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Nature Is Wonderful….

This week has been another week of sunshine and showers.  It has also been quite windy at times and I have had to tie up some of my peas and sweetpeas, as the wind blew them away from their supports…..though no harm was done as you can see in the photograph below:

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I think nature has a way of dealing with all situations and the sunshine and showers are certainly helping my plants grow.  Rain is full of nitrogen so the garden is now looking lush and green.

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The sunshine and showers also produced the most spectacular rainbow in the sky (though my camera doesn’t really show the pure beauty of it as well as I would have liked).

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 Nature really is wonderful, but it is all too easy to take it for granted….I firmly believe that global warming is happening – every gardener has already seen the changes in the seasons – but it is so easy for us all to ignore and pretend it isn’t happening…..I know a lot of people think that it is a problem that just the goverment should be dealing with and yes I do think they should be doing more… however if we all did our own little bit e.g use our cars less, buy less ‘stuff’, recycle where possible, eat less meat, be mindful about using electricity, etc. then maybe it would make a difference.

I realise people won’t agree with me and I know how hard it is when you have children / teenagers in the house wanting ‘this’ and ‘that’, but every little bit we do (even the smallest things) will all add up.

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This week in the garden:

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This week I finally got around to using the extra comfrey feed that I made last year.  I never got around to using it as I still had some left over from the first batch that I had made last summer.

I really expected it to stink as it had been there since last year, but amzingly it wasn’t too bad:

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I strained it through and old rag and I managed to get three bottles of comfrey feed to use on my fruit and flowers around the garden, as it is so high in potash.  It is particularly brilliant for tomatoes.

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As my comfrey is still growing well, I started another bucket of comfrey tea off.  It only takes a couple of weeks to make, though I do tend to leave it stewing until it is needed:

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“To make comfrey tea all you have to do is fill a bucket with the comfrey leaves and stems and weigh it down with a brick and pour over cold water.  I cover it (to stop flies getting in) and leave for approx. two weeks. Be warned, by this time the smell is revolting!  Strain the comfrey tea liquid into another container and put the remaining comfrey in your compost bin.

To use it I put 2 cups of comfrey tea into a watering can and then fill it with water and give it a good mix”

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This week I noticed that my runner beans were flowering and they look very pretty.  However, I also noticed that they had climbed to the top of their supports, so I chopped the top of each plant off:

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By nipping off the top of each plant, they will become bushier and produce more beans lower down.

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Now that I had harvested my last spring cabbage, I decided to plant my curly kale seedlings….but first I decided to give the area a quick weed and remove the yellow leaves from the cabbages under the same net.  The yellowing leaves can harbor pests and diseases so it is always a good idea to remove them every so often:

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Incidentally the cabbages are growing well this year, probably to do with all the rain we have had:

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After this I raked in some blood, fish and bone and then planted three curly kale plants that I had grown from seed.  Hopefully if the plants grow ok then three plants will be enough for us over winter:

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I also tied up my jeruselum artichokes as one of them had fallen down……they are planted in a bottemless deep pot, to stop them from spreading and it seems to be working:

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Another job I finally got around to doing was to ‘prick out’ my wallflowers that I sowed a few weeks ago (they really should have been done by now).

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If you look really closely at the photo on the right, you will see tiny holes on the leaves…..these holes are made by the flea beetle….

“The adult flea beetle eats the leaves of most brassica’s (including wallflowers) and their larvae will eat the plant roots.

Bad infestations can kill the plants, however this is unusual.  I have found that seedlings are more suseptable to flea beatles, so if my plants come under attack I feed them regularly with a seaweed fertliser until they grow bigger and stronger.

In my experience the flea beetle will set back your seedlings, but it is very rare they don’t recover with a bit of care”

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I also transplanted the fox gloves I sowed a month or two ago, into bigger pots to grow on:

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  Foxgloves (digitalis) and wall flowers are both biennial plants, which simply means they grow one year and flower the next and then die.  When my plants are big enough in autumn I will plant them in the ground where they will hopefully give me a good display next year.

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Another job I did this week was to repair a bare spot on my lawn.  I raked over the area and then spread some grass seed that I had already mixed with compost.  I then covered it with my heavy plastic propagator lid to protect it from Judy (our dog) and I have made sure it has been well watered.

Hopefully the grass will grow well:

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I have also continued to tie up my outdoor tomato plants:

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And I have continued to dead head all the old flowers around my garden, so they produce lots more new flowers:

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This weeks harvest:

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The strawberries are doing well considering it is their first year (I ignore the books and don’t remove the flowers the first year and I have always had good crops).  I have had two harvests this week:

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The courgettes have finally decided to grow and I have picked two from my two plants this week:

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And I am still picking broad beans from the plants I sowed in January:

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I noticed that some of the pods were suffering from ‘Chocolate spot’, but the beans were fine inside:

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“Chocolate spot is a fungus that only affects broadbeans.  It leaves red-brown spots on the plants and the pods.  It usually affects plants in damp humid conditions, so if you have space you could put your plants further apart so air can circulate around.

In my experience chocolate spot rarely affects the beans inside the pods, so I actually ignore it and don’t do anything except give the plants a liquid seaweed feed to help them along”

I froze my broad beans to use over the winter when there isn’t too much around.  I always blanch them and then open freeze them on a tray until they are frozen….then I put them into a freezer bag:

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I have also been harvesting my peas.  I have been picking my dwarf peas and my climbing tall peas (which are an old fashioned variety called ‘peashooter’).  All my peas have done well this year and there are lots more still growing:

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It always amazes me that a whole basket of pea pods produce so few peas….but the peas are so sweet and delicious I can’t help growing them each year!

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My eldest daughter and Mr Thrift helped me to pick the pods this year and remove the peas…….I so love my family helping as it is a time we also chat about ‘this and that’ and laugh together.  I hope my daughters remember these time fondly when they are older.

I froze the peas in the same way I froze the broad beans….but I bet the peas won’t last until winter as we all love them!

Frozen broadbeans & peas

Frozen broadbeans & peas

I didn’t want to waste the pea pods so I made a ‘pea pod soup’, which my daughter loves.  You can find the recipe here

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I used rapeseed oil this time instead of olive oil, which made a darker soup…..it tasted the same but didn’t look quite so appertising so I will use olive oil again next time:

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This week I have noticed:

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This week i have noticed my first raspberry on my ‘autumn’ raspberries (not sure why this one decided to grow early):

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My first mangetout are ready to pick (my youngest daughter has already spotted this and has been picking and eating them raw this week):

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My ‘mini’ pumpkin plants are covering the ground around my sweetcorn well – this keeps weeds down and the moisture won’t evapourate as quick if we get any more hot days:

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The dahlia tubers that I grew from seed last year and then overwintered in our brick outhouse, are starting to flower:

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And finally this week, I have noticed that the garden has lots of different types of bees and hoverflies visiting and this week I have spotted two different little frogs:

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This is a wonderful site to me as it shows me that my organic gardening methods are working and the beneficial insects are now coming to my garden, helping my garden to become more and more productive by polinating my crops and eating the pests, such as slugs and snails etc.

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Thank you for reading my blog this week.

I will be decorating our bedroom over the next week or two, so I have decided to take a two week break from my blog….I hope you don’t mind.

However I will be back on the 5th August as usual.

Have a great weekend.

XXX

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Cucumber Sorbet and Allotment ‘Catch up’

 Thank you for all your kind words last week, after my father-in-law passed away.  It was lovely to know so many people were thinking of us.

We had the funeral on Monday and the church was full, as he was a very well liked and respected man in our community.

We found the day exhausting and we felt very drained at the end of it.

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Unfortunately we were away on holiday in Scarborough when we received the call that he had passed away.  This was devastating for us as we couldn’t be with him during his final hours.

We obviously cut our holiday short and drove home that day, so we could be with my husband’s family.

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We are all missing my father-in-law very much.

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This last two weeks have been very hard on us all and I must say I have really had to push myself to do anything at the allotment…..but nature doesn’t stand still and things need to be picked (though I haven’t been keeping on top of the weeds as I would normally do).

Amazingly the allotment is looking good even though it hasn’t had much attention for three weeks now:

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Things are growing well:

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I also have melons growing in the polytunnel which I really need to support and I have little cucamelons which are about ready to eat:

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Since coming home I have been picking my produce by the basket load and using it up or freezing it, pickling it or preserving it…

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I have dug up my onions and garlic and they are currently drying in my mini greenhouse and I have begun digging up my potatoes, which I dry for a few hours before putting them in sacks to store for the winter:

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The shallots have now all been pickled, together with my gherkins and my pantry is bulging, even though some have already been passed onto family and friends.  However, the first jars to be opened are already half empty as my family love them, so they won’t last long:

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CUCUMBERS GALORE…

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As it has been a very dry summer here, my indoor and outdoor cucumbers have done exceptionally well and I have so many of them.  They will store in a fridge for a few days, but there are only so many cucumbers that you can eat!

I read if you peel them and then puree them, they can be frozen in portions and then added to spag bogs, pasta sauces, etc. so I have given this a try and I’ve found it’s a great way to add a few vitamins without the family knowing:

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Also, I made a very easy Cucumber and Mint Sorbet.  It sounds horrible, but it is quite a surprisingly refreshing taste.  I must admit I couldn’t eat a whole bowl of it, but a scoop served with another pudding, e.g. meringues, is really lovely and it will impress friends at a dinner party.

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Cucumber amd Mint Sorbet:

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800 grams of cucumber that has been peeled and the seeds scooped out

5 – 10 grams mint leaves (I used apple mint from the garden)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

130 grams icing sugar

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Start by putting the cucumber, mint, lemon juice and icing sugar into a food processor:

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Blend until the mixture is runny, but still a bit course (see the photo below):

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Chill for a few hours in the fridge.

Then pour the mix into an ice cream maker and let it do the hard work for you.

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When it is ready, transfer the sorbet to an ice cream tub and pop into your freezer until required.

(If you haven’t got an ice cream maker, just put the blended ingredients into a container and freeze.  Remove from the freezer every 1-2 hours and mash vigourously with a fork to break up the ice crystals).

Decorate the sorbet with some fresh borage flowers from your garden if you have them.

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And Enjoy!

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I just wanted to finish by saying a big ‘thank you’ to those of you that voted for my blog in the ‘easyshed.co.uk’ competition.  I am amazed that I received so many votes and even more amazed to have won – thank you so much.

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I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

 

Fruit, Fruit And More Fruit

The weather has been wonderful this week, which has made it quite difficult to work down at the allotment as most days it has been too hot to do anything….but I’m certainly not complaining.

One of my two lavender hedges that line my two paths

One of my two lavender hedges that line my two paths

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I have hoed a little bit this week and tied my outdoor cucumbers up.   I also tied my tomato plants up and continued to ‘nip’ off their side shoots.  I gave them a good water with my homemade comfrey feed too, as the first little tomatoes are forming on each plant.  If the weather stays like this for a while, it will keep the dreaded ‘blight’ away and just maybe we will get a good crop.

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I noticed the outdoor grapes vines that I planted last year are beginning to take shape.  I am training them on a post and wire support:

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I also noticed my first little patty pans are growing and my first courgette.  I always get excited when I spot my first courgette of the year, even though I know I will be fed up with them when so many follow afterwards.

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The flowers on my plot are doing well now and I have noticed that my calendulas are beginning to flower in ‘calendula alley’ next to my polytunnel (I call it this as it is the path I use to get to my fruit trees and it was also covered in beautiful calendula’s last year).

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My sweet peas are growing well too, but my dad’s are looking even nicer in his patch at the front of my allotment:

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My wild flowers are doing well and are a hive of activity with all the bees and insects buzzing around.

My neighbour has kindly let me take a photograph of his wildflowers, to show you all.  It is the first time he has grown a wildflower patch and I think they are looking really beautiful….if you are reading this Julian, you should be proud of it.  It’s great to know we are helping the bee population at our allotment site.  I hope more people follow suit:

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Most of this week has been spent picking the fruit and vegetables I have grown.  In fact, my thumbs now hurt from shelling all the peas and broad beans.    It really seems to be is a bumper year so far, even though things are a little late coming.

I am finding that after a long wait, the fruit all seems to be coming at once!

I’m still picking strawberries and we have all eaten so many over the last two weeks that my whole family must have a ‘strawberry glow’.  I have given lots away and also made my first lot of strawberry jam of the summer this week, which i have been sharing with my allotment friends.

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I picked my last lot of rhubarb for this year.  It’s best to stop picking rhubarb at the beginning of July so it can build up its energy stores after this, ready for winter.

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This week I found my white currants and red currants were also ready to pick.  I also found a few black currants ready to pick too.

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I’ve got to say, I really hate picking and preparing currants, as they are so fiddly and I hate pulling the little green stalks out, but my daughters love them so it is all worthwhile.

I froze most of the currants by ‘open freezing’ on a tray before putting them into a bag when they were frozen.  I’ve got to say that when they were frozen, they looked like little jewels glistening on my tray.  They looked too good to eat.

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I’m starting to harvest my raspberries this week, but I think I ate more than I actually picked as I really love them:

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Also this week I found my gooseberries were ready, so I picked all of these too.  You can see them in the smaller basket at the bottom of the photo:

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We have been eating so many of the fruit and vegetables that I picked this week, but I am also freezing the surplus ready for the long, cold winter.  During these bleak and dreary days I use the fruit to make pies, crumbles, jams, jellies cordials etc. and it’s lovely to be reminded of summer again when it’s cold outside.

I didn’t quite realise how many bags of fruit and vegetables that I had frozen this week, until I looked yesterday.  I have three bags of broad beans, 1½ bags of peas, a small bag of mangetout, one bag of rhubarb, one bag of gooseberries, one bag of mixed currants and an astounding eight bags of strawberries!…but I am confident it will all get used before next summer, it’s a good job we have three freezers.

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Gooseberries are a fruit that I used to eat like cherries when I was a child (just like my daughters still do), but now I can’t eat them unless they are cooked as my taste must have changed over the years.

A lovely way to use gooseberries is to make a gooseberry fool.  It is a very easy recipe (I only post easy / simple recipes on my blog) and it tastes absolutely delicious.

If you need to look back at this recipe, or any other recipe, just click the word ‘recipe’ at the top of my blog and all my recipes will appear listed on a page, ready for you to ‘click’ on for easy access.

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A Gooseberry Fool Recipe

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2 large handfuls of gooseberries (washed, topped and tailed)

5 or 6 digestive biscuits

150g low fat Greek yoghurt

90 ml double cream

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of caster sugar

A little bit of grated chocolate to serve.

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Put the gooseberries and granulated sugar into a saucepan.

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Cook over a low heat for approximately five minutes, stirring all the time, until the mixture thickens.

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Chill the sugar and gooseberry mix in the fridge for about an hour.

Whip the cream and caster sugar until it just holds the ‘peaks’ when you take your whisk out.

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Fold in the Greek yoghurt and gooseberry sugar mix.

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Crush the digestive biscuits in a bag, by bashing with a rolling pin.

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Put the biscuit crumbs into the bottom of four small dishes.

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Top the biscuit crumbs with the gooseberry mix.

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Leave the dishes in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill.

Just before serving, grate a little chocolate over the top for show.

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Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at 4pm.  Have a good weekend and enjoy the good weather!

Photograph’s Of My Allotment

As it’s bank holiday Monday, I thought I would have a break from writing and show you some photographs of my allotment.  I took the photo’s yesterday, so it will show you how my fruit and vegetables look at the moment.

I hope you enjoy looking at them all and I would love to hear your comments.

I won’t be posting on Friday, as it’s half term and I like to spend the week with my family.

I will be back a week today ( Mon 3rd July ).

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Thank you for looking at my photo’s.