Archive | May 2016

Rhubarb Crumble Muffins, Flowers & Veg

The park has been looking even more wonderful this week on my dog walks and when the sun is shining the beauty of it all sometimes takes my breath away.  How lucky I am to not only have this splendid park on my doorstep, but be able to take the time to stop and stare at the things that change each week:

I have noticed that the hawthorn and cow parsley are putting on a wonderful display:

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And so too are the flowers that we so quickly remove from our own gardens, but on mass they look spectacular:

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Also the Horse chestnut trees are really giving a good display this year.  Apparently last year wasn’t a good year for conkers – it certainly looks like the trees are going to be making up for this later on in the year:

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But unfortunately there is always someone who wants to spoil things….it seems like every Monday morning there is lots and lots of rubbish for the park keeper to pick up near the cricket pavillion.  There is food left on the floor like chinese containers and chicken bones, which could quite easily cause dog owners large vet bills if their dogs eat something they shouldn’t.

It’s such a shame as the park keeper has enough to do without picking up rubbish that could quite easily be taken home with them.

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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After checking the weather forecast I decided that I would plant out my remaining tender crops.

I started by planting my outdoor tomatoes which are an early outdoor variety called ‘Outdoor wonder’…..I usually get a decent crop before blight hits with this variety and I use them to make passatta or soup to freeze for the winter months ahead, or we just eat them as they taste so much better than shop bought tomatoes:

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I also planted out my cherry tomatoes…..

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And my french beans which are a variety called ‘Maxi’ that hold the beans above the plant so they can be easily picked:

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I then began planting my squashes.  I started by planting a couple of pumpkins at the base of the arch I made a couple of months ago.  The variety is called ‘Winter Sweet Dumpling’ (which I have never grown before), but the seed packet says the squashes are small and the plants are highly productive, so I am hoping to train the plants up the side of the arch as they grow.

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I also planted two courgette plants and one patty pan plant in my new area……last year both these plants didn’t produce as much as usual, so I am hoping this year will be different:

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“I incorporated lots of compost in and around the planting holes before planting my squashes and I also sprinkled some blood, fish and bone around the planting area as squashes are hungry feeders”

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I have been trying to successionally grow my lettuces carefully this year so we have a constant supply.  Unfortunately my next lot of home sown lettuces are tiny, so I decided to buy some that are ready to plant.  I was very pleased to find some reduced to £1 (I would never pay the original price of £3.99 for lettuces though).  I planted them in a space next to my outdoor tomatoes, again in my new area:

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As all my plants have now been hardened off, I had room in my greenhouse to plant my basil and peppers.  Unfortunately the peppers that I grew from seed myself, just sat and sulked and did not grow…. so I decided to buy in some better plants for £1 each and planted them in my greenhouse this week:

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So that was all of my vegetable planting done for now and then I started to plant the remaining flowers that I had grown from seed.

As my garden is a kitchen garden and not an allotment I decided that I wanted to make it as pretty as possible, so it will be pleasent for my family to sit out in the garden as well as it being productive.  This will also have a knock on effect as it will attract beneficial insects to my garden which will eat pests and pollinate my crops.

So I planted antirhinums, dahlias, marigolds, tegetes, bedding begonias, tuberous begonias and lobelia, wherever I could fit them in:

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Things I noticed in my kitchen garden this week:

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My azalea is showing a dazzling display of flowers and I have also noticed that the self seeded aquiligias are now flowering too and looking beautiful (these are one of my favourite flowers).  The chives that line my path are beginning to flower as well, which is great as all of these flowers will attact the bees:

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I have also noticed my new strawberries all have flowers and one or two have tiny fruit on.  I have always read that you should remove the strawberries that the plants produce the first year to build up the strength in the roots….but I have never done this and I have always had good crops.  Next week I need to cover my strawberries to protect them from the birds:

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I have noticed that my plum tree that is growing in a pot has three small plums on…whether they develop into full grown plums, I will have to wait and see:

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The herbs that I planted this year are growing really well too:

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And the grass I sowed a couple of weeks ago has germinated well and is growing strongly:

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This week in the home:

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This week we have been eating lots of the lettuces, radish, coriander and chives growing in the garden.

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  However, what I found brilliant this week was my daughters quite happily nipping out into the garden to pick things to use in their sandwiches or to make a salad for lunch….this is something they couldn’t do when I had my allotment, so it is yet another advantage for me:

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This week I decided to use a little bit of my rhubarb growing in the garden to make some rhubarb crumble muffins.  I transplanted this from my allotment in January last year, so it is only in its second year in my garden.   Last year I didn’t pick any of it and this year I have been picking it sparingly, so it builds up strong roots.  From next year I will be picking it as normal.

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Rhubarb Crumble Muffins:

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The muffin Mix:

200g caster sugar

200g peeled rhubarb diced into small pieces

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

100mls semi skimmed milk

200g self-raising flour

1 heaped tsp baking powder

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The crumble mix:

50g light muscovado sugar

50g plain flour

50g margarine (or butter if preferred)

25g porridge oats

1 tsp cinnamon

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Preheat your oven 200C / 425F / Gas 7

Put the rhubarb and sugar in a bowl and stir well together

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In a separate bowl make the crumble mix.  Put the muscovado sugar, plain flour, margarine, oats and cinnamon together and mix well using your fingers to rub in the margarine. 

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In another separate bowl put the oil, egg, vanilla and milk and add all of the rhubarb sugar mix (incl. all the liquid).  Mix together well

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Sieve the flour and baking powder into the rhubarb mix and fold it in gently until all the flour disappears….the mixture should appear lumpy-do not over mix

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Spoon the mixture equally into 12 muffin cases and then sprinkle the crumble mix over each of them

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Bake for approx. 18 minutes, or until a skewer is inserted and comes out clean.  

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Enjoy!

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

Have a great week.

XXX

A Busy Week In The Garden

Well I can’t start today without mentioning the wonderful celebrations that went on in Leicester on Monday evening at ‘Leicester City’s Victory parade’.  I watched it all on the TV, but Mr Thrift was lucky enough to enjoy the parade at Victoria Park with my sisters and brother-in-laws, together with approximately 220,000 other people….this was absolutely amazing as Leicester City’s population is only 330,000!

Mr Thrift said the atmosphere was wonderful and it was an evening that he will always remember.  This event really did bring the city together.

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This Week In The Garden:

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The nights have been cold this week in the garden so I have made sure that my tender plants have been under cover at night.  I will continue to keep a close eye on the weather forecast for now.

However, as the end of May is near I decided to plant a few things making sure they have adequate protection just in case there are still cold nights to come.

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I started by planting out the runner beans I sowed three weeks ago in newspaper pots (they grow so quickly).  I put up some bean poles for them to climb up and then planted the beans.  I also planted some nasturtiums that I sowed two or three weeks ago from seed around the beans, as these attract the blackfly away from the beans – also if there are no blackfly around, I add the leaves to salads as they have a lovely mild peppery taste.

I then put some glass around the plants to give a bit of protection:

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I then planted out my outdoor cucumbers which are a variety called ‘Burpless tasty green’ which I have been growing for a number of years. Over the years I have had fantastic crops of outdoor cucumbers in warm summers, but I have also had one or two years where the plants just sat and sulked in the cold, wet conditions…..I’m keeping my fingers crossed the weather is good for this years crop!

I support the cucumbers by tying them to canes as they grow….but for now I have given them some protection from the cold and slugs by covering them with old pop bottles until they are established:

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I have also used pop bottles to cover the parsley I planted this week, as these plants are still small.  I again grew the parsley in newspaper pots, as this stops any root disturbance to the plant and the newspaper just decomposes in the soil.

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This week I also ‘squeezed’ in some beetroot into my plot (again sown in newspaper pots and covered in bottles for protection until they are established) ….

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I then planted my red cabbages which again I had grown from seed.  I made sure that I used my foot to firm around each plant as brassicas grow best in firm soil and then I put a home made cabbage collar around each plant to stop cabbage root fly from laying eggs at the base of the plants.

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I then planted my swedes in an area next to my cabbages so I could put a net over the whole lot to stop the birds, as they LOVE to eat brassica leaves!

Just before I put the net over the brassicas I sowed a ‘catch crop’ of radish between the cabbages to make use of every spare piece of ground:

“A ‘Catch Crop’ is a crop that reaches maturity in a relatively short time, which makes use of the ground in between crops until they are established”

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I also planted some spring onions that I grew from seed in a small area under my environmesh that was not being used, next to my garlic:

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And I planted some khol rabi under my net in a space next to my Spring cabbage:

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As my kitchen garden is small, I am determined to grow as much as possible in every spare bit of ground I can find….however I also want to make the area look attactive with flowers for me and for the beneficial insects.  These insects will in turn pollinate my crops and eat the pests that visit my garden.

So this week I planted some Calendula that I grew from seed:

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Calendula is a hardy annual that I grew for years at my allotment and I also grew some last year in my new kitchen garden too.

My Calendula at my allotment

‘Calendula Alley’ at my allotment

Hoverflies, bees and butterflies all love the Calendula flowers and as an extra bonus, the petals are edible and look really pretty scattered into salads….so I think it’s always good to try and squeeze some of them into a vegetable garden somewhere:

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This week my mangetout was ready to plant out.  I had sown it in guttering a couple of weeks ago and kept it in my mini-greenhouse until it had germinated, as I think I get a far better rate of seed germination this way:

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I decided to put the mangetout in my new planter as my polyanthus and cowslips had just about finished flowering.  I don’t know if you remember but I bought all fourteen plants from my local nursery in the middle of April for just 40p each…..and they have flowered continuously since then, so this was a real bargain:

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I moved each plant to a different place in the garden to flower again another year.  I then added a bit more compost and a handful of blood, fish and bone to the planter and then I planted the mangetout …. hopefully it will grow up the trellis at the back.

I will add more plants to the planter another day:

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Another job I did this week was to ‘thin’ my leeks once again as there seemed to be so many growing in the tray.  Hopefully they will grow stronger now there are less of them….I must remember not to sow them so thickly next year!

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 I also ‘thinned’ my carrot seedlings which I am keeping in my greenhouse.  Normally it is best to ‘thin out’ carrot seedlings in the evenings to help prevent carrot rootfly, however as I thinned them out in the greenhouse then they will hopefully be ok.

I sowed these seeds far too thickly as the seed packet was a few years old and I thought most of them wouldn’t germinate….I was very wrong!

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Back in March I sowed some ‘cut and come again’ lettuce in my greenhouse and we have had a good supply of salad leaves over the last month or so. However the supply of leaves was just about finished and so I decided it was time to pull them up together with the remaining radish that I had sown around the edge of the salad leaves.

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This made room for me to plant my remaining indoor tomatoes.  As you can see from roots in the photo below, the tomatoes were ready to be planted:

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I also planted a couple of french marigolds next to the tomatoes as they are said to repel aphids and they look pretty too.

My greenhouse seems to be growing well at the moment and this week I noticed I have my first little cucumber growing.  I am being very careful not to overwater the cucumber plants as they don’t like to sit in wet compost.

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I am still continually tying my cucumbers and tomatoes to their supports as they grow and I am removing side shoots from the tomatoes when I spot them.

I also had room to plant some lettuces in my greenhouse that I have been growing from seed….I am trying very hard this year to have a continuous supply of salads (as we eat such a lot):

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Around the garden this week I have been weeding as we had some nice dry days at the beginning of the week.  Unfortunately I have been finding a lot of bindweed growing in a particular bed so I have been digging out as much of it as possible.  Provided I keep removing the top of the bindweed after it emerges out of the soil, it will eventually exhaust itself and die – but this takes a long time.

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Improving our lawn area:

Finally this week I turned my attention to our lawn.  After using a ‘log roll’ a couple of weeks ago against our fence I found had a tiny bit of it spare, so I cut it in half with a saw and fitted it neatly around our bay tree:

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I was very pleased with the results.

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I then decided to take off an inch of our lawn at the end, to make it easier to mow and keep tidy:

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While I was doing this I found a ‘leather jacket’ so I took a photo to show you….

“Leatherjackets are the larvea of craneflies (daddy long-legs) that live in the soil.  They can be very damaging to lawns and can eat the roots and stem bases of small flower and vegetable plants.  There are usually more around after a wet autumn”

  For now I won’t do anything about the leatherjackets, but I will certainly be keeping an eye out for any damage in this area.

There is a lot of information about Leatherjacket damage on the RHS website here.

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We have now managed to stop yellow patches appearing on our lawn by pouring water on the grass every time Judy (our dog) goes to the toilet.

However at one end of our grass there are still some bare patches where Judy used to run around going mad at next doors dog when he came out.  Judy is a lot calmer now and so I decided to reseed these patches.

I covered the new seeded areas with whatever I could find to stop Judy from running over it…hopefully soon the seeds will germinated and then thicken up quickly:

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It has been lovely spending so much time in my garden this week, especially as Judy has been ‘calmly’ waiting for me, enjoying the sun……this is something that I never thought she would do, so I savour every peaceful moment of it:

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

Have a great week!

XX

How To Avoid The Pea Moth & How to Harden Off Plants

I wanted to start today by saying a big ‘thank you’ to everyone that reads my blog and for all the lovely comments I receive each week.  It really is the comments that spur me on to continue writing.

Things changed in the ‘Thrift’ household when I gave my four allotments up last year, however your comments gave me the confidence to continue blogging about my new ‘kitchen garden’.

My blog will never win awards, but as long as people are reading and enjoying it, I will continue to write.

Thank you.

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This Week:

The weather has gone from one extreme to the other over the last week or so….from hail and snow to hot, sunny days.  On Sunday morning I walked my dog early to avoid the heat and even then it was warm enough to walk around in short sleeves:

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I always think the park looks beautiful in the early morning and I love to hear the birds sing at this time of the day…. they sing so loudly, as though they are excited about the day ahead.

I noticed the bluebells looking stunning in the dabbled shade under the trees and the ‘Cytisus scoparius’ (common broom) looking equally as impressive, in amongst the hawthorns that are in blossom at the moment:

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I felt blessed to be walking around the park at this time of day on my own, as it felt magical.  I couldn’t help but feel lucky to be there and have the time to stop and enjoy it.

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However the park looked completely different on Wednesday after twenty four hours of rain, but it still looked beautiful:

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In My Garden This Week:

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As it has been warm this week I decided it was time to start to ‘harden off’ some of my frost tender plants that have been sitting in my greenhouse, by moving them in my colder ‘mini greenhouses’.

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“Hardening off” your plants allows them to adapt to outside conditions before they are planted in their final positions.  There are two ways to do this:

1) Put your plants in a cold frame and gradually open the window of the cold frame more each day until it is fully opened or

2) Put your plants outside for an hour or two for the first day and then gradually increase the time they spend outside each day afterwards.

The RHS suggest that hardening off plants properly takes approximately two to three weeks.

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This week I also started to put some of my homegrown bedding plants into pots so they can grow on and look pretty in the summer.  I used marigolds and dwarf dahlias:

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I also made up a couple of hanging baskets with the cherry tomato plants that I grew from seed:

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As with everything else, I will harden them off gradually and I will be bringing them back inside my greenhouse every night until all the risk of frost has passed.  This is usually the end of May in Leicester, however I am still very careful to watch the weather forecast even then, as a few years ago I lost all  of my outdoor tomato plants at my allotment in the first week of June!

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This week I removed the glass from my climbing peas that I planted out in April, as they are now growing well:

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I tied some garden string around them to give a bit of support to help them climb.  I also draped some environmesh over the plants to stop the birds from eating them and give a bit of protection fron the pea moth (though I didn’t have quite enough to cover the sides, but it worked well like this last year):

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 “Adult pea moths lays their eggs in May, June and July on pea plants.  Their caterpillars feed on the seeds that develop inside the pea pods and then drop to the ground in late summer to pupate……this is a good reason to rotate your pea crops each year.

You can reduce the damage of the pea moth by covering your plants with environmesh or fleece”

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The tomatoes that I planted in my greenhouse are growing well now and I am continually ‘pinching off’ the side shoots that are appearing between the main stems and leaves….you can see in the before and after photos below:

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The seeds that I sowed last week have started to germinate and I have moved them from my kitchen into my greenhouse to ‘grow on’ for a week or two before I also start to ‘harden them off’ ready to plant later this month:

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I noticed this week that the first geraniums are starting to bloom in my hanging baskets:

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And elsewhere in the garden the dwarf wallflowers that I sowed last year are giving a good display….

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….together with the two dicentras (bleeding hearts) that I replanted after finding them growing recently in my border (though I haven’t a clue how they got there):

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 And finally in my garden my Azalea is beginning to flower.  My dad gave this plant to me when it was tiny – it came ‘free’ with some plants he ordered and he didn’t want it.  Over the last few years it has really flowered well:

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This Week In The Home:

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There is not much to tell you about this week except I have spent time altering the length of a new pair of curtains that my dad brought for his front room……unfortunately they were fifteen inches too long!…. (I’m not sure why he decided to buy this length of curtain).

After I altered them I decided to ring around a couple of well known shops to see how much they would charge for altering curtain lengths, just out of curiosity……I was quoted £35 by one and £40 by another!  It’s amazing how much you can save by learning a few basic sewing skills.

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After altering the curtains I took them to my dad’s home and hung them up for him….but unfortunately they weren’t really wide enough either (which I didn’t realise before as dad had given me the measurements).  This meant I couldn’t gather them up very much at the top, but I did my best.  However, they didn’t look too bad in the end and dad seemed very pleased with them …. and that is all that matters!

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That’s it for today.  Thank you for reading my blog.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.  Have a great week!

An Amazing Night For ‘The Blues’ & Potting On

Well I can only say that Monday night was amazing for Leicester, which is where I live ….. Mark Selby from Leicester, won his second World Snooker Championship and Spurs and Chelsea drew 2-2, which meant that Leicester City Football club were now ‘CHAMPIONS OF THE PREMIER LEAGUE’ (I never thought I would write that sentence on my blog).

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My family are big Leicester city supporters and Mr Thrift and my brother-in-law take my 85 year old dad and stepmum to all the home matches.  I also used to be a season ticket holder before our girls were born, in fact I still went to watch them when I was heavily pregant and I couldn’t fit through the turnstyles any longer and had to use the disabled entrance!

So early the next day we decorated the windows of our house with flags and posters.

The BBC news reported that on Monday evening the streets of Leicester were full of fans celebrating and from the minute the whistle blew to confirm LCFC were champions, I could hear people shouting “champions” and cars ‘hooting their horns’ into the early hours of the morning.

Myself and Mr Thift went down to the stadium the next day and there were still hundreds of people there celebrating, together with numerous TV cameras from around the world:

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We also met a ‘Vardy’ look-alike and had blue ice creams while we were there.

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  The atmosphere in Leicester at the moment is amazing (especially as this is all so soon after discovering Richard III underneath a Leicester city car park last year). 

We are a multicultural city and every race and religion are celebrating together, as we are all so very proud to live in our city! 

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In my garden this week:

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The weather has gone from snow and hail showers to beautiful warm days and the Spring flowers are still looking stunning in my garden:

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I started the week by planting some spring onions around my tomato plants in my greenhouse.  I am determined to use every single space in my garden possible to grow as many things as I can.

I started the spring onions in modules a few weeks ago as I find they germinate and grow better this way.  I put a pinch of seed in each module, but I don’t thin the seeds out as the onions will grow happily together and when I harvest them I pull up a ‘bunch’ at a time:

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I also planted three more tomato plants in the greenhouse and sowed some radish in between them.  I added some marigolds that I had grown from seed, (marigolds emit a strong odour that repels greenfly and blackfly and they will also add colour to my greenhouse):

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I continued to plant peas this week.  I planted the rest of my climbing peas against our outhouse wall:

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And some dwarf peas in the new area of my garden that I created last autumn:

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Also I found a small, empty spot that I had forgotten about, so I planted the remainder of my sweet peas here in a pot.  I will be dotting flowers all around my garden in the next few weeks, to attract as many beneficial insects as possible:

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I have also been potting up some of my plants that have grown too big for their pots, but it is too early to plant them out (because there is still a risk of frost in my area until at least the end of this month).  I know they have grown too big for their pots as their roots have begun to grow out of the bottom:

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I have repotted my tegetes, antirrhinums, marigolds, thyme, chervil, dill, sage, oregano and my remaining greenhouse tomatoes.  I have grown all of these plants from seed, which I think has saved me a lot of money over all and I also enjoy growing things from seed too.

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As I was potting my tomato plants up I noticed that there were side shoots growing on the plants, so I ‘nipped’ them off using my finger and thumb.  You can tell which the side shoots are, as they always grow between the main stem and a leaf:

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I will be continually ‘nipping’ off the side shoots on all my tomatoes as they grow, as these sideshoots are unproductive and take energy from the main plant.

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I also sowed some more seeds again this week…..I started with some mangetout as my youngest daughter and Mr Thrift LOVE these fried in a bit of butter.  Again, I used guttering to sow them into and I will keep them in my mini greenhouse until they germinate, as I seem to get a better germination rate this way:

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I also sowed some runnerbeans (for me, my mother-in-law and my dad), some frenchbeans (for me and my mother-in-law), outdoor cucumbers, kale, spring onions, sweetcorn, coriander, lettuce, beetroot, nasturtiums (to grow around my runnerbeans to attact the blackfly away from them) and wallflowers ready for next Spring.

All of these seeds are sitting inside our kitchen waiting to germinate, as unfortunately my greenhouse is bursting at the seams now as you can see below:

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The last gardening job I did this week was to cover up the gravel board that broke when our fence blew down in November last year in front of our grass.  Unfortunately when our kind neighbour fixed the fence for us, he left this board broken (I’m not sure why but I guess it would have been too hard to replace it).

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As the broken board was bowed I couldn’t just put a new gravel board in front of the broken one, so I brought a log roll to cover it up and I think it has done it’s job well:

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In the home this week:

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At home this week I have brought back one of my old routines of baking bread rolls at the weekends for the week ahead:

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I then made some garlic bread for tea with the rolls I baked and my stored garlic.  I also made some extra to freeze for another time.  I made the garlic butter and spread it onto the rolls and then froze the rolls.  When I need garlic bread for tea, I will take out the frozen rolls that I need and cook them in foil in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes, gas 6 / 200C / 400F.

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I made a big batch of blackberry cordial as well (as my youngest daughter loves it and has been asking me to make it for months).  As my daughter is the only one that drinks it, I separated it into small usuable quanties and put it into the freezer, so I can take it out when I need it and then dilute it with water – this way it won’t get wasted:

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And finally I made some little fairy cakes with sultana’s – some to eat and some to freeze for another time:

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This week we have been having some lovely salads, using lettuce leaves and radishes from my greenhouse and chives from the garden:

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As I am being more organised I remembered to add defrosted sweetcorn and beetroot that I grew last year and froze.  I still have lots left in my freezer, so I must keep using it:

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And finally I added coriander that I have been growing on my kitchen windowsill:

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And the salads have been tasting wonderful:

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This week I also starting picking a bit of rhubarb and stewing it for my breakfast.  I’ve added it to porridge, sultana’s and greek yoghurt and it really tasted nice:

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Incidently, a lot of people think you can’t compost rhubarb leaves as they are poisonous….but you CAN compost them, as after a few months in your compost heap, the toxin level will have dropped so low that it won’t pose a threat:

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During the last week:

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My sister and I took my mum out for ‘afternoon tea’ as it was her 85th birthday.  The tea room was in Syston and it cost us £9.95 each.  The tea room was beautifully decorated as you can see if you click on the link here.

My sister had a cake stand with dairy free goodies (as she is dairy intolerant) and my mum and I shared the one in the photograph below.  There was so much that they wrapped up the chocolate cakes so we could take them home…..it was delicious!

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Finally this week I took some plants to my nephew and his family to help him out, as he has made some deep raised beds and a coldframe out of wood for his garden.  He had done a really grand job on them and they look great.  He is in the process of growing his vegetables from seed and hopefully, my adoreable great nephews will get the gardening bug too:

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I have had some lovely times this week and to round it off, yesterday as I walked my dog in Bradgate Park I heard a ‘Cockoo’ for the first time in my life (they are quite rare birds now).  Recently I also heard a woodpecker in our local park for the first time too….so Judy is bringing more unexpected delights into my life everyday and I am so glad we adopted her from the RSPCA.

Judy with her football shirt on

Judy with her LCFC football shirt on

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

Have a great week!