autumn in the ground is doing very well.  I planted some ‘back up’ garlic in my cold greenhouse which is also doing well, so will have to find a place in the garden for it soon:

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You can see in the right hand photo above that my broadbeans seeds and leek seeds are now growing well too.

In the garden my chives are poking through now and so too is my comfrey:

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These things show me that Spring is on its way.

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Inside the house the flower seeds that I sowed last week have now all popped their heads up too, which is surprisingly quick (lobelia, dhalias, marigolds, and antirrhiums):

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To speed their germination I decided to give them a bit of ‘bottom’ heat in their propagator by placing it on top of my radiator, with a chair placed against it to stop it falling off….and it worked a treat!

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This week in my garden outside I moved my rosemary and mint forward and sunk them into the holes where my blueberries sat last week before I moved them.  I am keeping the mint in pots to stop the roots from spreading and the rosemary is a young plant.  By sinking the pots in the ground it keeps the roots a bit cooler which means I don’t need to water them so often in the summer.

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I gave the rosemary a bit of a hair cut too:

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I also decided it was time to give my bay tree a hair cut too, so it doesn’t grow too big.  It certainly looks neater now:

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Out in my small front garden I also gave my three spirea plants a good prune.  I find this stops the plants growing too large.  I planted three spirea plants approximately thirteen years ago and all I ever do is prune them in February and they look good every year…they were well worth the £2 each that I paid for them!

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This week in the home:

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This week Mr Thrift had a few days off work and we decided it was high time we sorted our cupboards out as they had become a bit messy.

We found things in them that we didn’t know we still had:

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We found some little plastic things that cover the screws in our plug sockets, that we didn’t know we had and we also found a couple of birthday candles that I must have bought and forgotten about – unfortunately my youngest daughter turned sixteen last November so I will have to pass them on to someone else to use:

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It took a while to sort everything out but it’s nice to have tidy draws and cupboards once again:

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This week there are two birthdays in our family.  The first was my step mothers.  My dad and step mum came round on Saturday (my step mums birthday) to watch Leicester City play on the television….this was a spur of the moment thing so I wasn’t prepared.

While they watched the first half of the match I made my step mum a birthday cake.  I did it as quickly as I could using my favourite ‘throw it all in’ recipe and I whipped up some chocolate butter icing to spread over it and I grated some white chocolate on the top.  I just managed to light the candles as the whistle blew for half time:

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I don’t think I have ever made a cake so fast, but it proves that it can be done quickly (though a little bit of the butter icing did melt on the top as the cake didn’t have time to cool down as much as it should have, but nobody noticed).

And it is my eldest daughter’s 18th birthday….where on earth did that time go?

She has grown into a beautiful, intelligent, well manored lady, who we are both so very proud of.

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I spent Wednesday and Thursday making a large cake for a her.  My daughter’s middle name is ‘Rose’ so I decided to have ’18’ roses around it.

I made three sponges and eighteen little mini cakes and decorated it with icing:

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My cake isn’t perfect, but I’m sure it has saved us a lot of money and ‘homemade’ cakes always taste nicer than shop bought cakes….and more importantly, my daughter loved it (thank goodness).

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back as usual next Friday.

Have a lovely week!

Fruit, Fruit And Flowers

I am very lucky as there is a very large park within five minutes walk of our house.  When my daughters were small I would take them to the play area and watch them on the swings and slides and we would have picnics there in the summer too.

However it wasn’t until we had Judy (our rescue dog) sixteen months ago, that I fully realised how large an area the park covers and how much work the park keepers do to make it a wonderful place for us all to enjoy.

Each week there are different things to see….last week I saw the snowdrops and crocus begin to flower and this week there is beautiful blossom on one of the trees:

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I am really not very good at identifying trees so if anyone knows what it is then please let me know….but it really is pretty and brightens the damp and wet days when I walk Judy.

Judy is continuing to do very well and I now only take her to training classes once every two weeks.  She now has little doggie friends that we regularly walk with on the park and she has even started to play a little bit with other dogs……nine months ago I would never have believed this would ever happen as she was so reactive to dogs (and lots of other things).

For a while now I have been walking Judy on a very long training lead and for the last two months when there are no dogs about I have been dropping the lead and let it trail behind her (so I can stamp on it and pick it up quickly if need be).  This week as her recall has improved significantly, I finally dared myself to take her off the lead completely….and she loves it, running around much more freely.

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So this is another major breakthrough and I am really pleased.

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In My Garden This Week:

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It’s been a busy week in the garden this week.  It started when my new strawberries arrived in the post.  They are an old variety called ‘Cambridge favourite’.

I soaked the roots for a couple of hours and then planted them in one of my five new beds:

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I found that some of the roots were ridiculously long so I gave them a little trim before planting them.  I also added a handful of compost to the holes as I planted them, to give them a good start:

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My daughters and Mr Thrift gave me money for Christmas so I could buy some more fruit bushes, so last month I bought a normal gooseberry bush, a dessert gooseberry bush, a red currant bush a white currant bush, a blackcurrant bush and a thornless blackberry plant:

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And this week I planted them.

I have read that all of these bushes will produce a decent harvest in partial shade, which many websites (incl. the RHS) define this as ‘three to four hours of sunlight per day in the summer’.  So I thought I would plant them near to my fence which gets this amount of sun in the summer and see what happens.  You can just see them in the photo below:

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I incorporated lots of compost in each planting hole and afterwards I gave them a light watering to settle the soil.

I then decided to move the two currant bushes and one gooseberry that I brought back from allotment last year, from the sunnyside of my garden to another edge that has ‘partial shade’ in the summer next to my new beds:

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If the fruit bushes do produce fruit when they are established, it will be great….but if they don’t I will have to find another place for them all.

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Last week I also bought five summer raspberry canes to replace the fruit bushes that I had moved.  I once again incorporated lots of compost into the soil:

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 I then turned my attention to my autumn fruiting raspberries that I transplanted from my allotment at the beginning of last year.  They did fairly well considering they were newly transplanted.  However I realised last year that I needed to provide them with some support when they grow large, to stop them blocking the narrow path next to them….so I banged some of my unused posts into the ground, ready to attach some wire (when I get around to buying some).

I then cut the autumn raspberries down to just above ground level and gave the area a good weed.

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Note:

“Autumn raspberries produce fruit on their current years growth, which is different to summer fruiting raspberries which produce fruit on the previous years growth…this is why you prune summer and autumn raspberries differently”

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Unfortunately my brushwood fence is a bit worse for ware now in the middle after the winds we have had, so I tied it up a bit and hopefully this will last another year:

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By the way, just in case you are wondering the compost that I having been using was made in a black plastic dustbin.  This time last year I filled the dustbin with some of the grass that I dug up when I first started my new kitchen garden and lots of vegetable peelings and then I put the lid on and left it (without turning it)….and this is the result:

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It just goes to prove you don’t need to buy expensive compost bins to make beautiful compost!

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Another job I did this week was to repot my blueberry plants.  I also bought these back from the allotment as they were in pots, but they desparately needed repotting as I have paid them no attention at all for the last two years.

“Blueberries are an acid loving plant that need acid soil to thrive.  If you have an alkaline soil it is best to plant them in pots with Ericaceous compost and water them with rain water if possible, as this is usually more acidic than tap water”

I decided to plant them in my big silver tubs outside our back door as they will be easier to water here.  But unfortunately it meant I had to empty the majority of the old compost in the pots first.

I spread the compost over my beds and this will act as a soil conditioner….which my soil desparately needs.  I then filled my tubs with ericaceous soil (leaving the large stones and rubble at the bottom for drainage) and replanted my blueberries.

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As there is a lot of compost visable, I am going to have to think of something to spread over the top to act as a mulch so they don’t dry out so quickly in the summer.

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Finally outside in my garden this week I covered an area with plastic to warm the soil up ready to plant my onion sets next month:

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Seed Sowing And Progress:

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I noticed this week that the leeks, garlic and broadbeans (aquadulce) that I sowed on the 18th January, are all just beginning to poke their heads above the compost in my unheated greenhouse (though you need to look very closely at the photo’s to see the leeks and broadbeans):

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And the sweet peppers that I also sowed on the 18th January in newspaper pots have germinated too.  These have been kept in a propagator on my windowsill inside my house:

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And the cress that I sowed last week is ready for eating:

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This week I turned my attention to flowers for my kitchen garden and I sowed antirrhiums, dwarf dahlia’s, lobelia and french marigolds.  These seeds will be kept in a propagator until they germinate and kept inside until all frosts have passed (usually the end of May here in the Midlands).  I try really hard to keep as many seeds and plants on windowsills or on my staging next to our french doors for as long as possible, as it’s expensive to heat my greenhouse:

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I also I realised I was running out of seed labels so I made some more.  I use an old plastic milk bottle to make them:

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I also cut the bottom off the plasic bottle and it makes a little container to hold them together:

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This Week In The Home:

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I managed to get another ridiculously low priced ‘whoopsie’ this week….five bags of diced carrot and swede for 4p each!!!!

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So I made some lovely carrot, swede and coriander soup (the recipe was very similar to the one here only I didn’t use chilli in it this time).

I managed to make nine portions, some of which we had straight away and some of them have been frozen for another day:

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All in all it has been another busy week.

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