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A Fox In The Garden And Planting Cabbages

I have been concentrating on my kitchen garden this week, especially as we have had some nice weather. However I did notice that we have also had a couple of frosts this week, which shows that it really is too early to be planting out anything that isn’t frost hardy.

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Last week I noticed a deep hole had been dug in one of my beds and this week it happened again:

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We have lots of squirrels in our garden, but the hole just seemed too deep to have been dug by a squirrel.  I also noticed that my bird bath kept being knocked to the ground as well.

I thought at first it could possibly be a cat causing the damage so I put a few pieces of welded wire over the bed that was being dug:

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But the next day I found some muddy paw marks on my weed suppressant which looked very much like a fox.  I also noticed the string I had put around my broad beans had been cut, which definately confirmed to me that it was a fox, as this used to happen regularly at my allotment.  I have also been using blood, fish and bone recently in my garden which always used to attract foxes at my allotment too:

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My bird bath is in the corner of my garden and I suspected the fox was entering my garden by jumping on my neighbours compost bin (directly the other side of the fence) and then using my bird bath to vacate the garden, knocking it over in the process.

To stop this from happening I have attached a thick piece of welded wire over this piece of the fence, so I will just have to wait and see if it works and actually stops the fox from coming into the garden:

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This week I gave my lawn it’s first cut.  I don’t know if you remember but I lifted slabs in this area in September last year, prepared the soil and then laid a new lawn here.  The grass looked marvelous after it was laid.

Unfortunatey over the winter our fence blew down and the grass was trampled on when it was very wet while the fence was being repaired and also Judy (our dog) used to run around madly, reacting to the dog next door when it cames out…..so our grass has gone from a lovely thick lawn to a lawn with bald patches:

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I am not mowing it too closely in the hope that the grass will start to thicken up a little bit now, though some places may be past that stage.  One thing I am pleased with is there are no yellow patches from my dogs urine….we have made sure that everytime Judy goes toilet we sprinkle water from a watering can over the area that she has wet and it seems to be working.

I have also neatened the area around my bay tree and transplanted three or four plants that were growing in the wrong places in my garden:

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This week I planted some aubrietia plants that I grew from seed last year and overwintered in my cold greenhouse.  I thought they would look nice flowering over the rocks along the middle of my garden in years to come when they get a bit bigger:

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This week I also planted some sweetpea plants to grow up my new trellis, in the hope they look pretty and attract beneficial insects to my vegetable garden:

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I noticed the fruit bushes that I planted along my fence are beginning to grow.  I always feel a sense of relief  when new bushes start to grow as I then know that I haven’t wasted my money on them:

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A couple of weeks ago I saw a strange growth between two of my fruit bushes and I hadn’t got a clue what it was.  I looked at our old garden photos to find out what was growing in this place before and it was an area underneath our old holly tree that was covered in ‘Vinca’ (periwinkle)….so I was completely puzzled.  The growth looked a bit like a ‘bleeding heart’ (dicentra), so I decided that I would dig it up and put it in a pot just in case.

The plant has grown a bit now and it definately is a ‘bleeding heart’……I haven’t a clue how it got there, but I will definately keep it:

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This week I finally finished planting my onions.  I started growing the sets at the beginning of March in my cold greenhouse, so they were all growing well and the roots were beginning to grow through the newspaper pots.

I planted my onions very closely as I will harvest some of them as spring onions, leaving the others to grow bigger in order to get a double crop out of this area.  This worked well last year.

My onions have all been covered in environmesh to stop the allium leaf miner:

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I also planted the white cabbages that I sowed on the 25th February.  Brassicas like firm soil so I firmed round each plant with my boot.  I also placed a cabbage collar around each plant to stop the cabbage root fly laying its eggs at the base of each plant….the larvea then eat the roots and kill the plants.

I don’t buy cabbage collars as they are easy to make using cardboard cut into squares with a cross cut in the middle:

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I also covered the cabbages with netting to stop cabbage white butterflies from laying eggs on the leaves….it’s the resulting caterpillars that quite quickly strip all the leaves off the plants.

The net I used is very tall beacuse I will be planting my curly kale here when we have eaten all the spring cabbages:

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Another job I did was to mulch around my fruit trees using homemade compost from last year.  This compost was made using plants and grass that I dug up at the beginning of last year when I was creating my kitchen garden, mixed in with a few kitchen peelings etc.  It made a wonderful mulch:

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I also brought two new wall planters for the new herbs I brought last week.  Last year I placed my herbs at the bottom of my garden, but unfortunately our local squirrels decided to keep digging the plants up to bury their nuts in the pots and eventually the herbs all died as the roots kept drying out.  So this year I decided to keep my herbs next to our house, which will also be much more convenient for us to use.

I am quite pleased with how they look and I have moved my mint and rosemary underneath them too:

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I am still deadheading my daffodils in the garden and as they finish flowering I give them a feed of blood, fish and bone.

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But as the daffodils are finishing flowering, elsewhere in the garden there are other flowers for the bees to enjoy:

  I noticed the plum tree that I have in a pot has begun to flower:

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And the wallflowers I grew from seed last year are about to flower any day now:

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And my pot of bulbs that has had daffodils flowering for weeks, now has with grape hyacinth (muscari) flowering beautifully and any day now the Tulips will also burst into flower.

Spalding bulbs sent me these bulbs free in Autumn 2012 and since I planted them I can honestly say I have done absolutely nothing to them except move the pot out the way after it has finished flowering….maybe this year I should make an effort to feed them!

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In my greenhouse that is now heated to keep the temperature above 10C, things are doing well.  My different seedlings are growing strongly and this week my climbing peas which I planted two weeks ago have germinated well.  I saved these seeds in 2012 from plants I was growing at my allotment, so I was praying they would still germinate:

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My cut and come again salads are also growing well and next week I will be taking my first cut.  The radish are also nearly ready that I have been growing around the edge of the salads:

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I also saw a tiny little shoot coming from one of the dahlias that I grew from seed last year.  I kept the pots in our cold brick outhouse overwinter as a trial to see if they would survive and it appears they have.  I brought them out a couple of weeks ago and placed them in my greehouse, giving them a good watering first:

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In my kitchen I have a few seeds that needed a higher heat to germinate than my heated greenhouse can offer.  I sowed these seeds two weeks ago and nearly all of them need pricking out now…this will keep me busy over the next few days!

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I must say I am now looking forward to clearing my kitchen of seeds so we can get back to normal:

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Anyway, that’s enough for this week.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

I hope you have a lovely weekend!

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Decorating Again & Judys Birthday

Yesterday it was Judy’s 5th birthday and we bought her a few little presents.  She gets very excited when I give her a present to unwrap and her little tail wags like crazy whilst she is trying desparately to tear the paper off with her paws:

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She seemed very pleased with the ball my daughters gave her.  You fill the ball with dry feed or treats and she pushes the ball around to make them fall out:

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And she also liked the ‘doggie treats’ and tennis balls that we gave to her:

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I also bought a ‘doggie cake’ from the pet store which she absolutely loved (unfortunately I didn’t get round to make a dog cake myself):

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Today it is a year since we brought Judy home from The RSPCA.  It really has been a rollercoaster ride, but I have learnt so much after all the training.  She has turned into a lovely dog and companion for me and I am so glad I persevered with her, rather than give up like her previous three owners did.

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This week in the home:

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This week I have finally got around to decorating my youngest daughters bedroom.

After clearing everything from her room I started off by removing the very old shelves that really needed to be replaced and filled all the holes around the room with some filler.  When it was dry I sanded the filler down until it was all smooth:

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I then sanded down all the woodwork in the room ready to begin.

I started by painting the ceiling and woodwork and then I pasted thick lining paper (1400 grade) on the walls to help to hide all the lumps and bumps.  We did consider plastering this room but it would have been too expensive for us and the lining paper was a cheaper option.

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When it was dry I painted the walls the colour my daughter had chosen….a ‘soft grey’ and I think she chose well (though I did have my reservations when she first told me she wanted this colour).

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I decided to paint her wooden curtain pole white, to match the room (it was previously a ‘wood’ colour).  It took three coats of paint and I couldn’t face painting all the curtains rings so I brought new ones, but they didn’t cost too much and it was still far cheaper than buying a new pole:

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I still need to put the curtain pole back up and I also need to put together the bedroom furniture that we are hoping to have delivered next week (an ‘early’ birthday and Christmas present for my daughter).

And finally I need to make a pair of curtains for the room….we looked in every shop I could think of for a ready made pair of curtains, but my daughter didn’t like any.  In desparation I took her to a material shop and she found some material that she loved, so I now have another job for next week:

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I love decorating, especially when I am pleased with the results.  I’ll show you a photo of the completed room next week.

Judy keeping me company while I decorated the room

Judy keeping me company while I decorated the room

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A few other things before I finish for this week:

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This week I made some butterfly cakes to show off the new cake stand my daughters bought me for my birthday last week……I really love this present!

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I also made some more dishwasher liquid out of soapnuts:

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While I was out and about this week I noticed that the seeds at Wilkinsons had been reduced to 20p so I stocked up with the ones I know I will definately use:

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In the garden this week I found that unfortunately the broccolli ’60 day raab’ that I sowed in the middle of August is flowering…..so it does grow quickly (as the name suggests), but it has gone to seed before it’s possible to get even a tiny crop, so I won’t be growing this again.  I made sure it was fed at the beginning and it was well watered when the weather was dry, so I can only think the ground wasn’t firm enough for it (brassiccas like the ground to be firm).  It was a free packet of seed so I haven’t lost anything but time:

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Also in the garden the leaves are falling from my neighbours trees and I will need to collect them up next week.  Previously I had grass in this area and I would just run over the leaves with the lawn mower to quickly remove them, however this isn’t possible in my vegetable garden so I will need to get down on my hands and knees:

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My Cosmos is still flowering well:

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And the tomatoes that I picked two weeks ago when they were nearly all green, are ripening well in my greenhouse…..(I am very pleased as I really don’t like green tomato chutney):

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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 great week!

A Cucamelon Review & Winter Salads

The mornings have been quite chilly this week, feeling very much like autumn is here.

On Wednesday we had some well needed rain overnight and when the sun came out in the early morning it was a beautiful sight, with rains drops glistening around the allotment.

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This week I have been concentrating on my polytunnel, getting it ready for winter.

The crops in my polytunnel had just about finished, except for a few tomatoes (which I will ripen at home) and some peppers and melons that were ready for picking:

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….and I mustn’t forget  the thousand ‘cucamelons’ dangling at me, ready to pick.

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A Quick Cucamelon Review:

Every year I like to grow something different and this year I chose ‘cucamelons’ .  I had read different reports about them and came to the conclusion that they are a bit like ‘marmite’, you either love them or hate them….so I decided to grow them for myself.

  The fruits are grape sized and they are supposed to taste of cucumber with a hint of lime, but I am yet to taste one that actually had the hint of lime in it.  The cucamelon can be eaten whole or chopped up in salads.  The skin has the texture of a sweet pepper, so it has a bite to it….inside it is like a mini cucumber.

They were easy to grow in my polytunnel and after a slow start they started to take over, smothering my tomato plants that grew next to them, but I’ve got to say there were millions of fruits that just kept coming and coming and coming!

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Unfortunately my family didn’t like them and after forcing them at anyone that came into our house, I found that not many other people liked them either.   I didn’t think they were too bad, until I ate quite a few for tea one day and ended up with bad indigestion all night!

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Needless to say, I won’t be growing these again….but we live and learn.

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Winter Salads:

Last month I sowed some winter salads ready for my polytunnel and they have grown quite well and were ready for planting.   However first I needed to clear the crops that were left in my polytunnel:

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One surprise I did find in my polytunnel when I was clearing it, was some carrots that I had completely forgotten about…and they had grown really well.  Carrots can be stored in compost at home until they are needed, but I know these carrots won’t last long in our house as everyone loves them.

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After I had cleared the crops, I forked the soil over and gave the soil a covering of homemade compost.  I also raked in some blood, fish and bone where I would be planting my salads:

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The winter salads that I chose to grow were mizuna, winter lettuce, corn salad, rocket and perpetual spinach.  I also grew some beetroot as a trial, to see if I could use the small leaves over winter in salads (though I’m not expecting to grow a decent sized root).

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After planting the above crops I gave them a good watering and I must say the polytunnel did look different….another reminder that autumn is here:

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One of the things I have learnt from bitter experience, whether you grow plants in a cloche, a greenhouse or a polytunnel, you need to provide ventilation during the autumn or winter months.  If you don’t then the humid conditions will be a breeding ground for grey mould, which will smother and kill your plants.  So on fine days I open the doors on my polytunnel throughout the winter months.

“Grey mould is caused by a fungus called ‘Botrytis cinerea’ which can infect plants at any time of the year.  It can enter a plant through a wound or infect a weak  plant under stress.  It will also infect healthy plants in humid conditions”.

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At home this week I have continued to use up my ripening tomatoes to make soup and passata…

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 …and I only have a few left to use now, which again shows me that Autumn is here and the wonderful harvest of summer is nearly behind us.

Now it’s the time that the Autumn harvest of pumpkins, butternut squashes, apples etc. begins.  The nights start to draw in and the leaves on the trees begin to fall.

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This is my favourite time of year when I start to reflect on my gardening year and work out what crops have been a success and which haven’t.  It’s the time of the year when things start to slow down slightly at the allotment, giving me time to breathe and admier the late summer flowers on my plot.

When I work my plot on a crisp Autumn morning it makes me feel glad to be alive.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time. 

 

Two ‘Trials’ & An Easy Vanilla Ice cream Recipe

This week at my allotment I decided to trial two different things:

1) Nemaslug Slug Killer:

The first is ‘Nemaslug Slug Killer’, which apparently controls slugs naturally and is harmless to children, pets and wildlife (inc. birds and hedgehogs), even if they eat the infected slugs.

They seemed pretty easy to use from the instructions that I read before I ordered them, so I thought I would give them a go as they are a natural organic way to fight slugs.

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Apparently this pack can treat upto 40 square meters and it gives six weeks of protection.

I particularly wanted to use the slug killer around my potato patch as I seem to suffer regularly each year from slug holes in them.  After researching the best way to use the nematodes, I found it was best to use them six to seven weeks before I plan to harvest my potatoes, which was this week.

As the product only has a shelf life of four weeks, I ordered them a couple of weeks ago and when I received them they had to be stored in the fridge.

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The instructions said that you needed to apply the nemotodes on a dull day or in the evening….so I waited for a dull day.  It also said the ground must be moist before you apply them, so I had to use my hosepipe to wet 40 square meters!

I split the packet into four and poured each quarter into a watering can (with a course spray as advised) filled with clean water.  I then set about watering the area where my potatoes are growing…..I found I almost had to run along to make sure the watering can didn’t empty before I had covered the desired area!

I then read that you need to keep the area moist for the next two weeks, which means using more water from a hosepipe.

My first impressions are that it’s all a lot of messing around and an awful lot of watering (unless you apply them in a wet period which is no good for me at the moment).  However, I will follow the instructions and see if my potatoes have fewer slug holes this year…..The cheapest price I could find was £9.44 (incl postage), so I will let you know at the end of my trial if it is worth spending this money.

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2) The second trial is ‘Tagetes minuta’

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I go to a wonderful garden forum that used to be held at the ‘Eco House’ in Leicester (which sadly closed down last year), but we managed to keep the forum going.  We decided to trial these plants together as according to Sarah Raven:

“Tagetes minuta is an extraordinary plant that isn’t a looker, but its roots kill perennial weeds such a ground elder and couch grass.

Height: 180cm”

I sowed my seeds on the 30th April and they were ready to plant out this week:

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I planted them right at the back of my plot which is covered in all sorts of perennial weeds such as couch grass, dandelions, brambles, buttercups, nettles and even some Ivy:

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To be honest you have to look really hard to see where the plants are in the photo below.

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I did give them some slug pellets to start them off as I know slugs love to eat tagetes and I wanted to give them a chance to work their magic.

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I will let you know the results of both trials.

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This week at the allotment I cleared the poached egg plants away as they had finished flowering and had shed most of it’s seed.  They gave a wonderful display last month and they brought lots of beneficial insects like ladybirds and bees to my plot:

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I then replaced them with some marigolds that I grew from seed in March and hopefully they will look great in a few weeks:

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I also gave my flower patch a good weed and removed the forget-me-nots that also gave such a good display this year.  I cut back my hardy geraniums to encourage a second flush of flowers too:

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  I then planted some dhalias, petunias and antirrhinums that I had also grown from seed.  Hopefully these will give a good display all summer:

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Elsewhere on the allotment I have sown some more radish and I have been watering my celeriac at least twice a week to encourage bigger roots.

I have also been hoeing to keep the weeds down.

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Harvesting:

This week I have been harvesting lots of wonderful salad leaves, radish, spring onions, coriander and also watercress (which incidentally is grown in a large pot of compost that is watered only once a week):

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And also lots of broad beans that I have been blanching and then freezing on trays before putting them into a freezer bag, to stop the beans from sticking together in large lumps:

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And strawberries…what a wonderful crop this year.  In total I have harvested four baskets full so far:

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So we have eaten loads, I also made some more jam and I froze the rest.

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At home my hanging baskets are looking beautiful so far and I have started to feed them with a high potash liquid feed….the same one I use for my tomatoes at home

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And I have my first flowers on my ‘poundshop’ dhalia’s.  These were a bargain as there were three tubers in a pack for £1.00 and I didn’t really think they would be up to much….but all three have grown.

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I love receiving comments on my blog and this week ‘Angela’ asked me for the recipe that I use to make vanilla ice cream.  I don’t bother messing around with vanilla pods, I just use ‘madagascan vanilla extract’ which seems to be a bit thicker than ordinary vanilla extract and can be bought from your local supermarket, however normal vanilla extract should also work.

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A Very Easy Vanilla Ice cream Recipe:

(With or without an ice cream maker)

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165 grams caster sugar

240ml double cream

500ml  milk (I use semi skimmed)

2 teaspoons Madagascan vanilla extract if possible (or normal vanillia extract)

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Put all the above ingredients into a bowl and mix until combined with a hand blender or a spoon:

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Add the mixture to your icecream maker to do the hard work

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(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)

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As there are no chemicals in the ice cream, the ice cream will be quite hard when you take it out of the freezer to use, so it is better to take it out for 10-15 minutes before you eat it.

Then enjoy it!

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Altogether it has been a good week in the ‘Thrift’ household and to top it off, my good allotment neighbour gave me some ‘Sweet william’ flowers to take home and they look beautiful.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.  I hope you have a good week.