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A Kitchen Tidy & This week In The Garden….

This week my sweetpeas are flowering beautifully around my arch and they smell gorgeous when I brush past them.

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The bees are regular visitors now to the flowers in the garden and I am really pleased with this.  Unfortunately my Jack Russell is an excellent ‘bee catcher’ and I have to watch her like a hawk as she actually manages to catch them in her mouth and chews them before spitting them out….I really don’t know why she doesn’t get stung!

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The bees have been enjoying the flowers on my chives, but as the flowers are now going over I decided this week to remove them so they don’t self seed everywhere.

By chopping the chives to an inch off the ground, the chives will regrow and give me another crop later on in the summer:

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My comfrey has been growing very well this year and the bees have also been been loving these flowers too.  Unfortunately the comfrey has started to lean all over my runnerbeans and so I decided to cut some of it down, but I have still left some of it at the back:

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Comfrey can be used to make a comfrey tea to feed fruit and flowers, or it can be chopped up and put on the compost heap to act as a compost activator, however this time I chose to place it around my potatoes as a mulch.  The comfrey will break down and I will dig it into the soil when I have harvested my potatoes:

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This week I have been planting lettuces again.  Unfortunately I lost a few lettuces to slugs in our recent wet weather, so I filled the gaps with new ones:

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I then decided to use an old bit of guttering along our fence to grow lettuces in, so I bought some clips and attached it to the fence.  I am not sure how they will grow, but if they grow well then I will be very pleased….I will let you know.

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I have also continued to tie up my outdoor tomatoes and remove any side shoots:

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  And I have started to tie up my outdoor cucumbers (burpless tasty green).  These cucumbers are already doing better than last year:

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My courgettes and patty pans are also doing better than last year too:

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And I have noticed I have my first butternut squash growing too.  I am growing the plant in a large pot this year and tying it up my washing line post as it grows.  This is a trial so I am keeping my fingers crossed it works:

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In my greenhouse the slugs have unfortunately destroyed two of my basil plants and I caught the culprit still eating them!  Luckily I still had a couple of plants left over so I could replace them:

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 However my moat with my radish in is working well…..I found a dead snail in the water and my radish is untouched!

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My strawberries are growing well and I’m picking a few every day:

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And I am also picking my broadbeans as well now:

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So overall it’s been a good week in the garden.

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This week in the house:

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This week I have continued sorting my kitchen cupboards as I never completed this job previously.  I washed all the food containers and boxes and replaced the contents neatly:

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I also sorted all my storage boxes in my pantry too, so I now know where everything is and I feel more organised:

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I also decided to give some of my recipe books to our local charity shop as I never use them…..I feel much better for doing this and my cupboard looks better for it too:

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Now my eldest daughter has finished her A-levels and my youngest daughter had just one exam left (which she took today), I decided to reclaim my kitchen.  My girls tidied away their workbooks and revision guides and I spent the week giving everything a really good clean.

The kitchen has been great for my daughters to work and revise in and I have tried very hard not to nag them to clear away their books over the last few weeks……. but now it feels good to have a clean and tidy kitchen and some order in our lives again:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday as usual.  Have a great weekend.

XXX

Why Flowers Are Great To Grow On Your Vegetable Plot…

It has felt like summer has finally arrived this week and it’s been too hot for me in the garden, though I am not complaining as my garden has loved the sunshine at last and so has Judy….

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What I have noticed at our local park this week:

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This year the park keepers have left some grass areas uncut at our local park and for the last few weeks I have seen different wildflowers growing.  These flowers may not be unusual, but on mass they have looked stunning.

It started with the dandelions which are a common perennial herb that are part of the sunflower family.  This is the weed we all tend to dread in our gardens as they spread so easily, but they have so many uses and they really are a fascinating plant:

“Dandelions prefer chalk and loamy soils above a pH of 7.0. It has been found in prehistoric deposits, and has been recorded up to 2,700 feet in Britain.

The flower opens in the morning and then closes in the evening and a flower head can produce up to 400 seeds, but the average is 180. A plant may have a total of 2,000 to 12,000 seeds and individual plants may survive for 10 to 13 years in undisturbed sites”

No wonder the average gardener doesn’t like them!

(Below is a brilliant photo that my daughter took):

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After the dandelions the buttercups emerged coating the field with pretty yellow flowers which are still there at the moment and look spectacular on the field backed by the bright white cow parsley.

I also noticed the buttercups at the side of a busy main road road last week as we were driving home….nature is so wonderful!  I wonder how many people in cars have driven past this display without even noticing.

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But this week it is the turn of the red clover flowers and the ox-eye daisy and the display is the most impressive of all to me:

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I’m not sure if the council are trying to save money by not mowing the grass in certain areas, or if the flowers were intentional….whatever the reason, the outcome is beautiful and there are insects buzzing all around!

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Flowers in my kitchen garden this week:

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Nature manages to put flowers in every little suitable spot it can.  Unfortunately, our allotments and kitchen gardens need most of the space to be taken up by fruit and vegetables, but by leaving a few nettles at the back of your plot and adding flowers in every suitable spot available (as nature does), we can attract many insects to out plots – which in turn will pollinate our crops and feed on the ‘nasty’ bugs that we don’t want AND look pretty:

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Four of the ‘good’ bugs attracted to flowers:

Bees – Flowers encourage bees, which in turn pollinate your crops.  They are active from late winter until autumn, so I try really hard to have plants in flower during all these months.

Lacewings – These are voracious predators as the larvae and adults feed on caterpillars, thrips, mealy bugs and aphids.  They are especially attracted by Cosmos flowers, coreopsis and sweet alyssum.

Soldier Beetles – Unfortunately these beetles do eat the good bugs as well as the bad, but they do help to control aphids and caterpillars.  They particularly like catnip and goldenrod.

Ladybirds (sometimes called Lady beetles or lady bugs) – Ladybirds love to eat aphids, scales, spider mites, mealy bugs, etc. which is why most people recognize these as a beneficial insect.  It’s their larvae that eat the most of the ‘bad’ insects and can get an infestation under control in no time.  Ladybirds are attracted to the parsley family i.e. parsley, dill, fennel, carrots etc.

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If you look closely in the photograph above you can see two bees on my comfrey flowers.  It was easy to take photo’s of the bees as there were so many buzzing around the plant….this also applies to the chive flowers which line my central path and lookgreat at the moment:

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For years I have grown Calendula as they look so pretty and self seed like mad so you only need to buy a packet of these seeds once….and the flowers are edible and the petals look fabulous scattered over a bowl of salad.  This week my first two flowers appeared:

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 I used to grow nasturtiums around my dalek compost bins at the allotment, as these help to surpress weeds nicely….they also provide great ground cover around longer growing vegetables like brussells, spring broccoli and kale.  They attract blackfly so I continue to plant them in my kitchen garden around my runnerbeans as sacrificial plants (so the blackfly stay away from my beans) and as a bonus, the nasturtium leaves taste ‘peppery’ and again they are nice in a salad.

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At my allotment I used to grow sweet peas near runnerbeans to attract beneficial insects to pollinate them, so I get more beans to pick.  This year in my much smaller kitchen garden I have planted the sweetpeas in eight different places to attract insects, to look pretty and to pick a few to bring into our house as they smell wonderful….they are just beginning to flower now:

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Previously at my allotment I lined my paths with lavender and poached egg plants, again to attract beneficial insects that love the flowers.  The poached egg plants surpress weeds by covering the ground and self seeds easily….any plants that I didn’t want to keep would be dug into the soil and act as a green manure…..I really must find a place for some of these flowers next year in my kitchen garden:

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Previously I also grew Sunflowers at the allotment as the birds loved to feed on the seed heads in autumn…again I will be looking to see if I can fit a dwarf variety in my garden somewhere next year too:

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This year I planted tagetes and marigolds near my tomatoes in my greenhouse and along my central path in my kitchen garden as these help to deter white flies.  Both of them are now beginning to flower:

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Years ago when I took on my first allotment I was told I grow too many flowers and plots were for fruit and vegetables.  I am really hoping that my blog inspires other people to grow a few flowers around their plots, as there are so many benefits for the organic grower.

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I’ll finish today with a few photo’s of flowers growing in my small kitchen garden at the moment.  However, I am hoping there will be plenty more still to come over the coming weeks:

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

Have a great weekend!

XX

Rhubarb Crumble Muffins, Flowers & Veg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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

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

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I also planted out my cherry tomatoes…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Things I noticed in my kitchen garden this week:

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

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

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

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

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

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This week in the home:

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

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

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

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Rhubarb Crumble Muffins:

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The muffin Mix:

200g caster sugar

200g peeled rhubarb diced into small pieces

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

100mls semi skimmed milk

200g self-raising flour

1 heaped tsp baking powder

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The crumble mix:

50g light muscovado sugar

50g plain flour

50g margarine (or butter if preferred)

25g porridge oats

1 tsp cinnamon

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Preheat your oven 200C / 425F / Gas 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Enjoy!

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

Have a great week.

XXX

A 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!

A ‘March’ Catch Up

Well it’s nice to be back blogging but as usual I haven’t been resting as planned, however I have been careful to make sure I’ve not been rushing around.

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March started off very wet and we had so much rain one night that our local park flooded in places!

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I had a wonderful mothers day with nice presents and a really nice cooked breakfast made by Mr Thrift.

One of the things my daughters bought me was a couple of bug boxes, that I am very pleased with and I put them up straight away:

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In February I repotted my blueberries and needed a mulch that was acidic (as blueberries like acid soil) and I remember that someone on here suggested I used pine needles, but I didn’t have any to use.

During March we had some very windy days and unfortunately an enormous branch broke off a pine tree at the park…..which was great for me as I managed to take a bag full of pine needles before the council shredded the tree (I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded considering how big the fallen branch was).  I placed them around my blueberries as a mulch and they actually look quite attractive:

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At the beginning of March I planted some new Snowdrops that I brought ‘in the green’ (this means they have just finished flowering and they establish quickly at this stage).  I did bring a very small amount back from my old allotment when I gave up but I like a lot of Snowdrops as I said previously they remind me of my old friend that passed away:

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At the beginning of March I also found that B&Q were selling their fruit bushes off cheaply.  I managed to get a redcurrant bush, blackcurrant bush and five summer raspberry canes for £6 which was a bargain.  I have planted them in an area that only gets 4-6 hours of sunlight in the summer, so this is a bit of an experiment….but for £6 it is worth a gamble.

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I have also had a go at making an arch to go over my path.  I have never really made anything before so armed with some left over wood and a bit extra that I purchased, I gave it a go.  I also used some expandable trellis from Wilkinsons.  After it was finished I gave it a paint with my faithful old tin of woodstain….the whole thing cost me just £16 to make and I am really pleased with it:

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I am planning to grow sweetpeas up the side of my arch and the sweetpeas I sowed previously have been growing nicely in pots and I will be able to plant them shortly:

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I then decided to carry on and try and make something to stop Judy (our rescue dog) from being able to run down the alley at the side of our house (and bark).

I brought an expandable trellis on legs, added a few bits of wood including an old gate that I made last year out of an old allotment cage and attached it all to our brick outhouse and house wall to make it sturdy. I also brought a cheap planter off ebay and attached it to the expandable trellis and painted the whole lot again with my faithful old tin of brown woodstain.

I lined the wooden planter with plastic (with drainage holes) and added compost.  I then went to my local nursery and brought some primroses and cowslips for £4 as they were selling them off cheap to clear them and planted them….and this is the result:

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I am very pleased with it, though I do need to rethink the area behind as it does look scuffy.

The Cowslips and Primroses will be replanted somewhere else in my garden when they have finished flowering and they will hopefully come up year after year.

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I have been busy in March sowing seeds, though you can see from the photo below that Judy has hampered my seed sowing at times….as you can see one of her dog treats was ‘hidden’ on top of my seedlings:

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During March I sowed red cabbages, white cabbages, coriander, greenhouse cucumbers, spring onions and various flower seeds:

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I have tried very hard to keep my seedlings in the house up until now, as the greenhouse heater is expensive to run, but I do know that when I sow my next lot of seeds next week I will have to switch it on.

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At the beginning of March in my cold greenhouse I also planted my onion sets in newspaper pots that I made (you can read how to make the pots here).  This week they were ready to plant.  I have planted half of them up to now, but I have made sure that I have planted them under environmesh as I had such a problem last year with the allium leaf miner.  The flies have two generations each year and the adults first lay their eggs in March / April and the next generation lay their eggs September to November:

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I also planted my ‘spare’ garlic that I sowed in January in newspaper pots and left to grow in my greenhouse.  I also planted with some leftover onion sets next to the garlic – again under environmesh…..it feels like one day I will have my whole garden under environmesh!

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This month I also planted the broadbeans that have sat in my cold greenhouse since the middle of January, again in newspaper pots.  As always, I raked in some blood, fish and bone a couple of weeks before I planted them.

I put some garden string around them ready to support them when they are bigger:

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Elsewhere in the garden I planted some lollo rossa lettuce under glass (a bottomless box and an old piece of glass):

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I removed any yellowing leaves from around my Spring cabbages and sprinkles some blood, fish and bone around them and gave the ground a quick hoe.  I also gave them a seaweed feed to help perk them up after a long winter:

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I thinned the leeks that I sowed in January in the hope they will now grow bigger.  I use a pair of scissors to do this as it is so much easier just snipping them off and doesn’t disturb the remaining seedlings:

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And I sowed some mixed salad leaves and radishes in my cold greenhouse at the beginning of March and they are growing nicely:

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The garden is springing into life now and I have noticed that the bees are starting to buzz around my flowers, so I am glad I have plenty for them to choose from.  Incidentally the daffodils that I planted far too late last year (mid November), have been flowering beautifully during March….I’m so glad I didn’t just throw them away as I was so late planting them:

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In The Home During March:

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I made some more ‘mini cloches’ by cutting ‘pop’ bottles in half.  I will soon be using these in my garden:

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I found I still have some stored apples which I have started to add to my porridge in the mornings.  I also made some apple cakes too (the recipe is here):

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I also ran out of my last batch of laundry liquid.  I usually use Dri Pak soapflakes for convienience but unfortunately after ringing them I found out that they have discontinued them and they are no longer available.  They now sell liquid soapflakes which are equally good to use, however I chose some cheap, unfragranced soap and just grated it instead and this has worked just as well as the old soapflakes:

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(Here is the recipe for homemade laundry liquid).

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One last thing I wanted to tell you about this week is some flowers that we gave to someone special in March.  I didn’t want to buy them ready made up from the florist as they would have been so expensive, but I did want the flowers to be extra special….so I copied the florists and made my own arrangement with flowers from Leicester market instead.

The market sold me a ‘flower box’ for £1 (I’m not sure if that is the right name for it) and I used the roll of cellophane I have at home.  I carefully wrapped the flowers so that the bottom of the cellophane was water tight and put an inch or so of water in the bottom of the cellophane to keep the flowers fresh.  I popped them in the box and added a bit of ribbon and a gift card that I also brought from the market for 10 pence……..and this is the result, which I am very proud of:

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Anyway, that’s it for this week.

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

Have a great week!

 

A Wild flower Patch And A ‘Thyme’ Capsule

As I said previously, I am having a break from my blog during March, but as promised I will share one of my favourite blog posts each Friday instead.

The blog post below was written in August 2012  and again these are memories that I am so glad I wrote about:

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My Wildflower Patch:

When I took on allotment plot number four, I inherited two sheds.  I already had a shed so I offered the larger shed to my sister, who had taken on the plot next to me and the smaller shed to one of my other allotment friends.

I was left which a patch of really poor quality, rock hard soil, that needed an awful lot of organic matter digging into it before any fruit or vegetables could possibly be grown there.

While I was deciding what to grow there, I saw a program by Sarah Raven called ‘Bees, butterflies and Blooms’. She explained how 98% of Britain’s wildflower meadows and grass lands have been lost and how the world’s bees and other pollinating insects are in crisis and without these pollinators our future food security is under threat.   Her mission was to encourage farmers and village communities to help recreate a network of habitats for struggling bees, butterflies and pollinating insects.

I was blown away by the beauty of the wildflowers that she showed on her program and I wasn’t the only one to feel this way either.  In fact, the designers of the 10 football fields-worth of wildflowers, at this years olympics, were influenced by Sarah Ravens TV program.  Also, wildflowers sales have apparently tripled this year.

All I did to prepare for the seeds, was forked the ground, weeded and then raked, where my sheds once stood. I didn’t add any organic matter.  Then at the end of May, my daughter and I sowed a few different packets of wildflower seeds, using dry sand to distribute them evenly.

I have found that Wild flowers are not only beautiful, but they are really easy to maintain, as they don’t require watering or deadheading.  They attract all kinds of beneficial insects and I have found it incredibly relaxing watching all the insects come and go, in fact I think, it’s absolutely amazing.  Everytime I look, I see bees, hoverflies, ladybirds etc. there is so much insect activity going on all the time.

I am so proud of my wildflower patch.  I have Corncockle, corn chamomile, cornflowers, corn marigolds, corn poppies, white campion, phacelia, borage and essex broad red clover, to name a few.   I will definitely be sowing more seed next year.

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Our ‘Thyme’ Capsule:

In June this year, we made a family time capsule and I thought it would be good to share this with you.

We purchased an airtight & watertight plastic box and filled it with all sorts of things to show how we live.

My daughters wrote about their favourite things e.g. their friends, favourite pop groups and all about their school.  They put pictures of their mobile phones, our television and some of their games.  They put pictures of their bedrooms and toys and wrote about their hobbies.

My husband and I wrote about our lives and the allotment.  We put pictures of our allotment neighbours and wrote about how we love it there.  We also wrote all about the food that we harvest and eat from our allotment.

We all took it in turns to dig a very deep hole at the back of our plot, in a grassed area under our apple tree.

My daughter dropped the box in the hole and we covered it up again.

We wondered how we would remember exactly where it is and came up with the idea of putting a plant over it.  After a few milli-seconds of thinking, it was decided that the only plant that could possibly be planted there, would be ‘Thyme’.

So here it is, waiting to be discovered in years to come, when we are long forgotten.

I wonder what will be in this spot in another hundred years time?

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

A Blogging Rest…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In the garden this week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read how to make newspaper pots here.

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(Last years onions sets)

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

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

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This week in the home:

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

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

I always find sowing so thereputic.

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

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

I will be back as normal in April.

Fruit, Fruit And Flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In My Garden This Week:

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

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

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

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

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And this week I planted them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seed Sowing And Progress:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This Week In The Home:

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

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

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

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All in all it has been another busy week.

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

Car Boot Bargains & My Garden This Week

I started my week by taking a quick trip to town.  On the way back I walked through ‘Castle Gardens’ which is literally 2 minutes walk from the city centre.

“The Castle Gardens in Leicester was the original site of Leicester Castle, all that can be seen now is the large mound that it was once situated upon. This 4 acre site has a rock garden, mixed borders and a river boat landing next to the Grand Union Canal”

Castle Gardens is one of those hidden gems of Leicester, that people walk past everyday and never visit……if only they knew what they were missing, as even in the rain it was beautiful and so peaceful.

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I used to bring my daughters here for picnics when they were small, so it has some lovely memories for me too.

I noticed Leicester City Council had once again placed really good information signs around the park too:

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This week in my garden:

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Autumn officially started this week and I have noticed that there is a ‘nip’ in the air in the mornings now and it definately gets darker far earlier in the evenings.

Some of my plants are starting to show that autumn is here too and I will shortly be clearing them away:

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My autumn raspberries are producing berries well, especially considering they were only planted this year:

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I’m still watching my ‘patty pan’ plant with interest wondering if it will beat the first frost and provide me with a small harvest?

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And my sweetcorn still has a clear liquid inside each kernel, so unfortunately it is not ready to pick yet!

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My outdoor tomatoes which are a variety called ‘money maker’ are huge and are finally starting to ripen,  after I removed most of their leaves so the sun could get to them:

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The green manure ‘phacelia’ that I sowed last month is growing well:

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And so too is the grass lawn I laid a couple of weeks ago.  It is lovely and green, but I know this will change to ‘green with yellow patches’ as soon as I let Judy, our dog on it:

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This week I have picked some really nice salads crops to have for tea.  I am still picking radish, chives, spring onions, tomatoes, lettuces, beetroot and kohl rabi too:

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I also scattered our mixed salads with the purple petals from chive flowers and the orange petals from a calendula flowers and they looked so pretty:

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This week in the home:

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This week I cooked my beetroot.  The beetroot was delicious sliced, but one of the beetroots was quite big and tough so after I cooked it my daughter used it in a smoothie and she really enjoyed it:

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This week I made what Mr Thrift calls an ‘English salad’.  It’s what my mother would give to us when I was younger….lots of things on the table to pick what you want.  I also cooked a quiche and made some homemade coleslaw using the cabbage that I dug up last week:

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I thought it would be nice to make a cake and serve it on the table for tea too and my family thought the tea was really nice and made a lovely change:

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My sister also kindly brought some of the plums from the large tree at my old allotment (she took on one of my old plots).  These plums are the size of damsons, but they ripen slightly later and I think they are actually ‘bullaces’.

As they are small, I decided to make a jelly out of them, rather than taking all of the stones out:

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This week I also made some wine.  I have been meaning to have another go at wine making since I made my first batch a couple of years ago from a starter kit.  I still had three cans of juice left that I used and it’s sitting bubbling in my kitchen at this moment:

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Hopefully next year when I know what I am doing, I will have a go at making wine from start to finish with homegrown fruit.

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I must say, it has been lovely serving my homegrown salads and vegetables this year….after I gave up my allotment I thought I would have hardly anything to pick from my garden:

Lasagne served with homegrown potatoes and salad

Lasagne served with homegrown potatoes and salad

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Finally this week I thought I would show you my ‘car boot’ finds.  I managed to find two pictures for the walls in my front room – and they are just the right colours to match our lovely charity shop three piece suite and it finishes our room off lovely (apart from the carpet that we are saving for).

We managed to buy both the pictures for just £1 and they had no marks or scratches on at all :

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I also found a pair of curtains for £3.  I will be taking the lining off them and using the material to cover a pair of old, dirty sunloungers that my dad gave to me.  He was going to throw them away but I think they still have lots of use in them and these curtains will make them look great.  I will show you when I finish covering them.

If it works I will have two lovely sunloungers for just £3 and they will be great next year in the summer:

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Anyway, that’s enough for this week.  Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back again next Friday as usual.  Have a good week!

Flowers from my garden

Flowers from my garden

A Good Harvest So Far (Dispite My Strawberries)

Before I start today I wanted to remind anyone that is interested, that my usual monthly blog post of

‘What To Do In The Kitchen Garden In August’ can be found here.

There is loads of information in this post e.g. weather conditions expected, what to sow / plant / harvest in August, jobs to do and pests / diseases that you may encounter this month.

I hope it helps someone out there.

A 'surprise' primrose growing this week in my kitchen garden.....the dull weather has probably been confusing it!

A ‘surprise’ primrose found growing this week in my kitchen garden…..the dull weather has probably been confusing it!

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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This week I took the decision to pull up my strawberry bed.  I transplanted these strawberries from my allotment back in January and they have failed miserably.  I planted them in a raised bed (brought back from my allotment) and filled it with all the compost from my black darlek bins at my allotment before I handed the keys back.

The strawberry plants seemed to be doing well and produced lots of lush green foliage.  I gave them a dose of potash in spring and have been watering them well, but there has been no sign of flowers or strawberries at all (though I did cover them with a net just in case to stop the birds):

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I have two theories as to why they haven’t done very well.  The first is to do with my compost…..if it was especially high in nitrogen then this would produce lush growth rather than fruit, so this may have happened and the second theory is to do with the variety.

At my allotment I had standard starwberries that produced fruit in June and I also had early varieties and a late variety.  The early and late varieties were great for a few extra berries when I wasn’t expecting them, but never produced anything like my standard summer strawberries did….and I think I brought my late variety of strawberries home by mistake (as I was rushing to bring as much home as possible before I needed to hand my keys in).

So I think the fact that my compost was too rich in nitrogen together with the fact they are a late variety, has caused the lack of fruit…….but this won’t do in my small kitchen garden!

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So yesterday I pulled all the strawberry plants up and decided to rethink this area.  I will plant some more strawberries in a different place next year (though I’m not sure where yet).

Amazingly I did actually find three little strawberries which confirmed my theory of the plants being a late variety:

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In the mean time I will be sowing some seeds here next week, so I sprinkled some blood, fish and bone over the area.

I also removed the netting in front of the raised bed which had my mangetout growing up it and I cut back the old mangetout.  I left the roots of the mangetout in the ground, as the root nodules will add nitrogen to the soil ready for my next crop (whatever this will be, as I have to revamp this whole area).  I also found a few mangetout ready to eat, that I missed:

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The strawberry bed and mangetout was at the front of my kitchen garden as this was an extra bit that I decided to use as an after thought.  In the remaining front area I have sweetcorn and tomato plants growing well, but after the harvest is complete, I will be digging this area over and incorporating it into my crop rotation plan….somehow.  At the moment though, the weed suppressant is killing the grass underneath:

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This week in my kitchen garden I finally got around to removing the mini cloches (half pop bottles) that were protecting the lettuces I planted before I went on holiday.  The plants were quite tiny when I first transplanted them into the ground, but I must admit I did leave them in the bottles for too long as I kept forgetting about them….but I’m sure they will be fine.

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I covered them with a net to stop the birds from eating them and I have been on slug watch ever since as there seems to be loads in this garden:

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Another job I did this week was to dig up my onions and garlic.

I planted my onions quite close together to pack in as many as possible….. I knew because of this my onions would be smaller than the onions I used to grow at my allotment where space wasn’t a problem, but I have got to say I have been pleasently surprised at the size of them.  Some are small, but a lot are a decent size:

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I have left them drying in my mini greenhouse:

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Unfortunately my garlic wasn’t as good though as it was very, very small.  I’m sure this is due to me planting them too late as I just wasn’t organised this year.  I have decided to try planting my garlic in pots in my greenhouse this coming autumn, ready for planting out in spring……maybe I will have better success this way.

I have left the garlic to dry in my mini greenhouse too and I will still use it for cooking dispite it’s size.

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“There are no gardening mistakes….just experiments”

Janet Kilburn Phillips

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Another job this week was to tie my outdoor cucumbers up as they are finally growing, after all of the dull weather we have been having.  I was really pleased to see a cucumber growing….if the sun starts to shine maybe I’ll have more:

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I have also continued to tie up my tomatoes as they grow and I am pleased to say my outdoor tomatoes are beginning to turn red…..I am so excited!  These are a variety called ‘Outdoor girl’, which do ripen early……this way I get a good crop before the dreaded ‘tomato blight‘ hits.

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The flowers in my garden are looking nice now and I have been deadheading them as soon as the flowers fade.  The sweetpeas in particular need the seed heads removing every day, so they keep producing new flowers, though I do always seem to miss one or two:

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Though I have no where near as many flowers as I used to have at my allotment, I do have a few to pick and the sweetpeas especially smell beautiful as I walk in and out of my front door:

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I have been harvesting some other vegetables this week too.

I have continued to pick salads, spring onions and curly kale this week, but I have also picked french beans, kohl rabi and my first runner beans.  My beetroot was also ready too, and I am cooking it whilst writing my blog today.  I will then be pickling it as we love to eat it this way:

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I have found that because I have less of everything in my kitchen garden than I did at my allotment, I really appriciate what I do have and look forward to harvesting things far more than before:

My perpetual spinach will soon be ready for a few leaves to be picked and I can’t wait for my cabbages to be ready….and they are not far off:

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The final thing I have picked this week is ‘lavender’.  I have one plant in a pot and it has produced a small bunch for me:

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I am going to use it to make some ‘lavender cakes’ which are just delightful at this time of year (and easy to make).  Below are some lavender cakes I made a couple of years ago.  The recipe is here.

People do tend to turn their noses up when you tell them the cakes have lavender in, but in actual fact their is just a hint of lavender in the taste, which makes them nice (though I don’t eat the lavender on the top that I use as decoration).

I must say, I do miss the lavender I grew at my allotment as it really smelt good at this time of year when I brushed past it and it looked so very beautiful edging my paths.  It was also good at encouraging all those wonderful beneficial insects to my plot…..maybe I could fit more somewhere next year in my garden?

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So over all the kitchen garden is producing well.  I will be making some changes in the autumn when I look back and see what has and hasn’t worked, but for now I am just enjoying what I have.

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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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