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A New Area To Grow Veg & Wind Damage!

Unfortunately my step dad has been in hospital for another two nights this week, so I have spent a lot of time visiting him and looking after my mum too.  I would like to say things are looking better for him, but he is still not right.

So this week I haven’t spent too much time at home.  However I have amazingly made a start on the new area in my kitchen garden.

I managed to use the stepping stones that were in our old lawn, to make a small path to separate the new little flower patch (that I created last week) from my new vegetable area:

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I also moved our old chair onto our new lawn, so I can sit on it in the Spring:

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Mr Thrift then helped me to finish laying the slabs around my greenhouse which wasn’t too bad to do, but then we needed to lay the slabs along the fence which wasn’t so easy.

The area along the fence had my raised bed in.  I had tried growing my strawberries in this bed and the ’60 day raab’ as well and neither were succesful.  I suspect the bushes along the fence were taking the moisture, so I decided this would be a good area to put my mini greenhouses.

First we pulled back the weed suppressant that had been covering the area.  I don’t know if you remember, I put the weed suppressant down in June to kill the lawn underneath it and then I planted my sweetcorn and tomatoes through it whilst the lawn was dying:

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If you need any proof that weed suppressant works then here it is:

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 We unfortunately then had to empty the raised bed!…

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I also had a dustbin in the corner, which I had planted potatoes in back in the Spring.  We also emptied this out …..but  I had hoped for more potatoes than we actually got.  However, we had them for dinner and they did taste amazing!…I do think the lack of potatoes was probably due to lack of water as I did keep forgetting to water them as they were tucked away in a corner out of site:

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We then laid the slabs together and moved the mini greenhouses and our water butt onto them and I was very pleased with the result:

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The next problem we had was to connect the water butt to the guttering that runs along our shed.  Unfortunately the back of our greenhouse is overgrown with bushes that we can’t get to and we came to the conclusion that if we fitted another piece of guttering there it would become clogged up with leaves etc which would either block it or enter our water butt:

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In the end we brought a a drain pipe and used it along the back of the greenhouse and hopefully this will work:

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Unfortuantely now we had moved the mini greenhouses around the corner, I found we had a gap between the shed and my greenhouse which Judy our lovely dog could run down and bark at next doors dog.  So after much thought I went out and brought a slim water butt and used this to block the area off and catch the water that drains off my greenhouse in the process.

I managed to get the water to drain into the water butt from my greenhouse roof by improvising.  I used a bit of spare pipe and a bit of thick plastic and amazingly it works!

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I then had a big clear up and moved all the rubbish and old bricks that had managed to appear in this area and then I started to clear some of the old plants ready for digging the area when I get time:

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I also removed the Ivy that had become a nuisance on the fence….it was starting to grow between the boards and I felt it would cause damage to the fence.  Some bits of the Ivy were quite thick and you can see in the first photograph below how the roots grow to ‘stick’ to their supports…Ivy really is an amazing plant:

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I was very pleased with how the new area was starting to look, so I then took measurements so I could work out where to put my paths and how big my beds would be.

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But unfortunately on Tuesday night we had gales across the midlands and our fence blew down!

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The fence is a shared boundary fence and luckily our neighbour is an ex-builder and is going to fix it for us as we have brought and paid for items to do this.

So unfortunately my new lawn is going to take a bit of a battering while it’s being fixed and I won’t be able to start digging yet, but at least the fence will be fixed quickly.

I hope the wind didn’t damage anything where you are!

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

Have a good week!

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The Kitchen Garden Harvest & An Old Holly Tree

This week has been wet and miserable outside with a distinct lack of sun, dispite it being July!  Never the less the garden is still growing well, though my butternut squash, outdoor cucmbers and greenhouse melons really need the weather to be a bit hotter as they are sitting sulking at the moment and not growing at all.

I have started to reap the benefits of my small kitchen garden and for a small amount of work I am harvesting some lovely vegetables and there are some lovely flowers for the bees and beneficial insects:

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This week in my new kitchen garden:

My potatoes are beautiful this year with hardly a slug hole in sight at the moment (though this wet weather may change that).  These potatoes are a variety called ‘Marfona’ which are a second early and they are absolutely delicious and have grown to a good size:

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The lettuces are continuing to feed us well, together with the first spring onions I sowed in modules back in March.  My greenhouse cucumber plant has produced its first two cucumbers as well, though the remaining fruits are a long way from being ready yet.

Also we are now eating tomatoes from the one greenhouse plant that I brought from the nursery….(the other plants I grew from seed).  I bought this one plant in the hope I could spread out my harvest as I was a bit behind sowing my greenhouse tomatoes, so the plan was this plant would give me fruit until my others were ready….and the plan seems to be working.

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I have picked my first onions this week and they were also really good and tasty.  There was no sign of the allium leaf miner because I was very careful to cover them in environmesh.  You can read about the damage the allium leaf miner does here.

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I also had my first cut of curly kale.  It has grown really quickly since I sowed it on 22nd April and it looked too tasty to leave, so we had it for dinner last night:

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I also picked some parsley from my garden this week and I made a lovely parsley sauce to go with some fish that I bought:

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And not forgetting the courgettes that are coming thick and fast:

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And I picked some fruit this week too.  There isn’t loads of it as my fruit bushes are young yet, but it’s not bad for a first year.  I picked a few more gooseberries, some black currants and white currants and a few blueberries:

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I always think that the currants look like ‘jewels’ when you first pick them.

One thing my family were happy about this week, was I picked my first kohl rabi of the year.  I think it is a strange looking vegetable but it tastes lovely.  You can cook it like a turnip, or grate it raw into a salad, but I just chop the skin off and serve it raw as a snack with a dollap of salad cream and it dissappears in seconds in the ‘Thrift’ house:

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I have noticed a few things in my new kitchen garden will soon be ready:

My french beans and runnerbeans are growing well…

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My red and white cabbages are starting to bulb up in the centre:

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And in row of beetroot there are some I will be picking and cooking in the next few days:

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And my outdoor tomatoes just need some good sunny days to ripen:

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I also noticed that my swedes are growing nicely too, though these will be a while yet until they are ready.  I sowed these in newspaper pots on the 23rd April and then transplanted them when they were a decent size.  I always think this protects them from the slugs and snails as they are big enough to cope with a bit of damage when I plant them out:

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So amazingly the kitchen garden is doing really well in it’s first year.

I absolutely love the ability to pick something and cook it / eat it straight away.  This is one luxury I didn’t have with my allotment and I can honestly say I didn’t realise how lovely freshly picked lettuces tasted when you eat them immeadiately after picking them.

Homegrown potatoes, kale and parsley cooked within 45 minutes of picking

Homegrown potatoes, kale and parsley cooked within 45 minutes of picking

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I have got to be honest I haven’t done a thing in my new kitchen garden this week, other than water my pots and harvest my fruit and vegetables…..I suppose this is the beauty of having a ‘small’ kitchen garden rather than an allotment, though I’m not sure if this is a positive or a negative thing for me as I still really miss my allotment plots.

However, this has given me some time to start to think about the rest of my garden that I haven’t yet planned.  This is the area that Judy (our dog) runs around in and we sit in.

Unfortunately there was an old holly tree next to the fence that really had seen better days.  It only has a few red berries on each year for the birds to enjoy and what few leaves it has, it sheds daily during the summer on the ground below…….so we decided it was time to chop it down.

An old photo of the holly tree on the right hand side

An old photo of the holly tree on the right hand side

We considered paying someone to chop the tree down, but it wasn’t really that big so we did it ourself by removing as many branches as possible first…..then while Mr thift sawed, I pulled the top of the tree in the direction we wanted it to fall, using our extendable dog lead as we didn’t have any rope!….yes you did read this right and yes ‘health and safety’ went out of the window for this job.

The top section cam down well and then Mr Thrift sawed the bottom two sections off easily.

I have since read that old folk law tells you never to cut a holly tree down as it brings bad luck…I am not superstitious but if we do have any bad luck from now on, at least we have something to blame it on!

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This will free up another growing area for me, though I’m not sure yet if it will be ornamental or not.

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In the home this week:

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This week it is a year since my father-in-law passed away and I decided to make a flower arrangement for his grave side.  I bought some yellow and white flowers to use as these are the colours he loved.  I used bay from my garden which reminds us of the wonderful greek kababs he used to cook us and I used roses to make a cross as they were his favourite flowers and the cross symbolised the church that he loved so dearly.  I hope he looks down and likes the arrangement and knows we still miss him so much:

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This week I decided to make a victoria sandwich (using my ‘chuck-it-all in method) as I have been fancying one all week and it was lovely.  I also made my usual bread rolls (white and brown) for the week and froze them so they are fresh each day for lunch and then I made some more dishwasher liquid out of soap nuts, as I had run out:

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My daughter has been cooking again this week (I love it when she cooks).  She used some of the homegrown vegetables to make a risotto and served it with a homegrown salad and some ‘whoopsied’ garlic bread…..a very tasty, frugal meal!

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My daughter and her friend also made some dolly mixtures at home this week using ready made coloured icing.  I thought they look brilliant!

They stuck the colours together by just wetting the surface:

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They put them in a bag made of cellophane and tied them with a ribbon and they looked great….they would make a really good gift:

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Finally this week I was about to hoover our bedroom carpet when I decided there wasn’t enough carpet left to hoover!   This carpet was left in the house when we first moved here and it wasn’t up to much then……it now had more holes in it than actual carpet.  I decided it was rediculous to keep it any longer, (especially as we kept falling over the edges where the holes were), but I knew we couldn’t afford a new carpet in this room yet.

I pulled some of the carpet up and found some lovely floorboards underneath.  There were no gripper rods either to hold the carpet down.   So being impulsive as I am, I shouted Mr Thrift and together we pulled up the whole carpet and underlay and took it down to the tip.  There was dust everywhere as the underlay and carpet had disintegrated in lots of places and it took me ages to hoover it all up.

Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the old, horrible carpet with the massive holes, but I did take a photo of the floor boards that we uncovered and they look great.

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I will sand down and re-varnish / paint the boards another time, but until then they look loads better than the old carpet.

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Finally this week, Wilkinsons had a sale with lots of gardening equipment and seeds.  I bought some seeds that I knew I needed for next year and I also treated myself to a sign for my garden that was reduced to £1.75.  I placed it on our outhouse door that sits directly outside my kitchen window, so I can read it everyday as it sums up ‘my world’ perfectly:

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

I hope you have a lovely weekend!

Open Gardens And A Rethink!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Problem Area And A Bit Of A Rethink:

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

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

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So this area was just not working!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I then tied the tomatoes to their canes for support:

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

I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a good weekend!

 

A Lot Of Hardwork!

I love this time of year as the harvesting of crops is finally slowing down at the allotment after a very busy summer and I can finally carry out some other jobs.

A couple of weeks ago I started to remove the old, unproductive raspberries from my plot and I laid a new path next to the area.  I have finally dug up the rest of the raspberries now and the area will provide another bed for me to use next year:

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The weed suppressant in the middle of the raspberries (in the first photo) covered the grass that I sowed a few years ago to walk on.  I covered the grass for a few months to kill it, so I could just easily dig the grass into the ground.

Weed suppressant kills the grass and weeds well, except for bind weed which just skims the surface and ‘pops’ out at the side.  However it does make it easier to just pull most of it up, though I will have to make sure I hoe this area every week during the growing season to weaken it, in the hope I can eventually kill it.

For those of you that don’t grow organically, ‘glyphosate’ does kill bindweed easily, though I choose not to use chemicals.

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After digging the area over I topped it with some of my homemade compost and I laid some paths so I don’t need to walk on the soil that I plant into and I was very pleased with the result:

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As I had a few spare slabs I also laid a path between my woodland area and my strawberries.  This area was a real pain as before I only had a small path made of weed suppressant that I struggled to walk down.  I also finished off a path next to my water tank, which will also make things easier for me:

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If you read my blog a couple of weeks ago you will remember I stripped the green tomatoes from my outdoor plants as I was worrying about losing them to ‘tomato blight’.  I put the tomatoes in my mini-greenhouse at home and they have been ripening well:

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….And I have been busy at home making lots of tomato sauce to use in spaghetti bolognaise, pasta sauces. pizza sauce etc.

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And it is a good job I did remove the tomatoes when I did, as ‘blight’ did strike a week later and you can see in the photograph below how it very quickly affected the few remaining tomatoes that I left on the plants.

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I dug the tomato plants up quickly, removing any remaining tomatoes and put the foliage into my compost bin.

The stems and leaves of tomato plants that have ‘blight’ can be added to your compost heap, as the spores won’t survive on dead plant material.  Do ensure that you remove every last one of the tomatoes on the plants, as the blight spores survive in the seeds….SO DO NOT COMPOST THE FRUIT. 

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I dug the area over where the plants had been growing and forked in some manure.  I again split the bed up with some old weed suppressant, so I could easily walk around the bed without treading on the soil…and this was another bed completed for the winter:

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Another area I have concentrated on this week is outside my polytunnel.  This area used to be a real problem area as it looked unsightly with a few slabs, crazy paving and couch grass and the area was full of weeds.  So last winter I removed everything from the area and laid weed suppressant, with woodchip on top and it looked lovely.

However, this is how the area looked again last week:

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Unfortunately, the weed suppressant I used was just not up to the job and the weeds had grown through it!

I bought this weed suppressant from our allotment shop and it was a different sort to normal.  Weed suppressant is sold in different grades and this was obviously a low grade, but as I have never had a problem with their weed suppressant before, I just never gave it another thought….that will teach me not to check.

So I had to remove all of the wood chip and lay some more (better quality) weed suppressant and then put the wood chip back……I have got to say it was really hard work!  Hopefully this will work this time.

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A couple of weeks ago I picked my saved pea pods from my pea plants and left them to continue to dry for a couple of weeks in my kitchen on trays.  This week Mr Thrift helped me to ‘pod’ the peas so I can use the seeds next year.

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I store the seeds in an envelope in a tin, which will be placed in a cool, dark place.

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Finally, the first of my melons from my polytunnel was ready this week.  They are a variety called ‘outdoor wonder’.

The melons aren’t really big, but they are really sweet and delicious.  I grew them last year for the first time and I know I will be growing them every year from now on.  According to the packet they can be grown outdoors, though I grow them in my polytunnel just in case we have a bad summer:

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

I will be back next Friday as usual.

  I hope you have a good week.

Planting Broad beans And Homemade Planters.

It’s been beautiful weather at the allotment this week.  Each day has started off cold but by the afternoon I have been working in my short sleeved T-shirt.

I noticed my Forsythia has started to flower:

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and the daffodils are looking lovely too:

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It’s has been feeling very much like Spring.

I noticed that there are buds on some of my fruit trees.  I was especially pleased to see the Quince tree I planted last month is growing.  I always worry a little bit just in case trees that I buy bare-rooted don’t grow (even though I have never had one that doesn’t).  So it is always a relief to see the little buds in spring:

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The area underneath my large plum tree is looking ‘spring-like’ too with daffodils and primroses:

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The ‘Christmas rose’  (Helleborous) is flowering well now and I noticed the first ‘For-get-me-nots’ (Myosotis) are starting to flower.

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Last week I ordered some ‘snow drops in the green’ and they came on Tuesday so I planted them.  ‘In the green’ just means that they have been lifted just after flowering so you can see what you are buying and it’s easier to plant them where you want them in Spring, rather than planting bulbs later on in the year.

I ordered more Snowdrops this year for my woodland area, in memory of my old friend who passed away last February when the Snowdrops were flowering.  I would like lots and lots of Snowdrops in this area, so I decided I would buy a few each year until I have enough.

Snow drops are really easy to plant ‘in the green’.  I just dug a hole and dropped them in and watered them well.

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This week at my allotment I planted my broad beans that I sowed at the beginning of January.  The variety is called ‘Aquadulce’, which is an overwintering variety.

I like to make sure my broad beans are well supported, as they do sometimes ‘flop’ over.  I use small canes and string to support the beans.  I use two strings at different heights:

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I also put little balls on my outside canes to stop me from poking my eyes when I bend forward to weed or pick the beans.  These balls were brought in the sales a few years ago from Argos.  They are balls that are used in children’s ball pits, with a slit cut in each one so I can place it on the canes.

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This week at my allotment I also decided it was time to neaten up the area at the front of my plot.

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At the front of my plot is an area full of couch grass, where I can park my car when I bring it.  It is really useful to have this space as it is great for unloading my plants etc.  However, where it ends it is scruffy.

After lots of thought I decided it would be nice to have some flowers here, in long thin planters.  This would stop the couch grass from growing through the soil, but I found that this would be expensive to do….so I spent a good few months wondering how I could do this cheaply and last week I finally had an idea:

A few years ago my dad gave me some wooden grocers boxes with the bottoms removed.  The idea was to use them as mini cold frames with a piece of glass resting on the top.  For a few years I used them like this and they were great, however I stopped using them when I inherited my polytunnel.  So they have sat on my plot unused for three years, until this week:

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I took the sides off the boxes and used a saw to cut them down to the size I wanted and then put them back together.

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I then gave them a paint.

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I removed some of the grass at the front of my plot…

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…and put the boxes in place.  I hammered posts in the ground to stop the boxes from moving and covered the soil at the bottom of each box with weed suppressant to stop the couch grass from growing up through the boxes.

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I then filled the boxes with my homemade compost.

I think the boxes will look lovely filled with some flowers over the summer….I’ve just got to decide which flowers.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.  I will be back at my usual time on Monday.

Have a good weekend!

                                                       

Tackling A Problem Area on Plot Four (Part Two)

Don’t forget I will be back on Monday 24th February.

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Happy Valentines Day!

I did my romantic bit today and gave Mr Thrift some homemade shortbread hearts.  Shortbread is Mr Thrift’s favourite biscuit and they are so easy to make and taste really good too.  The recipe I used is here.  I just ‘poshed’ them up by using a heart cutter and sandwiched them together with buttter icing and jam to make them a bit more special.

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Well it’s been another wet and windy week, but I am grateful to say that we haven’t been suffering from floods as some parts of the country have been.  I really feel for the people affected.

In between the rain this week, I did manage to get down to my allotment a few times and finish off the area outside my polytunnel.  This is the area I began to write about on Monday, that I have been working on for the last few months between other jobs.

Just in case you haven’t seen my blog post on Monday, I took on plot number four in January 2012:

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  The area outside of my polytunnel had bugged me since I took on the plot, but I had concentrated on other areas of plot number four first.

The area was made up of a mixture of crazy paving, mowed couch grass, slabs (of different shapes and sizes) and little round pebbles which I have slipped on at various times, nearly injuring myself.  This area was also plagued with ‘horsetail’ (Equisetum arvense), which is really hard to eradicate.

January 2012 after strimming the weeds and grass.

January 2012 after strimming the weeds and grass.

At first I put my cold frame in this area, as I didn’t know what else to do here, but I found that this made it even harder to weed between the slabs, as my seed trays were in the way.

So after two years of weeding between the slabs and crazy paving and weekly sessions of strimming the couch grass, I decided enough was enough and it was time to do something about this area.

I started in Autumn by lifting the slabs and crazy paving (which is when I strained a ligament).  Most of the slabs were normal sized slabs, but one of them was enormous.  You can see it in the photograph below in front of the two blue waterbutts on the top right hand side.  I haven’t got a clue how it got there.  My brother-in-law managed to move this slab for me as I would never of managed it on my own.  He also re-laid the row of slabs directly outside my polytunnel afterwards too, which I was very grateful for.

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I used some of the slabs to widen the path near to my blackberries:

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And Mr Thrift helped me to lay another row of slabs outside of my polytunnel, so it would be easier to get my wheelbarrow into it.

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I also dug up all the couch grass.

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I then cut back my blackberries as they were becoming overgrown.

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You can see from the photo above that I had a piece of weed suppressant underneath the blackberries, which was held down with some old bits of wood.  I decided I needed to neaten around my blackberries too, so I did this with wood that I had sitting around my plot.

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The area next to my blackberries used to be an old ‘dyke’ that dried up many years ago.  Occaisionally when we have excessive amounts of rain in one go, then the ‘dyke’ runs again as you can see in the photo below, taken in November 2012:

I decided to lift all the old carpet that was in the dyke and replaced it with weed suppressant.  The carpet shouldn’t really have been there as it is banned from our allotment site due to the chemicals it can contain.

I am now planning to grow some plants through the weeds suppressant, when I get around to it, to pretty the area up.

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I had spent many hours wondering what to do with the area outside my polytunnel, now that it was cleared.  I have quite enough growing space on my other three plots for all the vegetables I want to grow, so I didn’t really want to use this space for that and after all, as I said previously, this area was plagued with weeds, especially ‘horsetail’.  I also thought about planting a tree here, but I didn’t want to shade my polytunnel either….

I mentioned on Monday that plot number four was turning into my ‘pleasure plot’, as here I have my wildflower area, my woodland area, my dad’s area, my polytunnel and my fruit tree area.  So after lots of thought I decided to have a ‘peaceful’ area, where I can have my lunch or just sit and relax when I am tired.

So I bought some weed suppressant from my allotment site shop  (it’s really cheap from there) and laid it over the area

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I used prunings again to edge the two fruit bushes that I planted here last year and made three more small beds too

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Then I laid wood chippings over the area

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I split and transplanted grasses from my other plot and added some stepping stones.  I also made a low fence all around the area made with prunings from my apple trees:

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Finally I moved my old bench from behind my polytunnel to finish it all off and I am really pleased with the result:

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I am really looking forward to sitting in this area.

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Next week is half term for my daughters, so I will be taking a week off blogging to spend some quality time with them.

So I will be back on Monday 24th February

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Parsnips, celeriac, cabbage and swede from my allotment this week.

Parsnips, celeriac, cabbage and swede from my allotment this week.

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Just before I go, I thought I would share something with you.  It was my eldest daughters 16th birthday this week.  I can’t quite believe that I’ve a sixteen year old daughter…the years have flown by.  She has turned into a beautiful, caring young lady who I love spending time with.

My daughter loves the pop group ‘One Direction’ and again asked for a ‘One Direction’ cake.  I cheated a bit and bought the pop group figures made of icing, but the rest of the cake I made and she was really pleased with it.

Just in case you are wondering, the hearts all say ‘1D’ which is short for ‘One Direction’:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

Don’t forget I will be back on Monday 24th February.

Tackling A Problem Area On Plot Four (Part One)

I took over my fourth plot at the beginning of 2012, as it became free.  This plot was next to my other three plots and I’ve got to say I really wasn’t sure I wanted another plot, but it had the advantage of a polytunnel (which was only four years old at the time) and some wonderful fruit trees at the back.

(Just in case you are wondering, all over the country there are waiting lists for allotments, but where I live, there are always some available to rent, so I don’t feel guilty for having four plots).

Below are some photos from when I first took the plot, in January 2012:

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As you can see there was a lot to be done.

I have worked really hard on this plot over the last two years and most areas are coming along nicely.  There isn’t lots of growing space on this plot due to the trees and I have found that, as it has developed over the past two years, it has become my ‘pleasure plot’.

  I now have an area under my large plum tree that I call my ‘woodland area’, where I planted lots of spring bulbs.  In fact, you may remember me planting lots of snow drops in this area to remember my dear friend that passed away in February last year. I also recently transplanted lots of for-get-me-nots in her honour too.

  During the last year I have transplanted lots of surplus plants from my garden at home and from around my other plots and I am gradually filling the area with beautiful perennials.

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In September last year I also moved my small pond to a well lit corner in this area and transplanted aubrietia all around it, so hopefully this will look beautiful in the Spring too.

So overall, this area is becoming a beautiful, peaceful place, where I now walk past and remember my old dear friend.

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At the front of my fourth plot is a small area which I have given to my dad to look after.

For those who are new to my blog, my dad had his own allotment for many years, but sadly age caught up with him and a full plot became far too much to manage.  Not long after taking on my fourth plot, he asked if he could possibly have a small part of it to look after and I thought this was a great idea, as I can make sure he doesn’t do too much.

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Last winter I laid two woodchip paths either side of my dads area and I brought our old garden chair from our back garden at home.  I put the chair in a small area next to my dads patch, so he can sit down when he is tired.  I also made a little table out of bricks and an old piece of crazy paving, so he now has somewhere to put his flask of coffee when he sits down.

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  I absolutely love spending time with my dad at my allotment.

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The area at the back of this plot is great.  I have two apple trees (an early and late variety), a golden gage tree (which make delicious jam) and a pear tree.  I have also inherited a row of worcester berries.

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This area just needs mowing each week and it’s a lovely shady place to sit in when the weather is too hot and it’s time for a rest.

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In 2012 when I first took the plot over, there were two sheds that stood in the middle.

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I already had a shed on my first plot, so I gave one of the sheds to my sister who also took on the plot next to mine and I gave the other one to one of my friends at my allotment site as he didn’t have a shed.

This area had terrible soil on so for the last two years I have used this area as my wildflower area, with fantastic results:

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I also have an area where I have inherited some summer raspberries.  This area had couch grass growing all through the raspberries and in between the rows, so it was a hard area to tame.

I started by covering as much of the area in between with weed suppressant and left this down for a season to kill the couch grass.  I have spent two years now pulling up the couch grass from underneath the raspberries, in the hope that it will eventually weaken and die.  I certainly have an awful lot less of it now, but I still have a long way to go with it.

I then prepared the area in between the raspberries and sowed grass seed in Autumn 2012 and by Spring 2013 I had a much better, uninvasive lawn in between the plants:

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And then I also have my wonderful polytunnel.  Inside the tunnel was great when I took it over and I just added compost to the beds before planting.

My polytunnel is really my pride and joy on this fourth plot and it’s the main reason for taking this plot on.  I have had so many crops from it in the last two years, but it is particularly brilliant for overwintering salad crops.

I wrote about my first year in my polytunnel here if you are interested.

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So, my fourth plot has been hard work so far, but it is beginning to come together, though it is far from complete.

I have one more area that I have been working on over the last few months (in between other jobs)….it is the area outside of my polytunnel.  This area has bugged me for the last two years as it was a mixture of crazy paving, mowed couch grass, slabs (of different shapes and sizes) and some little round pebbles which I have slipped on various times and nearly injured myself.

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There is also a row of blackberries which I have recently cut back.

This area is also plagued with ‘horsetail’ (Equisetum arvense), which is incidentally a fasinating weed… It has descendants (a group of ancient tree like plants) that thrived 300 million years ago. Fossil evidence has been found that shows some of it’s ancestors reached over thirty metres in height (you can read about it here).  But this explains why this weed is so difficult to eradicate, as it’s been around so long and also it’s roots go very deep into the soil, in fact several meters down. It likes moist clay soil and thrives in these conditions, which is exactly why this area outside of my polytunnel is perfect for it.

So I have spent two years weeding and weeding between the slabs and crazy paving and I decided enough is enough and it was time to do something about this area….

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As this has turned into a very long post I have decided to continue telling you about this area and what I have done with it, on Friday.

So have a good week and thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Friday.